Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Terrible Baseball Decision NOT Made by Jeffrey Loria

David Price won the 2012 American League CY Young Award in one of the closest races in the history of the award, beating Justin Verlander by only 4 points (153 to 149). With all due respect to the Baseball Writers Association of America and David Price;


Somebody needs to explain to me in what WORLD David Price is a better pitcher than Justin Verlander, even for one second. The Cy Young Award is given annually “to the best pitchers in Major League Baseball”, which if you ask me, or anybody who has one iota of intelligence is not David Price. Did David Price have more wins than Justin Verlander? Yep, he sure did, he had 20 wins to Verlander’s 17. But, that doesn’t make him better. Did the Bronx Bums New York Yankees  have more wins than the Detroit Tigers this season? Yep, sure did, but that didn’t make them better (putting it lightly).

The BBWAA can spin the tale however they want, but it was an absolute lazy vote. I realize these awards mean nothing to the big picture, but it’s the principle of the matter. Price winning this award over Verlander is based solely on two factors; wins and era. Simple as that, he had more wins and a lower ERA so OMG HE’S THE BEST PITCHER IN THE LEAGUE!!!!! Hardly.

People will argue that Price deserves the award over Verlander because he faced stiffer competition against the American League East than Verlander did in the American League Central. Well, Price made 16 starts against the AL East this year and Verlander made 12. Here’s how each fared:

Price had a 2.51 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 107.2 innings when facing the likes of the Yankees, Toronto, Baltimore and Boston and his team had an 11 – 5 record in those games.

Verlander on the other hand, had a 2.54 era, 1.07 WHIP and 84 strikeouts in 85 innings when facing the likes of New York, Tampa, Toronto, Baltimore and Boston and his team had an even 6 – 6 record in those games.

The numbers are extremely similar, except Price’s team won more of those games (there are those pesky wins again). If you want to get really technical, Justin Verlander’s WAR, which stands for “Wins Above Replacement” and measures how many more wins a player would give a team as opposed to a “replacement level” player was 7.5, compared to Price’s 6.4. (It should be noted that Matt Harrison of the Texas Rangers had a 6.2 WAR, so Price is a lot closer to being Matt Harrison than he is being Justin Verlander).

To make this rant short and sweet Justin Verlander should be the American League Cy Young winner for the 2nd consecutive year. He had a “down” year by his standards and was still far and away the best pitcher on the planet.

The two seasons of both men finished like this:

Price: 20 – 5, 2.56 era, 1.10 whip
Verlander: 17 – 8, 2.64 era, 1.06 whip

Compared to his counterpart in Tampa, while Verlander amassed only 2 more starts than Price, he managed to throw nearly 30 more innings, strikeout 35 more batters, walk only 1 more hitter and instill more comments of “holy S%*@ Verlander is pitching, we’ve got no chance” from fans than David Price ever will in three lifetimes.

At the end of the day, in this ranters opinion, the voters were terribly wrong in choosing Price over Verlander. And believe me when I say it, I’m not trying to take anything away from David Price, he’s a good young pitcher.

But, he’s a boy being compared to a man and frankly, he just isn’t on that man’s level.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Making Sense of What Happened

Yankees Raul Ibanez after his game-tying home run in the 9th inning of Orioles closer Jim Johnson

      After the Yankees Raul Ibanez’s improbable, unlikely, miraculous, heroic, herculean (can you tell I’m Impressed?) comeback against the Baltimore Orioles last night, like many, I tuned into the postgame press Conference to hear what Joe Girardi had to say regarding the gargantuan (can you also tell I read a thesaurus this morning?) intestinal fortitude it took to pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez (and his 647 career home runs) in the 9th inning.

      Girardi, who always goes by his trusty binder (which by now has more pages than the Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”), decided to go against the grainand opted for Raul Ibanez. His reasoning for his decision was; “(Ibanez) being a great pinch hitter, and you’ve got a left-handed hitter who’s a low-ball hitter in a sense, and you’ve got a low-ball pitcher. I just kind of had a gut feeling.”

     Obviously Girardi was using code words that only the intelligent mind of yours truly could crack. What Joe really meant was “Even though Ibanez is a career .243 pinch hitter, he looks like a thin Buddha, so we rubbed his belly around the 6th inning. Plus, we’ve got a short porch in right and A-Rod is swinging so poorly right now he offered Granderson or Swisher $10,000 to look worse and I guess Grandy needed the money. Oh, and the gut feeling? It’s still the indigestion I get from drinking 6 months of the Andruw Jones Kool-aid.”

     All joking aside, the moves Girardi made in last night’s game were bold and put all possible ego’s to the back-burner. Each move was calculated based on the situation and what Girardi felt gave them the best chance to win. In a 20 minute span, he not only removed Alex Rodriguez for a pinch-hitter, but Derek Jeter as well! I don’t think there’s another manager in baseball that would’ve had the cojones (little Spanish lesson for you) to make those moves. Hell, I’m more surprised Jeter didn’t shank Girardi in the shower after the game for taking him out, than the Yankees actually winning.

     But, back to the postgame Press Conference about the toast of the town, Raul Ibanez; Girardi said that what Ibanez has done lately reminds him of Shane Spencer (which was in 1998, not 1996 Joe, get your facts right!) and the magic he had during that one legendary Autumn. That got me to thinking, is it remotely similar? The answer is….wait for it…..wait for it….NOPE!

     Shane Spencer was a flash in the pan, one hit wonder (a la Kevin Maas for all my older Millennial’s out there). What Spencer did during that September was amazing, but it pales in comparison to what Ibanez has done. Ibanez is a man who was so bad during Spring Training, the Yankees almost released him, but chose to hold onto him due to his veteran presence and hope that he would work things out. Good thing they did. Ibanez is also a man who was so bad during mid-August through mid-September (a 2 for 45 slump), people were begging for him to be designated for assignment and released (I admit, I was one of them). Good thing they didn’t.

     Shane Spencer hit 10 home runs and amassed 27 rbi during the month of September in 1998 (including a .286 average with 3 homers between the 7th and 9th innings) and then went on to bat .500 with 2 home runs during the ALDS against Texas. What’d Raul Ibanez do for the Yankees? Only come through in the clutch, what seems like every time he came to bat. The clutch numbers Ibanez has put up this season speak for themselves:

High Leverage Situations: .278 average, 7 home runs, 34 RBI
 “Late & Close” Situations: .286 average, 5 home runs, 17 RBI
During tie games: .311 average, 5 home runs, 17 RBI
Pinch hitting: .320 average, 2 home runs, 7 RBI

     Hitting in the clutch is what Raul Ibanez does! He did it against Oakland in that extra inning game when the Yankees came back from that huge deficit. He did it against Boston last week (twice in one game) and he did it again last night versus Baltimore (also twice in one game). In the 2009 World Series Raul Ibanez feasted on Yankee pitching batting over .300. This is why the Yankees signed him. To give a veteran player, who knows how to prepare, knows what it takes to win, and is the consummate teammate, a chance to shine for October glory.

      In a matter of 3 weeks, Raul Ibanez has replaced Raul Mondesi as the best player named Raul the Yankees have ever had. Did the Yankees ever expect Ibanez to have an impact like this? Of course not, nobody did, probably not even Raul (Mondesi and Ibanez). But, every Yankee player and fan alike are hoping the hits keep on coming. If Ibanez’s clutch hitting can somehow lead to the Yankees capturing a World Series Title, I’d expect his plaque to be erected in Monument Park on Opening Day next season and his number retired, never to be worn again. (I’m kidding, sort of)

     But tonight, or any other point during the 2012 Postseason, if the Yankees find themselves needing a big hit late in the game, Raul Ibanez is the man we hope is standing in the box.

     For 16 years, Derek Jeter was the individual you’d want up in that situation. Well, move over Captain Clutch. Colonel Clutch has arrived.

And we Salute you, Sir.

So does Nick Swisher.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How Do You Replace Greatness?

     It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, Rafael Soriano has spent 5 months flattering Mariano Rivera so much, his face is beginning to turn red with embarrassment.

    The Yankees are about to begin their 3rd game in unchartered territory. They haven’t played a post season in 31 years when Mariano Rivera wasn’t seated in the bullpen. When you become comfortable, it puts you at ease and becomes almost second nature; that’s what Mariano Rivera has been for the better part of nearly two decades worth of October baseball, comforting to the minds of Yankee fans knowing their pitchers only needed to record at most 21 outs, before the game was essentially over.

     That sense of comfort was ripped away in a heartbeat on the warning track in Kansas City on May 3rd when Rivera tore his ACL, ending his season. Before the collective tears of millions of Yankee fans could even dry, his replacement David Robertson was also placed on the disabled list. These events forced the Yankees to turn to their 7th inning reliever, Rafael Soriano to handle the closing duties.

     The transition wasn’t easy at first, change often never is. Fast forward five months and Yankee fans have embraced Rafael Soriano and his unusual routine of immediately pulling his shirt out from his uniform pants when finishing a game. That tendency has become sort of a pseudo rallying cry for Yankee fans after Soriano records a save; “time to un-tuck, the Yankees win” or #untuck for those of you from the world of twitter.

     So, did Rafael Soriano really replace Mariano Rivera over the last 5 months of the regular season? The initial gut reaction for many would be “no, no, no, NO!” Wrong, dead wrong. You, me, the drunk in section 237, all wrong. Rafael Soriano did replace Mariano Rivera and did a better job than anybody would have ever imagined.

     In only 5 months as the closer, Soriano rattled off an extraordinary season for a guy who had absolutely no expectations coming into this season and missed most of last year with injury:

2 – 1 record, 2.26 ERA, 69 games, 67.2 innings, 42 saves, 55 hits, 24 walks, 69ks, 1.167 WHIP

     That’s about as close to a Mariano Rivera type season you can get, without actually being Mariano Rivera. Don’t believe me?

 5-4 record, 2.21 ERA, 67 games, 78 innings, 39 saves, 60 hits, 18 walks, 72ks, 0.998 WHIP

     That is Mariano Rivera’s average season during his career. The numbers are eerily similar. While the Yankees (and fans) certainly felt the initial sting of losing Mariano Rivera 4 weeks into the season, the final results dismiss those feelings.

     While Rafael Soriano certainly did his very best Mariano Rivera imitation during the 2012 regular season, it will be a surreal experience if the Yankees are leading in the 9th inning and the stadium speakers don’t begin echoing the sounds of “Enter Sandman” in October.

     Unfortunately, this is when the Yankees will miss Rivera the most. While his regular season performance can be replaced (and was), you cannot replace what the man brings to the postseason. His aura, his reverence in baseball, the pictures from Center Field of Rivera jogging out to the mound, have all been cemented by what he’s done in October. He is the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history for a reason.

     If you need any added incentive to understand, I’ll give you 141 of them. 141 being the number of innings Rivera has thrown in his career in the playoffs. Nobody needs to discuss the numbers Rivera has accumulated in October during his career. Frankly, you can’t discuss it. You just stare at the numbers and bask in the greatness that has spent 18 years gracing our presence:

7 – 1 record, 0.70 ERA, 96 games, 141 innings, 42 saves

     Soriano’s track record in the playoffs is a much smaller sample. It stretches only 6 games in two postseasons. He’s never recorded a save, he’s never notched a win, though he does sport a lovely 4.70 ERA in 7.2 innings of work.

     If the Yankees have any hopes of hoisting the World Series trophy up for a 28th time, they will need Soriano to one up himself from the regular season and try to replicate the greatest of all time, once more, on the grandest stage of them all. It is certainly a tall task and one that will not come easy.

Then again, replacing greatness never is.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An Ace Among Us

There is no denying that CC Sabathia has been an unbelievable workhorse logging at least 230 innings each of the past 5 seasons. But, could the consistency to which he's been utilized finally be causing Sabathia to pay the price?

Sabathia was on the disabled list twice this season, including once in August because of an elbow problem, the first time in his career he was on the DL for an arm-related issue. Despite coming back after an absence of a few weeks, the lingering question that remained with Sabathia was, “how much discomfort was he still feeling?” CC can say all the right things; that he's healthy, he feels fine, etc, but the way he was throwing and the swings teams had against him when he first came back certainly suggested trouble. 

In a six start span when he came off the disabled list with his elbow trouble, Sabathia allowed 23 runs and 38 hits in 43 innings, as the Yankees went 3 – 3 in those games. Although he's at a young enough age to still have many productive years left, is it more likely he'll spend those years as a very good pitcher, who's being paid to perform like an extraordinarily great pitcher? 

There's no denying that Sabathia wants the ball every 5 days (he'd probably take it every day if they let him) and is a gamer in every sense of the word. But, while he sees no drop in his velocity or his performance, everybody else does and the numbers back it up. In his first year wearing pinstripes, Sabathia's average fastball was clocked at 94.1mph, but by 2011 his average velocity was down to 93.9mph and at a career low 92.4mph this season. While most pitchers generally lose velocity as they age, Sabathia shouldn't see such a stark drop-off in performance this quickly. What could be the cause of this?

19,607: The number of pitches Sabathia has thrown (not including 2012), over the past 5 seasons. To put it simply, that’s more pitches than any human being has thrown in 5 years. Between 2007 and 2011, Sabathia started 185 games, logged 1,278 innings and threw nearly 20,000 pitches. That incredibly heavy workload is finally causing Sabathia to suffer the consequences. Recent history has shown that any pitcher with a heavy workload over a number of years begins to see a drop-off in results that likely lead to a serious injury.

Don’t believe me? Here are two prime examples: Johan Santana and Roy Halladay. In Santana’s case, in the 5 year span between 2006 – 2010, he logged 155 games started, 1,052 innings and threw 12,554 pitches. That’s considerably less than Sabathia, who logged an entire season’s worth of games, innings and pitches compared to his lefty counterpart in the Big Apple. But, much like Sabathia seems to be noticing now; Santana noticed a decline in performance and ended up missing the entire 2011 season after undergoing major reconstructive shoulder surgery, only to return this season, where he was shutdown in mid-August with a tired shoulder and a bad back (this could be attributed more to the 134 pitches he threw during his June no hitter; he was never the same pitcher after that game).

Roy Halladay, possibly the biggest workhorse in the National League threw a Sabathia-esque amount of pitches during the same 5 year span from 2007 – 2011. In those 5 seasons, Halladay started 167 games, accounting for 1,231 innings and 17,554 pitches. While he may have started fewer games in that span, Halladay managed nearly the same number of innings and threw 2,000 less pitches than Sabathia. In that same span, Halladay also managed to throw a perfect game and a no hitter in the same season. But, much like CC, Halladay paid the price for it this year, missing nearly 2 months with a shoulder injury, while starting the fewest games since 2005 and posting the worst ERA of his career (when throwing more than 100 innings). Is this the future Yankee fans can expect from the hefty lefty?

Perhaps, but it seems not quite yet. More recently, the results for Sabathia have been the best they have been all season. In his last 3 starts, he’s thrown 24 innings, allowed 13 hits, 2 runs and 4 walks, while tallying up 28 strikeouts. Although the numbers are impressive, the only game during which Sabathia faced a decent offense was his no decision against Oakland.

Much like a car that has logged 200,000 miles won't continue to run forever, Sabathia's time as front-end pitcher won't continue on forever. After now throwing more than 20,000 pitches in just over a five year span and logging nearly 1,500 innings in that same timeframe, it looks like the miles on the stoic frame of the husky left hander may finally be starting to catch up to him as he begins to sputter to the side of the road.

While Yankee fans are hoping Sabathia continues pitching like the true ace he is supposed to be, the Yankees find themselves in a familiar position; staring at the most crucial juncture of the season, fielding a 25 man roster of All-Star caliber talent and expecting their starting pitching to hold up. 

But, unlike the past few years, the Yankees hope they don’t find themselves all out of aces.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Debunking the Myth of a 'Legend'

            Nolan Ryan was a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, known for regularly having his fastball clocked above 100 miles per hour. He played in the Major Leagues for a record 27-years for four different teams (New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers). Often regarded as one of the greatest players to ever step foot on a pitching rubber, his list of flaws, weaknesses and shortcomings in my opinion, greatly outweigh his list of assets, strengths and accomplishments.

            Any list of the greatest players will always be up for debate. Different people see different things and what is one man’s criticism is another man’s praise. The one thing, however that should not be up for debate is that Nolan Ryan being on any list with the likes of Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax or Tom Seaver is a complete and utter joke. Nolan Ryan being considered an all-time great is a myth among myths. Longevity doesn't make up for mediocrity!

            I will even go one step further, a man who started his career just two years before Nolan Ryan finally hung up his cleats, who spent his entire career pitching in the American League East, facing the offensive juggernauts of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and (in the early to mid 90’s)       Toronto Blue Jays, was flat out better. Not only was this man a better pitcher than Nolan Ryan, but he’s one of the best pitcher’s of the steroid era, who is never even mentioned in that list. (Yet Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens are). This man didn’t have the same enigmatic charisma that Pedro Martinez exhibited, nor did he possess the cocky surliness that Roger Clemens possessed (the icy-hot to the groin every 5 days probably gave him that surly look).  No, this pitcher didn’t manage to do any of that.
            All he did was take to the mound every 5th day with a dignity and respect for the game that is often lost in this newfound era of pomp and circumstance (cue every boisterous celebration that Jose Valverde or Fernando Rodney have after achieving a save).

            Not only that, but, in borrowing a page from Skip Bayless’ book when referencing Tim Tebow; ALL HE DOES IS WIN!

             The man I am referring to is Michael Cole Mussina, one of the best pitchers of the 90’s and 2000’s, who you’ve probably forgotten entirely about and he’s also better than Nolan Ryan.

            Although Nolan Ryan managed 54 more career wins than Mike Mussina (324 to 270), he did so while playing 9 more seasons. If Mike Mussina wanted to pull a Jamie Moyer and pitch until he were 47, he would easily eclipse Ryan’s win totals and be nearing 350 by the time it was all said and done.

            Mussina only lost double digit games in 6 of his 18 seasons and only twice did he finish with a record under .500 (including his first season when he only threw 87 innings).  Ryan managed to lose double digit games in 17 of his 27 seasons, including an impressive 11 years in a row between 1970 and 1980 (smack dab in the prime of his career).

            Speaking of the primes of their career, most baseball minded people describe the prime years of a pitcher’s career to be the seasons between ages 27 and 32. Well, taking a look at both Ryan and Mussina, these were their combined numbers during that 6 season interval:


Games Started: 211

Games Won: 98

Games Lost: 89

Winning Percentage: .524

Innings Pitched: 1,570

Strikeouts: 1,704

Walks: 983



Games Started: 197

Games Won: 112

Games Lost: 62

Winning Percentage: .643

Innings Pitched: 1,344

Strikeouts: 1,193

Walks: 304

            It’s a tell tale story of two different careers. Ryan started a handful more games than Mussina, but threw nearly a season’s worth more innings and struck out a few hundred more batters. But, he also won considerably fewer games, lost a lot more and walked nearly three times as many men. In short, Mussina put his team in a better position to win during the prime of his career than Nolan Ryan did, yet Ryan is revered as one of the greatest of all-time and Mussina is a forgotten man.

            In 13 of Mussina’s 18 years, he finished with a winning percentage over .600, while Ryan, on the other hand finished with a winning percentage under .500 in nine seasons. Out of his 27 year career, 1/3 of the time, Ryan had a losing record, while 1/3 of the time in Mussina’s career, he won at least 18 games.

            Nolan Ryan had as many walks between 1973 and 1976 (883) that Mike Mussina had in his entire career (785). Nolan Ryan finished in the top 6 in the Cy Young Award voting 6 times during his 27 year career. Mike Mussina? 9 times in 18 years, this means that every other year, Mike Mussina was routinely one of the top 6 pitchers in the league.  
            Mussina was a 7-time winner of the Gold Glove award, given to the pitcher who best fields his position. Nolan Ryan is often regarded as one of the worst fielding pitchers of his time.

            Only five pitchers in the history of major league baseball have won as many games throughout their career as Mussina (270) and have a better winning percentage: Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson. Mussina’s .638 career winning percentage is good for the 40th best in the history of Major League Baseball and is among the company of Dizzy Dean, Jim Palmer and Randy Johnson. Nolan Ryan meanwhile, finds his .526 career winning percentage as the 530th best in the history of baseball, joining the likes of Kelvim Escobar, Jon Garland and Braden Looper. (Yankee fans would like to know that A.J. Burnett is currently sporting a higher career winning percentage than Nolan Ryan. I guess that means A.J. Burnett is the next Walter Johnson). 

            Mussina managed to end his career an astounding 117 games over .500 and he won at least 15 games in a season 11 times in 18 years, while Ryan is only a paltry 32 games over .500 and accomplished the same feat of winning 15+ games only 8 times in 27 years.

            The most batters Mike Mussina ever walked in a single season was 69 for the 1996 Orioles, which is also the fewest number of batters Nolan Ryan ever walked in a single season (for the 1984 Houston Astros). Mussina’s career average for number of walks per season was 50, while Nolan Ryan walked almost 2 and a half times more than that per season (120)

            Nolan Ryan is the all-time leader in strikeouts and the 5,714 batters that he punched out during his career is 839 more than the runner-up, Randy Johnson. But, on the flip side, his record 2,795 walks is almost 1,000 more than the man who is #2 on the list, Steve Carlton.

            He also threw 7 career no-hitters, which is the most no-hitters in history by a wide margin. He threw his first no-hitter in 1973 and his last in 1991, at the ripe old age of 44. While that feat alone is remarkable, a few games do not make an individual an all-time great, nor does it make them a Hall of Famer (don’t mention that to Bill Mazeroski who’s only in the Hall of Fame because of one swing).

            Nolan Ryan was nothing more than a mediocre player who threw the ball hard, who in 27 years never learned how to ‘pitch.’ In fact, I would say that the best control and most accurate throws Nolan Ryan ever managed out of his right hand happened in succession on August 4, 1993. Granted it wasn’t a baseball he was throwing and it wasn’t a glove he was connecting with. It was his fist and Robin Ventura’s head. That bench clearing brawl (a highlight of my childhood) is one of the most replayed moments in Ryan’s career (and the only other highlight of Ventura’s, next to the walk-off Grand Slam Single in the 1999 NLCS).

            I still remember that evening fondly. My family and I were on vacation in Florida visiting my grandparents and my brother and I were spending the night at my Aunt’s house. We were watching the movie Under Siege (show a 7 year old boobs for the first time and it’s a moment he’ll never forget, ever) and my mom called  to tell me that Nolan Ryan got into a fight with a White Sox player. Having always been a fan of old guys who beat up kids (odd, I know), I immediately made us pause the movie and turn on the news so I could watch the replay over and over again, as Ryan wedged Ventura’s head between his forearm and armpit in a perfect headlock and reigned blows upon his head (which is also a move my brother has imitated on me about 4,055,139,218,128 times in the 19 years since that day).

            Don’t get me wrong about Ryan, he was a must-see whenever he was on the mound. On any given night, Ryan was a threat to throw a no-hitter. Notice, I said ‘throw’ and not ‘pitch.’ He was also a threat to walk 11 batters and hit another 5, because he had no idea where the ball was going half the time (A.J. Burnett calls this effectively wild).

            I don’t want to belittle the fact that Ryan amassed 7 career no-hitters during his lengthy career, since it is an extremely hard feat to accomplish. But, it’s a feat that any pitcher is capable of achieving. If it wasn’t, then explain to me the names Bud Smith, Jose Jiminez and Eric Milton. Or better yet, explain to me how Kent Mercker, Kevin Millwood and Hideo Nomo have thrown 2. (I’d put asterisks next to Mercker’s first and Millwood’s second, since each only went 6 innings in their starts and the bullpen pitched the last 3 innings in both).

            I could point out that Justin Verlander has already thrown 2 career no-hitters and was extremely close to his third this season, but no-hitters aren’t what make Justin Verlander the most dominant pitcher in baseball. Justin Verlander is the pitcher that Nolan Ryan wished he could have been. Every 5 days when Verlander takes the mound, he instantly gives his team an advantage over his opponent. The same can’t be said for Ryan. If that were the case, then his career winning percentage would be a hell of a lot higher than .526 and a lot closer to the .647 that Verlander has posted in his 8 years as the Tigers ace.

            So, now you tell me; who would you rather have had throughout the primes of their career: Nolan Ryan or Mike Mussina? What about Nolan Ryan or Justin Verlander?

            To me, the answer to both of those questions don’t include the names Nolan or Ryan and frankly, it isn’t even close (and if you put Mussina up against Verlander, it’d be a lot closer decision than you’d like to think, but that’s another topic, for another day).

            Now I began writing this article as a dissection of the career of Nolan Ryan and how I view him as one of, if not the MOST overrated ‘pitcher’ in the history of Major League Baseball and how it is a travesty that he is viewed as one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.

            But, in retrospect, my emotions aren’t as fixated any longer on the career of Nolan Ryan, who received 98.8% of the vote when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

            Instead, they are fixated on Mike Mussina and the fact that if he isn’t voted in as a first ballot hall of famer when he is eligible in 2013; then that is the greatest travesty of them all.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Overcoming the Odds

           From the time I was a young boy pretending I was the left handed version of my baseball idol Alvaro Espinoza (hey, I had poor taste in sports heroes, gimme a break), to my early adolescence envisioning myself standing atop the pitchers mound in Yankee Stadium for Game 7 of the World Series, I’ve always strove for what seemed impossible.

            As time went by, the dreams in which I hoped to achieve began to reach a level that was actually attainable; but, for whatever the reason, whether it was health related or just sheer trepidation, I never could amount to the levels of expectation or success I held for myself, so they still seemed impossible.

          My life has been a continuous story of facing adversity and letting it defeat me. For over 20 years of my life, I’ve felt like it was a curse to be me. The various illnesses and surgeries I’ve faced and the questions that always seem to surround my overall health, I always looked at as being the never ending saga of misery that shaped who I was.
            Dealing with even the tiniest bit of adversity was still too much for me to handle. Not only was I physically weak, but I was mentally and emotionally weaker because I wouldn’t allow myself to not be. It was easier to point the finger and look for something or someone to blame, than to deal with what was in front of me.

            Whether it be storming away from the basketball hoop in our driveway when the score seemed too far out of reach, because ‘he didn’t play fair’ (my brother has never been one to let me win at anything…jerk), to locking myself in my bedroom for weeks at a time after receiving bad news from the doctor saying ‘why me?’, I would fade off into the darkness the second things became bleak. I never found my moment of clarity where I completed something that I felt give me a sense of accomplishment.
            It wasn’t until a few months ago that I began to realize that all of the tribulations I faced from my childhood, through my early adulthood, were a blessing and the motivating factor in developing the man I’ve now become (not to mention that I was a sore loser, but I still am, not going to lie). While the health struggles I faced often times made it difficult for me to even find the strength to get out of bed, I finally have the answer to the question ‘why me?’ All of my life, I've been put through a series of tests by my body. It was always meant as a way to find the strength within myself and in my mind to push past the negativity and not allow myself to just give up.

          Gone are the days where I would receive bad news and journey off into a cocoon of self-pity. Gone are the times where one knee surgery would inevitably turn into a second because the rehab didn’t go as planned. After years of letting life hit me with everything its got, I’m finally ready and able to hit back. I have trained my mind and my body will follow.

            For the past 8 months I’ve been a complete gym rat. At the gym 6 days a week, obsessed with getting into the best possible shape I can. Family, friends and co-workers think I’m crazy for this (if you’re reading this and nodding in agreement with that statement, then I guess I was referring to you), because it consumes who I am. All I think about is what my next workout is going to be, all I want to talk about is what my previous workout was (cue to my girlfriend rolling her eyes and shaking her head).

            But, despite all that, it was my brother, not me, who recently pushed his body to its limit and found what he was made of. Last weekend, after months of diligent training, he competed in his first (and most certainly not last) Spartan Race. If you are unaware of what that is, allow me to enlighten you.

            The Spartan Race is essentially a long distance obstacle race that includes obstacles ranging from Navy SEAL training to American Gladiators. It has been described by the New York Times as being “Survivor meets Jackass,” designed to push an athlete ‘to his or her limits’, but ‘seeks to motivate participants to become active, healthy and return habits where running through woods, getting dirty, and facing adversity is a part of everyday life.’

            ESPN calls the Spartan Race “a true test of will.”

            My brother, told me in a text after he crossed (or crawled to) the finish line, "I'm not gonna lie to you, it was the toughest thing I've ever done in my life, but the reward I felt when I finished was worth it"

            That rush of excitement, the sheer jubilation of pushing yourself to the limit and accomplishing what you set out to do is what my life is missing. It’s what it’s been missing for 26 years. It’s what I’ve longed to find and it’s what I now see on my horizon.

            I’ve always looked up to my brother. Being 5 years younger than him, I’ve spent a lot of time taking the opposite path in life that he has taken, learning from his mistakes, while making some of my own. But, it’s been a rare occasion where I have ever been truly envious of him and wished I had the fortitude to do what he did.

          My brother posed a challenge to me last week, asking me to do the Spartan Race with him next year, to feel that same sense of accomplishment that he felt at the end. I’ve been debating this back and forth in my mind, weighing the pros and cons of my possible decision. All my life in the face of adversity, I’ve somehow managed to overcome it and beat the odds. Well, what are the odds I’d be able to muster up the toughness to complete this race?

            What kind of odds would you give to a man who has overcome 1 knee surgery to finish the Spartan Race? 5 to 1?

            What do you think the odds would be if that were 2 knee surgeries? 10 to 1?

            What about 7 knee surgeries? 20 to 1?

            What about the odds of someone who has beaten the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis? 25 to 1?

            What kind of odds would you give a guy who’s overcome two heart conditions? 30 to 1?

            Do you think anybody would even expect someone to finish the Spartan Race who has endured all of 7 knee surgeries, two heart conditions and rheumatoid arthritis?

            To the average person, it would seem nearly impossible.

            Well, I’m a Ramey. Head injuries and years of alcohol abuse has left me too proud to quit and too stubborn to stop. So, if you haven’t figured out where I’m going with this, then when I cross the finish line of the Spartan Race on June 1, 2013, I’ll be the very first person to tell you in the words that Kevin Garnett made famous after he won his first NBA Championship,

  Anything is possible