Saturday, December 22, 2012

Baseball Seasons Greetings

I’m dropping by today to send every Late Innings reader and blogger a very Happy Holiday Season.

The included image was chosen for its special significance to the staff here at Late Innings. John’s beard always reminds me of Santa. His father also sports a beard and really looks like the old gift giver. When my kids were young we’d often take them to Hogtown Bombers games where they would have a whole bench of babysitters. One time John brought his dad along to score the game for us. Both our boys sidled up to me, concern on their faces. “Is that Santa Claus?” they asked, pointing at John’s dad. I did what any other red-blooded father would and told them, “It sure is, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll behave really well while we’re playing. He’s going to be watching you!” They sat with their butts firmly attached to the other end of the bench and didn’t move for the whole game. My wife and I wanted Santa to come to every game after that!

As for the expression on Santa in the drawing above, his grimace really reminds me of our own Will “The Thrill” Braund digging in for the next fastball that’s anywhere near the plate (he’s also batting lefty).

One last thing: here’s a link to a really good article about the way the offseason is playing out (Winning offseason doesn’t guarantee championship).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The joy of the offseason -or- What exactly IS the Hot Stove League?

If there are dog days in summer, why can’t there be dog days in winter, too? And if there are, I think we’re getting close to being in them. I also think everyone should get behind me and make this an Official Term used in the grand old game. Are you with me?

Anyway, getting back on topic, the baseball season is a distant memory in the rearview mirror of time. Remember how surprised we all were when Oakland won the AL West? I mean, who saw that one coming?

Then came those fast-disappearing initial playoff rounds when teams we thought would make it to the Series, disappeared without a trace. The starkest memory is the slow implosion of the mighty Yankees, just surviving a round with the Orioles and then getting clobbered by the Tigers.

We really didn’t have much of a World Series this year, did we? The Tigers, nearly from the get-go looked more like deer in the headlights of the Giants then they did as world-beaters of the AL.

Once that last out is made, everything in baseball gets re-set to zero again and we can all sincerely talk about “next year” and not have it sound like we’re already whipped by the competition and know it. We can legitimately dream again.

November is usually somewhat quiet on the trade and signing front compared to December when the GMs have their little clambake. Other than the Blue Jays rustling a lot of big horses from the Marlins, it was oddly quiet as everyone waited for the first big signing of this year’s crop of free agents.

The dominos are now starting to fall with increasing speed. Boston has responded in a major way to the threat the Jays now pose. Have they made good choices? Maybe. Like the Jays, they have a lot of new faces who are going to have to post career-best numbers if anything good is going to happen.

The real dog days will begin just after the holidays, of course, in much the same way the occur in August as teams with a good shot at the postseason fine tune their rosters with some good players who are always available for trades – if the price is right. During the active season, this often means trades of major league roster players. In the dog days of winter, trading is more traditionally about acquiring promising young talent whose impact may well not be felt for a year or two (if ever).

One thing that I find puzzling: the logo used for “the Hot Stove Season” on MLB.com video clips seems to inexplicably have pots cooking on top of it, suggesting GMs cooking up trades or something else (hot dogs?).

Ahem!

I do believe that “hot stove” refers to one of those wood burning stoves which in days gone by would often find ball fans “of a certain age” sitting around them keeping warm as they discussed prognostications for the coming spring and their favorite teams. In other words, the image should not be about cuisine. My guess is that a young pup with no idea of the history of the game came up with this distressing image. Probably never even saw one of those old upright wood stoves so prevalent in prehistoric America a hundred years ago…

You could look it up.