Where Does a Baseball Fan Go in the Offseason?

October 13, 2009

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Former commissioner Bart Giamatti (yes, father of the actor Paul Giamatti) said it best in his essay The Green Fields of the Mind. Here is the short version of his masterpiece:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. – A. Bartlett Giamatti

Tonight, on the 12th of October, just as the temperatures in Iowa have begun consistently flirting with the freezing mark, it would appear that baseball has once again deserted me.  After all, my Rockies have been eliminated from the playoffs.  After salvaging a split against the Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love, they returned to the Mile High City needing simply to defend their own turf and win their two home games to continue on in the playoffs.

Sunday night’s game was a wrenching defeat, made even more difficult by the phantom hit of Chase Utley.  After the game, the umpire admitted that he had the call wrong, and that the play should have been ruled a foul ball, forcing Utley back into the batter’s box, rather than allowing the result of the play to stand.

Monday night’s game, if possible, was even more heartbreaking.  At long last, it appeared that the Rockies were getting a few breaks.  In the seventh inning, trailing by a run, Seth Smith reached second when Raul Ibanez misplayed a ball in the outfield.  Unfortunately, Barmes and Spilly stranded Smith.

In the eighth inning, the luck finally turned the complete 180 I had been waiting for.  With one out in the inning and speedster Dexter Fowler on first base, Todd Helton hit a ball to Phillies second baseman Chase Utley that should have been an easy double play to end the inning.  Fowler – who was running behind Utley (because running in front of Utley would have screened Utley from the ball and would have been interference on Fowler) decided to leap over Utley.  In the midst of the chaotic play, shortstop Jimmy Rollins mishandled the toss from Utley – Fowler and Helton were both safe.

If Fowler was able to hurdle Utley without making contact, this would have been a legal play.  If he did make contact, I believe this could have been ruled interference, although I’m not 100% sure of this.  In any case, it seemed that the balance of “weird sh*t” plays had been restored, with the Fowler play compensating for the Utley play on Sunday.  It seems impossible that he could have jumped over Utley without touching him, right?  Then again, Fowler is a great athlete.

Sure enough, the hits kept coming.  Jason Giambi knocked home Fowler to tie the game and Yorvit Torrealba doubled to plate two more runs to push the Rockies out to a 4-2 lead.  After three Phillies had come to the plate in the 9th inning, there were two out and a runner on first base.  Victory was easily within grasp.

At which point the floodgates opened.  After Utley walked on a full count (meaning that the Rockies were just a strike away from victory) big bopper Ryan Howard tied the game with a double and Jason Werth put Philly ahead for good, plating Howard.  The Rockies put on two runners in the bottom of the ninth, but Troy Tulowitzki struck out the end the season.

So, then, where do we go from here?

Well, first of all, the playoffs are still ongoing, despite the absence of the Rockies.  Each series has a team that I hate (Dodgers and Yankees), making it easy to pull for the Phillies and Angels.  Certainly I will watch much more post-season baseball – and when I am unable to watch, I will be listening.

OK, but after the season actually ends.  Then what?

Well, free agency isn’t far away.  The one pending free agent who is near and dear to my heart, of course, is Matt Holliday.  Will Holliday sign with a team I like (Cardinals) or a team I hate (Yankees – ack)?  Certainly, I will engage people in banter about why the free agent compensation is horribly flawed and needs to be completely redone.

There is the Arizona Fall League and winter leagues in Latin America, of course.  I intend to follow them with much more passion this year.  I’ll even pick out a team at some point.

There are many baseball books in my personal library that I need to finish – everything from books of the physics of the sport to Tim Kurkjian’s feel good  book “Is This  A Great Game, of What?

Then, of course, the new books will come out.  Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster (The Bible of Fanalytics) is the one I eagerly anticipate each year, but surely another one or two books will catch my eye.  I’ll dust off my printed copy of the baseball collective bargaining agreement and read a few more sections.  While I can’t say for certain that I am more familiar with the CBA than the typical player, I wouldn’t be shocked if this were the case.

I’ll spend some time researching things on the web, of course.  Baseball Reference.com has wonderful tools, and I’ll have to make sure to use them all at some point.  John Sickels will certainly be at work during the winter, informing the world about minor league players on Minor League Ball.com.  And my peeps at Purple Row will be chattering about the Rockies all winter long.

Then, of course, there will be a short break for the winter Olympics, which features luge and a bunch of lesser sports.  By the time luge wrap up, spring training will be here, and the cycle will begin anew.

You see, there really is no offseason – simply a different phase of the year-long baseball season.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan Kline
    Oct 13, 2009 @ 12:11:29

    After baseball season ends, I’m usually gearing up for the holidays, followed by ski season (especially with how late the World Series finishes these days). Then, just as ski season winds down . . . it is spring training. It works out great for me.

    Regarding that Utley play, one thing I see people forgetting is that we don’t know what would have happened had that been ruled a foul ball. Yes, he might have made an out, but he also could have hit one into the seats, too.

    The Rockies should hold their heads high. Just as the Phillies did in 2007 when the Rockies defeated them, the Rockies this year ran into a very good team. It was very interesting seeing the comments of some of the Phillies’ players, saying how when they came off the field after the 8th, they still thought they were going to win the game:

    Jason Werth: “I came off the field, and I thought we were going to win this game. Everyone was calm. . . . We knew what we had to do and we did it.”

    Jimmy Rollins: “We have belief, and belief goes further than momentum.”

    On local TV’s coverage of the locker room celebration, Cliff Lee mentioned how the dugout during the 9th was unlike anything he’s seen. He said that Ryan Howard was telling the players ahead of him in the lineup to get him to the plate, saying he wanted to be up to win the game for them. All sports fans want their team’s to be “clutch,” so I just eat stuff like that up.

    Now to decide whether to fall for my brother and cousin’s pleadings to join them for Game 1 in LA. I do have tickets already for Game 3 in Philly, and possibly Game 4.
    .-= Evan Kline´s last blog ..Skymarket THIS Windows Marketplace for Mobile! =-.


  2. kosmo
    Oct 13, 2009 @ 12:25:35

    Definitely a valid point about the uncertainty surrounding what may have happened if the Utley ball had been called a foul. There’s a 60+% chance he would have made an out, though (he’s not quite a .400 on-base guy for his career). Utley would also have been down 1-2 in the count (where he is a .278 on-base guy for his career), which would have allowed Street to play around a bit to set things up.

    I’d definitely roll the dice on the 60% chance of the out vs. the outcome of the actual play.

    And I definitely can’t fault Utley. He couldn’t afford to stand around at the plate and assume that the ball would be ruled foul. If you do that, you get thrown out at first base a lot.


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