Welcome to the unofficial end to the first half of baseball! The All-Star break is officially underway, and the Home Run Derby is scheduled for tonight in the time-challenged state of Arizona. We now live in a world where the Red Sox have won two World Series championships in the last 7 years, the Tampa Bay Rays are perennial contenders, the Kansas City Royals actually have hope, the Pirates are above .500…and a Yankee has 3,000 hits.
And let’s start there…with Jeter’s 3,000th hit with a home run to left-center field:
1. Fan Makes Worst Mistake of His Life: You know what was the key piece of information on ESPN this morning as they discussed the decision by a fan to give Derek Jeter his 3,000th hit ball…for relatively nothing? Say it with me: “23-year-old fan…” Everyone is debating whether or not the fan should have been greedy (and sold the ball) or benevolent (and given the ball up). Let me put a different spin on it.
Right now, that fan is a 23-year-old, idealistic “kid” with $100,000 in deferred student loans. He has no wife, no kids, and no mortgage to speak of. Flash forward ten years. He’s paying $450 a month on his student loans for the next 25 years. He has a $1,250 rent payment on a 750 square foot apartment in Brooklyn, and he is desperately trying to cram two kids and a wife into two small bedrooms. And the first of many worries he must face every day is whether or not he should splurge and have the double-cheeseburger from Wendy’s dollar menu for lunch…or eat the tuna fish sandwich he brought from home.
And then…every night, he lies awake in his bed, squeezed into a full size mattress with his blanket-hogging wife (because they couldn’t afford the queen or king size version)…with visions of 6 or 7 figure ebay bids dancing through his head.
Are you kidding me? Look…let’s be honest here. The primary reason that guy gave up that ball was because he is 23 years old. In ten years, that same fan has an insane rent payment, kids begging for Xboxes, a wife with a shopping addiction, and student loan payments that seem to stretch into eternity. At that point…when he’s 33 and swimming in debt, living paycheck to paycheck…he will look back and regret giving up that ball for “a chance to meet Derek Jeter and maybe an autographed ball.”
That poor soul. He had every dream in his young little mind granted in the time it took for a baseball to leave home plate and travel a few hundred feet into his waiting hands. And he gave it up.
Wanna’ go to Europe? Done. Wanna’ open your own business? Done. Wanna’ build your dream house, pay off student loans, and give your kids a nice college education? Done.
But not now. He handed all of that over to a multi-millionaire (who, by the way, didn’t even ask for the ball)…for what? Some Yankee tickets and a few pieces of autographed memorabilia? Unreal.
Let me be clear: If I am lucky enough to find myself sitting in the stands of Busch Stadium when/if Albert Pujols either A) Slugs 3,000 hits with a home run OR B) Breaks Bonds’ home run record…and I’m able to fight, claw, and spit my way to possession of that baseball…I’ll have that damn thing on ebay so fast it’ll make your head spin.
Anything else…if I did anything else with that baseball…would be putting (fill in the blank…baseball, Pujols, charity, etc.) ahead of my own family’s well-being. And that I will not do. Oh, and to be clear…I don’t exactly put a lot of stock in what Mike Golic on Mike and Mike in the Morning thinks when he says he would also give the ball back. You know why? Chris Duncan said it best when he said, “I took for granted the money I made in baseball…until I had to find another way to make money. It’s a lot harder to make money outside of baseball.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course)
Mike Golic left Notre Dame, walked into an NFL career, and right into a successful ESPN morning show. Let’s not compare his earning potential and history to a 23-year-old fan…or most of us.
P.S. Keep in mind the list of potential bidders for the 3,000th hit ball of the ONLY YANKEE to ever do it…it starts with Billy Crystal and Alec Baldwin. 6 figures? Right.
2. Albert Pujols Should Play in the All-Star Game: Time’s running out. Injuries are piling up (Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, etc.). And yet STILL Bruce Bochy has yet to name Albert Pujols to the NL All-Star Squad. Am I missing something, here? Has ANYONE asked Bochy why he would not name the game’s best player to the NL ASG? I completely understand why he didn’t initially get on the roster. Injury, down numbers, etc. But now he’s back…and swinging the bat like the Albert of old. Not having him in the ASG would be like…not having Babe Ruth on the All-Star roster back in the day. It just shouldn’t happen.
Bochy needs to step up and add “The Mang” to the team. It just doesn’t feel right without him. And I bet Arizona fans attending the game would agree.
3. Jason Isringhausen (Izzy) Could Be Traded By the Deadline: Izzy is enjoying a successful comeback year in New York as the Mets’ setup man…so successful that he’s pitched himself into “trade chip” status. Izzy has, of course, indicated his desire to stay in New York, but he’s also stated he would accept a trade to another team.
What about St. Louis? Let me clear…I’m not advocating an Izzy return to Busch…but it has to be asked. Let’s look at the good and the bad: On the good side, I’ve always wanted to see Izzy get to 300 saves (especially in a Cardinal uniform)…and backing up Salas could allow him a few opportunities to reach that mark as a Cardinal. Also, we could certainly use a “Russ Springer” type of right-handed reliever…veteran, inherits runners but doesn’t panic, and knows how to pitch in tight spots (not to mention filling a bullpen leadership role vacated by Franklin since April). On the bad side, if Izzy blows a save or a lead…fans in Busch will literally eviscerate him. It would be ugly. And it would end Izzy’s career. Plus, by staying in New York, Izzy has a shot to close out games if their closer Rodriguez is ultimately traded this month.
What say you? Would you be willing to give a resurgent Izzy a shot in a limited bullpen role for the Cards? Or should we just move on?
4. Blast From the Past: I recently remembered a portion of a post I wrote way back when Colby Rasmus was still in AAA and attending Cardinals Caravans in Springfield. Below is the segment of the post:
“First, I was a little put off by Colby Rasmus’ demeanor. I don’t know how much of it is his fault, per se, but the kid seems to have been called “the next Cardinals Superstar” one too many times. He seems to have the method down – “yes, sir” and “I’m gonna’ work hard” etc. – but he just seems like he would rather be anywhere else but dealing with fans, etc. I’ll cut the kid some slack – mainly because he is a kid (and he dresses like one, too…I thought he was a 14-year old skater instead of a “step-away-from-the-bigs” professional baseball player) – but I hope he does a bit of maturing over the next couple months. I like him…and he may be ready talent-wise…but he’s not quite mature enough to deal with the scrutiny he’ll face in St. Louis as “the next Cardinals Superstar.””
Without adding to that assessment…oh how prescient I was back then. Poor Colby. He and his father just have no idea how good they have it in St. Louis. If they think THIS is difficult…let’s try planting him in New York, Boston, Chicago, or L.A. I’m sure the scrutiny there will be significantly less than our little midwest city. They’ll probably just “let him play” and expect way less from him.
5. Just Happy to Be Here…Now What?: The Cardinals finish the first half tied for first place with the Brewers, chased by the Pirates, and targeted by the fourth place Reds. The Pirates’ schedule will not allow them to keep up, but good effort. The Reds will make some sort of move to re-energize them, and the Brewers – if healthy – are once again just plain scary. All that being said, I’m thrilled to be where we are in the standings considering all the injuries and issues we’ve overcome…but now what?
The first half is done…what we do now is critical. I will NOT be satisfied with a “winning and contending” season. Playoff bound is the goal. Let’s make it happen (preferably with a LH reliever freshly added).
Don’t forget to cheer on local favorite Matt Holliday in the Home Run Derby tonight…and enjoy the break. The second half promises to be a mad dash to the NL Central finish line. Let’s get it on!