While I’ve always kind of known which teams I like and which I don’t–although even those have changed throughout the years–I truly have never ranked the teams 1-30 as to which I like better than others. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. (Disclaimer: This is a list of how I order the teams in the offseason of 2013-14. While most of my decision in where to put a team in the rankings is based off of the franchise itself, some of it is based on who is on the team right now, so these rankings are subject to change over time.)
1. Minnesota Twins-
My story with the Twins is that I grew up a Yankees fan being from New York, but being that I look at things from a GM’s perspective, I thought that being Brian Cashman and having a $200-million payroll would be a pretty boring job creatively since he could essentially buy any player he wanted to. In thinking this, I thought of a team who had success but doing so with a reduced payroll that required teams to build their team in an innovative way on a much smaller budget. Being as it was the mid-2000s, the Twins was a natural choice seeing as they were a constant playoff team with one of the lowest budgets in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s a different challenge in being the GM of the Yankees: you’re never allowed to take a year off having success to rebuild your core/farm system, but I was entranced by the building of a successful major league team from a solid minor league core.
2. Washington Nationals-
In going to a ton of games at Nationals Park in 2011 I fell in love with the core of players that went 80-81 as well as the people who inhabited it. Ever since then, I have been a really big fan of the players that made up the core of the teams in the next two years. And because of me falling in love with the Nationals Park environment for whatever reason as well as the people who made it such a special place, I became a fan of the franchise as a whole.
3. Tampa Bay Rays-
Much like the Twins, the Rays endeared themselves to me by being a team that built their team intelligently–allowing them to achieve repeated success on a payroll that can’t compare to that of a larger market team.
4. San Francisco Giants-
The Giants is an interesting case because it started as simply a liking of a specific player: Tim Lincecum. However, as I kept up with Lincecum more and more as he began to turn from the Washington kid who could pitch insanely fast for his size to a household name, I grew to have a liking fro the other players on the Giants as well. I think having shared a hotel with the players in Milwaukee and having a mini-conversation with a couple of them as well as having a personal memory of what Brian Wilson was like pre-beard may have contributed to this connection to the team, though.
5. Texas Rangers-
I truly have no idea how the Rangers managed to climb my list so high. I used to not really be a fan of them in their team with the two Rodriguezes, but as they turned towards a team that relied more on pitching *in addition to* the offense the Rangers always seemed to have, I really liked the teams that they constructed around 2009-10.
6. New York Yankees-
While they have fallen down my list and I hate the franchise past the team itself, they still are my childhood team that I can’t help to root for.
7. Philadelphia Phillies-
While it was not the beginning of my fandom of them, this certainly sealed it for me. They’d be higher on the list for me, but Phillies fans.
8. Toronto Blue Jays-
Part of me always sympathized with our neighbors to the north. Even when the Expos were still a team, I liked the Blue Jays a lot and always secretly as a Yankee fan hoped they would surge up and break the norm of the AL East standings for a while in the early 2000s–which was:
2. Red Sox
3. Blue Jays
5. Devil Rays
I just really always wanted them to have success, and this translated to a fandom of the team when they played teams that weren’t my top-of-the-line favorite teams.
9. Milwaukee Brewers-
My liking of the Brewers began in around 2008 when CC Sabathia joined the team for half a season and did amazing with being in attendance for what should have been a no-hitter, (I might write about this/do a video for a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry) but then I just had a fandom for the Fielder and Braun teams. My fandom for the team, though, has lessened the past couple of years for obvious reasons regarding one or more of the aforementioned players.
10. Oakland Athletics-
(See Tampa Rays.)
11. Cincinnati Reds-
I think this is kind of a fusion of many of the various teams I have talked about to this point. So in part it’s like the Rays where I liked that a solid major league team was built from the pooling of major league talent, but it is also a lot like the Giants since I really like Joey Votto as a player.
12. Atlanta Braves-
I think this is Nationals-esque in that I loved Turner Field and its atmosphere. I also liked the core and became much more of a fan because of people I have met that are passionate about the Braves. And I can say that the fact that Julio Teheran plays for them doesn’t hurt them at all.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks-
This is one of the teams that I honestly don’t know why I like more than most teams. I’ve just always liked Diamondbacks teams (after the 2001 season, that is.) Yeah, I don’t know.
14. Seattle Mariners-
This has been mostly the product of running into very nice baseball people who are fans of the Mariners. I’m also a fan of how good of a pitching team they have been despite being offensively anemic the past seasons.
15. Baltimore Orioles-
Similarly to the Mariners, I just know a ton of awesome baseball people that are Orioles fans. In addition to that, their stadium is my favorite in baseball. I would say that really the only reason they’re this far down the list is that some Orioles fans became obnoxious as they began to climb out of the AL East cellar.
16. Detroit Tigers-
I know that I’m supposed to hate the Tigers as a Twins fan, but the fact that we beat them in the game 163 we played them helps and I always admired the teams that had success more than most of the teams I am supposed to dislike.
17. Pittsburgh Pirater-
I can pretty safely say that if I weren’t a ballhawk, this team would be lower on the list, but because of the big ballhawk following in Pittsburgh, I have kept up and liked the Pirates and it was incredibly fun watching them have success for the first time in over two decades last season.
18. Miami Marlins-
Ah the Marlins. Those poor souls. I always had an affinity for them especially teams with the 30+ homer infields of Uggla, Ramirez, Cantu, and Jacobs. That said, Jeffrey Loria has made this a team that I can’t root for over half of the other teams. They remain a team that I’m intrigued by and want to root for, and they would skyrocket up this list if Loria ever sold them and kept them in Miami, but right now they’re just not a team I can really get behind.
19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-
I don’t know about this team. I want to like them in many respects, but they lost me when they started spending a bajillion dollars on free agents, trading for Vernon Wells, and then having success with not with their big free agent acquisitions but with the farm talent they had beforehand.
20. Colorado Rockies-
The Rockies are one of those teams I have a preference towards, but still in a kind of “eh” way. I’ve never disliked them really, but I’ve never really had any passion behind my support of them.
21. San Diego Padres-
I used to like them a lot more in the Trevor Hoffman era, but they’ve dropped a bit since then not necessarily because their lack of success but the players behind these teams. They just haven’t been groups of guys that I’d like to get behind.
22. Cleveland Indians-
Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.
23. Houston Astros-
I actually like the group of people in this team and could see myself liking a lot in the years to come. That said, they have made some pretty bad decisions in the past and it was not a shock that they were as bad of a team as they have been.
24. Kansas City Royals-
I actually like this franchise in terms of their ballpark and look, but then there are the people behind the scenes that ruin this team for me. At the ballpark, I have not heard many positive things about their ushers, and behind the franchise, I disagree on many things with the GM of the team, Dayton Moore. I think that the team could have been competing a long time ago had it not been for his guidance.
25. St. Louis Cardinals-
The main reason for them being this far down the list is the fact that their fans claim incorrectly that they are definitely the “best fans in baseball.” While I don’t think there is a no-doubt group of the best fans in baseball, if my experience with Cardinals fans in baseball has taught me anything, it is that while the Cardinals fan base may be in the top-10, they are definitely not the no-doubt best fans in baseball they claim to be.
26. Chicago White Sox-
I was a fan of the 2005 Astros and 2008 Twins. Enough said.
27. New York Mets-
They’re the Mets. I don’t know how many things I have admired about the Mets the past five years. If it’s any indication, the rendition of “Meet the Mets” that I have adopted begins:
Beat the Mets,
Beat the Mets,
Step right up and,
Sweep the Mets
28. Los Angeles Dodgers-
While I have kind of liked the players on the Dodgers for stretches, their recent acquisition by the Kasten-Johnson group and metamorphosis into baseball’s new Yankees has really turned me off to them. I have disliked them sans Vin Scully for a much longer time than just that, but that’s the most recent thing that provides a rational reason for disliking them.
29. Chicago Cubs-
I have never had any appeal to the Cubs, and I’m not particularly found of how Cubs fans overreact to prospects as well as how in-your-face Cubs fans I have interacted with have been about the most minor successes. Granted, it’s a conditioning that has come with being the fan of a team who last won a World Series when one’s great-grandparents were your age.
30. Boston Red Sox-
This is partially because I grew up a fan of the Yankees, but I also do like their stadium and the atmosphere of it. However, I can’t get over the attitude of their owner John Henry that many fans have adopted without realizing the absurdity of it of that the Yankees have a ridiculous advantage in terms of having a humongous payroll. The reason this argument infuriates me is because for the longest time, there was a gigantic gap in payroll between the Red Sox and the third largest payroll. Thus it was the rich crying poor in order to gain sympathy. The second reason is because the Steinbrenner family is actually a middle-of-the-pack ownership group in terms of wealth. The reason they invest so much money into the team is because they value winning. Therefore, if John Henry truly wanted to win, he could spend the extra money and win. The problem is that if he didn’t win with this extra money invested, he would be losing money. However, George Steinbrenner was taking the same risk when he invested his extra money; it was just that Steinbrenner’s Yankees did win every season and could thus keep spending. So what Henry did by calling out Steinbrenner and the Yankees was criticized him/them for doing what he didn’t have the guts to do with the Red Sox in order to give his fans the winning such a great fan base deserved. However, being the fans that they were, many Red Sox fans backed their owner without truly understanding what was behind these claims.
So those were my favorite teams. I am by no means “right” in any of my judgements. Picking a favorite team–or in my case *teams*–is something of complete subjectivity and can be done for any number of reasons. Also, the next entry is me making a new Observing Baseball Logo. I would actually like to make a clarification. So it’s actually not the logo itself–this:
But it would actually be me remaking the icon itself, which is this:
But besides that, keep voting for your favorite entries. I should mention that I’ll be doing various entries for Twinsfest, but you can vote for the stuff you want to see besides this on the poll below:
It was my second of what would be five games this week, and my highest ball total of any of them. As many or more than any three of the other four games combined. So let’s get started. Here was my view of the field for most of the game:
To the left is a ballhawk named Dylan, and to the right is my–well I guess at this point former–next-door neighbor, Greg Barasch. Where I was standing usually wouldn’t be a good spot to stand at all, but this was the view of the spot staircase to my right:
That wasn’t more congested at the moment, but I knew that that staircase is the first one to get clogged up with people and that I was best securing my spot on this staircase. I could have gone to the front spot of the staircase to my left:
But Ben Weil–in the orange shirt–was in that spot., and playing behind that spot is essentially worthless because it’s already a shot just to get it there. My first ball of the day, though came from about the spot where the person is leaning over the railing in that last picture. A ball got hit onto the party deck and so I headed over there and asked the employee down there if he could toss me the ball, which he did:
Next up for me was heading out to right field. There I managed to get Collin McHugh to toss me a ball by actually asking nicely:
As opposed to everyone else who was just shouting, “HERE!!!”
So since I had gotten baseballs from both left and right field, I headed out to center field to keep the symmetry. In center I got Greg Burke to toss me a ball that almost made me fall into the gap in front of the wall:
He then congratulated me on making the catch, and I headed back to my spot in left field. By this time Dylan had roamed closer to Ben. So when Greg moved out of his spot to maybe try to get a toss-up by the staircase to our right, it was a no-brainer to move up to his spot if only momentarily. A moment was all I needed. As he got to the other staircase, a Reds righty we later figured out was Zack Cozart hit a ball to the section right between us two. I tracked the ball all the way off the bat an had it lined up perfectly. The only question was—since Greg had gone in the row below me and was also running at the ball—was if Greg could catch up to the ball before it landed in my glove. It was close. Let me put I this way: I didn’t even know I had the ball until I looked in my glove. That’s because Greg and another person blocked my view of the field right as the ball entered my glove. I want to say that Greg and the other person collided, but all was good in the end. I just know that way too many people congratulated me for what was not really an amazing catch.
A good amount of time passed between this and my next snag, which was a toss-up from a player I believe was Sam Le Cure:
Ben thought it was Bill Bray until I told him that Bill Bray wasn’t on the Reds roster anymore. There was one guy in right field who I thought also might be LeCure, though, so I don’t know for sure. That said, I’m pretty sure the guy I got the ball from was LeCure, and the ball was my first of the day. Speaking of that guy, here he is:
The reason I show him is he was getting so bombarded by requests from kids asking for a baseball–while he was almost 100 feet from them–that he actually had to tell them to calm down with requests. Here are the kids below me, who–and I’m not using hyperbole here–were yelling every time he got the ball, even when he had to run towards the outfield to get the ball:
I figured he wasn’t going to toss a ball in my general direction any time soon, so I headed to the second deck in left field once Brandon Phillips’ group came up to hit. I would have gone to the lower level, but it looked packed and I knew Phillips had the potential to hit several up there:
Unfortunately he hit a couple deepish into the lower level, but none got up to me. That would be it fro BP. (Get it? It has dual meaning in that case.) After batting practice there were no kids with gloves that I hadn’t already seen get a ball, but I wanted to give a ball away, so I gave a ball away to two ushers instructing them to give the ball away to the next kid *with a glove* that passed through into their section/by them.
For the game I stayed in left field:
I spent most of the game talking to Dylan and a man by the name of Brian who I just engaged me early on in the game and spent the rest of the game just talking in general. Both of us agreed that our game together was one of the reasons going to the ballpark is such a special experience. You can just go, enjoy a game, and spend the game talking to a stranger about a common interest that is baseball. It was a light in a game at quite possibly my least favorite ballpark that I have been to in the major leagues.
For the end of the game I headed down to the umpire tunnel (abiding by the rules of the stadium, I may add. I did indeed have a ticket for the section the umpire tunnel is in.) to try to get a ball from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, and I did by yelling out to him before he could get off the field. See at Citi Field, there’s a wheelchair section to the umpire’s right when he walks into the tunnel, so if a kid is in that section, the umpire is almost always going to give him a ball there. This can be good because it stops the umpire for long enough for him to hear a ballhawk calling him by his actual name, but if there is a string of kids that gathers around him at this point, the umpire ball is pretty much lost, so the best way to get a ball from the umpire at Citi Field, if you have the room to do so, is to call out to the umpire before he gets off the field itself, and then if he can’t hear you keep following him with the same request until the corner spot of the tunnel. Unfortunately there is usually someone in the corner spot for the tunnel if you abandon it, and even if there isn’t the security people at the umpire tunnel especially have some sort of enmity towards ballhawks, so they have told myself and others that we aren’t allowed alongside the tunnel’s glass railing, but when other people do the same, they’re allowed. The most important thing about umpire balls, though, is the sooner you can get it before other people can talk to him, the better. It also helps to be standing alone. You don’t want to be amongst a crowd of kids if you’re not a kid yourself, because while the umpire might hear you, he might toss the ball to a kid next to you anyway if he doesn’t deem you “fit” to get a ball over the kid. Anyway, that has been today’s lesson on Citi Field umpire balls.
After that I didn’t get a ball from the Reds bullpen people, and I met up with Ben and Greg at the dugout. The three of us walked to the subway together and were going to take it together, but Ben realized he had to take the local and we the express. He normally drives to the games, but as he was pulling out of his driveway or wherever he parks, he realized he had a flat tire, so he got in a cab and got to the gate less than ten minutes before it opened. On a semi-related note, batting practice had tired him out, so he was going to leave in about the third inning, but he got stuck for four plus innings filling out all-star ballots, so he figured he would stay for the umpire ball. Regardless, where I’m going with this is that Ben had to take the train and it was a different train than ours, so he said goodbye and walked away from us:
As he was walking away, he turned back to wave a second joke goodbye, and as he was doing this, a friend of his snuck-up from behind him and tackled/hugged him. I’m sorry the lead up was so long for not that good of a story, and I realize this is the end of the entry so you just want to be done reading, so here’s the picture I thought it was kind of cool that I got:
I then boarded my train with Greg and spent the night at his place. Most of said night was spent getting barked at by one of his dogs that thought I was an intruder and an obscene amount of surfing mygameballs.com looking up ours and other people’s games/commenting on them (If that doesn’t automatically hyperlink, you can either copy and paste, or the website is this blog’s sidebar over to the right.)
- 6 Balls at this Game (4 pictured because I gave 2 away)
- 75 Balls in 16 Games= 4.69 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 23,183 Fans= 139,098 Competition Factor
- 78 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 95 Balls in 35 Games at Citi Field= 2.71 Balls Per Game
- 35 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:37-11:00= 7 Hours 23 Minutes
First of all, here is a Before The Gates Open video detailing my journey to and subsequent time at Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda:
Oh, how there are some things that I did not miss at all about New York:
At the top of my baseball portion of this list was probably Citi Field. That said, I planned to attend five games there this week starting with this game. Why would I put myself through this madness? I was at 86 career baseballs snagged at Citi Field and wanted to get to 100 baseballs there so I would never have feel the obligation to go to Citi Field ever again. That way if I ever returned to Citi Field, it would more-or-less be on my own terms and not because I felt obligated to go there. So let’s get right into the entry, shall we?
For the first few groups of BP, I stood out here:
If you can’t tell, the guy in the white shirt and blue hat is Zack Hample. Normally I would like to be on the staircase he is on in that picture, but he took that spot, and to stand behind him is just asking to get robbed. Plus it wouldn’t make sense to bunch up if we had space to spread out. However, the reason I took this picture is Zack somehow managed to rob me from there. More specifically, I managed to absolutely botch a ball. As I explained in a Before The Gates Open video–which I’ll put up on this entry later on next week when I have access to the footage and time to edit it. (I’ll announce when I’ve put it up on Twitter)–this was my first time bringing my 14-or-so-inch lefty glove to a game, so by the time the the gates opened, it was still a little new to me. Anyway, I got Tom Goodwin to toss me a ball, but I somehow had the ball tip off the top of my glove and into the seats behind me. I ran back to where the ball landed, but it wasn’t there. Just then I saw Zack running in my peripheral vision and a ball hit in the seats all at the same time. What had happened was the ball had bounced off a seat and fallen a couple of rows down, where I couldn’t see it but Zack could. He ran over to pick it up and while he was over on my side of the section, a Mets righty hit a ball right next to him, which he also picked up. So had I not completely botched the ball, I probably would have had two quick baseballs. Those would be the only two baseballs I would see anywhere near me in left field. Although, those were Zack’s first two baseballs of the game, and this was the 900th consecutive game in a row that he had snagged a baseball at. So I can kind of say that I was responsible for a 900 games in a row with at least 1 ball.
Center field, though, was another story. I decided at the beginning of a new BP group that I would head over there and try my luck with getting toss-ups. I quickly got Dillon Gee to toss me my first ball of the day:
I then headed back to left field for the beginning of Reds BP. This time on the other side of Zack:
(I realize this picture is during Mets BP, but you get the picture–literally–here.) But when I realized most of the Reds power hitters were lefties and Mat Latos was not going to toss anything up any time soon, I headed back out to the center field.
In center field I moved down to the corner spot at the bottom left of the section (bottom right if you’re looking at it from home plate). And while I was trying to get a ball from whoever the player was ( I remember he was a 6-foot-6 lefty or something like that, but I don’t feel like looking up the actual name of the player.) I heard the people next to me moving around and the player look up in the sky. As it was already on its descent, I looked up and saw the ball everyone was looking at, and saw that it was coming essentially right at me. I then quickly got my glove up, hopped a bit, and caught the ball:
I found out later from the people behind me that it was Jay Bruce who hit the ball. This was nice in that it had a redemptive quality to it for messing up the easy Goodwin catch. It also assured me that there was indeed hope for this giant lefty glove. However, I must say that two annoying things about the glove are when I have to label the baseball, because I still do write right-handed, and when I’m taking a picture of the baseball, because I still feel the need to have the ball on the left side of the frame and that requires that I cross my arms while taking the picture.
Anyway, this ball would be my last of batting practice. Since the Reds good hitters are pretty much–besides Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier–are left-handed, I headed up to a place I hadn’t been in a while, the Pepsi Porch in right field:
Here’s the view of the field from where I was standing:
And now of the scoreboard:
The reason I took so many pictures from up there that didn’t really have to do with ballhawking is that I didn’t know when the next time I was going to be on the Pepsi Porch was. Maybe never. Like I said, I hadn’t been up there in a long time. And there’s a reason for that. To get up onto the Pepsi Porch, you have to go into foul ground, take and escalator up two or three stories, go across a bridge, go down some steps, and then you’re at the *back* of the section. Simply put: you better have a very good reason to go up there if you’re wasting that much time in just getting there.
After batting practice I headed down to the Reds dugout to try to get a ball from the person packing up the BP balls up, but the funniest thing happened. Instead of heading into the dugout when he pack the baseballs up, he went into the area right behind home plate and dumped the whole bag of baseballs on him:
I don’t know the exact story, but that guy in the stands managed to snag I’d say between 10 and 15 baseballs in the span of a second. It was something pretty ridiculous that I’ve never seen before.
As for the rest of the game, I snagged a ball after the game at the umpire’s tunnel which I then gave away to a Vietnam Veteran I saw with a glove, but that wasn’t the story of the game. All of us ballhawk-type people met up at the dugout after the game, and posed with the prize of the game:
Left to right that would be:
4. Aaron (Who also goes by the nickname Howie)
And sorry for the picture being out of focus. Whoever took the picture didn’t understand that the iPhone needs a second to focus the picture. But anyway, what we are all pointing to is the Marlon Byrd home run Mark had snagged earlier in the game. Mark has snagged one more home run than I have (so two). And both have come when I was in attendance and the ball got pulled to a section in left field. I’d say it is one or two sections from the foul pole. Congratulations, Mark, on that. Both were nice plays. The only negative thing about the home run is that had Mark snagged one more ball in BP, the home run would have been his 100th ball snagged ever. I think he’ll take the home run snag, though. Although, it is a personal observation of mine that one’s 100th ball likes to be the first ball of a game. Myself and a bunch of other ballhawks it seems leave a game stuck on 99 baseballs and can’t get that 100th ball until the next game.
Our family had just moved to Washington–I stayed for an extra week to say goodbye to people in New York–so I headed back on the train with Zack to sleep one last night in a pretty vacant apartment with my step-brother who had a flight that he had to leave for at 3 o’clock in the morning. Suffice to say I didn’t get much sleep in preparation for the game the following day.
- 3 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 69 Balls in 15 Games= 4.60 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 23,038 Fans= 69,114 Competition Factor
- 77 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 89 Balls in 34 Games at Citi Field= 2.62 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:13-12:02= 8 Hours 49 Minutes
Since this was my first game of 2012 at Citi Field, let’s count all the things the Mets changed from 2011 that I thought would make Citi Field awesome, but ended up angering me.
1. They advertised people being able to buy a six game plan for as low as $9 a ticket.
I was ecstatic to see this because I usually buy my tickets from Stubhub, and Stubhub’s fees on each ticket are $11 plus whatever the ticket itself costs. However, when I bought the tickets, the fees the Mets added to the tickets bumped up the price of the plan from $54 to $89, so around $15 a ticket.
Now this wouldn’t have been a big deal on its own, but check out the ticket I bought at this game:
That’s right, I bought this ticket for only $10. Nowadays, the Mets sell tickets to people with valid student IDs for only $10, but they made sure to wait until AFTER the beginning of the season to publicize this fact. So in essence, what I did in buying the plan was waste $30 and make it so I *had* to attend those games or sell them on Stubhub if any plans got in the way, whereas I could choose not to go if I were constantly buying tickets the day of the game as I did here. For the record, I will probably not be able to attend four of those games that I bought, so in all likelihood, I wasted a lot more than $30 on the Mets.
2. They put up a section in Left Field that was closer to the field:
It should be obvious why I thought this was going to make Citi Field a much better place to snag baseballs. Closer to the field= more baseballs that make it into the seats. In addition, I didn’t account for how this would improve the ballhawking in the regular seating above the new section. As fellow ballhawk and neighbor Greg Barasch put it, “We would be in the place we normally are now, but it would be completely empty.” It makes sense, doesn’t it? Other fans see a section closer to the field than they are and they crowd it. In response to Greg’s comment, I jokingly said, “Yeah, but you know the Mets are going to find a way to mess this up, right?” Well, the Mets did.
Unlike my fantasized LF, there were ushers checking tickets, even during batting practice. So all the section does is act as like a perpetual season ticket holder section the Mets had last year. If you don’t remember what that was or have started reading this blog since then, it was a section on the field where season ticket holders could experience batting practice from the field. What this did was keep most toss ups from being thrown to the people in the upper part of the bleachers. So if there are any people in that section, they are a lot more likely to get a ball thrown to them simply because of their proximity to the field and thus any player who would throw a ball into the stands.
That ball, as I later discovered, is lopsided. If you hold the ball in the center, the right side of the ball has more mass than the left does. I don’t know if this will show up well in a photo, but do you see how the following picture has the ball slanted? That is because this particular ball cannot possibly sit on its middle due to the size differential between the sides. Weird, right?:
I stayed in the LF seats for a couple of minutes after that, but all the Mets in the cage were lefties, so I knew nothing was coming my way on the fly.
That brought me to the CF section, which also brings us to:
4. The Mets were going to move the fences in CF.
I thought this was going to mean they would also put in some extra seats as to make it possible for us ballhawks to catch baseballs that otherwise we would not have been able to reach. Instead this was the result:
The bottom concrete part is where the seating area ends and the orange is the top of the new wall. That means the Mets moved the fence closer, but the seats stayed the same. What did this create? A gap, and a rather large one too:
This is GREAT for using the glove trick or another retrieval device, but as it is well-documented, such devices are absolutely NOT allowed at Citi Field. That means myself and other people with devices are forced to drool over balls like the one in the picture above.
I was however, the only person in the section, so I was bound to get at least one ball there, right? Well, the Mets’ bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello went to throw a ball against the wall and I thought he was going to throw it to me, so I made a motion to catch it. As he released the ball he spotted me and tossed me a second ball he had with him. However, this was a half-hearted throw and landed a few feet short, making me lean into the gap for a catch:
I then moved over to RF, but I quickly left because R. A. Dickey was manning that portion of the outfield. He was an absolute jerk last year after being so nice in his first year with the Mets, and it was clearly the “2011 R. A.” rather than the “2010 R. A.” In addition, RF brings up… drumroll:
5. The Mets moved in the fences in RF.
Again, I thought they would add some general seating there and this would mean RF would actually be a feasible place to catch a baseball. Instead, this is what they did:
Similar to CF, the Mets added no new seating open to the public. Instead, they added a picnic-like area. The reason I say “a feasbible place to catch a baseball” is because as it is now, only the juts at the sides of the section can have a Home Run hit to them due to the overhang of the second deck. If the seating were to extend to the orange line, though, there would be a few rows of running room and some mild hope of catching a ball there. In addition to not living up to my child-like fantasy, the addition actually made that section worse. As it was last year, any ball that hit the angular wall would ricochet to the ground under the red “Modell’s” sign. This allowed experienced ballhawks to stay right above said sign and just ask whichever player picked up the ball from right above their head.
I *was* behind Zack Hample, but that’s not why I didn’t get a ball until the Reds started throwing. No, the reason for my drought was the Mets seem to not be physically able to hit a ball past the Party Deck if unless they pull it right down the foul line.
This was about the most interesting part of the rest of the Mets’ batting practice:
Has anyone ever seen a dot like that on the batting cage for the pitcher to aim at? Is this done all the time and I am just that oblivious to such details? What’s up with it? Should I stop asking so many rhetorical questions?
Anyway, I then moved over to foul ground when the Reds pitchers started throwing and lined up behind this throwing pair:
However, I had no idea what either of their names were, so when Johnny Cueto finished his throwing, I didn’t hesitate at all to wave my arms in the air and ask for a ball. I figured he would walk a little closer and throw me the ball, but he stopped right where he was and threw it a long way to me. The next picture shows how far away he was when he released the ball. The arrow on the left is where Cueto is now and the arrow on the right is where he was when he threw me the ball:
Not surprisingly, Cueto overthrew me, but the only fan behind me was on his phone and didn’t even notice the ball until it clanged off a seat right in front of him and caromed back closer to me.
Here is a picture of the ball with Cueto in the background once I got back to the LF seats:
After that, myself and the other ballhawk in attendance, Mark McConville had the treat of getting completely humiliated while Zack caught baseballs while on his cellphone:
He was getting interviewed by a Sirius XM radio station and they wanted to get him on the air live while he was snagging baseballs. That was one of two or three baseballs he managed to get players to toss him without using words.
I, on the other hand, got this:
It wasn’t all happy, though. That was the second ball that landed in that row. The first one was a ball hit to my left. I had a fancyish camera at this game and wanted to make use of it, so me, being the idiot that I am, tried to get a picture of the ball as I caught it. The action of holding the camera threw me off-balance and caused me to not only miss what would have been an easy catch, but also hit the metal armrest of a seat. This left what is a bruise that is half an inch deep, an inch tall, and three inches wide. I won’t show it for the more sqeamish people, but here is a link to the picture for those who want to see it, or you can read Zack’s account of the game, within which he details the bruise/cut (Oh, and before I get too side-tracked, that is the other ballhawk, Mark, going up to the front of the section in Reds gear.)
After I hit the armrest, my head was slowly lowering, so all I could see was some glove in the row behind me catch the ball. On the very next pitch or the pitch right after that, the same hitter hit a ball in the same row but even further to my left and I hobbled over there and picked up the ball. I guess Karma was feeling bad for me. This injury esentially fudged up my plan of going over to RF and asking a Reds player over there for a ball, because it was painful to put any significant pressure on the leg, and that was it for batting practice. The Reds hitters hit very little into the stands and their pitchers were throwing very little as well.
Oh well, at least it was a beautiful afternoon:
Also, see the usher in green, who I have further emphasized by putting an arrow over his head, in that last picture? Towards the end of batting practice, I gave him a ball that I told him to give to a kid of his choice.
One thing I do like about the Mets is that they have the lineups on the scoreboard even before the game begins. Here they are:
If you can’t tell, the Reds had 7 righties and the Mets had 6 lefties. Considering the Reds hadn’t faced a left-handed pitcher in almost a month at this point and were unlikely to hit a Home Run against one of the best left-handed pitchers in the National League, I sat in, you guessed it. Left Field.
My plan *was* to sit in the foul territory along the third base line, but with the limp I had, ushers were already checking tickets by the time I got to those seats and I decided to play Home Run balls in Left Field. I felt pretty good about that when, a few inning into the game, this was the view to my left:
That said, you may or may not have noticed in that last picture, but this was what the section I was planning to sit in looked like:
Thankfully nothing was hit there, but it was absolute torture watching the section be that empty.
Long story short, neither the Reds nor the Mets hit anything close to my section. I’m pretty sure I spent more time studying for an AP Macroeconomics test I had the next morning than I did paying attention to the game. This is saying a lot considering I wasn’t really invested in the test given it was going to be on the one year anniversary of my dad’s death, on which day I attempted to go to a Mets game. Then again, I guess I can’t complain about anything that happened this game considering most of fellow seniors were at prom right as I took that last picture. The one bright spot in the game is what I believe to be one of the few things the Mets managed to get right, and it is this:
I like that they have the spray chart for the hitters. Then again, it’s something that I, as a high school senior, can and have done on a daily basis, so it’s not that impressive. I’m sorry, am I being too negative? I just really don’t like that the Mets have messed up almost every “improvement” they have tried to make. I thoroughly enjoyed watching not one, but two Home Runs be hit by the Reds that would not have been Home Runs with the old dimensions.
Remember I mention I had a fancyish camera this game? Well one of the things said camera can do is take panoramic photographs, so I took one towards the beginning of the game and one towards the end of the game:
After the game, I headed out to the bullpens in CF and asked Reds bullpen catcher, Mike Stefanski, and even though not only the only fan wearing Reds gear, but the only fan there period, he completely ignore my request. I then got to think about how big of an idiot I was for banging my thigh against seat while I hopped/limped all the way from CF to the train station behind Home Plate.
- 4 Balls at this game (3 in this picture because I gave that one away to the usher)
Numbers 252-255 in my “collection”:
- 33 Balls in 7 Games= 4.71 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 4 Balls x 22,659 Fans= 90,636 Competition Factor (or an example of why this statistic is flawed)
- 76 balls obtained in 29 games = 2.62 Balls Per Game
- 29 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 1 Ball
- Time at Game 4: 13- 10:16= 6 hours 3 minutes
Things definitely regressed for the Reds a year after winning the NL Central by a comfortable margin:
Mat Latos, Andrew Brackman, Ryan Madson, Sean Marshall, and Dioner Navarro.
Francisco Cordero, Yonder Alonso, Ramon Hernandez, Edison Volquez, Dontrelle Willis, and Travis Wood.
Why?: I just matched up all the additions and subtractions, and it looked like, in my opinion, that the Reds did add some big names, but the people they lost were marginally better (for this upcoming year). The two main examples are Volquez for Latos and Madson for Cordero.
I think that the Reds package sent to the Padres will be marginally better than Latos, because Volquez is on his way back up from the Tommy John surgery a few years ago ( I believe it was Tommy John, but I’m not 100% sure). He may still return to his form of 17 wins in. This was his only season where he has pitched in more than 20 games. This shows that if he is healthy, he has shown he can pitch. Latos’ struggles as of late, on the other hand, come from over-usage. Therefore, from my experience in seeing over-used pitchers, his struggles will mildly continue into 2012, because he has to get back into the rhythm of pitching. He may not, in which case all of this is null and void, but he probably will. Also, Volquez will be going to PETCO Park while Latos now gets to call the Great American Launch Pad his home. That said, once Latos does get over his <insert clever over-usage pun here> syndrome, I think he will be better than the Volquez group, but I think he won’t until after 2012, so I have Volquez and package being better than Latos this year.
Madson for Cordero is a bit more complicated. I think that Madson may be better than Cordero and it definitely was good to get rid of Cordero before he starts declining, but Cordero has been one of the most consistently excellent closers over the last half-decade, while Madson only has a year of closing experience. I do like Madson over Cordero, but I think the Reds would have been better served letting him go to another team for a year and getting what I think is the last good year before he really declines from Cordero, and letting Madson mature for another year and become a better closer. Either that or sign Madson to a multi-year deal, because I see Madson’s price tag only going up after this season. The only reason I could see them signing Madson to a one-year deal is if they think this is their last year of contention before Joey Votto leaves, either via trade in 2013 or free agency in the 2013-14 offseason.
Other than this, I don’t know what to say. Last year, I predicted their youth to be an advantage, and I got burned because they actually regressed a little. I guess I’ll just say that their youth gives them room for growth again and hope it actually does this year.
Predicted Record Range: 82-87 wins