Hamels Trade from a Fan’s Perspective

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Christopher and Michael with catcher Jorge Alfaro last season in Frisco. Alfaro is one of the prospects being traded for Hamels.

Over the past month, the major league baseball world has seemingly gone bonkers.  General Managers all across the country are figuring out what they need to win and who they can afford to trade to get there.  This week, during baseball games, every time a player was pulled from a game, twitter was going nuts speculating about whether they were part of a big trade.  Some were high-fiving in the dugout while others were crying on the playing field.  Crazy, crazy business if you ask me.

The Texas Rangers, my hometown team, have just finalized a deal with the Phillies to trade a fan favorite, Matt Harrison, and 5 of their top prospects (all in the top 30 of MLB) for a couple of major league lefties – Cole Hamels, and Jake Deikman.  The centerpiece of the deal, Hamels,  is a 31-year-old professional.  His numbers are solid, he is an all-star, a proven champion.  He has been in the ML game for 10 years and his worst ERA during that time is 4.32 which isn’t great, but also is not that bad for a guy who pitches an average of 200 innings a season.  Seemingly a proven commodity.

But, when your factor in that the average MLB career lasts just under 6 years, isn’t this player already past his prime?  We traded 5 top 30 prospects – AA catcher, AA outfielder and big hitter, AA starting pitcher, and 2 AAA starting pitchers – most who have yet to get their “cup-of coffee” for an old guy, a slightly younger guy and some cash?  AND two lefties?  All I’m reading lately is that we are lacking power righties not lefties?  Goodness gracious baseball Gods, what is JD thinking?

Now, I know a guy who seems to know a ton about baseball.  He is often on local radio answering questions about baseball prospects and even does color commentary for the Frisco RoughRiders, the Ranger’s AA team.  This guy thinks this is a good deal for both the Rangers and more importantly for the prospects.  Maybe they will move up faster?  Maybe they will be given opportunities that are not available here.  It seems the Phillies are re-building right now and opportunities abound. This is all fine, but shouldn’t the Rangers be doing that too?  They have been plagued with injuries and TJ surgeries.  Do we really need wins now from someone nearing the end of their career rather than world domination just a few years later?  I mean the club isn’t going to go out of business if we don’t win this year.

I’ll freely admit, I am fiscally conservative.  We’ve paid off our home and cars, invested in college funds for all three children, and most of our investments are now in mutual funds rather than stocks.  But this deal reeks of putting all of your money on a horse with 3 to 1 odds rather than the 20 to 1 that will pay off BIG time.  Why trade your thoroughbred stallions for a work horse?  In my opinion, the Rangers GMs have traded the future of the club for a short-term goal of making it to the playoffs rather than hunkering down for the long-haul.  There is a ton of talent in the Ranger’s farm system, but when you trade 5 of your top-level prospects, you’ve sold the whole restaurant for a good enchilada.

Well Rangers, do what you’re gonna do – I go to the Frisco games anyway!

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Don’t Drink the Koolaid!

IMG_20150719_134832_789I seem to be surrounded by parents who have all been drinking from the same batch of Koolaid.  Our kids are 11 turning 12 and going into 6th grade.  What do you remember from 6th grade?  I remember being the big kid on campus.  I remember falling off of my Candies shoes and passing out with my skirt over my head under a desk.  I remember liking certain boys who did not return my affection.  AND I remember getting excited about Jr. High in Richardson.

No so with our 11 and 12-year-olds.  They are entering their first year of Middle School.  They are completing summer reading assignments.  They are worried about whether they will be able to keep up with the Pre-AP course work.  If they will be able to learn to play their instrument even if they can not practice over the summer.  AND they are worried about whether or not they will make the High School team.

Wait….Did you say the High School team?  But they are just entering Middle School.

YES – the team that they will have the opportunity to try out for in THREE years.  Their parents have begun this frenzy of thinking because they have been sold the idea that if their child does not have an adequate “resume” of high-level teams they have played for (and their parents have PAID for) they will not be able to make the team.  Coaches will ask them what teams they played for, how many tournaments they played in, how many championships they have won, the list goes on.

It gets worse!  These same parents are asking baseball writers and scouts to come out to watch their 10, 11 and 12-year-old kids play ball and then write-up a prospect report.  There are sports writers actually writing and tweeting about their own kid’s youth team in their MLB blog.  They are also paying big bucks to have their kids compete in “World Series” and “Super Bowl” events popping up all over town.

Even if Koolaid is the only drink available, I refuse to drink.  These kids won’t even walk the same after they complete puberty.  Their bodies are going through so many changes that their entire game will change.  They won’t run, field, throw, shoot, or block the same way in three years.  I refuse to climb on board the paid-coach bandwagon.  Private lessons – sure.  I do realize that no matter how many YouTube videos I watch, I can not truly understand the fine points of some sports positions.  So, when my boys wanted to pitch, we DID hire someone (with recent college level pitching experience) to teach them how.   I’d do this for anything they wanted to learn – piano, art, snow skiing – why not sports? They have had a number of great lesson coaches, many with professional experience.  Any more than that is just for the matching bags, helmets and cleats.  And at 11 or 12, who really needs that?

So PLEASE parents.  Go grab some coffee, water, lemonade, soda – anything other than the Koolaid – and take a big breath.  Your kid’s chances of making the High School team are solely in his or her hands.  They have to have the drive and commitment to make it happen.  And no matching gear or AAA status is going to change that.  Surround them with positive, informative, teaching coaches who will strengthen their LOVE sports and then take a BIG step back.  Let them do their thing and let the path unfold before THEM.  You might be surprised at what you learn about your own athlete!

(FYI – the trophies pictured above are just some of the ones that one of my 11 year old twins has earned playing sports on teams coached by non-paid Dad coaches.  I think he’s doing just fine.)

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Two Sides of the Sport Parent Coin

We’ve all read about the overzealous sports parent who yells at his/her kid, coaches from the sidelines, maybe even has words with the ump, opposing coach or parents.  (Well, hopefully people still read more than 140 characters of a tweet.) Although I believe many sports parents profess to disagree with the behaviour, I still see it at almost every sports game my children play.  As if yelling at them during a game will do anything at all but interrupt their focus.  As parents, we just can’t seem to help ourselves.  I count myself in this category, although I will say I am a recovering negative sports parent.

However, there is another side to the sports parenting coin that is becoming equally disturbing – the Excessive Celebration Parent.  I’m not saying we should not cheer to support our children and their teammates – quite the contrary.  I believe we have the power to help our children overcome their doubts and help them build confidence by yelling things like, “You’ve got this!”, “Great job!”, “What a catch!”, “Great hit!”, “That’s a great pitch!” and the like!

Remember however, each of these small victories are also a small loss for the opposing team and children.  When your pitcher strikes out the other team’s clean-up hitter, you feel extra excited.  You cheer a little louder, maybe even  jump up and clap.  Great for you, but what does the hitter feel like?  At some point, he or she will understand that your extra celebration can be taken as a sign of respect, but when these kids are between the ages of 9 and 13, everything is a struggle.  Their emotional state is in flux as their bodies and identities change.  Your example, whether it is positive or negative, has some extra weight now because of this time in their lives.  The consequences of YOUR actions are bigger and that means it is even more important to set a good example.

My boys love the game of baseball.  Unfortunately, at age 11, the baseball community in North Texas is getting very small.  It is rare that we play against a team with no former coach or teammate on it.  If you play in a league rather than tournaments, the chances of playing against former teams and coaches is amplified even more.  One particular team, our home for more than 2 years, is especially difficult to play against.  The boys are all good ball-players.  The parent coaches are all passionate about the game and their team.  The parents are all invested in the success of their children and the team.  Typically the games are close and hard-fought.  I have continued friendships with several of the parents and coaches through Facebook and see the kids still treat each other as friends rather than rivals.  A laugh between the baserunner and the defensive player trying to get them out.  A slap in the helmet or a fist bump for a good hit.  I see these interactions between the children at every game and it warms my heart.

The parents and coaches however are a different story all together.  One family, who we never played with, but have been on the same teams at different times, won’t make eye-contact with us or talk to us any more.  I have no idea why.  At a game last season, I noticed that one of the father/coaches, a person I consider a friend and who in his professional life is a great roll-model, ran out on the field and belly bumped his child after every scoreless defensive inning or after any great hit.  It made me feel a bit strange – offended even.  When talking to his wife later, the actions were attributed to trying to encourage the child who had been in a hitting slump.  I still thought it was a bit much, but I let it go.

Then, this season, in our second game against this team the tie was 0-0 after five and a half innings.  Their team was the home team so they got one final at bat.  Time had expired and they had one runner on second with one out.  They hit the ball right to first base for an easy out, but the runner on second ran to third on the hit and rounded the base headed for home.  The runner stopped on the base path and looked at our first basemen who had the ball.  It was enough to get the first baseman to throw the ball – to third base.  The error gave the runner the opportunity to steal home and the game was over.

As the runner crossed home plate, this father/coach charged onto the field yelling, jumping and whooping with such vigor his shirt was flying up to his armpits.  Another father/coach was running around his team high-fiving them and yelling like they had just won a million dollars.  Their entire dugout emptied onto the field around first base jumping, yelling, hugging – players, parents, coaches alike.  Yes, the game was exciting.  Yes, it was hard-fought.  However, this was game five in a twelve game season.  The run was the result of an error not a fantastic hit.  And finally and perhaps worse of all, this massive celebration took place not three feet from the player committing the game-ending error and before the teams had shook hands and complimented each other on a well-played game.

The next morning when I asked my sons about it, one said, “I was too busy being mad about losing to notice what the coaches were doing.”  The other, one who had been in right field just behind the error said, “I felt really bad when Coach X started jumping up and down celebrating.  He did it right in front of X.  I mean it wasn’t like they made some crazy good hit or incredible play.  We messed up and they scored.  I felt really bad for my teammate and they were all around him.”

Of course, it’s all just written off a sour-grapes when you’re on the losing end of a game.  Whatever complaint you have, be it bad officiating, coaches influencing calls, bad coaching, poorly behaved parents, it’s all just because your kid’s team lost.  But that just illustrates my point even further.  This is your kid’s game, not yours.  Even if you are a coach and you have been working for months with your kid on one specific skill.  It is the kid who accomplishes the goal, not you!  Once the game begins, it is the kids who own it, not the parents, not even the coaches.  I may give a bit of credit to the third base coach who told the runner to go home, but come on!  Act like you’ve been here before.  Conduct yourself with dignity.  Behave like an adult and show respect to all of the players who went 6 scoreless innings and finally made one game changing error.  Remember that you are setting an example to your children – and heck even the parents and coaches around you.  How would your kid feel if this took place around him and it was his error that lost the game?

My children all play sports. (Like you don’t already know that – haha)  I want them to experience success and failure on this smaller scale because in a game, there is ample opportunity for growth through a struggle that lasts for just 90 minutes rather than a lifetime!  I guess in the end, they do need both good and bad examples to learn from so maybe I owe you a thank you for showing them how NOT to act when they have sporty kids of their own.  But, really, I’d just like to see grown ups behaving like grown ups.

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Life, Death & Baseball

Well, this time of year is considered the “off-season” in baseball, but honestly it is when the front offices go NUTS trying to compile the best possible team for the season. The way they do this is not by pulling the guys in for extended training (although they did have a few here in Dallas last week). Nope, it’s TRADE SEASON! Yes that right baseball fans! Just when you fall in love with your favorite player, buy his jersey (cuz it went on sale in October), and buy a pack of cards…he’s no longer on your hometown team.

How do you build a fan base that way? Oh yea! The only way to build a fan base – according to current baseball business philosophy is to WIN! To that argument, I give you the Boston Red Sox….BOOM!  In reality, I believe this is the culture that created the “casual fan” so many in the industry seem to hate.  The trickle down to 9U sports is also pretty funny, but don’t think for a moment it isn’t happening!  Oh well, if you build it they will come right?  Except what exactly are you building?  a “team” full of players traded like the cards their pictures are on and given just a time or two to prove their worth before they are sent to the glue factory.  UUUGGGHHH!

I say it again, the business of baseball is in stark contrast to the game. The business is ugly, seedy, unscrupulous (sp) and just plain bad. But the game! Oh the game is a thing of beauty.  As hard as it is effortless.  So fun to watch the consummate professional play alongside the passionate rookie all on a beautiful field of green with the star-studded sky or blazing sun above.  I should say, the game can be beautiful…as long as you don’t give the pitcher only a few seconds to throw a pitch and you don’t outlaw the shift because the fans who don’t actually appreciate the game, but like taking off work for a cold beer and hotdog think it makes it too long and boring!  But I guess that is an argument for another post!

Just 24 days until Pitchers and Catchers report to spring training! PLAY BALL!

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Live, Write, Repeat

IMAG0616I sat down on December 31st with my kids and we set out to see what we were doing on that date in 2013.  Much to my dismay, it was very much the same thing I was doing right that very moment.  We looked forward through the next few months and really, besides the teams playing in the bowl games and the foods I was planning to make, many of the posts were just a repeat of the year just passed and the one before that.

At first, this bothered me.  I thought how sad it was that these milestones, these Facebook posts I had thought worthy of sharing with my 400+ “friends,” were really just remakes of a previous version.  Then it occurred to me.  I’m pretty happy in general.  I don’t really want for anything.  I can afford to spoil my kids with sports and movies and video games and more.  I love my home.  I love my family.  And over the past few years, I have made a few new friends who have had a huge impact on my life.  These things are all wonderful examples of a life well lived.

Maybe looking back and seeing a repeat is just a sign that you’re living a good life.  Maybe a good remake of a classic is truly the best form of flattery!  So CHEERS to all of you who can look back and see a whole lot of the same over the last year – or two!  Pat yourselves on the back.  You’re doing a great job!  Let’s hope 2015 brings more of the same!!!

 

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Is There Really A Happy Medium?

Be the best.  Strive for excellence.  Never settle.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right.  We hear these all the time when it comes to most aspects of our lives.  But the reality is that almost all of us are somewhere in the middle.

So, why is it that in sports there seems to be only two options – Crazy and Lazy?  Crazy is the middle-aged father/coach who has his team practice on the field twice each week plus an hour in a batting cage and a tournament with a 4 game guarantee each weekend.  Lazy is the father/coach who has his team meet for an hour each week to play in a game without any thought of practice or any discussion of how the game can be played.  You would think that one team would have a distinct advantage over the other, but in reality, they both have the same opportunity to win or lose on any given day.

So, where does that leave a family like mine who is really looking for something in-between?  Well, it leaves us looking.  The middle is so subjective it can’t be found.  Mine is different from yours.  I might think that two practices a week are beneficial especially with a sport only played for 12 weeks each year.  You might feel that is overkill since we need to ease the athletes into the sport.  Is there a correct answer?  Especially when you consider that children are going to change so often that what might have worked for them last season, might not work again this time.  Yet, we spend more time playing the kids who are more developed that developing the kids who have potential.  It just leaves me wondering, where is my happy medium?

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