The Scott Sizemore era in Oakland ends with a whimper

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Scott Sizemore’s injury-riddled stay with the A’s ended on Friday when he cleared waivers and elected free agency. Get well soon pal.

Well, news broke today that Scott Sizemore cleared waivers and elected free agency so there goes my longshot prediction that he might end up as the right-handed half of a second base platoon with Eric Sogard.

What can I say? I was a Sizemore fan and I saw more upside in a healthy Sizemore over Oakland‘s other options as a complement to Sogard. I was wrong, but I’ve gotten used to it over the years.  Feel free to label me a bad A’s fan because Sizemore’s journey through waivers totally escaped my attention. It’s almost like I’m a busy dad of two instead of a full-time baseball blogger. Oh wait, I am a busy dad and it’s a minor miracle that I spend as much time as I do blogging about baseball.

Best of luck to the snakebitten Sizemore as he moves on with his career. He makes Eric Chavez‘s last few years with the A’s look like a perfectly healthy walk in the park. If anyone’s due for a run of good luck and a return to full health, it’s Sizemore.  As long as we’re talking about Sizemores, it’d be nice if Grady Sizemore finally got healthy too.  But back to Scott Sizemore and the A’s …

Call me crazy, but I think the Anaheim Angels would have been better off taking a buy-low gamble on Sizemore at third base and dealing Peter Bourjos for much-needed pitching. But Anaheim’s front office decided to trade Bourjos for St. Louis’ David Freese. Sizemore’s a little younger and the last time he was healthy he was good for a 1.2 WAR with Oakland in 2011 compared to the -0.3 WAR Freese posted last season for the Cardinals. But if the Angels want to continue to ignore pitching while loading up on batters slowly entering the downside of their career, far be it for me to complain.

So at this point it looks like recently signed Nick Punto is poised to fill the more predictable role as Sogard’s platoon partner at second base for the A’s. And now that Sizemore is out of the picture, Alberto Callaspo may have a better opportunity to hang around toward the end of Oakland’s bench. If you believe that the A’s would try Callaspo out at first base then I can definitely see a role for him as a super sub/pinch hitter which could actually be pretty handy to have around.

A heaping helping of Triple A playing time would probably do a lot more for Nate Freiman's development than another year on the short end of a first base platoon in Oakland.

A heaping helping of Triple A playing time would probably do a lot more for Nate Freiman‘s development than another year on the short end of a first base platoon in Oakland.

Nate Freiman arguably did a decent job last year as the right-handed half of Oakland’s first base platoon with Brandon Moss, especially considering the fact that he was making a big jump from Double A as a Rule 5 pick forced into extremely limited playing time. Freiman could use everyday at bats in Sacramento to advance his development and Callaspo’s .270/.350/.409 mark with Oakland in 2013 is right on par with the .274/.327/.389 line Freiman posted. If the A’s could win with Freimanesque offense at first base against left-handed starting pitchers in 2013 they could probably handle it out of Callaspo in 2014.

The advantage of going with Callaspo over Freiman, which is purely my bored-with-the-offseason speculation, is that he’s better suited to deliver as a pinch hitter in between infrequent starts and he offers a lot more versatility off the bench as a switch hitter who can handle almost every infield position. Sure, Callaspo can’t play third or second base very well but Freiman can’t play them at all so Oakland comes out ahead in that exchange.  That’s a nifty little weapon for manager Bob Melvin to have in his arsenal late in a ballgame.

If versatility is the name of the game in Oakland then Callaspo has an inside track over Freiman to nail down a spot on the bench as a utility guy holding down the short end of a first base platoon with Moss.

As much an anything else, the interesting angle to Sizemore and the A’s parting ways is that it opens up another spot on Oakland’s 40-man roster. With just 38 of 40 spots filled, general manager Billy Beane has a little more wiggle room to add players via free agency, trade or the Rule 5 draft without moving anyone else the A’s value through the waiver process. It’s a deliberate move by the front office and it’ll be interesting to see what Oakland does with the roster spots as the offseason rolls along.

My money is still on a starting pitcher and a reliever eventually coming to town but it could take a little while for that to unfold as the market slowly evolves over the next month or so.

So best of luck to Scott Sizemore. Put that green and gold injury bug in the rear view mirror and get your career back on track. In an offseason where buying low is the savvy move, Sizemore has a chance to make some general manager out there look very smart if he can just get healthy again.

Dead Celebrity Friday: Bo Diaz

An occasional tribute to a totally random gone but not forgotten — at least not on Fridays — star.

Bo Diaz, catcher. Died on Nov. 23, 1990 when he was crushed by a satellite dish at the age of 37.

Diaz had a great season with the Phillies in 1982 when he posted a 3.6 WAR.

Diaz had a great season with the Phillies in 1982 when he posted a 3.6 WAR. (And yes, I know this is a 1985 card but I have a cold and don’t feel like scouring the Internet for a photo of an ’82 Diaz card right this minute)

It’s been a long time since I cranked out a Dead Celebrity Friday post so I thought I’d dust the feature off and start it up again. That led me over to BrainyHistory.com to browse their list of notable people who died around now and non-celebrity Bo Diaz caught my eye.

I guess I could have gone with Larry Hagman (loved ya in “I Dream of Jeanie“) or Roald Dahl (my daughter loves the movie “Matilda”) or Junior Walker (“Shotgun” is a great tune) for today. If I wanted a bigger baseball name I could have gone with “Hack” Wilson. They all died around now too, but Diaz caught my eye because I wanted to know more about Bo.

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Knee-jerk reaction: The A’s lose the Tim Hudson sweepstakes

Damn, I wanted to see Tim Hudson in green and gold again.

Damn, I wanted to see Tim Hudson in green and gold again.

There are special moments for thoughtful reflection about new developments with the Oakland A’s … and then there are moments like these where I only have time for a quick post.

As a die-hard A’s fan this hurt:

But this was pure agony:

So there you have it, one of my all-time favorite A’s is taking his beautiful bald dome, cool looking stinger and gritty, groundball-inducing nastiness across the bay to make a run at a World Series title in orange and black with Oakland’s local rival.

From a totally objective baseball standpoint, it’s a solid move for the Giants and Hudson. $23 million for a good veteran starting pitcher is perfectly reasonable for a filthy-rich team in win-now mode like the Giants. And it’s a sensible decision by Hudson to go with a team he thinks is on the verge of being a World Series contender again. He’s familiar with the Bay Area, the Giants play in a gorgeous pitcher’s ballpark in front of big crowds and he knows the team’s owners will shell out the money to win.

If you read “Aces” by Mychael Urban, you know Hudson was none too happy with the A’s owners always opting to sit on their wallet instead of shelling out enough cash to keep those great Oakland teams together and really make a run at a championship.  Nothing’s really changed since Hudson was traded from Oakland to Atlanta in 2004.

I’m sure Hudson’s relationship with A’s general manager Billy Beane, sentimental feelings for playing in Oakland and the fact that his former franchise is a very strong playoff contender kept the A’s in the picture until the end. But in the end, I don’t think it was a very hard decision for Hudson to go to San Francisco.

In my head, it’s A-OK that Huddy’s heading across the bay. If I was Hudson, that’s where I’d go too and it’s arguably a no-brainer. Good move for everyone involved.

But in my heart it hurts. Let’s face it, my first-born son’s middle name is Hudson so how do you think I feel about Tim Hudson’s A’s career? Of course, a big reason my son’s middle name is Hudson is that my wife shot down my suggestion of Tejada.

I won’t lie, I was hoping the A’s would sign Hudson this winter even though I knew it was a longshot proposition. So close, yet so far away. That’s how it feels in almost every single Game 5 ALDS loss and that’s how it feels right now with losing the Tim Hudson sweepstakes.

The big guy has to be wondering if the A's are willing to give him a lot of the money they offered Hudson.

The big guy has to be wondering if the A’s are willing to give him a lot of the money they offered Hudson.

Did the A’s need Hudson to win in 2014? No. Heck, I don’t even think they need Bartolo Colon to win in 2014. But it sure would be nice to have a solid veteran toward the top of the rotation and it would have been awesome to have a fan favorite like Hudson end his career where it started while making a run at some October glory.

I’ll say this right now: A’s fans better not boo Huddy when he comes back to town to pitch for the Giants during interleague play. Aside from booing Jason Giambi right after he left for the Yankees I’ve never understood why so many Oakland fans boo former A’s. The A’s don’t pay anyone to stick around very long so it doesn’t make any sense to give a player a hard time for moving on with his career.

But outside of my emotional reaction to Hudson choosing the Giants over the A’s, the development may shed a little light on what the A’s are willing and able to do this offseason. As always, this is all just pure speculation on my part. And as always, I’ll probably be way off the mark by the time everything is said and done. I have a horrible knack for that but it never stops me from guessing what’s on the horizon for the A’s.

Next year the A’s are going to pay Nick Punto $3 million to be a utility infielder which is exactly what they paid Bartolo Colon to be a No. 1 starter last year. It was a solid gamble by general manager Billy Beane with an amazing payoff. But Colon isn’t coming back to town for that kind of cash and any respectable veteran starting pitcher and his agent are going be looking for Tim Hudson money now that he’s set the market. At this point, a decent veteran starter may come with a $7 to $10 million price tag.

Let’s assume that the A’s were in the neighborhood of the Giants’ offer to Hudson and they put about $20 million on the table for 2 years. You have to figure Colon and his representatives know that if the A’s just barely lost out on Hudson that they’re willing to shell out about $10 million toward next year’s payroll for the right player/s. The only question is how much of that money would the A’s be willing to shell out on Colon.

Oakland passed on giving Colon a $14 million qualifying offer so you have to assume that the maximum they’re willing to hand him is somewhat less that what they were willing to throw at Hudson, which is understandable based on Timmy’s advantage over Coloin in age, fitness and pitching repertoire.

From the outside looking in, it seems like the A’s could use a veteran starting pitcher to add some depth to the rotation and they could use a reliever since there’s going to be a hole in the bullpen when Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Dan Otero all move up an inning to replace close Grant Balfour.  A right-handed hitter wouldn’t be a terrible edition either but I’m not holding out any hope that someone like Nelson Cruz is coming to town anytime soon and I’m not particularly excited at the thought of him in green and gold anyway.

Which leads us back to the A’s possibly shopping for some arms for the rotation and bullpen.  Can around $10 million get you those pieces for your roster? The relief pitcher market hasn’t started to form yet but I’m willing to bet $10 million can fill a spot in the rotation and bullpen for Oakland if some of the players they’re targeting fall into their price range.

The market’s still playing itself out, so it remains to be seen whether the A’s could sign a veteran starting pitcher and reliever for around $10 million. And even if they could, there’s no guarantee that Beane and Co. would want to tie up that kind of money in whatever talent is willing to come to town as free agency’s lucrative game of musical chairs plays out. Ultimately, the A’s may just take the money they were willing to spend on Hudson and stand pat for now. Cash like that can come in very handy at the trade deadline when you’re making a playoff push.

It’s a punch in the gut to see that the A’s just barely missed out on bringing Hudson back to Oakland and it’s going to stink seeing him in a Giants uniform. But it’s encouraging and intriguing to see that they’re willing to crack their wallet open this offseason if the right opportunity comes along.

There’s never a dull moment in Oakland.

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s top 10 movies (blame Volvo for this)

I came across this awesome video on Facebook the other day and it naturally got me thinking about the fabulously entertaining big-screen career of Jean-Claude Van Damme, aka The Muscles from Brussels. Can you believe that the foundation of this post was drafted around his birthday about 3 years ago?  Frightening isn’t it?

I can’t believe 1.) That I’ve wasted this much time in my life contemplating the “talents” of JCVD and 2.) What I wrote was still hanging around a SimpleNote account I haven’t accessed in more than a year.

It feels like a million years ago, but on Oct. 18, 2010 JCVD’s birthday got me thinking: This guy has made a ton of movies that thoroughly entertain and crack me up, why not take time out of my busy life and rank my 10 favorite JCVD movies?

Without further ado, away we go from the bottom up …

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Learning to love Nick Punto

Brace yourselves A's fans, Nick Punto is bringing his scrappiness and needless sliding to Oakland in 2014.

Brace yourselves A’s fans, Nick Punto is bringing his scrappiness and unnecessary sliding to Oakland in 2014.

If the excitement over Phil Humber joining the A’s organization wasn’t enough, the club went out and signed light-hitting, slick-fielding utility infielder Nick Punto today.

You can start chilling the champagne because that 2014 AL West title is just about in the bag now that Mr. I Slide Into First Base On Clean Singles is in the fold.

The nice thing about the A’s being a back-to-back division winner with a roster that has a young, solid, affordable core is that there’s really no pressure heading into the hot stove league. You don’t have to gamble your major- or minor-league assets on a big trade and you don’t have to risk busting your budget in the often fruitless pursuit of top-tier free agents. You can sit back, relax and improve the bottom of your roster while waiting for more exciting opportunities to present themselves.

The offseason is still young and the A’s are always full of surprises, so there may be plenty of moves to come including some unexpected trades or an unexpected dive into the free agent market. But for now Nick Punto is the flavor of the day.

I won’t pretend I’ve ever been a fan of Punto from afar because I’ve actually found him mildly annoying at times. But that’s probably a good thing now that he’s bringing his 36-year-old talents to Oakland. Punto’s been a scrappy little role player for a hell of a long time, often chipping in with a timely play here and there for winning teams. Of course, he can also kill you on a play like this but if you’re an A’s fan you’re used to subpar playoff baserunning (damn you Jeremy Giambi).

Are we looking at the odd man out of the A's infield picture?  If I had to guess I'd say yes.

Are we looking at the odd man out of the A’s infield picture? If I had to guess I’d say yes.

If I had to make a call right this minute on which 30-something switch hitter gets pushed out of Oakland’s infield picture I’d say it’s Alberto Callaspo.

Punto’s coming off a .255/.328/.327 season with a price tag of $3 million next year while Callaspo hit .258/.333/.369 in 2013 with a $4.8 million salary due in 2014. When you look back over the past 3 seasons, Punto comes in at .250/.340/.336 and Callaspo comes in at .266/.344/368.  All in all, they’re just about identical twins at the plate with Callaspo providing a little more pop but not enough to get too excited about.

You’re not really losing much at the plate by going with Punto over Callaspo on the bench but you do come out way ahead on defense where Punto flashes some decent leather all around the infield compared to Callaspo’s sometimes-brutal efforts in the field.

Over the course of 162 games that defensive versatility will come in very handy as players get hurt and manager Bob Melvin tinkers with the lineup day in and day out.

What’s the market for Callaspo? If he really is the odd man out we’ll see what his value is outside of Oakland between now and Opening Day. If general manager Billy Beane actually has his sights set on sliding Punto into the role Callaspo filled down the stretch for the A’s in 2013 then I’m sure there’s a move to come down the line.

The A’s could use an extra arm in the bullpen, so maybe Callaspo is traded for a similarly priced middle reliever heading for arbitration on another team looking to dodge paying a raise. Maybe Callaspo is shipped out of town along with a little bit of cash for a mid-range prospect to shed some salary, open up a roster spot and add a little talent to the farm system.

I guess the one aspect of this move that disappoints me just a tad is that it probably means we’re going to have to wait a while longer to see Addison Russell take over at shortstop. My dream of Russell being called up in the second half of 2014 and bumping Jed Lowrie over to second base is likely over before the season even starts.

Sure, the kid’s only 19 but I was entertaining the crazy idea of Russell having a monster first half of the season in the minors and forcing his way up to Oakland in the second half. It could still happen depending on how everyone performs and what injuries crop up, but for now the A’s have the luxury of giving Russell plenty of time to develop while delaying his MLB service time and still fielding a strong playoff contender in 2014.  Nothing to complain about there.

Does the Punto signing and all the potential moves associated with it mean we’re on track to see a Scott Sizemore/Eric Sogard platoon at second base next year? Only time will tell.

All I know is that I’m happy to have an excuse to write about something other than the Phil Humber signing and I’m already looking forward to Punto’s first totally unnecessary head-first slide into first base at the Coliseum.

Spending way too much time thinking about Phil Humber

Everything's big in Texas, especially Phil Humber's 7.90 ERA with Houston last season. But I'm just crazy enough to see an intriguing 2014 for the big guy in Oakland.

Everything’s big in Texas, especially Philip Humber‘s 7.90 ERA with Houston last season. But I’m just crazy enough to see an intriguing 2014 for the big guy in Oakland.

MLB owners and general managers are meeting this week which means the annual stream of often-absurd hot stove rumors are starting to fly around and hopefully some actual moves shouldn’t be too far behind. But there isn’t much buzz surrounding the A’s right now and I don’t really expect that to change much anytime soon which leaves me a little bored. So bored that I’m blogging about Phil Humber.

That’s right, I am investing time that I’ll never get back on a guy who went 0-8 with a 7.90 ERA for the Astros while giving up a .950 OPS to opposing batters. I’m probably really going to regret this when I’m on my death bed thinking about all the amazing things I could have done with my free time if I valued it a lot more.  But after signing on the dotted line as a free agent, Humber’s part of the Oakland Athletics organization which makes him a person of interest to this crazy A’s fan.

Smart money says Humber’s just a warm body with MLB experience who can eat up some innings in spring training and Sacramento. Realistically, the best case scenario is that he serves as cheap insurance if injuries crop up and the A’s need someone to slot into the back of the rotation for a few weeks and save Oakland the trouble of rushing a prospect and burning up valuable service time (that’s if Humber even makes it out of spring training with the organization). Humber may also be cut in a couple of weeks when someone on waivers piques the front office’s interest. I know that, you know that, we all know that. But as I wait for the things to heat up for the A’s in the hot stove league I can’t resist killing a little time sifitng through Humber’s stats and letting my imagination run wild.

Let’s face it, I drank the green and gold Kool-Aid a long time ago so at this point it’s just second nature for me to overthink the moves the A’s make and see at least a shred of potentially intriguing value in every transaction by Beane and Co.

The main reason I’m wasting more than fleeting thought on Humber is that the A’s briefly snagged him on waivers in 2010 and Beane has a knack for seeing something in a player and keeping them on his radar until he can finally get a hold of them.  There has to be some value in Humber that everyone else has missed, right?

Does a 30-year-old who spent 2013 putting up a horrible stat line for an equally horrible team deserve more than the 13 words devoted to him on the A’s transaction page? No, of course not. But like I said, idle time has set me in motion here until some real A’s news or entertaining rumors flood my Twitter timeline.

The A’s need to add starting pitching depth regardless of whether they re-sign Bartolo Colon and that’s the obvious no-risk, low-reward angle to taking a harmless flier on Humber. But the A’s also need a little bullpen help with Grant Balfour taking his rage to a yet-to-be-determined free agent destination. And that’s where Humber, for some odd reason, mildly interests me.

Am I crazy enough to see him as the next great, cheap closer for the guys in green and gold? No. I may drink way too much green and gold Kool-Aid but I don’t sniff glue or smoke crack (I swear). But if the A’s simply hand the ninth inning over to Sean Doolittle and move Dan Otero and Ryan Cook up an inning, that leaves a hole in Bob Melvin‘s late-inning routine. That’s where I see Humber potentially enjoying a career boost by morphing from a largely ineffective starting pitcher into a reliable ROOGY for a contender.

What the heck am I seeing in a guy who stunk it up Houston last season? I see a guy who held right-handed batters to a .588 OPS in 2013, a .647 OPS over the past 3 seasons, and a devilish .666 OPS on his career. Why the heck can’t Humber make a late-career change and specialize in getting right-handed batters out as a reliever? We know the A’s love their platoons, so why not take advantage of Humber’s splits and platoon him out of the pen?

Is there any reason Curt Young can’t teach Humber a new pitch and make a couple of minor mechanical adjustments to breathe some new life into the guy’s career? Combine that with the ability to air it out in relief vs. pacing effort over the course of a 5-plus inning start and you could have the makings of a livelier fastball and nastier breaking pitches from Humber to shut down right handers.

Did you see an All-Star season coming from Bartolo Colon when the A's signed him a couple of years ago. Me neither. Oakland has a knack for breathing new life into pitchers' careers.

Did you see an All-Star season coming from Bartolo Colon when the A’s signed him a couple of years ago. Me neither. Oakland has a knack for breathing new life into pitchers’ careers.

Crazier things have happened, and isn’t that why we love baseball? If there’s one place in the league where pitchers can can go from the scrap heap to the top of the hill, it’s Oakland. When the A’s first signed Bartolo Colon did you see an All-Star season coming? Did you see four consecutive 20 win seasons coming from Dave Stewart or a Hall of Fame run as a closer coming from Dennis Eckersley? Did you ever imagine former first baseman Sean Doolittle could become a dominant relief pitchers or Dan Otero would emerge as a reliable late-game option for the A’s in the playoffs?

Yeah, I know it’s nuts to stretch my imagination far beyond the realm of reasonable possibilities and envision Phil Humber being a valuable member of a dominant 2014 A’s team. But it beats contemplating a potential Brett Anderson trade (I hate the idea) or wasting my time hoping that Tim Hudson will return to Oakland as a free agent (I love the idea).

So there you have it, more words than you’ll probably ever see written about Phil Humber again … unless he has surprisingly effective year with the A’s in 2014 at which point I’ll go nuts and ramble about the guy all over again.

Top 10 things that would be cool about the A’s calling AT&T home

So far MLB won't let the A's call San Jose home because that's the San Francisco Giants' territory ... but apparently it's OK for the A's to play hoem games in the Giants' ballpark in San Francisco. MLB's logic makes my head hurt.

So far MLB won’t let the A’s call San Jose home because that’s the San Francisco Giants’ territory … but apparently it’s OK for the A’s to play home games in the Giants’ ballpark in San Francisco. MLB’s logic makes my head hurt.

If you’re a die-hard A’s fan you’re more than familiar with the hot rumor flying around that MLB is threatening to move the A’s into AT&T Park if Coliseum officials don’t bow down and hand the A’s a sweetheart lease for two years.

The idea of the A’s potentially having to pay the Giants rent to be a second-class citizen in AT&T Park and play ball under San Francisco’s World Series flags is nauseating.  Of course, when you get right down to it the chances of that actually happening are about as likely Eric Sogard taking a page out of Jose Canseco’s book and having a 40/40 season.  For the most part, this is all a bunch of hot air to expedite the A’s lease negotiations in Oakland.

But since there is a microscopically slim chance of Bud Selig & Company’s twisted little power play with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority resulting in the A’s sharing AT&T Park with the Giants I thought I’d run down the top 10 things that would actually be kind of cool about such an awkward situation unfolding in San Francisco.

It looks like Ray Fosse is going to get a 20-game break from TV broadcasts that he didn't ask for.

Guess what Kruk and Kuip? You’re in Fosse’s house now.

1. Ray Fosse leaving his mustache trimmings, melted Dibs, tobacco juice stains and spilled beer all over the broadcast booth the night before Krukow and Kuip come in to call a Giants game.  Take that, Meat!

2. Having a better home record at AT&T Park than the Giants with a payroll that barely exceeds Hunter Pence’s bloated contract.

3. Tarping that stupid Coke bottle and gigantic glove behind the outfield seats.

4. Celebrating an AL West division title, AL playoff victories and a World Series championship in the Giants’ home park while the boys in orange and black spend another season toward the bottom of the NL West standings.

5. Crazed A’s fans filling AT&T Park with louder, wilder cheering than the place has ever experienced.

6. Brandon Moss hitting more home runs into McCovey Cove than the entire Giants roster.

7. Ken Korach naming the seats in right field Moss Landing as Mossie hits bomb after bomb into the stands.  Korach’s calls of “And he will watch it fly!” will easily outnumber Kuip’s annoying calls of “He hits it high, deep, outta here!”

Hey Giants, those two world titles of yours are really cute, but the best franchise in the Bay Area has four of those babies.

Hey Giants, those two world titles of yours are really cute, but the best baseball franchise in the Bay Area has four of those babies including 3 in a row and one against you in 1989.

8. Seeing the A’s make a grand spectacle out of raising their 4 World Series championship flags over the Giants’ measly little 2 before every single home game at AT&T Park.

9. Mischievous A’s players (and maybe even Lew Wolff on occasion) backing up all the toilets in the home dugout and clubhouse right before heading out on a road trip and handing AT&T Park back to the Giants for a homestand.  Consider it a little payback for the whole territorial rights argument that’s been holding the A’s up.

10. Constantly leaving donuts, Twinkies and pork rinds in Pablo Sandoval‘s locker and watching the Panda bloat up to 350 pounds by the All-Star break.

Smart money says Selig and his squad of goons won’t take their obnoxious game of hardball with Coliseum officials this far and dump the A’s into San Francisco, but if the unthinkable happens there’s definitely an opportunity for the guys in green and gold do what they do so well: Make the best of a bad ballpark situation.