Friday, April 02, 2004

Baseball season is upon us.

I wasn't always a baseball fan. In fact, for the majority of my life, I completely ignored it. I was never much of a sports fan and even less of an athlete. My few experiences with playing baseball were quite embarrassing. Unlike fast-paced sports like basketball or football, in baseball all attention gets focused on a single person performing some unnatural act, like hitting a baseball with a bat, or catching a zillion MPH baseball with an oversized novelty glove. Being an uncoordinated individual made these acts damn near impossible for me to perform. So, I had no interest in playing baseball and thus no interest in watching other people play it.

In fact, I never really understood why it was called America's Pasttime. Frankly, it doesn't really seem to fit in with the rest of sports entertainment that Americans enjoy. It's not fast-paced like basketball. It rarely has violence or major injuries like football, hockey, or NASCAR. There are no cheerleaders. What gives?

Then, about 10 years ago, I found myself commuting two hours a day. I got sick of my CDs fairly quickly and eventually turned to talk radio. One of those talk radio stations was a sports station. In general, I hate talk radio. Who wants to hear Joe Average spout off about anything? I'd rather hear someone knowledgeable. For the same reason, I will usually turn of the TV News when they start interviewing the Man On the Street about anything ("Oh, I voted for Schwarzenegger because I like him". Thanks for the insight, Joe). Anyway, sports Talk Radio was an exception for me. All these Joe Averages knew tons more about sports than I did. So, I kept listening. Then, baseball season started and my beloved sports talk was often replaced by baseball game broadcasts.

I learned something quickly. Baseball is GREAT on the radio. A good play-by-play announcer will paint an efficient and evocative picture. A good color announcer will weave in interesting analysis and stories. It's great background entertainment.

At one point the Giants had a 3-4-5 lineup of Matt Williams, Barry Bonds, and Darryl Strawberry. If you know anything about baseball (and I finally knew a little at this juncture), you know that that's an exciting set of batters to have in the heart of your batting order. For the first time in my life, I actually turned on a television to watch someone bat.

Now I follow the Giants fairly religiously. I got to 5-10 games a year and I watch, listen to, or read about the others. I read baseball books and blogs. I even have a fantasy baseball team or two. Baseball is a great sport for a nerd like me. Since I've always been interested in statistics (which still seems like an odd thing to me), baseball is the perfect sport. Sabermetricians have mined the 100+ years of baseball, with 162 games a year (these days), for all sorts of interesting results. And, one can hardly discount the appeal of cutting out of work during the week to catch a day game, then sitting in the sun with a beer and a hot dog. I may be a geek, but I'm not completely immune to the simple pleasures.

Anyway, this is a long way to go to say that the Giants don't have it this year and that makes me sad. Five words sum it up: "Your starting shortstop, Neifi Perez".

Ok, one more little bit of information here. I used to read a baseball site that ran a fantasy baseball game where the goal was the draft the WORST possible team. This was defined as having a team composed of the players who did the most damage to their team. So, a player who sits on the bench all day definitely does some damage to the team (uses up 1 of 25 roster spots), but a player who plays every day and stinks does more damage. So, the "best" teams in this league consisted of players who had convinced their managers to play them every day, but really stunk it up and didn't belong in the Major Leagues.

The top player in the backwards league, the player who caused the most damage to his team, was......Neifi Perez.

Brian Sabean, why hast thou forsaken me?

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