Saturday, May 17, 2008

52 52 52 Week #13: Colorado

In which I examine crappy local sports journalism on a state-by-state basis, progressing through the states in terms of an alphabetical ordering of the heights of their tallest points. Because I can.

It's been a fun week here at Fire Everybody!, what with our coverage of the three most important things in sports:

1. Terrell Owens's porn career
2. The Office and Peter King's feelings thereof
3. The transcendent greatness of "Bust a Bucket" and "Ram It!"

That's a pretty full week right there. What we have admittedly been sort of light on is rambling deconstructions of largely inoffensive sports articles. You know, our bread and butter. And when you're at dangerously low levels of esoteric snark, where better to turn than 52 52 52? That's right. Nothing.

Colorado is up for examination this week, which can only mean one thing: we're talking Pike's Peak people! Pike's motherfucking Peak, the scourge of the Rockies, the unclimbable kill peak of the west, accessible only by a badass cog railway:

That's a thing of fucking beauty. Seriously, I think I'm going to abandon the post and just talk about cog railways. You see, some badass - think of him as God with an engineering degree - dreamed up the idea of building a train that went up a fucking mountain, and he did this with a system of gears and brakes the likes of which...

Oh, I'm sorry. I'm being told that Pike's Peak is not, in fact, the highpoint of Colorado, and indeed that nobody shares my tech-crush on cog railways (a tech-crush is similar to a man-crush, only with, well, technology). Next time I'll justify my pent-up cog railway ramble more effectively (all I have to say is, look out New Hampshire's Mount Washington!).

So yeah, Mount Elbert is the, you know, actual highpoint of Colorado. What do you need to know? Maybe nothing, but also maybe this...

1. It's the highest peak in the Rockie Mountains. So if Colorado conquers Utah in the near future, expect to hear more about Mount Elbert.

2. According to Wikipedia, "The mountain is named for Colorado statesman Samuel Hitt Elbert, who was active in the formative period of the State." Active during the formative period, you say? Yeah, that Samuel Hitt Elbert probably "Hitt" that, if you know what I mean! I mean he had sex with Colorado. At least I think that's what I mean. Now where'd I put my "this is getting very abstract" label?

3. There are three trails to the summit, and "The most difficult is the Black Cloud Trail, which takes ten to fourteen hours, depending on the pace." Takes ten to fourteen hours, huh? That sounds like a wager, if you ask me. Who's up for taking five years to ascend the summit? We can have picnics!

Anyway, let's talk about Colorado newspapers, which are awesomely all over the place geographically speaking. For some reason (the reason is that some places have names similar to other places), Colorado has the Akron News-Reporter, Life on Capitol Hill, and most awesomely, The Trinidad Times Independent, which is independent of Trinidad in the sense that it's nowhere close to there. Throw in such awesomely named newspapers as The Flume and The Mountain Ear, which is one of the most wonderfully bizarre combinations of two words I've ever seen. Sadly, as is often the problem with this series, none of these newspapers have a sports section beyond high school track recaps. Which is, you know, a problem.

But, like a mythical hero of yore, out rides La Voz, Denver's Spanish language newspaper with its gleaming sports section. No...deportes section. Thankfully, its section is also in English, which means I won't be doing a borderline tasteless trick where I translate it using Alta Vista and then make fun of the broken English that results. Which is probably for the best.

Anyway, Nick Wilson has some thoughts on minor league baseball...

Here is a question you don’t hear very often. Who was the greatest minor league team ever?

One reason you don't here it very often: the correct question would more likely be, "What was the greatest minor league team ever?" And no, I don't think this is a translation of an article originally in Spanish, so I feel comfortable nitpicking grammatical errors. Which makes me just a jackass instead of also an asshole, which is pretty much my only hope in life.

You don’t have to go further than the Gulf Coast Rangers of 1986 to find the greatest roster. “We had Juan Gonzalez (CF), Sammy Sosa (RF), Dean Palmer (3B), Rey Sanchez (SS) and Kevin Brown (RHP) on the Rookie League team. Palmer and Gonzalez didn’t hit a home run and Sosa hit only 4. That’s amazing isn’t it?” said Sid Hudson, former pitching coach for the Texas Rangers’ Gulf Coast affiliate in 1986.

So wait, because three dudes combined for just four homers, they're the best team ever? I have to admit I'm really tired right now (part of the reason why this post is admittedly a little weak), but does that make even the slightest lick of sense? And I'm talking a pretty small lick here. Like a bee licking a mountain range small. You know what? I'm stopping now with the whole licking theme.

“Of course they were just young kids right out of high school. They weren’t strong and you could hardly tell what their potential was. Sosa couldn’t hit a curve ball with a large paddle back then.”

Bit like his season in Baltimore! Was that a burn? Oh you better believe that's a burn.

"Juan Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa were as skinny as rails, but you could tell by their swing that when they grew into their bodies they were going to be something special,” said Perry Hill, a major league coach and the infield instructor for the Rangers.


Can you really detect cork from a dude's swing?


And before anyone accuses me of being a bitter Cubs fan, I'd like to point out that I am in no way bitter about Sammy Sosa, considering how awesome he was with the Cubs (and doubly considering how awesome they are now, I'd be an asshole to complain, and as you know, I'm shooting for the less egregious title of "jackass"). Indeed, I'd like to hope I'd be this unfair and jerkish toward pretty much any person Rick Reilly has ever dared to pee in a cup.

“It was one of the best stocked minor league teams I had ever seen.”


Yeah, best stocked...with STEROIDS!!!


What's with the all caps? It's like an Ain't It Cools News comment thread is breaking out in here. Goodness gracious, I'm esoteric.

Hudson, a former pitching star in the 1940s, thought he could help the cocky rookie Kevin Brown. “He came to us from Georgia Tech and after a few days I told him, ‘Why don’t we work on a breaking pitch like a slider or curve?’ and he said to me, ‘I don’t need that’”. Hudson didn’t need to comment further. That type of swagger marked Brown’s successful big league career.

That type of assholishness also helps explain the failure of much of the latter stage of his career, capped off by the whole "punching the wall after leaving Joe Torre's office" thing. Also, it sounds like Hudson might have had his feelings hurt by being pretty rudely rebuffed, and Nick Wilson is just interpreting that as an endorsement of "swagger", which is sort of grittiness's black sheep cousin.

Sosa, Gonzalez, Sanchez and Palmer graduated to Single A Gastonia in 1987 and the team lost 90 games.

Again...hell of a way to build the case for greatest minor league team ever. I have never seen more counterproductive cherry-picking.

In 1988 they joined left hander Kenny Rogers in Charlotte and everyone seemed to blossom.

"Everyone seemed to blossom" does not sound nearly tough enough for a hardcore camera-shoving motherfucker like Kenny Rogers. He's the Gambler, people! That hippie love-in shit just isn't going to fly. Sorry, Kenny, I meant "ain't." Ain't gonna fly. Unless they blossomed by wrestling polar bears, of course, much like Steven Seagal in the film On Deadly Ground, which I can only assume won fifteen Oscars, all for spectacular achievement in the field of badassery.

“Even at that time Sosa was a 5 tool guy,” said Hill. “Both he and Gonzalez could run and they could throw. Sosa took that big swing and you could tell that he was going to hit for power.”

But back then he only hit four homers. I've got to think some minor leaguers have hit more than four homers in a season. Like maybe Joe Bauman, who hit 72 home runs in 1954? How'd his team do, Nick?

By the way, I do recognize this is more based on who the players became than who they were, but I'm quoting the article in full, and if there has been a convincing argument for why this team was better than any other minor league squad in history that was more than just a bunch of vague anecdotes...well, I certainly missed it. I mean, Nick at least could have given their combined major league totals or something. That'd still be a not particularly well thought-out piece of context-free evidence, but at least it'd be a stat, you know? You know!? Yeah, yeah, I think you know.

Right behind them was a Puerto Rican catcher named Ivan Rodriguez and infielder Jose Hernandez.

But neither of those were on the 1986 Gulf Coast Rangers, were they? Hence invalidating their inclusion as part of your "argument"? (My use of quotation marks suggests I condescend you, sir!)

Palmer played with the Rangers until 1997 and Gonzalez had his best years with them through 1999. Sosa was traded to the White Sox in 1989, by order of the Rangers’ president George W. Bush, while fielding whiz Rey Sanchez left in 1990. Kevin Brown and Kenny Rogers were traded away from the Rangers in 1995.

And that's how this article ends. A glorified transaction report. Maybe I'm spoiled (and by "spoiled", I of course mean "tortured") by all the fucking essays on political theory I've had to read lately (this blog came this close to becoming a European integration blog), but that is easily the most inane argumentation I've ever seen. Other than that, though, I loved it. Good work Mr. Wilson.

1 comment:

Passive Voice said...

For what it's worth, Archie, I've had an obsession with basically anything on rails since I got addicted to Railroad Tycoon in ~Grade 8. So I guess you could say I'm doing my best impression of Pike's Peak at the sight of that train. And yes, I am talking about an erection.