Our Midseason Awards

We’re at the official halfway point, so it should be noted that while these are unofficial awards here at Diamond Hoggers, we’ve still got a half to go and a lot can change (in other news the grass is green and the sky is blue). Lets examine what we’ve found after the first half of the season.

AL MVP: Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox (edges out Josh Hamilton by a smidgen)
AL Cy Young: Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Milton Bradley, Texas
AL Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria, Tampa
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Tampa

NL MVP: Chase Utley, Philadelphia
NL Cy Young: Brandon Webb, Arizona
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Ben Sheets, Milwaukee
NL Rookie of the Year: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
AL Manager of the Year: Lou Piniella, Chicago Cubs

We didn’t hit on much with our preseason picks, but like we said there’s a half season to go; and a half season is not a season make.

Throwing it around

We’re halfway done with this Oregon Trail ride, and June has almost ended on us. The All-Star game will be here two weeks from today. Have you done your voting? How is your fantasy team doing? Start enjoying baseball today because very soon the boys of summer will be fading and going away for the winter. It just happens too fast.

-More on the battle of Ohio series. [Tribe Report]
-How’s Josh Hamilton doing in the All-Star voting? [Dallas Morning News Rangers Blog]
-The Oakland A’s look like they’ve won out in the Dominican born Inoa sweepstakes. [Pending Pinstripes]
-Chipper Jones is still hurting, and still hitting .394 on the season. [Baseball Musings]
-What can Adam Dunn do for you? [Blown Save]
-The Padres will be big sellers with an eye on next season. [NY Times Bats Blog]
-The world is watching the series that begins today between the Red Sox and Rays. [The Heater]
-The Yankees have a tough 9 game stretch awaiting them before the AS break. [Yankees LoHud Blog]
-Has 41-year old Omar Vizquel reached the end of the line? [Baseball Analysts]

Our wonderful season, wilting away

The season is halfway over and we are a bit melancholy about it. We wish baseball season could last 11 of the 12 months out of the year, and we’d never get tired of venturing to the ballpark or staying up to see if the Orioles outlasted the Royals on the late night sports shows.

We’ll be picking up the slack here in the second half of the season. More coverage, more opinions, more links, and more overall wholesome goodness. Stay tuned, it’s going to be a good ride.

Reds roll over Tribe for series win

Another series in the sun, another two majestic blasts from the bat of Adam Dunn in his long and storied (albeit controversial) Reds career. So many times during his time with the Reds I’ve felt that this might really be it. That Dunn would never hit again. No matter what, he’s always answered the bell. As those all around him in Reds nation continue to doubt him, he just continues to produce like he’s always done. Dunn hit a 3-run home run today (his 2nd in two days to give him 20 for the season at the halfway point) to put the game out of reach for the Indians.

This isn’t meant to be an Adam Dunn post, but like anything else in life; tomorrow is not guaranteed. Each game we get to watch big #44 play in a Reds uniform could be the last and we know it. He’s been our favorite player in any sport and probably always will be. If indeed the end is nearing, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye when the time comes. Dunn isn’t without faults, but he does things that no one can argue; and if that’s what satisfies you as a fan then you’re probably one of those people like me who is in Dunn’s corner to be a long term solution here in Cincinnati. He shows up every day, plays hard (he threw a runner out today at 2nd base), and he puts up numbers. So many things have came and gone since Dunn’s time in Cincinnati began; just thinking back on our own life and how it was different when Dunn was a rookie back in 2001. It would be nice to see him get to 500 or even 600 home runs as a Red, but we too are beginning to visualize the sad text on the wall. Adam Dunn probably won’t be a Red beyond this season at most.

What the Reds are lacking

I sit here on a Friday night at my mother’s house (my fiance is out of town, get off my back) and I watch the Reds close out a 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians. I sit and I wonder why I invest my time so much. I started reading some NFL stuff tonight and this is extremely unusual for me.

Then I get frustrated and go back to watching this brutal, spineless ball club. I think about what is really missing here. I think long and hard about why things just go wrong for this group. I think I’ve come to it.

The Reds are a team loaded with names and talent. They really are. Even if you disagree with me, they’re certainly better than they’ve shown all season long. This isn’t a last place club on paper. This team just plays flat. They come out and look emotionless, like they don’t want to play 9 innings. That leads to lapses in their play and all the inconsistencies.

I think the Reds need to make some changes, and one of the big ones that would help this flat play is to bring in a fiery leader. A veteran who plays every day that won’t allow this shit to go on. When the Reds have had good teams in the past, they had guys out there that thought they were going to war when they stepped between the white lines and war wasn’t over until there was 27 outs. This goes back to Pete Rose if you want to go back that far, or even in more recent history with Greg Vaughn or even Sean Casey. I won’t include Larkin because I question his ‘fiery’ leadership.

I will stop there for tonight, but the Reds have definitely succeeded in making me completely pissed on what otherwise could have been a great night of relaxation. Fuckers.

It’s Bruce Traffic

Now that we’ve gotten back from the east coast from our Summer Tour 2008, we’ve wanted to address something that we found slightly amusing. At the same time, I guess you had to be there.

We were traveling to Jay Bruce’s 2nd career ballgame when things didn’t quite seem to be going as smoothly on Interstate 71 south. We were talking about the roads being a bit more clogged than normal when one of our best friends said under his breath:

“It’s the Bruce (as in Jay) Traffic.”

We snapped a pic because indeed, people were coming in flocks early on to see this kid play. The gloss has worn off a bit, sure; but no one commanded a crowd like ‘The Deal’ early on in his big league debut.

There's dirt on Bunny Arroya; we just wish he was pitching better!

Look, we’re not in the business of bustin out ballplayers for anything. Especially those that play for our favorite team. We prefer to leave those type of scoops to the folks at Baseball Dirty and such. We used to be ballplayers. We, to an extent, know how it is. Just not on a Major League scale. One can only dream.

But every once in a while something gets sent to us that just fits. A reader tip that sounds about right. In those situations, since we’re not making anything up; rather just running with it, we’ve got to report it. It doesn’t help matters what #61 has been pissing us off mightily lately.

Story #1 (we’re just cutting & pasting here):

My sister just recently got a job with a public events planning firm (I believe) down in the Union Center area. Well she came home today from her first day on the job and told me an intriguing story. She says that, for one thing one of the employees is dating Brandon Phillips, and another knows Bronson personally, even has his number in her phonebook. Any way the girl who knows Bronson says that he is an @ss and she has been to Bronson’s place up in Mt. Adams and there are pictures of naked girls on the wall, not bad right….., well she also says that Bronson has drugs around the place, she didn’t specify which kind, but that he has drugs, so if any one needs a fix hit up BA. She also says that even though BA is married, he has a girlfriend on the side and is currently having relationship struggles with that girl.

Story #2:

Ive got a buddy who goes to NKU and has ran into Bronson a couple times at the bars and have heard some stories about Bronson just walking up to girls that are with their boyfriends and trying to take them away right in front of the guy. One time this guy said something back to Bronson and Dunn stepped in with “Is there a problem here?” That is what my buddy told me also so I wouldnt write that in stone or anything.

Written in stone it’s not. However, where there’s smoke there is certainly fire. We’ve heard stuff like this before about the rocker turned ballplayer Bunny Arroya. We’ve met women who were bonkers over him because of a one time deal thing (Bunny probably didn’t even remember her name afterwards). We just hope Bunny realizes that his career is at a crossroads and it means enough to him to pitch with some purpose over the next few months, or at least throw well enough to draw some interest and get dealt. I can’t watch this shit anymore.

King Felix’s Grand Slam–Yes We Saw It

King Felix hit a grand slam off Johann Santana, which was the first grand slam hit by an American league pitcher in 37 years! Not much to add here, other than we thought it deserved a post of it’s own, and that we saw some history baby!
It’s rare that you go the ballpark and end up seeing something like this, well we did and we wanted it to get scrapped right here on Diamond Hoggers.
Things are not good right now for the Mets. The headlines of the New York Daily News read ‘The Sh– has hit the fans’, and that was before King Felix went boom on their $100 million dollar ace Johann Santana.

Our Long Awaited Day at Shea

The journey to Shea Stadium was a long one for us. We waited a long time to get there and there were times in which we doubted if we’d ever make it, but we finally did and it was somewhat surreal to us.

Any journey to Shea Stadium begins and ends with a ride on the number 7 train, that same famous 7 train that John Rocker got pretty particular about many years ago:

“I would retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”

We have to say it–we know what Rocker meant as we stood there shoulder to shoulder, stop to stop with hundreds of other patrons of the 7-train. We just wanted the ride to end and we longed for taking a car ride to Shea Stadium. We longed for personal space. We talked with a local that lived in Queens, a nice and well to do man who had been riding the 7-train every day his whole life. He told us tales of a dead man riding the 7-train for several days without anyone else noticing he was actually dead, that no one else had noticed because they thought he was sleeping (or they were just so caught up in their own destination and happenings). He also told us he’s seen people jump on the track to kill themselves. Rocker was right, it’s just a crazy scene.

One thing we loved about Shea–the Dunkin Donuts. We had to take a symbolic picture of this. They served Dunkin Donuts at the ballpark, for which we passed up because of the Gremlin rumbling in our stomach, but still it’s a nice touch. Something we’ve always loved about the east coast is a little DD. You can’t top it.

This was a shot we almost missed, and we got it. As we sat there at Shea we thought countless times about this is where it all went down when we were falling in love with baseball and Darryl Strawberry was one of the most feared sluggers in the game. We thought about The Bad Guys Won and the 1986 Mets, and Dwight Gooden, Dallas Green, and Davey Johnson.

Then we looked to the above spot and thought of that fate turning moment when Bill Buckner let one dribble between his legs, allowing Mookie Wilson to score. The history that’s taken place at Shea is more rich to us than that of Yankee Stadium, because it’s just more modern to us.

There’s those famous left field bleachers (they might not be famous in any way other than I’ve always noticed them as a quaint feature of Shea when it’s on television. Newly produced Citi Field showing in the background.

There’s the right field area that Darryl Strawberry used to wear out as he was in his youth, known as the black Ted Williams. Notice the orange seats, a characteristic we’ve always admired about Shea Stadium. Adam Dunn also hit a couple memorable home runs into this area as well.

We had to get a picture of the Home Run Apple as one of our first shots. It would only rear it’s ugly head one time (we think) when Felix Hernandez hit a grand slam early in the game. More on that coming, but it is definitely the one thing in Shea Stadium we didn’t want to miss.

Return to Bobby V’s

You might remember that Bobby Valentines restaurant in Stamford brings back a lot of fond memories for us. We have been talking about the place since we first ventured there in 2005, and we had the chance to go back. This time we were determined to take it all in.

You can view the award winning menu here. We went with the buffalo chicken wrap. We’d of liked to have eaten a lot more, but we got the stomach flu on sunday and we ended up on every shitter on the way from Stamford, CT to Shea Stadium (including on the subways).

This place served as a great spot to go before a Mets game. It set the mood just fine. We asked the bartender/waiter serving us and only a few regulars seated at the bar about Bobby V’s whereabouts, and he told us that he was in Japan and not to expect him back until the winter months.

We also mentioned that we were heading for the Mets game (asking for a courtesy cup spitter on the way out the door), and surprisingly he wasn’t amused. This came as a surprise to us.

We looked at the vast array of pictures and memoribilia at the joint, but our favorite was the Mickey Mantle picture and message that we put above.

We come to find out that Bobby Valentine also has a blog! It just gets better and better with this guy. We don’t know when our next trip to Bobby V’s might come, or if it should ever come again, but this was exactly what we wanted out of our expedition to the famous eating spot and watering hole.

Redlegs welcome us in New York with a ‘W’

Overall, just a great day. I got to hang with editor George. I got to see Daryl Thompson’s debut (5 innings, 2 K’s, consistently working out of trouble with the help of a 94-95 mph heater). Yankee Fans honestly aren’t as rough as they’re made out to be. I met several very friendly individuals that told me tales of when they watched Catfish Hunter, Mickey Rivers, and Reggie Jackson in their youth. We talked of Don Mattingly and Goose Gossage. We talked about all the World Series Games that have taken place on the vast battleground that I visited today. They didn’t take offense to me cheering for the Reds even one time. Then again, I didn’t venture out to the right field bleachers where the abuse is known to most often take place.

When the dust settled, the Reds had won the game handily. For 6 innings and then some, Dan Giese held the Reds down in his first career start. By the end of the game, the Bronx faithful were becoming restless.

Lots of talk today about the All-Star Game being held at Yankee Stadium, and I think it’s great. What better way to send off the place. I’m told that unless you ‘know’ someone, you can expect to pay in the area of $2000 just to get into the Home Run Derby and All-Star Workout day festivities.

Jay Bruce’s day was not a good one. The average is down to .302 now. He flew out to medium center, the warning track in left center, and then bounced out twice. I admit, I’m getting a little worried about him. Dusty Baker needs hung for putting him in the leadoff spot. It’s a real travesty. Yankees fans generally knew who Bruce was and a few remarked that he had a nice future ahead of him. There was also a faint cheer of ‘Brrrruuuuuuucccceeee’ trailing off in the distance for his plate appearances.

I had a Hebrew National hot dog for lunch. It was not unlike any other hot dog I’ve ever had, but I am guessing it was made by jewish hands. There are a lot of ethnic looking people in the Bronx. The goods are all pricier in New York than in the Midwest where I hail from. The hot dog was good.

A great shot that defines Yankee Stadium. The blue wall, the white….. stuff surrounding the top of the building. It’s an image that signifies class and really must get your blood flowing as a fan of the Yankees franchise.

Yankee stadium isn’t the greatest park around, but you can’t argue with the image and icon that it has when you are inside it. It is a monster in terms of facilities.

As I looked into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium in batting practice I thought of the greats that had gone before me on that very landscape. That is where Roger Maris hit his 61st home run. That is where the Mick loved to park balls to forever die. Thats the same area that Babe Ruth wore out in the process of building the greatest baseball legend we’ve ever seen. Those are very famous seats right there folks. Sometimes, baseball geeks like me just have to stop and take it all in like that, and yet it’s still way too deep to fathom. Do you know what I mean?

There it is, beautiful new Yankee Stadium. The seats today were out of control price-wise. For what the value was of the seats we sat in, we could have gotten Diamond Seats at Great American Ball Park and still had $50 left over to play with. Our seats clearly weren’t the experience of Diamond Seats; but as I told a Yankees fan, that is why the Yankees can afford to do what they do each year (buying anything they want in a player). They command a coin.

I got to go to Harlem today. That is where our train stopped. First time ever going to Harlem for me. It was a very neat, depressed area. Did you know the Fordham Rams play in the oldest gym in America? Yeah, they do. I’m glad I had the experience of going to Harlem for a minute.