Baseball is the greatest because... has home field advantage.

If you ever have the pleasure of going to Dodger stadium, I suggest sitting in the top deck behind home plate. Do it at least once. I know these are the cheap seats and you do feel a little far from all the action, but the view is amazing. Better yet, the reveal is even more amazing.

Dodger Stadium has two characteristics among others that I think make it quite unique. Except for the outfield bleachers, everyone enters on the home plate side of the field. Furthermore, Dodger Stadium is built into the ground, or more appropriately on the side of a hill; meaning when you walk into the stadium the field will be below you as you enter. This distinctive design feature allows for an awesome reveal. As you enter the stadium, the horizon gives way to a beautiful ocean of green grass. The brick dirt is expertly manicured. The chalk lines are crisply white. It is a sight to see. It is a divine view of “blue heaven on earth.”

Home field advantage is not unique to baseball. Every sport has a form of it. Home teams win more games than away teams. That is a fact in all of professional sports, but unlike other sports, baseball fields are allowed to be different. Yes, all the bases are 90 feet apart and yes, the pitcher’s mound is exactly 60 feet 6 inches away. But then you look at the crowd, foul territory, and outfield walls and you realize each ballpark brings a different game.

Fenway Park (the oldest stadium in baseball) hosts the Green Monster which sits over 37 feet high but only 310 feet away from home plate. Wrigley Field (second oldest) sports ivy along the outfield wall and if you sit behind home plate you are closer to the action than some of the players. Dodger Stadium (third oldest) is simply perfection – ok, a little bias there. Angel Stadium (fourth oldest) has…a big letter A….oh, it has great parking, probably the best parking at a ballpark (Sorry, I like to make fun of the Angels, excuse me, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, ugh).

Dodger stadium can hold 56,000 fans. The must maligned Tropicana Field can hold a paltry 31,000. AT&T Park (aka Pac Bell Park, aka SBC Park, aka home of the hated Giants) has a McCovey and a wind chill of negative 30 degrees in the dead of summer. Camden Yards, the defacto savior from cookie-cutter parks, integrated a warehouse in its design which is sort of replicated at Petco Park.

I could go on and on about the features that make each baseball stadium unique. I am sure there are special qualities to different football stadiums and basketball arenas, but I think they ultimately fail in comparison. There is nothing factually unique about the basketball floor at the Staples Center compared to Madison Square Garden. I’ve been to both for non-athletic events, they are beautiful buildings, but the distinctiveness stops there.

Going to the ballpark is an experience unto itself. The rhythm of play gives you the opportunity to soak in the scenery throughout the game. I have been to my share of baseball stadiums throughout the country, I have not been to as many as I want but one day I would like to visit all 30 fields. By then the Braves will probably be in another stadium, they are on their third in my lifetime. has Vin Scully.

Are there enough words - or any words - that can accurately describe Vin Scully?

Vin Scully has been at the microphone for the Dodgers (both Brooklyn and Los Angeles) since 1950 and he will call his final game at the conclusion of 2016. That’s 67 years. Do you know any one that has had the same job for 67 years? I don’t even know a lot of people that are 67 years old! My grandparents cannot recall a time before Vin Scully.

For 67 years, he has been there. He has been welcomed into homes and into people's hearts.

The thing I like most about Vin Scully is his humility. He knows that his voice, opinions, and stories are supplemental to the game. The game is the real attraction. He knows that when the crowd grows loud, he grows quiet. He knows when the tension is high, the silence only thickens.

He has seen the greatest baseball players ever: Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, etc.

He has called the most iconic moments in sports history: Hank Aaron’s 715, Larsen’s perfect game, Koufax’s perfect game, Buckner’s error and of course, Gibson’s Game 1 World Series home run.

But you will never hear him boast or brag. He will never list out his accomplishments. He will only tell you how lucky he is.  

Vin Scully is a legend. Vin Scully was a legend decades ago, Vin Scully is a category of his own. There is no comparison, and there will never be one like him. has no salary cap.

Baseball is an unfair game. Moneyball taught us that. So to be more precise: Major League Baseball is unfair game.

It’s a pretty simple concept. Each team is trying its hardest to win each game, make it to the playoffs, and ultimately win the World Series. Teams will try a multitude of tactics and strategies to win: sacrifice bunt, double steal, bring in a lefty specialty reliever to throw one pitch, anything to help clench a win. However the most obvious and practical strategy is getting the right players, and that is typically done in one way: money.

Money is the name of the baseball game. Teams with more money can attract the best players by offering them long term deals with huge nine figure salaries and other posh amenities like free airfare and monster trucks.

It seems like every year the media has to have a mandatory conversation about player contracts. Who is getting paid too little? Who is getting paid too much? How will this affect ticket prices? How many wins will this give the team? When will it stop? Do players really deserve this money? When will baseball institute a salary cap?

I will break it down for you: baseball will never have a salary cap, it never will, and it is better off for it. Yes, baseball has sipped the salary-cap-juice with the notions of revenue sharing and luxury tax which are more like safety nets for under performing franchises than a salary cap.

Without a salary cap the expectations are the teams with the most money will win more games pushing the poorer teams into an unending cycle of constant defeat, but baseball defies those expectations. In 2011, the nine richest teams could not even make it to the League Championship Series. The Tampa Bay Rays with the second smallest payroll in the major leagues with 41 million dollars made it to the playoffs. The Boston Red Sox who spent over 160 million dollars in the same season failed to appear in the playoffs. Boston spent more money on three players than the entire 25 man roster of Tampa Bay.

Baseball is beautiful because you cannot control it like other sports. In basketball you can give the ball to your number one shooter. In football, you can pass it to your top receiver. In baseball, however, the defense can avoid your biggest bat and walk him on four pitches. That 20 million dollars you just spent on the player is useless when he’s not allowed to swing the bat.

So back to the question: how much money do baseball players need? The answer: zero. The question is a flawed question. No athlete deserves a wad of cash to play a child’s game. Athletes make a lot of money because we pay up the wazoo to watch them play. Ten bucks for a hot dog made in a dirty stainless steel bin? Sure, whatever, I just need to get back to my seat.

Teachers and public workers deserve the cash but 3 million people a year are not going to pay $20 a seat to see a police officer do paperwork. No one is going to pay for overpriced food as a firefighter saves a kitten. They should but they won’t.

Salary caps do not benefit the game. Football and basketball have not helped their respective professional leagues with a salary cap. has opening day

It is a long season. For better or for worse, 162 games is terribly lengthy. Even to a diehard baseball fanatic like myself, the season can get a boring especially during the dog days of summer.

However, nothing compares to opening day.

The sun finally starts to break through the oppressive rainclouds of winter. The failures of last year are now forgotten. The dreams of a championship are high. Hope fills our hearts – as do the meat byproducts found in the hot dogs. Any pitcher can be a Cy Young. Any batter can win the triple crown. For one day, the possibilities are endless.

Organizations tend to go all out on baseball’s biggest day: professional musicians for the national anthem, local politicians make their obligated appearances, retired ballplayers throw out the first pitch, the air force does a breathtaking fly over, military personnel display our nation’s colors, and so much more. 

Opening Day is a beautiful sight.

Fans show up early – even in Los Angeles – to take it all in. Like a good friend you haven’t seen in years, you embrace the ballpark with a metaphorical hug. You inhale the smell of the grass, listen to the crack of the bat, and patiently ignore the crazy loud guy sitting next to you that’s had too much to drink even though there is still an hour until first pitch.

After the pretentious opening ceremony, the game finally starts and the new season is on its way.

If your team wins, you credit the new player who is already your league MVP or new manager and the ingenuity he brings to the club.

If your team loses, you blame the lazy veteran or the overpriced youngster and you spend the next twenty hours discussing who needs to be traded or cut off from the team. Then there is game two with 161 more to go. 

Nothing beats opening day. has Jackie

The 15th of April is a holiday in Major League Baseball. It is a day set aside to celebrate the most impressive fellow ever to play professional baseball. 

Shrewd businessman and endless competitor Branch Rickey looked for a way to break baseball’s unwritten and unfair color barrier – while he looked for ways to help his dreadful Brooklyn ball club. He knew he needed a strong competitor like himself, but also needed someone who could thrive while enduring the anticipated problems of a black man playing a white man’s game. 

He dispatched his scouts with the mission. Many names came back. Paige, Campanella, Newcombe, and others but Robinson’s name stuck out. Rickey liked Jackie’s adaptable skills and aggressive spirit. Jackie’s experience at UCLA, where he lettered in multiple sports, and in the U.S. Army also impressed the Brooklyn owner. On October 1945, Jackie Robinson signed a minor league deal with the Brooklyn Dodgers. A season later, Robinson joined the major league club on April 15th.

He changed professional sports. He changed New York. He changed the United States and the entire world. He didn’t do it with a bat and glove, though his style of play revolutionized the intensity found in the game.

Jackie Robinson was man of superior character. He had his faults like any man, but his commitment to moral strength, honor, and respect made him the legend he is today. 

Jackie was fighting the fire of racism while playing the country’s most treasured and scared sport. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only a teenager. The civil rights for African-Americans, though a passion for many throughout the nation, was merely a thought and nowhere near a movement. Jackie stepped up to the proverbial plate and he hit a home run. Once his playing days were over, he still sought to be man of supreme character. He knew living by example was the best way. 

Heroes always emerge from terrible stories; that’s what makes them so great. Following the culture of the day, Major League Baseball kept African-Americans from playing America’s sports. Jackie Robinson was given the chance to prove the majority that their assessments of black people were wrong. He was really given one shot to get it right. His failure could have meant disaster. 

Baseball is fortunate to have the iconic Jackie Robinson in its history. Fanatics everywhere, no matter what they wear – Dodger blue, Yankee pinstripes, Cardinal red, or San Fran orange needs to know the story of the legendary and humble Jackie Robinson. can be perfect

The perfect game. Is there anything better?

I will be honest and direct with you, baseball isn’t a very physically demanding sport. Football and basketball are clearly more demanding, requiring much more physical athleticism from its players. I admit this openly and proudly. However, I do assert that no sport requires more mental preparation or intellectual strength than baseball. To be a successful ballplayer, you simply must be mentally ready - or somehow consistently lucky.

Nowhere is the mental game more emphasized in baseball than in the battle between the pitcher and the batter. In the Major Leagues, every pitch is thrown with specific purpose: to blow the batter away, to set up the next pitch, to keep the hitter guessing, to fool him, to force him into a ground ball double play, etc. Each pitch is crucial.

Every pitch counts and every out counts. Each team gets three outs an inning for nine innings for a total of 27 outs. Every at bat is decisive and every pitcher knows this. Many “outsiders” (that’s what I call the baseball illiterate) do not understand why pitchers get four days off between starts. Well, beside the physical demands, pitching a game is a mentally exhausting feat. That’s why one day you could have seen Nolan Ryan pitch a no-hitter only to come back with a blow out in his next start. Pitching a good game is very difficult. Pitching a perfect game is nearly impossible.

I consider Nolan Ryan to be the best pitcher of all time. He threw 7 no hitters, 12 one-hitters, and 18 two hitters. He is the all-time leader in strike outs with 5,714 and all-time leader walks with 2,795. Yet, he never threw a perfect game. 

(Note: I grew up playing as a catcher. Typically I saw pitchers as whining little babies and in many cases I still see them in that way, but I do recognize the art and science of pitching. So in a way I am more of a fan of pitching than I am in pitchers.) 

So if having a decent outing or quality start (6 or 7 innings pitched with 3 or less runs), throwing a perfect game (27 straight outs with no hits, errors, or outs) seems rather unfathomable. Though the no-hitter is an astounding achievement unto itself, a perfect game is just perfect. Only 20 times in history of professional major league baseball has a pitcher defeated all 27 batters in a row to record the perfect game.

The word “perfection” is rarely used in the world of sports. Sports are not really designed for perfection. Sports are designed for competition, the fight between two competitors. So when a player or team is perfect for an entire game, it’s a big a deal. I think the only exception to this would be bowling…but that’s bowling.

In 2010, both Oakland’s Dallas Braden and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay threw a perfect game each. This is the first time two perfect games have been thrown in the same year in nearly 130 years. Later, pitcher Armando Galarraga almost recorded the third perfect game of the season. Unfortunately, first base umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first that would have ended the game. It was heart breaking to watch, especially after the replay showed that Joyce clearly missed the call. It almost made me sick to my stomach. As much as the baseball world wanted rip off Joyce’s head for blowing the call, he at least did do the right thing and admit his mistake and take the blame. has balls

 A lot of balls.

The great thing about going to a baseball game, there is a very good chance you could walk away from the stadium with a free souvenir. It could be a foul ball, a ball tossed to you by the base running coach or ball boy, or it could be the game winning home run ball.

There is no better feeling than catching a baseball while sitting in the stands – even if you had to spill your outrageously expensive nachos all over the lady sitting next to you – it is a great feeling. However there are rules and stipulations: a man is allowed to catch the ball, pump his fist in accomplishment, but you muse bequeath your new prize to the closest kid to you – especially if that kid suffered any type of collateral damage from your effort.

To compare, what are your chances you will walk away with a football after an NFL game? A basketball from the home team? A hockey puck from a toothless goalie? Probably the same chance of the Royals winning the World Series this year.

Now to be honest the odds of walking away with a baseball souvenir are rather slim. According to, there were a combined total of 120,946 foul balls and home runs in the 2005 season. During that same season there was almost 75 million fans in attendance, making the odds of getting a ball around 1 in 619.

Those odds may seem a bit daunting but like all things in baseball, everything has been turned into science. Enter Zack Hample of He is a bit crazy and from his interviews on TV, he is portrayed as horribly conceited, however over his young life time he has collected nearly 4,500 baseballs. He is even written two books on the subject. He goes to stadiums early to swipe some balls hit during batting practice. He’s learned to speak some Japanese, Korean, and Spanish to ask certain players for baseballs - pretty impressive if you ask me. His collection is actually worth some money.

Speaking of money, if you are extremely lucky, that free souvenir can pay your bills. Barry Bond’s 756th homer run ball, the ball that made him the all-time home run king of baseball sold for $752,467. Nice chunk of change, but the granddaddy is Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball, the last home run during his historic record chasing year of 1998. That little gem brought in $3 million. So next time you go to a game, bring your glove and have fun! has all sizes

Whenever I need a good analogy about life, I turn to baseball. There is something in the essence of the sport that emulates life perfectly. One comparison between life and baseball that I love to summon is “size doesn’t matter.”

Let me explain: among the major professional team sports in America an athlete’s physical size can typically determine higher success. Anomalies aside, to be successful in the NBA you must be tall, to be successful in the NFL you need to be big, and to be a good hockey player you need to be from Canada.
However, in Major League Baseball, all sizes can apply.

The Big: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, CC Sabathia, Babe Ruth,
The Tall: Randy Johnson, Jon Rauch, Chris Young
The Short: David Eckstein, Dustin Pedroia, Eddie Gaedel
The Quick: Jose Reyes, Ichiro, Carlos Gomez, Juan Pierre, Rickey Henderson

Though being tall can mean better opportunities especially on the pitching mound, height does not indicate success. Case in point: southpaws Randy Johnson and Mark Hendrickson. Johnson is 6’10” future hall of famer with five Cy Young awards and two no-hitters. Mark Hendrickson is 6’9” has 58 career wins and 74 career losses with a career ERA of 5.08, though Hendrickson is one of the very few athletes in the world to play both in the MLB and NBA.

In addition to size, ability does not always equal success. You can throw 100mph consistently and still get knocked around while a 40 year old throws a 60 mph ball with his knuckles for nine shutout innings. You can be the fastest the man in the league but not a successful lead off guy or an expert base stealer.
Though natural athletic prowess is definitely a must, a successful major leaguer needs intensity, skill, and great instincts to be great. It gives old men hope - stupid senseless hope.

The best example I can give for overall talent is Willie Mays. Despite being a hated Giant (yes, I’m a Dodger fan), Willie Mays was one of the best all-around baseball players. Hank Aaron is one of the best players, being most consistent offensive player ever; but he was not known for any defensive prowess like the Say Hey Kid. Arguments can be made for Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and so on. It’s really hard to judge since playing baseball requires a host of skills and abilities. Mastering one skill is hard enough.

Homer. Dinger. Big Fly. Four-Baser. Blast. Huge Shot. Whatever you call it, there is nothing more exciting than a home run.

Though a buzzer beater can be thrilling and a successful hail mary is extraordinary, nothing compares the majesty and splendor of a home run.
Being a skinny little guy growing up, hitting for power was never part of my game when I was a kid. However, I was fortunate to experience the ecstasy of jogging around the bases twice. My first ever home run was during a Pony League All-Star game. After quickly falling behind 0-2, the pitcher threw me three consecutive curveballs. None of them hitting hit the strike zone. With the count full and ineffective off-speed, I knew a fast ball was coming. The pitcher wound up and threw the ball as hard as he could. The ball was up-and-in but still close enough for a defensive swing. A jammed pop-up. The ball must have flown 400 feet in the air.

Discouraged, I trotted down the first base line expecting the ball to be caught in shallow left, but luckily for me the wind was blowing hard out to left field. After rounding first I looked out to left field just in time to see the left fielder hit the fence. I had just hit a home run. I could not believe it. Suddenly my slow downtrodden trot turned into a joyful jog.

A few years later in high school I hit a line drive shot over the right field fence for my second and last homer. And yes, that home run was also probably aided by the wind as well.

Anyone who has ever played any form of organized, competitive baseball knows how difficult it is to hit a home run and how a home run hitter can change a team.
Home Runs are so sacred that we in allowed the evil spirit known as Instant Replay to enter our beloved game. After years of seeing umpires blowing difficult calls, the players and the public began to cry out for a form of instant replay.
The most revered records in baseball – and in all sports in my opinion – are the home run records. Currently the single season and career home run records are owned by the notorious Barry Bonds. Forever there will always be controversy surrounding Barry and his abilities. It is quite clear Bonds used something during his career, especially during his final days, but until we have solid evidence there is really nothing we can do except speculate.

Additionally, the home run has offered some of the most memorable moments in sports history - from Babe Ruth calling his shot to Aaron Boone’s knock off Tim Wakefield to send the Yankees to the World Series. Personally the best moment in sports history happened in game one of the 1988 World Series.
Any respectable person will admit to the fact that they have imagined themselves hitting the game winning home run. Every time you hear the theme to The Natural you think of running around the bases as the opposing pitcher slowly walks to the dugout.

Who else is considered Home Run Deity?

Hank Aaron: When I have children they will be taught the name of Henry Aaron and his rightful reign as home run king.
Babe Ruth: More legend than man. George Herman Ruth made the home run what it is.
Willie Mays:  Aside from being a Giant, The Say Hey Kid is considered one the best ever to play baseball. Ever.
Ken Griffey Jr.: So much potential ruined by numerous hamstring injuries. How much is Junior’s rookie card worth now?
Sammy Sosa: Another victim of steroid era. Sad.
Mark McGwire: See Sammy Sosa.

But where does our hope lie?

Alex Rodriguez: He was supposed to be the next great hope for the home run records. Unfortunately, A-Rod admitted to steroid use. He is a great hitter, the purest hitter I have ever seen but his career will always be tainted by his admitted steroid use.
Albert Pujols: The current great hope for the home run record. Every true fan of baseball is rooting for Albert to break the all-time record and put a clean guy back on top. If he is ever caught with a ban substance I will probably lose my faith in baseball.

Baseball is blessed to have a wide range of movies dedicated to the national pastime. Surprisingly, one of the best baseball movies of all-time does not contain a single scene of guys playing baseball, instead the movie is full of women playing baseball. Yes, I am indeed talking about the Penny Marshall classic, A League of Their Own.

The actresses in the movie are pretty well-respected; including Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, and even Madonna. They actually look like they all know how to throw a baseball and play the sport which quite a feat for any actor in a sports movie. However, their performances are completely overshadowed by one of the greatest actors of all time: the venerable Mr. Tom Hanks. In the movie Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, a Jimmie Foxx-esque former ball player whose career was shortened by relentless drinking and stubbornness. Down and out, Dugan is forced to become a manager in the newly formed women’s baseball league.

And it is from manager Jimmy Dugan that we get one of the most memorable lines in baseball movie history:

“Are you crying? Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!”

The scene continues with the umpire coming over to the dugout and things get even funnier, but not appropriate for this entry.

There’s no crying in baseball. None whatsoever. Fastball to the backside, weird hops to the groin, foul ball off your instep, line drive off your shin. There simply is no crying. Furthermore, the unwritten rules of baseball does not allow a player to even rub the injured area. 

Baseball is a mind game. Fear and intimidation are key instruments in a mind a game. When a pitcher splits a batter’s numbers with a fastball he is trying to send a message (i.e. “That’s for show boating” or “That’s for hitting our guy” or if you are Roger Clemens, “I hit cause I angry. I need steroid.”)

Now, the job of the hit batsmen is to not give the pitcher the satisfaction of initiating any pain. He must remain stoic. He must never wince or show agony (Exception to this rule: a head injury but that is because there is another unwritten rule concerning hitting someone’s head, more on that another time).

You take a slow jog to first. Your polo-shirted trainer comes out to ask you a question or two and then everything is settled.

A while back I honestly tried to follow soccer. I even attempted to watch the World Cup for a couple of days. Let’s just say that did not last long. Vuvuzelas and drums aside, there is a long list of reasons why I just could not stay focused, but the absolute number one reason I cannot stand watching soccer is the constant acting these players do throughout the game. 

Over and over again players would randomly fall down to the ground in bogus agony trying to persuade the referee to call a foul. It is just ridiculous. Anytime two opposing players met on the field one would collapse to the ground grabbing his ankle, shin, or face while belting out a huge howl.

It was extremely frustrating to watch, but it reminded me of the great code of baseball: There is no crying in baseball. Even if Nolan Ryan punches you directly in the cranium or Chan Ho Park drop kicks you, there is still no crying.

Have you ever heard a father and son leaving the ballpark complaining the game went too long?

Have you ever heard the vendors complaining the game went too long?

Have you ever heard ESPN or Fox complain that the games they broadcast are costing them too much money?

One of the greatest things about baseball is that there is no clock. No wasting time as a strategy to stop people from scoring. No holding onto the ball for a while to end the game. There are nine innings. Three outs in each half. If no one comes out ahead at the end of the nine, you go into extra innings until someone wins. It is simple and it is beautiful.

And it’s always been that way. The rules don’t change during extra innings. Extra innings are the same on opening day as they are in the playoffs (I’m looking at you NFL). There are no ties, no shoot outs, no lame field goals.

Baseball – in more ways than one – is a timeless sport and it should always remain timeless. I don’t care if a nine inning game take 5 hours, because the game is measured by the inning and not by the hour.

Over the past few years there have been complaints from some sources – usually grumpy umpires and managers with losing records – expressing their frustration with the length of certain games. One umpire called a recent a series between the historic rivals of Boston and New York, “pathetic and embarrassing…and disgrace to baseball.”

These comments provoked baseball world. Everyone from annoying sports radio hosts to the commissioner Bud Selig had some sort of response. However the best comment comes from Yankee captain and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter,“I don’t see what’s pathetic or embarrassing about it…If it’s 20 minutes shorter, it’s not pathetic or embarrassing? At what point is it not embarrassing? You’d have to ask him. If you go over 3:12, it’s embarrassing? I don’t know.”

Oh Derek Jeter,  though you are on the hated Yankees, you are the model baseball player. You always give a hundred percent, you actually know baseball, and you know how to speak in complete, thoughtful sentences when talk – which is very impressive for a professional athlete.

I personally love watching the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry. They are always exciting. The Red Sox and Yankees know how to put together an exciting match. These two teams have been battling with each other for decades. When these two teams battle there is always on the line than just a win or a loss.

So what are we to do? Yes, statistics do show that the average length of a baseball game has increased over the past three decades, but the sport has evolved dramatically over the years. Batters are taught to wear out pitchers – take the first pitch and foul pitches off. Relief pitching is now a specialized trade. We have long relief, middle relief, lefty specialist, setup man, and the closer. It is typical for managers to use 4 to 5 pitchers a game. Yes, for a traditionalist like myself it is sad to not see starting pitchers battle through eight or nine innings, but winning the game is everything not the stats.

Every pitch is important, every plate appearance is vital, and every managerial move is critical. Baseball is a thinking game, it’s a long process, it’s a marathon, a very beautiful one. Baseball is timeless.