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By all accounts, Rays manager Joe Maddon is a pretty hip dude. He’s an avid cyclist, taking a collapsible bike with him on road trips. His musical taste ranges from Pavarotti to Bruce Springsteen. He’s a connoisseur of fine wines. His glasses are a fashion statement. It was Maddon’s idea for the Rays to wear crazy costumes on road trips. He’s on record as saying he probably won’t cut his hair all season. He even does commercials for vitamins as if he were some kind of modern-day Hulk Hogan.
What I’m trying to say is, Joe Maddon may, in fact, be the most interesting man in the world. Or at least Major League Baseball.
“I think you kind of need to have that blessing when you walk into a
new place, before everybody feels comfortable with you,” Maddon says.
“You know what I liken it to? It’s almost like the
best-looking-girl-in-the-bar theory. Everybody’s afraid to talk to her
because she’s the best-looking girl in the bar. Well, Manny is one of
the best hitters since — I don’t know — Babe Ruth? So somebody’s
afraid to talk to him about hitting. And if they do, they’re going to be
less than forceful in their opinions because, after all, he’s Manny
“So it’s no different,” Maddon philosophizes. “For those
who are single, always approach that best-looking girl in the bar [and
say], ‘Excuse me.’ And for managers and coaches, always approach that
potential Hall of Fame player. He might want to hear what you have to
So there you have it. When in doubt, do what Joe Maddon would do: Suck it up, have some confidence and talk to good-looking ladies.
Now you know. And knowing’s half the battle.
- Before you do anything else, take a moment to bask in the genius of TinCaps head groundskeeper Keith Winter, the Most Interesting Groundskeeper in the World. Aside from Joe Maddon, he may be the top philosopher in all of baseball right now.
- The Padres got beat by the Brewers by a touchdown (with a former Michigan football player on the mound… surprise), but Fort Wayne alums Will Venable, Jedd Gyorko, Blake Tekotte, Daniel Robertson, Sawyer Carroll and Rymer Liriano all got into the game for San Diego.
- Sidearming RHP Pat Neshek made his Padres debut and has a decent shot to make the big-league roster.
- Padres RHP Aaron Harang has been doing a lot of video work, trying to get back to what made him successful with the Reds.
- Baseball America updates their organizational rankings to reflect some of the trades since the Prospect Handbook came out. The Padres moved up to No. 8 after the Cubs traded some of their top prospects to the Rays for Matt Garza.
- Padres GM Jed Hoyer is on record saying Spring Training stats mean virtually nothing. Others think they mean something… unless they don’t. As usual, I’m in the Hoyer camp on this one.
- Former Fort Wayne RHP Jake Peavy played catch and will get the rehab process restarted soon.
- Midwest League alum LHP Clayton Kershaw is maturing as the ace of the Dodgers.
- There’s a preview out there for the Giants’ reality show on Showtime. It looks almost exactly like HBO’s 24/7 series, which isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it may be the first reason ever to actually subscribe to Showtime.
- Orioles LHP Zach Britton is having a nice spring. I’m very skeptical of AL East pitching prospects… they get thrown into the meat grinder like nobody else in baseball.
- Angels 1B Kendrys Morales has some foot soreness. He’s the guy who broke his leg celebrating after a game-winning home run. Apparently the foot issue is a separate problem from the broken leg.
- The Phillies signed Luis Castillo right after he got released by the Mets, but now nobody can figure out why he was slow to report to Phillies camp. Sigh. Wasting talent is lame.
- Opening Day in Japan has been pushed back, not surprisingly.
- The Twins had a couple of beer vendors caught up in a “check-ID” sting.
- Will Rhymes will be the Tigers’ starting second baseman. They haven’t found a good alternative since Placido Polanco left.
- Yankees C Jesus Montero will probably start the season in Triple-A. Which is good, actually… Better than sitting on the bench in the big leagues.
- A Josh Hamilton-like story is unfolding at Marlins camp.
- The Cubs are getting a look at a former college football star whom they paid good money. And I’m not talking about RHP Jeff Samardzija. Who, by the way, is out of options this spring. If they don’t keep him in the big leagues, the Cubs would have to put Samardzija through waivers to send him to the minors. That whole situation stinks. They overpaid to get him to pass up football, he was rushed through the minors (at least partially because of the money) and now (surprise!) he’s not ready to be who they thought he’d be. Ugh.
- Don Zimmer is starting his 63rd season in baseball. The stories he could tell…
- I’m kind of mad that I missed the Supermoon the other night.
- Last night I got invited to crash a wedding reception. If you’re invited by someone other than the bride or groom, is it still considered crashing? Quasi-crashing?
- I can’t get enough of this: Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki is asking fans to pick his new walk-up song, replacing “Party in the USA.” If it was me, I’d take the top five suggestions and pick it myself. Right now if I had to pick a walkup song, I’d go with an edited version of “The W.A.N.D.” by The Flaming Lips, “Your Touch” by The Black Keys, “Motown Philly” by Boyz II Men, “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, “2 Legit 2 Quit” by M.C. Hammer or the chorus of “Ice Ice Baby.” And I’d force Tony DesPlaines to alternate songs every single at-bat, and he’d hate every sec
ond of it, but the crowd would go bananas.
Musical guest, with perhaps the greatest walkup song ever… Ted Nugent!
Maybe I shouldn’t be impressed by this, but I am: the Padres played two split-squad games yesterday and, by my count, 20 Fort Wayne alums played in the games (including C Luke Carlin who’s now with the Indians). Eleven of them have been here during the Parkview Field era (2009-10). The rundown:
In one game, an all-Fort Wayne-alum pitching staff held the Indians to three hits – Cleveland had under-the-radar MLB studs Carlos Santana and Shin-Soo Choo in the starting lineup.
In the other game, former TinCaps RHP Matt Lollis had a rough inning against the Reds in a loss. To cut him some slack, the Padres made errors against two of the first three batters Lollis faced. INF Jeudy Valdez and C Jason Hagerty each had hits, and rumor has it Valdez made a nice play in the field.
Go ahead and say, “But Dan, didn’t you just say recently that Spring Training stats are meaningless?” First of all, stop whining. Second of all, the answer is yes, but I feel like bragging our guys up today and I don’t care if it’s rational or not. This is America. Land of the free.
- If you see a TinCaps full-time staffer violating the new staff dress code between now and Opening Day, you win free tickets to Opening Day. This may or may not be the modern-day equivalent of wearing flair, except we have to wear it whether we’re working or not. But hey… it’s all for fun, right? RIGHT?!?
- Also yesterday, Padres RHP Aaron Harang got a rude welcome from his old team, the Reds. He had trouble out of the stretch, but at least he knows what went wrong mechanically. The Padres really need a bounce-back year out of him.
- Fort Wayne alum 3B Chase Headley had two hits against the Indians, including a two-run single from the right side of the plate.
- The big pieces the Padres got back in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, 1B Anthony Rizzo and RHP Casey Kelly, are both looking good this spring. Rizzo homered yesterday. Also, they call each other slobs and are both big Justin Bieber fans and tried to get into his movie. Something tells me they would have starred in the movie “Return of the Idiots” had they stayed in Boston.
- Everybody except former Fort Wayne RHP Jake Peavy was happy with his performance yesterday.
- Rangers RHP Brandon Webb is going through a slow rehab from shoulder surgery.
- Phillies 2B Chase Utley’s injured knee is a mystery. They’re not looking quite as untouchable as they did when they signed Cliff Lee.
- Braves INF Brooks Conrad is looking forward after last year’s nightmarish postseason. Did you know he’s the first player to make a game-ending error in a post-season game since Bill Buckner? It’s really too bad – second base isn’t his natural position but he went out there anyway, then took all the heat after the game.
- A minor-league manager in the Braves system got smoked by a foul ball yesterday. One of my buddies from college broadcasts the games in Lynchburg, where he’ll manage this year. Small world.
- As a media relations-type guy, I’m always interested in a good debate about media ethics/behavior. Hints: when you’re anywhere on a working media credential, be working; no cheering in the press box; have fun, but don’t get too buddy-buddy with the players.
- Could it be an ESPN version of The Watson Files? Maybe, but I doubt it features crowd-pleasers like this, and it definitely won’t have a sense of humor about itself.
- I should have news about a massive upgrade to our radio broadcasts as early as tomorrow. This might only be interesting to the top echelon of Fort Wayne sports dorks, but as the radio guy, this is big news for me.
- I dropped two spots from January in the MLBlogs rankings. Looks like I’ll be hitting “refresh” for an extra hour per day this month to raise my numbers again.
- Brent Harring and I are speaking at the Berne Rotary Club meeting today. We went in 2009 and it still stands as the best time I’ve ever had at a meeting of any kind.
Musical guest… The Killers!
Let me tell you a(nother) reason why baseball is the best game there is: There is no scouting combine.
Football scouts get information overload. The vast majority of pro-caliber football players are already playing three or four years worth of nationally-televised showcase games 8-9 times per season at big-time schools. Each player’s every move is taped in practice and games. The amount of information available on football players is huge already. Then there’s the week-long combine, also nationally televised.
Now look at baseball. Sure, there are showcase camps and Aflac All-American games where some
of the best amateur players get together to play against each other. But there is no one-stop-shop where scouts get to dress virtually every draft-eligible player in awkward spandex to evaluate. They have to figure out if some peach-fuzzed kid with a mid-90s fastball who doesn’t need to throw a curveball against overmatched competition at a tiny high school will end up being a better player than a guy who plays against the top college competition in the nation.
You know Jason Heyward, considered one of the best young players in the big leagues? Thirteen teams passed on him, many saying it was because they didn’t get to see him swing the bat – he walked too much when scouts were around. And this was a high-schooler, usually one of the easier places to scout. Mike Piazza? Maybe the best offensive catcher in history. Drafted in the 62nd round. Teams drafted 1,389 players before the Dodgers took him. The NFL brags “every pick counts” because Tom Brady was a seventh rounder. Please. While NFL scouts are asked to find players who can contribute months (and eventually years) after the draft, MLB scouts are sometimes asked to find a 16-year-old in Venezuela who could be productive in the big leagues 10 years later after developing in the minors.
And you know what that means? Just like a lot of people agree that hitting a round ball with a round bat is the toughest thing to do in sports, trying to FIND people who can do that is the toughest assignment in sports scouting.
- From Buster Olney: Looks like the Gonzalez trade haul will be
assigned like this… 1B Anthony Rizzo to Triple-A Tucson, RHP Casey
Kelly to Double-A San Antonio, OF Reymond Fuentes to Advanced-A Lake
Elsinore. Which, to me, increases the likelihood of an Everett Williams
encore in Fort Wayne to start the year, but that’s just a guess. Also,
Rizzo doubled off Simon Castro in an intrasquad game.
- Spring Training games started this weekend and Fort Wayne alum C Nick Hundley hit a grand slam and former TinCaps 3B James Darnell homered.
- Former TinCap RHP Matt Lollis keeps getting noticed, this time by the San Diego U-T. You get the feeling he never would have been under the radar if he hadn’t been injured his senior year of high school.
- Fort Wayne alum OF/1B Kyle Blanks is hitting in the cage and playing defense in intrasquad games as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
- How do you score runs without a masher like Adrian Gonzalez? Run wilder than Hulkamania, and Fort Wayne alum OF Will Venable could help in that department this year, especially with new first-base coach Dave Roberts.
- Fort Wayne alum OF Cedric Hunter has had an up-and-down career – he led the
Cal League in hits in 2008 and was third in batting average… behind
Daniel Nava and Carlos Santana, both now in the big leagues.
- Fort Wayne alum (and now-Rays RHP) Matt Bush pitched a perfect inning this weekend.
- In this Padres roundup,
the Opening Day payroll is around $46 million, the team sometimes pays
guys more than league minimum (even when it doesn’t have to) and Orlando Hudson loves NASCAR.
- Hey, remember John Roskos? Neither does anyone else, which is Bill Center’s point: He was a Spring Training legend and didn’t amount to diddly poo. The moral of the story is, don’t put too much stock in these games, especially this early.
- Former Padres GM Kevin Towers recounts his final days with San Diego. They’re awkward.
- The Diamondbacks-Rockies spring training facility looks awesome.
- Fort Wayne alum (and now Minnesota Twins) OF Michael Cuddyer isn’t playing yet because of a wart on the bottom of his foot.
- The Seattle newspaper profiles Fort Wayne native and Mariners manager Eric Wedge.
- Marlon Byrd made history last year and was the first guy to have non-organ music played at Wrigley Field, and he goes with a song by somebody named Gang Starr? Come on, man!
- From Baseball America: Bubba Starling, who is draft-eligible this year, is a better athlete than Mike Trout, Donovan Tate or Aaron Hicks were coming out of high school. Wow.
- How do you make the Wedding of the Century even better? By making the reception a costume party. Ladies and gentlemen, Dave Hutte!
- What does a wildly successful TV director/philanthropist, engaged to be married, do with his free time? He suggests Wonderlic test questions to ESPN’s Page 2… And gets the top spot. Ladies and gentlemen, Dave Hutte!
- It took watching “Muppets from Space” to remind me how fantastic and curmudgeon-y Statler and Waldorf are. “I wonder if there’s life on other planets…” “Why do you care? You don’t have a life on THIS planet! DAHAHAHAHA!”
Musical guest… Weezer!
If you missed it yesterday, my good buddy Dave Hutte got engaged (to be married) over the weekend. When I got the voice mail telling me it had happened, I almost drove off the road because I was happy for/proud of him. But now that the initial shock has worn off, it’s time to have fun with this. Because if you can’t have fun with your friends, who can you have fun with?
Two disclaimers for today:
- The Dave Hutte wedding prop bet odds are for recreational purposes only. They are opening lines and are subject to change. I do not condone gambling.
- Dave Hutte and I are good friends. None of this is serious. As far as you know.
And that’s it! Now let’s do this!
Dave Hutte tuxedo color
Black (with cobra embroidered on back): -450
Any other color: +200
Will Dave Hutte get nervous enough to pass out during the ceremony?
Passage read during ceremony
Colossians 3:12: -200
Ecclesiastes 4:9: -110
1 Corinthians 13:4: +150
“What it Takes to Be No. 1” by Vince Lombardi: -500
Number of different kinds of cheese in nacho fountain at reception
Over/Under 2.5: Pick ‘em
Caterer for reception
Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Dave Hutte’s go-to restaurant for first dates: -800
Everything else: (EVEN)
Song for husband/wife first dance as married couple:
Firehouse, “Love of a Lifetime”: -350
Any song by The Dave Hutte Experience: -200
Richard Marx, “Now and Forever”: +105
Hulk Hogan, “Real American”: +110
Will this happen at reception?
Will Dave Hutte sustain an injury while dancing at reception?
Distance (in feet) of garter toss, using Dave Hutte’s T-Rex arms:
Under 3.5: -250
Over 3.5: +200
Will this blog entry cause my groomsman invitation to be revoked?
Yes/No: (Pick ‘em)
That wraps it up for the prop bets. Again, these are only jokes. So just relax.
- TinCaps single-game tickets go on sale Tuesday, February 22.
- As someone who cares about personal health, I can’t recommend the West Michigan Whitecaps’ Valentine’s Day gift idea. But I figured I’d pass the story along for laughs. TinCaps mascot Johnny is totally booked that day delivering gifts which are slightly healthier.
- Contract negotiations generally make great athletes look bad/greedy, but Albert Pujols seems like a genuinely nice guy.
- Good story about Emmett Ashford, the Jackie Robinson of umpires.
- Ask BA discusses the thin crop of offensive-minded shortstops in the game. Isn’t it possible that we were just spoiled by the Ripken/Rodriguez/Garciaparra/Tejada days?
- Big issues for the Rangers: All the position shifting has finally sent Michael Young over the edge. Even millionaires want to feel like they’re a valued member of their company (and not just monetarily). The Rangers have repeatedly brought in other people to essentially do his job, and after dealing with it several times he’s had enough. He supposedly has eight teams he’ll accept a trade with and the Twins seem like the best fit with the Cardinals second. His big contract is another trade obstacle. Meanwhile, the Rangers are trying to avoid arbitration with Josh Hamilton (they’ll probably end up getting a bargain).
- Peter Gammons wrote something about the NL East. Lots of good young players there.
- The team from Mexico won the Caribbean Series. Padres SS Everth Cabrera played for the Mexican team; former MWLer Alexis Espinoza played for the Venezuelan team.
- Reds closer Francisco Cordero’s agent’s name is Bean Stringfellow.
- What parts of the US produce the most MLB players?
- Equipment trucks are leaving MLB parks, headed to spring training.
- When they said the Dodgers would wear throwback uniforms, I wondered how far you could throw back one of the most classic unis in the game. Apparently they’re going all the way back to the Brooklyn look.
- Fantasy baseball is coming soon. Oh baby.
- So you’re telling me the two best-received Super Bowl commercials featured dogs as main characters? Color me unsurprised.
- Watched a documentary about Ronald Reagan on HBO last night. It was excellent. Yes, I’m 26 years old and watching documentaries about ex-presidents during my free time. How am I still single?
Musical guest… Kenny Rogers!