Requiem No. 10 – Farewell to Chipper Jones (Immediate reactions from NL WC Game, more to come)

Well that’s that. Sam Holbrook is a good umpire – I’ve watched him many times – but that’s a shamefully terrible call. But you don’t leave 12 runners on base and make three errors and blame the game on a blown call – though it was a badly blown call. They owned it. Another promising postseason lost to defense. Brooks Conrad is laughing somewhere and I hate him for it.

Shame on MLB for not upholding the protest anyway. And shame on you Atlanta-based Braves fans for trashing the field – you’re lucky to have the chance to go to games millions of us would love to go to, though you hardly show up during the season. You’re an embarrassment.

Chipper may have made an error, but that’s not what we’ll remember him for. We’ll remember the Met Killer, the high socks, the sly grin, the hilarious tweets, the batting title, the All-Star Game HR, the 1999 MVP and the 1995 World Series. Fitting he ended his career with an infield single and was stranded at third base – which he manned reliably for so many years. Thank you Chipper Jones for 19 years of phenomenal baseball – timeless play, and I am so thrilled to tell my children one day that I got to watch you play, many times, that we made eye contact and I urged you to hit a double (not a HR, weirdly enough) and which you did, weirdly enough. You’re the last link to my childhood, when baseball became such an important part of my life. I’m looking forward to being there in Cooperstown 5 years from now, when you’re enshrined with the other greats of the greatest game ever.

Cheers to 19 Years, Chipper Jones.

Yes We Can! Non-Olympic Sports We Need!

Watching the BMX races last night got me thinking. While I am actually really enjoying this cycling event, I figured, “Don’t they already have the X Games for this kind of event?” Why have something like this instead of baseball?

Then, following that line of thinking, I realize that soccer has the World Cup and tennis has its Grand Slams, and even baseball now has the World Baseball Classic. So I say, why not have BMX racing? The more the merrier really! I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription, is more Olympics.

So here are the five sports I think the Olympics really needs to add to the Summer Games slate, and soon! Wondering why golf and rugby aren’t on the list? They’re making their Olympic debuts in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro!

Parker’s Summer Olympics Additions

1. Baseball/Softball

Jennie Finch (here), Cat Osterman and others were regular sights on the Olympic softball fields, until this year. Bring them back!


Baseball is my favorite sport, and it and softball by proxy are events I looked forward to every four years during the Olympics. It pains me and boggles my mind that these sports were removed from the Summer Games slate following the Beijing Olympics in 2008. They were removed on the basis of a lack of universality. I say that’s ridiculous.

Baseball itself has instituted a World Baseball Classic, which is sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation and features teams from around the entire world. The first two years it was played, 2006 and 2009, the Classic was won by Japan, but featured six different teams in the top four final rankings. The United States only placed fourth once, and it was joined in those six by Venezuela, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Baseball is incredibly popular in Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean; has international programs in Canada, Italy and Israel; and is featured in places like Australia and the Netherlands, as well.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said in 2008 that baseball and softball needed universality, a following and stricter sanctions by the world governing body on performance enhancing drugs, “When you have all that, you have to win hearts. You can win the mind, but you still must win hearts.”

Well, MLB is looking toward adopting HGH blood testing very soon and has already implemented the strictest drug testing program in all of American major sports. Since USA is the birthplace of baseball and the leading force behind the World Baseball Classic, it’s logical to assume the IBF will move to adopt those standards, if it hasn’t already.

As for capturing the hearts…please tell me how the Little League World Series doesn’t capture hearts, how perfect games don’t capture the hearts. International programs are working hard to merit inclusion in the World Baseball Classic, which will field 28 teams in 2013. They WANT to play. There is a desire there, and desire doesn’t come from the mind, it comes from the heart.

Baseball and softball need to be brought back, now.

2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I’m personally not a huge mixed martial arts fan, but those who are, and the athletes who participate, revere the forms and techniques taught in jiu jitsu. It is the fundamental basis for competition for many MMA athletes. The Olympics already feature taekwondo (a new addition), wrestling, boxing and judo as forms of hand-to-hand or body-to-body combat, why not include one of the other most popular forms in the world?

And why not let it make its debut in its home country, at least as an exhibition sport, for a start? Efforts are being made to have this happen, and USA Jiu Jitsu is petitioning to allow it. We shall see.

3. CrossFit, or Organized Exercise

File:Annie Mist Þórisdóttir (Annie Mist Thorisdottir - World crossfit champion 2011).jpg

Anníe Mist Thórisdóttir is the two-time defending CrossFit Games Female Champion. Could she and Rich Froning, Jr., the two-time defending male champion, be Olympic gold medalists soon?

Even within organized competition, there are what are known as “Weight Room Legends” – tales of vaunted feats of strength within the weight room by players like Alabama’s Trent Richardson, now with the Cleveland Browns. Athletes are known for their epic benchpresses, vertical leaps, curl counts, etc. Why not have them tracked, charted and rewarded on the international stage?

Further, with the burgeoning popularity of workout styles like CrossFit, and the introduction of the CrossFit Games, there is already a level of competition and notoriety that comes with victory. CrossFit is also a fast-paced exercise system that challenges the body to move faster, higher and stronger, which are the motto of the Olympic Games. There’s a place for CrossFit on the international stage. If not CrossFit, then at least expand weightlifting to include more typical gym exercises.

4. Paintball

You got it!  Who doesn’t love paintball? It’s fun, fast-paced, intense and actually physically demanding. I challenge you to think otherwise, and then I’ll put you on a course with some of the best shots in the country and see how quickly you run out of breath. I’ve played paintball many a time, and it combines elements of sport that are already exhibited in Olympic play – the agility of canoe/kayaking, diving and gymnastics, the speed of track and field and pentathlon, and the marksmanship and skill of archery and shooting. With all of these combined into the fun and competitive team nature of handball, basketball and soccer, paintball is a perfect fit.

5. American Football

Already World Champions from 2009-10, how would Drew like to be truly a WORLD Champion with a gold medal in Olympics American Football? (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

One can only dream, but eventually I think there are countries that have athletic body types typical of the football player that can compete on the world stage, if they’re driven to invest in developing a national football program. Football has proven popular in the United Kingdom, and Canada already has a league. There are players from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific islands that play prominent roles on their respective NFL teams.

Did you know that there is an International Federation of American Football? The IFAF features 62 member nations, and one of its primary goals is recognition by the International Olympic Committee and inclusion in the Summer Games. The IFAF hosts the IFAF World Championship of American Football, akin to the soccer World Cup, which features eight qualifying countries from the 54 worldwide that field American football teams. So there is international interest, and possibly promise for inclusion in the Olympics.

Of course, there are issues such as injuries, time and availability and the rather large size of team rosters involved in football that present difficulties, but hey…one can dream…

Parker’s Summer Olympic Contractions

I thought I told you “more is better!” when it comes to Olympics action. Are you telling me I HAVE to pick five sports to replace with the above five? Oh drat. Okay! Here are the five events I’d contract.

1. Rhythmic Gymnastics

“Ribbon Dancer…writing on the wall…” Don’t lie, you’re humming it to yourself, too. (Photo property of The Guardian, UK)

If you’re going to tell me dancing with a Ribbon Dancer or a Hula Hoop exhibit “Faster, Higher, Stronger” to a greater extent, with a greater following and more emotional attachment than baseball, I am apt to punch you in the face. And I don’t like fighting.

While I acknowledge the incredible flexibility and agility of the rhythmic gymnastics competitors, I don’t see how they’ve been included while baseball and softball and golf and rugby haven’t. Women and men alike play all these other sports, while only women compete in this event, and only men in Trampoline (see below). I can’t tell you the last time I saw rhythmic gymnastics on in a sports bar or a restaurant here or in any other country. Sorry, it’s got to go.

2. Trampoline

See above.

3. Synchronized Swimming

Again, I don’t reeeeeeeeally want to get rid of anything, and I enjoy the elements of cohesion and athleticism that go into synchronized swimming. But it’s again only an event for women, doesn’t seem to have much of an international following aside from the day or two it gets on primetime every four years and doesn’t tug at the heartstrings. It’s akin to ice dancing and rhythmic gymnastics for me – which are the respective evil stepsisters of figure skating and regular gymnastics, as synch swimming is to regular swimming. They’re beautifully artistic, yes, but do they test athletic resolve and push the human body to the brink? Not so much. Again, don’t want to cut anything, but for baseball’s sake, it’s got to go.

4. Modern Pentathlon

It’s great to see athletes who are really well-rounded in all these events – fencing, swimming, riding, running and shooting. But they’re already represented in their own events! We have the heptathlon and decathlon for the world’s greatest athlete designation, we have the triathlon with swimming, biking and running. What’s this all about? More athletes and more countries can compete in paintball, CrossFit and jiu jitsu than the handful of athletes worldwide who take time to train in each individual event. Got to go.

5. Weightlifting

Here’s where I”m cheating just a bit. It was down to synchronized diving, badminton and the martial arts already represented being consolidated, but I think weightlifting is the best fit here. We can consolidate judo and taekwondo and even boxing and wrestling to an extent into an all-around Martial Arts category and have them be specific events, much akin to the events in equestrian competition, but there are so many athletes in each weight class that I think it would become cumbersome. So I propose folding weightlifting into the organized exercise I mentioned above, and creating events that complement but preserve the current weightlifting events. This means adding bench press, CrossFit, squats, etc. to the slate of events, without actually deleting anything.

Questions on the Ryan Dempster Trade

Gonna switch to baseball mode for just a second here, and I’m sure I’ll be on that mode after the Games are finished. But here’s one thing I don’t really understand.

Ryan Dempster says he didn’t hold up a trade to the Atlanta Braves a week or so ago, which would have been his honestly earned right to do anyway. He’s a 10-5 guy, which means he’s been with the Chicago Cubs for five years, and he has 10 total years of MLB experience. He has the right to veto ANY trade to ANY team, but he had indicated Atlanta was one of his top destinations, behind the L.A. Dodgers.

Well, the Dodgers couldn’t put a deal together, but Atlanta did, and the Cubs accepted, but Dempster never gave the trade his approval. He said in hindsight that he never actually vetoed the deal, but in essence, yeah he did by not explicitly giving it his approval. Eventually the deal was off the table.

Everyone knows about Dempster’s solid friendship with Dodgers pitcher Ted Lilly, but the consensus main issue for Dempster on his next destination seems to be proximity to his family in Canada. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and can go wherever he wants, essentially, if he agrees to that team’s financial situation. But for the time being, he was languishing on a losing team. So why not jump at the chance to go to one of your top choices and pitch for a winner? Proximity to Canada?

Sorry, but in today’s world, that’s not really a legitimate concern, given the fact that we’ve developed jet airliner technology that can whisk you back up to the Great White North in a quick and efficient manner. Not to mention that Atlanta plays home to one of the most major airline hubs in THE WORLD. Being in L.A. – or Dallas, where he’s at now – doesn’t really post that much of a difference. You’re still going to be on a plane for multiple hours before getting home, and your family will be on the plane when they come to visit you. Plain and simple, proximity is not an issue unless you’re within driving distance, which neither of the above cities is.

If Dempster wants proximity, he can go pitch for Minnesota or Seattle. L.A. doesn’t make sense in that regard. In hindsight, I’m really happy the Braves pulled out of the Dempster deal, because they’d have to have sacrificed a heralded starting pitching prospect for a few months’ rental. The trade they eventually made gave up another heralded prospect, but he’s a reliever AND coming off Tommy John surgery, so there’s no givens there. Plus, they got a solid outfield bat from the right side AND an effective starter back who has team options, and Brandon Beachy should be back in the rotation sometime next season anyway.

But one thing is really clear – players who say they want to be close to home are giving you a bunch of BS. They’re hopping on planes anyway.