1 Month + 17 Days

It’s been that long since I “turned off” off this blog.

I needed a little space. Some privacy for my thoughts. Some breathing room for my goals. I need a fresh start in a lot of ways. I started an alternate blog http://asoultwist.wordpress.com that I didn’t update quite as frequently. Why?

Because it wasn’t The Watchtower.

“A Soul Twist” is one of my favorite songs ever. I love it because it doesn’t say anything so I am always free to interpret it for myself. It’s always exactly what I’m feeling.

But “Watchtower,” it is my first love. It says who I am. It shows what I mean. It tells how I dream.

I’ve cleaned up a lot. I’ve thrown things away. I’ve cut people out. I’m healthier. I’m stronger. I have time to write. I’ve started teaching again. I’m in love with my students. I’m in love with writing.

And I’m thoroughly engrossed by October baseball. I am so unbelievably in love with baseball right now. And it’s funny because I reopen this blog on the night of the my biggest heartbreak of the 2009 season. The Dodgers lost in the bottom of the 9th to the Phillies, setting them behind in the NLCS 1 game to 3.

I’m not going to lie. I cried. I couldn’t help it.

This started so long ago in spring training. Actually, it started in January when we decided to make the trip out to Phoenix. It was furthered when I declared my unwavering support for Clayton Kershaw a couple weeks before we set out because I thought he’d need it (and in the past week, boy did he). It’s been months and months of games. Forty-one times I walked into Dodger Stadium this year and watched a  ball game. I was able to do that with the people I love the most. I discovered that I can walk to the Stadium from my house. I spent beautiful summer afternoons staring at the wonderfully manicured grass. I watched my team play an amazing first half. I was in the stadium when they clinched the division.

All of that, and the true reason that I’m so enthralled by the game right now is because for the first time in 12 years, it’s meant exactly what it meant to me as a teenager. It’s reminded me that I have these amazing, amazing best friends. My brothers and I have shared an incredible season. We’ve shared the beginning of this postseason through games and emails and text messages. We’ve shared it through phone calls and memories and lucky socks.

And every single time we talk about the game or a game in our past, I can’t help but feel so deeply blessed to have brothers who share this with me, who have made me the fan that I am.

So, on this night of my tears and my cursing at the television, I reopen “Watchtower.”

“No reason to get excited….”

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I Blame Manny

For three innings, Kershaw confounded Brewers hitters and breezed through the order without giving up a hit. But his control faltered in the fourth, and the Brewers took advantage.

I blame Manny.

I don’t blame him for popping out to right field in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded. I don’t. It was a stupid moment in its own right, especially in contrast to the way Juan Pierre played his at-bat in the ninth inning. Heck, the way Blake, Kemp, Loney, Hudson, Furcal and Ethier played their at-bats in the ninth inning. All played team baseball. All got the small hit, the sacrifice, the HBP that allowed the Dodgers to score three times in the bottom of the ninth. Manny got up there and starts swinging for the fences. It would have all been well and dandy had he smashed it out of the park, and then I would have felt a little less confident in this post but this was already formulated in the fourth inning.

I blame Manny.

Not for the aforementioned ninth-inning at-bat. I blame him for lackluster defense in left field.

I sat in left field last night for the game and witnessed it firsthand. He lacks hustle. He lacks attention. It was apparent in the fourth inning in a way that still irks me. Clayton Kershaw had pitched a decent three innings to that point, walking 2 batters but allowing no hits.

A ball was hit into the left field area. Let’s just say that Rafael Furcal made it closer to catching that ball that Manny did.

Enter: implosion.

As my brother said at the time, “Manny killed Kershaw’s spirit.” He can be a little melodramatic when it comes to no-hitters, but I think he was dead-on.

He may not have killed Kershaw’s spirit, but I am more than certain that not only would Juan Pierre have gotten a better read on that ball, he would have hustled to try to make the play.

I think it says a lot when the team behind you is…umm…actually behind you.

This is not about steroids. I’m leaving my opinion out of this discussion. I would wholeheartedly cheer for someone who came back from any situation and worked hard, but this is a little ridiculous. I guess Bill Plaschke was right.

When you’re playing next to a guy like Kemp who routinely puts his body on the line to make plays and behind Orlando Hudson who makes the extraordinary look ordinary in a year when he’s coming back from a wrist injury, you really need to step it up.

Step it up. Or sit down. I know people get excited when Manny comes to the plate. And his theatrics are well-documented and applauded, but on a team with a core nucleus under the age of 27, the example needs to be a whole lot better from a “team leader.”

Kershaw unravels in Dodgers' loss | dodgers.com: News

Torre was asked if Kershaw was at the point where struggling in the Major Leagues was doing the left-hander more harm than good.”I don’t think so,” he said. “He’s got a lot of confidence in his ability. But I’m sure he’s also wondering why he hasn’t gotten better, sooner. That comes with being young. It’s all about being able to locate consistently. It’ll come. He has to keep going out there and eventually he’ll get the feel on a regular basis.”

Kershaw unravels in Dodgers’ loss | dodgers.com: News

l would never, ever disagree with Joe Torre. I wouldn’t. I mean, after all, I haven’t led major league teams to the playoffs for the past 12 seasons. I’ve never led a major league team to the playoffs for any year.

Honestly, as much as I think this team is so talented, I give Torre a lot of the credit for keeping them in games. I give him credit for creating a team atmosphere. I don’t have the fear of looking into the dugout and seeing Carlos Perez beating a Gatorade cooler with his bat.

There were teams that were  fully-loaded with talent. Karros, Piazza, Mondesi, Nomo, and Hollandsworth. Five straight rookies of the year, and the team languished. Pitching staffs that weren’t spectacular, but very solid with Ramon Martinez, Hideo Nomo, even Pedro Astacio and Tom Candiotti. You could plug them in and know exactly what you’d get. Yet, they never won. It was a fabulous sort of torture.

The truth was they were never managed properly.

Now, we sit with one of the best managers in the game of baseball, and boy does it show. The Dodgers like to put up this lovely piece of information on the scoreboard at games that shows that most of the players if not under the age of 25 are under the age of 27. You would think that would spell a trainwreck, but it hasn’t.

So, when Torre says that Kershaw is going to have to stick it out and get his bearings, I’m going to trust him. Even though, I honestly don’t agree. Well, that’s half true. I wouldn’t have given Kersahw the starting spot at the beginning of the season. I really wanted him to make the team. I really did. But I could have told you in the spring in Phoenix that he could have used a little more time in the minors. He has spectacular stuff, but you can see in his demeanor that he can’t settle his nerves sometimes.

The problem now is that I think it would be doubly detrimental to sit him down. So, that’s where I’m going to agree with Torre. I think working through it with this guy will lead to a very, very strong starter in a couple of years.

After all, Koufax’s first years weren’t that stellar either. And yes, I did compare him to Koufax.

Dodgers vs. Lakers

Yup, you read that correctly.

I’m a Laker fan. I don’t follow the Lakers as I do the Dodgers (at least not in the last 10 years), but that speaks more to my genuine love for the game of baseball. It also speaks to my brain because baseball is almost easier for me to keep up with as it is every single day, rather than played in some complicated manner that is difficult for me to remember.

I had planned to go watch Clayton Kershaw pitch, but somewhere around noon I remembered….the Lakers. Ooops. The good things is that the NBA Finals coincide with June baseball so it isn’t such an awful situation to miss baseball.

Steamroll. That was the outcome of the Laker game.

And my fear for the Dodgers came true. I have this fear that the Phillies are going to become a “thing” for the Dodgers. By the time I caught up with the Dodgers, Hamels had faced one more than the minimum. In the bottom of the eighth. Enter “the thing.”

From all commentary, it appears that Kershaw pitched well. Two runs in 5 1/3 innings is not horrible. It’s the pitch count, and I’m sorry to keep saying that. One hundred five pitches in 5 1/3 innnings. I sometimes wonder if he’s trying to blow out his arm before the age of 23. I think he has amazing velocity and amazing control when he’s in the zone, but it’s all those other times that I cringe. Not so much because he’s losing, but as I can see the damage this could do to a young pitcher.

A lot of the talk on the post-game show was about the offense. And while being shutout is not indicative of a great offense, I’m not really worried. I feel that the Dodgers have played “small” ball. Not to harp on Juan Pierre, but he’s done a great job getting on base and moving himself over. Hudson and Kemp both have averages over .300. I don’t really think there’s much more that could be asked for.

Not to mention, the Dodgers are 18 games over .500 and leading the Giants by eight games. It’s a Dodger fan’s dream.

And….Go Lakers!

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Randomosity

I’ve picked up “The Biggest Loser Weight Loss Yoga,” and I’m almost certain that it’s going to do me in. It’s funny but I can already feel the effects. Soreness and some actual muscle forming.

I also picked up Kathy Smith’s Weightlifting exercise thing. Another brutal workout. It kind of makes me think that perhaps I just enjoy pain. (Not really.)

I’ve made a pledge to myself to get in two workouts a day. Don’t know how long I’m intending to keep that up, but it’s been five days so far.

The overzealous working out is an attempt to cut back on caffeine. It’s failing miserably because I don’t like headaches.

I’ve started crocheting. It’s really my attempt to make myself get away from this gosh-darn computer for some time. I realize that I’m probably going to develop arthritis because of it.

I’ve launched another blog that is totally unrelated to this one.

I walked 2.7 miles round trip today. It was part of my exercise for the day, but also a lot of fun. I like walking around in my own little world.

I realllllllly, really miss being a teacher. Like it hurts.

I love baseball. I know that’s a given. But I really love the game. It makes me super happy. I realized that again last night when I was driving home from a game.

My dreams last night about a certain person were totally unnerving. I thought perhaps something not so great was going to happen today, but it didn’t. And the day is almost over, so that’s good news.

I fell in love with Rahm Emanuel today. For real. Political crushes. Wow. That’s a first. (Ok, not really, but it sounds weird to say I have a crush on the President of the United States. There’s just something inherently wrong with that sentence.)

I had one of those moments the other day when I had to stop and catch my breath. I actually watched Barack Obama be inaugurated as President of the United States. I still can’t verbalize how utterly amazing that was.

Juan Pierre. Write him in. 71 times. Seriously.

I feel bad for Clayton Kershaw. I really do. I could have told you in spring training that he was not ready. So, to punish him for what probably every one knew, is just not a good idea.

I have text stalkers. I don’t care if people read this. It’s not funny. Not in the least. So, if I don’t respond to you, it’s probably because I’m trying to ignore other people.

My wall looks funny without all the post-its.

I found this fabulous way of doing fan-fiction through Facebook. I was mesmerized for awhile, but I have let it slip.

June Gloom has hit with a vengeance. It’s not fun. Not at all.

And yet….I still have awaken every morning thinking something good was going to happen. And it has without fail….

21-year-olds, Staph Infections, Joe Torre….and "Don't Stop Believing"

Last Sunday, I realized Clayton Kershaw would be pitching last night. I have to admit I was pretty much looking forward to it for the entire week. Minus the 30+ pitches he threw in the first inning, I wasn’t terribly disappointed. Oh, minus the 30+ pitches and this ridiculous diving stop he did to flip the ball to first base. All that after neglecting to direct traffic, presumably having Blake yell at him to get out of the way.

All that aside, some nights it’s so painfully clear that he’s 21. Ok, maybe that wasn’t an aside. It was more like “case in point.” I still hold that he is going to be an amazing pitcher in a year or two. Once he gets over what plagues his nerves in the first inning or so, when he throws an amazing amount of pitches and more likely than not, walks the bases loaded.

All in all, the losses don’t hurt as bad this year because I don’t see them as a catalyst for 12 more losses. With the best record in baseball, it’s more like “oh well.”

For one of the more interesting moments, this Jamie Hoffman kid comes up to the plate in the 6th inning and we learn that Xavier Paul has been place on the DL. Hmm….a staph infection, we learn. I only bring it up because I feel like it’s equally gross and random. I do feel bad for the kid. Making it to the major leagues and being forced to sit down with something like that.

Speaking of kids, the Dodgers’ new feature of first putting up the names of players who are under the age of 25 and then progressing to those under the age of 27 is pretty depressing. I don’t understand why 27 has to be cut off age!

Tanaya and I decided that we need to start corresponding with Joe Torre about this whole Manny situation. With Juan Pierre batting over .400, we just think it would be entirely unfair for Ramirez to be able to waltz back into the clubhouse in July and regain his position. I think Pierre deserves the spot at this point. More to come on that…..

And lastly, this “Don’t Stop Believing” thing is getting somewhat out of control. I admit that I only added to the cacophony by screaming the lyrics at the top of my lungs, but it’s just so irritating that I wanted to prove a point. It’s not a baseball song. It’s depressing. And it reminds me of last year, which is also depressing. We have to yet to decide what a better alternative might be, but as soon as we do, we will definitely be writing to the Dodgers.

Everything’s always prettier on the Top Deck….the sky was stunning last night. Although this was taking from my phone, you can kind of get the idea…..

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Twenty-six and Thirteen

Going into today, this is the Dodger’s record. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them have a record this good in May. Actually, I know that I haven’t. I remember every year the excuse that “it’s early.” And, I fell for it. Well, you kind of have to or there’d be no point to watching baseball in July.

At any rate, I’m happy to see it. I’m especially happy to see the energy. A week ago, I sat at Dodger Stadium for three games straight and watched Clayton Kershaw. He didn’t pitch a single game during that stretch but stood at the rail of the dugout for the each game. I appreciate that. The lethargy and “I don’t care” attitude seems to be gone.

For all the talk about Manny and the best pitching in baseball (although it doesn’t seem like it from my vantage point), I give credit to someone else: Joe Torre. It goes back to my theory that holds true in all of life: you can have the most talent in the world, but unless it’s properly managed it will be an atrocious mess.

That being said, I’m looking forward to this homestand.

Go Dodgers!