Back to Baseball: Off-Season recap

Philip Humber, Simon Castro, Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, John Danks, Nestor MolinaIt’s that time of year again, and although I’ve been a bit quiet about baseball during Spring Training, there’s less than a week left until the first game of the season so there’ll be more baseball blogs coming. The regular season actually kicked off earlier this week with the series in Japan between the A’s and the Mariners. This actually gave me the opposite problem to usual as the games were on too early for me to watch, starting at 11am British time, about 13 hours earlier than usual!

At the end of last season, I wrote a blog post about my hopes for the off season, so I’m going to use this post to catch up on those and see if I managed to predict anything right! Here goes…

1. Re-sign Mark Buehrle
This was my biggest hope for the off-season, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. We traded Buehrle to the Marlins quite early on, and while I was disappointed to start with, I actually think that it’s a good move now. We have a strong rotation with Chris Sale’s transition to a starter, along with Danks, Floyd, Peavy and Humber. Of course Buehrle is a great pitcher, but I don’t think we are that much weaker without him. And at least he’s switched leagues so we don’t have to face him too often!

2. Bring Back Omar Vizquel
colorado-rockies-starting-pitcher-jamie-moyer-off-to-average-start-mlb-news-1388730 for 2 now as this didn’t happen either.  He’s now playing for the Blue Jays, and at 45, I wish him all the best. He’s a great player, and he deserves to end his career on a high note. But even at 45, he’s not the oldest player in the MLB, as today we’ve just got the news that Jamie Moyer has made a place in the starting rotation for the Rockies. At 49, he’s coming to the end of a long career (in fact, he’s been playing baseball longer than the Rockies have even been a team)! He’s coming back from Tommy John surgery which is not easy at any age, but at 49 I look forward to seeing how his season goes.

3. Farewell to Juan Pierre
Finally, one that I got right.  Pierre is now playing for the Phillies, and we have ample replacements for him in the outfield department. We’ve had a good look at DeAza and Viciedo in spring training, and we also signed Kosuke Fukudome this off season too. Apart from his speed (which will be hard to replace), I think we’ll be better off without him this season.

4. Welcome Robin Ventura
628x4712Robin really seems to have settled in well during Spring Training, and although our record has not been brilliant, he seems to be making good decisions and the players all seem to love him. It’s very nice not to have all the controversy like there used to be with Ozzie, and it’s definitely nice to be able to read the comments on the MLB site without scrolling through pages of ‘Fire Ozzie’ comments.

5. Get Jake Peavy Healthy
This seems to be going well, although we’ll only really know when the season gets underway. We really need him to be able to pitch late into games to save the bullpen, and he needs to last to the end of the year, especially as Chris Sale is likely to be on an innings limit in his first year as a starter.

chris-saleI have to say, my predictions were really not that good, but I’m feeling very confident about the team this year. We’ve set our 25 man roster today, including a couple of surprises in Jones and Escobar, the only real mystery now is how the bullpen is going to shape up. Reed and Santiago have been pitching very well, but I think Thornton should get the closing nod, at least to start with. He didn’t do very well at it last year, but I think he’s more ready for it now. And if not, we’ve always got a couple of other candidates ready to take his place!

There’ll be more baseball related posts coming up this week with the season so close, but if you made any predictions for the offseason, let me know if you were more successful than me!

Now Reading: Chad Harbach – The Art of Fielding

chad-harbach-the-art-of-fielding-e1333182174963I’ve had this book on my Amazon wish list for ages, but it said it wasn’t due to be released until the end of April. But I was shopping in Waterstones and I saw it on one of their table displays and I had to buy it. I didn’t really expect it to be out in the UK as it’s a baseball related book, but I’m glad I found it. I started reading it last night and it’s fab so far.

I’m a sucker for a nice looking book and this one is fantastic, it caught my eye before I even realised what it was called. It is a big book though, especially as it’s hardback. It hardly fits in my bag, but I guess that just means I’ll have to read it this weekend before I have any need to take it out with me. That could be a problem though as I’ve got a lot of tidying up to do before my parents get back from holiday – my brother is really messy, and now he’s out at work until they get back so its down to me to clear up his mess! It has been nice having the house to myself though, I’m looking forward to hopefully moving out sometime this year!

Review: Suzanne Collins – Mockingjay

suzanne-collins-mockingjay-e1332361443499At first when I was reading this book I thought it wasn’t going to be as actioned packed as the first two, and for the first part of the book, it was definitely more political than action packed. But it all picked up again about a third of the way through the book and it was back to non-stop action.

As with most action books you expect people to die, but the choice of who died in this book really shocked me. I can see how it was used to develop the story and how each death pushed Katniss to do something that she had to do, but there were definitely some people that I wished hadn’t died!

Katniss finds herself the leader of a team in this book, and there’s a lot more guilt about her actions than there was before – you can definitely feel it through the writing. I think the writing itself was more of a factor in this book than the other two. With it not having as much action in it and much more drama, the strength of Collins’ writing really comes through.

As with the other two books, I don’t want to spoil the storyline too much, but I will say that I was slightly disappointed with the ending. Throughout the series, there’s a fight going on within Katniss’ mind between Gale and Peeta, and at the end you find out who she ends up with. I would have preferred her to stay with the other, but it does round the story off nicely this way. I did feel that the end was a bit rushed – it was a bit like the last Harry Potter book where there’s just a chapter tagged on at the end about the future. But I do think that it was a nice way to end the book without leaving lots of loose ends.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the films now, I just need to wait for my Dad to finish reading the books first so we can go together.

5-5

Now Reading: Suzanne Collins – Mockingjay

suzanne-collins-mockingjay-e1332361443499On to book 3 of this series, and unfortunately it’s the last one. I love reading a series of books (especially one as good as this), but the worst part of it is always coming to the end. With a series, you always get more involved with the characters and the story, so it’s hard to let go. But with the last two books being so good, I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with this one.

It’s only a couple of days until the film comes out, so hopefully I’ll be able to finish the book, and then we’ll be able to see the film at the weekend.

Review: Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire

suzanne-collins-catching-fire-e1332001505516All I can say about this book is that it was better than the first, which is saying something because I loved the first one. There are plenty of reviews of this book on many WordPress blogs that will tell you what happens in this book, so I don’t really want to go into that too much here. Besides, I know my dad is starting reading the first one, so I don’t want to spoil this one too much for him (if he even reads this!).

When the first book ended, I thought it had been ended in a bit of a weird place and I was curious to find out what happened next. Suzanne Collins sure knows how to shock her readers though. Whatever I expected to happen, it was definitely not this!

This series is definitely more about the plot than the actual writing, but the plot is just non-stop. Every time you think it might slow down a bit, it’s back up again with another twist.

And just like the first book, this book is left at a cliff hanger, with big question marks about what is going to happen next. I was happy that Gale was brought back into the story at the end, but I’m sure that that after what I’ve read so far, nothing is going to run smoothly in book number three.

Another 5/5 review for this book – brilliant!

5-5

John 14:27

img_30582
I’ve had this in my head the last couple of days, I’m finding it quite comforting. It’s also reminded me that I’m a bit behind on my two Lent reading books, I’m really enjoying those, particularly The Purpose Driven Life, so I need to get back into them again.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Now Reading: Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire (The Hunger Games Pt 2)

suzanne-collins-catching-fire-e1332001505516After the speed in which I read the first book in this series, I can’t wait to get started on this. I might have to slow down a bit though or it’ll all be over too quickly! After the end of the last book, I really have no idea what will happen in this one. My friend Abi mentioned something about Gale, so maybe he will have more involvement in this book?

With it being Mother’s Day tomorrow (eek – should probably go and buy a card or something!), I probably won’t have as much time to read this one as I did the first one. Hopefully the weather will be nice and I can take my mum out somewhere. 🙂

Review: Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

suzanne-collins-the-hunger-games-e1331933637252I’m kind of ashamed to say I devoured this book in less than a day. I now know why all the reviews I’ve read say that you just can’t put it down once you’ve started it. I’m going to try not to spoil the story too much in case you haven’t read it yet and you’re planning to do so – I’ve already persuaded my dad and brother to give it a try.

The book is aimed at teenagers, so it’s pretty easy reading, and the actually fighting scenes in the book are not that graphic, although the premise of the book is quite still quite shocking. Basically, 24 teenagers are picked at random and sent into an ‘arena’ in a battle to be the last one left alive.

Some of the teenagers have been training for this for a long time, others are just too young, like little Rue who is only 12 years old. The main character Katniss is only 16 years old but you discover through the book that she’s quite worldly wise and has done a lot to protect her family, including the scary task of taking the place of her sister in the games.

As this book is the first part in a trilogy, I expected Katniss to live through to the end, but there are plenty of moments that leave you wondering what will happen, and the end was definitely unexpected. I’m a little unsure after finishing the book where the next two books are going to go, but we’ll soon find out.

A definite 5/5 rating, if only because I just couldn’t stop reading!

5-5

Now Reading: Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

suzanne-collins-the-hunger-games-e1331933637252I don’t really know what this book is about, but I’ve seen a LOT of blog posts about it when I’ve been browsing WordPress book-related blogs. There’s a film coming out soon, so I want to read the books before the film comes out so that I can decide whether I want to see the film or not (I always have to read the book before watching the film).

My friend Abi also recommended this book and she’s usually got very good taste, so I’m sure I won’t be disappointed!

On a related note, take a look at this shirt she got me:

[tweet https://twitter.com/#!/louiser89/status/180394036388040705 align=’center’]

If you knew me in high school, you’d know why this is so awesome!

Review: Mitch Albom – The Five People You Meet in Heaven

mitch-albom-the-five-people-you-meet-in-heavenI’ve just finished this book and it was fantastic! It was quite a sad book, but one that definitely made you think.

The book is about 83 year old Eddie, who works on Ruby Pier, a seaside fairground. One of the rides malfunctions and comes crashing to the ground – he dies when he tries to push a young girl out of the way, and spends the whole book worrying that he hasn’t saved her.

When Eddie gets to Heaven, he realises that it’s not what he thought it would be. Instead, he meets five people who will help to explain his life and things that happened in it, as well as his death and the reason for it.

The first person he meets is someone that he doesn’t think he knows, but he recognises him to be someone from the ‘Freak show’ at the Pier when he was a child. Eddie is shocked when this man tells him that Eddie killed him. He explains that he didn’t kill him directly, but inadvertently when his ball rolls into the road, setting a chain of events going which ends up in the man dying. This man is the source of one of my favourite quotes from the book, :

Strangers, are just family you have yet to come to know

I loved this, and the meaning of the entire first part of the book, it makes you think quite closely about the effect you have on other people, and the consequences that your actions can have.

Throughout the book, Eddie also meets his Captain from when he was at war in the Philippines, a woman called Ruby (after whom the Pier was named), his wife Marguerite, and a young girl called Tala, who was killed in a fire started by Eddie when he was in the Philippines, whose eyes he thought he saw all those years ago and have haunted him since.

Out of all five people, I think the part of the book that was most touching was when he met his wife again – she died of cancer when she was 47, and Eddie lived the rest of his life alone in the house they shared together. My favourite quote from the book though comes from Ruby, when she is talking to him about his Dad:

Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

That’s so true, and something that we all get wrong at times – we could all learn from this!

I really loved this book, I thought it was quite an unusual idea to start with, but it was really well written and you really start to feel for Eddie as the book goes on, to the point where you just don’t want it to end.

5-5