Archive | July, 2010

Rangers Fans – Party Like It’s 1999?

Last year was only the 2nd season since 1999 that the Texas Rangers finished a season above .500.  Even with a 2nd place finish in 2009, the Rangers finished 10 games back of Anaheim.  Ranger fans have seen a lot of great players since the last division winner in 1999, but the one thing they haven’t seen is a playoff victory.  The Rangers have only made the playoffs 3 times in franchise history with only 1 win in the postseason to show for it (that came in 1996).

So what is different about this team?  I will give you one word, pitching.  Through 97 games the Rangers have an ERA of 3.81.  The last time Texas has had an ERA under 4 was 1990.  That team had the likes of Nolan Ryan, Charlie Hough, Bobby Witt, Kevin Brown, and Kenny Rogers (who led the team in saves).  The pitching staff even included a young 27 year-old named Jamie Moyer who is still going strong 20 years later.

Surprisingly they are doing this with Rich Harden (3-3 5.68 era) and Scott Feldman (5-8 5.48 era) having horrible years. Instead it has been the likes of Colby Lewis (9-6 3.52 era), C J Wilson (9-5 3.03 era), and Tommy Hunter (7-0 2.09 era) anchoring the rotation.  And this year the big addition was not a mediocre end of the rotation starter but one of the best pitchers in baseball, Cliff Lee.  For the first time in years, the Rangers have a legit ace on the staff.  Not only an ace, but one with solid playoff experience and success.

Throw in the success of the bullpen this year, and the staff has been solid all year long.  Neftali Feliz has been lights out in the 9th closing down games converting 27 of 29 save chances.  But a closer is only as good as his setup men.  If you can’t get the ball to your closer with the lead, he won’t be effective.  The Rangers have done that well all year long.  The ageless wonder Darren Oliver (42 IP, 1.29 era) has returned to Texas in a big way.  Anchoring down the pen with Feliz and Oliver is Darren O’Day and Frank Francisco.  Throw in Matt Harrison who has been in the pen and in the rotation along with youngster Alexi Ogando and the Rangers are poised to make a run at the playoffs.

The only concern I have about the pitching staff is the work load some of them will face.  C J Wilson has been in the bullpen for 93.5% of his MLB career and has already pitched 50 innings more than last year.  So how he will hold up come late August and September is anyone’s guess.  Colby Lewis pitched in Japan last year where they throw every 6 days.  Nobody is sure how that will effect him come late in the season.  They are also relying on Tommy Hunter who is young.  The good thing is Cliff Lee.  He is a work horse who will eat up innings which will help the bullpen as well.  That is the last worry point, the bullpen.  They have been well used so far this year with the struggles of Harden and Feldman.  Will they get enough rest to pitch well down the stretch remains to be seen.

As the Offense goes, it has been impressive.  Josh Hamilton (23/71/.354) is hitting out of his mind right now.  He has been unbelievable so far this year, and he has protection.  Hitting in front of him is Bad Vlad Guerrero (20/76/.313) and behind him Nelson Cruz (12/52/.329).  Not to mention the solid seasons that Micheal Young (14/57/.302) and Elvis Andrus are having.  There are two spots of worry for the offense, firstbase and catcher.  These areas really need an upgrade before the postseason, but it looks like that will depend on what happens with the ownership situation.

Any Ranger fan has to be excited about the prospects in the postseason this year.  With a solid offense, a new ace in Cliff Lee, and 3 solid #2 starters for playoff series in Wilson, Hunter, and Lewis, the Rangers are poised to make a run at their first World Series appearance.  The question remains how will they deal with the dog days of summer.

Posted in MLB2 Comments

High School Baseball in Korea

I had the opportunity to see a few games this weekend in the Daebung Flag Championship here in Daegu.  It was an interesting experience to take in high school baseball in Korea for the first time.  So I thought I would share my observations from the games.

I was able to take in the quarterfinals and semifinals, so I got to see some good baseball.  The first thing that stood out to me was how fundamentally sound they were.  Sure there were errors, but overall they were very sound defensively for this age group.  They did the little things quite well: pitcher covering first, hitting cut-off men, and always knowing where to throw the ball in a given situation.   Granted these teams were the better ones in the tournament, but I was still impressed.

The pitching was solid.  Most threw between 110 to 125 kph (68-77 mph).  One pitcher late in the day Saturday got it up to 137 kph (about 85 mph), but the majority of them threw in the mid to high 70s.  There were also a lot of sidearmers pitching.  Each team seemed to have a few of them.  I was also impressed with the depth of pitching.  I didn’t see a drop off until late Saturday.  By this time each team had played 4-5 games.  That takes a lot of depth to play that many games over the course of 4 days.

The hitters were good as well, and they hit with wooden bats.  I don’t know if this is what they use during non-tournament games, but I would assume so.  They hit well with them, so I know this wasn’t something completely new to them.

The one thing that bothered me about the hitters was the body armor most of them wore.  I am not a big fan of this at any level.  There were several hit batters that was clearly due to the fact they had on the elbow pad.  I don’t like the fact the hitter isn’t afraid to get hit.  That’s fine if he isn’t wearing any padding, but when he is I don’t like it.  Getting hit is part of the game, and so is the inside pitch which is far less effective when the hitter leans in with his elbow pad to take first base.

There were a lot of triples.  The outfield played pretty shallow.  I assume due to the use of wooden bats.  This did allow them to take away what would normally be hits, but when someone would put one in the gap it turned into a triple because they could not cut it off.

The managers get away with murder and aren’t tossed.  I don’t know if it has to do with how much they respect their elders here, but if you did half of what some of these guys did back home, you would be tossed so quick you wouldn’t know what hit you.  I found it interesting too at how they would argue sometimes.  One coach made a point to pull his team off the field when he was arguing a call.  That was something I had never seen before.

There is a lot of respect for the other team and umpires shown by the players.  Before their first at bat, players would take off their helmet and bow to the home plate umpire.  The fielders would also do the same in the first inning to the umpires in the field.  Korean culture has a lot to do with respect for those older than you which is good.  After the games, the two teams would line up facing one another, then bow and say something.  They would then cross each others lines and bow to the opposing teams dugout.  The winning team would then turn and face the stands and bow to their fans.

Before the 6th inning starts, there is a break.  It usually lasts about 10 minutes.  Most teams would just rest in the dugout while the umpires went underneath the stands for a breather.  I don’t think I would like this if I am playing.  Especially if you have momentum.  I can’t think of a better momentum killer than stopping the game like this.

One of the funnier things I saw was in the stands.  Sure the fans that were there, and there weren’t many, really got into the game by cheering like they do at any event, but the thing that really got me smiling were the foul balls.  Back home you would seen any small child running after a foul ball and fighting over them.  Here it is the same except it isn’t the kids running after them.  It’s grown men.  I saw men jumping over rows to get balls, running down balls that went down the concourse, and 3 or 4 men almost diving for a ball in the stands trying to come up with a souvenir.

Over all I was quite pleased with my trip.  I am a little disappointed I can’t watch the final today, but it is raining continuously.  I am sure it will be played tomorrow instead but I have to work.  I’ll keep an eye on the KBA website to see who wins.  Both are hometown teams from Daegu.

Next up I am hoping to make a trip to see some college ball in a tournament starting next weekend.  It runs for over a week so I have 2 weekends to try and take in a game.

Posted in Asia, Junior Baseball0 Comments

Daebung Flag High School Tournament

I was really excited to see some high school baseball this weekend, and I was not disappointed.  Since 1979, the Daebung Flag Championship has been played in Daegu.  It is a 22 team tournament that is held every year and played at the home of the KBO’s Samsung Lions.

I decided to take off on Friday to go check out the action in the 32nd annual tournament.  I was quickly glad I made the trip.

I arrived about noon on Friday and caught the end of the first quarterfinal game.  And what is the first thing I see, a triple play.  It was the first one I have ever seen in person.  The situation was runners at 1st and 2nd.  The batter hits a hard line drive to center field, but the runners were running so it was an easy triple play.  I wound up watching the last few innings of this game, then I got ready for the 2nd game of the day.

Game 2 of the day was quite a treat.  Both teams were playing well.  The pitching was quite good, in fact I think they might have been throwing their aces.  The visiting team jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first half inning.  The home team responded in the bottom of the inning with a run of its own.

Most of the game was a pitching duel.  The visiting team starter went 8 innings gave up 1 run, 3 hits, and only walked one.  The most surprising thing was he was relieved after the 7th inning and put into right field.  However, his relief gave up 2 straight triples.  So with the score 3-2, not outs, and a runner at third, they brought him back into get out of the inning.  Amazingly he does just that.  On three ground balls, he gets out of the inning without allowing the tying run to score.  He dominated the entire game, but his counterparts put up quite the fight.

The starter for the home team pitched well, but he walked too many batters to get too far into the game.  He wound up going only 4 1/3 innings, but he pitched well.  It was the 5 walks that wound up doing him in.  After a few relievers, the team was out of quality pitching.  The last one in wound up giving up 4 runs in the top of the 9th, and they never threatened again.  The box score is below.

[ daebunggi High School Baseball Championship]
2010-07-09 12:50 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 R
WIN Gyeongbukgo 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 7
Inchanggo 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2

After that exciting game, I went for a walk to get some lunch.  I returned to see game 3 of the day which turned out to be quite entertaining.  Both teams were equally matched and errors would wind up costing one team the win.  But the thing that I will take away from this game was the manager of the winning team, Yusingo.

I will never understand why he wasn’t tossed for his antics.  It all started with a hit batter.  The batter did not try to get out of the way, and the ball barely grazed him.  I could hear it from my seat on top of the dugout.  He apparently did not think it hit him.  It was the strangest argument ever.  He comes out and doesn’t say a word.  The umpire explains to him what happened.  Then the coach, still not having said anything to the umpire, talks to his catcher.  He then explodes and starts yelling at the umpire.

Then it really got interesting.  As he is arguing, he waves for his team to leave the field, which they do.  The entire time the assistant coach is trying to calm him down and get him back in the dugout.  This goes on for a few minutes, and the team is off the field near the dugout.  The manager then feels it is important for him to leave.  I thought he got tossed.  He grabbed his bag and slowly left the field.  Now the team resumes play, but it doesn’t stop here.  A few batters later a pitching change is needed, and low and behold he comes out to make the change.  He had walked through the maze underneath the stands back to the dugout.  This is when I realized he hadn’t been tossed.  This is all in the bottom of the 8th.

This wasn’t even the first time he argued.  Right as I came back from lunch he was in the face of the same umpire.  He had to be restrained by his assistant coach the entire time.  And it wouldn’t be his last hurrah.

In the bottom of the 9th, he marches out and walks to talk to the official scorer or someone in the press box area behind home plate.  The home plate umpire has had enough now, and they begin to yell at each other.  This stops down play for another 5 minutes or so.  Why he was upset, I don’t know, but he was becoming a human rain delay.  It was all so strange, and more so because he never got thrown out of the game.  If anyone did half of what he did here in the states, he would be tossed so quick his head would spin.

His team would wind up winning due to errors by the infield of the opposing team, who I thought was the better overall team.  It was a great game to watch with all the drama.  I only wish I knew everything that was said and why he was arguing the third time.  Box score is below.

[ daebunggi High School Baseball Championship]
2010-07-09 15:40 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 R
WIN Yusingo 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 2 6
Jejugo 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 4

I also got to test out my new camera which I really love using.  Below are a few pictures.  If you enjoy these, check out more at my flickr page.


Posted in Asia, Junior Baseball0 Comments

Junior Worlds Baseball Coming to Korea

The International Baseball Federation announced that Seoul will host the 2012 World Junior Baseball Championship.  This will mark the first time South Korea has hosted the biannual event.

The tournament will be held from late August through early September for some 600 players aged 18 and under.  Around 20 countries will compete.

South Korea has won the championship a total of 5 times, including the last two, trailing only Cuba with 11 titles.

Posted in Asia, Junior Baseball0 Comments

Baseball in Taiwan

I am very excited about my upcoming trip to Taiwan to watch some baseball. My school closes for 3 days during the summer, so I have decided to take the long weekend and make the short flight to Taipei. I am really excited about getting out and seeing baseball in a new country.

Another thing that is really exciting me is the USA collegiate team will be playing games against Chinese Taipei.  This is a 4 game set as a warm up for the World University Baseball Championships set to go down in Japan in August.  I am really excited about seeing an international game.  I have never seen one, and seeing the USA on foreign soil will be a lot of fun.

After spending my first day in Taipei to see the USA play, the plan is to take a train down to Tainan City to see the Sinon Bulls take on the 7-Eleven Lions.  Then I will work my way back toward Taipei to see a few more games.  The league in Taiwan is known as the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

On Friday the Sinon Bulls are taking on the Brother Elephants in Hsinchu City.  Finally I will make my way back to Taipei on Saturday to see Sinon Bulls take on the Brother Elephants in Taipei City.  I am a little disappointed at seeing the same teams over and over, but travel wise this seems to be the best route to go.  On Sunday I will take a return flight back to SK.

If you are interested in learning more about baseball in Taiwan, I would suggest checking out Taiwan Baseball or the wiki page on the CPBL.

Taiwan

Posted in Asia, Taiwan0 Comments

Top 10 Baseball Songs

Nothing says summer like baseball.  The hot summer nights, hot dogs, cold drinks, and cheering for your favorite team.  Whether you are a Cubs fan who has waited a lifetime to see a championship or a spoiled Yankee fan, there is one thing that everyone can enjoy year round, music.

America’s love affair with baseball has always included music as well.  There are some really good songs that are either about baseball, or mention it.  So I have searched high and low trying to find my 10 favorite songs.  I hope you enjoy these, and if there are others I may have missed please let me know.  I am always looking for more great music.

Number 10

A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request by Steve Goodman

Two-time Grammy winner Steve Goodman grew up in Chicago.  He is better known for writing songs like “City of New Orleans” or “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”, but Goodman penned this classic song about a dying Cub’s fan.

Number 9

Nolan Ryan (He’s a Hero to Us All) by Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff is a Texas legend.  Here he writes about yet another legend from the Lone Star State.

Number 8

Joltin Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown Orchestra

This is one I remember as a kid.  Sure it came out in 1941, but it’s a classic baseball song and no list of mine would be without it.

Number 7

Say Hey by The Treniers

This is another classic I can remember listening to as a kid.  Plus it’s about one of the most gifted players to ever grace the field.

Number 6

Catfish by Bob Dylan*

Dylan is a rock legend.  Here he sings about Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter.

* I could only find a cover of this on YouTube

Number 5

Tessie by The Dropkick Murphys

This is an old song redone from a 1902 number in the musical The Silver Slipper. The newer version was released in 2004.

Number 4

Glory Days by Bruce Springstein

This song just screams summer to me.  Plus now that I am older, I can understand the song much better.  I have had those moments of remembering the glory days. And I too know a guy from high school that could throw that speed ball by you and make you look like a fool.

Number 3

Talkin’ Baseball by Terry Cashman*

This is by far my favorite song from when I was a kid.  Written in 1981 it details the history of baseball from the 1950’s to 1980.  It’s great to hear a lot of the names I only grew up reading about or seeing highlights of.  Plus it’s such a catchy tune.  After the song became such a hit, individual team songs were done but nothing tops the original.

* I couldn’t find the Talkin’ Baseball song on YouTube so I figured I would show you the next best thing – Talkin’ Softball from one of the greatest Simpson’s episodes.

Number 2

Cheap Seats by Alabama

One of my favorite all-time bands singing about minor league baseball.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  As I have gotten older and been able to travel more, I have a greater appreciation for minor league ball.  In fact, I love it.

Number 1

Centerfield by John Fogerty

There isn’t another song that gets me more pumped up to see a baseball game than this one.  It’s one of the few songs where if I hear the first few notes, I have to hear the whole song.  Even as I sit here today listening to the song, I am wanting to get out and throw the ball around.  Maybe I’ll head for the batting cages instead.

Songs in their own stratosphere

Take Me Out to the Ballgame – Without question this song belongs on any list about music and baseball.  Hearing this at Wrigley also has some extra special meaning.

The Star Spangled Banner – I still get goose bumps when I hear this at a ballgame and nothing upsets me more when people don’t pause when it is playing.  We owe everything to those who fight for our freedom, including being able to watch baseball.

These two songs belong on any list, but they are in their own category.  Together they are the greatest combination of music for baseball and they belong on a list of their own.

So what are your favorites.  I would love to hear what songs you enjoy.  Drop me a line and let the discussion begin.

Posted in MLB0 Comments

International Baseball Travel

My goal is to see baseball all around the world.   I have started my journey here in the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea, but many people are not aware of how widespread baseball has become.  The game that Abner Doubleday started, okay so maybe he didn’t, has spread across the globe.  My hope is to experience this great game in as many different places as I can.  So let’s take a look at exactly where I want to travel to see a few games.

Asia

South Korea – There are 8 teams and 7 stadiums in South Korea.  By the end of the year I plan to see each stadium at least once.

Japan – I am planning a 5 day trip to Japan in September.  I hope to take in 4 games at different stadiums in the Tokyo area.  Japan is very expensive so it will be difficult to see all 12 teams.

Taiwan – I am thinking of taking a trip to Taiwan in July.  The Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan is a 4 team league that plays at various stadiums around the island.  I hope to take in 3-4 games while there in July.

China – There is a 7 team league in China.  There is a lot of room for baseball to grow here.  I hope to eventually get to China to see some baseball, but it might have to wait till next year.

Philippines – The Phils, as they are affectionately known here in SK by some of the foreigners, has a 6 team league.  It’s a small league with few games, but it is well worth visiting.

Australia

Australia is starting up a new league, with MLB backing, starting in November 2010.  The new league will have 6 teams.  I’d love to try and possibly check this league out after my contract is up in November.  The one problem is plane tickets are so expensive.

Europe

There are a lot of places that play baseball in Europe.  In most of the countries baseball is not huge, but it is starting to grow.  On the international scene nobody really makes a splash, although the Netherlands showed the world they cannot be taken for granted in the last World Baseball Classic.  So here is a list, and a long one, of places I want to go to see some baseball.

(in no particular order)

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • England
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • Ireland

The Americas

There is a lot of great baseball in this area.  Of course I want to see every MLB stadium and as many minor league stadiums as I can in the USA, I think there are some hidden gems in other parts.  So here is a list of places I want to visit merely for the baseball.  The great part of this area is all the winter leagues.  While most of the world is taking a break from baseball, Central and South America is just getting warmed up.  I hope to one day see all of the winter leagues available.

  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • Panama
  • Venezuela
  • Columbia
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica

There are other places to see games as well.  Even if I only get to see little league games, I want to experience a game in as many places as I can.  Baseball is the one true passion I have.  It’s an amazing sport that can bring together people of different backgrounds and cultures.  As I begin my journey here this year, I hope you will join me.

Have you seen games in any of these countries?  I would be interested in hearing your stories.  If you have, drop me a line and let me know.  I am always interested in hearing feedback, questions, or comments about anything on my site.

Posted in KBO, MLB0 Comments


New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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