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Pena Pulled From Game

Are those empty seats I see in the upper deck at Tropicana Field?? Shameful.

At least those not in attendance didn't see Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena replaced by Willie Aybar in the third inning of the Rays' game against Chicago. Pena apparently left the game with slightly blurred vision in his left eye. Rays team officials said he accidentally scratched the eye last night at home.

There is no understating the importance of Pena and what he brings to the middle of the lineup. He had 31 homers and 102 RBI, including two bombs in late-season games against Boston that effectively gave Tampa Bay the AL East.

By Tom Heleba  |  October 2, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
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Next: Brett Myers Is No Cole Hamels


Empty seats? I actually put in my name for ALDS tickets because I've never been to the Trop ... if you people ain't gonna use 'em don't buy 'em!

Posted by: WTF? | October 2, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse


The “Week of Enough Baseball” is the first week in October. You get two days of three games, several of two games, and one day that could have four games if there are no series sweeps. You get Jon Miller’s mellifluous tones on ESPN Radio calling at least one game a day. So far in 2008, Tim McCarver’s ignorance-enhancing antics have been suppressed into well-earned silence and invisibility. In celebration of the odious McCarver’s absence, you get a little bit of Cal Ripken on TBS before and after games.

And if that isn’t enough excitement, this year you can always flip over to MSNBC between innings to see if the Republicans, under the dynamic leadership of their presidential nominee, have killed their own Preznit’s Wall Street bailout again.

I tend to take a primitive, tribal, good-vs-evil approach to baseball, as God Himself intended. The premier factor in determining loyalty of course is geography, followed by history, followed by an amalgamation of general principles.

Starting at my home for the last 36 years, I have complete affection for the hapless Washington Nationals. The thing to remember about their abysmal performance is they are essentially an expansion team built on the Bud “Invertebrate” Selig-induced ruins of the Montreal Expos. They even had two rudderless years before the financially constipated Lerners took over. They may just manage to contend by 2011 after they have had stable ownership in place for five years. (I don’t believe any expansion team has ever contended in under five years from its establishment.)

And because of having grown up there, I retain a residual attachment to the Houston Astros, whose inaugural game (as the Colt .45’s) I attended on my 12th birthday in 1962. Their horrible playoff defeat by the Mets in 1986 was worse, to my psyche, than the subsequent defeat of the Red Sox. Compared to that shocker, Houston getting swept in the 2005 Woild Serious was light work.

On principle, I have an underdog affection for the Seattle Mariners, (home of the fabulous Ichiro Suzuki, the best all-round position player in baseball,) despite their being the first $100 million team to finish last. Formerly, I was temporarily a Baltimore Orioles fan. (This was just for the 34 years between when the racist Bob Short fled DC with the expansion Senators in 1971 and when the Nationals began play in 2005.) I became less and less so after 1993 for each cumulatively more disastrous year of the diminuitive and dismal Peter Angelos’ intellectually-challenged ownership.

And of course I rooted for the Red Sox to break the curse and, more importantly, humiliate the Yankees. I am not one of those who says, “OK, the Red Sox have won the modern Woild Serious twice. Now they are as arrogant as the Yankees and should, like the Yankees, be disdained by all right-thinking people not actually from their area.” No. That’s like saying the civil rights years counterbalance, and have repaired, the centuries of slavery. Not until the Yankees endure 75 years of dashed hopes and intermittent humiliation without a single Serious win will justice be served. Fortunately, beginning with their firing of Joe Torre last year, the Family Steinbrenner seems well-begun in its task of taking Yankee Nation and sowing its fields with salt so that henceforth nothing grows there. In the mean time, the Red Sox can be safely liked although not, in my case, wholly beloved.

Today the Brewers (residually evil because of their long-term ownership by the family of used car dealer Selig, whose chuckle-headed imbecilities as Commissioner gave us interleague play and a couple of labor stoppages) got stomped by the Filthadelphia Filthies on a couple of defensive miscues that looked like McFate taking a hand, as Nabokov put it. Selig has even slimed those to whom his incompetent-by-descent daughter sold it in 2005, since they were all part of her ownership group before they bought her out. Even their small-market cachet cannot make up for the stench of Seligness. As an aside, I would rather the Mets had won the division than the Filthies, because the chagrin of Clan Steinbrenner is multiplied a thousandfold when the Mets are in the playoffs and the Yankees are not.

Of course, most owners are ignorably neutral, as are most players and managers. There are few players so deservingly excellent as to compel my loyalty. Ichiro has done so, as would Derek Jeter if he didn’t play for the Yankees. Aside from that insurmountable barrier, my admiration for him as a player might extend to his whole team. And there are few players so disgusting as to induce me to hate their teams. Pete Rose accomplished an historic double in that field by instilling in me a disdain for both the Cincinnati Reds and the Filthies that endures to this day. Petie’s self-congratulatory strutting turned me off him long before the revelation of his gambling addiction and his stubborn refusal to acknowledge or treat it. Plus the Filthies are a division rival of my noble Nationals and are the team we love to hate the most. Probably the only other team to be permanently disqualified is the Texas Rangers on several grounds, each sufficient alone and together irrevocable. They are the Senators stolen by Short, George W. Bush was allowed to pretend to be their president for a while, and they are from Dallas.

So as between the Filthies and the Brewers, I want them both to lose, and will root against whichever one wins this series to lose the next.

Nowadays the Cubs are the national sentimental favorites, as the Red Sox had been before, to break their curse and win a modern Woild Serious. And Wrigley Field is certainly the only rival to Fenway Park as locating baseball in the heart of living neighborhoods. I never had any ambition to see a game in old Yankee Stadium, and now they have a new one starting next year I am relieved of ever having to visit the Bronx. But I would get up off my deathbed to see a game at Fenway or Wrigley. Well, a day game…

But. The gritty, worthy nature of the club, its town, and its surroundings notwithstanding, the Cubs have a huge, insurmountable drawback to my allegiance this year in the person of their disingenuous and disreputable manager, Lou Pinella. As a Yankee player, he was George Steinbrenner’s personal spy during the first baseball strike, sucking up to George by giving away information on the players’ bargaining positions at every opportunity. This act of betrayal of players for management’s benefit is probably what got his ill-starred managerial career started, during which his inability to handle pitchers has become legendary and remains uncorrected. His pugilistic, supercilious, overbearing manner (no doubt all a cover-up for well-merited feelings of inferiority) lead me to conclude he is, like the late Billy Martin, an active alcoholic full of self-destructive self-righteousness. No, in my book, Sweet Lou, he loathesome. However, I do want Alfonso Soriano to do well, as an ex-National – just not well enough to win.

Furthermore, the Los Angeles Dodgers have Joe Torre as their manager, whom I wish infinitely well not only because he is a mensch but because he makes Clan Steinbrenner look more than usually blockheaded for having fired him. Yeah, Torre’s managing style was the problem all right last year, and it must be just some hideous accident that the Yankees are out of the playoffs this year while the Dodgers are in. So I am constrained to be for the Dodgers because of Cub unsuitability for higher victories until after the Pinella era – which, if he loses this series, I can devoutly hope ends this very off-season. (I don’t mind seeing drunks in positions of prominence as long as they ignominiously fail.) Mercifuly the Cubs lost for what I trust will be the first of three defeats in a row.

Then we have Red Sox vs the Anaheim Angels of Los Anaheim, or whatever they are calling themselves this year. The Angels were the pet project of the old Wrangler of Radio Ranch himself, Gene Autry, whose flaccid and inert stream of horse operas pollutes the cable waves even today. And Boston, despite a certain swelled-head syndrome among parts of Red Sox Nation, remains supportable. Sometimes it takes a long time to right injustice, and although I do not hope for them to win their league pennant, I would be satisfied if they won this first series. Their hard-fought initial victory tonight makes that seem probable.

Tomorrow we get the Tampa Bay Rays vs. the Chicago White Sox. Despite the utter failure of baseball in Florida (both as an attraction and as a phenomenon) the White Sox must go down to ignominious and justified defeat because of their owner, Jerry Reinsdorf. He is the organ grinder to whose cracked and wheezy tune dances clumsy monkey Selig. He orchestrated the baseball strikes with his antiunion strategy that was so illegal it was savaged by Federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor when she put a stop to the last one. An unreconstructed real estate speculator, he let the undercapitalized Selig into the millionaires club of ownership so he could have a humble sidekick against whom his own glory would seem the more refulgent. And then Reinsdorf converted Selig into the Commissioner to prevent any independent power being exercised for the good of baseball in general, preferring only the good of the owners.

You may say I should give players more weight, and owners less, in my choice of teams. But the institutional structures of capitalist life always reflect ownership more than workers. And team selection is, at bottom, a cultural phenomenon of great individuality and almost of spirituality. Every year in the playoffs I go through an exercise similar to the one I have laid out here to determine my rooting interests. I have extended beyond simple geography or personal history because those grounds, though strongest, do not sufficiently devise an approach to teams in other markets.

You have seen some of the principles I use, and it looks like my institutional biases outweigh my attractions to particular players. Well, yes. I may be biased but, by God, I have reasons for it that I can defend -- which is one of the gifts of a Catholic university education: you can advocate either side of any proposition equally creatively. Much good may it do me.

So it seems I’m hoping for Rays or Red Sox vs. Dodgers. I could live with that, except I see Rays are a turf team so they're disqualified. I won't know which league champ to be for in the Series until I see how everyone plays to get there. There have been some years where I wanted both Serious teams to lose. That’s what I get for trying to live my real life with plenty of forgiveness, but not practicing that principle in my baseball affairs. Of course you only have to forgive those who don’t deserve it; if they deserved it, you wouldn’t need to forgive them. But in baseball some sins, like failing to score the man from third with less than two outs or walking the leadoff man, are unforgiveable. And shall remain so.

Posted by: natty bumppo | October 2, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Time constraints did not allow me to read all of that, natty, but thanks for sharing your thoughts and I will read the whole thing at some point.

I'm actually here to ask a question of anybody who saw today's Rays-White Sox game live or on TV or has some background on the match-up. I was watching online via TBS Hot Corner, starting in the bottom of the 3rd, and there wasn't any in-game commentary with that format (which I actually rather like - just the sounds of the game without any color commentary blathering). Anyway, were the Rays fans booing Pierzynski because of something that happened earlier in the game or merely on general A.J. (A Jerk) principles?

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 2, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I need more cowbell.

Posted by: C. Walken | October 2, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Natty: Expansion teams that were contenders in 5 years or less:

Los Angeles Angels - established in 1961, finished 3d at 86-76 in 1962 (no divisions).

Colorado Rockies - established 1993, wild card in 1995

Florida Marlins -est 1993, World Series in 1997 (5 years)

D-backs - est 1998, Division in 1999, WS in 2001, division in 2002

Posted by: PTBNL | October 2, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

While there is a lot to like about the Rays, there are two or three things that annoy me a bit: 1) they have a tendency to pick a lot of fights. NYY this spring, a multi-year war with the red sox, today some jawing with the White Sox. I suppose some of this is just a chip on the shoulder against teams that were in the "elite," but they have caused injuries in some of these fights; 2) the lack of support from the locals even in the second half of the year. Not even front runners. Hard to get behind a team when the locals don't cherish their performance. 3) the catwalks.

Nevertheless, they have had an interesting team for a few years if you like rescue stories and young stars on the rise. Upton and Delmon Young, ED, Crawford, the Edwin Jackson reclamation, Kazmir, the whole Durham team. Hard to dislike this team.

Also, while the Angels are EE#5, if you like player development, it is nice to see the fruits of one of the great systems ripening. They have two home grown catchers, Kendrick - Aybar - Figgins - Anderson every day, 4 home grown starters (Lackey / Santana / Saunders / Weaver), and, except Speiers and Oliver, a home grown bullpen.

Posted by: PTBNL | October 2, 2008 8:15 PM | Report abuse

ptbnl - thanx for research on quick-success expansion teams. let it be that we join their number.

Posted by: natty bumppo | October 2, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

That's funny - for me, not having the support of the locals is all the more reason to root for a team. I loved the Nats all the more when they came to town because of the difficulties that they'd had drawing large numbers of fans in Montreal (not to diss the hardcore fans there).

Also, the White Sox have had their share of tiffs with others teams (I'm lookin' at you, A.J.).

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 2, 2008 11:01 PM | Report abuse

natsfan1a - that's an interesting concept. we would then see rays vs dodgers, two teams that are way undersupported by their locals... and thanks for reading my long post.

Posted by: natty bumppo | October 3, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea of two undersupported teams getting some national exposure, natty b. Your post was interesting. Thanks for sharing the thought process. On a somewhat related note, any franchise that plays Minnie the Moocher during a pitching change is all right in my book.

Last but not least, atta team, Rays! Up 2-0.

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 3, 2008 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 3, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I'd been hoping all season that the Rays would end up on top of the division, but David Ortiz' comments back in July just reinforced it for me (and how's the view for you, Yankees?):

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 4, 2008 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Ortiz did make some concessions in mid-September, though, so he gets a little bit of slack:

Ortiz said he still believed that their lack of postseason experience - the Rays have none yet in their 11-year existence - would hurt the Rays in the long run. But the Rays finally have earned his respect.

Ortiz forcefully defended Tampa Bay's place as an elite team when someone implied that they were not.

"Let me ask you a question," Ortiz said. "Playing in this division, day in and day out right now, when you have the Red Sox and you have the Yankees. And they're in first place. And you don't think they're for real? Just think about what you're saying.

"You've got the Red Sox and the Yankees in the same division. And they're leading the division."

Posted by: raysfan1a | October 4, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

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