Monday, August 30, 2010

Bradenton Marauders Defeat Charlotte in Stunning Home Finale

It seems like it was only yesterday that the Bradenton Marauders took the field for their home opener in Bradenton's McKechnie Field on April 8, 2010. Having suffered through the entire 2009 season with the Sarasota Reds (who were last in the Florida State League) I more than half expected the new kids on the block to wind up the same.

Wow, was I wrong.

That first game way back almost five months ago set the stage for the rest of the Marauders season. If you can remember back that far the Marauders demolished the Fort Myers Miracle with a resounding 18-3 score. It was like nothing I had ever seen before while watching minor league baseball. The first run the Marauders ever scored was by sure-to-be-in-the-show left fielder Quincy Latimore who hit the first of 18 home runs (so far) that night! The games only got better after that.

Before this evening the Marauders had a 73 -57 overall season and were leading the South Division of the Florida State League by 2.5 games. The Charlotte Stone Crabs won the South Division's first half of the season. It was up to the Marauders to fight back to win the second half to set off a playoff for the South Division championship.

This evening that is exactly what the Marauders did.

The Stone Crabs met the fury of the Marauders and despite the close final score came they came in last. The Marauders won 3-2 in one of the best games of the season.

Remember that the first run scored by the Marauders in their first game of the season was by Quincy Latimore. As the recap of tonight's final home game shows, the last run scored by the Marauders on their home turf was by guessed it...Quincy Latimore.

Charlotte started the game with rehabber Grant Balfour on the mound. Balfour lasted 2/3 inning on Saturday and was promptly run from the field after pitching 37 pitches and giving up 3 runs. Tonight Mr. Ball Four lasted one full inning. Unfortunately he didn't get the loss. Maybe next game.

Charlotte scored first with a run in the top of the second and another in the top of the third. Yes, I was getting a little nervous. However Bradenton scored in the bottom of the third, tied the game in the fourth and took the lead, never to lose it again, in the sixth inning.

I knew it was all over for the Crabs, and they should have also, when in the top of the ninth inning the Marauders put in their unbeatable closer Noah Krol who once again got a save - his 33rd of the season. Noah also happens to be the league leader in saves.

Tonight's resounding victory puts the Marauders 3.0 games ahead of the Palm Beach Cardinals with just seven games left to play this season. Four of those games are against the St. Lucie Mets (starting with a double header on Tuesday night) and the last three will be against the Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I plan to be there for the Saturday and Sunday night festivities.

Although my opinion and $4.00 will get you an espresso at Starbucks, I would like to make some predictions on the future of current Maraduers players beginning with the 2011 season.

First of all, if left fielder Quincy Latimore is less than 1,000 miles from Bradenton at the start of the 2011 season there is something terminally wrong with Pirates management. This kid is the greatest, leading the league in runs batted in, having 18 homeruns and having a magnetic glove. There is simply nobody better than "the double deuce" on the Marauders team. If Quincy is not at least in Altoona and preferably with Indianapolis at the start of the 2011 season then someone needs to have a chat with the Pirates. For me it was sad to watch Quincy on his last regular season home game tonight.

Not far behind Quincy Latimore is center fielder Starling Marte. This product of the Dominican Republic (la isla de beisbol) is a natural to make it to the show. He's smart, fast, and an excellent hitter. Had he not experienced a disabling hand injury in June I would have expected him to be with Class AA Altoona Curve by now. He will be next year.

Had he not spent so much time on the disabled list this year I would have expected third baseman Jeremy Ferrell to already be in Altoona or higher. Jeremy is third generation professional baseball (his dad is the batting coach for the Boston Red Sox) and a shoe-in for making it higher up the food chain. He just needs to stay healthy and he will be there.

Adam Davis, who filled in behind Jeremy Ferrell when Jeremy became injured has really come into his own this summer. Some of the plays Adam has made at third base are as good as anything you'll see Evan Longoria make for the Rays in Tropicana Field. Adam needs a year or so of conditioning to make it to the Show but I fully expect him to be at least in Altoona next year.

Along with Adam Davis, if Brock Holt hadn't suffered a meniscal tear in June I'd expect him to be higher up the ladder also. Brock is quick, sharp, smart, and to top it off a very nice kid. He and I had surgery the same day to repair torn meniscus' - I only wish he had healed as fast as I did. Brock will be back momentarily in 2011 but he won't be around after the All-Star break.

On the mound I fully expect tonight's starting pitcher Nathan Adcock to be in Altoona next year. Nathan is tied for third in the Florida State League for the most wins. He's a nice kid with a great variety of pitches and is someone I expect to see higher up the ladder in the next couple years.

The other person I expect to not see around in 2011 is Noah Krol who I believe is the best closer in baseball (Major Leagues or Minor Leagues). Throughout the summer I came to understand that when Noah came out in the ninth inning to close out the game the other team might just as well have given up and gone home. In all but a very few cases it was over for them when Noah took control. I hope that I am watching him in Altoona next May.

Although there is a summary of tonight's win on the Marauder's home page there is also a narrative of the game available from the Stone Crabs. There is one fan comment on the story - some guy named "Curlew" isn't too happy with the Stone Crabs. I wonder who he is?????

The Marauders have seven more games to play before the end of the season. Again, it seems like it was only yesterday that I drove to Bradenton for the first game of the season. However it was worth every bit of energy and effort to get there to watch these kids grow and improve and move along. It's funny how you get this parental feeling for them - its like they are your kids and you have to protect them as you watch them improve and get better. Also just like a parent I get misty eyed thinking about them moving on next year.

Still, in a couple years when we see some of these kids playing in the show we'll be able to reflect back to the summer of 2010 and remember all the great baseball they played for us. I hope that at the same time they remember that Bradenton Marauder baseball is the greatest show on dirt. I certainly will.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tampa Bay Rays Fireballer Jeremy Hellickson Sent to Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs

Not long ago the Tampa Bay Rays brought up from Durham 23-year old fire ball throwing pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.

Hellickson's career has spanned the breadth of minor league baseball, starting first with the Princeton Rays in the Advanced Rookie League in West Virginia and has included every league (Short Season A, Low A, Advanced A, AA, and AAA) since then. Most recently he was brought up from the Durham Bulls for a day to give the starting pitchers in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation another day of rest. You can see his arm in action in this YouTube video recorded in May 2010 against the Dayton Dragons in AAA baseball.

Following Hellickson's debut with the Rays he pitched in three more games and now has a 3-0 record. Many were speculating that the Rays would simply go to a six-pitcher rotation to keep Hellickson on the roster. However Joe Maddon had other plans.

You read it correctly, today it was announced that the Rays are sending Hellickson down to Class A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs in the Florida State League. As the story states,
With no further need for rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation, the Rays sent him down to Class A Charlotte to start the process of transitioning him to the bullpen.

And while he's working out — and, just as important, not adding innings to his total of 144 — and learning how to warm up, how long it takes him and how much recovery time he'll need, the Rays will figure out some things for his expected Sept. 1 return, specifically the terms under which he will be used.

"If you're going to use him out of the bullpen, there's still going to be this unknown," manager Joe Maddon said. "You're going to pitch him, and then you're going to want to give him X number of days off based on how many pitches that he threw or how many innings that he went. You're not going to use him like everybody else.

"I would imagine he would do well with this, and then you're going to want to use him more often, but you can't. So you're going to have all these different little rules going on that you're going to create for him to benefit from his abilities and at the same time not abuse his arm."

Hellickson will throw enough that he also could step back into the rotation if needed.

Typically I wouldn't really care about a move like this. However this year, at this time of the season in the Florida State League, having someone like Hellickson around could become a huge disadvantage for the Bradenton Marauders.

How so?

Bradenton is now in a race with the Palm Beach Cardinals for the lead in the Florida State Leagues South Division for the second half of the season. The Marauders, who are now 1.5 games behind the Cardinals have 14 games remaining this season. Among those 14 games, 6 are with the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

The story about Hellickson says that they plan to keep him in Charlotte for a probable return to the Rays on September 1. While there the Rays want him working on transitioning himself into being a relief pitcher. Between now and September 1 when hopefully he'll be sent back to the Rays, the Marauders will be facing Charlotte for three of the six remaining games. Given how well Hellickson has done against Major League batters in running up his 3-0 record in the Show, his presence could only mean bad news for the Marauders in the final stretch of the championship run.

The Marauders face Charlotte next on Friday August 27, then Saturday August 28 and Monday August 30 (the latter being the final home game of the season for the Marauders). Here's hoping that Hellickson learns how to be a bull pen reliever early - say tonight and tomorrow night against Palm Beach and Tuesday through Thursday against the hapless Jupiter Hammerheads. If that happened then they could send Hellickson back to the Rays before next Friday night against the Marauders.

If I had Rays Manager Joe Maddon's phone number I think I'd call him and suggest that.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Praise Be to the Prophet Muskrat

"Religious leaders in Gainesville, Florida, have planned a Gathering for Peace, Understanding and Hope, in response to a local church's International Burn a Quran Day."

That quote is the tease line for the opening of a story from Gainesville Florida where a religious group plans to burn the Koran on September 11 in memory of the disaster of that day.

First of all, I wonder if these uneducated, insensitive, bastards stopped to think for a minute that a bunch of the people killed on 9/11 were MUSLIMS. They were in both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when the attacks happened. They died just like the "Christians" also did that day.

But aside from that fact - what a bunch of bull. Although I never met the apparition, I'm quite sure that the "Jesus" all these "Christians" claim to worship would not have behaved like these swine propose to behave on September 11. The Jesus I learned about in Lutheran confirmation classes was a loving person who healed the sick, fed the hungry, cared about the poor and put others ahead of his own needs (damn, he sounds like a Democrat).

Although I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church in the 6th grade by the 12th grade I had rejected organized religion. I became increasingly bewildered with alleged "Christians" who behaved horribly for 6 1/2 days of the week. However on Sunday morning they would appear in church dressed in their most pious uniforms of the week. There they would put $10 in the collection plate, sleep through the sermon, congratulate the minister afterward on what an inspiring speech he gave, and 2 hours later be sitting in a bar in Mikana behaving as they would for the next 6 1/2 days until the charade could repeat itself.

Once fully fed up with this nonsense, I announced to my mother, a devout "christian" that I was no longer going to step foot in a church. And since the 12th grade, other than for weddings (mine was outside in MY church) and a few funerals I have not sullied my being with the confines of a church.

At the time I rejected religion I told my mother that "my god lives in a muskrat house." I created the religion called "Muskratism" which at the time I said was based on "respect for rivers, forests, marshes, prairies and all the creatures living in and on them." Later, in college, I learned that someone had already come up with a religion called panantheism. Simply stated, panantheism is a belief in the oneness of nature. However it has a sexier name than Muskratism even though both are based on the same principle.

So, for me, on September 11 this year, while these jackals in Gainesville are burning the holy book of the Muslim faith, I will be out in a forest somewhere looking for birds and enjoying nature. Perhaps if I am lucky I will be far enough north to find the Prophet Muskrat swimming around in a marsh somewhere doing what Muskrats do best - hanging out. If I see one I'll be sure to chant "Power to the Muskrats" and then I'll just move along. No books will be burned, no tempers flared, and no angst anywhere. Just peace and tranquility and a respect for all things around me.

Isn't that what religion is really supposed to be about?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thoughts About the Muslim Cultural Center in New York

‎"If we have to stop building a Mosque at ground zero, then we have to stop building Catholic churches near playgrounds."... Anonymous

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A New Baseball Statistic - BSADW

Baseball, probably more than any other sport, is a sport of statistics. As Kevin Costner's character told Kelly Preston's character in the movie For Love of the Game, "we record everything in baseball."

Some times I'm amazed by how ultra specific some of the data are that get recorded. Things like, "number of ground balls hit on astro turf against left handed batters," or more abstractly, the "component ERA" which is an estimate of a pitcher's Earned Run Average based on the individual components of his statistical line (K, H, 2B, 3B, HR, BB, HBP). And the list goes on.

As Ken Burns said so eloquently, "It (baseball) is a haunted game in which every player is measured against the ghosts of all who have gone before."

Until now.

During last evening's resounding 12-8 defeat of the hapless Jupiter Hammerheads by the Bradenton Marauders, I came up with a new statistic that I will be recording from now on at all minor league baseball games I attend. This statistic could be recorded in major league games but the noise levels will probably preclude the collection of much data.

The new statistic is BSADW. It is the acronym for Bats Slammed Against Dugout Wall. Last night in Bradenton the Jupiter Hammerheads recorded 6 BSADWs. It was a great night.

Last evening I assisted both Kevin Mattison the center fielder, and Jeremy Syman the left fielder in their successful acquisition of 6 of the 10 strike outs Jupiter recorded during the game. For Jeremy it was particularly special because he started the evening with 98 strike outs for the year (having recorded 3 the night before) so he reached and passed the century mark tonight - the worst strike out record on the Hammerheads team this year.

In the top of the third both Kevin and Jeremy struck out swinging and on their return to the dugout, I noticed that there was a lot of yelling, and the sound of a bat hitting the wall could be heard quite clearly.

Jake Smolinski (last night I asked him if his was an Irish name) smashed his bat against the dugout wall after a 4th inning strike out. In the 7th inning Jeremy Syman recorded his hallowed 100th strike out. With two strikes on him I yelled that I would stand and applaud him if he got the K. Sure as pitch was a swinging strike and soon you could hear his bat against the dugout wall again. Kevin Mattison followed suit in the top of the 8th inning and then in the top of the ninth Jeremy Syman came through with his 101st strike out of the season. My applause for Jeremy was greeted not only with one but TWO bat smashings on the dugout wall. One of the fans seated near me said "I think that was anger."


Anyway I noticed earlier this year that there was the occasional bat smashed against the dugout wall but nothing like last night. So, in honor of this discovery and to celebrate the latest Marauders victory, I 'm now recording this new statistic. At first I will just record the number of BSADWs per inning. Maybe if I get my data recording down more scientifically I will record the number for each individual hitter.

My intuition tells me that this statistic will show up more frequently in games with relentless heckling of the opposing team. Perhaps that will be the next statistic developed for baseball - something like "percentage of time opposing team is subjected to relentless heckling" or at least along that line. It's something to think about.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Request To Consider Some Future Pittsburgh Pirates

This morning I sent the following email to the management of the Pittsburgh Pirates through their online portal at this link. The focus of my message was to ask Pirates management to bring up several of the incomparable Bradenton Marauders when they expand to a 40-person roster. For the sake of our kids, I hope they listen and give these guys a chance. At more than 20 games out of first place and with no hope of even a wild card berth, the Pirates have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving our guys a chance. I hope they listen.

Here is the email:

Dear Pirates Management

I am one of several hundred holders of season tickets to watch the incomparable Bradenton Marauders play Class A ball here in the Florida State League. The Marauders are, without doubt, the greatest show on dirt.

As the summer has progressed it has become readily apparent to me and others that Pirates management has some definite major league talent waiting in the wings with the Marauders. People like Robbie Grossman, Quincy Latimore, Starling Marte, Eric Fryer, Jeremy Ferrell, Greg Picart, Brock Holt, and Tony Sanchez immediately jet to the top of the list of Marauders who should be in the Show some day. And lets not forget incomparable starting pitcher Nathan Adcock and Noah Krohl, quite possibly the best closer in baseball. Its because of these guys, working hard with the others on the team, that Bradenton will likely win their Division this year and hopefully take the Florida State League championship.

As I have watched these guys grow and develop over the 2010 summer I've also watched as the Pirates have had a less-than-successful year. Right now the Pirates are about 20 games out of first place and unfortunately its very unlikely they will get even a wild card shot at post season play.

That reality being the case, I have a suggestion I wish you would seriously consider. As much as it would pain all of us to see the Marauders stars mentioned above leave us in the closing weeks of the season, why don't you give them each a chance? When you expand to a 40- person roster why not bring each of the kids I mentioned up to Pittsburgh, give them a Pirates uniform, and tell them to go take on the opposition just like they do in Florida?

What do the Pirates have to lose? You will give these guys some time in the Show, and who knows, if they perform as well in a Pirates uniform as they do in a Marauders uniform, my guess is your record will be much better than 20 games back from the lead. Again, it would be a blow to the Marauders and our chance at winning the Florida State League to see them go, but those kids have earned the privilege to be in the Show.

Please consider giving at least some of them mentioned above a chance when you expand the roster. Thank you for considering my request.

Craig Faanes
Sarasota, Florida

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Email to Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska

Ben Nelson, former Governor of the great Cornhusker State of Nebraska is one of two Senators that represent Nebraskans in the United States Senate. For some unexplained reason, Nelson continues to parade around with the (D) for Democrat in his title (sensu, D-NE). Ben Nelson may have been a Democrat at one point in his life but he sure as hell is not one now.

Throughout the first 18 months of the Obama Administration, this little gutter snipe has bent over backward to accommodate the Republicans in the Senate. He votes with the Republicans FAR more frequently than he does with the Democrats with whom he caucuses.

Ben Nelson is about as much a Democrat as Joe Lieberman the permanent Senator from Tel Aviv is a Democrat.

On Saturday July 31, Nelson became the first Democrat to openly admit that he would oppose the nomination of Elena Kagan to be the next justice of the United States Supreme Court. Nelson made this calamitous statement under the cover of having "heard from Nebraskans" who didn't like her. He never once, apparently, considered all the Nebraskans who wrote in saying they LIKED Kagan.

When I read this news I decided that I had to take some action.

I lived in Grand Island, Nebraska, from January 1987 until late February 1993. I still consider my 6 years in Nebraska as the most productive years of my career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In many instances I still consider myself a Cornhusker (although I could give a Cheney about their football).

Today I wrote an email to Senator Nelson through his online portal on his official office website. You'll notice that to use this portal to send him messages you have to have a Nebraska address. To contact him I used my first address in Grand Island - 315 Waldo Avenue, Grand Island, NE 68801, and for a phone number I used my old office phone 308-381-5571. I then sent him the following message. You should also if you feel similarly about this travesty:


Dear Senator Nelson (and I use the word "senator" very loosely).

On Saturday July 31, 2010, it was announced through news that you were the first Democratic member of the Senate to acknowledge that you will vote no on the nomination of Elena Kagan to be the next justice of the US Supreme Court.

In the Yahoo news article you claim that your vote against her is because "I have heard concerns from Nebraskans regarding Ms. Kagan, and her lack of a judicial record makes it difficult for me to discount the concerns," Nelson said in a statement issued late on Friday.

Senator Nelson how did you differentiate between comments provided by constituents who support her (like me) and those who oppose her? Now that I have voiced my support will you change back to voting for her? What does it take to get you to vote like a Democrat?

It sickens me to have you as my Democratic Senator from this great state. You are following in the footsteps of James J. Exxon and Bob Kerrey who were fine Democrats. Then you come along and claim to be a Democrat but you vote like a Republican every time something important comes along.

Instead of playing this cat and mouse game with your intelligent constituents (those of us who don't watch the Fox Fiction Channel or listen to Rush) why don't you just come out of the closet? Just come out this afternoon and admit that you are a Republican and that you are giving up your place in the Democratic caucus so you can be just like the rest of those losers on that side of the aisle.

Now is the time for real leadership from Washington and instead of seeing that from you, we the people of Nebraska see you kissing the ass of the Tea Bag Anarchy people and the Fox News watchers. You do this not because its the right thing to do but because you think it will get you re-elected.

You, sir, make me sick to my stomach

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rachel Maddow and a White-throated Sparrow

In the world of political punditry there are a few names that stand out mainly because the pundits are not necessarily intelligent but only because they are vociferous. Principal among these pundits is Rush Limbaugh, the porcine spawn of poor white trash whose idea of a good time is to fly to the Dominican Republic with a bottle of Viagra and then claim he was there just to visit the beach. By his own admission, Rush is a show person not a news person. Still more than 30 million misinformed individuals get further misinformed each day listening to this waste of oxygen.

Next comes Glenn Beck (or Beckkk) another person who has no journalistic background and no journalism ethics. Glenn Beckkk wouldn't know the truth if it bit him on the ass. There is a modicum of hope however. It seems that even the ineducable who watch Beckkk and his histrionics are getting fed up with him; he has lost 50 percent (that's half) of his viewership in recent months. There is hope for humanity after all!

And of course let us not forget Ann Coulter, a first class skag, and less than a human being who despite being a "christian" and a member of the party of family values, once advocated the killing of Supreme Court justices with whom she didn't agree. Hate is an interesting family value.

There are all these alleged pundits who scream and holler and make it sound like the world will end - and then there is a real professional. Her name is Rachel Maddow and I think the sun rises and sets on her.

Unlike the Republican pundits mentioned above, Rachel Maddow has a real background in politics that actually qualifies her to discuss politics. She was a Rhodes Scholar and received her PhD in Political Science at Oxford University in England. I don't think Rush, Beckkk, Coulter or any of those other wastes of oxygen can come close to Rachel in terms of education and preparedness for discussing the events of the day.

I first heard of Rachel in 2004 when Air America Radio first hit the airwaves. Rachel had a show from 9:00 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday that she co-hosted with hilarious political comedian Lizz Winstead (you can watch Lizz every Friday afternoon on the Ed Show on MSNBC). I remember sitting in my Fish and Wildlife Service office in suburban Washington DC listening diligently and intently to everything Rachel said. I was intimidated by her intelligence. One of the highlights of that show for me was the day I called in and got to talk with Rachel on the air! How freaking cool was that? And the Bush Administration was paying me to make the call!

Rachel got her own show on MSNBC more than a year ago and I've been a loyal but not often constant viewer of it ever since. If you ever want to get to the meat of an issue, just tune in Rachel at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time and be prepared to be educated.

Last night on her show she had a strange request. She had been walking in a forest in western Massachusetts where she heard a bird singing that she did not recognize. Using the recording option on her Blackberry she recorded the bird and then last night on her show she played the voice and asked her fans/viewers if anyone could identify the voice.

I could :)

The recording is pretty crappy, to say the least, but when you listen closely (and you're trained to know these things) it's pretty obvious that the bird is a White-throated Sparrow, one of the most beautiful singers in the northern forest in summer.

Using mnemonics someone described the voice of the bird as being "poor sam peabody, peabody, peabody." In Canada they claim that it says "Oh, Sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada." Regardless its one of the nicest voices in the north woods in summer and for me a for sure sign that you are in the boreal forest or close to it when you hear them singing in the nesting season.

Rachel put a request for help on her Facebook page this morning and I answered it. This afternoon she posted a note on her blog saying that I was the "winner" of the contest! There of course was no "prize" for winning this but if there were I think what I would have liked to win was the chance to stand on the steps of the United States Capitol with Rachel and with each of us surrounded by boxes of baseballs, we would stand together and pepper every Republican obstructionist Member of Congress (I know that is redundant) for a couple hours of fun and enjoyment some afternoon. Maybe she'll arrange that the next time I win one of her contests.

And if Rachel Maddow and her partner ever need help identifying birds by voice all she needs to do is call.