By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, devouring every written morsel about the upcoming baseball season. . .my 51st year trying to write about it.
—FIRST OR FOURTH?: Depending upon the day, or the hour, or the minute, prognosticators are predicting a first place finish for the 2024 Cincinnati Reds or a fourrth place finish.
Who ya gonna believe? Actually, nobody. It is all decided on the green, green grass near home plate and not by computers or analytics geeks. It is decided by flesh, blood and a lot of tears.
Just to enable Reds fans to be happy and angry at the same time, here are two examples posted on social media on the same day.
ONE: “This is the year the Reds return to the top of the National League Central. The Reds are the most improved team in the division from last year when they finished with 82 wins. They added five bonafide major league ballplayers. None of the other teams in the division can claim that they improved to a level higher than Cincinnati.”
TWO: “Despite their surprising 2023 season, PECOTA (whoever they are or it is) is joining the chorus of projection systems proclaiming regression for the Reds. They have Cincinnati finishing fourth in the National League Central with a 78-84 record.”
So when I find a web-site that predicts them to finish second, third or fifth, I’ll chime in again.
They make these predictions before the first pitch of spring training, before the roster is set, before the first pulled hamstring and the first Tommy John surgery. They are meaningless.
And I’ll leave you with a quote from Yogi Berra:
“Never make predictions, especially about the future.”
—NO ‘SMALL’ MARKETS: Let’s quit calling any major league baseball team ‘small market.’ It doesn’t exist and the so-called ‘small market’ Kansas City Royals proved it this week.
The Royals signed 23-year-old shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to an 11-year extension to a guaranteed $288.7 million deal. And if, at 34, the Royals believe Witt can still play, they have a three-year option that takes the deal to $377.7 million.
Expect barbecue sandwiches in Kauffman Stadium to cost an arm, two legs and a third-born child.
—WALK ON BY: With less than a week before pitchers and catchers report to baseball, golf and fishing, Joey Votto remains standing in baseball’s unemployment line, or maybe sitting in his La-Z-Boy when he isn’t working out.
An interesting tidbit. Votto has reached base 300 or more times in a season three times in his career. Since 1950, only five players have done it more often.
Votto was a walking machine, taking more walks than my three dogs combined.
—A LOBO HOBO: There is a basketball player/mercenary at the University of New Mexico who is on a national tour to see how many basketball teams he can play for before the NCAA says, “Enough.”
Due to injuries and the Covid pandemic, Jamal Baker Jr. is in his sixth year of college basketball with his fourth team.
He played two years at Kentucky, two years at Arizona State, a year at Fresno State and now he is a Lobo.
Wonder if he has ever seen the inside of a classroom or ever learned the name of a professor?
—RIDE THE SUBWAY: While Amtrak runs through Durham, N.H. on its way to Boston, the town is still rural with a capital ‘R,’ even though it houses the main campus of the University of New Hampshire.
Imagine how difficult it is to recruit Division I basketball playerds to attend UNH. It has to be easier to find moose and bears.
My great friend, Mark Epstein, relates this story, as relayed to him by former UNH coach Billy Herrion. He retired last season after 18 years.
After his last season, some mid-level schools approached Herrion’s two best players to transfer for NIL money, around $25,000.
So Herrion went to the school president and said, “We have to get involved in the NIL program, get some sponsor money.”
And the president’s answer was, “Well, don’t all our players get free Subway sandwiches?”
Let’s hope they were Italian BMT’s and not Veggie Delites. A Veggie Delite would be enough to send one fleeing to Drexel or Coppin State.
—WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?: As a guy who used to play tennis nearly every day, sometimes twice a day, I never thought about the silly scoring system. It took comedian Brian Regan to point them out to me.
Why is zero in tennis called love? I never loved it when I had zero.
And the first point is 15 and the second point is 30. Stands to reason that the third point is 45, right? Nope, it’s 40.
Then when the score is 40-40, it is not called 40-40, it is called deuce. Deuce? I thought deuce meant two.
Goofy? As comedian George Carlin always said, “That’s my job, pointing out goofy things.”
—A REAL GOOD BALL: This was one golf ball that knew how to find the cup.
Preston Miller, 13, made a hole-in-one on a Minneapolis golf course. For some strange reason, he continued to use the same ball. And he lost it a few holes later.
While Miller celebrated his ace in the clubhouse, Ricardo Fernandez walked in babbling that he, too, scored a hole-in-one on a different hole.
The two discussed their shots when it was discovered that Fernandez found Miller’s ball and used it to score his hole-in-one. The same ball. It had the logo of Miller’s school golf team and Fernandez found it on the hole Miller lost it.
It is rumored that every other golfer in the clubhouse engaged in a hostile bidding war to buy the ball. But who really owned it. That’s easy. Finders keepers, right?
—QUOTE-UNQUOTE: More daffiness out of the mouths of baseball people:
From former utility infielder Billy Grabarkewitz: “I have so many splinters from sitting on the bench that if somebody struck a match I’d catch on fire.”
From Lou Camilli on Cleveland’s roster: “They are about to change our name to the Cleveland Electric Light Company because we don’t have anybody but utility men.”
From catcher Carlton Fisk when he was 43: “I don’t think I should be asked to catch when the temperature is below my age.”
From manager Lou Piniella after the Reds lost 20-8 on a 36-degree day: “We got to freeze our butts and get them kicked at the same time.”
From former catcher Gus Triandos before an old-timers game: “I don’t need a chest protector, I need a bra.”
From pitcher David Cone talking about teammate David Wells: “We have a pitcher from Japan, a pitcher from Cuba, a pitcher from Panama and Boomer Wells is from Mars.”
From Babe Ruth on Wrigley Field: “I’d play for half my salary if I could hit in this dump all the time.”
—PLAYLIST NO. 16: More tunes to be found on my iPod (Yep, I still have one) and the first one is in honor of the passing of Toby Keith:
Red Solo Cup (Toby Keith), I’m Still Having Fun (U2), Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who), Don’t Bring Me Down (The Who), Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil), Nothing Compares To U (Sinead O’Connor), Wicked Game (Chris Isaak), When I Need You (Leo Sayer), Sometimes When We Touch (Dan Hill), Annie’s Song (John Denver).
A Love So Beautiful (Roy Orbison), Words Don’t Come Easy (F.R. David), If I Can Dream (Elvis Presley), Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan), I Love Rock And Roll (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts), When A Man Loves A Woman (Percy Sledge), Good Lovin’ (The Rascals), Don’t Let The Old Man In (Toby Keith), Take A Chance On Me (Abba).