“Kendall charges the mound and we’ve got a brawl!”

I listened to the radio broadcast of the A’s-Angels game yesterday and everything is going along smoothly.  Korach and Cotroneo are laughing when all of the sudden the mood totally changes and Korach starts describing the brawl that’s breaking out.  I was perplexed because it didn’t seem like there was any lead-in to it.  It just came out of nowhere. 

I don’t like brawls or bean-ball wars, but I found myself smiling about it for several reasons.  First, it was great to see that there is a competitive fire during an early May series against the team that the A’s will likely be battling all season for the AL West title.  Second, I could only imagine what it looked like to see the 6-foot, 180-pounds when soaking wet Kendall take on the 6’6” 205-plus pound Lackey.  I thought it might look something like my 10 year-old brother taking me on. 

The last reason I was smiling was because it’s a great feeling to have your opinion supported.  Before the season began I wrote an article (my first article ever actually) on Oaklandclubhouse.com titled “A Growing Rivalry: A’s and Angels”.  This article sparked a spirited debate on the A’s fan forum in which some people said that no such rivalry existed and others argued that it did and it was stronger now than it had ever been.  I stand by my opinion that this rivalry is working its way up to one of the top three in baseball (behind the Yanks-Red Sox and Giants-Dodgers).  This type of thing is exactly what was needed to lend an even tenser atmosphere to the rest of the games these two teams play.  The A’s should want to grind the Angels into the ground this season after the Angels have clinched the division on the A’s home field two seasons in a row. 

After watching the video I can see what agitated Kendall enough to charge the mound (because it definitely wasn’t the inside pitch).  Lackey took umbrage to Kendall’s unwillingness to get out of the way of the pitch and decided to voice that in an R-rated fashion.  This is Kendall’s M.O. and Lackey should not have been surprised.  It’s one of those things where you hate it when you play against a guy like that, but love having him on your team.  I’m surprised by Scioscia’s stance on the matter.  Lackey was the instigator of the situation with his choice of words and the fact that this is supposedly not the first time he’s called Kendall out on the subject.  I do question Gaudin hitting Quinlan, but the rules of baseball say you have to defend your teammate.

Other notes on the game:  Bobby Kielty’s catch to rob Vlad of a hit in the 3rd was a great one. I have no idea how he didn’t break his wrist or hurt his shoulder.  It was great to see Crosby put a charge into a pitch like he did when he hit the three-run homer, but he has got to lay off of the down and away slider or go back to poking it into right field like he was when he was successful last season .  He’s going to be pitched to like Erubiel Durazo was if he keeps swinging and missing on that pitch against righties.  I know he’s still getting comfortable, but as a guy that is potentially going to hit third again as the season progresses, he’s got to show better plate discipline.  He seems to be pull happy early on. 

I took a look at ESPN’s best living pitchers list and thought that I was seeing things.  Then I started second-guessing myself, thinking, “Nolan Ryan’s still alive, right?”  How in the world is he not even in the Top10?  I’m flabbergasted!  I know that people like to discredit him because of his Win-Loss record and the fact that he didn’t pitch in a lot of playoff games (nine in his 27-year career), but the fact is he has the most career strikeouts and another record more untouchable than that with seven no-hitters.  Don’t get me wrong, all of the guys on the list are great pitchers, but Ryan has to bump someone off.  We are talking about a guy that only had an ERA over 4.00 in two seasons, his first and last.  Is he a victim of his longevity?  It’s not his fault he was able to withstand 5,386 innings pitched over his 27 years.  If you take out his first four seasons and his last, he averaged about 225 innings a year.  200+ strikeouts in 200+ innings every season with an ERA anywhere from the high 2’s to mid 3’s and he NEVER won a Cy Young?  What a travesty.  Ryan was beaten out by pitchers seemingly having career years when he finished high in the Cy voting and was a victim of his own “effective-wildness” when it came to walks.  I agree with critics that will ask who you replace with Ryan.  I just think you have to have a space for him.

I watched yesterday’s Bonds on Bonds and was glad they told the story about Christopher Laub, the child suffering from cancer that wrote to Barry when Bonds was going through rehab for his knee. I may take a lot of heat for my opinion on this, but I don’t care.  This is exactly the reason why I will continue to only worry about and cover a player’s on the field performance.  While I laud the positive things a player or manager does off the field, I won’t criticize him for the negative things he does off of it.  Professional baseball players range in age and many are still young men.  They come from different areas of the world and different social classes.  They are people just like co-workers at our jobs or parents of other children your kids go to school with; they just happen to be very talented at playing a sport and are usually compensated handsomely for that talent.  I’ve said before that I’m glad I don’t live my life under a microscope because I’m not perfect. 

A veteran writer put it perfectly to me when I was covering my first game this pre-season, “The first three or four pages of the Sports section of the newspaper all focus on things that go on outside of the white lines and that’s sad.”  At what point did athletes become idols that we put on a pedestal only so we can watch them fall?  In 1998 Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were the saviors of baseball, now they are, along with Bonds, poster-children for baseball’s Steroids Era.  Giambi for some reason got a “get out of jail free” card on this subject and  I’d love to know why that is.  Is it because he plays in the Bronx Zoo and all that matters is that he puts up numbers to help them win it all?  How does that erase his wrongs, but Barry can’t get any slack?  For McGwire and Sosa it’s different because they don’t play anymore and their testimonies (or non-testimony in Sosa’s case) in front of Congress put them in the national spotlight in a negative way.  Mark Grace brought up a good point during this particular episode when he mentioned Barry’s comment about members of the media cleaning out their closets before they come to look at his.  “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  The Good Book has some pearls of wisdom in it, that’s for sure. 

I’ll put myself out there and describe a situation where as I’ve grown, I’ve learned how valuable this lesson is.  When Alex Rodriguez signed his enormous contract (10 years, $252 million) with the Rangers, I thought he was just another greedy athlete.  I didn’t take into consideration the fact that it was what someone was willing to pay him.  How many of us would turn down a raise at our job?  Most of us that are stellar workers think we are grossly underpaid.  On top of that, Rodriguez was already a proven commodity, having gone 40/40 three years prior to his free agency.   Now, there are players coming out of high school and the draft that are getting guaranteed millions before they even step onto a major league diamond.  That’s a problem and agents like Scott Boras are making this more of a trend, but again if GMs and owners continue to pay this type of money, then they are letting the players set the market.  This ties into other topics like a salary cap, but I’m not going to digress into that now, I just want to show readers that I’m not trying to be “holier than thou”.  Fans of professional sports need to understand that these athletes are just as imperfect as you and I. 

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