Spring Training, Day 12: Paying the Wrench

I was on Yankees duty today, but it was a very quiet day for the bunch of Bombers who took the field in Jupiter. Pretty much all of the big news was in Tampa, where Andy Pettitte threw and Derek Jeter took at-bats in a simulated game.

Somewhat similarly, the biggest news for the Cardinals was also not an on-field matter. The club announced a five-year deal with Allen Craig.

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Craig’s as a player and have been for a while. He’s a pure hitter without many equals, a guy with power, strike zone judgment and the ability to hit for average.

And thus, I really like this deal for the Cardinals. It makes sense in a lot of ways. It buys out exactly the years you want to buy, agewise — Craig will turn 33 in the last full year of the deal. They get his age 28-32 seasons at cost certainty, with a club option on the age-33 year.

The dollars are very reasonable, peaking at $9 million in his last arbitration season, $11 million in what would have been his first year of free agency, and $13 million on the option.

Moreover, I like the thought process behind it, from the club’s perspective. They got one year of free agency, which is just right. If you buy out only the pre-free agency years, you gain cost certainty but not actually any of the player’s service that you didn’t already have. By getting control over the first two years of his free agency, Craig’s age-32 and 33 seasons, they make sure they have what should be the tail end of his prime, without committing to what will likely be his decline phase.

By the way, from Craig’s perspective this is also a very good deal. He gets the guarantee that he likely never thought he’d get as a former eighth-round pick. He gets security against injury worries. Even though this is a good deal for the club, I absolutely understand why Craig took it, and I think he was wise to do so.

It’s the rare win-win. 

Today’s game in a nutshell: The Marlins jumped on Adam Warren with a whole bunch of base hits, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and cruising to a 6-1 win over the Yankees. Nathan Eovaldi walked three and didn’t strike anyone out, but got through four innings with only one run on the board.

Player of the day: It’s a guy I like quite a lot, Marlins catcher Rob Brantly. I thought he was a nice get in the trade with Detroit last summer, and he hit extremely well after the trade. I don’t know how much star potential there is in Brantly, but I think he can be a competent Major League regular right now. Brantly was 2-for-2 with a walk, a double and two runs scored.

Quote of the day: “I think that’s what’s so great about Mo: in a time where a lot of times people are always trying to add on, add pitches, Mo mastered what he was great at. He said, you know what? I can do it with this, and I can be almost perfect.” — Joe Girardi on Mariano Rivera

Miles driven: 5 today, 1074 for the trip

Starbucks visits: 1 today, 12 for the trip

Up next: I’m in Port St. Lucie tomorrow to see the Astros and the Mets, working on some long-term projects and probably writing a column. And, of course, enjoying a Taco in a Helmet.

And, finally, the playlist:

Today it’s a simple one. It’s side 2 of Sticky Fingers by the Stones.

“Bitch”
“I Got the Blues”
“Sister Morphine”
“Dead Flowers”
“Moonlight Mile”

-M.

 

Spring Training, Day 11: Oh no biggie, just Rivera, Jeter and Teixeira news

I knew that taking the Yankees beat for a couple of days would mean I was busy. I didn’t quite realize how busy.

So, yeah. Mark Teixeira spoke to reporters today for the first time since his injury. The Yankees announced that Derek Jeter has been cleared for full baseball activities, meaning he could be in a game before long. Oh, and by the way, Mariano Rivera apparently will announce on Saturday that he’s retiring at the end of the year.

Yankees beat writers, you have my admiration but not my envy.

As a result of the chaos, I don’t really have any fully-formed thoughts about the Yankees following today’s game. But I do think there’s very real reason for concern about this team, and it’s not just because of they guys they’ll do with out in May. It’s unclear what they’ll be getting from their rotation beyond Sabathia. It’s unclear what they’ll get from catcher, third base, DH, and the outfield even if people are healthy.

It could work. I’m not writing them off. But I think there were issues with a fully healthy Yankees team, never mind one as banged up as they are.

Today’s game in a nutshell: It was a back-and-forth affair but the Cardinals had the final say. Kolten Wong’s two-run homer in the ninth tied it after New York led, 6-4. Then two errors and an Adron Chambers single brought home the game-winner — thus sparing Wong from a kangaroo court fine for sending a spring game into extra innings.

Quote of the day: “I have a lot of guys that say they play first base now.” — Joe Girardi, on the available playing time in the absence of Teixeira

Player of the day: Pete Kozma, the presumptive shortstop for the 2013 Cardinals, had a very nice day. He was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI and turned a sweet double play.

Miles driven: 6 today, 1062 for the trip

Miles run: 3 today, 22 1/2 on the trip

Starbucks visits: 1 today (there’s one literally in the parking lot of my hotel), 11 for the trip

Up next: Once again tomorrow I fill in for the esteemed Bryan Hoch. This time it’s Yankees at Marlins, with Adam Warren facing off with Nathan Eovaldi.

And, finally, the playlist:

I’ve spent several days complaining about the music here at Roger Dean. Well, today, postgame, they played some really good stuff. So here are five of the highlights:

Rolling Stones, “Let It Loose”
Bob Marley, “Exodus”
Steely Dan, “My Old School”
Allman Brothers Band, “Statesboro Blues”
Rolling Stones, “Paint It Black”

(I’m a Stones fan, so they get two. Sue me.)

-M.

Spring Training, Day 10: This seems familiar

This one was like riding a bike. Hopped in my car this morning, drove down Military Trail to the ballpark, parked outside the Cardinals complex, reported to the media room… Even had my old seat in the main press box. A few of the names have changed, of course, but this was nice.

One of the main topics in this morning’s conversation with Mike Matheny was Matt Adams. I’m intrigued by Adams, who I think could contribute right now in the right circumstance. I’m also intrigued because of the possibility that he’s at least partly in competition with Oscar Taveras for a roster spot. I’m not saying they couldn’t both be on. I’m not saying either one of them is necessarily on. But there are limited spots, and both guys are in the competition.

In short, the case that’s made for Taveras (aside from, he’s great, he needs to be there, end of story) is that somebody needs to be available so they can give Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday days off. I think Adams can essentially fill that role, playing first base with Allen Craig going to the outfield on those days. 

And while I definitely understand the groundswell for Taveras, I think there’s a real case for Adams. Matheny laid out part of it today — Adams is at a point where he really doesn’t NEED those everyday reps like Taveras does. He’s older, he’s less raw, he’s pretty close to being the player he’s going to be. If Adams gets one or two starts a week, it likely won’t stunt his development. Taveras really needs to be playing every day. 

Also, while it’s frustrating to think about business at this time of year when it’s much more fun to talk baseball, there’s a very real business component with Taveras. You’d really rather make sure you have team control for his age-27 season than have all of his age-21 season.

Finally, one other factor: Adams’ future as an everyday player almost certainly is not in St. Louis. My guess is there’s a lot to be said for trading him, getting value for a valuable asset and perhaps upgrading the club at another area of need. If you’re going to do that, perhaps you want to get him big league at-bats to show what he can do.

I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and it’s possible that Taveras could go Pujols and be so spectacular they just can’t keep him off. It’s possible they’re both on. It’s possible they’re both at Memphis. I just think it’s not as simple as “Taveras ON” vs “Taveras OFF,” and one reason for that is Adams.

Today’s game in a nutshell: The Cardinals hit five home runs, including big, impressive shots from Adams, Taveras, and Matt Holliday, as they cruised to a 7-2 win. Jake Westbrook was solid, though he got only one groundball out in three innings.

Quote of the day: “If you can hit, you can hit.” — Matheny on Adams and the likelihood that he would be asked to pinch-hit if he’s on the roster

Player of the day: Taveras, who also doubled to go along with his homer. Kid can rake.

Miles driven: 6 today, 1037 for the trip

Miles run: 3 today, 19 1/2 on the trpi

Starbucks visits: 1 today, 10 for the trip

Up next: Yet another day on Planet Jupiter, this time covering for my friend and teammate Bryan Hoch as the Yankees come to town. I’ll actually be on Yanks duty each of the next two days, as they play the Cardinals Thursday and the Marlins on Friday.

And, finally, the playlist:

Today is the 15th anniversary of “The Big Lebowski,” the movie from which this blog takes its name. So here are five songs from my all-time favorite comedy.

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, “Just Dropped In”
Bob Dylan, “The Man in Me”
Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”
Gipsy Kings, “Hotel California”
Townes Van Zandt, “Dead Flowers”

-M.

Spring Training, Day 9: The real world intrudes

It’s safe to say that in 12 seasons covering baseball, I’ve never had a day quite like today. It started out normally enough, going to the park around 3:30 like I’ve done for hundreds of games in the past.

Then I got to the press box at Roger Dean Stadium and it was absolutely packed. There were no seats in either row, only at the tables behind the main seating. That was my first indication of what I should have already known — Team Venezuela is a big deal. I did manage to squeeze into a seat, but that question turned out to be an utter afterthought.

Sometime around 5 pm, word came down that Hugo Chavez had died. It was not just a twitter hoax, we soon learned. And suddenly the task of covering the Venezuelan World Baseball Classic team had a bit of a different feel to it.

It was challenging trying to get anywhere as a non-Spanish speaker, but people worked together and helped each other out. I was able to get a few comments (and no-comments) on Chavez — who, of course, was extremely polarizing.

Then the game, and it was entertaining as well. The Venezuelan starting nine is just ridiculously good, but we got a reminder that baseball is weird. Anybody can beat anybody, and the Marlins without Giancarlo Stanton can beat the Venezuelan national team.

Postgame, Luis Sojo spoke a little bit about Chavez and a good bit about baseball. Then Zambrano gave what seemed to be some very heartfelt words about the president. Unfortunately for me, it was in Spanish so I can’t be entirely certain. I asked for, and received, a partial translation. Essentially, Zambrano expressed human sympathy for Chavez and his family, rather than taking any kind of political stand. I wish I had understood more of it.

So, yeah, tomorrow will probably be a little more routine.

The game in a nutshell: Miguel Cabrera was a force, but the Marlins kept coming back. Chris Coghlan had four hits and scored three runs as Miami came back from deficits of 3-0 and 5-3 to win, 6-5.

Quote of the day: “I think for the respect of Venezuela, they have to do something [before] the first game against the Dominicans.” — Carlos Zambrano, on the fact that there was no moment of silence for Chavez before tonight’s game

Player of the day: Coghlan certainly has a case, but for me it’s Cabrera. Four at-bats, four screamers. Two doubles, one of them to the wall. One homer, a mammoth shot to left. And even his out was loud, a liner to center.

Miles driven: 25 today, 1025 on the trip

Miles run: 3 today, 16 1/2 on the trip

Roadside sight of the day: It’s not exactly roadSIDE so much as on the road. In the span of 45 minutes or so driving around today, I saw two Ferraris, two Bentleys and an Aston Martn. And that’s not even counting the player parking lots. Welcome to Palm Beach County.

Starbucks trips: 1 today, 9 for the trip

Up next: I’m in Jupiter again tomorrow, but this time with a little more familiar assignment. I’ll be stepping in for the esteemed Jenifer Langosch on the Cardinals beat when they play the Marlins. Looking forward to occupying my old seat. And also to lunch from Pyros.

Ballpark music note of the day: Oh, dear, RDS, you can do better than you did tonight. BEPs, Pitbull, Sandstorm, I know y’all have some good tunes. Heck, last year you welcomed me with some New Order. Please?

And, finally, the playlist:

We reach the top. And for me, these five albums really did stand out above all the rest. No. 1 was an easy, easy call. And really, the rest of the top-5 came together pretty easily. See the past 4 entries for an explanation of what’s going on here, if it’s not clear.

The second half of Erin’s top-10:

Craig Finn, “No Future” (Clear Heart, Full Eyes)
Big Sean/Jay-Z/Kanye West, “Clique” (GOOD Music–Cruel Summer)
Santigold, “Keepers” (Master of My Make-Believe)
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built” (Celebration Rock)
Metric, “Breathing Underwater” (Synthetica)

And my top-5:

Justin Townes Earle, “Unfortunately Anna” (Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, No. 5)
Cloud Nothings, “Fall In” (Attack On Memory, No. 4)
Bruce Springsteen, “Rocky Ground” (Wrecking Ball, No. 3)
Patterson Hood, “(untold pretties)” (Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance, No. 2)
Japandroids, “Younger Us” (Celebration Rock, No. 1)

FWIW, “(untold pretties)” and “Younger Us” may also be my two favorite songs of the year, not just my favorite songs from my two favorite albums. Great stuff.

-M.

Spring Training, Day 8: Eastbound and down

Today marks my final day on the west side of the state. I’m delighted I got to make a stop at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, which is my favorite place in the Grapefruit League now that the Dodgers have left Vero Beach. Fantastic place, highly recommended.

I’ve watched the saga of the Tigers’ ninth-inning plans with interest, in part because I love the fact that they’ve been, up until now, so willing to go with a young pitcher with talent, rather than worrying about having a “Proven Closer.”

And this is just a guess — really, just a guess — but I have a hunch that much of the freaking out that’s going on right now in the coverage of the Tigers, is not reflected within the organization.

The Tigers know what Bruce Rondon did last season in the Minors. He threw really hard, struck out a bunch of guys, didn’t allow many hits or home runs, and walked too many guys. He did exactly the same thing in winter ball.

So, hey, guess what? He’s striking out a lot of guys and walking too many guys in Spring Training. In four outings, he’s been a slightly worse version of what they always knew he was.

Maybe they do decide to cut the cord. Maybe they trade for a reliever. Maybe they install Benoit or Coke or someone else in the ninth. All of that is possible. But I am, personally, dubious of the notion that 3 2/3 innings of Spring Training have significantly changed the plans of a pretty smart brain trust.

Today’s game in a nutshell: Rick Porcello was very sharp, Jarred Cosart was not, and the Tigers were able to hold on for an 8-5 win. Houston roared back after trailing 6-1, but couldn’t quite pull it out. Justin Maxwell hit a ball a very, very long way — over the berm and up onto the terrace in left field.

Quote of the day: “We played that [game] like we were being paid by the hour.” — Jim Leyland

Player of the day: Porcello. He threw hard (consistently sitting at 93) with movement and had a nice curveball. He struck out six over four shutout innings.

Miles driven: 41 so far today (but many more to come tonight), 820 for the trip.

Miles run: Still sitting on 13 1/2.

Starbucks visits: 1 so far today, 8 for the trip.

Up next: I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s task. I’ll be covering the Venezuelan World Baseball Classic team in an exhibition against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. So I’m driving east across the state to Jupiter tonight, hitting the Crazy Cuban for lunch tomorrow and heading to the ballpark for what should be a fun ballgame.

And, finally, the playlist:

See the past few posts for what’s going on here, as I finally roll out my favorite albums from 2012. Today, we’ve reached the top-10. And that’s the point where my lovely wife Erin steps in and offers her selections, as well. We’ve been doing this for years upon years. For more explanation on how I’m doing this exercise this year, check out the previous three entries at this very site.

The first half of Erin’s top-10:

Purity Ring, “Grandlove” (album: Shrines)
Passion Pit, “I’ll Be Alright” (album: Gossamer)
The XX, “Fiction” (album: Coexist)
Kendrick Lamar, “[Redacted], Don’t Kill My Vibe” (album: good kid, m.A.A.d city)
Garbage, “Blood for Poppies” (album: Not Your Kind of People)

And mine:

Aimee Mann, “Charmer” (Charmer, No. 10)
Corin Tucker Band, “I Don’t Wanna Go” (Kill My Blues, No. 9)
Jamey Johnson, “I Don’t Do Windows” (Living for a Song, No. 8)
Bob Mould, “Star Machine” (Silver Age, No. 7)
Kendrick Lamar, “The Art of Peer Pressure” (good kid, m.A.A.d city, No. 6)

-M.

Spring Training, Day 7: Phirst time in Clearwater

I hadn’t been to a Spring Training game in Clearwater since sometime in the 1980s. Put it this way: the last time I saw a game here, Mike Schmidt was the starting third baseman (and he made two errors in the game!). 

So obviously this was my first time covering a game in Clearwater, and my first time at Bright House Field. They got it right. Compared to the other big-ish, new-ish facilities in Florida (Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals/Marlins, Braves), I think it’s entirely fair to say that this is the one with the most charm, the most feel. 

There’s local flavor, with stands for Clearwater’s own Frenchy’s and Pete & Shorty’s. There’s hometown Philly flavor, with cheesesteaks and a Tony Luke’s stand and places where you can get Yuengling and Victory beer. 

You would not confuse BHF with any other spring stadium, or with any other team’s facility. That, to me, says a lot. Good place. 

Today’s game in a nutshell: Both teams kicked it around a bit on defense, especially the Phillies. But Philadelphia hit the stuffing out of the ball, and that was more than enough. Ryan Howard hit a homer that left the ballpark. Domonic Brown, Jose Bautista and even Mark DeRosa went deep.

Quote of the day: “I feel like every year, everybody says it’s a big year for me.” — Colby Rasmus (look for a Rasmus feature tomorrow at BlueJays.MLB.com)

Player of the day: Howard, for that one swing. He absolutely obliterated the ball, which may well have landed on the highway outside the stadium. Off a lefty, no less. He’s fun to watch right now.

Miles driven: 26 so far today, 739 for the trip

Miles run: 0 today, 13 1/2 for the trip

Roadside sight of the day: I saw a bald eagle sitting on top of a streetlight on highway 60 on the way to the park this morning. I dunno, some of y’all may say “meh” to that, but it put a spring in my step for most of the day. A bald eagle. Awesome.

Starbucks visits: 1 today, 7 for the trip

Up next: Tomorrow morning I check out of my Tampa hotel and begin heading east. I’ll be visiting my favorite remaining Spring Training facility, Tigertown, tomorrow, then spending the first of several nights in Jupiter at the end of the day. I’m on columnist duty, so who knows what I’ll write.

Ballpark music note: They brought it pretty much all day today. Some well-chosen 90s alt-rock, some well-chosen hip-hop, but the highlight for me was Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.” General life rule: it’s always good to hear “Surrender.”

And, finally, the playlist:

We’ve gotten to the top-15, right around one of the two dividing lines in this list. There was  line between 16 and 17, and there’s another one between 5 and 6. Most of the albums I have between 6 and 15 are, if not completely interchangeable, not all that far from it. There was a lot of stuff I liked this year. (And for an explanation of what in the world I’m talking about, see Friday’s and Saturday’s posts.)

Jack White, “Love Interruption” (Blunderbuss, No. 15)
The Gaslight Anthem, “Handwritten” (Handwritten, No. 14)
Craig Finn, “New Friend Jesus” (Clear Heart Full Eyes, No. 13)
Purity Ring, “Belispeak” (Shrines, No. 12)
Lucero, “Like Lightning” (Women & Work, No. 11)

-M.

Spring Training, Day 6: A good day to hit

Today was my second straight day at Dunedin, and it was a very good day to hit. With my parents in attendance (hi!), the ball was jumping out, especially in the early innings. Everything that was hit in the air, against two of the best starting pitchers in the game (Cliff Lee and R.A. Dickey), carried. Balls went to the wall, balls went over the wall.

It’s days like this that really drive home why you should never get too worked up about Spring Training performances. Lee, to my eye, actually threw the ball pretty well. But when he made mistakes, he got punished for them.

If anything sums this day up, it’s Emilio Bonifacio taking Cliff Lee deep. I’m pretty sure that’s not something you’re going to see in a game that counts.

By the way, Ryan Howard’s homer may have been wind-AIDED, but it wasn’t wind-CAUSED. It was legit, easy, opposite-field power. Quite a sight.

Today’s game in a nutshell: Extra bases for everybody! The teams combined for five homers and eight doubles as the Jays thumped the Phils, 11-6. Tyler Cloyd had a particularly rough day, giving up six runs.

Quote of the day: “He’s going after Ripken’s record.” — Charlie Manuel on Ryan Howard, who will make his ninth Grapefruit League appearance on Sunday.

Player of the day: Jose Reyes was 3-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBIs. I think this kid has a chance to make it.

Miles drive: 24 so far today, 693 for the trip

Miles run: 4 1/2 today, 13 1/2 for the trip

Starbucks visits: 1 today, 6 for the trip

Up next: I’ll be filling in for my esteemed colleague Gregor Chisholm on the Jays beat tomorrow. They play a “road” game at the Phillies in Clearwater. It’s such a long trip that they’ll dress, stretch, work out and take BP here in Dunedin, then hop over to Clearwater for the game.

Ballpark music note of the day: They played “Closing Time” as Ramon Ortiz came out to finish off the game in the ninth. Despite being nominally appropriate, it’s a little less then intimidating. Then again, you might say the same thing about Ramon Ortiz.

And, finally, the playlist:

(See yesterday’s post for explanation. Counting down my favorite albums from last year.)

Big Boi, “In the A” (Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, No. 20)
School of Seven Bells, “White Wind” (Ghostory, No. 19)
El-P, “Tougher Colder Killer” (Cancer 4 Cure, No. 18)
Alabama Shakes, “Hold On” (Boys & Girls, No. 17)
Henry Clay People, “EveryBandWeEverLoved” (Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives, No. 16)

-M.

Spring Training, Day 5: Also yes.

*sigh* I promised I wouldn’t make any Archer jokes. Ah well.

Pretty entertaining game in Dunedin today, despite some early-spring follies on the bases and in the field. Some good plays to balance out the iffy ones, and some nice tools on display to boot (Moises Sierra’s arm, Anthony Gose’s speed, Chris Archer’s heat).

This was the first of three straight days seeing the Blue Jays for me, which I’m looking forward to. They are, of course, a fascinating team.

I don’t really have an anecdote today, so I wanted to talk (write) a little something about seeing things in Spring Training and sample sizes and all of that.

I have a deeply-held belief that bigger samples are better. If I have 1000 at-bats that say one thing and 20 at-bats that say another, give me the 1000. So in general, I’m highly, highly skeptical of Spring Training performances. Especially this early, when you’re talking about a week’s worth of games that don’t count. Occasionally someone really has taken a step forward. It happens. But it’s exceptionally rare, and if the month of spring games isn’t telling, the real season will be.

And yet, as I go through camps, I do form impressions. It happened last year, it’s already happening again this year. I don’t think this is contradictory, for me or other people who come to cover spring, and I want to explain why.

I’m not just watching games down here. I’m constantly thinking about baseball and the teams I’m watching. I’m talking to other national writers who have been to other camps, and talking to beat writers. These are long days, and it’s basically sleep-ballpark-dinner-sleep on many days, with the occasional drive thrown in.

So I’m thinking about these teams and players to a degree, and in a way, that I haven’t even as I was writing ball over the winter. I see the Rays three times in a week, and it’s not just that I’ve seen them play three games. I’ve thought about their lineup and their rotation and their bullpen, asked people about the team, etc.

The point is not to pat myself on the back or be all “I’m here so I KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.” It’s just to explain something that on its face may seem contradictory — on the one hand always warning not to make too much of spring stats, on the other telling you about impressions and opinions that I’m forming while watching spring games.

Or maybe I’m just a hypocrite.

Today’s game in a nutshell: The Jays committed three errors but hit a couple of homers, and hung runs on both of the pitchers that Tampa Bay acquired in the James Shields trade en route to a 5-4 win.

Quote of the day: “Cy Young. If I strike out 80 guys a year, is that going to [be enough]?” — Mark Buehrle, upon being asked by ESPN’s Jayson Stark what he has left to accomplish in his career.

Player of the day: Rays pitcher Chris Archer was bringing serious gas. 95-97 for strikes on his fastball, a nice slider, really impressive stuff. One hit, one strikeout, no walks in three innings. I said this on Twitter, but it was the most impressive pitching performance I’ve seen so far on the trip.

Miles driven: 22 today, 650 for the trip.

Miles run: 0 today, still on 9 for the trip

Starbucks trips: 0 today, 5 for the trip (powered by espresso over the final hour of the drive back from Port Charlotte last night)

Up next: Back here in Dunedin again tomorrow for the Jays against the Phillies. I’ll be on columnist duty again, but since I wrote Toronto today, I’ll almost certainly be doing something on the Phils tomorrow. Oh, and my parents will be there, so look for them on TV!

As an aside: BEAT PRINCETON

Ballpark music note of the day: They played the beginning of the Drive-By Truckers’ “Ronnie and Neil” when Adam Lind came up to bat for the first time. That was pretty great.

And, finally, the playlist:

So, I never did post my top albums of 2012. And it’s really too late to make it a separate post at this point. So I’m going to reveal them in playlist form over the next few days. I actually had a much different music year this year than in recent years. Due to Spotify, I heard a whole lot more albums a few times, but I didn’t hear as many albums a lot of times. If that makes sense. So the list reflects that. It’s longer, just because I came into contact with so much more music.

BTW, those of you who care about this know that my lovely bride Erin also always contributes a list. She has a much shorter list this year, so when we get to the top-10, her picks will be included. Anyway, one song each as we climb from No. 25 on up…

Red Collar, “American Me” (Welcome Home, No. 25)
Sleigh Bells, “True Shred Guitar” (Reign Of Terror, No. 24)
Killer Mike, “Anywhere But Here” (R.A.P. Music, No. 23)
Garbage, “Blood For Poppies” (Not Your Kind Of People, No. 22)
Metric, “Synthetica” (Synthetica, No. 21)

-M.

Spring Training, Day 4: The streak continues

So, I have a pretty cool streak going right now.Today was the third straight day I’ve seen at least one of the top prospects in baseball play a significant role in a game. On Tuesday it was Oscar Taveras (No. 3 according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (No. 32). Yesterday it was Dylan Bundy (No. 2). Today, Nick Castellanos (No. 21), and for good measure, Matt Moore, who was a consensus top-5 pick one year ago.

They’ve pretty much all impressed in the limited time I’ve seen them, and Castellanos was no exception. He had three hits, including a sweet line drive to right-center on an inside-out swing. I am decidedly NOT a scout, but I enjoyed watching him hit.

I was also very excited about finally writing and filing a story I’ve been tossing around in my mind for, no exaggeration, several months. It’s about the Rays, and it should be on their site soon. Do check it out.

Today’s game in a nutshell: Anibal Sanchez was pretty sharp, the Rays’ relievers were not, and the Tigers rolled to an 11-2 win. Austin Jackson homered and Miguel Cabrera had a single and a double.

Quote of the day: “This is an organization where people are allowed to be themselves. We all, just like in our citizen life outside the baseball field, we all have views. We all have beliefs. We all have different opinions on things. But here, we accept everyone’s beliefs and personalities. The differences that we may have as individuals. But we also like to use that as variety. We all bring something to the table. As a group, we all work together to accomplish that same goal where we’re unified to go out there and win baseball games, be good teammates, care for each other. Regardless of what our differences are or where we come from. It doesn’t matter. We’re allowed to be ourselves, and the end result is we play well together, we care for each other, and it’s a good formula for success on a baseball field.” – Luke Scott, whose views and beliefs have certainly attracted some attention.

Player of the day: What the hey, let’s go with Castellanos. 3-for-3, a run, an RBI, and now 6-for-9 with four runs scored on the spring.

Miles driven: 97 so far today, 533 for the trip.

Miles run: 3 today, 9 for the trip (all on the treadmill; need to change that)

Starbucks trips: 1 today, 4 for the trip (People, seriously, the line inside is going to be quicker. I promise. Get out of your car. No, wait. Don’t. I like getting in and out of there quickly.)

Up next: I’ll see these Rays one more time, and the Blue Jays for the first time, in Dunedin. I’ll be on columnist duty, trying to figure out something to write about the Jays that hasn’t already been written 10 times in the past four months.

And, finally, the playlist:

They were playing a lot of Stones this morning at the ballpark, and I’m always in favor of that. But I’ll go for a little twist, and make it five Stones favorites from the post-Tattoo You years.

“One Hit (To the Body)”
“Wanna Hold You”
“Saint Of Me”
“Baby Break It Down”
“Slipping Away”

-M.

Spring Training, Day 3: Now THAT’S Spring Training

After a long drive up the coast last night, I have settled in for a stretch of several days based out of Tampa. Today was my first time working at Steinbrenner Field, a place where I did once sit in the stands (and saw Chris Duncan hit a home run off Randy Johnson, back when it was still called Legends Field).

Anyway, I had two assignments today: a column (which will be up soon) and helping out my teammate Brittany Ghiroli with Orioles coverage. The O’s had a day-night split-squad, so Britt stayed back in Sarasota for the night game while I took the day game in Tampa.

Manager Buck Showalter’s hope before the game was a quick one, so that he could get on the road and back down to Sarasota without having to cut it too close before the 7 pm start. No such luck. The game lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours, including a Yankees rally in the bottom of the ninth.

So sometime around the 7th, the Orioles PR rep told me and the only O’s beat writer who made the trip that we would get Showalter a little after 4 pm, regardless of whether the game was finished. The plan was that he would duck out, miss the end of the game if need  be, and hit the highway.

Didn’t happen that way. Showalter wanted to see young Devin Jones pitch. So three of us media types were escorted down the tunnel to the entrance to the dugout. We waited right there for the top of the 9th to finish. When the bottom of the 9th began, Showalter made his way over to us.

He began answering questions while also watching the game. He’d be asked a question, start an answer, pause, lean forward to see the pitch, then return to his answer. It went on like this for a few minutes. We got what we needed, thanked him, and left.

Not exactly the kind of thing that happens in July.

Today’s game in a nutshell: A lot of runs. A lot of hits. Five — count ‘em, FIVE — Yankee errors. A very rough start for Nik Turley. Some heat from Dylan Bundy. And a spectacular play deep in the hole by Ryan Flaherty. O’s win, 10-7.

Quote of the day: “Whoever might be predicted last in the American League Central would probably have a great argument as to why somebody was wrong. People that play the game know that ‘they say’ is the biggest liar. I know what they say about us. We’re supposed to be in last place. That’s all right. Our guys, they’re used to that environment. … I kind of like that we’re getting some help, putting us back in that same mentality.” – Showalter

Player of the day: Bundy. He wasn’t perfect. Might have missed his location a couple of times. But he’s got the stuff to get away with the occasional miss, and boy did he unleash some beauties. Two innings, one hit, one walk, one strikeout.

Miles driven: 4 so far today, 428 for the trip.

Miles run: 3 today, 6 for the trip

Diet sodas consumed: Still sitting on 2.

Starbucks trips: 1 today, 3 for the trip (proud of myself for not making a coffee stop on the trip up from Fort Myers last night)

Up next: Back down the coast to Port Charlotte for a promising Rays-Tigers tilt. I’ll be on columnist duty, rather than beat work.

And, finally, the playlist:

I’ve been buried deep in a mid-90s hole lately, revisiting the stuff I loved most in college. So here are five of the songs you’d have been most likely to hear blaring out of my dorm room between September of 1992 and June of 1996:

Everclear, “Her Brand New Skin”
Smashing Pumpkins, “Mayonaise”
New Order, “Regret”
Oasis, “Champagne Supernova”
Pearl Jam, “Leash”

-M.

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