The Braves’ story of 2011 should have been their historically great bullpen back three:
Sadly, it was their semi-historically great collapse at the end of the season:
Nothing. They really added absolutely nothing notable to their team. They *re-signed* a couple of notable people, but they added nothing that wasn’t already on the team.
Derek Lowe, Brooks Conrad, Alex Gonzalez, Wes Helms, Scott Linebrink, Julio Lugo, Nate McLouth, and George Sherill.
Why?: I get the fact that I created this category and made its title the rhetorical question that it is, but honestly, I cannot imagine why anyone would ask “Why” I gave the Braves such a bad grade. They added NOTHING! In addition to that, their subtraction list is almost a two-liner. Sure they’re not franchise-makers that are on that list, which is why I didn’t give the Braves an “F”, but it’s enough to say they lost a whole lot more than they brought in, which is the qualification for a “D”.
That silly little self-responsive rant said, the Braves are a young team, whose starters are on the upswing. I mean Jason Heyward can only bounce back from his past season. Any worse and they would just have to replace him with a replacement-level player.Freddie Freeman showed amazing spouts of talent that could make him into a very good 1st Baseman, Tommy Hanson still has to show us what he can do with a full season of work, my favorite Braves player, Julio Teheran, still has to show us what made him their top prospect. I could go on but those are the major names.
What it comes down to for the Braves in the end is that they have the potential to have a VERY good rotation (Jurrjens, Hudson, Hanson, Teheran, and another), they already have the best back end -if not entire bullpen- in the major leagues (O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel), and they can have an explosive offense if their pieces come together (Jones, Uggla, McCann, Heyward, Freeman, Bourn, and Prado). This team could actually surpass their season win-total from last season this year.
Predicted Record Range: 87-92 wins
Next Up: Los Dodgers de El Pueblo Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Yes, it truly was a tale of two seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011:
Casey McGehee, Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Erik Bedard, Ryota Igarashi (because he’s the only Major Leaguer I’ve played catch with), Nate McLouth, and Doug Slaten.
Paul Maholm, Joe Biemel, Ronny Cedeño, Ryan Doumit, Nelson Figueroa, Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Snyder, and Jose Veras.
Why?: The Pirates have had the most transactions of any team I have done a recap for (the total number of names is probably double that of the list of notable transactions. That said, they also don’t have the big names going back and forth so its kind of hard to account how much all of these little gains and losses will affect the team in the aggregate. Some of these additions might not even give the Pirates an extra win. I mean will Doug Slaten have much of an impact of the Pirates? Probably not. I’m not that sure of how these things will pan out in most predictions, much less so many of them.
Anywho, they did make some higher impact changes. Paul Maholm was a big part of their rotation that has left, and the acquisitions of Erik Bedard and Casey McGehee are sure to help the team have their first winning season of the last 20.
However, this grade could possibly and probably should be lower. The reason the grade isn’t where it most likely would be had I done this recap in a month is because two Pirates (Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick) are still on the free agent market and I have to leave the possibility open that they will return to the Pirates-even if they probably won’t. If both of those are on the “Notable Subtractions” list, my grade for the team is probably a half a grade lower, if not more.
Predicted Record Range: 79-84 wins. The NL Central is depleted, but this number will go down if Lee and/or Ludwick don’t re-sign.
Over the past year and a half, I have gone to a whole mess of baseball games. While my primary focuses at these games have been to collect baseballs and watch the games themselves, I have acquired a lot of items. This entry is to show exactly how much I have acquired throughout not just the past year and a half, but my 17 year old lifetime of going to baseball games. Before I get started on listing the things, I want to clarify that I didn’t get all of these things at the games, but rather, these were all things that I acquired because I go/went to games and am interested in baseball. Really, this is just miscellaneous baseball stuff that I have come into ownership of through one way shape or form.
Although I have come across many unique items, my baseball collection is the one that has brought me to most of the games I have gone to. Therefore,
it is worthy of the first (even though it is of lower quality than the other) picture.
Over my “career” going to games and catching baseballs, I have snagged 222. This photo does not show all of them, only the ones I have kept. The two are different because I have given away a substantial amount of the 222 to different kids and others at the games that I have gone to.
Next are the foul balls that I have gotten during the game itself:
(isn’t the quality a lot better on that picture?)
The balls are as follows:
1. A foul ball hit by Chuck Knoblauch when I was about five or six. I was sitting in the third deck of the Old Yankee Stadium.
2. A Luis Hernandez ball, there was an article written about it.
3. A Nate McLouth foul ball and my first caught on the fly. Here is a link to my blog entry on that game.
To highlight a particularly interesting ball in my collection, here is a ball I suspect is from the 1950s or 60s. This is because it was found in my grandfather’s things and he lived close to San Francisco (which didn’t get an MLB team until then), and because I found out, through e-mailing a few credible people, that it was signed by commissioner Giles who had his name on the ball from 1951-1969.
Next are my baseballs that were not snagged at a baseball game, but bought or given to me as a gift to me. I would go through them and explain each one, but some are self-explanatory and most are not worth explaining.
I do have other baseballs that fit into this category, but they were more beat up balls that I have made their way into my collection from baseball teams I have been a part of throughout the years, and I didn’t want to make it seem like those were the majority of my non-MLB collection, because if you click on that picture and zoom in, there are some pretty cool baseballs. For example, the bottom one is a Babe Ruth ball i.e. if you flip it horizontally and then vertically, you will get a bio of Babe Ruth.
Next in my completely arbitrary order of importance are framed baseball things. Among those, the first picture is of the item that is pictured in my gravatar profile picture (that would be the picture that shows up next to me when I comment on another blog within the realm of WordPress):
The story behind this is that, my dad was looking for a Christmas present for me in 2010 and either found this picture or remembered of it. The original actually started with “I’m a hawk”, but my dad inserted the “ball” part to individualize it for me.
Next, I have a portrait of David Cone given to me by a friend who knew how much I loved baseball and knew I would take care of it.
But wait, there’s more! The backside is signed by a few people, two of which I can somewhat recognize:
Finally, the last framed item is a map of all major league stadiums that I got from my dad that same Christmas (Yes, he was very generous to me.).
If you can see, there are White pins placed in certain cities. This means that I have visited a stadium in that city. The Black boxes on either side of the map specify which stadium I have visited when it comes to that franchise that city and league i.e. I have visited both the Metrodome and Target Field and so both of those boxes should be Blacked- out (even if I still haven’t marked that I have visited Target Field). The Yellow flag shows the next stadium I plan to visit, the Green represents my favorite stadium, and the Blue my last stadium visited.
Next are the non-framed baseball things. What do I mean by this? For example, this Joe Mauer head would be a non-framed baseball thing.
I got this while at the Minnesota State Fair. I was in town to go to the Metrodome for three games before the Twins moved into Target Field and my dad and I decided to go because a) he was from Minnesota and b) the State Fair is the second largest in the country behind Texas (everything’s bigger in Texas). They have an unofficial theme of anything your heart desires being available on a stick. I don’t know if this is a play on that, but I got it at the Qwest stand as they were handing them out for free.
The next item, I guess, is this random Fenway Park sign.
I honestly have no idea how I got this. It was probably another scenario where a friend of my parents knew I was really into baseball and gave me this thing that they had. Other than that I can’t explain it. I was raised a Yankee fan and still don’t care that much for the Red Sox. I tried actually rooting for them for a season, but it just felt wrong. I no longer have the same love for the Yankees and I still respect the Red Sox (chicken murdering and all), but by no stretch of the imagination do I root for them to succeed. Nevertheless, this banner type thing does allow me to do a few photographic gags.
Next in the, seriously I’m making this up as I go along, order of items is my baseball card “collection”. I really only bought cards for half a season. Maybe it’s because I’m of the computer generation where a player’s stats can be found within three clicks, but they really didn’t do anything for me. So, the majority of my collection comes from people who were collectors in their younger years giving me their baseball cards.
I think the highest stack (upper left) is about 75 cards, and you can kind of tell how tall the other ones are in relation to that one. For the record, I DO have more cards, but they are somewhere in a box or underneath my bed and I have no desire to go looking for them as I have enough things to do. I would say my entire baseball card collection is in the 500 range.
Just to be clear, these are no longer non-framed baseball things. I am now just going in the random order that I took the pictures of the things in. The next item in said order is the Gatorade towel Josh Thole gave me at Nationals Park on 7/30/11.
It is actually a pretty good story as to how that happened. so click the link I provided for you on the 7/30/11 and scroll about 80% of the way down the page.
As a ballhawk, one of the tricks of the trade is to own a hat and shirt of both teams. Here is my collection of baseball related hats.
The next item is a result of my strategy. I actually don’t know how many other ballhawks do this, but I do it, probably as a result of my paranoia in always thinking that players will recognize me. Anyway, I bring a neutral hat and shirt to most games. Here are all of the neutral hats that I wore in 2011:
Finally, here are all my MLB shirts:
For whatever reason, all the pictures of the shirts came out blurry. I would take a few more shots, but it is REALLY annoying to take all of the shirts out of my drawers and align them for a few pictures before putting them all back.
And what is being a Yankee fan without having two mugs for the coffee I never drink?
The one on the left I think I got around the same age I got the Chuck Knoblauch foul ball. The one on the right, is a pretty recent headline and this is one of those where I have no recollection of how I got it.
Sticking with the cup theme, here is a cup I bought with my dad the first time I went to the baseball Hall of Fame (I have gone 3-4 times since and could probably go another 20 if it weren’t a 6 hour drive).
Note the indentation in the bottom of the glass.
Next is (partially)my collection of programs and pocket schedules. I write partially because I have about ten others, but can’t find them. I hope they’re not lost because there were a few good ones. Like a Phillies program when they won the World Series and a Giants program with Tim Lincecum on the cover from the April after he won his first Cy Young, entitled “So Good, So Young.”
Next are the tickets individual to the first baseball trip I ever took. It was: drive down to Philadelphia for two games against the Dodgers, drive back up right after the second game ended, fly to Detroit that same morning, watch the Tigers take on the Indians, take a bus to Pittsburgh, and watch the Brewers take on the Pirates for three games.
All of the series were sweeps and the highlights were, Pedro Feliciano hit a 3 run walk-off HR in I think double digit innings, Cliff Lee got his 19th win of the year to go along with only 2 losses at that point. At that point he was a one-year wonder and the Ace to replace CC Sabathia who had been traded to the Brewers and had been doing amazing as he was 5-0 at this point with the Brewers. Speaking of Sabathia, my next highlight came when he threw what should have been a no-hitter, but the Pittsburgh scorer gave one of the “Laroche”s a hit on a dribbler that Sabathia dropped, citing that it was an above average play for the man who had barehanded a line drive to him the previous inning. I may eventually get around to blogging about these games, but it probably won’t be until next year as I am and predict to be very busy until then.
Next are the variety of rosters I have printed out to know who the players are on the teams in the game that I happened to watch that day.
Notice that some have pictures. Usually this only happens on trips because when I am at home I am more pressed for time, and yes, I did print out a roster for the umpires (third from the top and left).
If you’re thinking that all the games I go to must produce a lot of tickets, here is an emphatic “YES!”
I apologize for the shoddy lasso job, although I am mildly skilled in the art of Photoshop, I can’t afford it for my home computer.
Ha, you thought those were all my tickets.
Those were only my electronic tickets. Pictured above are my “stubs”, I guess you could call them. These aren’t necessarily only tickets to baseball games, but they are pertaining to baseball. For example, I took two excursions while I was in Atlanta. Can you find the tickets to these two separate places’ tickets?
Next is my (partial) collection of signed items. Partial because I had 17 signed balls at the beginning of the year, but gave away about 15 of them.
Luke Gregorson and Mike Adams (as you may be able to read from the little tabs that I have with every signed ball)
Rollie Fingers. Yes, his mustache does look just a little bit funnier in person.
Tony Cruz a.k.a. the back up catcher for the Cardinals.
Doug Slaten and Emilio Bonifacio
Now we begin the cycle of random baseball things with two Mets bobbleheads.
Pretty self-explanatory, right?
Starting in 2006, I vote for the All-Star Game via the paper ballots every stadium has out. I also have kept a few from the last few years:
This next one I received for my birthday and didn’t think it quite fit in with the MLB T-Shirt picture. So I decided to make it its own picture.
Again, here are two framed cards that I didn’t think quite fit in the “framed things” category nor the “baseball cards” picture.
The first is explained by the fact that my two favorite players growing up were Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire. Sad, I know. The second was given to me in conjunction with the Babe Ruth ball I elaborated on in the “non-MLB baseballs” picture.
Here, are two pitching figurines I have no idea how they came into my possession. What I do know is that they are supposed to be Don Drysdale and Roger Clemens, respectively.
Here is another figurine of the (Old?) Yankee Stadium with a baseball for perspective.
Here are the Ice Cream Helmets I used to collect with my dad when we went to stadiums.
I may continue this in the future, but probably won’t remember to do so for every stadium.
Next are the gloves I used in 2011 and 2010, in order of usage.
Now we get into the items I have received as part of promotions by teams. Starting with the Nationals’ schedule for 2012.
Here we have a fan type thing the Yankees gave away. The Yankees don’t have many promotions and they usually aren’t that good, because they are usually companies just trying to advertise. There are exceptions, but for the most part, the Yankees don’t need promotions to get people to come to the ballpark.
Next are some sunglasses that the Mets gave out early in the year. I usually brought them to games as a further affirmation of my paranoia that players would recognize me (another disguise).
The next picture is a lunchbox that I got on that same trip to Philadelphia in 2008.
Did I mention that Manny had just gotten to the Dodgers recently before that series and the Phillies fans were already booing him. When my dad asked a fan in the upper deck, “Why are you booing him? He just got here. He couldn’t’ve done anything to you ALREADY, right?” the Phillie fan responded, “Oh, we boo everyone.”
Next are two promotional items I got when I was in Pittsburgh on that same trip. The first is a wall-clock. The second is a commemorative plate.
Next are my three non-Met baseball bobble heads. They should be pretty easy to identify considering the names are on the bases.
Here, is a link to a picture of the Jose Reyes cape I got for the Mets’ promotion, Fiesta Latina. This comes because the pictures I took of mine are blurry beyond belief.
Here are two shirts (front and back) that I got by going to Nats games at the end of the year. The first is a promotional “Strasburg Returns” shirt and the second is a “PNC Virtual Wallet T-shirt Toss” shirt.
Finally, my last baseball items that I have photographic proof of are… my baseball books.
For the record, I *do* have Moneyball, but I usually recommend it to people and said recommendation usually ends in me lending that book to said people.
If you got to this point in the entry, I commend you. I hope that you at least got a chuckle off of how much a person can be obsessed with baseball enough to write an entry this long.
Second day at Turner Field:
I was excited because it was now the day after the fourth of July and the attendance would probably be low not only because it was a day not fourth of July but specifically because it was the day AFTER when not that many people would want to get to the game at 4:30.
As foreshadowing, my day started off poorly. I was obligated to put on sunscreen outside the gate and as a result the glove trick with fishing line (as I use it ) became a very difficult task because my hands kept slipping on the line and thus i couldn’t get a ball that fell in the LF gap:
I eventually conceded to a person with a cup trick that snagged it in five seconds after he readied his device.
Why was I not by the first base foul line for the pitchers warming up you ask? Well because right field and all sections to the right of that were closed until 5:00 but I did eventually make my way to the center field corner spot (the spot furthest to the front and left, from my perspective, of the section). From there I had priority to any ball hit in right field. I used this to get Brain Snitker, the third base coach, to toss me a ball.
I then moved back to left field when a few righties came up and when Martin Prado tossed a ball to a kid and missed high I collected it and handed it to him right away.
Back in right field when Jason Heyward’s group came up, I used my glove trick to pick up a ball that landed in the gap between the walls:
Yes that is a Hilton pen that I have my fishing line on. Why? In order to prevent tangling like that which I pointed out at the end of the day before’s entry. There was another ball that landed in the gap later on during bp (I don’t remember when) but it was wedged perfectly between two metal strips in the gap so that I could not move it. I then moved back to left field when the Rockies pitchers came out to warm-up and got Ubaldo Jimenez to toss me a ball:
Bad News: He under threw me by two feet and the ball fell into the gap.
Good News: There was a construction/painting platform below me so I just had to lean over a bit and I picked it up.
Back to right field. I got Matt Pagnozzi to throw me a ball. As you can tell there really wasn’t much Home Run action. Had there been I might have found myself in double digits at the end of the day. Oh well, someday. There were a few that came near me but people were just in the right spots as I positioned myself to have as much open running room as possible. The picture to describe this:
I would described the feeling behind my face as tired due to running back and forth, disappointed because of the balls I got blocked on, and a little annoyed because I don’t have one shot of me actually snagging a ball. I mean I’m not catching ten balls a game so it is a bit tough with a screen that goes to sleep every five seconds but given my luck at that point the smaller details were what I was fretting about to distract myself from how the game had gone.
…Until I made it to my seat:
I mean that was AFTER the game had started. I mean literally if a foul ball landed in that section I had a 50% chance of catching it. Turns out all I needed was that one row as in the second inning Nate McLouth hit a foul ball right to that row. I only had one person to beat which was a kid behind me that also had a glove but he was talking to his dad at the time and didn’t even see the ball go up. I ran about half way through the row, put my glove up, caught the ball and then had my left leg hit the back of a seat because I had been tracking the ball. That was what I was going for so I was happy but not surprised. I stupidly did not have my mom take a picture of me after I caught the ball but here I am with it later on:
I am actually holding the smudge that the bat created on the ball towards the camera, if you can see. I also made a shocking discovery involving my first foul ball (as a ballhawk. I ended up with one in… 2000 I think.) that I had not thought through before catching this one. It had not been rubbed up much if any. Here is a picture of me with that ball that I took for a mygameballs.com article:
If you look at the color difference of the two it shows you how little this ball was rubbed up with mud. I have gotten umpire balls before that were rubbed up but I guess it took me catching a second foul ball to realize that those had just been in the game. I know this train of thought may seem weird but I just didn’t think about the ball at the time because I was too excited that I had,won a scramble for, a foul ball.
Wanting to catch another foul ball, I stayed in those seats until the seventh inning stretch. At which time, I moved over to around the Rockies dugout, via seat weaving. The view:
I got nothing in two innings (because there was no bottom of the ninth) from, first baseman at the time, Ty Wigginton. He just threw it elsewhere to one Rockies fan and one non-Rockies fan.
I then tried to once again tie my career high by getting the home plate umpire (I don’t remember who) to toss me one of his excess baseballs. He either had none or wasn’t in the mood after being argued with by both teams various times and walked straight into the umpires’ room.
Next up was the bullpen guys who just had no baseballs with them. Actually I shouldn’t say that. The bullpen guys always have a ginormous bag full of baseballs but unless one of the actual pitchers picked a ball up before it was put into that bag and had it in his pocket it is unlikely the person carrying the bag will go through the trouble of setting the bag down, unzipping it, taking a ball out and zipping it back up again just to give a ball to one of their out-of-town fans. I would have been fine with this but I was on my way out of the stadium when, rookie bullpen pitcher, Rex Brothers arrived and started signing autographs. I ran down in hopes of getting a ball signed when he stopped signing. The culmination of these things led to this face (notice I did not forget my attention grabbing Rockies shirt this time):
- 6 balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave two away)
- 56 balls in 17 games= 3.29 balls per game
- 42 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 3 straight games with at least 5 balls
- 12 straight games outside of New York with at least 1 ball
- 6 balls*17,718 fans=106,308 competition factor
- Time at game 4:18- 10:13=5 hours 55 minutes