Schadenfreude: the Ryan Braun Edition

Ryan Braun

Schadenfreude.

That single word sums of the majority of my feelings as this week comes to a close.  Perhaps, it is wrong for me to find pleasure in the misfortune of others, but sometimes, I think the satisfaction is justified.

Two years ago, Ryan Braun looked Milwaukee, Major League Baseball, and fans in the face and made a mockery of the system being used to clean the game–a game that he had condemned others for damaging.  How arrogant are you when you believe your own lies strongly enough to stand up and defend them on national television and speak with enough conviction to sway Aaron Rogers to bet his salary on your innocence?

Ryan BraunFrom where you, the fan, sits now, can you hear him heeding A-Rod to just tell the truth?  Can you  hear him saying he was the victim of a failed system?  Can you hear him proclaiming that he was found innocent when all he did was prove that something was not mailed properly?

In the middle of this chemically altered whirlwind, we saw a man’s life destroyed.  No, not Braun’s, but Dino Laurenzi Jr., the man who collected Braun’s positive sample the first time.  How about the judge Major League Baseball fired after he awarded Braun his appeal?  Both fired, both left in the dust by a man who could not care any less about what happened to them.

Today, I am glad to see Braun’s reputation tarnished.  I am glad to see baseball players speak out against him.  I am glad to see that the Player’s Association recognizes they play a role in cleaning up this game too.  Mostly, I am glad to see how strongly people reacted to this case.  While I think steroids have tarnished a lot in this era of the game, I think this event will remind writers of why they cannot let the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens into the Hall of Fame.

Ryan Braun

How do you put Barry Bonds on a plaque next to Barry Larkin when you have players in the game NOW who are willing to speak out against the man on the field with them.  I respect Skip Schumaker for expressing his discontent.  I applaud Matt Kemp for answering honestly that he thinks Braun’s MVP title should be taken away.

Now, I plead that the writers listen to the players and the fans and recognize that we do not want asterisks in the Hall.  We do not want these statistics lying and tarnishing the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.  We need the game to move forward and I think the players and fans can see that.

So today I am happy that a man who was willing to lie to save his own skin regardless of the damage it caused to the people, the city, the writers, and the sport that trusted him, is left standing by himself, ducking from reporters, and waiting for his lawyers to approve the next words out of his mouth.

I hope Aaron Rogers had a steroid clause written into the contract of their restaurant

Beerman #79, You Are the Man!

Andrew

July 12th, 2010.

I am attending my second straight All Star week and am strolling around Angels Stadium waiting for the Home Run Derby to begin.  Out of nowhere I here, “PHILLY!”  A figure appears in front of me with dreads and outstretched arms.  Thought are racing through my head… do I know this person, and if so, from what?  I can’t pinpoint a name, but the man asks again, “Are you guys from Philly?”  Yes. “I’m the All Star Vendor, Andrew.”

Just like that, I met one of the most extraordinary people by simply wearing my Phillies jersey to a game.  That initial interactive is indicative of the personable core that Andrew shares with the ballpark every night.  He goes into every game with the intention of making connections and ensuring that everyone has the very best experience possible.

As a vendor, Andrew believes he has a role in the fan experience.  Although beers are in his bin, he is really selling relationships and the opportunity to interact with people who you might not normally have the chance to meet.  Every time I talk to him, anywhere between 5 and 10 people will come over and reconnect with the social butterfly holding court in Ashburn Alley.

3 years later, almost to the day, I can still say that I’m one of Andrew’s biggest fans.  The man has boundless energy, a remarkable personality, and a mental rolodex with more people than an actual phonebook.  Whenever I see him, I’m greeted with a smile and a hug before he takes the time to chat–time which could be spent making more money.

The man is first among Aramark employees in every sales category and that is largely due to his fan base, such as me (although I am more fan than customer), who would never dream of supporting anyone else.  Having worked with the company for over 10 years, you can only imagine how extensive that list of customers is.

Andrew was selected to his second consecutive All Star appearance in 2012 and I was there to see the very best representative bring that Philly spirit to Kansas City.  Although Andrew will not be attending this Midsummer Classic at Citi Field, he is an all star to any fan who has seen him in the left field seats.

Beerman #79 never disappoints.

Tommy Programs: It’s All in the Name

For as long as I can remember, Tommy Programs has been a staple of my ballpark experience.  The unique, energetic program salesman flies down the aisle with a voice like a radio announcer echoing, “Phillies card sets!” followed by his most creative sales pitch: “The only card set in the park with Hunter Pence!” …a stick figure sketched onto a piece of paper and slipped into the package.  Obviously, this example is a few years old, but the image is a perfect representation of this incredible man.

Always humorous and never afraid to try something new, Tommy’s wit and energy make him one of the best salesmen at Citizens Bank Park.  Who else would be capable of convincing you that you absolutely CANNOT LIVE without the most recent edition of the Phillies magazine?  That’s right: no one.

As a young fan, I watched Tommy and was always excited when he arrived to peddle his item of the night in Section 129 where I usually sat.  I first noticed his bright red knee socks and affectionately named him “Sock guy” until I learned his actual name many years later.  In 2009, I told him that I thought he was awesome and that I would never buy a program from anyone else.  He was very appreciative and said that was why he did his job.  When I offered to tip him, he told me “The day I do this job for money is the day I stop.”  Wow.  If I ever love my job as much as he does, I’ll be happy every day of my life.

I got the chance to know Tommy a lot better last year while I was working for the Phillies.  While I walked around the park, he would always flag me down from his booth and ask what my task was for that night.  I would usually see him right before the national anthem and his moment to shine as his voice bellowed throughout Ashburn Alley, “All gentleman, please, remove your hats for the national anthem!”  Anyone who has ever been out in center field at that time has almost certainly heard him and cannot help but listen to the meager request as we are called to remember what is truly important before a fun night of baseball.

Maybe he’s just a program salesman, but Tommy is an example of the fabulous staff and color that CBP offers its fans.  So long as Tommy is present, even if the team is not doing well, the price of admission is justified.  I’m honored to think of Tommy as a friend and cannot imagine attending a game without seeing him.

Thank you, Tommy, for all that you do!

It’s Just One Game

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It’s just one game.

I would have loved to have seen the Phillies take Opening Day as much as the next guy, but for the sake of all fans who are now smacking themselves upside the head wondering why they got their hopes up…RELAX. Even if the first game gets placed under the loss column, this game had some highlights that bode well for the months ahead.

  1. Chase Utley played really well and not just with his bat. Obviously, his production was very encouraging, but the aspect of his game that I found the most exciting was the intensity with which he ran the bases. These last few years would have led is to believe that Utley slow up going into second for fear of completely destroying his knee–but he didn’t stop. Right out of the box, he busted his butt with no intention of stopping until he was safely at third. That’s the Chase I want to see.
  2. The team put runs on the board. Clearly, they gave up more runs on the defensive side, but how many times would we have given anything to see the boys put up ANY runs? As long as they can keep production up, I have no doubt our pitching will be fine and the wind will start mounting up.
  3. They battled.Sure they lost, but they fought back and tied the game at four and then they fell behind and still tacked on another run and got men on base. This team had heart. The ace gave up an in characteristic amount of runs, your four hitter struggled at the plate, a number of defensive plays did help your effort, and your MVP of last year is out until April, life could be better. BUT, these guys recognize that only they have the power to MAKE it better.
  4. Cole will be ColeThere’s no point in freaking out. His track record has earned him that kind of respect. He can have a few more starts before we worry.

It’s just one game.

The Time Has Come (Or So the Walrus Says)

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We are in the homestretch with less than 24 hours until the first game of the regular season gets underway in Houston as the Astros welcome competition as a member of the American League.

While that game is all and good, I myself am preparing to board a plane and travel to Atlanta for the first game of the Phillies’ (NOT Atlanta’s) season.  Of course, I am excited to see Turner Field for the first time, but I am most excited for that first pop of the glove and crack of the bat.

Is there any day better than Opening Day?  I would fight anyone who told me otherwise and here’s why:

  1. The colors are changing — No, I don’t mean the leaves.  Opening Day means that RED will overtake Philadelphia.  The town that bled green with interspersed orange will once again unite under the color of passion, love, and Phillies baseball.
  2. Friends are returning — This game marks the return of fans to Citizens Bank Park as well as some of my favorite people on this earth.  Opening Day means that I get to see my favorite vendors, Andrew (#79 beer vendor in left field, HE’S THE MAN) and Tommy (you never knew how badly you wanted that program until you talked to him!).  Where else can I see these awesome, enthusiastic men if not for baseball season?
  3. Nights are occupied — Not to say I couldn’t find another activity to take up my time, but now I will always (or 95% of the time) have an option of something to watch for entertainment.
  4. Schoolwork is forgotten — This part of the year represents the final weeks of school and the time when I enter extreme crunch mode.  Watching games on my laptop from B-More limits the homework I can complete during live action, but also increases the adrenaline as I push every fiber of my being to stay awake and complete my assignments in the nick of time.
  5. Summer is just around the corner — No explanation needed.

Enjoy the season.  Right now, we all have the chance to cling to the hope that we hope and pray will become a reality as the season develops.  Best of luck to all the teams and may the Phillies be the “World Champions of Baseball” come October.

Spring is in the air!

Perhaps my fellow baseball fans will remember this interaction from the movie Fever Pitch:

The dialogue between Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore in Fever Pitch as he explains the appeal of Spring Training.

Jimmy Fallon tries to explain Spring Training.

From the discourse, it is obvious that Drew Barrymore, a non-baseball fan in the movie, cannot seem to grasp the concept of spring training and why anymore would spend his/her time traveling and watching games that have little importance when compared to the regular season.

While Drew is right when she reasons that these games do not have relevance with regards to their overall win/loss record, she misses the real appeal of this part of the baseball season.

For three of the past four years, I have traveled to Clearwater, Florida with my dad for a few days of Phillies Spring Training baseball.  Clearwater, the Sports Illustrated Sports Town of the Year in 2004, is a quiet area just outside of Tampa with an amazing baseball facility in Brighthouse Field and the Carpenter Complex.

As Jimmy Fallon explains, this part of the season allows fans to look at players who may be cut from the team over the next few days, stars coming back from injuries, or the future everyday players who will fill out your team’s roster.  This year, I was interested to see how my healing starters, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, were progressing, but even more, I was interested in the young talent of Domonic Brown, Cody Asche, and Tommy Joseph.

Domonic Brown has been on fans’ radars for the past few years and has not quite lived up to expectations.  Injuries and inconsistent playing time limited his role and made success very difficult to achieve.  This spring, Brown looked strong.  He was hitting solid line drives, running hard on every play, and overall appeared to have an extra spring in his step.  His defense did not seem to improve dramatically from the last time I saw him take the field, but hopefully, that is something that will improve with experience.  Besides, Billy Beane’s moneyball strategies says a player’s offensive production is worth more than his defense’s ability to prevent runs.

Domonic Brown squares up a ball in a spring training game.

Domonic Brown makes solid contact.

Cody Asche (pronounced: ASH SHEEE) will most likely be the Phillies third baseman of the future, which is why many people believe Michael Young has a one-year contract.  Asche looked solid both on offense and defense in the games I saw.  He hit the ball hard, ran the bases well, and made a diving stop at third that would make Scott Rolen proud.  He has already been moved to the minor league roster, but the young corner infielder has remarkable potential.

Cody Asche sets to throw a ball to first base.

Cody Asche completes a stellar play at the hot corner.

Finally, we have Tommy Joseph.  One of our trade prizes, Joseph represents our future in the backstop.  Jim Salisbury reported today that the team was very pleased with his throws, offense, and ability to handle the pitchers.  While watching Joseph, I saw him make a pro-level throw to catch a base stealer and several solid knocks from the plate.  The kid clearly has talent and perhaps a spot in the starting lineup should the Phillies decide to go with him instead of the veteran Ruiz following his free agency this year.

Tommy Joseph slides safely into home.

Tommy Joseph slides safely into home.

Although observing these players and getting psyched for the regular season is enjoyable, my favorite part of Spring Training is the ease of the town.  In Clearwater, there are two to three restaurants that my dad and I visit and in any of these places, it is almost guaranteed that you will see players, management, or ownership dining at a table nearby.  How cool is it to think that Chase Utley is eating salmon with his mom and dad less than 20 feet away?!?  While this proximity is exhilarating, the best part of this town is that no one, not even the tourists, really bother them.  Players casually enjoy dinner as if they are “normal” people; they walk down the streets and by the time they pass you, you realize, “That was Domonic Brown!”  In Clearwater, players and fans are equal and players are treated to the respect and privacy that is not always granted once they return to the City of Brotherly Love.  While some fans will say, as celebrities, they should expect the attention, anyone who spends that much time in the spotlight has to appreciate a little breathing space.

Maybe Drew doesn’t quite understand the appeal, but for fans who love all aspects of the game, this experience is one that you will not want to miss!

Cole Hamels delivers a pitch to the Dominican WBC team.

Cole Hamels delivers a pitch to the Dominican WBC team.

Darin Ruf is greeted as he returns to the dugout.

Darin Ruf is greeted as he returns to the dugout.

Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick are nothing but smiles in the dugout.

What shenanigans are Cole and Kyle up to?

Cliff Lee delivers a pitch in Spring Training.

Cliff Lee delivers a pitch in Spring Training.

Roy Halladay delivers a pitch in Spring Training

Doc shows Strasburg a thing or two in Clearwater.

Mariano Rivera confirms that he will retire following the 2013 season

ceb113:

And the Sandman saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.

Originally posted on HardballTalk:

It was reported earlier this week that Mariano Rivera intends to retire following the 2013 season, but he made it official this morning at a press conference at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa.

In a room packed with teammates, members of the front office and the media, Rivera started by joking that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman gave him a two-year extension, but he soon cut to the chase.

“I’d love to tell you guys that after this year, I will be retired,” said Rivera, who called it a “privilege and honor” to spend his entire career in pinstripes.

Rivera confirmed today that he originally intended to retire after the 2012 season, but his plans changed after he suffered a season-ending right knee injury in May. While he turned 43 in November, he wants to go out on his own terms. He issued a warning to opposing hitters…

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