February 2010

Forrest Gump Weak

I don’t know if it’s just because of my extended period of time in dreary weather, but the creativity isn’t exactly flowing today… Maybe it’s time for my third vacation of the off-season. Maybe I need to suck it up and deal with it. Either way, instead of the usual standup comedy routine disguised as a blog, here are some updates on what we’ve been doing at Parkview Field lately.

1. This afternoon Allan Wertheimer and I worked on our in-game stat program… We’re trying to get updated stats into the TV broadcasts. It’s tougher than it should be, which tends to be the way it goes.

2. I reformatted some things on the ticket pages of our website. I think they look better now.

3. Speaking of the website, we should have a redesigned TinCaps.com sooner than later. It’ll be pretty similar to the old one, but it has the ability to do some pretty nice multimedia stuff. The people in New York say it’ll be done before Opening Day.

4. We’re trying to line up short Spring Training interviews with some MWL alums who are now household names in the big leagues. To be continued.

5. Monday is March 1st, which is ridiculously close to the season starting. Things shift into ludicrous speed for us right around now and it doesn’t stop until September.

I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but Forrest Gump has been running nonstop on cable all week. I don’t like this one bit. Everyone knows movies on cable are never as good as they are in the theater with all the editing (for time purposes, commercial interruptions, etc.). But now to have Forrest Gump running all the time completely cheapens the movie for me and may cause people to get sick of it, which should never happen. I want it to be an event when I (and everyone else) watches it. So I’ve boycotted Forrest Gump Week so far and I’ll probably watch it on DVD, the way it was meant to be seen, this weekend.

(More) Friday ramblings:

  • The Padres want to run a little more this year. I like it. Speed, pitching, defense. It’s cheaper, it’s more consistent, it fits Petco Park. The Padres are doing it right.
  • There are five guys going for one spot in the San Diego starting rotation… And Mat Latos is one of them. Last year he was just another goofball running around our clubhouse. Crazy how quickly things can happen.
  • Saturday is the start of accelerated Spring Training for some of the Padres’ best minor-leaguers. Most organizations are doing this now.
  • The hype around Jason Heyward is unbelievable. I almost feel bad for the guy… If he doesn’t produce, he’ll be labeled a bust at the age of 20, which couldn’t be more wrong.
  • I prefer the Matt Wieters hype… At least the hypers have a sense of humor (“Matt Wieters took batting practice this morning. There were no survivors”).
  • There has never been a worse idea for a movie than “Hot Tub Time Machine.” And I’ve seen both “Crank” movies. Not that I’m proud of it.
  • Last night I saw an NBA commercial which ended with the tagline “Where defense happens.” This is about as comical as an NBA commercial ending with “Where traveling happens.” It might happen, but not often.

And now, musical guest… Eddie Vedder!



Have a great weekend! I’ll have a full Brain Game report on Monday!

DW

Who’s On Your Roster?

Happy Wednesday!

Today had an early start… 5 a.m. Justin Shurley and I went over to Defiance, Ohio, to talk at their Chamber of Commerce meeting. As usual, very nice people. As an added bonus, there was breakfast. If you know anything about me, just know that I love breakfast. It’s the only reason I’m getting out of bed before 9 a.m. during a road trip.

Now we need to have a one-sided chat, because (with single-game tickets going on sale yesterday) I’ve had a couple of people ask me about our 2010 roster. Pardon me if I come off ornery, but I was up early this morning. Consider this Minor League Baseball Rosters 101.

1. The San Diego Padres have complete control over our roster.

2. No matter what anybody tells you, nobody knows today who will be on our Opening Day roster. Nobody. Not with the TinCaps, not with the Padres, not with any publication. I’d guess 90 percent of minor-leaguers aren’t even at Spring Training yet, and 100 percent of baseball players haven’t played a Spring Training game yet. Can you make educated guesses? Sure, but one injury, poor performance, trade, signing, release or walking pneumonia outbreak at any level of the organization and everything can change. The fact is, we won’t know our roster until the Padres send it to us the day before the team hops a flight from Arizona to Fort Wayne. When we know, you’ll know.

3. I understand that people may have gotten attached to last year’s team because they won a lot and they were entertaining and they were good guys. Guess what… The best players from last year’s team aren’t coming back here. You might be saying, “but you just said nobody knows who’s coming here!” You’re right, nobody does. But I could probably guess who won’t be back. So can you, if you look at the stats from last year. If you’re good in Class-A, you move up. That’s how Minor League Baseball works. Players like winning, but the whole point of the minor leagues is to develop players to help the major-league team.

4. With certain exceptions, it’s not good to repeat the Midwest League. If a guy got here in August last year and he comes back to start 2010, that’s OK. But if a guy played here for most of 2009 and comes back here again, his chances to make it to the big leagues probably aren’t good. Again, there are exceptions. Joey Votto repeated the league and now he’s a beast for the Reds, but he had limited baseball experience before he was drafted. Maybe you only care about the TinCaps winning, but again, the point is to eventually help the parent club win. Those two things can co-exist, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.

5. If/when the TinCaps don’t win 100 games this year, that’s not a failure. If that were the case, the 16 seasons before 2009 were all failures. They weren’t. Just hope the team is in the playoff hunt one of the two halves and enjoy the season.

I think I’ve gotten that all out of my system. I’m just trying to correct some of the misconceptions people have about our team and about Minor League Baseball in general.

Wednesday links:

  • Livan Hernandez signed with the Nationals. Stephen Strasburg, welcome to the Minor Leagues. There is little to no long-term downside to sending Strasburg to the minors out of Spring Training. There is considerable long-term downside to bringing him straight to Washington. I think the Nationals know that.
  • This article about Jake Peavy is mostly about his time in Mobile, but he came through Fort Wayne first.
  • Matt Stairs watched the US-Canada hockey game “from the edge of the Grand Canyon.” I don’t know why, but everything’s more entertaining when Matt Stairs says it.
  • Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list is out. Padres: Donovan Tate (53), Simon Castro (57), Jaff Decker (82), James Darnell (90). With the input of several people and the number of prospects, these rankings have to be incredibly tough to come up with.]

That’s it for now… Bowling tonight. My team is charging toward the top of the standings!

Take care!

DW

Matt Stairs: Life Coach

Happy Monday!

First of all, TinCaps’ single-game tickets go on sale Tuesday. Buy them. Please. I don’t ask for much.

I’m kind of in a hurry to get out of here, but I feel compelled to share this: I’m not much of a hockey guy. Like baseball, it’s a sport that’s best enjoyed in person, not on TV. With that in mind, the USA-Canada hockey game last night was fantastic. I can’t remember the last time I was that into a game (of any sport) on television. If the NHL had half that intensity for its games, it would be the most successful sports league in America. That includes the NFL, MLB and NBA. I don’t care if nobody in the U.S. understands all the rules (I don’t), but go to a high-school basketball game and estimate how many people know the rules of that sport. When 10 people are in the stands whirling their arms around and yelling about traveling when it’s clearly not, you’ll see what I’m saying.

Also, if there was a National Curling League, wouldn’t you watch it? I know I would.

Monday thoughts:

  • More curling… Apparently Canadian fans are giving too much of a home-ice advantage. At least they care enough to show up and make noise, even if they’re not supposed to be loud.
  • “Swing like you live: hard.” – Matt Stairs. This coming from the guy who was coaching multiple high-school sports and lost a ton of weight on NutriSystem over the off-season before the Padres him to sign him. Can we just put him into the Hall of Fame the day he retires? More importantly, can the San Diego writers keep prodding him for soul-baring philosophies on a daily basis? Is “Deep Thoughts with Matt Stairs” the best ad campaign idea of all time? I can’t wait until March 18 when we get to Spring Training and the whole clubhouse is sitting around listening to Stairs in a toga, like Socrates on Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures.
  • Grady Fuson got a job with the A’s. He was the Padres’ VP of Scouting/Player Development, which means he was in charge of the minor-league system and one of the main guys in charge of the draft. He was let go during the off-season and it didn’t take him long to get back to the A’s, where he worked earlier in his career.
  • The TinCaps visited City Hall today. I took a camera and remembered that I don’t miss working on the other side of the news media. At all.

That’s all for today. Take it easy!

DW

Antawn? Favre? Cmoe On!

Happy Friday!

I talked to Nate Stewart, the TinCaps’ athletic trainer, the other day and he said Peoria, Arizona is a complete and utter madhouse with Padres’ and Mariners’ Spring Training starting up. I guess I didn’t think of those two fan bases as rabid enough to pack an entire town for Spring Training, but I’m glad they have.

My Cavaliers made a HUGE trade the other night, picking up Antawn Jamison for virtually nothing but a draft pick. I’ve been doing backflips ever since. If they don’t get to the NBA Finals, something is seriously wrong. Only in the NBA can a team trade a star (Jamison) for a player (Zydrunas Ilgauskas) and a draft pick, release the player and still consider it a good long-term deal. The NBA: Where expiring contracts happen.

More important than a league where a major rule (traveling) is ignored is the ignoring of phonics in Antawn Jamison’s name. Generally when things are spelled one way, they are pronounced that way. Example: Antawn should be pronounced AN-tonn. Instead, because of a Jaff Decker-esque birth certificate snafu, Antawn is pronounced Antoine. Makes sense, right? So now we have Antawn and this guy both just transposing letters all willy-nilly and nobody seems to care. As someone who enjoys the English language and phonics, I am appalled by the lack of spelling ability in the delivery rooms of American hospitals, whether it’s nurses or parents.

Which reminds me… When I was home over the holidays, I talked to one of my high-school friends who is about to finish her residency and become a doctor. Part of the residency is working in the delivery room and filling out birth certificates. To make a long story short, spelling things the way they sound is apparently not a prerequisite when it comes to naming children, and on more than one occasion, she had to refer to an apostrophe as a “comma in the sky” before some people realized that’s what they were trying to put in their child’s name. I’m not trying to come off like a jerk, but as a broadcaster, I have a special appreciation for the Antoine Walkers, Adrian Gonzalezes and Tom Seavers of the world. They make my life easier.

Now to more important things, like dog shows. I’ve often said the worst dog in the world is better than the best cat in the world, and I won’t be convinced otherwise. Unfortunately, dog shows make a mockery of dogs by making them look like Cosby Kids and other non-dog beings. I thought things were getting better when a beagle won the Westminster Kennel Club show a couple years ago, but I was wrong. I don’t claim to be an expert, but any dog show where it takes 100 years for a beagle to win and a Labrador has never won is not a legitimate competition. Pick dogs which people actually own and include a frisbee-catching competition and I’ll become interested. Until then, Dave Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks are the definitive dog show for me.

While I’m on the topic of competitions, what about the Olympics? I like a few events… hockey, curling (shuffleboard on ice), short-track speed skating… Skeleton reminds me of the headfirst sled-riding I used to specialize in growing up… I like the theme of competing for nothing but national pride (and lucrative endorsement deals, but mostly national pride)… But there are way too many events where it’s one person at a time competing against the clock or arbitrary judges deciding the competition. We have no idea who’s winning. I don’t like it. I’d like it more if there were eight people at a time racing down the hill in the skiing competitions, except it would be the most dangerous sport in the world.

My favorite part of the Olympics so far had nothing to do with competing. Bob Costas and Stephen Colbert went on each other’s shows this week and the results were fantastic. Costas ended up on the back of a stuffed moose with his arms raised triumphantly on the set of “The Colbert Report.” Then, after an interview with Costas on NBC, Colbert jumped inside the fake on-set fireplace. I can’t decide which I like better: respected sports anchor on a moose or fake news pundit sponsoring the U.S. Speed Skating team, then mocking the fake hearth on the network covering the Olympics. We need more of this.

Odds and ends:

And now, in honor of Spring Training opening, musical guest… INXS!

Have a great weekend!

DW

Brains, Bowling, Biz Blogs, Battlestar Galactica

Right off the top, I hope I didn’t get anybody’s hopes up (or down) with the title of this entry. Battlestar Galactica will not be discussed here. I was merely on an alliteration streak with the letter B, which reminded me of this.

Official pitchers and catchers’ camp opened today at several Spring Training facilities. Thank goodness. The Padres officially start Thursday.

Also today, Ben Hill gave TinCapsFan.com a big attaboy in his wildly popular Ben’s Biz Blog. I consider Ben’s blog to be the Ed Sullivan Show / Soul Train of Minor League Baseball… If you haven’t been on there, you haven’t really made it big. So mark today on the calendar as the arrival of the TinCaps on the national scene.

Before getting to the heart of today’s entry, I have to tell you a story about bowling. Last week, about 20 of our staff members went to the bowling alley to get our bowling fix. We have a moderately to not-at-all competitive league going, depending on who you ask. We were almost finished with our third and final game. Justin Shurley, who easily has the best blazing fastball in our league, left two pins standing after his first ball. So he grabbed the ball from the ball return and got ready to pick up the spare. The bar came down over the alley (as usual) and was starting to go up when Justin, anticipating the bar going all the way up like normal, walked up and unleashed the most hellacious (for him, normal) bowling fastball ever seen by humans. A split-second after he released the ball, the alleys turned off, the bar stopped about a foot off the alley and everything seemed to go in slow motion (as slow as a 98-mph bowling ball can seem). The top half of the ball hit the bottom part of the bar, sending the bar swinging straight up into a black light. The black light shattered all over the place. It was as if Roy Hobbs had just launched his famous home run for the New York Knights. I’ve never seen anything like it in a bowling alley. As you can imagine, even though he didn’t mean to obliterate an unsuspecting light, that was the end of Justin’s bowling night. A night that will live in infamy in the TinCaps Bowling League.

Now to the real thing I want to talk about… The Brain Game. About a month ago, an invitation floated around the office that we were forming a trivia team for something called the Brain Game, which is a fund-raiser for the Fort Wayne Center for Learning. As someone who knows way too much about unimportant things and someone who cares about learning, I thought I would be a pretty good addition to the team. So I signed up along with Jared Parcell, Tony DesPlaines and Abby Naas, who you may remember as the victim of Operation Phil Collins (if you can really consider anyone a “victim” of good music).

Today was the “Brain Game for Dummies” session where we heard about the format of the game, the potential categories, etc. So the four of us walked around the concourse toward the North Gate of Parkview Field, which is the side closest to the outfield. When we got out there, I swear we found the snowiest place in the Northern Hemisphere. There was a solid 18 inches of snow out there while the rest of Allen County has about a foot at most. It was incredible. It was so snowy, I couldn’t even see the steps leading down to Jefferson Boulevard. So after the most awkward step descent of all-time in front of downtown lunchtime traffic, we crossed the street and went into the Grand Wayne Center for Brain Game for Dummies. I’m still disappointed that I didn’t pull my Buddy the Elf impression on the escalator (yes, I’m 9 years old), but I’m not disappointed in Jared Parcell’s performance at the meeting.

After we found out who we’ll be competing against in the first round (it’s two banks and a group of teachers… if we win, it’ll be a miracle), the meeting started. The guy in charge asked for a few volunteers to practice with the controllers which we’ll use to key in our answers. Of course, Jared volunteered so vivaciously that he almost flew to the front of the room. There were ten questions. Every time Jared got one right, he fist-pumped as if he were on some flash-in-the-pan MTV reality show. If you’re dying to know, Jared finished third of the four people who volunteered. The guy who won was on the team that won last year. He must be the Ken Jennings of the Brain Game.

Now comes the reader participation portion of this entry… The whole team is supposed to wear costumes to the actual Brain Game competition, which is on February 27th. We have no idea what to wear other than baseball uniforms. I suggested we dress up as Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since he was actually a brain inside a robotic human, which should mean we automatically win. Somehow that idea didn’t catch on. So if you have any good ideas, e-mail them to me or leave them in the comments.

Also, since this is a fund-raiser and not just a trivia contest for me to make wisecracks about, we need to raise some money. You can read about the Fort Wayne Center for Learning here. If we raise the most money of all the teams, we get an automatic spot in the final round. Which, if I had to guess, is probably our only shot to get there. If you feel compelled to chip in a few bucks, drop me an e-mail and we can figure things out.

Sorry to be so wordy today, but a lot of things were going on. And Monday was a short entry, so I’m making up for it.

Take care!

DW

Monday Hodgepodge

Happy Monday!

Aside from the fact that Spring Training opens this week(!) for a lot of teams, I don’t really have a lot of substantial material for today. Unfortunately for you, I do have several non-related thoughts.

  • Fort Wayne alum (and now San Diego Padre) Kyle Blanks has lost quite a bit of weight over the off-season, but he’s “not going to be modeling Calvin Klein underwear any time soon,” according to one of San Diego’s strength coaches. Somewhere, Lorraine Baines McFly is extremely disappointed.
  • Hmm… This means Matt Stairs AND Kyle Blanks have both lost weight as they’ve gotten older. I’m waiting for a similar article about Jaff Decker. If it’s not written by the time we get to Peoria next month and he’s looking like an Adonis, you’ll see it here.
  • I caught the new “We Are the World” video over the weekend, which was made to raise money for Haiti. It’s a wonderful cause and it’s good to see people use their fame for something other than themselves. But yikes. They just don’t make “We Are the World” videos like they used to. Am I allowed to say that as a 25-year-old?
  • If the Cavaliers do end up trading for Amare Stoudamire, look out.
  • I’m starting to write some content to be used in our gameday program this season. Writing for print (and a broader audience) is a lot tougher than I remember. Blog writing is easier because I can just use pictures/videos to show exactly what I’m talking about, where I have to use, you know, a vocabulary to write in print. Is this a sign that technology is making us dumber?

I think that’s all for now… Take care!

DW

Operation Phil Collins

Happy Friday!

Today’s content may be the proudest I’ve ever been about anything ever written on this blog. Which, as you probably know, isn’t really saying much, but keep reading.

I take pride in a lot of things, which can be a good and bad thing. Some of my recent brainchildren include several “This is TinCaps Baseball” spots and a promotion for “Manly Monday” featuring Ric Flair’s theme song which I thought would never be equaled. This week may have been my greatest accomplishment in recent memory.

On Wednesday, there was a VIP luncheon in the Suite Level Lounge at Parkview Field. To illustrate how high-class this event was, Brent Harring was wearing a suit. To further illustrate how high-class this event was, I’ll mention that I was not invited. Clearly the clientele was top-notch. Unfortunately for everyone, the luncheon happened to be right outside my office. After it was over, Allan Wertheimer did was he always does after a daytime event where food is served: he went out and scavenged some leftovers for his lunch. This time he invited me, so I went out and saw just about everyone was checking out the food. After enjoying some apple crisp (which tasted phenomenal), somehow Phil Collins came up in conversation. This is where our story gets good.

Abby Naas heard us talking about Phil Collins. I don’t know about you, but when a group of people is talking about something I don’t like, I generally either don’t contribute or gently hint that I’m not a big fan. Not Abby. She proceeded to unabashedly trash Phil Collins, never giving a good reason other than he “sucks,” then stormed off. I don’t know what Phil Collins ever did to Abby, but it’s unimportant. I, like anybody else who has any musical taste, enjoy Phil Collins’ work. In fact, I’d list him among my top 20 favorite musicians. He’s a wonderful singer / songwriter and a virtuoso on the drums. Needless to say, Abby’s aggression against Phil Collins would not stand… man.

So the next day (Thursday), I decided to defend Phil Collins’ honor in the form of an office prank. Being that my desk is isolated from the rest of the ballpark, I would need some co-conspirators. So I recruited Tony DesPlaines, Tyler Baker and Tiffany Haupt, one of our new interns, because their cubicles surround Abby’s. I sent them the following e-mail [begin quote]:

Dear Potential Co-Pranksters,

As you may remember from yesterday, your office neighbor (Abby Naas) was haphazardly throwing around the opinion that Phil Collins “sucks.” I think we can all agree that this is not only untrue, but the opposite of the truth. This aggression will not stand. Therefore, I propose “Operation Phil Collins.”

Here’s the plan: We bombard Abby with Phil Collins / Genesis classics until she realizes Phil Collins doesn’t suck. I will list below several hits and the three of you can just rotate playing them at audible (but not overpowering) volumes. So Tony will begin with “Sussudio.” AFTER IT ENDS, Tyler will play “Easy Lover.” Then Tiffany plays “Invisible Touch.” If she doesn’t freak out after three songs, Tony keeps it going with “Land of Confusion,” Tyler plays “Misunderstanding,” Tiffany goes with “Don’t Lose My Number.”

[end quote]

I went downstairs to check on the progress of our mission at one point while “Land of Confusion” was playing and could barely contain my laughter, so I had to leave. From eyewitness accounts, at some point Abby, not realizing a prank (not to mention six consecutive Phil Collins songs) was being played, unwittingly began humming to a Phil Collins song, then realized what she was doing and totally freaked out. To put the exclamation point on the prank, I called Abby on speakerphone with “I Can’t Dance” blaring in the background. She was furious.

All in all, Operation Phil Collins went better than I ever imagined. Hopefully this goes to show that there are stern and swift consequences for having poor taste in music.

Also today, Bill Lehn came up to have a business meeting. As you probably read, he just got back from working at the Super Bowl, so you know he had a lot to talk about. The highlights are that, on game day, he woke up at 3:15 a.m., worked until about 2 a.m. the next day (nearly a 23-hour work day, for you non-mathematicians out there), stopped off for breakfast on the way back to the hotel, then hibernated for an undisclosed amount of time. In journalism, this is what they call a follow-up story.

Random Friday thoughts…

  • More prospect rankings came out this week on MLB.com, along with their fantasy baseball rankings for the year. I, for one, can’t wait until it’s time to draft fantasy baseball teams, and not just because fantasy football was an unmitigated disaster for me this year.
  • It’s buried in this story from the San Diego newspaper, but the Padres fired Tom Gamboa as the minor-league field coordinator. He knows everyone in baseball, so he shouldn’t be out of work for long (unless he wants time off). This seriously bummed me out… Gamboa was one of the nicest people I met in 2009, in or out of baseball.
  • LeBron James is a complete and utter freak of nature. If you don’t believe me, watch the fourth quarter of last night’s game against the Magic. Every time he got the ball, at least four Orlando defenders would collapse into the lane to try and stop him. He still scored 11 points and had four assists in the fourth quarter, including two straight trips where he hit a turnaround, fadeaway three-pointer which rattled out then back in, then hit a long two-pointer with the entire arena chanting “MVP.” I can’t decide which I like more: that performance or this MVPuppets commercial with a cameo from Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
  • Speaking of commercials, this SportsCenter spot is fantastic.
  • Speaking of basketball, can we stop it with the “single fan standing up like a tough guy when a superstar goes bananas”? This happened last night whilst LeBron was tearing apart the Magic. LeBron has the talent, you just pay through the nose to watch it. If this were simply a show of unbridled “holy cow, I can’t believe that just happened,” it would be one thing, but it looks to me more like “I sit close to the court so I’m in LeBron’s posse.”
  • Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine both announced retirements this week. While I liked Thomas better (mostly because of the contribution “Big Hurt Baseball” on Super Nintendo had on my youth, but also because Glavine beat my Indians in the World Series and may have never thrown a strike the entire game), is it REALLY retiring when it’s 2010 and you haven’t played since 2008?

I think that’s all for now… In honor of Valentine’s Day and the wildly successful Operation Phil Collins, here’s musical guest Phil Collins!

Have a great weekend!

DW

Accidentally In Love

I don’t know what’s happening to me, but suddenly over this off-season, I’ve inexplicably been drawn to the NBA. You know, where bringing firearms to work, crooked officiating and trading the contracts of retired players happens. Apparently working in the press box with Allan Wertheimer, one of the only post-Magic/Bird/Jordan NBA fans I’ve ever met, is having adverse effects on me. In the past, I’ve liked watching LeBron James and that’s about it. But now that his contract is expiring and it seems like the only thing that would keep him in Cleveland is a serious run at a championship, I’m starting to check out the rest of the league. And darn if it isn’t kind of fun.

As part of that, I’ve watched some Cavs games on NBA TV. If it’s a home game, it includes the Cavaliers’ broadcast feed. Meaning Austin Carr, color commentator extraordinaire (just go down to Austin’s Soundboard… I’ll wait until you’re finished). If you don’t love the phrases “throw the hammer down,” “get that weak stuff outta here,” or “from deep! at the [venue name],” you’re in big trouble. Anyway, in addition to cementing my opinion that every major-league sports franchise has better radio broadcasters than TV broadcasters (all Cleveland sports being Exhibit A), this got me thinking about my dream TV broadcast teams. It really isn’t even that tough.

NBA: Marv Albert, Charles Barkley, Jeff Van Gundy
College Basketball: Gus Johnson, Bob Knight, Bill Raftery
Baseball: Vin Scully, Steve Stone
Football: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Ron Jaworski (sorry, John Madden)
Hockey: Gary Thorne, Barry Melrose (not that I watch hockey, but I’m pretty sure they both had mullets at some point)
Bowling: Chris Schenkel. Solo.

If you could put Barkley and Knight on the same crew, what would happen? The best basketball broadcast ever? A fistfight? A shouting match at the hint of disagreement? Flying chairs? No matter what, you can bet I’d be watching.

More on the hockey… I probably haven’t watched a hockey game on TV in four years (I occasionally covered the Columbus Blue Jackets), but I just remember Gary Thorne calling every big game and having a sixth gear where he goes bananas and it sounds awesome. That, and the mullets, and it’s good enough for me.

As always, if anybody has any personal favorites, feel free to share in the comments.

Now for some fairly sizable news… In March, I will be in a group of three from our office to go to Spring Training in Arizona for a few days. We’ll be working to gather content for the video board, the radio & TV broadcasts, the website… everything. Right now the plan is to highlight the championship ring presentation for our 2009 team, but there’s a lot of other stuff we’ll be doing. Including sampling some of the local food. There’s one of these a half-mile from the Peoria Sports Complex and I’m so excited, I’m about to lose control and I think I like it.

So if you have any ideas, players you’d like to hear about (Padres or otherwise), etc., let me know. I’m already looking forward to seeing Dustin Ackley of the Mariners and Donovan Tate of the Padres (No. 2 and 3 draft picks last year, respectively).

Oh yeah… we’re working on a Bad Apple Dancers logo. Get ready.

I think that’s it for now. Bowling night tonight!

Take care!

DW

Don’t Call Me Frodo

Happy Monday!

So I couldn’t help but notice a few of the “prop bets” for the Super Bowl last night. Not that I condone gambling. But if there’s ever an over-under on how long a National Anthem performance will go, I’m taking the over every time. Why? Because, no matter what, the Super Bowl performance is always longer. Call it hogging the spotlight, call it striving for the best performance… it just takes longer.

There was also an over-under on Pete Townsend guitar windmills. It was 5.5. He probably doubled that during “Who Are You.” We probably knew he was going to go over 5.5 when there was a windmilling guitarist in the lights surrounding the stage (a great-looking light show, I might add).

As far as commercials, I was flabbergasted at the lack of monkey commercials. It is a scientific fact that commercials involving monkeys are funnier, and it’s stunning that more companies didn’t do it. Cutbacks, I suppose.

Also, it was good to see the OAC represented when Pierre Garcon scored the first touchdown of the game. He was a one-man wrecking crew when I saw him at Mount Union about four years ago. I’ll never forget him taking a kickoff on the run from his own 20, busting through the wedge, cutting to the far sideline and scoring, all in about 3.1 seconds. He’s good.

I’m happy to report that “Cat Bowl II” was quite uneventful at the Watson house. The cat who decided to soil my Super Bowl last year wasn’t up for a repeat. She did inexplicably pull a classic cat-freakout/jump-over-furniture dangerously close to me, but I escaped unscathed. I think the couch she jumped over/clawed was scathed, however. I watched a few minutes of the Puppy Bowl and it was far more interesting than the Cat Bowl. Big surprise.

You may be wondering what today’s title is all about. Well, I told you Friday I would have pictures which would make you insanely jealous. Unfortunately for you, I’m not talking about full-body shots, so dream on. I’m talking about the Midwest League championship ring I (and others) received on Friday. It’s actually my third title ring (easily the nicest), second as a broadcaster.  The other one I won as (technically) a player on a conference championship team in college. If by “playing” you mean practicing, keeping charts and occasionally pinch-running. As you can tell, wins have really followed the dollar in terms of inflation since my college days.

I also told you Friday I’d post the top 10 prospects I’ve seen in person during my extensive (three-year) career in baseball. The only rule is, I had to see the player in person. Here goes… It’s what I like to call the “Watson Files Take-it-to-the-Bank Top 10 Prospect List”

1. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles. Saw him in the Eastern League in 2008. Head and shoulders above everyone else. Approach, power, arm… Everything you’ve heard is true.
2. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds. Saw him in the Florida State League in 2007. Has some holes in his swing, but he has power, speed and arm. Part of a nasty Sarasota Reds team… After they swept our team in a four-game series, our hitting coach said they would contend in a Double-A league.
3. Chris Tillman, RHP, Orioles. Saw him in the EL in 2008. Big piece of the horribly one-sided Erik Bedard-to-Seattle trade.  Very young, fastball in the mid-90s, nasty secondary stuff.
4. Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers. Saw him in the MWL in 2009. One of my
main criteria in these rankings is whether the guy has that “Oh Lord, anybody but him” quality when he’s coming to the plate/mound. Gordon does, and he’ll only get
better as he adds power. He just needs to play more.
5. Brett Lawrie, 2B, Brewers. Saw him in the Midwest League in 2009. If he stays at second base, he looks like he’ll be one of the best in baseball. If he doesn’t, his bat is still really good.
6. Jake McGee, LHP, Rays. Saw him in the FSL in 2007. He was on the same Vero Beach staff as Wade Davis (who had a 10-strikeout performance in the big leagues last year), and I liked McGee better. He had Tommy John surgery in 2008, so we could see a big-time comeback in 2010.
7. Simon Castro, RHP, Padres. Saw him in the MWL in 2009. I’m biased, but barring a catastrophe he’s going to be a really good pitcher in the big leagues. Fastball in the mid-90s, ungodly slider, improving changeup and a REALLY good dude.
8. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Nationals. Saw him in the EL in 2008. Another Tommy John guy who missed most of 2009, but he has a nasty repertoire. I have a soft spot for Division-III products (Wisconsin-Stevens Point), too.
9. Daniel Bard, RHP, Red Sox. Saw him in the EL in 2008. Probably the hardest thrower I’ve ever seen in person, including major-league games. When a guy comes in from the bullpen and it’s an event when the hitters foul pitches off, you know he’s good. Now if he could add a reliable off-speed pitch, you’d have your setup man in Boston.
10. Nolan Reimold, OF, Orioles. Saw him in the EL in 2008. He hit .388-10-21 in 22 games against my team (Harrisburg), so maybe I saw him at his best, but holy cow. There was a four-game series where he hit FIVE homers. Cannon arm in right field, pretty good contact hitter. That Bowie team he was on was ridiculous… Wieters, Reimold, EL Triple Crown winner Lou Montanez, Tillman and about three other nasty starters who made big-league debuts in 2009, a 30-year-old closer… They were loaded.

Honorable Mention: Wade Davis, RHP, Rays… Aaron Miller, LHP, Dodgers… Jaff Decker, OF, Padres… Josh Vitters, INF, Cubs… Casey Crosby, LHP, Tigers.

Loch Ness Monster List (Players I narrowly missed out on seeing and am still bitter about it): Matt LaPorta, OF, Indians… Johnny Cueto, RHP, Reds… Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets… Pablo Sandoval, INF, Giants.

Robert Duvall Late Bloomers List (Players I saw but didn’t believe would be good, but are): Both Marlins… OF Chris Coghlan (yes, NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan; he hit .200 in the Florida State League as a second baseman) and RHP Chris Volstad (8-9, 4.50 ERA in a pretty pitcher-friendly league doesn’t exactly scream productive major-leaguer, I don’t care where you’re drafted).

Mary Swanson “I Was Way Off!” List (Players I thought could produce in the big leagues, but haven’t (yet): OF Roger Bernadina, Nationals. Off-the-charts physical ability, but inconsistent (common story in the minors) and becoming injury-prone. Wilkin Ramirez, OF, Tigers. Almost went 20-20 in the EL in 2008, can barely get a cup of coffee in the big leagues.

Paris Hilton Memorial “Famous for Being Famous” List (players who get hyped and I don’t see it): There are about four guys I would put on this list, but I’m not going to. I was going more for the comedic effect of the list name.

I think that’s all for today… Take care!

DW

Christmas in February

Today is one of the greatest days of the year for minor-league baseball sickos like me. The Baseball America Prospect Handbook came in the mail. I’ll spare you all the explanations, because it’s pretty self-explanatory. Fort Wayne alums in bold, guys who have yet to play at the Class-A level (read: potential future TinCaps) in italics.

Padres’ Top 30
1. Donovan Tate, of
2. Simon Castro, rhp
3. James Darnell, 3b
4. Jaff Decker, of
5. Logan Forsythe, 3b
6. Cory Luebke, lhp
7. Wynn Pelzer, rhp
8. Everett Williams, rhp
9. Edinson Rincon, 3b
10. Aaron Poreda, lhp
11. Drew Cumberland, ss
12. Keyvius Sampson, rhp
13. Adys Portillo, rhp
14. Rymer Liriano, of
15. Lance Zawadzki, ss/3b
16. Kellen Kulbacki, of
17. Blake Tekotte, of
18. Jeremy Hefner, rhp
19. Jerry Sullivan, rhp
20. Craig Italiano, rhp
21. Chad Huffman, of/1b
22. Jorge Reyes, rhp
23. Cedric Hunter, of
24. Ryan Webb, rhp
25. Luis Durango, of
26. Cesar Ramos, lhp
27. Matt Antonelli, 2b
28. Dexter Carter, rhp
29. Matt Clark, 1b
30. Cole Figueroa, ss/2b

Best Tools
Hitter for Average – Jaff Decker
Power Hitter - Matt Clark
Strike Zone Discipline – Logan Forsythe
Fastest Baserunner – Luis Durango
Athlete – Donovan Tate
Fastball – Wynn Pelzer
Curveball – Keyvius Sampson
Slider – Wynn Pelzer
Changeup – Jeremy Hefner
Control – Chris Fetter
Defensive Catcher – Luis Martinez
Defensive Infielder – Beamer Weems
Infield Arm – Lance Zawadzki
Defensive Outfielder – Donovan Tate
Outfield Arm – Rymer Liriano

Projected 2013 Lineup
Catcher – Nick Hundley
First Base – Adrian Gonzalez
Second Base – James Darnell
Third Base – Chase Headley
Shortstop – Everth Cabrera
Left Field – Kyle Blanks
Center Field – Donovan Tate
Right Field – Jaff Decker
No. 1 Starter – Mat Latos
No. 2 Starter – Simon Castro
No. 3 Starter – Chris Young
No. 4 Starter – Kevin Correia
No. 5 Starter – Cory Luebke
Closer – Wynn Pelzer

Lots to digest here. Of the top 30 prospects, only 4 have played above Class-A without playing in Fort Wayne. Forsythe just didn’t come here (skipped to Lake Elsinore; we got James Darnell instead), Poreda, Italiano and Webb came over in trades. Sounds to me like the Padres have treated Fort Wayne pretty well lately.

As far as the top prospects in baseball, three writers ranked their personal Top 50s. Tate was in two of the three writers’ lists. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t played in a professional game yet. Also, the Padres are ranked the No. 20 system in baseball, up from their No. 29 ranking last year.

I really don’t have any complaints about the list. It was tough to see Allan Dykstra go from No. 8 a year ago to off the Top 30, but he can re-establish himself with a big year in the California League in 2010. It was also pretty crazy to see Tate as the Padres’ starting center fielder for 2013 considering he hasn’t been in a pro game yet, but if people think he’s that good I’ll believe it until I see otherwise.

These rankings got me thinking about the top 10 players I’ve seen in my three years working in the Minor Leagues. I’ll have that list for you on Monday and, just to be clear, ranking prospects is incredibly tough. After the top two, just about everybody is interchangeable. Also on Monday I’ll have a picture that will make you insanely jealous.

Now to the football… Sunday is the Super Bowl. If you haven’t seen TinCaps.com (and chances are you have), TinCaps food czar Bill “The Polish Rifle” Lehn is in Miami working on the food and beverage staff. I talked to him the other day and he told me it was 82 degrees and sunny. I didn’t hear if he was still working out on a daily basis, but if he eats as much as I would on a trip like that, his lead in TinCaps Biggest Loser could evaporate quickly.

Anyway, as a Browns fan I feel like a pretty neutral observer for the game on Sunday. As much as I would like to pick the Saints to win the game, I think it’s the Colts all the way. Let’s say 35-21, and it won’t be as close as the score.

What I’m most concerned about on Sunday is what I’m dubbing “Cat Bowl II.” For the second consecutive year, Chris Watson and his lovely wife Jamie are hosting a get-together. Last year, their cat (we’ll call her Angry Basket Cat) decided it would be hilarious to sit in a basket right next to me on the couch and then fling “waste” at me while climbing out of said basket. I am a staunch believer that the worst dog in the universe is better than the best cat of all-time, so you can imagine my frustration at the whole situation. Well, we’ve crossed paths a couple of times over the past year and Sunday is the official re-match. I won’t make a prediction for this titanic struggle, but Clubber Lang will. Get ready, Angry Basket Cat.

OK… It’s time to get out of here. It’s snowing outside and I still have some things to do. Here’s your musical guest, Mr. Conway Twitty!

Have a great weekend!

DW

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