Football Fever

Are you ready for some Football??? Week one is underway, and besides Fantasy Football, the Marlins players also have allegiances to certain teams. Being an Eagles fan, I already knew who the Eagles supporters in the clubhouse were: Brendan Donnelly and Dan Meyer. On the flip side, there are way too many Cowboy fans in there – Cody Ross, Bo Porter, and Brian Sanches. At least Burke Badenhop told me he strongly dislikes the Cowboys, though he doesn’t really have a favorite NFL team; I enjoyed hearing that.

Locally we only have two Dolphins fans in Gaby Sanchez and Jeff Urgelles. Ross Gload was caught wearing his Jets shirt today, and that won’t make the locals too happy I’m sure. But across the state, Chris Coghlan supports the Bucs – his favorite player was Derrick Brooks.

I did confirm today that Jeremy Hermida is indeed a Gator fan, though he grew up in Atlanta; he said it’s because of his parents and he was definitely the underdog in high school – most of his friends liked the Georgia Bulldogs of course. Back to the NFL – his team for that at least makes sense, the Atlanta Falcons.

Andrew Miller is a Jaguars fan – he had season tickets. But the other dominant team in the clubhouse was the Tennessee Titans believe it or not: Brett Carroll, Dan Uggla and Sean West. Meanwhile, Cameron Maybin pulls for the Carolina Panthers.

Over to the west coast, Tim Wood flies with the Cardinals, Nick Johnson’s a 49ers fan and Jorge Cantu likes da Raaaaiders.

A nice number of the guys in the clubhouse prefer soccer though, in their mind, the real football. I spoke with Rick VandenHurk about it a bit, and his favorite is the local team where he’s from, PSV Eindhoven. Apparently they’re number one in their conference right now. Last time he went to a game was January, and he had season tickets – still follows them on the Internet while he’s over here.

So there doesn’t seem to be too many rivalries in the clubhouse for NFL teams, besides the Eagles-Cowboys domination. And as I write this, both teams are winning in week one. Let’s see what happens Sunday night, November 8th when they faceoff.

College Pride

College Football season is underway, and before today’s Nationals-Marlins game, the players had football on all the TVs in both clubhouses. In the Nats clubhouse, former Marlin Josh Willingham was kind of watching, but his team wasn’t going to play till the evening, and they are almost guaranteed a “W” – his Alabama Crimson Tide are hosting the FIU Golden Panthers.

Meanwhile, in the Marlins clubhouse, cheering in front of one TV was Brett Carroll for his Tennessee Vols, along with good buddy Chris Coghlan who was supporting him. Don’t ask me why, because Cogs is an Ole Miss alum, but also a Gator fan – strange combo. I asked him whom he’d root for if they faced off and he said Ole Miss, but he thinks Tim Tebow’s the better QB.

Anyway, talking some smack to them was third-string catcher Brett Hayes, who’s a UCLA fan. BC’s in the starting lineup tonight and he told Hayes not to tell him the score mid game unless he asked for it.

After talking to most of the guys and inquiring which college teams they preferred, I came to the conclusion, as a Cane fan, that there were too many Gators in that clubhouse. Andrew Miller’s from Gainesville, so he’s obviously a Gator fan, but also a Tar Heel because he went there. Cogs as I mentioned earlier is a Gator fan because he grew up outside of Tampa. Chris Volstad admitted he’s a fan, even though he originally signed with University of Miami. Volstad also informed me that Jeremy Hermida is a Florida fan – now that I really don’t understand because he grew up in Atlanta so you’d think Bulldogs; I must ask him about that but I didn’t see him earlier today.

As for Cane fans in the Fish clubhouse, you have former Cane Gaby Sanchez of course, and in the bullpen Jeff Urgelles is a fan of The U.

Before today I was not aware that pitching coach Jim Pressley was a Nole. He lost a bet to Gaby/Urgelles and had to wear an orange Canes shirt under his Marlins jersey today due to the outcome of Monday’s game; I obviously gave him a hard time as well. Bo Porter sports his Iowa shirt every day so that’s not a secret.

Besides Bo’s support of the Big Ten, on the side as much as it pains me to say this Burke Badenhop likes Ohio State, but is a more avid Bowling Green fan. 

In the Big 12, Josh Johnson’s all about the Boomer Sooner, Tim Wood likes the Huskers because his parents were huge fans, and hook ’em horns for Brian Sanches.

Sanches told me that he used to love A&M, in fact, he wanted to go there. He wasn’t recruited by them though, and went to Lamar. But when he played against A&M his freshman year and beat them, the coach at A&M trashed him the next day saying awful things such as he couldn’t believe they lost to a freshman. It was rude enough to turn Sanches away from the Aggies and turned on to the Longhorns despite them.

Besides Miller, there’s another UNC fan on the team – Cameron Maybin. Over to the West Coast, John Baker is a Cal fan. Matt Lindstrom roots for BYU, Ross Gload USF, and Dan Meyer James Madison. Sean West isn’t the biggest football fan, but he prefers LSU to any other college team.

That about sums up the Marlins clubhouse and their College Football allegiances, look forward to their NFL interests tomorrow as week one continues!

Hanley and Uggla in clubhouse squabble

Frustration boils over for the Fish, and understandably so. They are in the midst of a crucial series with the Braves, and lost the first two. To make matters worse, the Phillies and Rockies both won Tuesday, so the Marlins fell to 9 ½ games behind the NL East-leading Phillies and 5 back of the Wild Card race with only 30 games to go.

Because I’m at the ballpark every day, people tend to ask me what the atmosphere is like when either they’re winning or losing, and my response is simply the truth: even keel. With limited games remaining and too many notches going in the loss column, the media kept pressing the players about the sense of “urgency” as of late.

Someone even twisted one of the players’ responses the other day and made it sound like they weren’t feeling the sense of urgency. But let’s be honest, no one likes to lose, and as Herm Edwards likes to say, “You play to win the game!”

The Marlins are like one big family, in fact, the players, coaches, staff, etc. probably spend more time with each other than their real families. Think about it, when there’s external stress and internal pressure within a family, things can get a little rocky; the same goes for friendships and relationships.

Maybe things aren’t always even keel as I thought they were, but that’s OK. It’s normal. Baseball is their job, their life, and their passion. If anyone ever tried to tell me these ballplayers have it easy or take things for granted I’d inform them that they’re delusional. Obviously fans see things in a different light then we do because they don’t have the same kind of access. But we the media paint a picture for them, and that’s one of the reasons I got into this business to begin with.

I was in the clubhouse today, along with only two other media members when the daytime drama erupted. It stemmed on the surface from Hanley Ramirez coming out of last night’s game early with a tight left hamstring. Earlier this afternoon, Hanley announced to us that he was still in pain, but felt that he must play tonight because his teammates thought he was letting him down.

Later on when the clubhouse was less crowded, while Hanley was talking with a reporter, a little squabble broke out between him and a few of his teammates. Hanley is in the middle of an 0-for-14 slump and his batting average has “dropped” to .355. Though his words have said (as all the guys say) he plays for the team and personal accomplishments are just an added bonus, his actions sometimes contradict this.

Dan Uggla decided to let Hanley know they didn’t appreciate him coming out of the game last night and questioned his desire to win. Hanley took offense to that, said his “feelings were hurt,” and felt he was showed up by his teammates. A shouting match ensued between the two before manager Fredi Gonzalez intervened and asked the media to politely exit the clubhouse.

The clubhouse went into immediate lockdown.

Most people seem to let Hanley get away with whatever he wants because he is the superstar and the face of the franchise, and there are jokes around the clubhouse about it as well. But during stressful times, as witnessed today, some people’s true feelings are revealed, not through a little joke, but a little more cut and dry this time.

I’ve noticed that sometimes there’s a lack of communication between certain teammates or between the players and the coaches, and an outburst like this could have been a buildup of that, plus emotions from lack of production on the field.

Though for better or for worse, these guys are a family, so no matter what is said they still have a job to do and must move on. Sometimes it just feels good to air out dirty laundry or vent, and maybe when certain things are said it can help as they move forward as a team. 

Fantasy Lineup

Fantasy Football is on most sports fanatic’s minds this time of year, and I’ve learned over the last two years that it’s on some of the athlete’s minds as well. I put together a few features on the Marlins fantasy football draft last season, and have been chatting with them about this year’s draft.

I found out all the team names, but some I will not be able to reveal, because boys will be boys and the names might not be G-rated.

Picking first is rookie Chris Coghlan; he’s struggling with a team name but the number one pick should be pretty consistent throughout all the leagues (AP). Burke Badenhop has the second pick, and I know his team name has something to do with “Dragons” because that’s the new nickname he’s leaning towards – trying to get away from the Hopper, though most of us still call him that.

Harry Potter and the Prickly Pear is the team with the third pick, and that’s Dan Meyer and John Baker. As you’ll see in the video I just posted, if you haven’t yet, Meyer is a huge Eagles fan and that might influence his draft choices, unless Bake has something to say about it.

Baker loves Harry Potter books so that’s where the name derived from. Ross Gload has the fourth pick and he’s being quite secretive about his strategy and the team name. Josh Johnson and a silent partner have the fifth pick. Sorry to tease you like this, but their team name is by far the best, very clever; unfortunately I cannot reveal the name.

In addition to Meyer, Brendan Donnelly is an avid Eagles fan and he has pick number six. His team name is Foreign Substance because there was an incident in 2005 on the field where they said he had a foreign substance on his glove, per MLB rulebook, and he got a suspension for that. It’s just been a running joke since. Donnelly plans to have a roster full of Eagles on his 2009 Fantasy team.

Pick number seven goes to Bo Porter and Danny Uggla who are Two for the Money – same team name as last year. Again relating to the video I posted, Bo is one of the biggest Cowboy fans I know – wouldn’t be surprised if he picked Tony Romo in the first round.

Jeremy Hermida’s team has the eighth pick; his silent teammate was paired with Luis Gonzalez last season and they were the clubhouse champions. Ninth is one of the clubhouse guys and the team name is The Bandidos.

Cody Ross and friend taking over for Josh Willingham have the tenth pick – their team name is Bald and Beautiful, also clever and cute. Cody always goes with the strategy of just winging it. Chris Volstad seems like the type to do a little research at least and he has pick number eleven.

Brian Sanches is flying solo with the last pick in the draft, and his team name is Chief Running Foot. The story behind that is in spring training, there were two SancheZ’s in addition to himself (SancheS), and Steve Foster got tired of saying Sanchez/s and then having three people turn around. He found out that Brian was a Native American so he started calling him Running Foot. That kind of stuck all year long so he went with that concept for his team name. After talking with Brian, he definitely has some strategy and planning up his sleeve so I look forward to seeing his team.

The boys had their draft last night, Sunday, so I will update you this week on how it went.

Oh-for-Shirt

Fans give athletes a hard time, and that’s normal because they’re passionate about their teams. What I don’t think people always realize or consider is that most of them get pretty upset when they don’t play their best. Here’s a neat story:

Current Met Jeff Francoeur was in Pittsburgh for a game earlier this year when he was with the Braves. The Braves PR representative is originally from Cleveland, therefore is a Browns fan. He knew someone in the Pirates clubhouse who was also a Browns fan; the clubhouse attendant supplied the team with a few Browns T-shirts, but said they must wear them while in Pittsburgh. They agreed.

In case you weren’t aware, Steelers fans and Browns fans don’t really get along to say the least.

Francoeur ended up going 0-for one day there, and wore the shirt the day after. Somehow it became “a thing” where he’d rip/cut a piece of that T-shirt off each time he’d go hitless, and punish himself by wearing the shirt the next day. The reason I know this story is because last time he was here in Miami I saw him walking around the clubhouse wearing a Cleveland Browns belly shirt, so naturally I had to inquire.

Tuesday was the first time I saw him with a Mets uniform, and out of curiosity I asked him if he brought the Browns T-shirt tradition over to his new team. He laughed and said yes, but had stopped cutting it because it was getting a little too short.

My point in telling this story is not for you to go check how many times Francoeur has gone hitless this season, and definitely not to make him look bad because he is one of the nicest guys. I’m trying to make you aware that these ballplayers are out there working their butts off. And though sometimes the results don’t please you the fan, well, you better believe they don’t please the athlete as well. 

He’s just one example, but the guys take the game and their performance very seriously, and sometimes you have to step back and realize that, before you give them a hard time.

Jinx, you owe me a…

A lot of people in sports believe in jinxes and superstitions – it’s probably the most common in baseball. We’ve heard it all, from what they wear when they’re on a hot streaks, hair cuts, at-bat music, etc. Yesterday even the Marlins Manager admitted that he felt like he jinxed his ace on the mound Friday night.

In case you missed his dominant performance, Josh Johnson was throwing a no-hitter into the seventh, and during that span also struck out career high 11 batters. His pitch count got a little high though, reaching around 100 pitches in the seventh inning. Fredi Gonzalez told us he turned to Mark Wiley (pitching coach) while JJ was on the mound that inning pitching to Garrett Atkins, and asked: “With the day off Monday, JJ has an extra day to rest, right?”

Wiley responded, “Yes.” And Fredi continued to say, ” So we could even push him back one more day if necessary…” Just as those words came out of his mouth, BAM! Atkins goes yard.

We asked Fredi if the pitch count just became too high, into the 130’s or so let’s say, and he needed to pull JJ with a no-hitter going, what would happen. Fredi laughed and said he wouldn’t do it, he’d send Carlos Tosca to the mound to do the dirty work.

Another topic that came up was Nick Johnson – Fredi said, and we all agreed, that it really might not be a coincidence on how well the team’s been doing since acquiring Nick. The guys are known to be hackers at the plate, but we’ve seen a lot more patience as of late, and I know for a fact he’s rubbing off on rookie Chris Coghlan.

Speaking of Coghlan, his bat has been hot since the All-Star break. He just rattled off a 12-game hitting streak and his OBP is up to .362. Right now the Fish just have a lot of things clicking offensively. Usually it’s just one or maybe two guys whose bats are hot, but right now they have five or six.

What hasn’t been going too well is the starting pitching going deep into games (besides JJ and Sean West last week), so the bullpen’s been taxed. They’ve been rotating a spot in the bullpen with the minors for a week now – Tim Wood, Chris Leroux, and now Cristhian Martinez.

Another thing I have to comment on is Brian Sanches. He’s now pitched 24 1/3 scoreless innings at home, which is the longest home scoreless streak in the Majors this season. Now, because the Fish are playing the Rockies, I must mention another notable similar stat – Rockies reliever Matt Daley has now pitched 14 2/3 scoreless innings. That is the longest current streak in the Majors.

Hope we didn’t jinx it by talking with him about it today – same with Sanches.

Phanatic in Philly

“The 0-2 pitch… Oh no! That’s strike three called on Ryan Howard!” exclaimed the radio voice of the Phillies, Scott Franzke. 

By now everyone should know what happened in the seventh inning of the Marlins-Phillies game on Sunday in Philly. It was a crazy turn of events, some which we didn’t find out until after the game.

What everyone noticed on TV was Wes Helms got a ball called on an 0-2 pitch and suddenly home plate umpire Ed Rapuano ran a few steps onto the field and threw up the “you’re outta here!” signal. Without the replays, we all would have been thoroughly lost. At first some people thought it was the pitcher (Rodrigo Lopez), and then shortstop Jimmy Rollins made some movement, but it wasn’t him either. Then you see center fielder Shane Victorino sprinting in from the outfield.

A great quote by Helms after the game was, “You think you’ve seen it all, but you never have seen it all. In 10 years in the big leagues I have never seen something like that.”

What he was referring to was a home plate umpire throwing out a centerfielder, and then the reaction by the fans. Philly fans lived up to their reputation and the boo-birds were out in full force. Now, being from Philly, I’ve heard the boos before, but this was something I’ve even never seen.

The Marlins continued on to send 10 batters to the plate that inning and score six, but the fans could care less. They were focused on Rapuano behind home plate. Every time he made a call or even a movement the boos echoed throughout South Philadelphia in unison. Then they got a little carried away in the seventh inning stretch, yelling and booing the poor guy singing “G-d Bless America,” though to be honest, he wasn’t really good.

They had a right to boo, they were upset, and no one really understood what was going on or really what triggered it. We had a chance as media to hear Rapuano’s explanation after the game:

“Ed Rapuano, describe what you saw…”
“Very simple, an 0-2 pitch. Third pitch was called a ball and he was out there waving his arms like this (waving arms up and down), waving his arms. So I stepped out, took my mask off and looked out there and I gestured. Again, he went (waving his arms) and I said that’s it. You can’t do that from center field.”

“So there were two gestures?”
“Oh, absolutely. I gave him the chance to not do it again…”

“Did you see Rollins waving?”
“No. I didn’t see that. That may have been after we ejected (Victorino) and (Rollins) said that (Victorino) wasn’t doing anything. I didn’t see Rollins do a thing.”

“What would you say to people who say its difficult for a home plate umpire to throw someone out who is in centerfield?”
“He’s right in the line of sight and he’s out in front of everybody, waving his arms in disgust of a pitch that I called. It is very simple (to eject him.) And Charlie agreed with me….”

“Charlie agreed with you?”
“Absolutely.”

“Did Victorino bump you at all?”
“No, he was prevented from bumping me by I don’t know who (it was Bako). I’ll get the tape and find out.”

“Will there be a further report?”
“I will fill out my report and the rest is up to the league office.”

Now, we also heard some other tidbits after the game, such as Victorino apologized profusely to Rapuano afterwards for losing his cool, and Charlie Manuel had a closed-door meeting to have a chat with the team.

Cody Ross said he could relate to Victorino’s frustration, because he’s been there before. You see a call on your teammate as a strike when you think it’s a ball, and then the umpire calls a ball on a similar pitch to the opposing team. “I’ve probably even gestured with my arms in exasperation before,” Cody said with a smile, “I just have never been caught.”

But what could have triggered the ejection was that apparently Victorino had some words with Rapuano before the seventh inning. After that call on Howard to end the sixth Victorino obviously wasn’t pleased and on his way to the outfield, said a few things to Rapuano, which caused him to look his way during the Helms at-bat. 

For the record, we have yet to see any footage of a second gesture by Victorino. 

Rapuano was walking by the elevator where the media was waiting after the game and someone asked him, “So what do you think of the fans reaction?” He smiled and responded, “It’s Philly – I’ve heard it before.” Everyone laughed. The end.