Rob Iracane: June 2010 Archives

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, hang up the damn phone

And that's the end of our show. Just throw your garbage on the floor, A.J. Pierzynski will clean it up, that pig. Until tomorrow, same WoW channel.

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Despite reports, rumours, and photoshops that indicated otherwise, Jeffrey Loria will not be hiring ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine to manage the Marlins for the second half of 2010. Instead, J-Lo will play the hand he was dealt, sticking with former New Orleans Zephyrs manager Edwin Rodriguez, because why not, amirite?

Ending a week of speculation, the Marlins decided to give Edwin Rodriguez - the interim manager they summoned to replace Fredi Gonzalez - the chance to continue leading the team for the remainder of the season. Loria told Rodriguez he was hired about 30 minutes before the game, told the team just before the first pitch, and the inspired Marlins went on to beat the New York Mets 7-6.

"It gives everybody peace of mind," left fielder Chris Coghlan said.

It doesn't give bloggers, peace of mind, Chrissy. Bobby Valentine is comedy gold for sports blogs! And with him ghettoized on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, a show that nobody with access to MLB Network should ever, ever watch, we're stuck waiting until another managerial job opens up before Bobby V. can rear his surgically-stretched face again.

Good for Edwin Rodriguez, though, the first Puerto Rican manager in the big leagues and certainly a dude who is appreciated by the Florida players. The whole announcement is extra special for Rodriguez with the Marlins playing the Mets in Puerto Rico this week. What a homecoming! It'd be like the the Tampa Bay Rays announcing a contract extension for Joe Maddon while playing a weekend series in the wine department of the Tribeca Whole Foods.

But what of Bobby Valentine? What caused Loria and team pres-o-dent David Samson to sour on the self-proclaimed inventor of wrap sandwiches? Was there a problem buying out Bobby V's contract with ESPN? Could the two parties not agree on money? Contract length? Or did something more sinister happen, like the composing of a paragraph entirely out of questions?

Perhaps Loria realized that he could save a few sheckels by staying with the in-house guy. After all, he'll need all the money to fight off the PETA lunatics.



For those of you who want to be informed of Walkoff Walk updates in the Twittersphere but can't stand my inane blatherings, we've gone and created a new Twitter account that will only push out tweets when the blog is updated. That's it. No live-tweeting of Jerry Seinfeld in the broadcast booth. No photos of my fancy dinners. No commentary on lesser sports like soccer. Just the good stuff.

If you already follow @iracane, then there's no need to follow @Walkoff_Walk because you'll just be inundated with duplicate updates. And don't forget to follow the entire WoW crew for the rest of our bon mots.

Nota bene: do not attempt to follow @walkoffwalk sans underscore because that's just some dork who squatted on our blog name. How dare he! Or she!

If there's one thing in the world that could cheer up Mariners beat writer Geoff Baker, it's an interview with the jolly Cee-Lo lookalike Windell Middlebrooks, who you might recognize from his numerous TV spots. Yes, he portrays the sassy Miller High Life deliveryman who travels from posh spot to posh spot to 'reclaim' the low-end beer from folks he deems too fancy to consume said swill. I suppose Windell's character is like a chubby Robin Hood who robs piss beer from the rich to give to thirsty hipsters.

Anyway, good for Windell to give back to the community and raise some cash at Miller Park so that our war veterans can go to NASCAR races, or something. Good on Geoff Baker for zooming in so close to our hero's face, too.


(via Geoff Baker's Twilight Fan Blog Mariners Blog)

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Open up the brown-guys-don't-hustle file, Mabel: we've got ourselves another case of a minority player being accused of dogging it. In this case, Rays teammates Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton tussled in the dugout when Longoria allegedly gave Upton the business for not running full speed in the outfield:

B.J. Upton had to be restrained by teammates in the dugout after having a heated exchange with 3B Evan Longoria.

That came after Upton didn't run hard to chase down a ball hit into the gap that became a triple for Rusty Ryal in the top of the fifth. Gerardo Parra followed with a two-run homer.

It appeared Longoria initiated the confrontation by saying something and Upton reacted angrily, yelling and pointing his finger, and had to be restrained by Willy Aybar.

You can see the video here (as long as MLBAM hasn't pulled it) and yes, it's true: B.J. Upton is obviously not going full speed to pick up the baseball. Also true: Evan Longoria has a duck's ass haircut. But seriously, can we get some solid evidence of a white player being accused of not hustling so I can stop playing the race card? Would it kill Chase Utley to dog it down the first base line on an easy grounder just so Jimmy Rollins get up in his face in the dugout? Let's switch it up a bit so I don't feel guilty and write about this every time it happens!

Rays manager Joe Maddon took Longoria's side, saying that Upton "didn't run as hard as he could have" and that Longoria's action was "a great example of a player taking action for the good of the team." Thing is, this was not the first time Maddon has taken umbrage with Upton's "lack of hustle". From August 2008, when Maddon benched Upton for not running out a groundout:

"When it comes down to individual effort, it takes absolutely zero talent - zero, zero talent to try hard or play hard every day," Maddon said. "I'm OK with physical mistakes. We talked about the mental mistakes, I want them to cut down and we have cut down on them a lot. I'm accepting of all that. The part I'm not accepting of is the part you can control, which is your effort."

Two years later and Joe Maddon is still trying to get his players to hustle their buns. But really, who can take a guy seriously when he shows up for work in a hoodie?

Weekend Questions

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That wraps up yet another eventful week at Walkoff Walk. Hope you enjoyed your ride. Please collect all personal belongings and escort children firmly by the hand. WATCH OUT FOR THAT MOVING WALKWAY!

See you Monday, same WoW channel.

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Nowhere in America is civic pride tied so closely to a city's sports teams than the fine town of Chicago. But these are no fairweather bandwagoneers, no sir. Politicians, businessfolk, and religious leaders alike even claim allegiance to the Cubs, who have stunk for longer than your nana has been alive. West Addison and Old Style, amirite? Win or lose, Chicagoans love to hate and hate to love their Cubbies.

So when news came out that a major city's baseball team would be supporting that same city's gay pride parade, I wasn't really surprised to learn it'd be the Chicago Cubs. I was surprised, however, to learn who the Cubs representative on their big gay float would be:

Sunday's parade will be different, with the Chicago Cubs entering a float and a player from the NHL champion Blackhawks set to tote the Stanley Cup down North Halsted Street.

The Cubs' participation was encouraged by new owner Tom Ricketts, who wanted the Cubs to be seen as "good neighbors," a team spokesman said.

While players from this year's lineup won't be on the team's float -- they'll be busy playing the White Sox -- "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks will.

Wow! They're not pulling any stops! You simply cannot get a bigger and better representative for the Cubs than THE Ernie Banks. But the dude is nearly 80 years old...has someone sat him down and explained exactly what sort of parade he'd be participating in? I'm not saying Ernie Banks would be against the gays, but really, gay pride parades are not normally the most...uh...restrained affairs.

Either way, I'm thrilled that a MLB team (and a championship hockey team!) are embracing the alternative lifestyle community in the Second City. Professional sports have a reputation of being both closeted and homophobic, which is bad. This is a step in the right direction, though.

Today's Afternoon Games

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There are many. One of which has already begun. Chat away.

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Barely one week after his name was bandied about as a possible Orioles manager, noted wrap sandwich inventor and current ESPN pseudo-analyst Bobby Valentine has withdrawn his name from the running. Why? Well, a better opportunity has opened up with his old pal Jeff Loria.

Hours after firing (Fredi) Gonzalez Wednesday morning, management made another quick move by reaching out to Bobby Valentine about possibly taking over

Loria is good friends with Valentine, who managed the Texas Rangers when Loria owned the club's Class AAA team in Oklahoma in 1989-92.

"The relationship Bobby and Jeffrey have had as friends is not relevant in terms of our managerial search in any way,' (team president David) Samson said.

I don't doubt that Samson truly believes that nonsense, but if so, he must truly not comprehend Loria's megalomaniacal ways. After all, he's the guy who fired NL Manager of the Year Joe Girardi, who then went on to win the World Series with his new employer. With recent Loria victim Fredi Gonzalez linked to the red hot Braves, perhaps the same thing will happen twice. Jeff Loria will do whatever he damn well pleases! He's so crazy that he'll pattern an entire ballpark's design after surrealism. With a flippin' fishtank behind home plate.

I digress. Bobby Valentine is a big name, yes, and will probably cost a pretty penny given his recent success in Japan. Now we know why Loria was saving all that scoreboard money! But that doesn't mean he'll be successful in Florida. Yes, the Marlins have a ton of young talent but they are also playing in a tightly-contested division. Doubtful that a man with a career .510 winning percentage and but two career playoff appearances can vault them out of fourth place.

At least there is one bright side to all this nonsense: Bobby's departure from the state of Connecticut can only lead to more karaoke catfights at his restaurant.



Okay, so maybe this female warbler (Kathy Anderson) ain't that bad looking and who knows what Avril even looks like nowadays, but I couldn't think up any good Alanis Morissette jokes. Isn't that ironic?

Be forewarned: this Roy Halladay tribute video courtesy of the good folks at Drunk Jays Fans may inspire sadness among Blue Jays and Phillies fans alike. After all, the Jays fans weep that their all-time greatest pitcher has left them while the Philly faithful weep that the same guy is basically throwing batting practice this month.

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San Francisco magazine has an excellent interview with Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum in this month's issue. Writer Steve Kettmann sat down with the Freak and chatted about his approach to pitching, his off-day activities, and, most importantly, how his new-found fame has affected his diet. Says Tim:

"You're used to walking out into public and you don't get seen. Then the next day you get seen, and you're like, 'What the heck?! This totally changes everything!' Because it's like, do I want to deal with that? I just want to be able to go to In-N-Out Burger and get my three cheeseburgers and my fries with a shake and just go in and get out. It's called In-N-Out. But I've had times where I walk in there and I can't get out. The second you do get noticed, it's like: Here we go."

Timmy might be having a tough time getting his In-N-Out fix (after all, they don't do sometimes might not have drive-thrus!) but there is no amount of clamoring fans that can stop Tim from chewing as many pieces of gum as he wants in the dugout. Bubblicious!

Go read the interview.

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As per Palm Beach Post beat-blogger Joe Capozzi, the Florida Marlins have relieved manager Fredi Gonzalez of his duties, effective today. The Marlins are currently 34-36 and sit 7.5 games behind the first place Braves. Also getting pink slipped: bench coach Carlos Tosca and hitting coach Jim Presley, who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a Sherman tank. Someone named Edwin Rodriguez has been named interim manager; he's probably just keeping that seat warm for Bobby Valentine.

What's next for Fredi? Well, there'll be a tidy opening in the Braves dugout after this season and Gonzalez spent a number of years as a coach in Atlanta under Bobby Cox.

No public statement yet from Hanley Ramirez, who must be relieved now that he is free to lollygag to his heart's content.

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Multi-billionaire comedian Jerry Seinfeld must be bored now that his awful NBC show about awful people in awful marriages is on hiatus. The lifelong Mets devotee has decided it's time to ruin televised baseball, too. Tonight, the once-funny nudnik takes to the Mets broadcasting booth for a few innings to make some Angel Pagan jokes and, hopefully, shame Keith Hernandez on live television.

Seinfeld's wife, Jessica, must need to get her noodge husband out of the house because she was the one who contacted SNY, the Mets-owned TV network, to try and get Jerry a spot calling a game for a night. Sure, they said, how much worse can he be than that schlemiel Ron Darling, who will get the night off.

Jerry will pair up with old pal Keith Hernandez, who memorably guest-starred in an episode of "Seinfeld" where he played a man desperate to dye his grey moustache, or something. I bet Keith is going to come prepared with some cheesy shtick in an attempt to hold his own with Jerry, but in the end, we'll all be schvitzing uncomfortably at home. Stick to the analysis, Keith. We're not amused by you.

In other massive Jerry Seinfeld news, the comedian questioned the chutzpah of pop sensation and WoW favorite Lady Gaga. She and her pals crashed Seinfeld's empty CitiField luxury box after flipping the bird to photogs at a Mets game earlier this month. Seinfeld, sounding like an total nebbish on WFAN yesterday, was none too amused:

"This woman is a jerk. I hate her. I can't believe they put her in my box, which I paid for ... You give people the finger and you get upgraded? Is that the world we're living in now? It's pathetic. And why is she giving the finger? How old is the finger? How'd it even get to be the finger? Somewhere along the line somebody decided this is the bad finger."

"You take one 'A' off of that and you've got gag."

"I don't know what these young people think or how they promote their careers. I'm older, you know, I'm 56. I look at Lady Gaga the way Keith Hernandez watches these kids when they pull the pocket out, they wear the inside-out pocket. ... Do you think he could understand that? He can't understand that. That's a new game, that's kids."

And what's the deal with ballpark food?

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We all go through awkward stages in our early teens but Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira experienced a very special kind of awkward when his childhood hero died. Teixeira loved Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain so very much that after Cobain jammed a shotgun barrel in his mouth, the young high school student decided to drop the "Mark" and change his name to "Kurt".

This all came to light in an interview with MLB Network's Harold Reynolds that aired last night. During a sitdown at the Secaucus studios, Reynolds lobbed softballs at Teixeira interspersed with video snippets of interviews with Mark's parents. Here's a transcript of the juicy part:

HR: What is this stuff about Kurt Teixeira?

MT: You know what? When I was a kid I was a big Nirvana fan. And, uh, Kurt Cobain unfortunately passed away when I think I was in eighth grade. And when you're twelve or thirteen years old and your favorite band isn't gonna make any more music, you take it pretty tough. So, uh, I went by an alias for a little while.

HR: Yeah your mom said...

Mark's mom (on video): Mark tried to change his name to Kurt when he was, uh, because he loved Kurt Cobain when he filled our forms he would put, he would sign "Kurt Teixeira", so we had Kurt Teixeira things coming to the house for a while. I'd go, "what is this?" and it was because he had this thing for Kurt Cobain.

HR: You had the mail coming to your house?

MT: I would fill out...anytime I'd fill anything out whether it was for comic books or CD clubs or anything I would write Kurt Teixeira just because I didn't know what I was doing. I was twelve years old and I was having fun with it.

No way, Mark, that's not a kid having fun. When I was twelve years old I used to sign up for mailing lists using the alias Arnold Ziffel because I ironically loved "Green Acres", now that was a kid having fun. What Mark went through was a bit closer to an emotionally-confused kid who just experienced his first taste of hero worship-gone-wrong and thinks his parents just don't understand, maaannn.

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When the Walkoff Walk crew heads to Pittsburgh for our annual field trip, we might not notice between the fifth and sixth inning that the racing pierogies will be missing an important member. The Pirates simply will not stand for dissent among costumed men and women running around their field, especially when one of the stuffed goodies takes to the FaceSpaces to criticize the organization:

Andrew Kurtz, 24, of New Brighton, one of the 18 men who take turns posing as pierogies in a crowd-pleasing race after the fifth inning of every game at PNC Park, was dismissed by the team Thursday because he posted disparaging remarks about the Pirates on his Facebook page.

Here's what the outspoken dumpling had to say on his Facebook wall:

"Coonelly extended the contracts of Russell and Huntington through the 2011 season. That means a 19-straight losing streak. Way to go Pirates."

Really, that's it? A weak dose of sarcasm gets a racing hot pocket fired? Jeez, at least that Philadelphia Eagles stadium worker who criticized the team on Facebook for letting a popular player sign with another team got his money's worth when he got let go for calling the Eagles "retarted" (sic). No passive-aggressiveness for that fella, no sir! He gets right to the point!

The boiled ethnic pastry race will go on without Kurtz. After all, kid was just a part-time racer and never did two consecutive races in the same costume. These races are more rigged than an postseason NBA game. But the Pirates have an interesting recent history of dismissing those employees who dared criticize the franchise. Last fall, Pirates beat writer John Perrotto was canned by Ogden Newspapers, a company owned by the same family that has controlling interest in the team.

Perrotto's entire oeuvre of contributions to the Pirates Report website was scrubbed clean. At least Kurtz can continue to post inane blather on his Facebook wall to his heart's content.

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First, she conquered the world of pop music. Then she devoured television, the news media, the Muppets, and our collective souls. But the final frontier for Lady Gaga was a sphere we never expected she'd dominate: baseball.

Yet today, Lady Gaga is the single biggest baseball fan in the entire galaxy. It wasn't enough for Gaga to show up at CitiField and offend the drooling masses with her middle fingers of doom. No, Gaga needed to enrich the hearts and minds of Yankee fans by making her underwear-clad presence known in the luxury boxes at The Stadium. Makes sense, she is the number one pop star in the universe and the Yankees are the number one sports team. Let the Mets have also-rans like this 82-year-old fossil.

But some questioned whether Lady Gaga was well-received by the World Champions, even claiming that she'd been permanently banned from the clubhouse because of Gaga being Gaga. Nay! All falsehoods! She, and other celebrities of her ilk, are more than welcome in the clubhouse after the game as long as said game was a home team win. So basically, celebrities have a 72% chance of gaining entrance to the inner Yankee sanctum.

Both general manager Brian Cashman and skipper Joe Girardi gave headnods towards Lady Gaga and other famous folk. After all, if a player like Curtis Granderson doesn't get nervous playing alongside super-celeb Derek Jeter on a regular basis, I think he can handle the occasional pop sensation.

In this case, Gaga was spotted getting close and personal with the league's best player in Robinson Cano. Hmm, perhaps Gaga is the new Yankee muse; is she 2010's version of Kate Hudson, who so memorably romanced Alex Rodriguez towards a World Championship?

"She can sing, I'll tell you that," Cano said.

That ain't too bad a romance, amirite? But it probably won't last. I have it on good authority that Lady Gaga is going on a whirlwind ballpark tour with the intention of hitting up 29 stadiums before the season is through. Sorry, Mariners fans. Gaga doesn't "do" the Pacific Northwest.

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This Ken Rosensquirrel report floating around the baseball rumorsphere about Pirates manager John Russell getting canned may or may not be true, but in the end, does it really matter? See, I may not appreciate Rosenthal as the hard-working baseball reporter he is because (a) he is actually shorter than me and (b) he spends his Saturdays acting as third banana to Herrs Buck and McCarver. But sometimes he's right!

So when Buster Olney claims that his sources deny that report, who are we to believe? Both reporters are citing sources most likely within the Pirates organization. Either somebody in there is wildly off the mark or somebody is just trying to cover up the news to protect the organization. Or to protect Russell's feelings. Hey, feelings count, too, even in the corporate world of modern baseball.

Because the real issue here is John Russell's future employment being in jeopardy. Unfortunately, we as national baseball fans never had a chance to get to know Russell; his team spent too much time being losers and laughingstocks for us to pay attention to their actual strengths as hitters and pitchers. And, in turn, we never had a chance to evaluate or appreciate Russell as a manager. Did he never channel his inner Piniella and kick dirt on an ump's shoes? Did he never lose his mind and go all Ozzie on some poor beat blogger? Did he never get photographed with his hands down his drawers like Charlie Manuel? What did he ever do except hit his pitchers eighth for a couple of weeks?

These are the things that could have made us remember you, John. Forget turning the Pirates around, you were never hired to do that. You were a patsy all along, in the great tradition of the Jim Rigglemans of the world. And if you get fired, I can't really shed a tear because I never had a chance to embrace you, or, most of the time, memorize the name of the guy managing the Pirates. But hey, at least you outlasted Trey Hillman in both job length and anonymity. Congrats?



What's more disturbing about this earthquake footage from last night's Blue Jays-Padres tilt at Petco Park: the fact that the crowd is seemingly cheering seismic activity from within the earth's crust, or the fact that Dick Enberg is so nonplussed by this occurrence that he doesn't even utter his signature phrase of surprise? What, a 5.9 magnitude groundswell isn't enough excitement for Dick?



Interleague series breed strange behavior in non-traditional rivalries, even in those that existed before Milwaukee switched leagues last decade. In this video, a lonely Texas fan professes his undying love for Rangers reliever Darren O'Day in Miller Park over and over again, much to the dismay of the lovely Brewers fans seated around him. Hearing this dude sing his horrid tune might actually be worse than those vuvuzelas.

I'm pretty sure this lout enjoys Darren O'Day because he is actually his long-lost cousin Charlie Day.

Pirates centerfielder and WoW favorite Andrew McCutchen celebrated the one-year anniversary of his call-up to to the Bucs by sitting down (or standing up? I have no idea what position he was in) for an interview with Baseball Prospectus' David Laurila. Cutch chats about the awe he still feels from being in the big leagues, his art, his writing, and most poignantly, the difficulties in changing Pirates fans perspectives about the team:

DL: Last night, I asked a random Pirates fan what he'd want to know about you, and he suggested that I ask what it's like playing in Pittsburgh and not winning, and if you'd rather be somewhere else. How would you answer him?

AM: I think that it should be more than just not winning. I think the question should be, "How does it feel to play in Pittsburgh, and wanting to win?--not "not winning." I believe that we look at things backwards here. I think we should look at "How do we win," not "How do we keep losing?" I believe that we should be more positive. We are positive--our team is positive--and I believe that the only way we can turn this around, to where the fans can actually believe in us, is if we actually win, so it's more than talking. It's more than just talking about it; you have to be about it as well.

Please to enjoy the entire interview.

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Sure, some might think it is un-American to criticize oil-drillin', oil-spillin' giant B.P. (read: it's not), but seriously: they're British. We are supposed to criticize the Brits even when they're not flooding our waters with dead dino juice. Haha, you have a queen. So why then are the White Sox and Cubs continuing to allow B.P. to sponsor the "Crosstown Classic", a faux contest between terrible teams (combined record: 53-66) for a silly trophy?

"We are extremely loyal to our sponsors," said Wally Hayward, executive vice president, chief sales and marketing officer for the Cubs. "We've had a relationship with Old Style for 60 years, with Anheuser Busch for 30 years and we agreed to put the Toyota sign in our bleachers way before they had their problems. We believe in the BP brand and we're going to be loyal to them during this difficult time."

Read: we still owe so many, many millions of dollars to Soriano, Zambrano and Ramirez that we'd damn well let the Ku Klux Klan sponsor Ernie Banks Day at this point.


Lady Gaga puts up her middle finger while the New York Mets play San Diego Padres at Citi Field in New York City on June 10, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

All pop sensation Lady Gaga wanted to do was spend a peaceful afternoon in pastoral Flushing, Queens taking in a baseball game between expansion teams. Buy her some peanuts and rhinestone underwear, amirite? Shame that the photogs who expected to snap boring shots of Jose Reyes legging out an infield single or Jerry Hairston Jr flashing his toothy smile instead turned their SLRs towards the fame monster seated among the hoity-toity, because Gaga's attitude turned sour.

Chances that Gaga ever comes back to CitiField are slim to nil; she's a Yankees fan, after all, and her public display of aggression seals the deal. She joins Chipper Jones in hating the joint; she joins Mets fans in getting pissed off while there.

And for those of you who claim ignorance about the WORLDWIDE POP SENSATION THAT IS THE GAGA, shame on you. Your act is as fake as Lady Gaga's penis.

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Thanks to AnswerDave for running off to sunny climes to get married because it gave the five of us here to contribute our smartass remarks to his regular morning rundown series. Kris finished up the week with a real humdinger today. Go read it, make a comment, then come back here and bring me a souvenir.

If, for some reason, you want to go back and read all five of our daily recaps, then please, by all means, go for it. I can only hope that 'Duk fixed our numerous factual errors by now. Thanks to him for inviting us, and congratulations to the hockey team 'Duk has chosen to spend his life following.

Tonight's Questions

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Hope you've enjoyed Walkoff Walk's week filling in for Answer Dave with the Juice over at Big League Stew. Here's 310toJoba's contribution from this morning. Tomorrow, Liakos will wreak havoc on the gathered masses yearning to spew dreck, so put on your protective gear and let's crash the comments.

Same Stew channel, same WoW channel.

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In one of the more shocking revelations about the dysfunctional McCourt-era Los Angeles Dodgers, L.A. Times columnist Bill Shaikin reveals that Frank and Jaime McCourt paid a Russian spiritual healer six figures to send positive energy to the team over long distances. Process that for a second: a professional baseball team had a psychic on the payroll:

Vladimir Shpunt, 71, lived most of his life in Russia. He has three degrees in physics and a letter of reference from a Nobel Prize winner. He knows next to nothing about baseball. Yet the Dodgers hired him to, well, think blue. Frank and Jamie McCourt paid him to help the team win by sending positive energy over great distances. Shpunt says he is a scientist and a healer, not a magician. His method could not guarantee the Dodgers would win, he says, but it could make a difference.

The McCourts, currently embroiled in a nasty divorce that makes me hate both of them equally, kept the hire secret from even the team's top executive and probably even Lasorda. In statements through their respective spokespersons, they both claim that the other one hired Shpunt, who lives in Boston. Because yes, that makes perfect sense to pay six figures to a dude who lives 4,000 miles away to watch a sport he doesn't understand on television.

Heck, I absolutely despise the Dodgers, but I'll take half that to change my rooting interests, sit on my rump and send 'positive energy' as I watch the team on teevee.

The McCourts first encountered Shpunt in 2005, as Jamie was suffering an infection in her right eye and was referred to Shpunt by a mutual friend. She claims that he 'healed' her eye with his magic hands. I claim that her real doctor gave her antibiotics and it cleared up the pink eye, but what the hell do I know? Luckily, the McCourts decided to hire Shpunt as a long-distance healer and not as a member of the training staff.

Wasting franchise money on such hokum is certainly bad, but the McCourt's devotion to such mumbo-jumbo could have produced far worse results. At one point, Shpunt attempted to provide actual hands-on healing to one of the Dodgers' injured players and nearly threatened the career of one of their young hitters:

In 2005, Jamie referred outfielder Jayson Werth to him for treatment of a wrist injury, after Werth had told her of his interest in alternative medicine, according to Cohen and representatives for Frank and Jamie.

Werth had one in-person healing session and one distance healing session, apparently not successful. In 2008, as he emerged as a star with the Philadelphia Phillies, Werth said Dodgers doctors had misdiagnosed the injury and that he did not get proper treatment until he went to the Mayo Clinic on his own. He made no mention of Shpunt.

Atrocious. One can only shake their head and tut-tut the McCourts for throwing their dirty money away on such ridiculous faux-science, but to hear that they put a still-developing player in danger with SOMETHING THAT MAKES EVEN HOLISTIC HEALING SOUND GOOD, one wants to smack the troubled couple upside the head with a two-by-four. Shame on you, Frank and Jaime.

(via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy, the only blog that could soften my hatred of the Dodgers)

Tonight's Questions

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That'll do, pigs. Thanks to the good folks at Ted Williams Head for the horrifyingly funny Marco Scutaro tribute song. Yeesh. Enjoy sports tonight, as you should do every night. Until tomorrow, same WoW channel.



...because the MLBAM lawyerin' folks will have cease-and-desisted this video off the YouTubes by lunchtime. Witness pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg strike with regularity, all the while wearing his red socks and white pants correctly.

He's a lucky guy, too: his next start is of the interleague varietal and comes against the Indians, the third easiest team to strike out and the second worst slugging team in the AL

(our hats are off to the Bros. Mottram)

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Walkoff Walk reader and beltway resident Matt DeTura finagled a ducat for last night's Stephen Strasburg debut. I asked him to reflect on his experience and he agreed. Yes, running a blog is easy and fun.

For the amount of hype, the crowd seemed strangely subdued. There was excitement, but early on, no electricity in the stands; more of a nervous energy than a celebratory atmosphere. Chalk it up to fair-weather DC - the Caps disappointed, the Wiz went all FINGA GUNZ, United is boring and the Skins fanbase has been abused so many times that their co-workers are starting to wonder if they should take it upon themselves to call the cops the next time they show up to the office with a black eye. Cynicism is in the water here. Cynicism and fluoride.

Still, if it was a dumb crowd, it was a sellout crowd clad mostly in Stras-37's - I think Mayor Fenty may have been exchanging them for votes - and they were THERE, at the park, for once. So that was nice, especially since the last time Nats Park sold out everybody was wearing red t-shirts too, only they all said "UTLEY" on the back. And that really sucked, because the beer lines take for-ev-er when you're stuck behind a five year old getting up on a stepstool to pay for his Miller Lites.

Of course, Strasburg was ungodly fucking filthy. He needs a new swear word to describe how good he looked. He looked ballstoasterfuckingly good.

The kid is a machine - works quick, no fistpumps, no demonstrations - but no fear, either, even when he had trouble finding the strike zone for the first two batters. (Hey, people, I know it's the first Nats game of the season for half of you but let's not boo the umps when the kid on the mound may just think it's directed at him in his MLB debut, kay?) When he settled down, he was firing 97-99 without blinking, touched 100 once, and broke ankles and spirits with offspeed shit that simply shouldn't be allowed. He got in trouble in the fourth and all he did the next three innings was settle in and strike out 8 of the next 9 batters. Simply put, it was the best pitching performance I've ever seen at any ballpark and this was his FIRST TIME OUT. I was giddy when I had to extend the K box on my scorecard to accommodate his tickmarks.

And the fans, bless their souls, got into it - the place was fired up from innings 5-6 and they were chanting his name in the 7th. While "STRAS-BURG" was plainly audible on syllables three and four, one and two were up for grabs between the folks yelling "STEPH-EN" and the ones blaspheming "JES-US." Of course, it was a night when - for the first time since a crazy July run in 2005 - the Nats looked like they're going to be contenders. Someday. Maybe. If that's not worth a few extra Hail Marys, I don't know what is.

Also in attendance last night, reader Jerkwheat, who left his Detroit Tigers cap at home:

What MDT said about the crowd early was true. A lot of "oh shit, is this gonna happen?" looks, but everyone was clearly ready to burst out. Once the StrasJesus got his first K, it was on. After about the 8th K, my whole section was high fiving strangers left and right. I've seen just about every big-time pitcher in person over the last 20 odd years. I've seen a no-hitter in the minors and one hitters in MLB. I've seen 10-15 strikeouts before. But, I've never really seen stuff as purely filthy as I saw from Strasburg. That curve. It's going to kill people. It's Mariano's cutter. It's Smoltz's slider. To have a 20 mph gap on pitches that move like they do between his heat and his breaking stuff? Delwyn Young has no fucking clue how he hit a homer tonight.

Not to sound all Mitch Albom-y and what not, but the real testament to the power of Strasburg for me was on the ride back out to Fairfax. Lots of little kids in #37 shirseys. An amount of youngsters interested in the Nats that I've never seen and I've been going to Nats games since 2005. He's what the franchise needs to get the kids excited. Everyone loves the strikeout pitcher. This is a big opportunity to create an actual homegrown fanbase.

Amazing debut.

Thanks, fellas.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are not a good team. Heck, I had irrationally lofty hopes for them this season when I opined they'd finish with 81 wins; having seen them play a few games this year, that has as much chance of happening as John Kruk fitting into a size XXL t-shirt. But although this year's Bucs are not especially talented as a whole, the top three hitters in their lineup last night against Stephen Strasburg are damn good.

Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Lastings Milledge (filling in for a concussed Ryan Doumit in the three-hole) are not the schlubs we've been led to believe populate the Pirates' batting order. McCutchen and Walker both have OPS averages above .850 while Milledge is among the hardest outfielders to strike out in the majors. Yet in the sixth inning last night, when nobody watching could have possibly imagined the young pitcher could possibly get better, Strasburg struck out those three hitters.

And then one inning later, he struck out three more, all swinging, including notorious fastball power hitter Garrett Jones and a guy who had already homered on Strasburg earlier in Delwyn Young. I nearly drove off the road when I heard this stunning inning on the radio.

So to downplay Strasburg's historically dominant performance from last night because it "was against a Triple-A team, harf harf harf" cheapens the historical significance of the night. Sure, Strasburg may never accumulate Hall of Fame credentials and sure, the Pirates might never pull themselves out of their endless run of misery. But that debut last night carries heavy importance...even against a team that might be the worst in the National League.

And if you're wondering, the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis currently sit just one game out of the Wild Card in the International League. I wonder how many of those fellas would have struck out against Strasburg.

Tonight's Questions

| | Comments (25)
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  • WHERE will you be enjoying Stephen Strasburg's debut tonight? I'll be at my condo association meeting, watching the game on my iPhone.

  • WHICH Pirates hitter will sit dead red on a Stephen Strasburg fastball tonight and deposit it into the Red Porch? Money line says Andrew McCutchen but don't rule out Garrett Jones.

  • WHO will have the best pitching line tonight, Strasburg or the other young studs scheduled to pitch?

  • SERIOUSLY, could Armando Galarraga get another taste of perfection tonight? He gets to face another AL Central weak sister.

  • DOES it really matter at this point if Pete Rose's bat was corked? I say yes, it's always fun to pile on that cad.

Hope you've got enough ground beef in the fridge, Mary, because we're having Strasburgers for dinner tonight. I don't mean to be so contrarian but, as an official 2010 Pirates supporter, I'm probably rooting for the Bucs to upset the apple cart a bit tonight. I'm sure Washington will understand.

Game time is 7PM EDT and you can watch it on MLB Network, the MLB At-Bat app for iPhone, or MASN, if you live within the magical beltway. Not so fast, residents of Strasburg, VA.

See you tomorrow, same WoW channel.

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Chances are that your favorite team had a first round draft pick yesterday (unless you support the Mariners, who traded their first round pick away for Cliff Lee and a basket of muffins). Chances are even better that someone who blogs about your favorite team has a strong opinion on said draft pick, whether favorable or unfavorable.

Heck, there's never a better time to get excited about a 19-year-old than draft day; once the dust settles, we'll all wring our hands about contracts and agents and potential and upside and Mark Prior.

To that end, let's take a gander at how some of the smarter writers (and others) around the baseball blogosphere are reacting to the chosen ones among their teams of preference:

Jamie Mottram on Bryce Harper, Nationals, #1: "Harper mostly played catcher this season for Southern Nevada, but he also saw time at third base and in the outfield. Once he signs his monster deal (hopefully in advance of August 15) it's to the low minors he'll go, where he'll work on playing right field. Watch out, Roger Bernadina."

Pat Lackey on Jameson Taillon, Pirates, #2: "Almost everyone seems to agree that Taillon has more talent than everyone in this draft not named Bryce Harper. I've seen other people say that the Pirates should draft Pomeranz or Sale because they're college pitchers and the Pirates need rotation help now. Any GM that uses that logic with the second overall pick should change his name to Dave Littlefield."

Rany Jazayerli on Christian Colon, Royals, #4: "Yeah, that wasn't expected. I really like Colon, but I just hope the Royals took him because they wanted him, not for financial reasons. Again: the Royals - or really any team drafting from this point on - should take the player they want. They don't sign? Bonus!"

Greg Prince on Matt Harvey, Mets, #7: "I wish him well. I wish to see him on the Mets before too long. Until then, Matt Harvey -- RHP, UNC -- is just a name to me, no more guaranteed of success than any of his first-pick Met predecessors. This young man could be Darryl Strawberry or Doc Gooden or Mike Pelfrey. Or he could be Steve Chilcott or Kirk Presley or Ryan Jaroncyk."

Lisa Gray on Delino DeShields, Jr., Astros, #8: "Oh - I forgot - his father played major league ball. Like that matters. People think that baseball players are like race horses or something. You think it matters? Remember our supplemental 1st rounder a couple years back - Eli Iorg? THAT worked out REAL good, dint it? (...) I hear that scouts think he gonna move to second base. Wonderful to have this basestealer who hits some singles playing second. AS THE FIRST ROUND PICK!!!"

Andrew Stoeten on Deck McGuire, Blue Jays, #11: "Projects to be an innings guy, says Gammons, but not a frontline guy. A safe pick. Not entirely surprising, but when you're a casual fan you never really want your team's first draft pick to have such a low upside. MLB.com has a shitty scouting report on McGuire-- I mean, maybe it's accurate, but an autoplaying video? Fuck you."

Al Yellon on Hayden Simpson, Cubs, #16: "You can disagree with the pick; disagree with Tim Wilken's reasons for picking him; argue about whether the Cubs are being cheap or not. But when you giggle and guffaw like 12-year-olds over someone defacing Simpson's Wikipedia page (which I assume has been fixed and I will not repost here), insulting him and his family, that's where I draw the line. Real human beings with real feelings are involved. Families of Cubs minor leaguers, and I presume possible draft picks, read this site."

Bud Selig on Kolbrin Vitek, Red Sox, #20: "I haven't had a good bowl of Kolbrin Vitek since that barnstorming tour through Yugoslavia in '75. Sixto Lezcano caught dysentery, ho ho."

el duque on Cito Culver, Yankees, #32: "Good grief, Yankee blogs are good-hearted data-grabbers, but they have an Argentina-sized blindspot when it comes to the draft. Nobody knows nuthin. A video of some kid's swing not a scouting report. Still... Rochester! Raised on the mother's milk of Genny Cream! This we know: Great baseball name. Cito Culver. It follows up last year's great name, Slade Heathcott. Maybe the Yankees are assembling a team of Dickens characters."

Take a dose of irrational exuberance, add in a sprinkling of pessimistic clamoring, mix in a dollop of Internet vandalism, puree, and you've got the post-draft baseball blogosphere. Hey that's the same recipe for Martha Stewart's lemon squares!

(photo via Sean Keane and Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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Hurray, it's draft time in the majors! It's that special time of year when teams get together in Secaucus, NJ and take shots in the dark predicting which 18-year-old pitcher won't have every single ligament in his arm blow up by age 24. Strikingly, this year's draft is happening but one day before the the big league debuts of two much-heralded young studs: Mike Stanton and Stephen Strasburg. Nooo, not that Mike Stanton.

But enough about tomorrow, let's learn a little bit about the guys of tomorrow-er who will get drafted today!

  • At 7PM tonight, you can tune into the MLB Network to watch the first round of the MLB First Year Player draft. And since we were all well-behaved kiddies over the past year, Herr Selig has graciously added the supplemental round to the broadcast. WHEE SUPPLEMENTS!

  • The other forty-nine rounds will not be televised. They would, however, get better ratings than a Marlins game.

  • More amateur players will be onsite in beautiful downtown Secaucus than last year, when only South Jersey kid Mike Trout showed up.

  • I actually know less about this year's crop of lithe high schoolers than I did last year, if that's possible. I couldn't pick a single one of these kids out of a lineup if I had a gun to my head...

  • ...with the sole exception of Bryce Harper, who has graced the cover of national sport-y publications and Mottram-penned websites alike, and will be taken first by the Washington Nationals with the first pick. Jim Bowden guarantees it.

  • Nearly every team-specific blog worth their salt has posted draft previews that either predict who their favorite team will choose or rightfully professed cluelessness.

  • Despite not having an actual trading floor, NASDAQ invited fat Tommy Lasorda and other MLB Draft representatives to "ring" the "opening bell" today. The index is down half a percentage point today. Correlation? I say so.

  • Bud Selig will trip over his tongue pronouncing the simplest of names. If we are lucky, he will also trip on the stairs in his $9,300 Italian loafers.

  • Wanna feel old? Delino DeShields Junior will be drafted tonight.

  • Although most of the action will be taking place in Secaucus, the good folks at the MLB Network will have live look-ins to at least 22 of the 30 teams' war rooms. That means there's a decent chance we'll see Theo Epstein get pantsed by Bill James.

  • FoWoW 'Duk will be conducting a livechat at Big League Stew with some know-it-alls: Kendall Rogers, who covers college baseball for Rivals and Steve Henson, who stalks high school baseball players for a living. Nice work if you can get it.

Via Ryan Parker's RyanParkerSongs.com comes this John Fogerty-inspired ditty about Drew's favorite third baseman, Scott Rolen. Including Dusty Baker? Pure genius.


It's good, but gets a little predictable during the bridge when they mention sassy line-dancer Bronson Arroyo. Also, it's nothing when compared to the as-of-yet-unwritten "Papa Was Scott Rolen's Stone". Now that's a tune I can dance to.

(we owe a pallet of Cherry Coke to OMG Reds)

Larry Granillo has spent the 2010 season undergoing the arduous task of measuring the time it takes for a home run hitter to circulate the basepaths. Some folks like rookie phenom Jason Heyward put their head down and hustle their buns around the basepaths in 19 seconds. Other folks like veteran marshmallow man David Ortiz take their pretty-ass time and end up clocking in over 30 seconds. Me? I'd trip over second base and break both ankles and then cross home plate in a wheelchair 20 minutes later.

But it took a low-A minor leaguer in the Rangers organization named Engel Beltre to do the unpossible and go over the vaunted one-minute mark in his dance around the bases, and all it took was an ill-timed basebrawl to make it happen:


Head over to Larry's House of Wezen-Ball and Tater Trot Trackers to get the full story. It's a doozy, as they say in Bakersfield.

(video courtesy of Sports With Pep)

There are several. Chit-chat about them at your discretion.

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Leave it to poor Ken Griffey, Jr. to have the most poignant night of his career slide down below the fold of the sports page because some jerk made a bad call. Yes, even in failure, Jim Joyce's perfect mistake outshines the retirement of one of the most beloved players in baseball history. Griffey called it a career last night after 20+ years of smacking home runs with aplomb, making highlight-worthy catches in center, and million-dollar smiles, but also 20+ years of dealing with depressed Seattlites, miserable Cincinnatians, and far too much Lou Piniella.

Griffey may have been a natural talent but he was also a natural at getting broken. Endless trips to the DL in the second act of his career meant that certain milestones got delayed and that trip to the World Series was always out of reach. Along with Ted Williams (note: I had a dumb) and Ernie Banks, Griffey reigns among the top ten players to never reach the Fall Classic. Ken spent the 1990s being awesome; we fans spent the 2000s waiting for Ken to get that awesomeness back.

Griffey stood by as fellow second generation star Barry Bonds grabbed the spotlight with his power and disdain for the media. Bonds broke all the home run records. Bonds made the World Series. Bonds had an entire ESPN reporter assigned to follow his every move. Meanwhile, writers always claimed to love Griffey and his playful ways, but they loved spilling their sanctimony-stained ink about Bonds more. You get more readers with scandal, no matter how artificial and meaningless it is.

Even Mariners fans dumped on Griffey in his final days. A fading star brought to the team to sell more t-shirts and popcorn, he failed to hit a home run in the first two months of the season and was singled out as a scapegoat for a poorly-constructed, miserable team. Respect? Ken Griffey deserved it by the bushelful but got it in mere trickles at the end.

Still, Ken Griffey, Jr. finishes his career many steps ahead of Bonds and with every benefit of our doubts: he will be a first-ballot HOFer and will be lauded forever as one of the greatest outfielders in the modern era. And we at Walkoff Walk will always be true fans if only for that time Kris interviewed Ken's mom. So long, Ken, and thanks for all the memories.

Because whether or not catcher Mark Fleury of the Reds' single-A affiliate in Dayton can finish the whopping four-pound Fifth Third Burger, he is certainly going to have dire gastrointestinal distress. As a guest in the West Michigan Whitecaps' visitors clubhouse, Fleury attempted to consume the bloated burger just a half hour prior to game time. Good idea!

So, what exactly is in this foodstuff? Starting with a sesame seed bun the size of Joey Votto's head, the behemoth is constructed thusly:

The bun is then topped with five, yes five, one-third pound hamburger patties, a cup of chili, five slices of American cheese, a mound of salsa, a few spoons full of nacho cheese and some tortilla chips. The burger is then finished off with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. Adding your own jalapenos, ketchup or mustard is optional.

Via OMG Reds, here's the video of Mark tackling the hefty nom:


Head over to OMG Reds to watch the stunning conclusion to Fleury's attempt to make the competitive eating circuit. (SPOILER: in the words of a Dragons player in the background of the third video, he "didn't finish that shit")

Beat writers everywhere scoff at this weakness in eating burgers.

For the second time in a week, Rays manager Joe Maddon has been ejected from a baseball game, this time for standing up against the Umpire Joe West campaign to speed up games. Joe Maddon likes his baseball like he likes his lovemaking: slow and with tons of unnecessary pitching changes!

During the controversial ninth inning, home plate ump Angel Hernandez did not grant a timeout to Rays slugger Carlos Pena batting with runners on the corners and his team down. He so desperately needed to adjust his cup but nay, Hernandez wanted the game to continue at a medium pace. Joe took umbrage, argued with Hernandez, and got tossed from the game. Maddon then headed up the baseline to argue with third base ump Joe West, compared notes on the latest vintage of Rhone wines, discussed the passing of Louise Bourgeois, kicked some dirt, and went to sulk in his office.

Courtesy of the good people at TampaBay.com, here's Overmanagin' Joe chatting up the beat boys during the postgame:


Maddon's solution to speeding up the game?

"Make commercials less long."

Eloquent! And probably impossible. See, Joe, these "commercials" are "sponsored" by "companies" that want to pay MLB to "advertise" their "erectile dysfunction pills" which then goes to pay your salary! Sorta directly, actually! One could say Joe Maddon's collection of fine Tuscan wines was built on boner juice dollars.

Instead, let's put an end to the constant ballet of relief pitchers dancing about the mound and the endless adjustment of sluggers' wristbands that eat up our precious minutes. Support Country Joe West in his mission to speed up games by abusing his umpiric powers! Reject Joe Maddon in his quixotic attempt to cut down the number of cell phone commercials during ballgames! Free markets now!

In the end, Maddon's feces-throwing act was not in vain as Kevin Gregg, the opposing pitcher, was also tossed out of the game for arguing balls 'n' strikes and the Rays came back to win. And then the TV folks went to commercial. WIN FOR CAPITALISM.

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While doing radio for yesterday's tilt between the Yankees and Indians, color commentator Suzyn Waldman prefaced her reciting of the out-of-town scoreboard by bemoaning the sad state of the schedule. See, yesterday was a special holiday in these United States: Memorial Day. It's a chance for all Americans to honor the war dead by eating ground and grilled meat products, drinking Belgian beer, and sitting in traffic while cursing at foreign drivers. For Ms. Waldman, however, Memorial Day needs to be a day for baseball.

Suzyn's problems with the day's schedule? Only ten of fourteen American League teams were in action and one of those games was taking place in Toronto, which isn't even in America! She and her partner John Sterling cited the halcyon days of the 1950s, as they are prone to do when reciting showtune lyrics, and remembered that every team used to play doubleheaders on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.

Whether or not their sense of recollection was accurate, John and Suzy have a point: these three days are national holidays and deserve to have a full afternoon schedule of baseball action. These are days that most baseball fans are free from the shackles of quotidian work and sit far enough outside the indoctrinated weekend to make the idea of a day at the ballpark seem like Christmas in May.

Here, taste these cherry-picked numbers:

  • Atlanta drew 42,543 yesterday against a season average of 28,891
  • Pittsburgh drew 20,235 against 17,264
  • Houston drew 34,704 against 26,403
  • Kansas City drew 24,651 against 19,898
  • San Fran drew 42,625 against 35,709
  • St Louis drew 40,782 against 39,516
  • Los Angeles drew 45,325 against 43,779

Sure, some places that hate America had a dip in attendance yesterday, and sure, our summer season that will increase attendance league-wide is just getting underway. Get ready for crowded loge levels, people! But the fact remains: folks like to come to the ballpark on holidays. Wouldn't the idle Chicago White Sox have benefited from a day game yesterday?

I remember making a habit of going to Yankee Stadium in the late 90s each Fourth of July to see the Bombers beat the Orioles. It was a rite of summertime! Granted, the opportunity to simply walk up to the Stadium and buy tickets on gameday has disappeared from the Bronx now, but there are at least 25 other parks where that chance still exists.

So do the right thing, Katy Feeney, and focus on holiday baseball in 2011. Singleheaders, doubleheaders, what have you; schedule the games and the people will show up.