Weekly Pepper - Week 15

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
July 14, 2008

Other Weekly Peppers:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

During his trip, Gregory Pratt has nearly-drowned in the Pacific Ocean (key-quote: "Good God, man -- are you wearing pants?"), risked falling a hundred feet just to see a beautiful waterfall and then survived a small car accident, took time to write a profile of Jack McDowell, and received a warm welcome entering Portland, where he found a new favorite restaurant. He spent some time alone in Seattle after his friend left for Canada, and he has very much enjoyed the trip, even if he hasn't written about it as much as he envisioned. You can see pictures here and here. But he generally believes that taking pictures takes away from truly enjoying the moment, so he almost never snaps photos on foot.

Arms Race / International Relations -- The Chicago Cubs responded to the Milwaukee Brewers trading for CC Sabathia by making a move for Rich Harden. It is a much less risky deal for the Cubs, as they have the money to absorb a dead-weight contract in the event of an injury and they've got him for next year, too. That said, I'm rooting for Milwaukee to win the Central or the Wild Card (it's the underdog thing, you know?), and I think that Sheets/Sabathia is a better pair than Zambrano/Harden. Easier to root for, too, especially when Sabathia has a bat in his hands. I fully expect the Pittsburgh Pirates to trade for Mike Hampton now, in an effort to "keep pace" with its rivals. Such is the nature of the security dilemma!

Arms Control / Respects -- I was watching when Mark Mulder made his start against the Phillies this week, and I was watching when he was pulled from the game with an injury. I've never had a problem with Mark Mulder, and I like to root for people trying to achieve their goals or overcome adversity, so I was sad to see him exit the game after sixteen pitches. If he never pitches again, he'll have had a fine career to be proud of, even if it's hard to come to terms with. Pedro Martinez is having tightness in his shoulder again, and I am starting to think that he is done, too. I happen to believe that he's had a career to be proud of as well, but I only think he's the very best pitcher of all-time.

"Making Time Stand Still" -- I recommend the article linked to in the title to you, dear reader, because it is a touching story of nuns and terminally-ill cancer patients finding joy in baseball at Turner Field. It's important to remember that we are all just small parts of a whole, and to give of our hearts and wishes to those less fortunate than we might be at any given moment because no one is healthy forever.

The Subject of my Most Disliked Sports Illustrated Cover is Not Making It Look So Easy Anymore, Is He? -- Jeff Francoeur was sent down to the minor leagues by the Atlanta Braves and then called up after just three days. He came back claiming to feel like a new man but he stills looks like a slightly-better Greg Norton to me this season. "Frenchy" needs to turn it around or go back to the minors, and the Braves should not be shy about sending him down if he can't produce. Now, don't take this paragraph to be a knock against him -- I happen to like the guy, and I'm rooting for him. But that SI cover really irks me. "The Natural" designations should not to be made willy-nilly. The only ballplayer who can reasonably claim to be like Roy Hobbs in baseball today is Josh Hamilton. Maybe ever.

Home Run Derby -- I'm more excited for this year's Home Run Derby than I have been in a long time. I'm rooting for Hamilton, but it should be quite the show with Ryan Braun, Chase Utley, Lance Berkman, Dan Uggla, Justin Morneau, Grady Sizemore, and Evan Longoria competing against him. Unfortunately, I'm going to miss parts of the All-Star Game, as I'm going to be flying back to Chicago around that time, but that's why God gave us recording devices, right?

Picture This -- Dan and I are driving through Oregon, where everything is green and beautiful, when I take his cellphone and check the news real quick. I see that Roy Halladay has thrown another shutout at Yankee Stadium and start cheering and dancing in the car. He's not a baseball fan so he doesn't understand, but I imagine that you do.

TEACH ME TO OUTGROW MY MADNESS -- I received an email from a friend and reader telling me that last week's Pepper was the very worst that I had ever written, and the teaser for it on the front page of Baseball Evolution ended with the question: "Is there a method to his madness?" I thought about responding with something about the worst Hall of Famer being a Hall of Famer regardless, when I realized that these notes give me a perfect chance to hawk a classic book I'm reading: Teach Us to Outgrow our Madness, by Kenzaburo Oe. That book, by the way, once led to a humorous story with a professor, who told me that as a gag, he and a good friend like to get each other the weirdest-titled book they can find for their birthdays. He thinks the all-time winner is this: "A History of Dentistry in Canada. Volume III."

History of the Week -- I dedicate this week's History to my colleague Richard Van Zandt, who is passionate about baseball everywhere, even if he does take a special interest in the Japanese leagues. Our conversation when we met (read his take here and my take here) turned to Sadaharu Oh at one point, which reminded me of an old quote I read in a history textbook about the introduction of baseball to Japan, but because I am in Los Angeles I do not have access to my books, so I Googled around for the story. I found it here, and I'll excerpt the relevant portions:

Baseball was introduced to Japan at the start of the Meiji Period (1867-1912) by Horace Wilson, a young American history and English teacher. As Japan struggled to emerge from three centuries of feudal isolationism, Wilson taught his students at Tokyo's Kaisei Gakko the rudiments of his country's national pastime. The sport quickly caught the spirit of the Japanese people: by 1905, college baseball was Japan's number one sport. Professional teams were instituted in 1935, and now every year twenty million fans faithfully troop out to the ballpark and cheer on the Yakult Swallows, the Taiyo Whales, the Nippon Ham Fighters, and the Hiroshima Carp, among others. Japan has been baseball crazy for over a hundred years.

As one Japanese writer put it, "Baseball is perfect for us. If the Americans hadn't invented it, we would have."

I feel the same way about Thomas Edison and the phonograph.

Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at gregory@baseballevolution.com.