Mutka: Baseball heats up heading into break
By John Mutka Post-Tribune senior correspondent July 8, 2012 11:26PM
Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen watches his second two-run home run of the game leave the park during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in Pittsburgh Sunday, July 8, 2012. The Pirates won 13-2. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Updated: August 10, 2012 6:31AM
Some random thoughts from a confused columnist:
Haven’t heard much lately from folks who think Global Warming is a bunch of hooey. When 100-degree temperatures become the norm I wonder why people don’t pay more attention to former Vice President Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Probably because polarizing politicians muddied the message.
Playing day baseball in smothering heat strikes me as a recipe for sunstroke, although it doesn’t seem to bother Sox-switching Kevin Youkilis. If the trend continues fans won’t have to wear earmuffs in the World Series and the next Winter Olympics might be adding water skiing and synchronized swimming to the menu.
Pity the poor polar bears. Melting ice caps make it harder for these endangered brutes to swim to their food sources.
Speaking of Heat, now that King James has ascended to the NBA throne, is it possible to love him? LeBron’s giant ego, indulged by that ridiculous ESPN press conference after he abandoned Cleveland, makes it difficult. In my fantasy world I’d love to see the Cavaliers strip him of his crown in next year’s playoffs.
TGIO (Thank God it’s over) ... Fourth of July is my least favorite holiday. All it means to too many Americans is an excuse to overeat, blow off body parts, traumatize pets and set fires. Firecrackers should be banned when my lawn is drier than the Gobi Desert.
Nobody comes right out and says so but isn’t overpopulation stressing out our planet to the max? Natural resources are dwindling even more with third-world consumers beginning to crave the same products we take for granted in the land of the fee and the home of the crave. Ain’t capitalism wonderful?
Just think how crowded Earth would be if we hadn’t figured out barbaric ways of killing off each other in World Wars I and II with an assist from blood-lusting dictators and minority haters.
Still can’t figure out why Carleton Scott skipped what could have been a defining basketball season at Notre Dame. His NBA plans didn’t quite pan out, but at least he did earn his degree in the spring semester of 2011. Neither Scott nor Ben Hansbrough, the Big East player of the year, were picked in the NBA Draft.
Scott spent his first professional season in Austria and is now playing summer league ball for the Brooklyn Nets. Hansbrough is joining his big brother, Tyler, with the Pacers as an undrafted free agent.
Don’t you think stocking the American League All-Star roster with eight Texas Rangers seems a bit excessive? Especially since they’re 0-for-2 in the World Series. Why doesn’t Ron Washington just take his entire team to Kansas City? Ridiculous.
Division leaders Pittsburgh and Washington qualify as baseball’s top feel-good stories at the All-Star break.
The Pirates are contending to end a 19-season losing streak, five of them coming under Gary’s Lloyd McClendon, who was fired by general manager David Littlefield in 2005, then resurfaced as Detroit’s hitting coach. Being a good soldier, Mac never complained about being forced to manage with one hand tied behind his back in Steeltown. His reward for unstinting loyalty was to take the rap for penny-pinching CEO Kevin McClatchey and Littlefield.
Under new management (Littlefield was fired and McClatchey resigned in 2007) the Pirates are riding former Yankees starter A.J. Burnett, who is 8-0 in his last 10 starts through Saturday, and All-Star outfielder Andre McCutcheon. You can’t blame their fans for being skeptical, though. Last year the Pirates led the Central Division at the All-Star break, but walked the plank after a 10-game losing streak.
In 2005 the Expos morphed into the Washington Nationals after laboring in Montreal since 1969. Quebec’s French-speaking population never warmed up to Canada’s first expansion team, which was eventually abducted by a Major League combine. Over the strenuous objections of Baltimore’s Angelos family, the Expos became the Nats.
Incorrectly spelled jerseys (‘Natinals’) made them an early butt of bad jokes. One jersey, briefly worn by Adam Dunn, was auctioned off and earned $8,000 for charity. Dunn departed for Chicago after two 38-homer, 100-RBI seasons.
While his batting average was disappearing on the South Side, pitchers Steve Strasburg (9-4) and Gio Gonzalez (12-3) provided the punchline in our nation’s capital.
Before anointing Sox Ken Williams general manager of the year, here’s food for thought. Letting Mark Buehrle go to the Marlins was a major mistake. The indestructible lefty is closing in on his 12th consecutive 200-inning season and improved his record to 8-8 with his eighth quality start in his last 10 outings.
His fastball can barely put a crack in a pane of glass, but Buehrle owns a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 3.25 ERA. Meanwhile John Danks languishes on the Sox disabled list.
Buehrle and whacky manager Ozzie Guillen seem to have pumped up Miami’s anemic fan base. Currently the Marlins are averaging 28,330 fans. That’s up 11,116, which is a major-league high improvement.
Speaking of fans, Major League attendance has jumped 8.1 percent. Chalk up the biggest rise since 2008 to exciting division races and a slowly improving economy. Not that the White Sox can take any credit. They’re operating at less than 57 percent capacity and the Cell’s average has dropped nearly 1,200 over last year.
On the north side of town the affluent Cubs, who were strong contenders for baseball’s worst record before promoting Anthony Rizzo, are averaging 37,522, which is 91.2 percent capacity in their Ivy Paradise. And poor-mouthing Tom Ricketts wants taxpayers to foot the bill for improvements to this cash cow?