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

Review: Dirk Hayhurst – Bigger Than the Game

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Dirk Hayhurst - Bigger Than the GameDirk Hayhurst was one of the first people I followed on Twitter, way back in 2009, and I’ve been keeping a keen eye on him ever since. I absolutely adored his first two books, The Bullpen Gospels and Out of My League, and I was very excited for this one too. When it first came out, I already had a to-read pile longer than my arm, so I left it for a little while before I bought it, but I really wish I hadn’t!

And as I expected, I finished the book within a day, just like the last two. Dirk is the first ballplayer to really let you inside the clubhouse and show you what the world of baseball is really like, and this book shows more of the struggles associated with being that person than the last two books did. During the time period of this book, Dirk is publishing his first book and it’s common knowledge within the clubhouse of his new team. And not everyone is happy with that, in fact, some people are downright angry.

This book contained a lot less baseball than the first two books, and as a result it felt a whole lot more personal. It’s very brave of Dirk to let us in so deep to his life and the struggles he was going through, it’s rare for someone in the public eye to be quite so honest and I found it endeared me to him a whole lot more. Obviously because the events in this book were a couple of years ago and since I’ve been following him on Twitter all this time, I knew how the book was going to end, but I still loved reading the journey.

Living in the UK, it’s kind of hard to get hold of good books about baseball, the local library definitely doesn’t have any. So I’m so glad that I’ve been able to read Dirk’s three books, and I really hope he writes more. His style of writing is so personal that it drags you in so that you feel like you’re experiencing it all along with him.

I’d really recommend this book to anyone who enjoys seeing inside a world that they know nothing about. And I don’t think that you necessarily have to be a baseball fan to enjoy Hayhurst’s books, although you definitely need to have an appreciation of juvenile humour – if an entire chapter devoted to a blocked and rapidly overflowing toilet rapidly turning into a ‘porcelain volcano’ doesn’t sound like your thing, then probably best to steer clear.

5/5

A-Rod or A-Roid?

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A-RodWell I know that there are going to be a lot of posts about this over the next few days (and I have already read a fair few myself), but it’s been a while since I last wrote a baseball post and I can’t stop thinking about this one.

Last night, the long investigation was finally over and the  news came out that A-Rod and 12 other players have been suspended for their links with the now-defunct Biogenesis clinic.

The list of players suspended for 50 games includes:

  • Nelson Cruz (Texas Rangers)
  • Jhonny Peralta (Detroit Tigers)
  • Jesus Montero (Seattle Mariners)
  • Everth Cabrera (San Diego Padres)
  • Francisco Cervelli (New York Yankees)
  • Antonio Bastardo (Philadelphia Phillies)
  • Jordany Valdespin (New York Mets)
  • Fernando Martinez (Minor League)
  • Jordan Norberto (Minor League)
  • Fautino de los Santos (Minor League)
  • Cesar Puello (Minor League)
  • Sergio Escalona (Minor League)

There were three other players implicated (Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal and Melky Cabrera), but they have already been suspended for taking PEDs and were considered to have served their punishment.

A-Rod, rather than a 50 game suspension, received a 211 game suspension, which takes him through to the end of the 2014 season, although he is now appealing the decision meaning he can play in the meantime. He was suspended for longer than the others due to “attempting to cover up his violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation”.

Now I don’t know about you, but if I was being paid $29 million a year, and I had already admitted to taking steroids in the past (leading to the nickname A-Roid), I would try my damnedest to stay clean and not risk being caught again. A-Rod now says that he is “fighting for his life”, but what he is actually fighting for now is money and reputation. And unfortunately, even if his suspension is overturned, I think he has lost his reputation for good. There’s only so many times that you can be linked to steroids before people start to believe that it must be true.

The most baffling thing to me though, is that he is a 14 time All-Star and 3 time MVP award winner. He obviously started his career well; the contract he signed after the 2000 season made him the highest paid player in sports history –  a 10-year deal worth $252 million. In 1998 , when he was just 23 and in his 3rd full major league season, he was selected as Players Choice AL Player of the Year, won his 2nd Silver Slugger Award and finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting. If you’re that good, why risk it all by doing something that would jeopardise your whole career. And then if you admit it once, DON’T DO IT AGAIN! You cannot claim to be “fighting for your life”, if the situation is entirely of your own making.

I’m usually a firm believer in ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but I was burned by this with Ryan Braun, defending him to the hilt only for him to come out a year later and admit that actually, he did take steroids and he tried to cover it up. On a side note, I believe that the 65 game suspension that Braun received this year should have been doubled because of the way that he appealed the decision last year and blamed it on a poor Fed-Ex guy who was just doing his job.

A-Rod appeared in his first game back from injury last night, against my team the Chicago White Sox. And was promptly met with boos and chants of ‘PED’ and ‘Steroids’ during every at bat. And I think that until his appeal is over, he can expect that every time. People have lost faith with players linked to steroids and don’t want to go back to the position that baseball was in during the 90s when it seemed that pretty much every player that was beating records and doing well was juicing to get there.

I wish that A-Rod had just accepted his suspension like a man and then decided whether he wanted to come back after or not. But he’s 38 now, meaning that he would be 40 by the time his suspension was over, and although he’d still have 3 years left on his contract with the Yankees, the chances of him getting regular playing time against the younger players would be greatly diminished. But by appealing now, it means that when if he does get suspended, he’ll have gone out on a playing streak rather than going out on the injury list.

I wish him all the best, but for the sake of the game, I hope he will change his mind and take it like a man.

What do you think? Should we give him the benefit of the doubt until his appeal is over, or have you already made up your mind too? Let me know in the comments

That time of year already…

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Well this post is risky for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve not done a baseball post for a while and I know that a lot of my new followers are probably expecting books, books and more books, so if you don’t have an interest in baseball, this post probably isn’t for you.

Secondly, I think I must post a bit too much about a certain Detroit Tiger whose name may rhyme with Dustin Berlander. A quick look at Google searches that have brought users to my website kind of confirms that:

Top search terms for the last year...

Top search terms for the last year…

But I digress. First of all, a quick mention of my beloved White Sox, who were having an unexpectedly awesome season, before fading away down the stretch to let the Tigers clinch the division in the last week. It sucks, but it sure made things exciting. Especially for what was supposed to be a ‘rebuilding’ year after losing Buehrle, Guillen, and many others last offseason.

So it came to the postseason and I had to pick a team to root for, and who better to root for than the underdog. So Nationals and Orioles it was – what a story for both teams this year. But alas it wasn’t meant to be (either that or I’m a huge jinx), and both teams were knocked out in thrilling Game 5 action. Whether the Nationals could have made it with Strasburg is a whole ‘nother blog post. So now I’m of course cheering for the AL which leaves me with either the Yankees or the Tigers – I think we all know this leaves me with really only one choice – GO TIGERS!!

Which is not too bad for me, because my favourite non-Sox player happens to be their star pitcher.

My name is Louise Radcliffe, and I do NOT post too much about Justin Verlander...

My name is Louise Radcliffe, and I do NOT post too much about Justin Verlander…

He’s pitched lights-out this season, and I think there’s a very good chance that he’ll be up for Cy Young again, as much I would like Chris Sale to win after his stellar season. Verlander pitched a complete game shutout in his last game against the Oakland A’s – the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS. He also had a 9 – 2 record with a 1.65 ERA for the season at Comerica Park, which put the odds firmly in his favour – especially opposing a Yankees team stripped of their Captain after Jeter suffered a fractured ankle putting him out for the rest of the post season.

Yes, another gratuitous Justin Verlander picture, just because I can...

Yes, another gratuitous Justin Verlander picture, just because I can…

So although I can’t stay up to watch this game tomorrow (why do all postseason games start at 8pm ET – 1pm BST?!), I’ll definitely be supporting the Tigers in spirit – at least if I’m not watching I’m not jinxing, right?

Review: Chad Harbach – The Art of Fielding

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chad-harbach-the-art-of-fielding-e1333182174963This book ended up being nothing like I thought it would, but it had me hooked from the first page. I had expected a book that was heavily baseball oriented, but baseball was (in the main) just an undercurrent throughout the book to support the other issues. The book is centred around a few characters whose lives become completely intertwined. The main character is Henry, a naturally talented shortstop who is spotted by Schwartz and persuaded to attend Westish College. As he’s a late addition to the school, he ends up sharing a room with Owen. Owen starts an affair with the school’s president Guert Affenlight, whose daughter Pella turns up at the school having run away from her husband. Pella ends up in a relationship with Schwartz, and you can see how everyone’s lives wind up hopelessly tangled.

The book is a fantastic book about growing up and dealing with the transition from college to the real world. After being trained by Schwartz, Henry is so gifted that baseball scouts start turning up to his games, and there is talk of him being drafted in the early rounds. All this until an errant throw from Henry accidentally hits Owen in the head and puts him in hospital. Henry suddenly quits playing baseball and begins a downward spiral into depression and anorexia, shutting out his friends and almost throwing away every opportunity that had been given to him.

The book deals with some hard issues very gracefully, and the conclusion of each character’s storyline at the end was brilliant. I actually don’t have anything bad to say about the book, apart from the fact that I was glad to finish it so that I don’t have to carry it in my bag any more, the hardback weighs a ton!

This was a great debut novel from Harbach, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

5-5