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Andrew to Swim With the Sharks

By 10.16.14

Andrew Friedman, we learned Wednesday, is changing coasts. He’s giving up the general managership of the penurious Tampa Bay Rays, who buy their rosin bags at Play It Again Sam, to take the same job with the preposterously flush Los Angeles Dodgers. Talk about a change of cultures.

Baseball wunderkind Friedman, who at 37 is as preposterously young as his new employer is rich, is leaving the peaceful backwaters of Tampa/St. Petersburg to swim with the sharks in La-La Land. It’s quite an opportunity. But his mother has every right to be worried. There will be much more money in L.A. And much more pressure.

Going from the Rays, who have to swap money around various accounts at the first of each month to keep the lights on, to the Dodgers, where the GM’s office is supplied with a legal tender printing press, Friedman is in danger of getting the bends. And just how Friedman, whose baseball talent has been getting something for next to nothing — or at least next to nothing as these things are measured in major league sports — is to fit in at a checkbook franchise, is not yet clear.

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Number 2 Bids Hub Fans Adieu

By 9.29.14

On September 28, 2014, 36,879 people gathered in Boston’s Fenway Park to bid New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter adieu in his final big league game. In his final at bat, Jeter would get an infield hit driving in Ichiro Suzuki en route to a 9-5 Yankees victory. 

It wasn’t as dramatic as his walk off single in his final appearance in Yankee Stadium three days earlier against the Orioles, but the Fenway faithful (along with more than a few Yankees fans) got their money’s worth. More on that in a moment.

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Lakeland to ‘Hold That Tiger’

By 7.29.14

There was the embarrassing headline in bold, black letters: Detroit Tigers loyal to Lakeland. The Tigers, who have conducted their spring training camp in Lakeland since FDR was president, have signed a deal to stay on there for 20 more years. 

Loyalty in professional sports? Unheard of. What’s next?

Here are the shocking details. The Detroit Tigers have trained in Lakeland — a Central Florida town of just under 100K between Tampa and Orlando — since 1936. That’s 78 years, if you’re keeping score.

We’re not talking about day before yesterday here. In 1936, America was still mired in the Great Depression. The world had not yet suffered that great Teutonic migration know as World War Two, the most horrific event under one name in human history. First class postage stamps were three cents. That year a Georgia girl named Margaret Mitchell published a novel entitled Gone With the Wind, which sold a few copies.

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In Midseason Form

By 7.15.14

With the 85th MLB All-Star Game set to be played tonight at Target Field in Minneapolis, we have reached the midway point of the 2014 baseball season. Actually, we’re well into the second half of the season as MLB teams have played nearly 100 contests in a schedule of 162 games. In any case, here is my assessment of the 2014 season thus far and how my predictions have fared.

AL East                   W   L    PCT      GB
Baltimore Orioles     52   42   .553      ___
Toronto Blue Jays     49   47   .510      4.0
New York Yankees    47   47   .505      5.0
Tampa Bay Rays        44   53   .454      9.5
Boston Red Sox         43   52   .453      9.5

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Babe Ruth Day

By 7.11.14

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip burst from nowhere onto the international scene. His potshot at Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the streets of Sarajevo helped launch the Great War and everything else — industrial-scale slaughter, Soviet Communism, Hitler’s Third Reich — that would spring from it.

Two weeks later, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, another rookie made his debut, and he too would have a deep and lasting impact on the 20th century.

It won’t garner the attention that the centennial anniversary of Princip’s performance received. Nevertheless, it is incontrovertible that the appearance of reform-school product George Herman Ruth on a major league baseball field one hundred years ago today marked the beginning of a career that would help define our nation and shape our culture.

Babe Ruth, as everyone knows, turned out to be larger than life, a genuine sports hero, a man with outsized appetites to go with an outsized personality. His exploits both on and off the field inspired such awe that linguists added the term “Ruthian” to our lexicon.

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The Red Sox Need a Miracle

By 7.8.14

After a thrilling run to a World Series title last year, the Boston Red Sox are playing a decidedly modest season in 2014. As of this writing, the Red Sox are 39-49 and in last place in the American League East, nine games back of the Baltimore Orioles. It would take a minor miracle for the Sox to play post-season baseball, but only a minor one. After all, the Red Sox do not face nearly odds that another team from Boston did a century ago.

For more than fifty years Boston had two baseball teams, the Red Sox and the Braves. The team that currently resides in Atlanta wasn’t always known as the Braves, though. Over the years, they went by the Red Stockings, the Beaneaters, the Doves, the Rustlers, and the Bees; but regardless of their nickname, Boston’s National League team was mostly lousy.

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Jolting Joe?

By 5.29.14

It has been an important hallmark of the conservative movement during its 50-year run to point to the steady decline of Western Civilization; to a broad disrespect for the rule of law in general, and specifically in the areas of religion, education, and government. But many current conservatives bristle at the idea that this decline affects our sports and entertainment worlds as well. As readers of this column know, this has never been a problem for me; feeling as I do that virtually nothing worthwhile has come out of the music, art or cinema fields in past half-decade or so. Ditto for our sports pantheon, where rule changes and technology have enabled records to be broken, yet despite the emergence of a few truly great players, the quality of play itself has been greatly diminished; especially in Major League Baseball.

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Baseball’s Borders

By 4.25.14

As a lad in school my concern for what my teachers wished me to learn, and their fusty behavioral restrictions, were considerably less than central to me. I had other fish to fry. Mostly having to do with baseball, girls, and turning a few bob delivering Tampa’s afternoon newspaper.  

One of my few distinctions, but not one I include on my résumé, is that I remain the only student in the history of Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in Tampa to get an F-squared in Algebra One. It’s not that I’m quantitatively feeble-minded. I can calculate earned-run-averages in my head. But the fact was that my girlfriend — perhaps more accurately the girl I hoped would become my girlfriend — sat in the desk right in front of me, leaving little of my attention span available for the Xs and Ys on the blackboard. Besides, how often in the course of nine innings does X minus Y come up? Never, that’s how often.

But in Tuesday’s New York Times there was a geography lesson even I would have paid attention to in junior high.

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Grand Old Game Returns

By 4.1.14

It’s grand to have the Grand Old Game — regular season variety — back. Monday’s Opening Day — following Sunday’s uni-game Opening Night and the Opening G’Day gimmick of a weekend ago — brought an embarrassment of riches for the aficionado, with ESPN broadcasting consecutive games and local channels chipping in with local games. Fans with time on their hands could watch baseball from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Fan is, after all, short for fanatic.) I didn’t exactly OD, but I’ll admit to watching more than I will as the season settles in.

I considered trying to make it to the Trop to watch my Tampa Bay Rays open against the Toronto Blue Jays. But I decided there was just too much on offer on the tube, which could be enjoyed in comfort without a $45 ticket, $18 for a beer and a hot dog, and $15 to park. (What year did going to a Major League ball game go from being a simple purchase to being an investment?) So the couch in my office was in the upright and locked position for hours.

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My 2014 MLB Predictions

By 3.27.14

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I awoke shortly before 4 a.m. last Saturday to watch the 2014 season opener between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia. The Dodgers took the first game 3-1. Fourteen hours later, I tuned in to the second game, which the Dodgers also won, by a score of 7-5. The D’Backs might be leaving Australia 0-2, but I do believe they will have the last laugh this October.

In the meantime, as the Dodgers and D’Backs return to the States, spring training continues until March 30, when the Dodgers visit Petco Park to play the San Diego Padres. The first full day of MLB games begins on March 31. As such the time has come for me to once again present my predictions for the 2014 season.