Admin

Despite the fact that the Major League Baseball season has yet to begin due to the circumstances of the pandemic (and a fair amount of contentiousness between the players’ union and the owners, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish), the MLB draft took place this week.

Granted, it’s a drastically different draft than any we’ve ever seen, lasting just five rounds and featuring any number of caveats and alterations. It is an historic event – and not in a good way.

Still … even with no games, the game marches on.

Let’s take a look at Boston’s 2020 draft, a collection even more truncated than most thanks to the loss of their second-round pick as part of the organization’s punishment for sign-stealing. Instead of two dozen or more new additions, we’re looking at just four. And yet, even with that low number of selections, the Red Sox and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom managed a few surprises.

Published in Sports

Baseball is a sport of interlocking contradictions. It is a team sport built on a foundation of individual battles. It is rigidly structurally defined initially – three outs, nine innings, nine players – while also being utterly open-ended – there’s no clock and extra innings could technically extend to infinity. It is many things in one and one thing among many.

And so, obviously, the game makes for a wonderful framework in which to discuss Buddhism.

That discussion is at the center of Donald S. Lopez’s new book “Buddha Takes the Mound: Enlightenment in 9 Innings” (St. Martin’s Essentials, $19.99). Dr. Lopez is considered by many to be this country’s preeminent public Buddhism scholar, having published a number of books exploring Buddhist concepts in accessible ways. However, this latest offering might be the most accessible yet.

Lopez has been entangled with the study of Buddhism, first as a student and then as a professor, for half a century. However, his connection to baseball – specifically, his beloved New York Yankees – extends even long, all the way back to his childhood. By bringing his two passions together, Lopez is able to use each to build upon the other, creating a thoughtful and wryly funny book that entertains even as it enlightens.

Published in Livin'

Baseball is a game of decisions, both on the field and off it. And when we talk about Major League Baseball, well – there are A LOT of choices that need to be made. Whether we’re talking about in-game strategy or front office maneuvering, the sport is rife with opportunities to make decisions.

But how do we know if they’re the right ones? How do we know if we’re truly making optimal choices or if we’re being guided (or misguided) by subconscious belief systems and biases of which we may not even be fully aware?

Answers to those questions are among the many things that Keith Law is delving into with his new book “The Inside Game: Bad Calls, Strange Moves, and What Baseball Behavior Teaches Us About Ourselves” (William Morrow, $28.99). It’s an effort to make accessible the behavioral science behind the inherent biases that can impact our decisions, baseball or otherwise.

By walking us through the conscious and unconscious influences that impact how baseball works, Law gives us a new perspective on the intricacies of the sport – a perspective that matches the more data-driven and analytically-inclined model followed by 21st century practitioners of the game.

Published in Sports

Anyone who has been paying attention to baseball over the past half-decade is aware that the game has never seen this many home runs. Single-season records for homers has been broken and broken again, both by individual teams and by the league as a whole. More than ever before, the long ball has become the central part of the game.

There are a number of factors that enter into this. Analytically-inclined executives have made their way into positions of power in front offices all across the sport. Changes to the ball itself have undoubtedly played a significant part. Strikeouts no longer carry the stigma that they once did.

And then, there is the evolution of the swing itself.

It’s that last notion that Jared Diamond, national baseball writer for The Wall Street Journal, addresses in-depth with his new book “Swing Kings: The Inside Story of Baseball’s Home Run Revolution” (William Morrow, $28.99). It’s a deep and broad exploration of those coaches on the fringes whose refusal to be bound by the status quo led to brand-new thinking about how we swing the bat, as well as the players who made (or remade) themselves into explosive hitters by accepting some unconventional wisdom and thinking outside the box.

Published in Sports

When I first heard about “The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball's Afterlife” (University of Nebraska Press, $27.95) by Brad Balukjian, my reaction was pure and basic: “God, that’s a f---ing good idea.”

Even after a decade-plus of literary reviews, I can count on one hand the times that I was legitimately envious of the idea behind a book. Not necessarily the best books or the most interesting books, but the ones with an underlying premise that spoke directly to me.

“The Wax Pack” is one of those.

Balukjian, a lifelong baseball fan, undertook a simple, yet deeply fascinating adventure. He bought a pack of Topps baseball cards from 1986, the year he got into collecting. He popped the decades-old gum into his mouth and flipped through the 15 cards, regaling himself with ghosts of seasons past. And then, he packed up his life and embarked on an epic road trip, a cross-country voyage in which he hoped to make contact with the players he found when he peeled the paper from the titular wax pack.

The result is something unexpected, a thoughtful exploration of fandom that also serves as a glimpse of the different directions a faded athlete might go. And in the process of delving into this sports-loving memory hole, Balukjian himself becomes more present, undertaking an effort to look back at his own history.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 19 February 2020 13:47

Some sweet stanzas of spring (training)

“People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

-

Sitting within winter's chilly deep-freeze

Our brains cry out for the spring's warming sun.

We search for signs that put our minds at ease

Like the sharp crack of a well-struck home run.

Our eager anticipation rises.

Whose legend begins with the year's first pitch?

Which unknown becomes the face of the sport?

This game will not run out of surprises.

It's the time when fans become truly rich;

The time when pitchers and catchers report.

Florida swamps, Arizona deserts,

Hosting leagues named for grapefruit and cactus.

Players damp from the efforts they exert

Sprinting and swinging their way through practice.

Veterans trying to play out the string,

Superstars at the height of their powers;

Faded prospects get that one final shot

While those hotshot rookies perfect their swings.

And we, the fans, can while away hours

As the game consumes our every thought.

-

Baseball’s history is deep with detail,

Teeming with stories and numbers galore.

Legends loom largely with heroic scale

Epics greater than e’er we could ask for

Spring training's arrival heralds the season

Better than flowers or showers or grass -

The truest of our spring rites is baseball.

Our hopes and feelings overrule reason;

Everyone is first, and no one is last

And your team could wind up winning it all.

-

Spring training means flowers, people coming outdoors, sunshine, optimism and baseball. Spring training is a time to think about being young again.” – Ernie Banks

(A version of this poem appeared in a previous edition of The Maine Edge.)

Published in Sports

It might be tough to fathom, considering we’re still in the deep freeze of winter, but baseball season is just around the corner. Spring training begins in just a matter of weeks; before you know it, there will be meaningful action on the diamond once again.

But maybe you’re looking for something to tide you over, to remind you of just why we love the game as much as we do. If that sounds like you – and you’re a Red Sox fan – I might have something for you.

Martin Gitlin’s “The Ultimate Boston Red Sox Time Machine Book” (Lyons Press, $18.95) is a lovely quick-hit journey through Red Sox history, from those early days of success at the dawning of the World Series era to the incredible success of recent days, as well as the long, long, LONG stretch of championship futility that dogged the team through most of the 20th century.

This book offers a condensed timeline of the team’s illustrious history, featuring a number of classic photos to go along with the tales of tribulation and triumph. And while many of these stories will ring familiar to longtime followers of the team, there’s something here for every level of fandom, from the neophytes to the diehards.

Published in Sports

It’s a tale of two candidates in Cooperstown this year.

One was a no-doubter, as obvious a first-ballot shoo-in as there can be; the only question regarding his induction was whether he would become the second ever to be voted in unanimously. The other was a slow burn choice, an underrated player considered elite by the numbers but less so by perception, needing a record vote increase in his final years to make the cut in his last year of eligibility.

Now, they’re both Hall of Famers.

Derek Jeter and Larry Walker have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Jeter makes it to Cooperstown in his first year on the ballot and Walker in his last, but both absolutely deserve to take their respective places among the immortals.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 19 November 2019 12:02

Who’s heading to the Hall in 2020?

Hall of Fame season is in full swing once again.

The 2020 ballot has landed, with the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) preparing to cast their votes for the players who will join the immortals of the game with plaques hanging in Cooperstown.

We’ve seen an explosion of inclusivity on recent ballots, with the writers voting in 20 players over the past six years. This has eased the glut of qualified candidates somewhat, though there remain a number of problematic names that clog the list.

This year, however, sees just one no-doubt candidate – Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. It’s a departure from recent groups that have almost all featured multiple first-ballot talents. Will this allow for some deserving candidates, heretofore stuck on the fringe, to make their way into these hallowed halls?

We shall see.

Published in Sports

While the official BBWAA Hall of Fame ballots won’t be officially released until next week, there is some Cooperstown news to discuss.

The Veterans Committee process has been overhauled a number of times in recent years, landing on a current format that includes dividing the history of the game into distinct eras and having committees devoted to delving into various candidacies of players who, for whatever reason, missed out during the writers’ balloting process and warrant further attention.

This year is the purview of the Modern Baseball Era Committee, which looks at players and other figures whose greatest contributions to the game occurred during the 1970-1987 timeframe. We’ve got 10 nominees – nine players and one contributor – who are going to get another look at potentially making their way into Cooperstown.

The list consists of: Dwight Evans; Steve Garvey; Tommy John; Don Mattingly; Marvin Miller; Thurman Munson; Dale Murphy; Dave Parker; Ted Simmons; and Lou Whitaker.

The voting for this honor will take place in December during MLB’s annual winter meetings. A 16-person panel, made up of Hall of Famers, executives and media members, will decide; a candidate needs 75% - 12 votes – to be elected.

Let’s have a closer look at a few of the names on this list, men whose Hall of Fame cases never really received the attention that they deserved.

Published in Sports
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 16

Advertisements

The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine