I’m a little strapped for time today, so I’m going to get right into this. The only thing you need to do today is read the mailbag and watch Masters Par-3 Contest highlights. Let’s hurry up and get the first one out of the way.
Q: Why did the baseball season start in Japan? Kind of takes away from “Opening Day,” doesn’t it? We don’t have (fill in Japanese pastime) here, why should they get our Opening Day? Sue Mowrestler, Avalon, NJ.
A: I have a huge problem with what has become of Opening Day. First of all, it’s called “Opening Day,” as you have so wisely pointed out, Sue. It’s not Opening Night. The first baseball game of the year is meant to be played during the day. I don’t care if people are working, or in school, or are otherwise detained. There are 162 games during the season. Plenty of them are in Prime Time. Opening Day is for real baseball fans, and those fans will accommodate a daytime start. For me, part of Opening Day is watching a game when you should be doing something else. I remember going to Opening Day when the Phillies debuted their new uniforms. This must have been in the early to mid-nineties and I skipped school to catch the game. It just felt RIGHT. That’s Opening Day, not watching some overproduced ESPN game the night before, or even worse shipping two teams off to Japan. Just because American sports are becoming more global, it doesn’t mean we have to squeeze every cent out them. And isn’t forcing our games down the throats of these audiences a bit much? Does London really care about the NFL or do they just go to one game a year because it’s something to do? An oddity? If we keep sending the Bucs over there, I’m pretty sure it’ll be the latter. In my opinion Bud Selig has taken baseball too far from its roots, this Opening Day is just the latest example.
Q: I was thinking about buying a Phillies polo shirt, a Phillies hat, a pair of dark sunglasses and perhaps a radar gun. The plan being to start showing up at random high school baseball games pretending I’m a scout. Thoughts? Ed Weighed, Chestnut Hill, PA.
A: That’s evil. And HILARIOUS. It’s evil because just about every kid out there probably thinks he should be scouted and drafted. I’d say most high school athletes don’t come to terms with their true ability until well after they can no longer fit in their Letterman jacket. I’ve seen scouts at a high school game, but I don’t think I ever played one where a scout was present. The truth is, most scouts probably look for a little bit higher level of competition than your average high school game, but the kids on the field WON’T KNOW THAT. On those occasions when an actual scout was present, it always created a little buzz and if you want to become the most popular person watching any baseball game sit down with a radar gun. People will be FASCINATED. You’d be less conspicuous if you walked up to the bleachers with a baby white tiger in a stroller. The only obstacle I see is footing the bill for the radar gun. They can cost a decent amount of change. If you can get your hands on one, I feel this is something you have to do.
Q: You know how your father or grandfather would tell you stories about how they used Mickey Mantle cards in their bike spokes and whatnot? You think there’s anything that you’ve destroyed over the years that is going to be worth a bunch of money down the line? Duck Hunt, St. Paul, Minnesota.
A: I don’t know. Will IKEA furniture be considered antique 50 years from now? HARD TO SAY. This is something I think about when I watch those Pickers shows or Storage Wars. You always see people leaving behind valuable artifacts or getting low-balled on some high value kitsch. The problem with collectibles is that everything is mass-produced these days, so supply is always more than willing to keep up with demand. Perhaps I can interest you in my baseball card collection? I’m looking around my apartment right now and I don’t see anything that I would pitch that could turn into an antique. I am afraid, though, that in my youth I probably destroyed some toys that will eventually be (or already are) valuable. A quick search for Castle Grayskull, for example, shows it’s selling for $175. I had that. Various other action figures, transformers, things of that nature I could see fetching a lot of cash down the line when people of my generation really hit their nostalgic phase. An original Nintendo, unopened in the box can sell for 1,000-5,000. Pretty remarkable, but I definitely got that much fun out of the damn thing. NO REGRETS. But, maybe you should go buy an iPad and stow that thing away. You never know.
Q: Would you rather play Augusta in the worst “golf conditions” you can imagine (be it smolderingly hot or cold and rainy, whichever you despise more) or play a “normal course” in pristine conditions? BK, Citizen of the World.
A: Well, the quick answer is, anything short of a tornado I’d probably have to take Augusta. I think I’ve played a decent number of good golf courses, more than most people, and I’ve still pretty much played NOWHERE. Sometimes I calculate my odds of getting on a really nice course, and Augusta is always one that seems especially prohibitive. As you probably remember we went to college with a legendary character who once played Augusta, and that’s about as close as I’ve ever been. (He brought me back a logo ball!) I don’t feel great about making this choice, because if I did end up at Augusta in a torrential downpour or a gale force wind there’s no way it could be that enjoyable. Once it’s over, it’s still just a round of golf. I’d have probably played terrible and all for the prize of being able to rub it in people’s faces that I’d been there. There’s certainly some value to that, but if I really loved the game as much as I think I do, I’d take a perfect fall afternoon, course to myself–regardless of course. That damn Masters is just on a pedestal, though. Too much history to ignore.
Q: Why do people care so much about their hotel rooms? I mean, have you ever seen someone utilize a sitting area in a hotel room? Oh you’ve got a balcony? Great. What’d you do out there? Nothing? That’s what I thought. Tom Bodette, Hershey, PA.
A: Nice hotel rooms are an ego boost–a real shot of adrenaline. I’ve never sampled heroin, but I imagine the feeling you get when you walk into a high-end hotel suite is similar to first time you try the H. You see the cheap (but flashy) finishes, the extra pillows, the deep tub and you think, THIS IS LIVING. That’s just a small factor, though. The real truth is, people love trashing things. The more expensive the better. It doesn’t matter how nice a hotel room is, someone will always go in and treat it like their own personal trash receptacle. I remember the condition we used to leave our hotel rooms in when we went on the road for a college golf trip. SHOCKING. It felt great though, so if you upgrade from a Super 8 to some 5-star hotel–think of how good that would feel. I’ll just leave this room service tray…anywhere. I’ll now go ahead and use all 13 towels, because they’re there. I’m going to take the shower cap out of the package and throw it on the floor JUST BECAUSE.
Q: What the hell are the Reds thinking? Ten years for Joey Votto two years before he hits free agency? What’s the harm in waiting one more year? Are they expecting Votto to hit .400 with 80 homers this season? Hasn’t the 1B market already been set impossibly high? Are these players so sensitive now that they get offended if they don’t get an extension obscenely early? Marge Shot, Akron, OH.
A: I don’t get it. I’m not saying Joey Votto is Ryan Howard, but you’d think what happened to the Phillies 1st baseman would at least give a team pause. And, this deal is twice as long as that one and the Reds don’t have nearly the amount of money the Phillies have to spend on payroll. Votto is a great player. With the departure of Pujols and Fielder he’s pretty easily the best 1st baseman in the National League. You don’t want to undervalue that, especially considering Votto brings defense as well, but he was already scheduled to make 26 million the next two years. That’s not exactly insulting for someone who isn’t eligible for free agency. I guess the Reds feel like they need a face of a franchise. They’re not a big market, so maybe they look at themselves like one of these NBA teams that would never be able to lure a superstar. It’s a calculated decision to try to develop as much talent as they can for cheap, but keep that one pillar out there at 1st to show their commitment to the fans. I understand that part, but I don’t understand the timing. There’s almost no way Votto’s value could increase at this point, so why not make sure he gets through 2012 healthy and still produces those MVP caliber numbers. The fans will appreciate keeping Votto, but they’ll turn quickly if his salary is eating 1/4 of the payroll and not producing a thing for the last five years of this deal. Sometimes I think GMs just get excited to lock guys up, and the money has gotten so ridiculous now, that it’s not imperative for a player to wait for free agency.
Q: Why does anyone make their own ice cream? It’s got to be the least rewarding food to make in-home. I could understand it if you couldn’t get decent ice cream, but that’s hardly the case. What’s going on? Chip Witch, Baltimore, MD.
A: I partially blame cooking shows. The gourmet chefs always have an ice cream machine and are whipping up some stupid flavor. Oh, I did this fun little play on dessert with some pork tenderloin ice cream. I love challenging the lines between sweet and savory. SHUT UP. I have never made my own ice cream, but I’ve seen it made. Or, I should say I’ve seen people try to make it and it comes out as a total mess. Meanwhile, everyone acts impressed while you ruin a cake or pie with your homemade swill. “I’ve been spinning this since dawn and it’s still the consistency of heavy cream.” Maybe it’s time to shoot over to the store and pick up some Turkey Hill, ma’am. I feel like the ice cream maker was a trendy purchase in the 80s. You might have been able to get one at a Tupperware party. It’s one of those things you see and it looks like a great idea when it’s in the box. You get it home and you feel like you need to justify the purchase. Well, it’s the 4th of July. I’ve got the ENTIRE day off. Maybe I can make a few scoops of vanilla by sundown. UNLIKELY.