Whining some more … for the last time

I get fan mail. And I-am-not-a-fan mail. Recently, I’ve been getting more of the latter. From reading my e-mail and the letters that come in, I’ve come to the understanding that I’m perceived as a whiner. I guess when you’re a big-name pitcher, you’re not allowed to be unhappy about anything.

I think this is more about the illusions of the average fan than it is about the reality of my life. Fame doesn’t bring happiness. If J. Random Fan has car trouble or marital trouble or whatever, it’s perfectly okay to voice that to neighbors, co-workers and other acquaintances. When something comes up in my life or crosses my mind, I have every right to speak up as well. This doesn’t make me a whiner.

Recently what’s on my mind is that this is the final season of EPL. It’s everyone’s last hurrah, but the league seems split between those who are going through the motions and those who want to go out on top. I’m not naming names–these people know who they are and it shouldn’t take a lot of work for the average fan to figure out which guys are which. I will say, for the record, that I’m doing my damnedest to bring the championship to the Threshers. There are a couple slackers on our team, but for the most part, everyone is united in the big push.

And that brings me to the close. This will probably be the last thing I write as a player in the EPL. So i want to quick thank a bunch of people. Achilles–my first GM whom I owe more than I can repay. Thunder Johnson–we had some good times together as competitors and teammates. Kaell–it’s a privilege to share a clubhouse with you. Night, Annis-Brown, Uzi–Hypnophobia was fun times. Priebe–called my first no-no. Wrangler–who called the perfecto. There are many, many others.

And I’d like to thank the fans. Without you, there is no market for my pitching. Especially those of you who are coming out to the ballpark to see us all one last time. You’re why we do it. Even us whiners appreciate your support.

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Allowances

The buck stops here. But maybe sometimes I want it to land somewhere else.

Hits, runs, wins and losses, they are all charged to the pitcher. And every fifth day, that pitcher is me. It is what it is and I don’t want to change it. Overall, I’m happy with the arrangement. You have to suck up the bad to bask in the good.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or fun. Or, in the strictest sense, fair. Because, like I said before teams win games or lose them. By their positioning, the fielders help determine what’s a hit and what’s an out. And strictly speaking the only thing I, as a pitcher have complete control over are walks and home runs.

And hit by pitches but I never try to hit anyone. That’s sloppy. Sure, I’ll pitch a guy inside. It’s part of the whole pitching role. But I’m not about to give a guy a base in return for dissing us.

So when they say a pitcher “allowed” so many hits or so many runs, the truth is, the team did. And most of the time that doesn’t bother me. But when I lose by the margin of unearned runs and read on the ‘net that I “allowed” them, I feel singled out. Because, I don’t take a turn at the plate (thank God) and the only thing I can do is keep them off the board. Unearned runs are almost always due to a lapse on the part of someone other than me. (That’s another rant for another time….if I make the error any runs involved should be earned.) So I pitch my heart out, but feel helpless as we try to recover. And then I fire up the computer and read that *I* allowed the situation. It just doesn’t feel fair.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m blaming my fielders. Stuff happens. Errors happen, sometimes followed by opponents’ RBIs. But when I come home and read that it’s somehow my fault … that’s where my issue is at.

We have some great gloves on this team. I want to give them props. Both the starters and the bench guys can usually be counted on to perform on both sides of the game. I mean, most plays are routine and those tend to be made like clockwork. And we’ve had our share of spectacular plays, too.

But the numbers fall to me as leader of the defense. Some days, I want to be a follower rather than a leader.

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The depth of I don’t care

When you’re on a team, you have responsibilities to your teammates. As a pitcher, my areas of responsibility are defined by my role. Without a bat, I can’t drive in the runner on third. Nor am I expected to run to deep center field, climb the wall, and rob the opposition of a home run. I do get to make pitch selections. It is also my job to keep the baserunners’ leads short. But it doesn’t stop there. Sometimes, I need to pitch a guy inside.

There are a lot of euphemisms for it. “Chin music” etc. but the important thing is, if someone in the other dugout shows us up, it’s my job to remind him that we can defend ourselves.

Why am I talking about this all now? Because of the new book out about EJ. I was asked for my opinion of the incident where he took out Jeremiah Taylor. And I’m on record, forever, as saying, “As a pitcher, I don’t care.” That little snippet was taken out of context and it makes me look like, well, I’m not sure what it makes me look like. And I do care what I look like.

If someone had done that to one of my catchers, I’d take care of him. It’s part of my job, remember. Pick the pitches, hold the runners and throw inside. But it didn’t happen to my catcher. It happened to someone else’s catcher. It is not my place to get involved.

“But Ryan, he’s on your team…” So? I haven’t run the bases in a long long time, so I can’t really speak to how I’d react if the catcher had me dead-to-rights. He scored the run. Were I on the mound, I might have some positive things to say about plating a run, but I wasn’t involved. I don’t really have an opinion.

As for my personal opinion of EJ, I think he’s a very hard-nosed player. I don’t think he was looking for trouble but he saw a chance to make a name for himself and he took it. He did something that very few people have been able to accomplish. He made JT drop the ball. Taking JT out of the lineup for a couple months was the icing on the cake. And I wouldn’t be surprised if EJ smiles every time he thinks about that moment.

As for me, I don’t really care.

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Quantifying the Incalculable

I have had enough. No, more than enough. I just finished up a Player of the Game interview and McTaggart from the Power Hour also asked me some questions.

For the last time and for the record. Some People think that rewards shouldn’t just go to winners, but to also-rans as well. As a starting pitcher, this impacts me in the area of “quality starts”. Now, I’ve talked about this before, but not when my quality start percentage was maxed. People think the answer will change when I’m sitting on a .500 record with an ERA just over 2.

This wouldn’t be so bad if Martin hadn’t mentioned my “quality starts” before the game. He and I have discussed this and I thought he understood me.

This is a team game. Sure, the W’s and L’s need to be assigned to someone. That someone is a pitcher and there is a formula. In baseball, everything is counted and there are formulas to figure the things that can’t be easily seen. Like ERA. Runs times nine divided by innings pitched.

There is also a formula for quality starts. Because you can’t measure “try”, you have to look at runs and innings and stuff. The point is, that some agent somewhere came up with the idea of quality starts to line his pocket. He wanted his clients to be rewarded with a cash bonus on the days they achieved mediocrity on the mound.

The truth is, if you pitch borderline so-called “quality” starts, you will not only have a fat ERA but you will also be in line for a role in middle relief.

I understand why people are enamored of the statistic though. It serves as a means of indicting the offense rather than the pitcher for a team loss. These people who want to acquit the pitcher of the responsibility really bother me. Because the truth is, a pitcher’s job is to keep the opposing team off the board.

I’m not going to pretend that all pitchers are equal or that even the greatest pitchers never give up a run or two. But if the team doesn’t win, it doesn’t win. At the end of the game and at the end of the day, *that* is what matters. Not how hard the pitcher tried, but how well the team succeeded.

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By the grace of gods

I am amazed. I’ll be sharing a clubhouse with Kaell Elessedil. Yes, *that* Kaell. The Immortal. My idol.

I was part of the welcoming delegation when he was signed. As soon as I heard the rumor, I pressured Martin into letting me be a part of history.

It’s a funny thing about idols. It turns out that he’s a regular guy. That what made him this mythic figure was me. My thoughts, my admiration. Oh, I don’t mean he isn’t good or won’t be a HOFer someday. Or that I coined the moniker “Immortal”. What I’m trying to express is that I had this concept in my head. Of what the ideal pitcher was like, and I attached it to Kaell.

So now we’ll be teammates and I’ll get to watch his work every fifth day. And I’ll get to show off for him too. I am excited, honored, humbled and, most of all, amazed.

***

Why I extended. This happened before Kaell even declared as a FA, so he’s not the reason. What it is, is I’m tired of running around like a tramp. I want some amount of stability. Not constriction….I want to keep all avenues open. But I moved twice last year. While the teams involved tried to make it as smooth as possible, they say two moves is like a fire. There is stress involved and you can’t really escape it.

Also, I think Martin is underrated sometimes as a manager. It’s not that he gets no credit or anything, but everyone always talks about Las Vegas. And people seem to forget the cesspit that the Threshers were when he took over.

Furthermore, there is an offense here. I don’t mean to question any of the other teams I’ve pitched for, but here I expect to get W’s.

Last, but most important. This is an awesome clubhouse. There’s no hostility or enmity amongst the players. I hesitate to use the word “family” because that has become a cliche. But we are close.-knit. We get along with each other and we back each other on and off the field.

They call Philadelphia the City of Brotherly Love and that’s fitting.

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K, K and K and Kaell

There are several kinds of K. One is “degrees Kelvin” and is the temperature in Celsius degrees that something measures above absolute zero. Another is the metric prefix for 1,000. I think most people here in the US see it on their electric bills. KWH. Kilowatt-hours. In Canada it comes around in kilometers and kilograms, too. And I guess people who deal in drugs and pharmaceuticals might recognize the kilo.

In baseball, a K is a strikeout. It’s the magic strike three, looking or swinging. The batter may have stood there, transfixed, as the ball came to the plate, across it, and into the catcher’s mitt. Or he may have swung early or late at a pitch that could have been anywhere but where his bat arced. On rare occasions, it’s a little bunt that rolls foul and has the batter cursing himself, the batmaker and everyone’s mothers.

I have four thousand strikeouts. Four K of K. That number sounds impressive. Like maybe no one ever does it. Except they do. I’m the fifth man to accomplish the feat in the history of the league. And those other four, none of them are Kaell.

He’s become reclusive and hard to catch of late. Sure he takes his turn in the rotation but I haven’t seen him do an interview in ages. There are rumors. If you pay attention to that kind of thing, you already know. And if you don’t pay attention to that kind of thing, you’re probably not interested anyway. But it’s kinda sad, perhaps even the word “tragic” would applly. Kaell was once an outgoing member of the EPL community. Now, it’s like he’s a ghost of who he used to be.

He can still shut me out though. It happened again a couple weeks ago. It rekindles my fire to out-pitch him. Next time, it’s my turn to pitch the three-hitter and his turn to let up three runs.

So K-Kelvin, K-Kilo, K-strikeout and K-Kaell.

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