Play Ball!

Ain’t this the kind of weather
To get together and–
Bash his teeth in!–
This kind of weather makes a man hit like hell!

A fine, uplifting atmosphere.
Bring your children here!
Teach them baseball,
The game all true Americans do damn well!

It’s like the Constitution,
The institution
Of dear old baseball–
Where every man is treated the same!

What a… What a… What a… Game!

~ “What A Game”, from Ragtime

Today is a very exciting day, my friends.  Tonight, the 2009 baseball season officially begins with the reigning world champion Phillies hosting the Braves.  I don’t care for either team, but I will be watching.

In previous posts, I’ve explained the history of my newfound love of baseball, my born-again fervor as a Yankee fan, and my tortured relationship with Alex Rodriguez.  I thought I would take this time to talk about some of my other favorites from the majors.  Perhaps you, too, should keep an eye on them this season…

Melky Cabrera (NYY, CF)

melkyThe Melk Man is my second favorite Yankee.  This is mostly because I find his on-camera interviews to be simultaneously hilarious and adorable.  A Dominican native, Melky still isn’t comfortable speaking English on camera; so he employs one of the more confident Latino players as an impromptu translator.  Still, the reporters look at Melky when they ask him a question, and Melky never fails to politely nod and smile, even if he has no idea what they’re saying.  Kimberly Jones, the YES Network’s baseline bimbo, could be cursing him up and down, blaming Melky for a lost game, and he’d still just grin at her like a little kid.  Oh, Melky…

Last year was a little rough for him.  He spent some time back in AAA, and almost got traded away in the off-season, much to my horror.  But Melky’s not dumb.  By all accounts, he threw himself into a tight spring training competition for the starting CF spot against newcomer Brett Gardner.  Let’s hope it paid off.

Mark Teixeira (NYY, 1B)

In my opinion, Teixeira is the most interesting new addition to the Yankees roster.  He’s taking over for one of the most curiously beloved Yankees in recent memory, and is bringing some serious strength to the batting order (a .358 batting average in 2008, as well as a .632 slugging percentage).  My main reason to include him on this list is because he’s probably the goofiest-looking person the Yankees have hired since they got that weird-looking guy to turn hot dogs near Section 32 of the upper deck.  He also looks like one of my buddies from college.

Unnatural brothers?
Unnatural brothers?

Jose Molina (NYY, C)

This is the last Yankee I’ll mention.  I promise.  Molina deserves mention because he’s the heir apparent to Jorge Posada’s squat spot behind home plate.  Last year he showed the power and accuracy of his arm with a 43.2% caught stealing rate (the best in the majors), and with Jorge perpetually on the mend, this could be the year he makes the job truly his own.

Best fact about Molina: he is one of three brothers currently playing in the major leagues, all of them catchers.  Big bro Bengie is with the Giants and little brother Yadier is with the Cardinals.  Yeah, and my aunt thought she had it bad getting one of my cousins to Massapequa and another to Bethpage for games at the same time.

The Brothers Molina
The Brothers Molina

David Wright (NYM, 3B) and Jose Reyes (NYM, SS)

wrightI enjoy following Wright and Reyes because to me, they’re what Jeter and A-Rod would have been if they had played on the same team ten years ago.  The bromance between these two Amazins’ is well-documented.  They would do well to look north to the Bronx for a cautionary tale on how such relationships can sour.  With or without Reyes, Wright is poised to become Jeter 2.0, at least as far as New York celebrity is concerned.  His look, his attitude, and his skill make him endlessly marketable.  Give him a banner year and he could be on Page Six more often than the back cover of The New York Post.

reyesWright has the more powerful bat (a .302 average in 2008, with a .390 OBP and 124 RBIs), but Reyes has some serious speed on him (290 stolen bases in his 5 year major league career).  Will they do their faithful proud and consecrate the grounds of the new Citi Field with a run for the play-offs?

Tim Lincecum (SF, P)

Why Tim Lincecum?  Well, because I know him.

Okay, well I don’t know him, but I know someone who does.  It’s just easier to say that I know him.  Not much difference, really.

timmyTrue, most of my interest in Lincecum (whose last name I still struggle to pronounce) comes from the fact that my pal Tripp grew up playing ball with him all through high school.  I can barely wrap my head around the fact that someone my age, someone a friend of mine has known and played with, is pitching in the big leagues.  Never mind the fact that he’s doing it so freakin’ well.  Timmy (as Tripp has told me to call him) won the NL Cy Young Award last year.  He started 33 games and had a 2.62 ERA.  He was selected to the 2008 All-Star roster.  All in his first full season, and all while being only 5’10” and 170 pounds.  Also, little Scrappy Doo has quite a sense of humor.

Troy Tulowitzki (COL, SS)

tuloI’ve always watched for Tulowitzki in game highlights, ever since he pulled off an unassisted triple play in his 2007 rookie season.  I’ll say that again.  Unassisted triple play.  Until he did it, it had only been done twelve times before in the recorded history of Major League Baseball.  It bears repeating.  Unassisted triple play.

Plus, he has an amusing, alliterative name.  That always earns points.

Grady Sizemore (CLE, CF)

gradyI don’t know why, but if someone asked me to, without any hesitation, name five current non-Yankee baseball players, Grady Sizemore would be one of the first names to pop into my head.  I have absolutely no idea why.  I’m hoping he can justify this invasion of my subconscious with an interesting season.

Evan Longoria (TB, 3B)

Just because his name is one letter away from being the same as this gal’s.

eva

So, there you have it.  My brief summation of what to look for this baseball season.  Special thanks to Tripp who, aside from feeding my hunger for Timmy stories, has been teaching me (with endless patience) how to properly read baseball stats.  If any of the numeric analysis above doesn’t make sense, blame him.

By the time I finish proof-reading this bitch and loading in all the pictures, the first pitch of the Phillies-Braves game will be only minutes away.  Enjoy the season, kids!

~ T

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2 thoughts on “Play Ball!”

  1. Mr. Cohn,

    I think it is fantastic that you have become a big time baseball fan.

    Your new found passion for the game is commendable and like anything, the more you submerge yourself in it, the more you will learn.

    With that being said, some observations:

    Melky has lost the battle for center field to Gardner. As much as you like Melky, I think you might like Gardner more. He is an solid line drive hitter who will provide the Yankees with a dimension they haven’t in a long time: speed. The Pinstripes need some youth, some life, somebody that can give them a spark. Gardner is the right guy for the job and I bet you he has a solid year for such a young guy.

    Regarding Jose Molina, there is no way he is the heir apparent to Jorge. Is he outstanding defensively? Probably one of the top five catchers in the ENTIRE league. But he is VERY limited offensively and if he were to play 100-120 games a year, he would probably hit around .200. He is probably the best backup in the league, but he is just that : a backup.

    Next: you can’t compare David Wright to Jeter until he starts winning some hardware. By hardware I don’t mean gold gloves or MVP’s, but championships. Jeter will always be known for one thing: being a winner. Yes, David Wright is a good looking young superstar playing in New York. But he hasn’t won anything yet and therefore is nothing like DJ.

    Overall, I liked the piece! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts once the Yankees make their way into the dog days of Summer.

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