emmaloui.se

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Review: Jim Bouton & Eliot Asinof – Strike Zone

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strike-zone-jim-bouton-and-eliot-asinof-e1329777352178This book is the first baseball fiction book that I’ve read, and it was great! It’s been a long time since the end of the baseball season, so it was nice to feel the excitement of a baseball game again.

The story revolves around two main characters. The first is an aging rookie pitcher called Sam Ward, pitching for the Cubs in the last game of the season, a game that will decide whether the Cubs make it to the post-season or not.

The other main character is an umpire called Ernie Kolacka, umpiring his last game before his forced retirement at age 60. He has been persuaded to throw the game in favour of the Phillies, by his friend who is in big trouble after he got over his head with gambling.

The book goes back and forth between Ward and Kolacka every half inning, and I was gripped all the way through. I also loved the way that as well as going back and forward between the gameplay action, we also got completely involved in the personal lives of both players, so much so that you really didn’t know who to root for. There’s also quite a lot of insight (whether it’s true or not, who knows) into the hard slog of making it to the major leagues for both characters, and the thought processes that occur during a big game.

Right up until the end, I couldn’t tell how it was going to end, I kept swaying back and forth between a win for Ward or a ‘victory’ for Kolacka. I won’t spoil the end of the book for you, but let’s just say that it made me smile. There’s also a bit of a bombshell thrown in at the end, which shocked me and put a slightly different spin on the story.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes baseball, it will definitely keep you gripped all the way to the very last page.

5/5

600 Homers or 3000 Hits?

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Last night, The MLB Fan Cave posed the following question on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/#!/MLBFanCave/status/93080982881697792

(More impressive milestone: 3,000 hits or 600 home runs?).

First of all, both milestones are pretty damn impressive. You have to be at the top of your game to be able to notch up that many of either. To answer the question as it is posed, I would have to go for 600 home runs. There’s something about the home run that is inherently exciting to watch. It’s also pretty much impossible to get a bloop home run whereas bloop singles happen all the time (no disrespect of course).

Now we all know that the question in this instance is really Jim Thome vs Derek Jeter.

First of all, I have massive respect for both guys. As far as we can all tell, they’ve played the game the right way. Getting these records without resorting to steroids (especially during that era) is something that has to be commended. I’ve also heard nothing but good things about the attitude of these players, both on and off the field. Both seem like genuinely nice guys, who have a great passion for the game.

Obviously Derek Jeter is Mr Yankee, and Jim Thome has played for 5 teams (Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers and Twins). I think this gives Jeter a bit of an advantage in getting to his milestone, in that he hasn’t had to adjust to new teams and new ballparks.

Another advantage that Jeter has is regular playing time. He’s not that much younger than Thome (which surprised me when I looked it up – 37 to Thome’s 40), but he is still playing regularly at shortstop, and doesn’t show much sign of slowing down yet. Thome is now exclusively a DH, and has been hampered by injuries the last couple of years which have prevented him from getting regular playing time.

Despite all this, I would still pick Thome over Jeter every time. Even throwing out the anti-Yankee bias, I have had a soft spot for Thome since he started playing for the White Sox (a couple of years after I started watching baseball). He’s a genuine good guy, doing a lot of charity work with his wife. Even other MLB players agree – in 2007 he was voted the second friendliest player in MLB, tied with Mike Sweeney.

Thome is currently at 596 career home runs, and I will be watching very closely for him hitting the 600th. He deserves to get that milestone, and I would hope that he is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame 5 years after he retires.

Let me know if you agree…

Decade of the Pitcher?

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Congratulations to Justin Verlander on his no-hitter tonight, a fantastic game! I tuned in during the eighth inning, when he was still on track for a perfect game. That was broken up by a walk, but a no-hitter is a fantastic achievement! The excitement in the ballpark was amazing, but I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like for the players. I’m sure Verlander was about 50/50 excitement and nervousness. I’m equally sure he’s enjoying the celebrations now!

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I was watching the Brewers/Cardinals game tonight. Yovani Gallardo was coming close to a no-hitter too, but not quite close enough. He gave up a hit in the 8th, and by that time, his pitch count was getting quite high, so there was not much chance of him coming out for the complete game either.

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It’s been a week of strong pitching performances, and the trend in general seems to be leaning away from power hitting and back towards the pitcher. First of all there was Liriano’s no-hitter. I don’t really want to dwell on that because it was against my White Sox, so we’ll move on quickly. There was also Cliff Lee’s game with 16 strike outs. Unfortunately, he still took the loss in that game, which just goes to show that no matter how good you are as a pitcher, you need the offense behind you to back you up (just ask Danks, Buerhle, Floyd, Jackson or Humber).

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I much prefer to watch a good pitchers duel rather than seeing home run after home run. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fireworks, but I prefer the continuing anticipation of a good pitching battle than the momentary excitement of a big hit.

Saying that, the story of Andre Ethier’s hitting streak is keeping my interest. Currently at 30 games, he is only one game away from tying the Dodgers record, and more than half way to Joe DiMaggio. Still a long way to go though!

The White Sox are on a west coast trip at the moment, meaning they don’t play until 2am UK time, so I won’t get to watch the game. I’ll just leave this out there: wouldn’t it be nice for Floyd to get the second no-hitter of the night?

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Scratch that – I’d just like the Sox to win, please. Pretty please?