Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jackie Robinson Day

April  15th 2011
On April 15th, Major League Baseball honored the accomplishments of Jackie Robinson. Every Major League Baseball Player wore number 42 in his honor. Many well produced documentaries were heard and seen throughout the country, all doing justice to a great man. I’m not a professional writer and I’m certainly not an authority on Mr. Robinson’s life. I may not be able to fully explain what Jackie Robinson must have felt or experienced or even what his accomplishments mean to me. However, I do have an understanding. An understanding validated from my own experiences of segregation, back entrances to doctors, restaurants even refused services and housing. As some of us have shared in a fraction of what Jackie endured, we now enjoy the fruits of his labor.
During this celebration, we acknowledge and worship the significance of this event in baseball history that changed the face of sports and influenced the attitudes of change in America. The signing of Jackie Robinson, an African American, to contract to play professional baseball in the Major League was a surprisingly bold move. This was significant because Jackie would be the first African American to play in a league that was reserved for white players at that point in history. The signing of Jackie represented the beginning of an end to an era that tolerated injustice, social and cultural bigotry. He also represented the beginning of a new era where diversity and equality is not a gift, compromise or sacrifice but a right given to all men embedded in the foundation of this country. Although the signing of Jackie did not mean the end of what was wrong with baseball or society, it did represent the willingness of people to acknowledge a great injustice and a desire for change.
Acknowledging that playing in the Major Leagues is a great honor, we celebrate and salute Mr. Robinson for his sacrifice, patients, wisdom, courage and strength. It was his bold and courageous efforts that enabled people of color to participate in the great American pastime, baseball. Let’s not be misguided in thinking that the signing of Jackie Robinson was solely to give African Americans an equal opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. They were other economic, political and social benefits that motivated such a bold move which was nothing more than an experiment at the time, an experiment requiring a special person such as Jackie Robinson to be successful, to accomplish the vision. This experiment proved to be more than showing the ability of a Black man to compete in a hustle environment. It would change the face of sports and lead to the restructuring of a protected culture.
The signing of Jackie Robinson revealed that opportunity brings change and change is not always welcomed but necessary. Change brings suffering, compromise and tolerance. America is the land of opportunity when opportunity is given.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Baseball's Great Debates

Baseball’s Great Debates
Baseball is a fascinating game sparking interest of many people some played the game and others are just fans.  For as many that enjoy the game, there are just as many who think the game is too slow.  The concept of the game is unlike many other team sports. Out of the three major team sports in America, baseball is the only one where the defense controls the ball and the tempo of the game. Although a baseball game is divided into segments called innings, basketball and football divided into timed quarters and halves, time is not assigned to any inning. Because of these differences and many others, and the fact that baseball is played nearly every day, there is always something to debate, analyze and criticize. The debate between baseball fans and non fans centers on baseball being the ultimate team sport. This is a question that can never be answered to satisfaction therefore the debate will continue. Baseball is a team sport that depends heavily on the skills, both offensive and defensive, of the individual players. It is more difficult for a single player to dominate a game because the opportunities to impact the game are distributed equally among the nine players offensive and defensive. Every player shares the burden of the outcome.
Other interesting debates occur between the fans of the game as well as between baseball people, the one who play and manage the game and let’s not forget the game TV and radio analyst. No matter who is involved in the debate or conversation the questions discussed are the same; which is the best team? Does the best team always win? Who is the best player? What is the most important offensive stat?  What’s the most important stat for a leadoff hitter? Who is the best pitcher? What’s the most important pitching stat? Who is the best manager? While these questions can never be answered with absolute certainty, they do test your knowledge and insight toward the game.
The best team is not always determined by the more gifted athletes on the field. The ability to make quick decisions, adjustments and execute a desired task with consistency usually reveals the best team. The best team is established on day to day bases. The best team always wins.
The argument of who is the best player can go on for hours because opinions are usually based on tangible numbers but for this debated, other things should be considered; decision making, value of each hit, run, homerun, stolen base, strikeout or defensive play. Generally speaking, as most offensive stats mean little by themselves in a team concept, run production is the true value of an offensive player.
It’s long been stated that good pitching will always beat good hitting. In my opinion, this is not altogether true. What they are really saying is that a good pitching will beat the best hitting a particular team has to offer on a given day. Besides, only two or three hitters on a team will be considered good all-star caliber hitters. In other word, it is my belief that a team of good hitters has just as much of chance of beating a good pitcher on any given day. To my knowledge, no pitcher, all-star or Hall of Famer, has gone undefeated. Because hitting is so difficult, good pitching will always beat good hitting is a safe statement to make.
Debating players is all about stats. Stats that is understandable to the most casual of fans. This brings us to the discussion of managers. Managers are rated on one tangible number, victories, season or championships. My argument is that victories are not a true measure of a manager. Stats are the orchestrators of many baseball debates. As these stats are important and serve a valuable purpose, era, hits, strikeouts, stole bases, victories, etc only give part of the equation to generate an energetic if not valid argument.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Defined by your past

Defined By Your Past
Spring training has ended and the 2011 season has officially begun. Every team has the same goal to be better. In doing so, every team most contend with its past, its history, some of recent years and others can go back for decades. The pressures of past successes, the agony of past failures and the perceptions of questionable character are the driving forces out of spring training. Teams with unflattering past, regardless of the circumstances, are focused on getting their players and fans to replace past perceptions of passionless quitters with the perception of excitement in the promise of a new season and bright future.
History is a collection of events that occurred in past days, months or years. Our futures are influenced by events which happened in the past regardless of the nature, positive or negative. We tend to hold on and cherish anything in our past that is fairly positive and build upon it. On that part of our past, motivation comes easy and for the most part we can cope with turmoil with a fair amount of ease.
However, when your past is filled with an assortment of failures, disappointments, unfulfilled goals and negative perceptions, most of our lives and careers are concerned with trying to get back on track. Hours and days are spent just trying to catch up putting things back in order, prioritizing. Most of us have misfortunes in our past and dealing with that misfortune is not always as easy as forgetting about it. When other are involved, it is considerably more difficult.
Because a team must deal with its past as a group, it is always more difficult to live up to or overcome its past. Each member of the team has his own issues as well as the team’s issues and each member handles his past in a different way. There is no question that the team’s past effects the members and the fans. Fans are a big part of any sports organization and constantly reminds the team of its flawed past increasing the pressure on the players and team to make a change. A team’s greatest task is overcoming the negative label placed on it by its past.
One of the most common mistakes made and phrases used is: “We are going to forget about the past.” Besides being virtually impossible to do, it’s never a good idea to forget your past. Denying your past won’t make it go away. It is our past that motivates us to continue the course or change. You can’t change your past. You can only influence the perception of the present and future. Acknowledging and understanding your past, helps you achieve that positive image every team and player desires. Teams are defined by their past.