Archive | Manic Monday

Congratulations – Dallas Mavericks NBA Champions

I normally don’t write about other sports on here because this is a baseball blog, but I am going to stray from the norm here.

I first moved to Dallas in the mid 90’s. I had watched basketball all my life and played for a large portion of it. I grew up a huge fan of Larry Bird, but after finally moving to an NBA town I quickly fell in love with the lovable losers, the Mavericks. They were the worst team of any sport in the 90’s. They were terrible.

I remember the 1998 draft when the Mavericks wound up with a German kid nobody really knew. So like many others, I thought their losing was going to continue. It didn’t take long for Dirk to endear himself to Dallas fans leading the team to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Slowly you could see the progression of Dirk’s career as he moved to superstar status. But now he has moved into legendary status among the greats in Texas sports history.

But nothing will top what happened in the past few weeks.

I can still recall the anger and hurt I had in 2006. I was still living in Dallas and remember the pandemonium that surrounded the finals. It was a great atmosphere, and then it all came crashing down. People in Dallas hate the Heat, and when Lebron came to town this season it only added to that hatred with the way it was done. As the playoffs progressed, I had mixed emotions about facing the Heat if/when the Mavs made it to the finals. Sure I wanted revenge for 2006, but I also thought they would be the harder team to beat.

Each step along the way nobody really gave the Mavs a chance. Even up 3-0 over the 2-time defending champion Lakers, people thought they might not win the series. Nobody told Dirk however.

All along the way, Dirk refused to celebrate the wins. He was on a mission that had only one goal, a NBA Championship. He said all along that everything else was nice, but he already had the trophy for Western Conference Championship. The fact he refused to celebrate and even walked off the floor after winning the Western Conference was classic. He was a true leader that set the example, and then went out and dominated at crunch time.

He was sick one game and dominated in the 4th quarter when his team needed him most. He got onto Jason Terry for not coming up big when the team needed him. And what did Terry do after that, he came up HUGE. Dirk willed his team to victory on more than one occasion, and even though I am thousands of miles away I enjoyed every minute of it. Sure I wish I was in Dallas for the title run or the parade, but I was able to keep track of it all from here.

After the anger and hurt of 2006, this title was even more special by beating not only the Heat, but Lebron as well. Dirk will go down as a legend in Dallas and rightfully so. You never know when you might get the shot at a title, but like I heard Dirk say in one interview, this is one thing they can never take away.

I will get off my basketball rant now, but I want to leave you with a video. This is a great piece of work that will go down in Mavs history. If you are a Mavs fan, it might leave you a little sports verklempt.

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Manic Monday – Great Fight from the Past

This is an older fight, but one that most of us remember seeing on ESPN or the news. In this crazy world of baseball fights it seems nothing is off limits. Just look at what happened to Don Zimmer, but that’s a story for another day.

This took place back in July of 2001. Feeling he had been thrown at twice, Pawtucket Red Sox player Izzy Alcantara takes matters into his own hands. From his reaction, I get the feeling he felt the catcher was in on it.

Take a look at this beauty from ’01.

 

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Manic Monday: Offseason Baseball Leagues

I follow a lot of people on Twitter (you can follow me @baseballjourney) and have been reading a lot about when pitchers and catchers report. Everyone is talking about when baseball season starts or when spring training starts, and I think a lot of people are missing out on some good offseason baseball. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are only 7 days till pitchers and catchers report and to me that is always a big deal as it is a signal that spring is coming and baseball is almost here. But there is baseball being played NOW!

Perhaps I am too hung up on watching baseball as some of those who know me might say. I couldn’t really argue with that, but I love to watch baseball. I love the smells of the game, the sounds, the atmosphere, and the competition. And there are some really good leagues that play during the MLB offseason.

First of all, there is the Arizona Fall League. Now I don’t know if any of these games get televised, but this year you had the chance to follow some of the big up  and coming talent. Ever hear of that Bryce Harper kid? He is pretty good. Granted he didn’t play everyday in the AFL, but he did get some playing time and helped his team win the title this year.

But perhaps the player to watch in the AFL this year won the MVP and that is Dustin Ackley. This kid could hit in blindfolded in a closet. In his 20 games in the AFL he had 28 hits (.424 average) with 10 doubles and 4 home runs. I don’t know if Seattle will have him starting at 2B this season, but I don’t think it will be long before he is up with the big club if he starts the year in AAA.

But there were more players to watch. First baseman Brandon Belt (SF/.372), second baseman Cord Phelps (.367), Adam Loewen (TOR/.355), and Mike McDade (.372) are just a few of the hitters that had a great AFL season. A few pitchers showed some promise too. Eric Hurley (TEX/3-0/1.82), Marc Rzepczynski (TOR/4-0/1.16), and Ryan Verdugo (SF/4-1/2.45) all had a great season.

In addition to the Arizona Fall League, there are leagues all through the Caribbean with great baseball. Each winter the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico play a league that culminates with the Caribbean Series. Here you can find a lot of MLB and MiLB talent.

Right now the Caribbean Series is coming to an end. ESPN has been showing a lot of the Dominican league games and the Caribbean Series on ESPN3.com. So there is an opportunity to watch some great baseball even though it is “football season” in the USA. I have had the chance to see some really good games this offseason through ESPN3.com. I know last year MLB Network showed the Caribbean Series so maybe they will do the same again next year.

Another league that is coming to an end right now is the new Australian Baseball League (ABL). The MLB and the Australian Baseball Federation have partnered to bring back the ABL. I have been really impressed with the level of play and pleased to find many of the games broadcast online. Now these are the greatest of broadcast, but they are still fun to watch.

The ABL Finals are about to start this coming weekend and so far the playoffs have been exciting. The last game of Round 2, with the winner going to the finals, went 15 innings and was some of the most exciting baseball I have seen all year. In Game 1 of the same round, Australian David Welch threw a no-hitter. It doesn’t get anymore exciting than that. You should be able to catch the finals online at the ABL website.

So all in all, there is a lot of good baseball to hold over any fan during the offseason. I am looking forward to the ABL Finals, the last day of the Caribbean Series, and in 7 days pitchers and catchers reporting. You can never get enough baseball.

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Manic Monday – Bench Clearing Brawl in Mexico

Who Says a Pitcher Can’t Tackle?

This is a fight between two teams in Mexico (Mexicali Aguilas and Obregon Yaquis). It all started with a walk and a stolen base. Then the pitcher proceeded to hit the runner on a pickoff attempt at second base. Immediately the runner and second baseman start jawing at each other and proceed to get into a fight.

The second baseman gives him a shove but before the runner can retaliate with a punch, the pitcher tackles him like he is a runner going up the middle.

After that, chaos ensues as the benches clear.

When it is all said and done, 6 players are suspended even though only 2 were thrown out of the game.

Thanks go Bruce Baskin at BASEBALL MEXICO for the story/link.

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Manic Monday – Walk Off Brawl?

I have seen walk off home runs, walk off walks, walk off passed balls, you name it and I have seen it, except this.  In a Memorial Day Single-A game between the Bakersfield Blaze and the Visalia Rawhide, the game erupted in a donnybrook.

With the game tied 1-1 in the 10th inning, Engel Beltre (a Texas Ranger prospect) hits a walk off home run to right field.  This marked the start of a one minute seven second trot around the bases.  As he nears 3rd base, he begins jawing with some of the unhappy Rawhide players.  A full on fight breaks out before he can touch home plate.  It didn’t seem as though Beltre was as interested in scoring as he was in participating in the fight.  The video is below.

Beltre finally finishes his romp around the bases with a one finger salute to the Rawhide team as he touches home.  Beltre was acquired in the Eric Gagne deal from Boston in 2007.  Seven players have been suspended for the altercation, including a 5 game stint for Beltre.

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Manic Monday – The Bullpen Gospels

Another one of my new segments is Manic Mondays.  I plan to bring you the crazier side of baseball.  Today I want to start with a book review.

I recently found a bookstore in Seoul who carries a large selection of English books and better yet, baseball books.  I was excited to find out they had the new release The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst.  I ordered it right away and it has not disappointed.  Hayhurst spent several seasons in the minors with the San Diego Padres and wrote about his time in the minors.

This book is a must read for any baseball fan.  The stories he tells are more than just about long road trips in the minor leagues.  Hayhurst also hits on the life of a minor leaguer and how its not always sunshine and roses.  But don’t get me wrong, there are some lough out loud stories as well.  I was reading the other day in my local coffee shop and getting all sorts of funny looks from the fact I could not stop laughing while reading this book.

Currently Dirk Hayhurst is with the Toronto Blue Jays but on the 60-day DL. Hopefully he will return to his 2009 form that made him a valuable reliever for the Jays.

So give it a chance and check it out.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.  It’s the funnies book on life as a professional ballplayer since the classic Ball Four.  It should be available at any local bookstore, or if you want to help me out click on the Amazon.com link below to order and have it shipped to your door.

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