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Product Review: Out Of The Park Baseball

Posted on May 10, 2013 at 7:27 AM
One of the great things about being in an organization such as the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is that you meet some great people that are working on some really neat things.  Brad Cook is one of those guys and the games of Out of the Park Baseball are some of those things.  I wrote up a review of OOTP 13/iOOTP 12 last year and everything that I wrote then still holds.  This is an extremely fun game.

Personally, I love the ability to set up baseball however I want it.  That's more a feature of the PC game, I believe, but it's still great.  Right now I have a 40-team overall league, split into two leagues of four divisions of five teams each.  There's no DH in my baseball, none at all.  I've also got theme divisions, meaning the Chicago Nontraditionalists battle with the Texas Historians in the UCB Division while the Serenity Browncoats can take on the Gallifrey Whovians in the Sci-Fi Division.

Now, with a game this good and this established, there's not going to be a lot of changes from year to year most of the time.  That said, the team at OOTP have done some interesting tweaks to this year's PC version.  For instance, you can now obtain players not only from the draft, but from international scouting or international free agents or even from the independent leagues.  They've also tinkered under the hood, improving the fielding ratings, reworking the player creation and scouting algorithms, and improving the trading aspect of things.

Obviously, some of the features aren't in the mobile version of the game, but iOOTP is worth your time anyway.  Even if it was just the fact that it's a portable baseball simulation game you can play anywhere, that'd be enough to justify getting it.  You've got the real rosters, they've redesigned the interface and improved the play-by-play, and you can even buy past seasons to import in.

You can even play with the financial structure of your team in both versions.  Want to win a title with the smallest possible payroll?  Or fancy yourself a Steinbrenner?  You can do it with Out of the Park.

iOOTP is available in the App Store now, though there's no Android version available yet.  You can purchase the PC version right at their website.  Do it today, but only if you have no plans for this weekend.  Once you get started, it's quite hard to stop!

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C70's Egraphs Contest: May Edition

Posted on April 25, 2013 at 3:50 PM
In case you missed out on the first time, you'll find all the relevant information here.  Short version, make your predictions on how the Cardinals will do in the coming month and, if you get enough points, you'll get a free Egraph.  If you come up short, don't worry--the highest cumulative scores from throughout the year will also get an Egraph, so play every month!

Here's where we stand on the April one at the moment:


Mike G looks good now, but I'm going to guess the Cardinals will hit another home run or two this month and his point total will drop.  Something to watch the next five games!

Anyway, here's May's form.  Entries are allowed until first pitch of the Cardinals/Reds game on May 1.  That's an afternoon affair so you might not want to wait until the last minute.  Fill it out today!


Book Review: Bluegrass Baseball

Posted on April 13, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Having a bit of time this evening, I decided to take a little bit of a whack at the pile of books that I have sitting on my desk, read but not reviewed.  The one on top was Katya Cengel's book on minor league life in Kentucky, Bluegrass Baseball.  Which means that this is going to be an enjoyable chore, since this was a book I enjoyed reading very much.

Cengel spent the 2010 season following the four teams that call the Bluegrass State home--the Lexington Legends, at that time the Single-A farm club of the Houston Astros, the Louisville Bats, the AAA team of the Cincinnati Reds, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Rays' A ball affiliate, and the independent league Florence Freedom.  While all of these are minor league teams, none of their situations are remotely the same.

While you get to see a few names that you recognize--Cengel spends a good bit of time talking about Jose Altuve when she was with the Legends, not knowing that he'd become the star of the major league team in less than two years, plus you get to see the beginnings of Aroldis Chapman's career--the major focus of each team are the people behind the scenes.  The driving force that put the team together or got a team to that city.  The trainers, the managers, the marketing staff.  All of this gives you a unique perspective on what it takes to run a baseball team, especially one without the resources of the big league club.

One of the most interesting things was looking at the host families, those local folks that adopt a ballplayer in the lowest levels and let the player live with them throughout the season.  These folks don't do it because they hope they are hosting the next star and think they might be able to ride some coattails.  They do it because they love the game and they want to help out where they can.  Most of the families host a different player each year and treat them as a part of their family as much as they can.

Cengel also focuses on the girlfriends and wives of the players, what they go through during the season.  If they are in the area, most nights they are out at the ballpark, but sometimes they are left behind, having to be content with short visits.  They get to deal with the details when trades happen, how they can get stuff from point A to point B.  They often get a lot of the burden and, especially with the lower minor league players, most often have to have a "real job" to support themselves and their ballplayer.

All in all, this was a fascinating way to look at minor league life from all levels and all angles.  There are some wonderful characters in this book, especially those that have worked so hard to get the team established in the town.  As I drive through Kentucky most every year when I head to Ohio, it was neat to see some of these places that I had seen on the side of the road and know a little more about the story behind that ballpark on the hill or that billboard on the highway.

If you are a fan of baseball and especially like to see the human side of these players that get out there every night for our entertainment, I would surely recommend picking up Bluegrass Baseball.  You might not know their names, but you will love their stories.

Book Review: Connie Mack, The Turbulent & Triumphant Years

Posted on March 10, 2013 at 7:34 PM
As I've mentioned before, the folks at University of Nebraska Press like me.  Which is great, because I don't think any other university's press puts out so many baseball books on such a regular schedule.  I could fill a couple of shelves with the ones I've received from those folks, many of which I still need to review.

To start rectifying this oversight, I'm going to start with a book by Norman L. Macht entitled Connie Mack: The Turbulent & Triumphant Years 1915-1931.  Casual Cardinal fans may only know of Connie Mack in relation to Tony La Russa's recent move up the managerial win total list.  Even as TLR increased his career victories, there was that spoken or unspoken caveat.

"He can't ever catch Connie Mack.  After all, he owned the team."

Mack didn't entirely own the team, though he did hold a good portion of the stock in the Philadelphia Athletics.  That is probably one of the few things that saved him, because as great as his early teams were, a large portion of the time covered under this book sees a lot of very bad baseball.

It's interesting to get this look into early baseball dealings.  Mack was known as--well, I don't want to say a soft touch, but if you knew him and you had someone you thought could play ball, Mack would take a look.  He wouldn't necessarily sign the player (though he well might cover the cost of sending him back home) but he was always on the lookout for talent, either in the "minor leagues" (which were unaffiliated with teams at the time) or on the sandlots.

What also stands out in this book is Mack's relentless optimism.  Even when the team was bad and didn't seem to be getting better, he'd find the silver linings or talk the players up to the press.  He rarely complained about someone that was still on his team, though he might respond if a former player would take a shot in the papers.  He dealt with holdouts and unhappy players without delving deep into negativity.

Of course, from the portrait that Macht sketches of Mack, that was just part and parcel of how he was viewed throughout America.  People that didn't care for baseball rooted for the Athletics because Connie Mack was such a well-regarded person.  At the end of the book, Macht talks to a number of "Connie Macks", people that were named after Mack because their parents were fans or just knew of his reputation.

Mack was viewed in a similar way as Stan Musial was, though he came along well before The Man did.  People did not have a bad thing to say about him and the stories of his generosity were boundless.  There are probably more of them as well, but Mack wasn't one to toot his own horn.  He might provide tickets to someone or slip them a little cash without fanfare.  If you could have a saint in the rough-and-tumble early days of the sport, Mack was it.

This book does a great job of really going through each year, how Mack set up the roster, how the year went along, things like that. It doesn't detail every game, of course, but you get the general feel of how the season went without being bogged down.  There's also some pretty interesting behind-the-scenes stuff as well.  For the longest time, Mack was an ardent supporter of Ban Johnson and his rule over the American League, even when Johnson started to lose support and even when Johnson ruled against the Athletics in what seemed to be an unjust ruling.  However, eventually even Mack was swayed that something had to happen and supported the selection of Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

If you are a fan of the early days of baseball or just want to learn more about them, I'd highly recommend picking up this book.  It was extremely enjoyable to sit and read and will increase your knowledge of that time period immensely.  This is actually the second book that Macht has written about Mack, focusing on his early career in the first volume.  I haven't had a chance to read that one, but I bet hunting it down would be worth your while as well!

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Book Review: Trading Bases

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 10:35 PM
I'm not a gambler.  The most I do in that regard is the small ($15) Texas Hold'Em game that I play in every couple of weeks.  I don't know much about lines and juice and other betting jargon, nor do I know the strategy behind placing them.

I'm not a sabermetrician.  I've often wished I was and I think, had I come along about 3-4 years later than I did, I might have been able to handle it.  I can get the general gist of things, but trying to calculate some of these newer stats (as useful as they might be) can get my head to spinning.

I'm not a financial guy.  I don't follow the stock market, I don't get selling long versus selling short, couldn't tell you the difference between a put and a call, nothing of that nature.  I may be an accountant, but the financial game is a whole different beast to me that has me sitting in the corner going "duh" a lot.

So, put that all together, there is no way I should have enjoyed Trading Bases as much as I did. It's the story of a stock market trader (Joe Peta) who was run down by an ambulance in New York City (and his footnote on that story is priceless as well) and spent his rehab time creating a model to bet on baseball games, treating them like the market that he was so familiar with.  How exciting could that be, really?

In the wrong hands, there's no doubt that it would come off as a dry textbook or a confusing mess of a story.  Peta, though, knows how to tell a tale.  There are a number of charts in here, which can help illustrate what he's talking about and how the baseball fund is doing, and there are side stories that are fun to read as well.  Peta gets off on tangents, such as explaining the financial collapse of recent memory but also of the connection he made with his daughter the first time he took her to an actual baseball game.

Make no mistake, there's a lot of jargon in here and I'll freely admit that, even after it was explained, I didn't quite grasp it all.  The important thing is you don't have to know all the ins and outs of Wall Street to find this book very entertaining.  You'll soon get the gist of what Peta is trying to say and see that what underlies his whole approach is his love of the game.

Since it follows the 2011 season, there are glimpses of the Cardinals' magical run in there, though he spends more time with the setup and the first couple of months than he did in August and September, and the playoffs (due to their nature of not fitting well with his model) got short shrift as well.  Still, he does talk about Game 6 somewhat and, in the last chapter, he writes about watching the Nationals fans after the stunning Game 5 loss in 2012, including referring to the new Cardinal shortstop as "Pete Bleepin' Kozma".

If you are adept with the terms of Wall Street or Las Vegas and are a baseball fan, you'll love this book.  If you aren't, you'll still get a lot of enjoyment reading about Peta's adventures--and you just might want to see if he could invest a little money of yours in it as well.

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Keeping You Informed: Walk Off A Hero

Posted on October 11, 2012 at 12:27 PM
If you've listened to the Cardinals (or likely any major league team) on the radio this season, you've heard Budweiser advertising their "Walk Off A Hero" campaign, pointing out that they'd donate to Folds of Honor for each walk-off win.  Now, I'm not a drinker, but when this press release came to my mailbox a little bit ago, I thought it was worth sharing.  It's a great partnership that benefits some worthy recipients.  Plus it's a cool infograph as well.

MILITARY FAMILIES WIN WITH 205 GAME-WINNING 'WALK-OFFS' 
Budweiser Donates $2.5 Million to Folds of Honor through "Walk-off a Hero" Program 

ST. LOUIS (Oct. 5, 2012) - A pinch-hitter blasts a solo home run with the score tied in the bottom of the tenth inning. A sacrifice fly in the bottom of the twelfth breaks a tie and wins it for the home team. A batter gets hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the thirteenth, scoring the winning run from third. All are walk-offs. Moments like these happened all year during the just-concluded baseball regular season. And all have created heroes for the home team.

Each walk-off also has made a difference for a family of a wounded or fallen solider, thanks to Budweiser's "Walk-off a Hero" program - a season-long campaign that raised $2.5 million for the Folds of Honor Foundation (FHF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational scholarships to families of fallen or injured soldiers. The 205 total walk-off wins during the 2012 regular season will help provide 205 scholarships to recipient families.

"Walk-offs are one of the most exciting ways to win in baseball," said Rob McCarthy, vice president of Budweiser at Anheuser-Busch. "Knowing that each walk-off this season will help support and honor our wounded or fallen heroes and their families made each walk-off even more exciting and meaningful."

For each of the 205 walk-off wins during the 2012 regular season, Budweiser donated $5,000 to FHF. In addition to the "Walk-off a Hero" program, Budweiser contributed a portion of all sales from May 20 through July 7, raising a total of $2.5 million for FHF. "Thanks to Budweiser and the 'Walk-off a Hero' program, we can now provide 205 more deserving military families with educational scholarships and incredible opportunities," said Major Dan Rooney, president and founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation. "The $4.5 million that Budweiser has contributed to our Foundation over the past two years has helped us bring these families healing, hope and the opportunity to realize their dreams."

Budweiser presented the donation to Major Dan Rooney and FHF on Oct. 3 in front of 42,509 people at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Major Dan Rooney founded FHF in 2007 to give back to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to our country by providing them with educational scholarships. FHF, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, has provided more than 3,500 educational scholarships to military families across the country since its creation. Since 1987, Anheuser-Busch and its Foundation have donated nearly $11 million to military charities, including the USO, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Pentagon Memorial Fund, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Hispanic War Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials. 

About Folds of Honor 
FHF was founded in May 2007 by Major Dan Rooney, a former F-16 Fighter Pilot with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, PGA Professional, and USGA member. A decorated military pilot, Maj. Rooney has served three combat tours in Iraq. It was after his second tour, while a passenger on a commercial flight, that Maj. Rooney witnessed an event that would profoundly change his life. As the plane landed, the pilot announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have an American hero on board - Corporal Brock Bucklin. And his twin brother, Corporal Brad Bucklin, is accompanying him home from Iraq. As a sign of respect, please remain seated while Cpl. Bucklin's family receives him in his final homecoming." Maj. Rooney watched through the window of the plane as the flag-draped casket was lowered. He saw a family waiting for Brock, and a little four-year old boy waiting for his father. This tragic homecoming inspired Maj. Rooney to create the Folds of Honor Foundation. To learn more about FHF, visit www.foldsofhonor.org

About Anheuser-Busch 
Based in St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch is the leading American brewer, holding a 47.7 percent share of U.S. beer sales to retailers. The company brews Budweiser and Bud Light, two of the world's largest-selling beers. Anheuser-Busch is a major manufacturer of aluminum cans and has been a leading aluminum recycler for more than 30 years. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the leading global brewer, and continues to operate under the Anheuser-Busch name and logo. For more information, visit www.anheuser-busch.com.

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The Autograph of the Future

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 11:47 AM
You hang over the rail, waiting for your favorite player to come out of the dugout and start working his way through the line.  Maybe he gets to you, maybe he doesn't.  Most likely, at best you get a head nod and a scribbled name.  While nothing is ever going to take the place of being in the same limited area with "your guy", there might be something that will be right up there with it.

There's a new company out there called Egraphs, and as you might guess from the name, it's all about autographs with an electronic flair.  You don't have a piece of paper with the major league name on it, but what you do get might be even better.

"How could an electronic signature ever compare to the real thing?" you might ask.  Ah, but the difference is that the electronic version actually gets personalized to you.  Not just your name, but also a message from the ballplayer.  If that's not enough, each Egraph also comes with a recorded message from the player, also personalized.

How does that work?  Well, you can read all the technical details on their website, but basically players sign the pictures using an iPad app and record through the same manner.  Egraphs verifies the signature and voice and then sends it on to you.  You can share them via Facebook and Twitter, keep them stored on your computer, or there's even a printing option (for an extra cost, I expect, though I've not been able to find what it was.  Update: per the folks at Egraphs, that'd cost you another $45, but that would definitely not be out of the realm of the possible for most.)

You can read a few articles about Egraphs here, here, and here, but I got a chance to talk to Gabe Kapler, former MLB player and now the director of player development for Egraphs.  Kapler's the one that talks the players into joining up with Egraphs.  He's also recently wrangled some Cardinals into his new company, including Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso and Jason Motte.

I asked Mr. Kapler how he got involved with this company and he said it went back to his days with the Rays.  The brother of David Auld (the CEO of Egraphs) worked for the Rays at the time and brought this to his attention, thinking he would be a good fit for it.  "I thought the idea was brilliant," said Kapler.  "There was a need for a warmer, more personal way for fans, players, celebrities to interact."

As mentioned, Kapler is the one responsible for putting the idea in front of the players, showing them how it works, and getting them to buy in.  I asked him what kind of success rate he was having in this regard.  "A pretty remarkable success rate," was his response.  His contention is the players want to have this kind of interaction with the fans but it's difficult to do in a traditional setting.  With Egraphs, they can have a connection with a fan even as they are miles apart.  "There's only upside and very little downside" to the process for the players and the company goes the extra mile to make sure this isn't a huge burden on them.

The connection is really the selling point.  "We found when the player wasn't rushed to go to batting practice or wasn't rushed to go watch video, they put their hearts and their souls into the Egraph and therefore the fan felt that genuine, warm nature," said Kapler, who also provides Egraphs on the site and so sees the company from both sides of the pipeline.

Of course, you know in this day and age, there's always a smart aleck out there wanting to taunt a player or try to goad them into something embarrassing.  Maybe it's a Yankee fan wanting Pedro Martinez to say, "Yankees rule" or something of that nature.  Kapler says that not only are requests screened on the way in, but the product is screened on the way out before it gets to the fan as well.

"We're a wholesome company that believes in creating life-changing moments for a fan," said Kapler.  "We don't want a player to say something he didn't mean and we want to give him a chance to make it right."  In this day of social media, an Egraph written on the wrong day could be halfway around the Internet before the sun came up if they didn't have these sort of controls in place.

There are a lot of current players on the site, but there are some retired players as well plus, as represented by Mike Olt, some hot new names on the scene.  Kapler says they hope to expand on both sides of the player continuum.  "Egraphs was built and created for any celebrity that has a fan.  Our job is to match that celebrity up with that fan."  No word on whether they are going to then expand out into the blogging community for their next version, but I'm pretty sure Dennis would be a huge seller.   

As Egraphs are currently configured, you get the signed picture plus an audio component.  I asked if there were any plans to add video at some point and time and Kapler said that was on the drawing board.  I don't know that it'll be anytime in the immediate future, but it does sound like that will be coming which will make for an even cooler experience.

Before I let him go, I had to ask what celebrity he really wanted to add to the site.  Interestingly, he wanted to go away from baseball (though he said Cal Ripken Jr. in that sport) to tap Charles Barkley, who was his favorite athlete growing up.  So if you see Barkley as the face of Egraphs in the near future, you'll know why.

It was great to talk to Mr. Kapler and you can tell he's got a lot of passion for the Egraphs product.  It looks like a wonderful thing all the way around and now you can get a chance to see just how great it is.  Egraphs is letting me give away one free egraph to a lucky reader.  All you have to do is comment on this post before the beginning of Wednesday night's UCB Radio Hour.  I'll randomly select one person to receive the egraph, so be sure to leave some sort of contact info, whether it's a Twitter handle or an email or something of that nature.

Don't miss out on this!  Comment now!

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Around The Blogs: Catch Up Edition

Posted on August 22, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Way back in the history of this blog, I used to do a little "around the blogs" kind of link post to see what else was writing about.  I've gotten a number of links in my mailbox and wanted to highlight some other posts, so I'm dusting off the concept and seeing if it still runs.

First off, you need to head over to I70 Baseball and read Bill's tribute to his father, who passed at the beginning of the month.  Baseball has that timeless way of connecting generations, either through playing the game together or just following the professionals that play it.  I know that had to be a tough thing for Bill to write, but I'm glad that he did it.

Over at a different site in the Ivie League Productions universe, you'll find fantasy expert Daniel Aubain writing about some players that might be on your league's waiver wire that could give you a boost down the stretch.  That includes Cardinals Jon Jay and Jaime Garcia, both of whom look like they could have strong Septembers.

Chris Jaffe always has some great stuff over at The Hardball Times and this month has been no exception.  Earlier in August, he had the details on the 40th anniversary of a walk-off inside-the-park home run that the Cards used to beat the Mets in the 13th inning.  Today, well, today is the 30th anniversary of "Brummer stole home!", Glenn Brummer's most memorable moment in the big leagues.  Also today: it's been 5000 days since Edgar Renteria was traded to St. Louis, this day in 1957 Stan Musial's consecutive game streak came to a halt, the Cards signed Tommy Herr in 1974, Mark McGwire debuted in 1986 and hit a 504-foot home run against the Mets in 1999, and in 2009 St. Louis won its 10,000th game.  It's a big day, isn't it?

Chris Trew is a comedian who is making the rounds of all the ballparks.  Recently he headed to St. Louis and you can read about his trip (complete with pictures) over here.

The gang at Big Leagues Monthly have gotten the second edition of their fabulous e-mag up on their site.  Even though it has a Cub on the front of it, there's still excellent writing inside.  You'll remember that William Tasker talked about this magazine in our Conversation (and if you've not heard it, cue it up and listen!) and you'll find him writing about Derek Jeter in this one.  (I've been asked to get something together for next month for them and I'm hoping I can do that and get to at least their bare minimum threshold of quality.)

Taking a look at more of the United Cardinal Bloggers, Tara gets the fun task of breaking down last night's game over at Aaron Miles' Fastball.  As she notes with the title, Adam Wainwright's game last night not only was spectacular, but it gave yet another day of rest to a bullpen that got taxed so heavily on Sunday.  Adam Wainwright, the definition of "team player."

Jon took a look at the Jake Westbrook extension over at Redbird Dugout.  I really thought it was interesting what Jon found about Westbrook's ERA as it related to the different shortstops that have played behind him in St. Louis.  As long as you have someone to plug that hole, odds are Westbrook is going to be OK.

You can always find something interesting over at Redbird Rants and today you can find a recap of last night's game and Daniel Solzman talking about what the rest of the season holds for St. Louis.  It is hard to believe that we are less than 10 days away from September, isn't it?

Dennis has been busy recently over at Pitchers Hit Eighth.  (Actually, he's busy over there a lot, not just recently.)  You can find from the past two days an analysis of the Westbrook deal plus a discussion about Jay in center.  Good stuff all the way around.

Pip is also talking about the Westbrook extension over at Fungoes and, while he's not as fond of it as some others, he doesn't dismiss it as a false step either.  Pip notes that Westbrook's FIP is out of line with previous years, meaning he's likely having a career year and will regress.  Something that Pip didn't address is the fact that Westbrook lost a lot of weight and came to camp in such good shape.  Does that create a "new normal"?  I don't know and there's not enough data to draw a conclusion, but I'd say there's a little bit better chance that he's closer to 2012 than his prior numbers next season.

There is a discussion post up at Future Redbirds today debating who should be the top prospect in the Cardinal organization.  As the UCB will be doing their Top 7 Prospects project next month, that could be a thread to keep an eye on.

While we are talking links, I want to again plug the UCB's Bird's Eye View.  It comes right to your email box and it's a great way to preview a series from the voices of the Cardinal bloggers you know and love.  The Houston version has been delayed, but Bob Netherton of On The Outside Corner should have that out this afternoon, so you still have time to get signed up before it comes out!

Finally, if you've been following me or others on Twitter, you know that the second annual UCB Weekend is coming up September 8 and 9.  The Cardinals have graciously invited many of the bloggers to a Q&A session and then to stick around and watch Sunday's game.  Saturday night, we'll be convening at Patrick's Restaurant and Sports Bar (also known as St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame Bar & Grill) at 6 pm.

It's likely to be the biggest congregation of Cardinal bloggers ever.  I know that many of the members mentioned above are going.  We're going to have all three of the Pitchers Hit Eighth guys, at least two of the Aaron Miles' Fastball girls, both Cardinal historians and even more luminaries and talented writers.

We've booked one of the larger rooms and are encouraging our Twitter followers and blog readers to join us for the evening.  If you are interested in coming, let me know in the comments or via email so we can keep an eye on the projected numbers.  Last year, we ran out of room and we'd like not to do that this year!  Come out--I'd like to shake your hand and thank you for reading the site!

Book Review: Ozzie's School Of Management

Posted on July 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Our last book of the evening is Ozzie's School of Management by Rick Morrissey.  This one was the toughest book I've read in a long while to get through, but that's more likely my sensitivities rather than any slight on the material.

As most of you that read this blog or listen to any of my radio work know, I'm not a profanity user.  Not that I typically fault anyone that does use it, but I think for the most part it's unnecessary and not something that adds much to the conversation.  For any of you that know anything of Ozzie Guillen, I've just explained the issue I had with this book.

If you filter out the profanity from both Guillen and, occasionally, Morrissey, besides being left with a book that is significantly shorter than its 259 pages, you have an interesting look at the mind of a manager that is both lauded and derided, depending on who you talk with and what day it is.  Wade through the language and there are things to be learned here.

The book is laid out with each chapter being a personal rule of Ozzie's, either explicitly (no pun intended) or inferred from his actions.  You have things like "Protect Your Employees from the Barbarians" and "Don't Confuse Team and Family."  Ozzie's love of bullfighting gets tied into his managerial style as well as the way he had to battle in the minors to make it to the bigs.

Interestingly, there's a number of references to an old friend of ours, Tony La Russa.  La Russa rates about 10 different spots in the book, at least in passing.  La Russa doesn't come off well either, whether it's from Guillen's comments or Morrissey's asides.  For instance:

The dugout is where Guillen holds court with the media before most games.  He is not in the least like La Russa, who took himself Very Seriously.  When media members gathered around La Russa, it was clear they felt a duty to ask the perfect question so as not to offend his baseball sensibilities.  With Guillen, reporters can ask anything, and he will say anything.

(I originally thought Morrissey may have been a Chicago sportswriter long enough to remember the La Russa White Sox era and, as such, hold some sort of grudge. However, it looks like he only got to Chicago in 2000, so this is most likely just your generic stereotypical thoughts about our former manager.  Morrissey also terms TLR as "puffed-up", which should tell you plenty about his mindset right there.) 

While Guillen would like to say he's nothing like TLR, there are some obvious similarities.  For instance, Guillen, like La Russa, tends to use the media spotlight to keep the pressure off the players.  While La Russa will criticize things such as the lights in Milwaukee or blow up on a questioner, Guillen says outrageous things and tries to keep people talking about him rather than the fact that Adam Dunn is having a terrible year.

The book also points out that he learned from TLR.  It seems hard to believe, but Tony was still with the White Sox in 1985, when a young shortstop from Venezuela made his major league debut.  Guillen had shown a thirst for baseball knowledge all throughout the minor leagues and he had a lot of top baseball minds in Chicago when he got there to continue his education.

I think we something feel like Guillen is an ego-driven, gotta-be-in-the-papers type of guy.  You don't get that as much from reading this book, though it's obviously written to put Guillen in the best light possible.  (And, of course, it was completed before the Castro controversy of the spring, though there was a line that I can't find now that seemed to foreshadow it, something about Ozzie going to say something to get people stirred up.)  It seems like Guillen is a guy that likes to talk and has a strong loyalty to his players, which is an admirable trait in a major league manager.

It's interesting to read through the book now after he's been in Miami for half a season, a season that hasn't panned out at all like people expected and has them shipping off players in what at least reminds people of the Marlin fire sales of the past, even if it might not be quite that.  There was a lot of optimism for the year, optimism that hasn't panned out but, as yet, hasn't spurred another Guillen outburst (if you don't count the Bryce Harper flap).

If you can handle the language, this really is an interesting look inside the mind of one of the game's personalities.  I don't promise it'll change your opinion of him, but it'll give you more of an idea of just what Ozzie being Ozzie really means.

Book Review: Major League Dads

Posted on July 27, 2012 at 11:04 PM
I told you, I get books in bunches.  Which means I tend to finish books in bunches, as I usually have more than one going at a time.  Couple that with trying to find the time to actually write some reviews and, well, here's your Friday night blog dump, as it were.  Consider this some good weekend reading and your scouting report if you are heading to the bookstores in the next few days.

I received a copy of Major League Dads, subtitled Baseball's Best Players Reflect On The Fathers Who Inspired Them To Love The Game.  While that's an extremely long subtitle, it does give you a good idea of what this book is about.  Authors Kevin Neary and Leigh Tobin interviewed a number of professional baseball players with the caveat that all they spoke to had to have been coached, at one time or another, by their father.

It's an upbeat book written for the casual fan as over 130 players remembered their days of Little League or T-Ball and what they'd learned from their dads in that time period.  Some had dads that were more focused, some had dads that really didn't know the game, but all of them learned valuable things from them while they had them as a coach.

Those things didn't always have to do with baseball.  A large number of these players said that, while they have learned more baseball than their dad knows and have coaches to deal with that side of things, they still talk to their dads about things and get valuable advice from them.  (Of course, there are some dads that also want to chime in with baseball help as well, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.)

The authors must have taken a long time to collect all of these interviews.  For instance, former Cardinal pitcher Matt Morris is in the book, but Matty Mo hasn't pitched since 2008.  The same with Moises Alou, but neither of the interviews indicate that the players are retired.

The writeups are, at times, simplistic as well.  Dads are always put in the best of lights, which is understandable, but it stands out most with another former Cardinal, Colby Rasmus.  As Cardinal fans, we know just how much controversy that Tony Rasmus has stirred up from time to time, but there's no mention of it at all in the book.  (It's also an indication of how dated some of this seems, because there's no mention of his trade to Toronto and, indeed, the last dated material is his 2009 debut.)

Most players get a couple of pages, some just one, a few more.  It makes for a book that's easy to pick up and read a little about, then return to at some other time.  Players in the book that will be of interest to Cardinal fans, besides Morris and Rasmus, include Lance Berkman, Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday, Steve Kline, Yadier Molina, Mark Mulder, Cliff Politte, Scott Rolen, and Andy Van Slyke (talk about a guy that's been out of baseball for a while!).  It's neat to see siblings talk, as all three of the Molina brothers get to explain what their father meant to them and their baseball career.

It's a fun book, not necessarily focused at the diehard fan but more the dads and moms who like reading about the family dynamic.  It's also a good book for dads that have kids playing Little League and organized baseball, like myself, because it helps you realize that you don't have to be the demanding dad that pushes his kid like crazy.  We see that all the time, but there are guys that make it to the bigs without that.  They just needed a dad to be there to help them on their way in whatever way he could.






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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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