7.22.2014

The Value of the Game

This month, my dad turned seventy.  He's now entering his eighth decade on this planet. But I'm not here to talk about that.  We're a German family, we don't share.  Every 'I love you' and 'thanks for everything' goes unsaid, we all mean to say it and we all know it's true but it doesn't need to be vocalized.  No - That's not what I'm here to talk about though.

I'm not here to talk about the rough times.  I'm not going to talk about that month in fifth grade when in a span of four weeks we lost two grandparents, one from each side of the family and I remember sitting in a worn out old recliner and having my Dad come sit next to me.  He didn't say anything... I told him 'We're having a bad month' and he said 'We are.'  Because we were. That's not the memory I'm here to talk about.

What I'm here to talk to you about is the beauty of a game.  Of any game.  It's the value of sport, the connection of family and the reason so many of us come to the games we love.  I'm here to share with you memories.  I'm here to help you understand why I love these games - not for the wins and the championships - but for the value they bring to my life and my relationships.

I'm here to talk to you about a season ticket holder.  Of Wisconsin Hockey since the late 60's.  A guy from a small town in southern Illinois who decided to check out something new and four decades later calls his 31-year-old son to convince him to come to town to catch the game with him (the son never goes back often enough).  That's the same son that can vividly remember sitting in the kitchen with his old man hanging on every word of the radio broadcast 20 years earlier, weekend after weekend.

I'm here to talk to you about three kids, and a terrible Wisconsin football team.  See this guy from southern Illinois also had season tickets to football and there was a time not long ago when the Badgers couldn't fill their stadium to save their lives, so we always ended up with better seats and more tickets.  I can hardly remember Tom Brady at Michigan but I can always remember my dad with seat cushions and hot chocolate.

See we went to Badger football games for years and years, my brother, my sister and I. Yet between the three of us, we can barely scare up a handful of results for all those games we invested our Saturdays in. However we can tell you about the brat stand by the train tracks (now bike path) that our dad always stopped at.  The kids didn't often eat there, but dad never missed a chance. And he never forgot sauerkraut.

I'm not here to talk about the dark times.  When I was unemployed and struggling to get back to the field I had worked so hard to break in to, I faced the end of the most important relationship I had to this point in my life.  Marriage can be ugly.  I'm not here to tell you how, when I broke this news to my parents - I broke down.  And my dad gave me a hug and I'll never forget that.  Because, the assumed had met a moment not to be assumed the most important people showed up for it.  That's not what I'm here to talk to you about.

I want to tell you about being a kid and learning to ski.  About all the fear dissipating because as I slid unbalanced and unsteady down the hill I did it with my dad holding me up.  We learned to ski when we learned to walk.  And each one of us three kids will still make time to fly down a mountain with this guy from southern Illinois.

I'm here to tell you about a soccer team without a coach.  And experience be damned, there he was again.  Fostering an experience for a group of kids because every kid should have a team and every team needs a coach.  Was he a good coach?  Probably not, but without those teams I wouldn't have the relationships I have today.

I'm not here to talk about someone who spends his retirement working on his kid's houses.  Be they five minutes away, 25 minutes away or an hour and a half away.  He and his better half will travel the distance to plant flowers, build shelving or even just mow the lawn.

What I am here to tell you about is a man who met his two sons at a bar on a Tuesday afternoon to watch a World Cup soccer game.  A game that resulted in an American loss but not one of the three family members that went to watch the game went home unsatisfied.

I'm here to tell you about why we love sports, and why we will pass that love on to those we care about.  Wins are nice but the experience is what will always be valued most.  All of those games with my dad, I can't tell you which side went home winners.  I can recall a big game here and there but the memories that stay with me are of my family, of my dad.  It's that time spent that gives me a fondness for the sports I love.  It's those times that have shown me why, win or lose, a great time should be had.

What I want to tell you is that I love sports.  I love being a part of a sold-out Kohl Center, watching the Badgers square off against the Gophers.  I love sitting at the 40-yard-line watching Wisconsin battle against Ohio State.  I love sitting at a bar, beer in hand, cheering on USA soccer or the Milwaukee Brewers.  I love lacing up my cleats and competing.

What I want you to remember is that it's not the teams that bring me back.  The names on the back of the jerseys will change.  Teams will win and lose, but there will always be more games.  The experience we have with those important to us will be what we remember most.

For all those Hockey and Football games in Madison, all those games watched at the bar.  I can't tell you who won, but I can tell you that I watched them with my dad. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

6.25.2014

Soccer Snobbery and Other Soccer Rants

The World Cup is here, and America is tuned in, myself included. Now, I haven't had a chance to watch much more than 15 minutes or so, but that's due more to a busy life than disinterest. I like watching the World Cup, I always have, I remember watching the 1994 World Cup and enjoying Alexi Lalas' goatee and Cobi Jones' cool dreads. So, is it soccer that I like? No, it's the event I like and having national pride, just like the Olympics. I don't care about Gymnastics, but once every four years, there I am living and dying by every misstep. I think I'm like most Americans, we love big events, and we love America defeating other countries in sporting (or warring) events. When the US is eventually eliminated (or wins it all), the majority of Americans will once again lose interest in the sport. Well, the soccer snobs will live on, in an effort to annoy everyone else.

I hate the soccer snobs. Do you know one of these people, I'm sure you do. The people that call their jerseys, "kits", the fields "the pitch", and even need to refer to soccer as football....and they love to correct you on these terms the moment you say it wrong. Yes, these, are the soccer snobs. There are people who genuinely like soccer which is fine, in fact that's great, everyone should enjoy whatever sport they want. I'm not talking about those people.

So snobs. You like to go to your local soccer bar (soccer bars are such a hipster phenomenon and I hate hipsters) at noon to watch the Premier League, that's fine. Are you going to the pub, to have a pint and watch footy on the telly, occasionally using the loo while you eat some chips? No, I bet you're going to the bar, to drink some beer, watch the game on TV, occasionally using the bathroom and eating some fries. So, why do you insist on calling the soccer terms in their British form, we don't live in England, and we call things different. So, don't be a snob and tell people who want to say "nice jersey" that it's a kit. People hate you for that. I saw on Twitter someone say "this isn't hockey, it's not called an assist, it's called a cross" ...... Fuck you! Ronaldo had a hell of an assist as far as I'm concerned. I just wish the goalie (not the keeper) was in a better position on the field to stop that shot that the other dude hit with his head.

If we want soccer to take a hold in the US, we need to adapt it for our society. For instance look at the MLS teams. "Sporting Kansas City", "Dallas FC", "Real Salt Lake" etc... What the hell is that? We're mimicking the European leagues and it's stupid, especially those that put FC on their name, once again, we call it soccer here, don't be a snob MLS, people don't pay attention to snobs. Oh, and how about we change the US Men's National Team, or as it's so annoyingly tagged on Twitter #USMNT, to The US Soccer Team, or, #USSoccer, I like that better.

Oh, also a rule I hate. The offsides rule. If an offensive player gets behind the defense, sorry defense you didn't do your job. Imagine if in football the Wide Receiver got past the Safety, but that was considered "offsides", no way, stupid rule.

Also, the whole faking to be injured thing disturbs me. I know other sports have had that issue as well, but I hate it so much, and it turns me off to the game.

So, after this rant, I'll continue to watch the World Cup (only when the US plays), I'll continue to play FIFA video games (they're fun), and I'll continue to not care about actual soccer. Because, I'm American, and it's my duty.


11.14.2013

Tampa Bay Rays to Relocate to Turner Field in 2017

The Tampa Bay Rays finally have their new stadium, after years of low attendance and jokes at the Trop's expense, Rays' ownership have finally found an opportunity for a new stadium when the Atlanta Braves decided to move out of Turner Field.  Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg was elated to share the news, saying, "We have heard the cries of Rays fans everywhere and have struck a deal with the city of Atlanta to play in a world class facility built not long ago for the Olympics, the freaking Olympics, how great is that?!" He then promised that the name, the logo, and the community involvement in the city of Tampa would not change.

The Rays, who in 2013 saw just 1,510,300 people come through the turnstiles were in desperate need of something to engage fans. This Sternberg also addressed in his initial statement claiming, "We are taking Rays baseball to the fans!"

When asked how moving to a stadium 478 miles from their existing stadium would be moving "to the fans", Sternberg was quick to mention, "Oh, Tampa doesn't have baseball fans, Florida doesn't have baseball fans, look at Miami. We are moving to where people enjoy baseball, in the City of Atlanta. As I mentioned in my statement, we are just as dedicated to the City of Tampa as we've always been. For those who do want to attend a game, it's one road, I-75, how simple is that? In Chicago, you need to take about 50 streets and 3 trains just to see a game, what a pain!"

Fans in Tampa are excited by the news. One die hard Rays fan said, "I think it's great for the Rays to move to a facility as current and modern as Turner Field". When asked if this would change his going to see games, he simply said, "Absolutely not, I love the Rays, and that's why I'm glad I can still listen on the radio while at the beach, I've never actually attended a game, that sounds terrible."



8.28.2013

Prospecting: R.J. Seidel

I'm pretty sure this is the guy...
It's been a little bit since my last post, but that'll happen.  Today I'm here to talk about an old prospect who
is really a young prospect but has been around a while but who has been off most people's radar for the last couple of seasons.  Got that? Good.

Said prospect is none other than Wisconsin Native and LAX'er Richard Seidel, better known as R.J.

Who Is R.J. Seidel?

From La Crosse, Wis., Seidel was drafted in the 16th round of the 2006 amateur draft (see what I'm saying, been around a while).  2013 marked his seventh professional season, all spent in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system.  He's been around long enough to have played A-ball with the West Virginia Power (fun fact: also on that team were Jonathan Lucroy, Logan Schafer, Caleb Gindl and Rob Wooten).

So what took so long?  Injury for one, before the 2009 season he tore his ACL when he slipped on ice.  He would only throw 57 innings that year and did not look sharp in the process - Seidel had an ERA of 6.79 combined between the Arizona League Brewers and the low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

The following season he opened the year in the starting rotation for the High-A Brevard County Manatees and struggled some before moving into the bullpen, which turned out to be a good move for him.  2010 saw him finish with a 3.70 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched. Solid, but not spectacular.

It took Seidel a couple shots at double-A to stick and he earned a promotion to Nashville early this season.  Once there, whether by necessity or demand he found his way back into the starting rotation.  And, aside from one bad month, he has had a pretty impressive season.

The Good

To start us off, let's take a look at his month by month splits.  In May Seidel had a 3.51 ERA, in June - 10.20, in July 3.48 and here in August he has yet to give up a run in either appearance.  If you take away that atrocious month of June you would consider this a breakout season.

The strikeout numbers aren't too bad either, he's struck out 94 batters between a brief stint at double-A and triple-A spanning 88.2 innings.  The strikeouts are a career high and the inning count is his highest since his 2008 season.  It's a limited return to the starting rotation but results are results.

The Bad

Durability might be an issue, this is a player that's only gone over the 100 inning mark once in his career.  He's been used sparingly in August so it's unlikely we'll see him go over that mark this year either.  His role is another question, Seidel has had success as a reliever at times and as a starter at times.  While his numbers with Nashville this year are promising, that one bad month was REALLY bad.

In June Seidel made five appearances, pitching in 15 innings.  In those 15 innings he managed to give up 17 runs and walk 12 batters.  His ERA was a less-than-stellar 10.20, yikes.  The consistency just wasn't there.  This was also the first season he saw extended action in the starting rotation since 2010.

The Outlook

This is a tough one to get a read on, which usually isn't a good sign.  Seidel seems to be a player that will be able to contribute at the major league level but in an as yet determined role.  In the immediate future, assuming he remains with Milwaukee, he should be given a chance in the starting rotation with Nashville.

When you consider the lack of near majors ready pitching prospects and the struggles of Taylor Jungmann and Drew Gagnon with double-A Hunstville this year, any pitcher whose shown some flashes of success at a higher level should be given a chance to realize that.  Whether the organization decides to do that or not is anyone's guess.

In the event that the organization wants him in a relief role in 2013 I would expect to see him receive an invite to major league spring training with a chance to earn a spot in the bullpen (slim chance, but if you don't make it and you pitch well in the minors your name will likely be the first called - example Donovan Hand).

The story has the potential to be a good one, he's a Wisconsin kid who has worked his way up the minor league ladder.  Overcome bad luck, overcome some bad seasons and now has the potential to be a perfect example of Doug Melvin's patience paying off.  I'm rooting for him.

7.25.2013

Prospecting: Nick Delmonico

Is this really the best picture I could find?
Ryan Braun got suspended, and you can read about that here and here, especially if you enjoy some rumors and wild speculation.  Not so wild, but they are definitely a different approach.  That being said, I'm not here to talk about Ryan Braun.  I'm here to talk about a surprisingly good trade that Doug Melvin and company pulled off for a reliever that nobody wanted to sign in the offseason.

The trade that was made? Closer Francisco Rodriguez for Nick Delmonico, a third baseman in the Baltimore Orioles system.  So a player that most of major league baseball had no interest in, who had to start his year in the minor leagues, netted Milwaukee the Orioles No. 5 overall prospect (or No. 4 depending on which list you read).  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me, so let's find out about the new guy.

Who is Nick Delmonico?

I guess for starters, he's not really a third baseman.  Well he is, but he isn't.  Delmonico has seen time at first, second and third but as far as the Milwaukee Brewers are concerned - he's a third baseman.  Delmonico was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 draft.  He's 6'2" with a left-handed bat and a right-handed throw.  The 21-year-old spent last season in A-ball and spent the first half of this season with the Orioles High-A affiliate.  Early reports are he's headed to Brevard County, Milwaukee's High-A squad.

In 2012 - his first professional season - Delmonico hit .249 with a .351 OBP and 11 home runs in 95 games.  He also drove in 54 runs and was 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts.  Solid numbers as a 20-year-old in your first run as a professional ballplayer.

Delmonico followed that up with an improved sophomore season, he already has 13 home runs in 61 games this year.  The average and on-base numbers are about the same, .243 and .350, but the potential is certainly there.

The Good

First - power from the left side.  With 24 homers and 34 doubles in 156 professional games Delmonico has the chance to be a legitimate contributor to a big league line-up.  He's also a third base prospect, something Milwaukee has been lacking in their farm system since trading away Brett Lawrie.  At the big league level, the Brewers have been hard pressed to find a left-handed complement to their right side heavy lineup.

Delmonico has good plate presence to go with the aforementioned power, which his .350 on-base percentage demonstrates.  So far, he's played 156 professional games - call it a full season- and he has 24 homers, 84 RBIs and a .351 OBP.  If your third baseman does that on a year-to-year basis you would not be complaining.

The Bad

That batting average isn't a very pretty number.  Delmonico is a .246 hitter in his pro career, not exactly all-star material.  He is young enough that you can hope for improvement but that would be the biggest hole in his offensive game.  His strikeouts are a bit high (59 in 61 games in 2013) but it's not something I would be overly concerned with - yet.

The defensive game has some shortcomings as well.  In 2012, when he saw time at first and second, Delmonico committed 22 errors,  This year, mostly at third, he's committed 14.  Hopefully he can settle down when he is playing consistently at the same position.  I mean, if Rickie Weeks can become an above average (albeit very slightly above average) then anyone can, right?

The Outlook

Regardless of whether or not Delmonico pans out as a major leaguer this was a good trade.  K-Rod was not in the plans for the organization's future and they signed him off the scrap heap.  To turn him around for a player who is a top five prospect in your farm system before even playing a game is a definite win.

As for the player's outlook, there is a lot of promise here.  Left-handed power bats are hard to come by and that's what Delmonico has the potential to be.  Are there holes in his game? Definitely.  He's also only played a season and a half of professional baseball.  If he continues to develop he could have a very bright future for the Milwaukee Brewers franchise.

Expect to see Delmonico in Double-A Huntsville next season, at his current rate of development we could see him make his major league debut sometime in 2015.