Archive for June, 2012

The 30 Best Fitteds in Baseball – A Countdown

Posted: June 28, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB, The Lineup
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Baseball hats have the most crossover appeal of any single piece of sporting apparel. Everyone from diehard fans to soccer moms own one. Young, old, rich, less rich and everywhere in-between; the top piece of the game is a part of everyday life.

However, once you get into it a bit deeper, that’s where the culture of the cap comes into play. Where it’s known by its true name to those in the know, The Fitted. This is where it starts to get serious, because what fitted you see somebody rocking can say a whole world of different things. Hardcore devotion to the game is still in play, where it is a common link from fan to player. But at the same time it goes into the realm of fashion, as well as regional devotion.

The Fitted may be Major League Baseball’s largest common impact in society today, both in America and abroad. The styling that New Era has exclusive rights to representing the MLB with puts over $340 million worth of hats into the streets each year. But when you break it down, it all comes back to the tradition that those 30 baseball clubs choose to follow.

While there are tons of offshoots and alternate caps, some of which even the MLB clubs themselves take to every once in a while, it’s the standards that still ring out the loudest for me. While some have stood since the early 1900’s, others have only stood since March. However, all caps are not created equal, and to speak to this point, I’m doing my own personal 30 for 30 on the best fitteds in the game today…

Well, you know it’s coming, but when? For all things considered, it’s got a lot going for it….

It’s somehow appropriate that the best of the best in baseball are the most enduring, for it’s the most enduring sport in the nation’s history. Even though it has been surpassed in mass popularity, it still has a place deep into the imagery of the country it once owned. So it’s only right that the top 15 fitteds in the game today are mix of what’s been great about it forever.

Let the sure-to-be debate begin …

30. San Diego Padres: It gets no more boring than this. The dull blue on straight white of the newest incarnation of the Pads caps suits the team’s style and product these days pretty well, but if fans are going to show up for this, they might as well at least provide some decent gear for them to buy and suffer in.

29. Miami Marlins: The Death of the Florida Marlins was the intro to a tragedy in the hat world. It started a case of not only messing with a good thing; it’s ruining a great thing. The Marlins had it figured out with the teal and black joints. There was literally no combination that didn’t work right, and the Marlins had a dope logo to boot. It was exciting … the complete opposite of whatever it is they’re doing now. It looks like a Simon Says game threw up black licorice on its shirt. Not the freshest reset we’ve ever seen…

 

There’s a lot more to the mix here, and for 28 to the top, head over to the Cheap Seats at The Sports Fan Journal to take in Part 1 & 2 of my countdown of the best lids in the game.

Part 1: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-30-best-fitted-caps-baseball-part-1/2/

The finale: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-30-best-fitted-caps-baseball-part-2/2/

And for the rest of what I’m doing from, stretching out my paycheck to roaming the bleachers in Busch, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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Sound familiar? Well, I’m not making any early promises or even leaving home, but yeah, business has picked up for the dude.

Well, it’s more like I’ve “taken” my talents to The Sports Fan Journal, because I’ve been there for about a month now, but that’s just schematics. Last week, however, it became official. After a few guest spots over the course of the spring, I accepted an offer to join the staff over at TSFJ.

For me, it was a no-brainer. Ever since I saw what Eddie Maisonet, maybe known more widely as Ed the Sportsfan, had stirring up last fall, it went to the top of my list of endeavors to get involved with. When Ed reached out to me about contributing when baseball season came around, I got ready immediately to make splash on touchdown. Things went well, and now I’m staffing with a twice weekly column there.

One of most foremost, constant goals is to be a voice in a far too empty room: a young, inspired voice for the greatness that is the sport of baseball…from a black man. This is an excellent opportunity to get a greater platform for that effort. Not to mention a fun one daily at as well.

In case you haven’t been to TSFJ (which should be a near impossibility if you run in similar Twitter circles as me), it is truly the voice of our era and culture in online sports. It’s a meeting point for writers and commentary of all sorts, from day to day commentary, editorial pieces and fan forums for on-field events, to a home base for podcasts, gear info and history lessons as well. It’s basically where anything can be found for every type of fan, from frequent follower to casual admirer.

Before I arrived, there was already a well thought out staff of writers in place. Between Ed, Kenny Masenda, Rev. Paul Revere, Reeta the NFL Chick, Justin Tinsley, Mark Trible, Bryan Crawford, Joe Simmons and Jason Clinkscales, there’s a ton of home based, high quality material finding its way in daily. Every season, niche and interest is covered year around, and it’s fueled by the best kind of competition from article to article you can find: quality peers. I mean these are folks that are writing for everything from Fox Sports and Slam Magazine and Nike. Articles being written from the front row and press boxes of games, not TVs. Everybody here is on the rise, and nobody is taking their time.

Combine this with the high quality of guest contributors that make their way into the mix as well

So what am I supposed to add here? As you know, my niche is the baseball diamond, and that is what I shall be representing on the site. Throughout the summer, my column will run definitely on Friday, with another earlier piece as well. It will be the same type of thing you’ve come to follow here, but expanded some stylistically and topic wise as well. Think of it as a national column, with some flair in-between the lines as well. One baseball season has passed some, I will venture into other topics as well on TSFJ, but I will never be too far away from my first true love of spikes and bats.

However, fret not; CSP will live on as well. It is still my link to the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, as well as my in-depth analysis site as well, for all sports. I will continue to provide original content here, as well as post links to anything else that I do elsewhere as well.  This new outlet will allow for me to write intertwine more of my overall ideas and direction for CSP as well, which I’ll be introducing and experimenting with here soon. But if you’re subscribing to me here, might as well do the same for the whole Fam over on TSFJ, and get it straight from the source as well.

This is an exciting move for me, as well as a promotion of sorts in the online sports writing world. As always, your readership, follows and questions on what I’m doing is always appreciated. I look forward to this new avenue on the road I’ve just started driving down here just over 24 months ago.

 

–          Matt

 

To get you acquainted with what I’ve been doing thus far, as well as what’s going on with The SportsFan Journal overall, here’s a few links to get you warmed up:

The Home Pagehttp://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/

TSFJ’s Cheap Seatshttp://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/category/columns/the-cheap-seats/

Twitter Follows: @edthesportsfan, @soulonice6, @joesimtre, @Mtrible, @RevPaulRevere @asportsscribe, @JustinTinsley @theNFLchick, @_BryanCrawford

In the meantime, keep on following me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan for more on whatever it is that’s piqued my interests at the second.

Jack Buck’s Personal Legacy With Me

Posted: June 19, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , ,

One of the most resounding memories of both my childhood, and now my life, is hearing  elegantly call a  game.

Now, on the sad occasion of the tenth year coming to pass without Jack anymore, it occurs to me that he is a rarity of the most uncommon type. In many cases when people pass, their voice tends to fade over time with them. With public figures of his caliber, their name and feats live on long after they do. In the case of Mr. Buck, it’s his voice that made his resounding presence, so it is still very common to hear a call or a speech that he made, so it stays fresh in your ear.

However, for me what I hear when I remember him is much different. While he was responsible for my favorite call in sports history (“Smith corks one down the line, it may go….Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy!!”), as well as characterizing the exploits that took Joe Montana, Lou Brock, Kirk Gibson and Kirby Puckett, among many others to legend, it’s something far more personal for me that I’ll remember him for.

It was about 1994 or so, at the very latest, and my Father took me out for dinner. The restaurant we went to was J. Bucks in Clayton, an establishment of obvious association. We ate and I looked around at all of the assorted memorabilia and pictures around the place while we waited on our food. I didn’t know a lot of them, but my old man filled in the blanks. I learned a lot about the World Championship teams of the 60’s that night, as well as the fact that there were a lot more great  that played in “black and white” than .

The night went on, and eventually we got up to leave. On the way out, we stopped by a picture of Jack, and my Dad told me, without hesitation, that “This is his place, and he’s the best to ever do it. All of those moments we were talking about, he was the one that brought them to life.” That in itself was cool enough for me, as I only really watched on TV, and never had the patience for radio when I was that young. But still, you can’t live in St. Louis and not know “the voice”. And I remembered the Ozzie home run call which happened when I was two, so it’d been the soundtrack to my young baseball life thus far. So I was aware of Mr. Buck, just not quite who he really, really was in the big picture, yet.

For as much as he deserved a statue dedicated to him as a broadcaster, Jack Buck deserved one as a man as well.

We took the elevator down to the parking garage underneath the restaurant. We came through to the door into the parking lot and a thin older guy was coming up. He stops to open the door for us to go through, and my Dad stops and says, “Oh no, Mr. Buck, after you.” Then he says to us, in that distinct, yet golden voice, “Well I hope that you all enjoyed your stop by, thanks for coming”. That in itself was pretty amazing, that a Hall of Fame, living legend would not only stop to hold the door for a regular guy and his kid but would stop and have even passing words. If you’ve met some of the greats of any game or arena, you understand how rare this can truly be. Heroes don’t always take their capes off the field with them too.

But he was a most gracious guy. My Father then said to him “Mr. Buck, I’d like to introduce you to my son Matt”, to which he replied “Well it’s nice to meet you Matt, I hoped you liked the food and some of the stuff on the walls tonight too. You’re a Cardinal fan, right?” By this time I was amazed by the fact that “The Voice” I’d always heard, but had just learned about that night, was talking to me by name. He went on to stand there and talk to us for another 5 minutes about the restaurant and St. Louis before he headed upstairs himself. It was surprising at that time to me that he’d be gracious enough to do that with two strangers, but as I’ve grown and heard many times since, that’s just the type of guy that he was.

Around that same time my Dad worked the second shift doing maintenance work at the Marriott across the street from Busch Stadium. He would be getting off work early in the morning and walk past the stadium. He told me much later when I was older that plenty of mornings he’d come across Mr. Buck going into the Stadium to start his day, and they’d always exchange the same convo in passing:

Jack: “Good morning there.”

Dad: “Good morning Mr. Buck, have a good day at work.”

Jack: “Hope the same for you, gotta get up and do it right?”

 

They say that life breaks down in the end to a lot of moments, some you remember and some that pass right by you. Well nearly 20 years after that moment, it still rings as clear as it did when it happened. It is still as clear as the forever true voice of the Cardinals did when it just focused on me and my young developing love for baseball, for just a few moments.

The night, a few moments made for a lifetime, and also made a direct bond with many eras of the Cardinals forever. And you’ll always be missed, Mr. Buck.

 

Sincerely,

Matt

 

For more on my Buck inspired take on the game, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

 

Orginially posted today at The Sports Fan Journal:

Is this loud enough for you? Probably not…

Let me tell you a story about the invisible man, an invisible man that has it all. This is a guy that’s been to the mountain tops of the game, both early and late, yet somehow he still slides beneath the radar. No matter what he does, no matter how big of a boom he makes, it never seems to register. Maybe that will change with his latest feat, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow it doesn’t…because he’s invisible, you know? Well no matter if you can’t see or speak to it or not, let me at least make the plea here for the best pitcher nobody acknowledges. Let me speak on behalf of Matt Cain.

See, last night he threw the 22nd perfect game in baseball’s 150+ year history, so that will get the wagon rolling about how great he was. The problem is how great he’s been the entire time he’s been in the game has been next to ignored. How does this happen? How can somebody with such a rare combination of talents and accomplishments be so easily ignored? Let’s play a bit of “Where’s Waldo” here and sort out why a lot of folks need to get on the horn with their optometrists immediately.

Who is he? He’s in his 8th season, working on his third All-Star game in the last four years. His rookie year he had a run of 42 inning pitched while giving up only one run, good for a 0.21 ERA. He’s the same guy that already notched a one-hitter this year, as well as a two-hitter in a nine-inning no decision. That’s alright I suppose, but there’s more…

 

For the rest of this piece, including why Cain is the biggest neglect victim in all of baseball, head over to my new column at The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-invisible-superman-matt-cain-throws-a-perfect-game/

 

And for a lot more information, both perfect and not, follow me in real-time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

There’s very little that frustrates me more than when something doesn’t live up to its potential. So I get downright enraged when potential just has its face spit in, by itself, then laughs at itself in the reflection. (And yes it is possible to spit in your own face. Take a few seconds and think about that).

Essentially, that’s what boxing has officially done to itself. A formerly much hallowed and iconic contest has now officially jumped the shark into becoming a parody of it, and Saturday’s conclusion to the Manny Pacquiao/Timothy Bradley bout was the organ tuning up at the sports funeral. Paul Bearer himself should have been the official that night, or at least took on Michael Buffer’s role (how awesome would it be to hear PB break out the “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” in his shaky promo voice from like ’92?). For a sport that is already on several brinks of disaster, allowing for its co-biggest star to get screwed XNXX-style is unforgivable. And now, what’s left to care about when it comes to big fight boxing?

Before we go too far into that, I have to give my recap of what happened on Saturday. We switch from the end of the Heat/Celts game in time for the middle of round one (once we found an appropriately good link online, because no way I’m paying for boxing PPVs at this point, more on that later). Get through round four or so, and Pacman is landing everything he needs to, and it looks like business as usual, because it is. When the fight starts to look like re-run of everything Manny’s done over the last few years, save for the Passion of Ricky Hatton, I’ve chalked it up to yet another win in the holding pattern that is anybody he fights not named Floyd Mayweather.

Now here’s where the world burns. The first sign of fuckery is the split decision. I’m still not sure how Bradley, who landed absolutely no impact blows, nor enough cuts that weren’t off, clinches being broken, gets even one card. But when I hear Buffer breakout his patented “Newwwwwww (fill in the blank) Champion” call, the fourth wall just broke: boxing has just broken into hallowed category of sports entertainment.

This could have just as easily been Triple H or Randy Orton and I wouldn’t have known the difference on Saturday night.

Let’s be clear: I love sports entertainment. Ever since I realized that there’s no way grown men are punching each other in the face and not bleeding in a “Gangs of New York” style, I’ve really loved the WWE. But the match is rarely the big deal over there; it’s the whole package of getting behind a character, seeing some trash talked, somebody smacking somebody with a chair in front of his girl, and then them settling it over the next few months. There’s no expectation of realistic results, because it’s not “real” in the first place. Boxing however has always been the place where the words get mixed up, then you fully expect somebody to really beat the brakes off somebody later. And if they don’t knock them out completely, there will still be an accurate enough call to get a winner.

Well, those days are apparently over and while I’m not a sports conspiracy theorist, I also wasn’t born yesterday. The first sign of “Hey, something could go wrong here” was when word on a November rematch leaked this week. Under what circumstances would there be any reason for a rematch between these two guys? Bradley is a good fighter, but Manny is one of the biggest of all-time. If he beats him, why should the upstart get another shot?

Hindsight reveals much. In this situation, hindsight shows that the November fight was the rematch all along, perhaps even the only “real” fight at all. The fight where the “fallen hero” comes back for what’s his own, to build himself back up, right? That’s a great premise too….everybody didn’t know the outcome already.

For what it’s worth, Bradley looks ready for the part….of being an Academy Award candidate. Because he played an amazing role of the underdog; one that Christian Bale should have studied before shooting ‘The Fighter’. I mean bravo to him for portraying like he had a legit shock that he won the match. However he was the one that leaked the promo screen for the rematch beforehand. So while I have no doubt he is very humbled by getting yet another big payday to face Pacquiao again, he definitely isn’t humbled by the shock of the decision or the glory of the upset. 

The biggest fat cat on the fix though? Fight promoter & Pacquiao handler Bob Arum, who made Don King look like a candidate for Pope with the way he set this all up. Arum is sport’s public enemy #1: the reason why Mayweather and Pacquiao REALLY can’t get in the ring together, and now the author of the biggest sham since baseball’s pill popping fiasco.

But you know what Bob? You screwed yourself, and pulled boxing down to its knees with you. You tried to spring sports entertainment on us all, but you underestimated how wise we are. See this is where McMahon has always gotten it right; People don’t mind having lies be told to them, as long as they know it in advance. I got more actual competition drama, even looking backwards now, out of The Rock beating John Cena at WrestleMania a few months ago. And I’ve got a huge problem with something I knew was already decided going in giving me more suspense than something that wasn’t supposed to be. If you’re going to force a dream on me, at least let me know I’m sleep in advance.

But now the idea that “the desire to see Pacquiao get even” will make the next fight a huge buy is over. Because everybody knows they were duped already, and already know how the next fight will end. Now, in order to get your biggest ticket back on top, you’ve forced him into a match with Mayweather that now has a much lesser sense of importance. It is a fight where Floyd holds all the leverage now; because he’s not fighting a potential peer anymore, he’s fighting a puppet, a pawn, a character even.

All of the spinning and faux-investigations aren’t convincing either, the jig is up. There is nothing to watch boxing for at all now. Sacrifice Bradley to Mayweather early next year if you want to. Floyd drilling him into the ground just would further the crock it was that he was ever allowed to have appeared to beat Pacquiao.

It’s just a matter of time before Vince buys out all 300 Boxing Federations & turns them into a Wednesday night offshoot for his show.

When legacies are sacrificed for money, it’s never a good idea. It ruins the morality that people still like to believe in out of sports. When legit competition is ruined and trust is lost, there’s no easy way back from that.

I just hope it was worth it, because that was the end of an era. Maybe you should have brought out Paul Bearer to do a “Rest in Peace” for boxing at the end of the PPV on Saturday. Because it’s not about its only fitting since that’s what the “sport” has come to be now, merely off the cuff entertainment.

I just know this much, if boxing is going to keep up with the closest thing it has to a rival now in sports entertainment, they better hire some better script writers than Arum.

 

Follow me on Twitter, where both my sports and entertainment are all written by me, at @CheapSeatFan

Pulling The Pastime Into The Present

Posted: June 10, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , , ,

This may be worth a second look, ya know, if that sort of thing was possible….but wait a minute…it is.

Pastime (noun)an activity or entertainment which makes time pass pleasantly.

This definition is long what baseball has represented in America; a major part of the fabric of the country’s identity. However, you can take this same term, break it apart and also tell a story of what a major part of Major League Baseball’s on-field policy has become: past its time.

There’s nothing wrong with tradition. It’s central to what makes baseball great. Of all professional sports, the MLB has been the most resistant to change of any. It was the last to expand its ranks, the most stringent in back stepping over its previous rulings and most notably, the most hesitant to use technology in any regard. And now, baseball’s most important element, tradition, has been compromised yet again by its resistance to the one thing that’s (ironically) holding it back: change.

Last Friday evening, New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana completed one sport’s most difficult and awe-inspiring tasks when he broke off a 131-pitch no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was roundly applauded for the history-making task, which capped an amazing comeback and ended the longest dry spell for any franchise without ever having a no-hitter to its credit in the 50-year Mets.

But there’s one big problem here: he didn’t actually throw one.

Where did this go (obviously) wrong, and how can baseball measure off ways to ensure that this NEVER happens again? Check out the rest of this piece in my column at The Sportsfan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/pulling-the-pastime-into-the-present/

And for everything else outside (and on) the line, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Baseball’s John Doe Draft Day

Posted: June 6, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , ,

The MLB Draft is an interesting phenomena, wherein the fact that it isn’t one at all. There are no shortage of reasons why this is the perpetual case. Why is it that baseball’s draft is such a big deal for the sport, the most intricate and purposeful draft of any pro sport, yet so universally disregarded as well? It’s simply because absolutely nobody knows what’s going on, even the vast majority of dedicated baseball fans. Well, let’s look at it like this; it’s like having a big party, but only inviting yourself. That’s basically what the MLB Draft breaks down to, only the most focused of baseball followers and insiders even have a clue that it’s going on. And for a sport that’s short on attention and spectacle, this is the equivalent to strike out looking…in slow pitch softball.

So let’s not waste a lot of time introducing something that really hasn’t introduced itself fully yet. Here’s all the reasons why the MLB Amateur Draft doesn’t matter outside the 1%. I bring to you, the Draft That Is, But Isn’t, brought to you in part by Major League Baseball….and viewers like you.

Low Profile of Amateur Baseball: There’s really no such thing as a college baseball sensation, and rarely is there one in high school. You have to be ingrained in the sports world semi-deeply just to know the names of Stephen Strasberg and Bryce Harper before they become Draftees over the last few years. College baseball has no pomp and circumstance to it at any point before the College World Series, which is still not a big deal outside of the university and hardcore baseball communities. In high school, there is no Under Armor, McDonalds or Army All-Star Game that puts hot prospects in front of the camera before they head to college. Basically, there is no hype.

This man is baseball’s Andrew Luck or Anthony Davis…and if you put Carlos Correa next to either of them you’d think he was some random kid. PROBLEM.

Late Blooming Draft: The Draft itself was nothing but a conference call until three years ago. It’s like how the NBA Draft was back in the early 80’s, only with lesser known players being picked up. If there’s no visability, there’s little attraction to the event itself. It’s the anti-NFL Draft.

Also, half of the players that are picked can’t even attend the Draft, because they are still playing in the College World Series. No other sport has a draft while the draftees are still unavailable for their moment. However, they can’t push it back due to seasonal logistics and signing dates. Problems abound.

Delayed Gratification: Once players are selected, there’s no immediate view of them at the pro level, which is problematic. There’s no sport that takes longer for young players to build momentum for popularity than baseball. And that’s because virtually all of them come from nowhere. That’s due to the minor league baseball being the ultimate buffer for post-draft momentum. Even hardcore baseball followers can have a hard time locating a player through the usual seven levels of minor league ball they could be placed in. Even the absolute best players will be put down two to three steps away from their major league parent club, in some Podunk town in West Virginia or Arkansas to develop. It becomes the ultimate case of lost, and maybe eventually found.

MLB Network Impact: If baseball is smart, it will pull its draft off the MLB Network again. The first year that it came on, it was on ESPN. Although it was on a Monday afternoon in the middle of the summer, it still gave the draft a prominent, well-known stage for folks to stumble across it if need be. The MLB Network is a dream comes true for people like me, but that’s the problem: we don’t need to be attracted. It’s finding the casual fan and getting their ears perked up that are needed. It’s hard enough that the Draft comes in the middle of the most popular part of the year for the NBA, and the vast majority of the people that baseball needs to attract are engaged in that still.

In an odd way, the MLB faces the same kind of notoriety struggle that the WNBA faces in getting its players out there. For overall popularity increases in the sport, the casual fan has to have more of an interest in the common player on the way up. The best way to do that is to use the MLB Draft the way movies use trailers: build the buzz, let folks know what’s coming and get the clock ticking towards those hopeful ETA’s. This helps pro baseball’s profile, minor league baseball’s spotlight and gets folks trying to get the jump on each other in both college and high school viewing. Sounds like a classic game of domino rally to push the sport ahead to me.

For more on me trying to figure out what’s going on my sport of truest allegiance, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.