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:
While I accidentally missed out on the first game of the series, I got to the gates of Nationals Park for the second game of their series with the Pirates, and look who was at the gate awaiting me:
Left to right, that would be:
2. Erik Jabs– The current mygameballs.com season leader with 446 baseballs this, who has also snagged 2,602 baseballs in his lifetime.
3. Rick Gold– A ballhawk/ employee of MLB.com who is slightly behind Erik in both baseball snagging categories I mentioned in his description.
Suffice to say, I was way out of my league, as is the case when most ballhawks are in the same ballpark as I am. For the first fifteen minutes, though, I was holding my own. Actually, I’m pretty sure I snagged three baseballs before either of them had snagged a single baseball.
Like I usually do for pitcher’s BP, I went to straight-away left:
Up to that point, the only pitcher Rick and I had never gotten a ball from that had been up in the majors for any considerable amount of time was Jordan Zimmerman. So when he was up, I relaxed a bit. Sure enough, though, he launched the furthest-hit ball I’ve seen him hit. Naturally, I was taken back by how far the ball was traveling, so I ran back up the steps. However, although the ball was hit hard and high by Zimmerman’s standards, by the time I had run into a row, I realized the ball was falling short, so I wasn’t able to catch the ball on the fly. Instead I watched it drop in front of me and picked it up for my first of the day:
I mean yeah I got the ball, but that misread had me feeling just absolutely awful about how the rest of the day was going to go. The next baseball, though, would have me feeling even worse. After the pitcher’s BP, all of us ballhawks did a musical chairs of sorts with the sections we were inhabiting. Said game of musical chairs ended with me in the Red Seats. There, I saw a ball get hit into the section of field between the Red Seats and right field seats. When I saw a Nationals player going to retrieve it, I ran over to the corner spot of the section. I reacted to him walking over so quickly, in fact, that I neglected to look at if there was anything in my way in the row of seating I was running through. Normally seats in stadiums flip up automatically when someone’s not sitting in them. One of the seats in this row, though, was the exception to that rule. Someone had sat in the seat earlier and it was left down. So as I ran through the row, I was taken out by said seat. The Nationals player was still walking, though; so I immediately got up from a fall that I would have otherwise taken my time in getting up from and asked this player if he could toss me the ball:
He wasn’t wearing his jersey at the time, but with the help of Erik Jabs, we figured out it was Ian Krol, since the only other lefty pitcher on the Nationals roster, I believe at the time, was Fernando Abad.
Us ballhawks then did our game of musical chairs once more, which had me in right field. There I got my third and final ball of the day when Gio Gonzalez overthrew these people and I picked it up to give it to them:
The other two ballhawks then went on to snag a combined 14 baseballs to my none. My only contribution to anyone’s stats from this point on revolved around this:
See, while I used to have a glove trick, it started becoming more trouble than it was worth, so I disassembled, and am thus currently without a retrieval device that is my own. So when I saw a ball go into the gap, I sent out this tweet warning the two other ballhawks:
Neither of them read it, but Erik was the first one to come over, so I pointed both out to him, and he reeled them in with his glove trick as I just stood off to his side and blocked the view of his string from the usher at the top of the section.
There was then another baseball that got dropped or hit in there, so while Erik was in the seats in straight-away left, I waved him over and he fished the ball out of the gap. And that was it. Erik and I went to the bullpen after BP, where he got a grounds crew guy to toss him a ball, and we watched Gerrit Cole warm up. But after that, he left to spend time with his family in Annapolis, and I watched the game in left field as I read this:
I still put my glove on for righties, but I was scheduled to take my driving test three days from this game, so I figured it would be a good time to actually start studying since I hadn’t at all previous to that point. And as bland as it can be for some people, Nationals Park is still a pretty great place to watch a baseball game:
Then again, I think I would talk differently sitting in the 400 level every game.
- 3 baseballs at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 579-581 for my career:
- 135 Balls in 34 Games= 3.97 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 32,976 Fans=98,928 Competition Factor
- 96 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 168 Balls in 38 Games at Nationals Park= 4.42 Balls Per Game
- 30 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Nationals Park
- Time Spent On Game 2:58-11:00= 7 Hours 2 Minutes
Age as of November, 30, 2012: 20 (January, 25th, 2012)
Home Stadium: PNC Park
Home City: Pittsburgh, PA
Throws: Left (It’s really more of a “catches right” thing, because obviously one does not throw a ton while ballhawking, but no one says “catches right”, so yeah. Zac is actually one of the very few ballhawks who is left handed. The only other one who comes to mind is Alex Kopp.)
Total Baseballs as of November, 30, 2012: 434
In only his fourth year of ballhawking/snagging baseballs, we can see that Zac is on the steady upwards climb in terms of his ballhawking — still not having a season where he hasn’t improved his per-game average from the previous season. This is comes at no surprise to anyone who knows of Zac’s work ethic.
Yes, it’s very top heavy. Some may use this as a criticism of Zac, but what naysayers fail to recognize is that getting 37 or 29 baseballs from the same person requires something admirable in one shape or from. Getting that many baseballs from one person requires 1. A dedication to ballhawking long enough so that you could get that many baseballs from one player or coach without him recognizing you. or Zac’s approach: 2. Foster a good relationship with him so that he’ll toss you that many baseballs. Zac has his charity initiative (which you can read about if you click this sentence), so he brought it up with both Heberto “Herbie” Andrade and Euclides Rojas, and they feel as though they are doing good by tossing him baseballs — which they *are*. This might seem cheap, but Zac had to start the charity in the first place, and can you really look negatively on a person for starting a charity? At that point, I think you are just looking for reasons to dislike a person. In addition, he also fosters the relationship between Andrade and Rojas by speaking to them in Spanish. Learning Spanish, of course, not being something you just learn in a day.
Top-5 Locations of Snags:
The ballpark all of these snags should come as no surprise, since PNC Park is by far the park Zac has attended the most in his career as a ballhawk. However, the location of the balls he snags within PNC Park is very odd. Of the eight ballhawks on mygameballs.com who list PNC Park as their home stadium and have snagged more than 5 baseballs in 2012, Zac is the only one whose highest “snag location” isn’t the left field bleachers. While this makes sense, since left field is the place where the season ticket holders are restricted to in the first half-hour of the gates opening, it means that once the rest of the stadium opens, Zac –more so than anyone else — takes advantage of this fact and flees the left field bleachers. As one reader put it:
” … Zac [plays] a completely different strategy than all of the other PNC regulars. For God knows what reason, all of the other regulars seem to battle it out for BP homers in the LF bleachers. Those seats seem to get fairly packed out there. Meanwhile, every single game I’ve seen him at Zac ends up in the handicapped seating area (or seats right behind it) in the RF foul corner. I am 100% on board with this strategy. There is almost no competition, or very little. And it gives you great access to the visiting team’s pitchers — which actually results in a lot of the “competition” being autograph collectors. [Down] the RF line, you can scoop up foul grounders over the short fence. There is very little foul territory and it is very easy (and frequent) for foul balls to hop into the crowd. I have no clue why more [people] don’t go down there…”
Breakdown of baseballs year-by-year:
From this we can see that he has a pretty steady ratio of hit balls to thrown balls. While people — like with the people who threw him the most baseballs — might see the surplus of thrown balls when compared to hit balls as a negative, this again is not necessarily the case. Sure, hit balls may be worth more to some people, but they aren’t objectively harder to obtain or anything like that. Zac’s style has just lent itself more to snagging thrown balls. Along with going elsewhere besides the left field bleachers when the stadium opens-up, Zac also does his homework when it comes to the players so as to increase his odds of tossing out a nugget that gets a ball tossed to him. Additionally, he has one of the main attributes of a hit-ball ballhawk down: speed. So it’s not completely the case that he is unskilled at getting hit baseballs, but his ballhawking just doesn’t pan-out that way as to snag a ton of hit balls.
I’ve pretty much covered this. I could do something further on this with another ballhawk in future profiles (if I do others), but Zac has snagged a total of 10 baseballs outside of PNC Park, so it would be pretty redundant to do it here.
Those aren’t bad highs for a career 3.12 Balls Per Game; not bad at all. If you want to check them out, the links to his blog entries on those games, they can be found 1. Here, 2. Here, 3. Here, 4. Here, and 5. Here.
Finally, if you want to check-out Zac’s blog in general, it is:
“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.
First off, here, is the link to the entry.
Predicted Record: 60-65 wins
Actual Record: 72-90
I guess all of those extra wins I had going for the Cubs actually went to the Pirates. Imagine if the Pirates had kept up their initial pace? They would probably be in the upper 80s. So really, the only explanation I have for the Pirates stepping up there game and coming within 10 games of .500 is their pitching was way above what the parts they brought in would have suggested. Heck, I didn’t even include the player that was arguably the Pirates’ MVP for the first half in Kevin Correia. He was acquired in the offseason, but I didn’t even think he was going to have THAT much of an impact.
Their offense was never really explosive, so when the pitching started to decline, the team started going in the wrong direction, because they weren’t scoring enough runs to come their deficits. However, they are, like the many years before that, a young team, and can always improve if they just KEEP THEIR PLAYERS. I don’t know how the Pirates plan to compete (well I don’t know if they actually have any desire to actually try and compete, but that’s a different discussion for a different time, which I alluded to in the Recap and preview entry) with them constantly trading away their young talent just when they are a bout to approach free agency.
That’s pretty much it…I don’t know how many ways I can say that the Pirates did better than I thought.
This is pretty much a cautionary entry to anyone going to a game on a Saturday between two teams in contention. I went through the same pre-game ritual this game as I did at my last and was already to redeem myself for lost opportunities the game before by arriving once again at 4:30 for a 7:00 game when I heard the roar of a crowd:
I then took that last picture. When Richard and I were driving to our parking spot of the previous day, he noticed that the parking lot was packed but I had been to Miller Park previously before this trip and attributed it to the fans tradition of tailgating as I had seen it was very prevalent in my last trip. I should have known, though. When there weren’t many people outside the cars themselves. The reason that I showed up late was that when I looked at the game it was scheduled for 7:00 pm central but Fox then took over the game and moved it to their standard 4:00 pm eastern time slot and I had no clue this had happened. Okay, it was on my ticket but I did not even have the slightest clue to check for the time. What makes it even more painful is that Richard and I were doing a whole lot of nothing the whole day waiting for my mom’s flight to arrive and could have easily shown up to the game.
When we got in it was already the fifth inning. Had I not gotten shutout at Target Field I would have turned around when I saw the crowd and walked back to the car. Instead, I tried to get into prime foul ball territory and this was the result:
No one checked my ticket or anything. You see there is a cross aisle behind Home Plate and in front of the press box that is a pretty good spot for catching foul balls and I thought it would take an ID-ing just to take pictures of it but I walked right in without getting anything checked. My only complaint is that the protective netting is too high for baseballs to come back on a line but here I am in the cross aisle:
I will say, though, that with the net being say 5 feet lower it is the perfect height and distance from Home Plate for a foul ball to get there. As you can see, I have an orange circle in the upper right of that last picture. That highlights just some of the hundreds of white spots on the wall caused by foul balls. Of course, a security guard noticed I was shifting back and forth from batter to batter and asked where my tickets were. I showed him that they were standing room only and he then told me I (and Richard) would have to leave the section.
We eventually made our way to the Left Field Lodge bleachers and sat there for the inning remaining of a 1-0 game. As you can (maybe) imagine, I was pretty angry at myself for not checking the time of the game but I must say that it as the most energy filled game I have ever been to and I grew up a Yankee fan and attended my fair share of games at the old/new Yankee Stadium. Perhaps it was because there was so much tension in the air. The Brewers only had a 1 run lead in the ninth inning and whoever was pitching loaded the bases with no outs and John Axford got three consecutive outs to end the game (I’m not sure if Axford came in before the Ninth started and loaded the bases or if someone else did and he just finished it off). That was the most excited I have ever been at a baseball game.
Lastly I would like to thank Richard for being the best camera person I have ever had (to this point) by far. I know it was a bit of a stretch to be away from home for that long and attend more games than he had in the last century but I would like to thank him for doing so. Even if I couldn’t put up a show for him during any of these batting practices, I might have to go back to the midwest next year just to have him as my photographer.
No stats for this entry as there isn’t anything to write about this particular game.