Tuesday, March 19, 2013

WBC 2013--Goodbyes and Championship Pick

Dearest Mates,
WBC 2013

Once again we find ourselves on the precipice of a “non-Syndicate” cycle. Time for your friendly bookie to slither and squirm back into the “ViceCave” from whence he came. The next time we convene, we’ll all be contending with the sweltering summer heat. Consider that for a moment. No gentlemen will be prompted to enter their wagers until the sultry calefaction of the brutal Summer compels us all to make insipidly insane decisions…like buying a ticket for “The Fast and the Furious—Part Six” in order to spend at least one hour in an air-conditioned movie theater. Sorry to augur such unforgivable stupidity, but it will happen.

Let’s briefly discuss the future of this tournament. Hardball enthusiasts will be pleased to note that nearly 800,000 fans worldwide packed the eight separate venues to cheer on their countries. That sounds impressive…until one recalls that this constitutes slightly less of the population in that hellhole Detroit. Moreover, once one divides total attendance by the number of matches, one arrives at an average audience of approximately 19,000 spectators per game. Yikes. Teams in the Second Bundesliga routinely average more.

The television ratings have been abysmal, partially owing to the fact that MLB Network acquired the exclusive rights at rock bottom prices. ESPN wasn’t even remotely interested in instigating a bidding war for the rights to televise this intriguing competition. Their executives knew full that most Americans would greet the third installment of this experiment with a resonant “Ho-hum”. Hence, tournament matches routinely lost out to Grapefruit League exhibition games. That’s terribly sad. More people were interested in watching a meaningless match up between the third stringers of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Indians. Not a terribly encouraging sign.

Apropos MLB Spring Training, a rethink of the tournament’s timing is absolutely called for. Holding it in March was never a bright idea. Most MLB Players are contractually obligated to sit matters out by their respective ball clubs. Even if their contracts don’t explicitly forbid them from skipping Spring Training, many stars opt not to risk injury or jeopardize their starting positions. To add further context, the players haven’t been in peak form since September. March often serves as a critical juncture for players to get back into shape and solidify their status with their teams. Much like the toiling American worker, American ballplayers live in perpetual fear of taking a vacation. It’s unwise to consider taking a leave of absence from work. By the time you get back, someone else has taken over your job. Such is life.

A practical solution appears on the horizon. The Commissioner’s office is said to be strongly considering moving the tournament to November, December, or January. Naturally, this would require selecting a Southern Hemisphere host. Okay. Do we really have much to lose at this point? Irrespective of all of this, expect your friendly bookie to be back in full force by 2017 (assuming he hasn’t succumbed to lung cancer by then). I still genuinely love baseball. I’ll follow my Philles “phorever”, through every torrid summer slog. No Spring trip down to Baton Rouge will be complete without at afternoon at the new Alex Box Stadium, keeping score with beer in hand. Should I ever have a son, Daddy will play catch with him in the backyard at least once a week….whether he wants to or not. I’ve got quite a bit of ground to make up, considering my father could never play catch with me. It wasn’t exactly a “Cats in the Cradle” situation. It was just that, being a German, my father had no clue how to throw a baseball.

“When ya comin home son?
I don’t know when,
But we’ll eat some Spätzle then ya,
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Well, gentlemen, it’s been yet another wild ride. All the usual tender and warmhearted gratitude is warranted for all your contributions: The wagers, the texts, the e-mails, the calls, and every last riff included therein. Difficult to fathom, but all of this began less than three weeks ago. I attached a few sentimental words about growing up with a love for baseball to an old piece and we were off. The predominant reaction to the Primer Section for “WBC—Syndicate Reloaded” labeled it “a dry history lesson as irresistible as the goofball who wrote it”. Wow. Thanks. I couldn’t have been more pleased. That particular syndicate member could write for the New York Review of Books.

Over the subsequent seventeen days, we slogged through NINE rounds of lines. Though this installment of the Book didn’t feature Dailies, the ever-changing constellation of the tournament necessitated continuously updated lines. Coincidentally enough, the record number of rounds matches the number of innings in a baseball game. “Neat-o”, would you not agree? In addition to real-time lines, there were random ramblings on everything from books to movies to whatever left your friendly bookie pissed off enough to light up the keys. At one point God himself even rudely interrupted us. His “holier than thou” attitude forced us to drop everything and stare at a chimney for 36 hours. We witnessed the dramatic rise and fall of the American team. Together we observed the rabid behavior of fans both Asian and Caribbean. We all watched over twenty five games decided in the final innings, and somehow found time to greet a guy in a dress standing on a balcony along the way.

All that remains is our traditional “Saccharine Section”, the part in which your friendly bookie composes something from the deepest recesses of his heart. Excuse me as I set the mood. Drink? Check. Music? Hmmm….Randy Crawford worked brilliantly last time, but this is a very different syndicate. Hmmm…Loreena Mckennitt? Nah. That’s WAY TOO sweet. “The Eels”? Nah. That’s a bit too hard. Brian Eno? Fuck off! As many times as I could listen to “And then So Clear”, it’s still one song stuck on a loop. Eric Bibb? Grrr…again, “Panama Hat” is but one song. John Hiatt? ONE SONG…..but wait a second. That chorus to that one song, “My Old Friend” aptly summarizes how I feel about all of you:

“My old friend(s)
You make me feel young again”

Look, guys. Even Mr. Wordsmith here has difficulty constructing something that adequately conveys how touching and vitally important it is that we can all get together like this. Life’s a cruel bitch. One might even deem life a mentally unstable girlfriend. Occasionally she coquettishly invites you to partake in the most uplifting of spiritually intimate moments. For the most part, however, she’s busy sticking her finger in your face, reminding you that you’re no good, and telling you to get lost.

We’ve all been there. We rise up every morning to face a fresh set of challenges. Even the most positive of attitudes can’t withstand all the finger pointing we must endure. I write such words in order to speak directly with those members who might not have had the strength to compose something witty for this book. Your bookie cares about you. He cares about your adversity. He loves you, and will always be there for you.

No one travels the obscure path of a Shadow Scholar without good reason. You’re my reasons. One shouldn’t anticipate an upgrade in the optics of my little blog anytime soon. It may come straight from the heart, but this large and gentle heart has many obligations beyond producing and starring in a “one-man-show”. Whether you’re on Cloud Nine or sloshing through the muck of self-doubt, you’re always welcome here. I’ll always be glad to hear from you.

On that happy note, it’s time for us all to enjoy a ballgame. We’re underway in San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The Dominicans have jumped out to an early lead in bottom of the 1st. ALL BETS ARE OFF. Enjoy the game, along with the rest of your Spring.               

My Final Stats:

Spread: 11-24-3
Straight up: 19-16-3

Damn you, America. It’s all your fault. Too much faith in Uncle Sam. Setting lines with one’s heart remains a recipe for disaster. May my long-ago jettisoned cynicism be restored.

Supreme Champion of the Baseball Universe—Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic

There’s still a great deal in store for us on this early Spring evening. This game will run another two and half hours. Stretch out and take it in. You won’t regret it

THE PICK: Puerto Rico +1 Run

We’ll meet again. The Syndicate will return. For the time being……

“Go play catch with a stranger.”

--S.S. P.J.W.   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

WBC 2013--Semi-Finals

Greetings forlorn compatriots,
WBC 2013

Well, we’ve managed to fuck up right-and-proper once again America. We’ve taken another giant leap backwards…all the way back to 2006, when we failed to even reach the semi-finals. I’ve little to offer in the way of either explanations or condolences. An early exit like this isn’t as gut-wrenching as watching the Germans lose a football match to the Italians, but remains disconcerting that one cannot expect to root for the U.S. in an sport such as baseball.

I’ll have more thoughts on the topic in the finals section. For now, read Jerry Crasnick…and weep:

It’s semifinals time. What’s that? You went and blinked on me again? Ever fear. We’ll get you caught up. Unleash the synopses!

Pool 1 Quarterfinals—Tokyo Dome, Japan

With Easter on our mind we ventured to the stadium known as “The Big Egg”, home of Japan’s famed Yoimuri Giants. The World Baseball Classic Quarterfinals are played out over Three Rounds: “Preliminaries”, “Qualifiers”, and “Seeding”. A concise breakdown of the basic structure follows. Group Winners are seeded against Group Runner ups in the “Preliminaries”, just as they are in any football tournament’s initial knockout stage, Unlike one’s typical football tournament, however, the losers of the “Preliminary” matches are then given another chance, seeded against the winners of the opening round in the “Qualifier” Leg. The respective winners of the Second Round advance to the Semi-finals, needing only to play one last match against one another in the third and final “Seeding Round”.

The system itself would be considered brilliant, were it not for the fact that all WBC Games are essentially played on neutral turf. In the event that anyone remains only slightly confused (and hasn’t already elected to give up), “seeding” in this context refers to which team shall be considered the home team and which one the away. To baseball tyros, the former bats in the bottom half of an inning while the latter bats in the top. Being classified as the “home” team undeniably carries with it certain advantages, but nothing too terribly essential. Ideally, one is SUPPOSED to wish to bat second, allowing the manager more tactical leeway in tweaking his lineup. Precise knowledge of how many runs he needs allows a manager to more effectively conserve his pinch hitters/runners. Other advantages include not wearing out one’s bullpen and the ability to orchestrate the “double switch”.

Of course, there shall be no “double switches” in the World Baseball Classic as we’re using the Designated Hitter. Overall, we’re still talking razor-thin tactical benefits. Quirky WBC Rules involving pitch counts, substitution, and the consecutive use of relievers are designed, among other reasons, to heighten the importance of home-seeding, yet we may conclude that the system remains moot so long as this tournament is played in front of small crowds in impartial venues. At present, the “seeding” system only seems to afford losing teams a way back into the tournament. That in itself isn’t damning, were in not for the fact that so many tangential nations continue to upset the more traditional powerhouses. Hence, we apologists are congenitally working overtime to explain why the U.S. isn’t in the semi-finals, yet the Dutch are. Sigh. Here’s how it came to be.   

Last Friday’s noonday matinee seeded Pool A Winners Cuba against Pool B Runners-Up Holland. The ever-irritating “Kingdom of the ‘Nether-Reaches’” broke open the scoring in the top of the second when First Baseman Curt Smith (of Curacao of course) took Ishmael Jimenez deep. The Dutch doofi did well to manufacture another run before the completion of the frame. Kalian Sams singled, Ricardo moved him into scoring position with a well laid down bunt, and Andeltron Simmons brought him home with a clutch double.

Alfredo Despaigne answered immediately in a high-octane game that featured four homers with a solo shot in bottom half of the second. It proved all for naught as Jonathan Schoop broke it wide open with a monster three-run dinger in the Top of the 6th. At that point, there was little one could do except scramble for the remote and a bag of extra-salty potato chips.

Better luck the doubleheader’s Night Cap. The Japs and Taiwanese drove us deep into the twi-night in the Classic’s first extra-innings contest. Samurai bats failed to awaken until the Top of the 8th. Down 2-0, Shinnosuke Abe stepped up to the plate with runners at the corners and nobody out. He slung in the first run with an efficacious bloop single. The second came courtesy of a series of Fielder’s Choices. Heading into the Bottom of the 8th, we had ourselves a tie ball game that could have broken either way.

The Taiwanese quickly cracked reliever Masahiro Tanaka for three straight hits and one run in the Bottom of the 8th. Gut check time for the Japs. Under extraordinary pressure, Takashi Toritani drew a one-out walk, then stole second to put himself in scoring position. Hirokazu then brought him home with a sweet single to shallow center. We were all tied up once more. Yamamoto again made all the right moves in the Top of the 10th, manufacturing a run through effective base running. Matsuda crossed the plate courtesy of a Sac Fly from Nakata. Suiguchi overcame a dogged Taiwanese side that produced two hits in the bottom half for the expedient save.

One day after dropping the heartbreaker to the Japanese, Chinese Taipei was shown the exit in a most demoralizing fashion. Jose Abreau, Freddy Cepeda, Yasmany Tomas, AND Odi Despaigne all homered for a Cuban side that slaughtered the Taiwanese with brute force. It might have been even worse had mercy rules not halted the 14-0 rout after Seven Innings. Mercy Rules were once again in effect the following day, when the Japanese bitch slapped the Dutch 16-4 in another mangling limited to Seven Innings.

High hopes for a righteous outcome prevailed as the Dutch and Cubans took the field on Monday evening. In a gripping match, the Dutch twice opened up a two-run lead, only for the Cubans to battle back without delay to keep matters tied. To square the parity circle, the Cubans themselves took a two run lead in the Top of the 8th, only to have their advantage completely wiped by a two-run Dutch response. Offensive highlights of this enthralling and fascinating slugfest included Jose Abreu’s 421-foot crusher to deep center, Youliski Gouriell’s extra-base gapper, and Andeltron Simmons’s beauty of a pulled two-run shot.

Alas, amid all of the theatrics, the last laugh belonged to the “Kingdom of the ‘Nether-Regions’”. The Cubans cycled through three relievers in the Bottom of the Ninth to obfuscate some fine Dutch Keystone Manufacturing. Regardless, Andeltron Jones came home on a one-out walk off Sac Fly from Kalian Sams. Ball game. The Japs would easily take the largely meaningless “Seeding Round Match” the next day. End of Pool.    

Pool 2 Quaterfinals—Marlins Park, Miami

Christ do the newly re-christened “Miami Marlins” play in a gorgeous ballpark. Leaving aside the sophisticated retractable roof, the serene waterfall, the enormous Jumbotron, the perfectly manicured pitch, and the spectacular view of the city-skyline…..well….perhaps I just about covered it all. I’m going. That’s all there is to it. I’m fucking going. Man, I can’t wait to take in a live ballgame in that park. Evidently, there aren’t any poor sightlines in the house.

Matters commenced on Tuesday just as they did last Friday in Tokyo, with a twi-night doubleheader. The upstart Italians faced the favored-Dominicans in the matinee.  Chris Colabello pulverized a first-inning change-up for a 437-foot three run homer to right center that helped put the Wops ahead of the Dominicans 4-0 before they even had a chance to bat. It took some time for the frazzled Dominicans to recover and figure out surprise starter Tiago Da Silva. Nevertheless, they began to find their footing in the Bottom of the Third, when Jose Reyes unleashed his own solo-bomb to deep right center. Robinson Can took him deep again in the bottom of the 6th and it was curtains for the one player without American citizenship. Slowly, slowly the Dominicans chips away and the monolith before finally dismantling the large Italian lead with a three-run seventh. Thus the appetizer ended absent a sour taste.

The U.S. Squad furnished a fine main course with a convincing 7-1 victory over the Puerto Ricans. Great news all-around. Gio Gonzalez pitched five lovely innings of shutout ball. David Wright and Joe Mauer came through with clutch RBIs. J-Roll went 2-for-5 while Ryan Braun hit .500. U.S. batters amassed a total of 12 hits in a game they dominated throughout. One couldn’t have envisioned a better start.

The Puerto Ricans came back to punch their way out of the “loser’s bracket”. Three Italian relievers failed to quiet the crafty little Puerto Ricans during a well-managed three run 8th inning. By contrast, three Puerto Rican relievers successfully shut the Dagos down in the Top of the 9th. Down went the Italians. Up went your bookie’s fortunes.

The Dominicans and Americans remained tied at one run a piece all throughout a closely contested Pitchers Duel. Heading into the Top of the 9th, it remained all but apparent that neither side’s batters would decide this tense match up. Everything would come down to which pitcher would suffer a mental lapse. Unfortunately in this particular case it would be Braves Right-hander Craig Kimbrel. In fairness, he shouldn’t be completely villainized for allowing Nelson Cruz’s leadoff double. Cruz cunningly advanced to third on Santana’s ground out, enabling him to easily score off of Aybar’s single. Aybar’s stolen base, however, could have been prevented had Kimbrel properly worked from the stretch. Aybar’s second run placed the U.S. in a much more precarious position. Had they not had to swing for the fences, Jones and Victorino might not have popped up.

Within another 24 hours it was all over. Vogelsong’s shaky start ended up being the difference as our late inning rally fell just one run short of drawing us level with the Puerto Ricans. Your friendly bookie couldn’t even watch on this “National Day of Shame”. As soon as Eric Hosmer grounded out to leave the bases loaded, it was off with the television. They wouldn’t even be a line for Saturday’s “Seeding Match” between the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. For the second time in three days, it was time to retreat to the “Room of Tears”. In a smidgen of poetic justice, the Dominicans blanked the now hated Puerto Ricans 2-0 on Saturday afternoon. Was that supposed to provide me with some succor? End of Pool.


Puerto Rico vs. Japan

(Jose De La Torre vs. Atsushi Nomi)

The Japanese used (and thereby exhausted) eight pitchers in their seeding match against the Dutch. This opens the door to a potential Puerto Rican upset…but the firepower in the Samurai lineup cannot be so easily discounted. All signs point to an eked-out victory. Japan will likely appear in the final to play for it’s third consecutive championship.

THE LINE: Japan +1 Run


Netherlands vs. Dominican Republic

(Diegomar Markwell vs. Santiago Casilla)

How much does Markwell have left in the tank? Not much I’m betting….or hoping if you prefer.

THE LINE: Dominican Republic +2 Runs

I’ll be in touch with my final stats and championship before the Grand Finale on Tuesday night. For now….I regrettably must go to work. I’ve already decided to invoke “bookie privilege” and call all bets off for the final. Thus, this constitutes your FINAL opportunity to bet until the Confederations Cup in June. Good luck, brothers.


Friday, March 15, 2013

WBC 2013--Round Nine

“ObeMus” Papem Syndicate Members,
WBC 2013

Christ. I continue to grapple with a “papal hangover”. Give a bookie a day or two….and… he’ll still have to contend with a raging headache. Much love to all of those who have sent regenerative messages of earnest condolence. Like a falsely flattered stripper, I’m grateful that people at least pretend to care about me while whilst I complete my menial work.

Speaking of that, we’re already five innings into this evening’s crucial elimination game between Puerto Rico and the United States. That being said, your bookie is still prepared to offer lines:

USA vs. Puerto Rico

(Ryan Vogelsong  vs. Nelson Figueroa)

Tune in for the rest of this one. Enter a wager or two if you please. The U.S. WILL come back. 



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WBC 2013--Round Eight

Habemus Papum Syndicate Members!
WBC 2013

It’s been a glorious day for all those faithful in the “Pope and Change” Camp. Infinitely more important, it’s been a divine day for the Syndicate. So many Firsts on this day. The cardinals elevated first non-European Pontiff to the papacy. We witnessed the birth of a birth of a brand new order: The First Pope to choose the name “Francesco”. And of course….I must concede in with full Catholic humility…your bookie has for the first time lost money on a Book.

No need to worry about me, however. Your friendly bookie blesses you. In Nominee Parti et Filii et Spiritus Sancti…  Until the newly elected Papa, he doesn’t even ask of you to bless him. I’ll be fine. My losses were by no means deep, and they are a small price to pay for the privilege of beholding a day like today. Today we recaptured the “Spirit of the Syndicate”. This difficult-to-define essence easily beats the shit out of the “Holy Ghost”. Today we resurrected the foundational principles, the governing dynamics, the Passion of the Bookie, the roots of this entire endeavor, the whole reason I devote the Lion’s Share of what little private time I get to compose these lines.
Papal Conclave 2013

Why does the Syndicate exist at all? So sharp wits can exchange biting riffs. Days like these justify it all. We all got together again. We all got together and “felt alright”. 1.2 Billion Catholics may have seen their faith reaffirmed, but a hundred or so oddballs re-affirmed something much more significant. Your friendly bookie blesses you. In Nominee Parti et Filii et Spiritus Sancti…

Time to share some of today’s exchanges. It’s been far too long since we’ve featured a Simmons-style “Mailbag Section”. I’ve a few unfinished ones from the Election, CAN, and the WBC on my desktop….along with probably at least 42 other unfinished projects that keep getting pushed to the backburner. Approaching Downtime should enable me to complete…hell….maybe one. For now, we owe it to the “Spirit of the Syndicate” to share the day’s highlights.

Enjoy. Your friendly bookie blesses you. In Nominee Parti et Filii et Spiritus Sancti…


Syndicate Member: When is this fucking pope going to show up? I’ve been sitting here watching Anderson Cooper interview ditzy American Exchange students for almost an hour. I can’t take listening to another one of these girls telling me, “Like, we’re like studying abroad and this is, like, historic.”

Vicey: Patience, my son. First the new Pope must have his balls fondled. Seriously. Tradition dictates that the Cardinals inspect his testicles to ensure that a woman didn’t somehow fool everyone in the Basilica. The tradition was retained to preserve the humility of the office. They say whoever ascends to St. Peter’s chair must eschew hubris first and foremost. I can imagine nothing more humbling than having my sac cupped.

Following this, the new pope heads to the “Room of Tears” to get fitted for his prom dress. After every last cardinal has pledged fealty, he retreats to the Pauline Chapel for private prayer. It may take a while to get Jesus on the Mainline. The Pauline Chapel isn’t like the War Room in “Dr. Strangelove”. There isn’t a God-to-Pontiff Red Hotline Phone. Jesus may have stepped out. Give the Son of Man some time to check his voicemail messages.

Syndicate Member: To hell with this pudgy egghead. When is Pontiff “Viceus the Unready” going to appear on the balcony and bless us with some original comedy?

Vicey: Patience, my son. First I have to fondle my balls. I’ve been sitting on them for over an hour. Then, I must head to the “Room of Tears” to cry about all of the money that I lost. After receiving pledges of fealty from all Syndicate Members, I have to try and raise Jesus on the Mainline. The Pope typically appears 45 minutes after the White Smoke. I’ve some White Smoke of my own to make before I’m prepared to address the masses.

Syndicate Member: No fair! I cry foul! This Pope can’t ask me for a favor two minutes into the job! Why should I bless him?

Vicey: (giggling uncontrollably) Yeah! Who does this guy think he is? Kennedy! “Ask not what your Papa can do for you, ask what you can do for your Papa”.

Syndicate Member: Will you ever get back to talking Baseball?

Vicey: Let the record show that you remain the ONLY one to even come close to suggesting that. It’s a unique distinction. I love you for it….just know that you’re special.

Syndicate Member: My Faith in God has cost you a lot of money.

Vicey: Your Faith in God has also cost you a few brain cells. Er….the check is in the mail, ye of enviable faith. 

Syndicate Member: Are you, in fact, an observant Catholic? It almost seems so.

Vicey: Your friendly bookie isn’t truly observant of much beyond Internet Porn. Nevertheless I’d likely still find sitting in a Catholic Mass eminently relaxing. It sure beats watching a bunch of stark-raving mad apostolic assholes running around the aisles screaming about their “Holy Ghost Power”. Forced to sit in on one of those services, I very nearly punched a wild-eyed guy who was barreling towards me shrieking “JESUS! Mashalabas fu este mans shublle na tune tuope falalalalala!”. Ugh. Something tells me that recurring nightmare will return this evening.

Syndicate Member: Somewhere in a magnificently manicured Garden, Ratzinger is mumbling to himself “Good luck, schmuck”.

Vicey: (at a loss for words). Your friendly bookie blesses you. In Nominee Parti et Filii et Spiritus Sancti…

Syndicate Member: Is this really a new beginning? Can I masturbate freely now?

Vicey: Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy. You’ve always had the power to masturbate freely. Simply bite your lip, close your eyes, and keep repeating the mantra “There’s no place like my imagination”.

Syndicate Member: I thought we were done with the Nazi Popes. Considering that this guy’s from Argentina….I’m not convinced.

Vicey: (smacking the table to keep himself from laughing too hard.)

Syndicate Member: Vicey’s Papal Lines are brought to you by “I can’t believe it’s not Jesus!” Low-Fat communion wafers!

Vicey: Bah-ha. This one had me reeling. Inspired by his ingenious reference, he then opted to really push the limits:

Syndicate Member: Vicey’s Papal Lines are also brought to you by “Dr. Happy’s Third Trimester Abortion Funhouse.” Dr. Happy’s: We’ll bring out the kid in you!

Vicey: Christ almighty. I actually laughed at this, then flagellated myself for at least a half hour. You’re going to hell, syndicate member. I’ll see you there. Thank God there aren’t any women reading this!

Syndicate Member: Sic Transit Goldie Hawn.

Vicey: No clue what that’s supposed to mean. I wish my Latin knowledge didn’t come exclusively from the Asterix Comic Book Series. I also wish I had been paying attention when watching “Housesitter” starring Steve Martin.

Syndicate Member: Man, oh man. I wish I were in that Vatican crowd with all the horny college girls.

Vicey: Amen to that. Your friendly bookie blesses you. In Nominee Parti et Filii et Spiritus Sancti…

Syndicate Member: Love the look in this pope’s eyes. It almost seems like he’s come to terms with his own sexuality…or asexuality as the case may be.

Vicey: Interesting point. Based on his distended stomach, I read the look in his eyes to read “It’s been almost three hours since my last meal. Il Papa is hungry. Do we have anymore of those Sea Salt Communion Wafers?”

Random Mailer: Why make a joke out of religion?

Vicey: You took time to write me and I appreciate that. My counter-question is, since you did indeed take time to write me, “Why make a joke out of yourself?”

Syndicate Member: Pop Quiz, Hot Shot. Say you’ve just donned the Papal Vestment and are preparing to tread out on the balcony to address some 200,000 individuals in St. Peter’s Piazza. What do you do? What do you say?

Vicey: Now that’s a tough question, Keanu. Pope Peter II has just been anointed. He’s got his best dress on. He’s had his balls fondled, he’s prayed for the strength to make it through this moment. He feels himself ready. Yet, after the curtains are drawn and he beholds the marvelous spectacle of over 200,000 pilgrims, he suddenly comprehends the enormous burden of his charge. What does he do? What does he say?

After probing the inner depths of my soul, I’ve little choice but go with:

“Hey Everyone! We’re all gonna get laid!”

Strike up the band.

Viva la Syndicate! Well done, brothers. There isn’t an ecclesiastical order that can hope to hold a candle to us. Though our numbers may be few, our sardonic commentary remains legion. Your friendly bookie blesses you…..

My Updated Stats:

Spread: 10-20-2
Straight up: 18-12-2

No time to finish up the Italy vs. Puerto match. The Stats from yesterday stand. Let’s talk tomorrow’s game.

USA vs. Dominican Republic

(Craig Kimbrel vs. Alfredo Simon)

HAH! Given today’s events, one might invest some faith/coin in the Franciscans. These are the Dominicans we’re talking about. It will prove a hard-fought nine innings. Nevertheless, expect Uncle Sam to prevail.

THE LINE: USA + 2 Runs


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

WBC 2013--Round Seven

Ave Maria Syndicate Members,
WBC 2013

Tomorrow we’ll meet the new pope. Hence, I’m in a hurry to convey the next set of lines. This bookie can’t even wait for Uncle Sam to finish off the 51st State (The Puerto Ricans). Tomorrow the sun shall rise, and we’ll all greet the new Wop Pope. The only remaining bit of betting intrigue is whether we’ll greet Urban the IX, Innocent the XIV, Clement the XV, Paul the VII, or Alexander the IX.

Exciting stuff. Even if the religion happens to be antiquated, one has to respect the ridiculously anachronistic tradition behind it all. How long have you been alive? Fifty years tops. How long had this churchbeen around? Over 2,000 years. Have some respect for your ancestors, no matter how naïve they might have been.
Papal Conclave 2013

We’ll get to the baseball lines shortly. First, a few more quips about the Catholic Church. To begin with, Being “Pope-less” can really suck. When God calls, no one is answering the phone ? Secondly,  a “head-coaching change” at the Vatican isn’t much to be concerned about. The 266th successor of St. Peter has to carry the burden of the team captain. Jesus of Nazareth has been on injured reserve since he suffered those five wounds nearly twenty centuries ago. We’ve been waiting for him to come back.

We’ve been waiting since the Synoptic Gospels. In three of the four gospels, our most-esteemed team captain promised he would be back in less than a generation. In the Gospel of John, the writers took great care to assure us that Jesus never said anything of the sort. In subsequent books, such as “Peter”, the promised apocalypse was postponed for as many as a thousand years. In books, such as the revised “Revelations”, that were written even later, the Second Coming was postponed indefinitely.

One cannot blame “Head Coach Benedict XVI”. It wasn’t his fault that the Team Captain decided not to show up for the 20th consecutive century. A deep man attempted to write a few convoluted sonnets on love and understanding. Reluctantly, he accepted the position of Pontiff. He only wished to do “God’s Work”. Little did he know that God wasn’t available for comment. He turned out to be asleep….for all eternity.

Keep watching tomorrow, mates. Watch for the White Smoke.

My Updated Stats:

Spread: 10-20-2
Straight up: 18-12-2

Nothing much to say….other than the fact that Jesus isn’t coming back. It’s not happening. I’ll give you 1,000 to 1 odds….and pay you.

Italy vs. Puerto Rico

(Alex Maestreti vs. J.C. Romero)

The biggest mistake the Puerto Ricans can make is starting J.C. Romero. Even if they don’t send him to the mound, we’re still looking at a pick at best. As it stands, I’m prepared to give the Wops a one run spread.  



Monday, March 11, 2013

WBC 2013--Round Six

Ave Syndicate Members,
WBC 2013

In nominee Patri et fillii et Spiritus Santci, it’s my divine pleasure to welcome to a new Syndicate installment of “Pope-a-Palooza”. We still have, and most assuredly shall discuss some baseball lines. Before arriving at those, however we must present the official odds for the upcoming Papal Conclave. Our rotten luck persists. First, the original writings from the 2005 Conclave were lost to the Sands of Time. Damn flimsy 3.5 Floppy Disks! Then Ratzinger became the first pontiff to voluntarily resign in over 700 years. Finally, the College of Cardinals elected to move up the date of the conclave in open defiance of JP II’s will. A bookie more inclined to believe in fate might conclude that God himself continuously intervened in a deliberate effort to stymie his sacrilege writing.

Not this bookie. The only gospel song he genuinely loves happens to be the secular one written by Tom Waits. The closest he comes to allowing himself to be elevated by a spiritual hymn takes place when Dishwalla comes over the P.A. during an evening shift at the Drugstore. One may have to “keep the devil way down in the hole”, but that only refers to the personal inner demons with which we all must wrestle. There exists no omnipotent universal devil just as there exists no almighty God. I could bore you further with terms like Dawkins’ “Infinite Regression”, but our time here is limited.
Papal Conclave 2013
As noted above, all twenty plus pages I wrote in 2005 cannot be retrieved. Nevertheless, an apt summary survives for posterity. Gentlemen, I present to you definitive proof that the act of writing “Retroactive Notes” proves worthwhile.

From EM 2004—Round Three:

11) Italy

They’re still alive, but only in the way Supreme Pontiff John Paul II is still alive. The Azzuri are riddled with Parkinson’s, barely breathing, and unable to speak. Likewise, it will take the hand of the Holy Mother herself to save them. The Swedes must convincingly defeat the Danes while the Wops generate a scoring frenzy. Rosary Beads are being thumbed all over the subcontinent. Such a shame that no one is listening.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

JP II lasted another ten months or so before finally kicking the bucket. This led to one of the absolute highlights of my career as a friendly amateur bookie: Pope-a-palooza 2005. Oh man what a blast. Handicapping the College of Cardinals was initially troublesome as nothing makes it out of that conclave except for either black or white smoke. So I read up a bit on the College of Cardinals. Turns out they typically earn the right to vote around 60 and lose it at 80. Fascinating stuff. Around 130 were eligible and 117 showed up. Seriously, who were the thirteen who had other shit to do? It’s a fucking papal conclave. Days of endless free food and booze. That’s almost enough for me to give my life over to Christ. Added together, the cardinals from Latin America, Asia, and Africa outnumbered the European Cardinals 59-58. Hell yes! Stalemate and intrigue were on the menu. Almost anything could happen! After John Paul mumbled his last on April 2nd, the conclave was scheduled for April 18th. This gave just over two weeks to read up in the candidates and publish some odds.

The actual document has been lot to a flimsy 3.5 floppy, but I have many fond memories of studying ecumenical law and actors in the cozy confines of my Spanish Town cottage. Globally oriented publications such as the Financial Times and the Economist published their own odds, which were quite helpful. As the conclave approached, the smart money appeared to be dichotomously split between two camps. Polish born JP II had broken a streak of 455 years of an Italian grip on the papacy. It stood to reason that the Wops would want it back after an unusually long drought. So it was on the eve of the conclave that Italians like Maria Martini, Giovanni Cheli, Fiorenza Angelini, and Camilo Ruini had the lowest odds, going between 2-1 and 4-1. Another group, including myself, was convinced the Church would shore up its Latin American constituency, healing the wounds of Vatican II and giving a large shout-out to one of the only places on earth we people still go to Mass regularly. Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, Brazilian Jose Falcao, and Columbian Dario Hoyas also had low odds. Bergoglio would have been my choice, but I was merely serving as pool director.

Never in my life have I observed such patently absurd betting behavior. Nearly everyone was prepared to kick in a few shekels for quixotic choices with long odds. American money poured in for Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles. Why not? We rule the world. We’d be the natural choice to run the Vatican! An American pope. Still can’t say that with a straight face. Other Romantics thought, what the hell, surely a Black or Korean guy will grace the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Wouldn’t that be cool? It would be fucking awesome….if life worked that way. The coin came rolling in. One figure who received no attention from anyone was Dean of the Sacred College and JP’s right hand Joseph Ratzinger. The Economist gave him 9-1 odds and the Financial Times 7-1. I was far more skeptical. My book reads 12-1. Had someone actually bet on him they would have reaped an enormous payday. Since no one did, I retained the fortune fit for a pope.

The odds were sent out via e-mail a few days before the conclave commenced and I closed the book to bets on the day of the conclave. Presumably, since the election has taken place in secret under the auspices of sealed tight Vatican for almost 2000 years, I could have continued taking bets until the White Smoke appeared. I simply wasn’t prepared to take that chance in the digital age. Some tech-Savvy cardinal could have been all over My Space with information I wasn’t privy to. April 18th was the close. With the conclave expected to last anywhere from a few days to a week, I had high hopes for a Papal-themed “4/20 Party” involving a joint session of friends with plenty of joints to go around. I was so looking forward to this event, even though I never much cared for pot. I even made preparations to link up the live “Smokestack Cam”. Alas, there were but three discharges of black smoke before news of the selection interrupted my April 19th commute to class. I slammed on the brakes. Four years into college I would deliberately skip my first lecture. Fuck class. The new pope would appear within the hour.

Nearly seven years into Benedict XVI’s term, I must confess I get gleefully excited every time he coughs into a microphone. Hurry up and die, already! I’m aching to write another “Pope-a-Palooza”! Shit! All this modern medicine, stable politics, and disturbing lack of assassination attempts means a papal conclave is now a once-in-a-generation event. This stubborn Kraut looks like he could hang in there for another decade or more and it…well it just plain sucks. Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in the fifteenth century, when every three years the successor to St. Peter went down from a glass of tainted wine, a disease infested prostitute, or a feckless spot of stomach flu? Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be so great to be concerned about such microorganisms myself, not to mention be unable to read or write. Still, can’t Ratzinger retire to the quiet life of seclusion, scholarship, and cats he always claims to yearn for? C’mon Papst! JP I gave us two conclaves in one bloody season.  Do it for me, Big Papa!          

Vindicated I am. Today’s lesson (Yes, I’m talking to you, kids): Write down your thoughts. It doesn’t matter if no one is around to listen to or read them. Life boils down to nothing but a series of fucked-up coincidences. Be sure to chronicle as much as you can. That way you’ll never fall into the trap of thinking that everything happens for a reason.

Who’s ready to “pontificate” (hell, yes) on this week’s goings on inside the Sistine Chapel? Just as I suspected! Let’s begin with the ludicrously reiterated statement that Benedict is the first Pontiff to voluntarily resign in over 700 years. Sure, it seems shocking. The uninitiated suddenly find themselves in world where BOTH Batman and the Pope are allowed to quit. In truth, his resignation isn’t surprising at all. After the previous pope hung on to reigns of power until he was soiling himself, retirement in the media age remained the only dignified Teutonic solution. All of us must step aside at some point. We must all face the reality that our bodies have become frail, our minds feeble, and our hours short. Hanging on to one’s position until one dies an agonizing and humiliating death is a sign of poor character…egotism even. We should not venerate individuals like John Paul II or William Rehnquist. They didn’t know when to let go, and insisted that we witness their suffering.

Benny retires to a life of leisurely writing and thinking. At the age of 85, one shouldn’t anything more of him. He’s even too old to be a Wal-Mart Greeter. He won’t appear on “Dancing with the Stars”, “Keeping up with the Kardashians”, or “Jersey Shore”. The only remaining task to be fulfilled involves sitting and reflecting upon his life. The inevitable end to which the more fortunate among us must all draw near needn’t be a time of fear or regret. We must simply resign ourselves to the fact that we were fortunate enough to exist in this universe at all. The clock ticks down on all of us. Our bodies decay and soon the mind joins it. Benedict proved to be an exceptionally wise man in that he wished to drag as few people down with him as necessary. A prolific scholar, he’s hinted that he knows the ultimate truth: God is “sleeping”. God “sleeps” because he doesn’t exist. Ratzinger will deal with his own demise privately and with dignity. He was a stand-up guy all along. Do what you can for the world, then exit without burdening anyone else. Also, don’t plagiarize your doctoral thesis.

Time to convey the essential stats. As you already know, cardinals aged 80 and over are not eligible to vote. Thus, although 207 Cardinals will find themselves locked in St. Peter’s, only 117 are eligible as electors. 115 will participate in the process. That still leaves us with over 200 hundred candidates. Oh how I wish I could somehow conjure up enough time to handicap individual odds. Regrettably, I’ve been smitten by God’s Laws of time. Hence, we’ll have to take wagers according to regional contingents this time. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Let’s go.

1) The Italian/Wop Contingent (Winning Odds—0.5 to 1)

(28 Electors, 24 Percent of the Electorate)

Allow me to clarify to the point that it’s ABSOLUTELY CRYSTAL. The election of an Italian Pope is so likely that if you wish to bet on it, you’ll actually end of owing me money. If a non-Italian is elected I owe you double the bet. Venturing into uncharted territory here, but I’m confident. You can’t double up. (i.e., you can’t bet BOTH on an Italian Pope and a Pope from the Rest of the World (R.O.W.) ) Either you bet Italian or you bet something else. Are we clear?  

2) The European Contingent (Winning Odds 2 to 1)

(32 Electors, 28 Percent of the Electorate)

This qualifies as our UPSET SPECIAL. Do you think the Guineas are prepared to elect a third consecutive non-Italian Pope? Try your luck.

3) The North American Contingent (Winning Odds 4 to 1)

(20 Electors, 17 Percent of the Electorate)

Keep dreaming about your French Canadian Pope. Keep dreaming about it. It a’int happening, but bet on it regardless.

4) The South American Contingent (Winning Odds 2 to 1)

(13 Electors, 11 Percent of the Electorate)

If there’s any truth to the possibility that the church wishes to expand it’s reach, the Latins make for a legitimate Dark Horse. All bettors should nevertheless be cautioned that the Church wishes to forget Vatican II more than it wishes to be relevant.

5) The African Contingent (Winning Odds 4 to 1)

(11 Electors, 10 Percent of the Electorate)

Your friendly bookie and his unhealthy African obsession would like nothing more. White Smoke….Black Pope. The headline essentially writes itself. It’s still not happening, no matter what Ghanaian hype you’re prepared to buy into.

6) The Asiatic/Oceanic Contingent (Winning Odds 6 to 1)

(11 Electors, 9 Percent of the Electorate)

Orwell’s Oceania comprised North America and the British Isles. Later, mankind would deem the term more appropriate to Pacific Rim countries and Australia….to the point that J.J. Abrahams solidified matters with his “Oceania Air”. Useless bastard. We’re not getting an Asian Pope…if only for the reason that the new Pope’s genitals must be thoroughly inspected to ensure that he’s not a woman. End of story.

Thanks so much for reading. Everyone who isn't a baseball enthusiast now has permission to stop paying attention.

My Updated Stats

Spread: 8-19-2
Straight up: 16-11-2

Goddamn Dutch. I will have my revenge.

Japan vs. Netherlands

(Masahiro Tanaka vs. David Bergman)

Meulens ended up surprising a few with his pitching selection….then he ended up exhausting his options. This one won’t be pretty, and we’ll set a fitting line to prove it.

THE LINE: Japan +3 Runs

Italy vs. Dominican Republic

(Chris Cooper vs. Edison Volquez)

Hehehehehe. Speaking of exhausted options, the Italians are about spent. It shall prove sweet watching you Wopsters go down.

THE LINE: Dominican Republic +3 Runs

Puerto Rico vs. United States

(Giancarlo Alvarado vs. Gio Gonzalez)

Tough draw for our beloved country. Given the uneven performance of the boys thus far, the bookie has little choice but to pick a draw. That by no means suggests that the U.S. won’t make it to the semifinals. We can even lose another game and still remain in contention.

THE LINE: Pick em’


Sunday, March 10, 2013

WBC 2013--Round Five

Konnichiwa Syndicate Members,
WBC 2013

Blessings and peace be upon the Japs. That’s how one dismantles a bunch of Dutch pretenders! Arigato, my friends! Upon the completion of this syndicate, it looks to be a rather swamped “off-season” for your overburdened Shadow Scholar. He’ll literally have hundreds of pages of Retroactive Notes to write. Why even bother with such mundane endeavors? Looking back on what one has written affords one the invaluable opportunity to ruminate on what a know-nothing-jackass you’ve been. For the most part, such projects count as intriguing, amusing, and enjoyable. In other instances, they strike painful internal chords deep within one’s soul.

Nevertheless on must periodically throw a glance back at one’s insipidly disappointing self. Take what I scribed last night for example. After re-reading it, I’ve already encountered the breakthrough revelation that my body harbored at least twenty pounds of a piss/vinegar like bile. Sorry to spew it all over you. So it goes sometimes.

Well…it’s happened again. You innocently blinked and another two groups are complete. Perhaps more significantly, a date for the Papal Conclave has been chosen. Before getting you caught up on the twelve games played in Pool D, do allow me to reassure all syndicate members that WE WILL PRODUCE ODDS on the Papal ascension. The Cardinals are scheduled to convene on Tuesday. While the duration of such conclaves varied historically, the modern-day church will not allow for a prolonged embarrassment. It’s thus absolutely guaranteed that we will greet the new papa on the balcony no later than Wednesday evening. Theoretically the Cardinals can take as long as they like. The rules even specifically proscribe that every fourth day of the conclave should be reserved for prayer and rest.

Mark my words. White Smoke will waft out of the Basilica within 48 hours of the onset of the conclave. The aged cardinals won’t do anything more rapidly or expediently for the rest of their lives. St. Peter’s latest successor is due to arrive Wednesday evening, or afternoon if you’re currently residing in the States. That means….yawn…your friendly bookie has some odds to set. Embedded within one the next two installments, we’ll proudly present a very special edition of the syndicate: “Conclave 2013—Jesus on the Moneyline”. Yawn….though his Kingdom may never come, God’s Will must be done. For his is the kingdom, the power, and…er…the third part of the doxology. “The Glory”!! There we are. Fuck am I tried. C’mon vacation!

So, without further ado, Let’s get you caught up:

Pool C—Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan

Isn’t that cool? The Puerto Ricans actually rejected the proposal to name their beloved national stadium after a bank charging 16.5% interest rates on their credit card! Instead, they named this cozy little venue after the first Puerto Rican to play in the U.S. Major Leagues. I could tear up John-Boehner-style right about now. Sniff. Makes one miss old “Veterans Stadium” in Philadelphia. Taxpayers mostly financed the stadium, so they opted to name it after the war vets who paid said taxes. These days every professional sports stadium remains mostly financed by taxpayers, but banks are simply more important. Sorry everyone. That’s just the way it is.   

But I digress. The Dominicans wasted not a precious nanosecond. Yankee’s name-brand superstar Robinson Can combined with Nelson Cruz of Texas Rangers fame to drive in three runs in the Bottom of the First. Cano replicated his feat with another RBI in the next frame. Edwin Encarnacion lifted a Sac Fly for the 5-0 lead. After an unconvincing rally from the Venezuelans, Hanley Ramirez and Alessandro De Aza went ahead and put this one to bed. Even though he was likely unconscious, completely non-lucid, and breathing through a trachea tube, one may entertain the fantasy that this was the last ballgame Hugo Chavez ever witnessed.

The next day brought a surprisingly stolid performance from the Spaniards. After a disastrous First Inning, the unattached Sergio Perez recovered nicely to hurl a scoreless second. His performance appears to have inspired the rest of the Spanish Staff. Ricardo Salazar, Eric Gonzalez, and Ricardo Hernandez all combined to keep the feisty Puerto Ricans off the board for the remainder of the encounters. A Three-Run First would be it for the scoring. Spanish Pride kept matters under control.

Honestly, the Spanish didn’t do too badly on Saturday either. The Dominicans may have dominated the entire game, but they managed to engineer an exciting ninth-inning rally that featured plenty of bases-loaded payoff pitches. The while affair lasted nearly twenty minutes. Even the most hardened skeptics will have to concede that they thy almost believed in the Spanish for at least one of those minutes.

After that, the Puerto Ricans showed absolutely no mercy to the grieving Venezuelans. They responded to their positively flukish two earned runs in the Bottom of Third with their own unorthodox double-run play in the Top of the Fourth. One had the sense that, had Yadier Molina not been tagged out at the plate, the game would have been broken wide open. No matter. Angel Magan capped a skillful bit of diamond moving with a fifth inning RBI to claim the lead. Luis Figueroa followed up Mike Aviles’s Sac Fly with a two-run double. The game was over then, even after some Bottom of the Ninth teasing by Chavez’s Chaps.

The Venezuelans certainly earned their consolation prize when they finally delivered the whipping we all expected the Spanish would receive. 11-6 was the final score this afternoon. It all came to an end this evening, with the Dominicans stringing out a methodical victory against the already qualified Puerto Ricans.

Your final standings, along with the future implications for 2017 read as follows.

1) Dominican Republic (qualifies for quarterfinals and 2017 WBC)

2) Puerto Rico (qualifies for quarterfinals and 2017 WBC)

3) Venezuela (eliminated, yet qualifies for 2017 WBC)

4) Spain (eliminated, must still qualify for 2017 WBC) 
Pool D—Chase Field, Phoenix and Salt River, Scottsdale

Six eminently entertaining games took place under the Arizona Sun. The Wops won in dramatic fashion in Thursday evening’s group opener. South Carolina’s own John Mariotti took the mound for the “team of misguided American males who wish to play identity politics”. He was thoroughly pummeled and I was happy. Nothing like watching a dumb Wop fail. The Spicks responded to a two-run Italian First by putting up three in their half of the frame. They added a cushion one inning later.

 Illinois native and Minnesota catching prospect Drew Butera pulled the Dagos even with a spectacular two-run homer in fourth, but the Wetbacks once again proved resilient, restoring the lead thanks to a clutch 2-out-RBI from Ramiro Pena in 5th. Then came the dreaded Top of the Ninth, when potential future Cubs First Baseman Anthony Rizzo doubled to deep left, scoring two other American born Guineas for the late lead. Fuck me. I hadn’t been that frustrated by a last-minute decision since Ratzinger emerged from the behind the white smoke back in 2005. Grrr…I’ll get my money back, Wops. Just you wait.

Matters got even more discouraging the next afternoon when this Motley Crew of self-centered bastards walloped the Canadians 14-4 in a slugfest cut short by WBC Mercy Rules. Chris Colabello…of Framingham, Massachusetts…drove in three with a first inning homer. Colabello would go on to go 4-for-5 in this disconcerting rout. Rizzo, Liddi, Costanzo, Punto, Denorfia, Butero, and…fuck it…practically the entire starting lineup drove in more runs until a five-run eighth brought this debacle to the “Slaughter Rule”. Ugh. Enjoy it while it lasts, you greasy mopes.

Finally…it was time for the U.S. to debut. Surely they could wash the unfortunate taste of Prideful Pasta out of our mouths!?!? Christ did we ever flop. Nearly 45,000 U.S. fans filed into the stands at Chase Field hoping to watch a ballgame. Hopefully they at least got a chance to take in the purportedly unrivalled sightlines in the Diamondback Lair….for there wasn’t any ballgame to be witnessed. In spite of some uncharacteristically solid leadoff work from J-Roll, no one could bring him home. Brandon Phillips went 0-for-4. The entire bottom third of the order failed to register a hit….this, mind you, was WITH a DH. We stranded eight runners and went a woeful 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. R.A. Dickey’s lousy initial four didn’t help either. Ugh. 

Over 44,000 disappointed fans wouldn’t be burned twice. Subsequent attendance numbers for U.S. Games read 19,303 and 22,425 respectively. Our boys would atone for their belly flop on Saturday evening. First we were treated to a ludicrously fucked up match during which the Canadians somehow managed to spank the Mexicans 10-3. Seriously. WHAT? What the Maple-Syrup-snorting fuck happened here? I remain remiss. Evidently Justin Morneau really is all that. He drove in three runs. Michael Saunders added FIVE. The two major league jewels of Canadian baseball really came through. Wow. I’m prepared to retract every last snarky comment I’ve made about Canadian Baseball up to this point. A splendid performance.

Redemption for Uncle Sam arrived in a fitting fashion. The Italians jumped out to an early lead as Ryan Vogelsong overcame some big stage jitters. Respective reasons for those first two tallies included a wild pitch and cutter that somehow came in like an off-speed pitch. The U.S. Finally got on the board in the Top of the 4th, when Joe Mauer elected to show up and pull an ultra-sweet double to left. It proved enough to wave around Ryan Braun all the way from first. Beautiful. There existed life in us yet.

Of course, the real fireworks came in the fifth. Brandon Phillips produced a “Texas Leaker”. Some ambitious base running by Adam Jones led to the wave around. He scored comfortably after the relay was cut off. We were all tied up, thanks to hustle and smart third base coaching. Hell Yes. A team can manufacture runs….or they can just hit it out of the park. Two batters later, the bags were all loaded up for New York Mets Third Baseman David Wright. Damned if he didn’t smack a 1-2 changeup all the way to the center left bleachers for a spectacular Grand Slam.

Oh it was gorgeous. The play-by-play announcers went nuts. The crowd went far beyond “Girls Gone Wild”. The flags flew. The songs started. What a wonderful moment to be an American. The “Real” American Spirit triumphed over Italian-American hubris. My eyes welled up. You should have been there. All of you should have been there. At least 20,000 more fans should have been there.

In hindsight, we shouldn’t have been surprised that Wright came through. He’s got a .348 lifetime RISP Average. If you don’t know what that means….well…you’re not a “Real” American. Hell with you. Following the Fifth Inning theatrics, Torre made all the right moves. There’s so many good reasons that he was the only one who could have presided over that Yankee Dynasty. Ross Detwiler closed us out with four innings of scoreless ball. Great defensive effort from all the boys on the field too. 

There remains but one game to discuss, and that one took place this afternoon. We rolled on past the upstart Canadians in convincing fashion. Once again we fell behind early. Matt Saunders roped a dinger off of Derek Holland to make us reach for our antacids. Thankfully, we tied matters up with two fourth inning runs too complicated to explain. We fell behind again, but Adam Jones delivered an equalizer once more. Then Shane Victorino AT LAST opted to join the party. To put matters beyond any doubt, we put up three in the eighth and four in the ninth. Gentlemen, I do believe we’re on the march. Stay tuned.

Your final standings, along with the future implications for 2017 read as follows.

1) USA (qualifies for quarterfinals and 2017 WBC)

2) Italy (qualifies for quarterfinals and 2017 WBC)

3) Canada (eliminated, yet qualifies for 2017 WBC)

4) Mexico (eliminated, must still qualify for 2017 WBC) 

Yes…it’s finally that time. Let’s rock the line for tomorrow’s game.

My Updated Stats

Spread: 8-18-2
Straight up: 16-10-2

Hittin’ off the fairway, headed back towards a .500 spread record for the first time in years. 

Cuba vs. Netherlands

(Yadier Pedroso vs. Shairon Martis)

We have our first rematch! The Dutch upset the Cubans 6-2 a mere three days ago. All signs point to a poignant Cuban response. It cannot be ignored, however, that Holland Manager Hensley Meulens has carefully (some might say ingeniously) conformed to the rules of the classic and rested his ace accordingly. With Martis on the mound, anything’s possible. I invite you to ponder that when faced with this low line.

THE LINE: Cuba +2 Runs