Off Base's Buffalo bureau chief was driving around his fine city the other day when he noticed this sign on a strip joint: "WE HAVE THE MLB PACKAGE." "Wow," he thought, "are their dames so bad that they're advertising games on TV?"
That's funny, but Off Base prefers to think of it the other way around: Baseball is so compelling that even the strip bars feel the need to show the games. So, let others moan about whether baseball should investigate Jason Giambi (what purpose could it possibly serve?) or bitch about the commissioner's possibly not showing up for No. 756 (since when has anyone wanted him around anyway?), fans have so many better things to do in the upcoming Summer of Glove.
In the Summer of Glove, we will get Buhner Buzz Cuts, crank up the grunge, wear old flannel (well, old flannel jerseys) and turn back the clock to the '90s to welcome Ken Griffey Jr. back to Seattle for the first time since he was considered the best player in the game and our only worry was whether the Y2K bug would end civilization before he had a chance to lead the Mariners to the World Series. (And while we're back in time, we will also see if we can exchange our Microsoft shares for Starbucks).
In the Summer of Glove we will wear cheese wedges on our heads while tailgating in Milwaukee, stuffing ourselves with so much bratwurst and beer that they ask us to run in the sausage race ...without the need of a costume. We'll then go inside for more bratwursts, which we'll slobber with stadium mustard while lathering our affection on the Brewers as they fight for their first postseason since before Joanie loved Chachi.
In the Summer of Glove, we will spell all our names with a K, rub our babe's nose for luck and ask our employers to let us work from home so that we never miss a Roger Clemens start.
In the Summer of Glove, we will rent kayaks and float around McCovey Cove with enough gloves and nets that we'll look like we're fishing for a great white shark instead of a little white pearl. And when that piece of history drops into our hands, we will sell it to the highest bidder so we can buy a yacht.
In the Summer of Glove, we will avoid high ticket prices and sneak past stadium guards by crawling along the ground like minor league manager Phil Wellman. We will find a seat and order peanuts from a vendor, who will deposit them in our laps from 20 rows away, as if he were a commando lobbing a grenade into a pillbox, or Wellman tossing a rosin bag to the umpire. And when we leave the stadium, we will, like Wellman, literally kiss it goodbye.
In the Summer of Glove, we will visit in America's most beautiful national park and wait for Old Faithful to go off promptly after every five-game Cubs losing streak or bonehead baserunning blunder. And each time we will salute Lou Piniella with an Old Style.
In the Summer of Glove, we will honor Cal Ripken Jr. by listening to 2,632 consecutive games on our XM radio as we drive to Cooperstown for his induction.
In the Summer of Glove, we will take the No. 7 train to Shea Stadium to honor Tom Glavine on his 300th win and Julio Franco on his 49th birthday by toasting them with a vintage beverage -- a flat, warm beer from a Shea vendor.
In the Summer of Glove, we will cram into the St. Paul Saints' Midway Stadium to buy snow cones and red ropes for the best promotion this side of quarter beer night, "Bad News Bears Night" presented by Goldberg Bail Bonds.
In the Summer of Glove, we will wear rally caps at the College World Series, invade Houston in Killer B costumes when Craig Biggio approaches 3,000 hits, eat fish tacos while watching Jake Peavy deal, get ejected with Bobby Cox, listen to the words and wisdom of Ozzie Guillen, read Curt Schilling's blog, not care where A-Rod goes after the game and stay until the final out of the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium just in case they hit four home runs in a row again.
In other words, we've got one full schedule for the summer. Heck, we still need to get to the Metrodome for the Atlanta-Minnesota rematch of the greatest World Series ever played. Rumor has it, Jack Morris is heading back to the mound for another inning.
BOX SCORE LINE OF THE WEEK
It was a bad week for Tampa Bay reliever Tim Corcoran. In a 12-11 loss to the Blue Jays last week, he threw 16 pitches, 14 out of the strike zone, and walked in the winning run with this line:
0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 0 K
That line would be impressive enough, but three nights later he faced five batters and walked four for this line:
1/3 IP, 0 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 0 K
If you're scoring at home -- that's seven walks in eight batters. No wonder the Devil Rays optioned him to AAA.
There was another interesting line in that last box score, too: Wilson ph, p
How did that happen? Tampa third baseman Josh Wilson pinch-hit for reliever Chad Orvella, then replaced him as the pitcher and threw a scoreless inning in the Devil Rays' 14-8 loss to the Marlins. When was the last time an American Leaguer pinch-hit and pitched in the same game?
Still, this week's award goes to Detroit starter Justin Verlander for his line from Tuesday night's no-hitter. His line:
9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 12 K
TELL YOUR STATISTICS TO SHUT UP
Does this happen to any other team? The Cubs failed to score on a single with a runner on third base Sunday. Consider that a follow-up to the game earlier this season when they had a baserunner thrown out at second trying to steal second base on a walk. Is it any wonder how they're seven games under .500 despite outscoring opponents by 25 runs? That said, Chicago is only 5½ games back and definitely still has a chance to win the awful NL Central.
As part of its summer filmfest, Off Base watched the original "Bad News Bears" for the first time in years over the weekend and had these thoughts:
1. In the final game, you see parents leaving the stands when the Bears are down by three runs with two out, nobody on and Ogilvie batting in the last inning. What, are they trying to beat the traffic from a Little League game? Couldn't they wait one more out? And if they're leaving early, how are their kids supposed to get home? Frankly, this is even worse parenting than when they watch Roy Turner beat his kid on the mound and then let him go on managing as if he did nothing wrong.
2. No one ever hustles. Shot after shot shows the players from all teams jogging easily around the bases. The only exception is Kelly Leak running home to try to score the tying run in the final game.
3. Engleberg is a terrible catcher. It's not just that he starts off the season incapable of catching anything. He ends the season that way, as well. Thank God Amanda doesn't throw a knuckleball.
4. Is Buttermaker a good manager? I don't know. He's clearly a brilliant general manager, picking up the league's best pitcher, Amanda, in exchange for ballet lessons, and its best player, Kelly, for nothing at all (even Billy Beane would have had to give up Milton Bradley), but his managing is a little questionable. For one thing, he throws beer at Amanda and chases her away in tears the night before she pitches the championship game (not smart) and also pisses off Kelly so much he tries to quit minutes before the big game. And did it never occur to Buttermaker that perhaps Kelly would make a better reliever than Rudi Stein when Amanda's arm start aching? For that matter, why was he even having an 11-year-old throw curveballs?
5. Talk about typecasting -- Jackie Earle Haley, who plays Kelly, hits on Amanda in "BNB" and was still trying to pick up preteens 30 years later in his Oscar-nominated comeback role in "Little Children" last year. Haley, by the way, appeared in two of the great sports movie ever made, "BNB" and "Breaking Away."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is at jimcaple.net, with more installments of "24 College Avenue." His new book with Steve Buckley, "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans" is on sale now.