On pins and creedals

Fans have a creed too. Unlike the Church, ours is not spelled out or even welcoming. Our creed is a winnowing process based on loyalty. Doubting one’s team in between playoff games earns you a lifetime ban from this church. You show loyalty to a team whose ownership are cartoonishly dishonest about their business dealings, we are impressed.

Think about it. Since the end of the 2005 season, being a loyal Marlins fan would put you near the top of the Fan pyramid as surely as Gordon Cooper was atop the Astronaut pyramid on May 21st 1963. The Marlins had at least one fan with the right stuff. His name was Louis Mendez, Sr. and the stuff he used were commemorative pins.

Louis Mendez, Sr. – The Pin Man

I’ve heard it mentioned–and I agree in part since I was there with a few of my Emmaus brothers–that if we had to pinpoint the moment the Miami Marlins began benefiting from a home field advantage at their new ballpark, it happened in a May 21st game against the Colorado Rockies. In the 4th inning of that game, Giancarlo Stanton hit a bases loaded home run against Jamie Moyer. That’s one way to describe it.

Here’s another. A 22 year-old hit a grand slam off a 49 year-old pitcher who was was in MLB before the hitter was born. The pitch came in at 72 mph and came off the bat at a record speed of 122 mph. It was a home run even a Roy Hobbs would have bragged about, if he drank.

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For whom the Bell gets pounded

John Donne’s best known poetry might hit too close to home for Heath Bell to appreciate right now. No surprise there, everything associated with Bell is hitting well at this point. But instead of visiting a sports psychiatrist, he might be better off googling the 16th century English poet, satirist, lawyer, priest and defier of King James I.

The bad news is that Heath Bell has blown both of his saves opportunities. The good news is that he was practically unhittable is his lone low pressure appearance. See his performance to date in 2012.

Pictured is the rumored, but to date unverified by The Elias Sports Bureau, landing spot of a Jay Bruce home run earlier this season.

For whom the bell tolls a poem — No man is an island
[aka The Reliever’s Lament] — by John Donne
[no relation to Dominick John Dunne]:

No man is an island
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Ozzie Guillen: The language made me do it

I don’t have a problem with Ozzie Guillen remaining as the manager of the Marlins. I don’t have to like the manager to be a Marlins fans. But I can’t do the wink wink about the press conference apology. Here’s what Guillen said:

It was misinterpreted. What I mean in Spanish, when he asked me in Spanish, I was thinking in Spanish

Which of course raises the question in what language did Chicago sports writer Rick Telander speak to him in 2008 when he replied with the same answer:

And I asked him this: “Who’s the toughest man you know?”
His response, which took me by surprise: “Fidel Castro.”
“He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him,” Ozzie replied. “Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him.”

As someone who’s been a big Marlins homer, disliking the manager will be a nice change of pace. How big a homer have I been? I was upset when John Boles was let go. At least once a day, I lament Jorge Cantu not getting to 30 home runs in 2008, which would have meant that the Marlins entire infield accomplished the feat, a first in MLB history.

So back off or ‘marcha asi atrás,’ in case Guillen is having this read to him.

The Marlins corporate strategy is the obvious big loser here. The fact that most [all?] of the local media who make their living directly or indirectly reporting on the Marlins support Guillen staying may just be a reflection of their first-hand knowledge of the man, but the fact that their opinions align so neatly with their self-interest is a little too convenient.

Marlins fan spiritual defense kit

Somewhere outside of Philadelphia on Monday, a goat’s life will come to an abrupt end because Heath Bell couldn’t keep his fastball down on Easter Sunday.  Such are the realities of having a practicing Santero managing a MLB team.  It’s a cut throat business.

Now that some Marlins fans have come to see Ozzie Guillen as an adversary, we need to prepare in case we find ourselves cornered by the powerful Babalao. Fortunately, at a recent Little Havana garage sale, I came a cross a wonderful research paper, ‘A Study of Divination within Santería, an Afro-Cuban Religion, as a Psychotherapeutic System’ by Lawrence J. Levy, M.S. While reading the paper, I alternately imagined myself as Guy Montag and Beldar Conehead. It was heady stuff. Literally.

A core Santería belief is the following:

The seat of the soul is the head, and therefore to strengthen the ‘Orisha’ that lives in the head of every human, it must be fed a mixture of grated coconut, honey, and cocoa butter. This mixture is placed on the head and then covered by a white hat or kerchief. The process is called ‘rogación de la cabeza.’

Bang, there it was, our defense kit.

But first I had to get the thought out of my head that if Orel Hershiser had been given the ‘Orisha’ nickname instead of ‘Bulldog,’ he would be in Cooperstown today.  Talk about an intimidation factor.  Heck Tommy Lasorda, who gave him the Bulldog nickname, spent a lot of time in Cuba, why couldn’t he … I digress.

Never have to say you’re sorry to the neighborhood Babalao again

But knowing the ingredients for the Babalao survival kit wasn’t enough. How to mass produce them and have them available at critical moments? Enter late night infomercials. I just want to note two things. The ingredients in the Glossy Locks shampoo are exactly what is needed to protect our inner Orisha’s and you don’t have to enter a botanica to obtain it. ‘Nuf said.

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Ozzie Guillen: Marlins Manager admires our enemy

Update on April 10: Rick Telander with the Chicago Sun-Times reveals that Guillen made very similar comments about Fidel Castro back in 2008. So anyone arguing that his comments don’t reflect his beliefs, would be relying on something other than logic.

But I regret writing that Guillen was now “my enemy” in the original blog post. Too strong a word for the likes of a baseball manager, or an accountant for that matter.

I don’t believe the apology. I don’t believe the PR cleanup efforts. I do believe that Guillen’s comments had an intention. I do believe that he was putting Cuban-Americans on notice. I do believe that the same sort of brain which embraces Santería is more than capable of admiring Fidel Castro. Ozzie Guillen is a friend of my enemy, so he is now my enemy.

I see it as a duty never to lose sight of the fact that the colorful Venezuelan is also a Castro “admiring” Santero. I doubt this sentiment towards Guillen, especially in Little Havana, the new home of the Miami Marlins in case you haven’t heard, would make me unique. But I do think I’m in a unique position [no readers or advertisers to worry about offending] to dispel some of the rationalizations which will attempt to suggest that Guillen misspoke when he volunteered his admiration for Fidel Castro:

  1. He can’t really admire Castro since “he has lived in Miami for 12 years.” — Miami has a very diverse Spanish speaking population. As in any other diverse community, there are rivalries and resentments among the different nationalities. As the first group to immigrate, the largest and most established, Cuban-Americans are a natural target for resentment. What is the best way to thumb your nose at Cuban-Americans? You speak well of a dictator and regime that has caused them [us] great pain. It’s a no-brainer. Which makes it an even more likely a tactic by a Santero.
  2. There is another word for “statements without intention.” — Beliefs. Besides I believe that Guillen did have an intention with his comments. He was putting Cuban-Americans in their [our] place and marking his territory. Saying that about Castro sends the message, ‘I don’t care if it is Miami, I’m Ozzie and I don’t hold back, even [or especially] for you guys.’
  3. Read Guillen’s ‘denial’ carefully. “I’m against the way he [Castro] treats people and the way [he has treated] his country for a long time. I’m against that 100 percent,” he said. I can interpret that to mean that Castro had the right idea, but stumbled in the implementation. That sentiment can co-exist with his admiration for his staying power. Given Guillen’s background, beliefs and education, it’s a mistake to look for an intellectual rationale in anything he says. But sending messages? He’s all about that.
  4. Recall that Guillen was critical of the anti-communist community in Miami which voiced its displeasure with Magglio Ordonez during the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
  5. Temperamentally, admiring Castro would be consistent with someone who liked Hugo Chavez, as Guillen did in 2005. He has since come around on Chavez, in part I assume because of the damage done to his country, Venezuela. But since Guillen has no skin in the Cuban game [until now], the Castro admiration likely didn’t merit a similar reconsideration. Again, no one ascribes actual thinking to any Guillen thoughts. He’s merely thumbing his nose at a rival Latin community in the most flippant manner possible.
  6. Still in the background, I expect this rationalization to gain steam during the week. Guillen was drunk. In an unrelated [to date] story, it was reported that Guillen is so frequently drunk on the road that it actually is seen as a positive in terms of his social skills. Hey isn’t Miguel Cabrera a babalao too? If Santería ever needs a sponsor, can I suggest Budweiser?

The Sun-Sentinel’s Dave Hyde posed the key question, “Can Ozzie get away with saying even this?” I hope not. But if he stays, I hope fellow Marlins fans, especially those of us who have views about Cuba which are more heartfelt than those of the drunken Santero, will communicate our enmity towards Guillen whenever possible. And let’s keep in mind that in order to truly earn Guillen’s admiration, it should be an enmity without an expiration date.

Here’s another thought. Having caught up to Frank Haith, did Karma catch up with Loria and Samson during the eternal cart ride with Ali on opening day?

Forbes March 2012 update: Recap of their yearly reporting on the Marlins since 2002

April 2003

Recap of Forbes view on the Marlins based on their 2002 finances — Operating loss of $14 million and an *estimated franchise valuation of $136 million . *Jeffrey Loria purchased the team prior to the 2002 season for for $158 million:

Shoddy marketing delivered second lowest attendance in baseball. The Florida Marlins play in Pro Player Stadium.

April 2004

Recap of Forbes view on the Marlins based on their 2003 finances — Operating loss of $11 million and an estimated franchise valuation of $172 million:

Last year’s World Series title brought glory and slightly more revenue to the Florida Marlins. Give management credit. Unlike some other low-revenue owners who pocket the payouts from high-revenue teams, Jeffrey Loria invested in players like Pudge Rodriguez (since departed to the Detroit Tigers). But the long-term viability of this franchise in south Florida remains in question, unless the team can convince legislators and taxpayers to help finance a new ballpark.

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Union squares off with PETA in Marlins aquarium dispute

Marlins Park saltwater aquarium

Appearing alongside a Lawnmower Blenny which had lost a fin during an elaborate 1st Communion party and had not been able to perform since, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka leveled his harshest attack yet on the PETA organization which had advocated the use of “robotic fish” in the saltwater aquarium at the new Marlins Park. Trumka stated, “those are jobs which should be going to species of Americans. Everyone knows the world of robotics is a right-wing scam underwritten by the Ed Koch brothers. Those PETA guys wouldn’t know a coral reef from Coral Gables.”

When the Blenny was asked if he had any comments on the aquarium issue, he replied “no, but I urge all Americans, even those with freshwater aquariums, to reject the new Ryan budget proposal.”

Vowing that they would never allow themselves to be out-outraged, PETA fired back at Union president Trumka.   They released a video of PETA’s talks with the Marlins in which Trumka was allowed to participate. In the video, Trumka appears to confuse the material the Marlins were touting as helping to protect the fish, by limiting how much the aquarium would vibrate, neoprene, with neosporin.  Trumka can be seen in the grainy video, asking “how in the world will they would be able to spread the material on the fish without clogging up their gills.”

Thanks to my friends at Hardball Talk for the idea and they are hereby absolved of all puns.

MLB in Little Havana: Walking through the Houses of the Holy

This Sunday I took a 4 mile walk in preparation for what I hope will be frequent nighttime walks during many MLB seasons to come.  Since the possibility that a baseball stadium would rise up on the Orange Bowl grounds [The Battle for Evermore], I have looked forward to taking my walks around the new stadium even as I listened to radio or internet broadcasts of the game.

Those walks to come are already vivid in my head.  I know that I will unhook my earphones as I pass homes who are watching the game or people outside their apartments listening like me.  At first there will a series of imperceptible acknowledgements.  But by June, my MLB fandom established,  there will be waves, quick head-shakes inspired by Stanton and actual conversations.

Who knows, there might also be fellow bloggers along the path.  Like Lourdes girls who know of Sandy Denny, they are rare but do exist, so sayeth the book of Daniela.  I already have a few suggestions.

The Led Zeppelin song Houses of the Holy [see below] — through an admittedly parochial prism — written nearly 40 years ago, nicely captured my mood on the walk to the opening of a MLB park in my neighborhood.

Let me take you to the [Tower Theater] movies. Can I take you to the [Domino Park] show

Let me be yours ever truly. Can I make your garden [Brigade 2506 Memorial Park] grow

From the houses of the holy, we can watch the white doves [Giancarlo Stanton dingers] go

From the door comes Satan’s daughter [New York Yankees], and it only goes to show. You know.

There’s an angel on my shoulder [Miami-Dade County Hotel and Restaurant Taxes], In my hand a sword of gold [SEC investigation]

The song rambles on after that …

See what my Little Havana GPS reads like for the 2 mile [one way] walk:

  1. Start out going north on SW 26th Rd.
  2. Turn left at Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
  3. Turn right onto SW 13th Ave at the Anaut’s house.
  4. Go past the 2506 Brigade Memorial.
  5. Go past Calle Ocho / Olga Guillot Way.
  6. Go past Flagler St.
  7. Turn left at St John Bosco Catholic Church.
  8. Take right onto NW 14th Ave.
  9. The OB2 / Marlins Park is 3 blocks ahead.

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Restoration and Miamians

Marlins Park opened to a game between Miami’s most prominent Catholic boys high schools, Columbus and Belen on Monday night. Archbishop Thomas Wenski threw out the first pitch. The crowd consisted mostly of Catholic high school parents who have spent the better part of the last decade contributing to building funds which rarely produce actual buildings. Yet there we were, in a new stadium built over our old stadium located in the type of a neighborhood first generation Cuban exiles worked hard to leave behind. That was good.

Much was left behind. The type of things that couldn’t move. Churches, schools, cheap housing and one stadium. The mobility of second generation Cuban exiles was much appreciated by those who followed from Nicaragua, Colombia and Venezuela etc. Turns out they wanted and needed our Little Havana neighborhood. That was good. So was that one stadium.

The Orange Bowl was like some magical yearbook whose last page you never thought to imagine. Its history seemed to be the Miami’s history, mainly in sports, but also in music and politics. The new stadium would have been a hit anywhere it was built. But because it was built on the site of the Orange Bowl, it feels like more of a restoration. The transition from football to baseball almost incidental. That is good.

In standing on the mound for the first pitch, if Archbishop Wenski had turned towards first base, he would be about two miles away from another historic restoration of a Miami institution, Miami Senior High. That school, my high school, is one of the rare places in Miami which preceded even the Orange Bowl. When that restoration is complete sometime next year, that will be good.

If Archbishop Wenski had turned and faced center field, he could actually see the golden dome on top of one of the churches he leads which is about a half mile away. St John Bosco Catholic Church, my Parish, has in the last few years undergone its own restoration. While the old St John Bosco building was torn down and a beautiful new one erected fifty yards away, no one thinks of it as a new Parish for good reason.

G.K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy:

I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it. I did strain my voice with a painfully juvenile exaggeration in uttering my truths. And I was punished in the fittest and funniest way, for I have kept my truths: but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine.

To all these places I’ve felt a tribal allegiance of varying degrees over the years.  I have come in and out of their buildings with pride and affection.  But when I reflect on their longevity, survival and now restoration, I am forced to acknowledge the missing link in my ‘truths.’  My fellow Miamians.  There would be nothing to call ‘mine’ without those who preceded and proceeded me in all these places.  The ones who surrounded me last night.  People with whom I gladly go, adelante!

Halloween and the Miguel Cabrera Trade

Like a character in the Halloween franchise, the horror of the December 2007 Miguel Cabrera trade never seems able to go away completely. The Padres just ripped open the MRSA-type wound by signing Cameron Maybin to a $25 million contract extension. This after updated defensive metrics indicate that Maybin may have been the 3rd best center fielder in MLB last year. This after he was named the Padres MVP for 2011. This after Chris Coughlan’s disastrous 2011 season put his MLB career in jeopardy. This after the 23 year-old Maybin was traded by the Marlins for 2 middle relievers after the 2010 season.

In a post at the end of last year, I looked at Marlins trades and draft choices since 2005 and quantified a rather mediocre performance in evaluating talent by the Larry Beinfest and the Marlins. The Sun Sentinel’s Juan C. Rodriguez points out how Sean West is the Marlins equivalent of the Last of the Mohicans, 2005 draft edition. Trading Maybin is now one of their more obvious mistakes.

They haven’t asked, but I’ll hand them one possible explanation. They may have been suffering from Roger Abercrombie fatigue syndrome. Could the failure of an earlier similar prospect been projected onto Maybin? Heck, I don’t even believe that. But I also can’t believe the Marlins gave up on a 23 year-old center fielder when they had no answer to replace him other than converting a left fielder who was still adjusting to his conversion from second base.

A Catholic Man

Follow me as I do my best to walk the walk......


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