Editor's note: Bleacher Report is very pleased to announce that award-winning baseball columnist Scott Miller will be anchoring our MLB coverage for the 2014 season. Miller joins Bleacher Report after 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com. Last year he was honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors as one of the top five columnists, in any sport, in the organization's annual contest.
Scott will bring opinionated and informed analysis on the entire baseball landscape. He introduces himself to B/R's readers here, with a column inspired by the famous (and not entirely SFW) "I Believe" speech from Bull Durham:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I do believe in the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curveball, high fiber, good scotch. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. Mmm-hmmm, I do.
But wait. There’s more, so much more, isn’t there? And the season's already begun.
I'm thrilled to be joining Bleacher Report. To all who have read, listened, argued, liked or debated as I've covered baseball over the past several years, thank you. I hope you will remain faithful companions for this part of the ride.
To all of you whom I’m meeting on this site for the first time, it’s a pleasure. I look forward to hearing from you in comments and on Twitter. And just as soon as I get going on Yasiel Puig or instant replay or Derek Jeter, I’m sure you’ll be more than willing to share. Just one thing: If you’re angry, please keep your voices down in those early-morning tweets. My dog, Slugger, will still be sleeping. Shhh!
As we become acquainted—or re-acquainted, as the case may be—maybe you should know a few more things about my baseball beliefs.
Yes, I do believe that Bull Durham is the best baseball movie ever made…but that soon will change dramatically on May 16 with the release of Disney’s Million Dollar Arm. It’s the long-awaited film about two pitchers the Pirates signed from India, and it stars…me!
Well, OK, technically Jon Hamm is the star. He’s the one you will see on the posters, for some reason. But a handful of us baseball scribes filmed some background scenes. We’re listed in the credits as “Scouts.” Cool.
Now let's get to real baseball.
I believe that the introduction of instant replay this season is a very good thing, but if you think it’s a panacea, I’ve got some swamp land and a Joe Charboneau rookie card to sell you. Go ask Giants manager Bruce Bochy if the system needs to be tweaked after he burned his challenge in Arizona last week before the seventh inning, then watched the Diamondbacks runner "score" in short order even though he clearly was out at the plate.
There will be tweaks to the system this winter, trust me. Just as there have been multiple tweaks to the game’s drug-testing program. I believe the latest incarnation announced last month—an 80-game suspension for a first violation and a season-long ban for a second (plus automatic suspension for the postseason in either case)—invokes some of the toughest disciplinary measures I’ve seen anywhere since Sister Noelita and her ruler back in fifth grade at St. Anne’s (don’t ask!). Excellent.
I believe in the Gospel of Bruce Springsteen and in the Holy Trinity of Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell and Jack Buck. I absolutely believe the great Drive-By Truckers when they sing “Rock and roll means well, but it can’t help telling young boys lies.”
I am certain the same applies to baseball. The Dodgers told us a couple of weeks ago that Clayton Kershaw might miss his scheduled March 31 start in San Diego. Next thing we knew, he was shelved for all of April and who knows when we might see him again. Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger, Alex Rodriguez wagged his tongue, Manny Ramirez came hard with swag.
Lies. All lies.
And don’t even get me started about spring optimism and the Cubs over all these years.
Some truths, however, are eternal. I believe in catcher’s indifference, the hidden ball trick, the neighborhood play and the double steal. I still believe the triple is the most exciting play in baseball. I believe in Detroit’s Olde English D, St. Louis’ birds on the bat, the Yankees’ pinstripes and the Astros’ rainbow uniforms of the 1970s.
I do not, and never did, believe in the White Sox’s old Bermuda shorts.
I believe Sabermetrics at times threatens to suck the soul right out of the game, but I absolutely, positively believe that attempting to get through a season today without the Baseball Prospectus annual and sites like FanGraphs.com is like trying to play third base over 162 games without a protective cup. Man, those folks are sharp. Especially to a guy who regularly went down swinging in math as if he was facing Mariano Rivera’s cutter.
Let’s see, what else?
If the MLB Extra Innings television package and SiriusXM radio existed when I was in school, I believe I never would have made it past sixth grade. Personally, I don’t know how you kids do it day after day, sitting through biology class when Mike Trout is bringing back home runs, slogging through chemistry and calculus homework when Big Papi and Jose Fernandez are doing their thing, and all of it is available in real time.
There also are times today when I do wonder if the Neanderthals are winning. Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy’s three-day paternity leave became a thing? Really? I bet Boomer Esiason thinks there are six balls in a walk. C’mon, man.
I believe the Yankees’ infield this year will leak more than a ’76 Gremlin, the Marlins are loaded with power arms and will be much better than people think, and the Red Sox soon will ask Celtics coach Brad Stevens if he’d like to bat leadoff for them.
On Opening Day, I believed that the Rays would beat the Cardinals in this fall’s World Series. Now Matt Moore’s sore elbow has me questioning that faith.
I believe Jack Morris and Tim Raines both belong in the Hall of Fame, Montreal got screwed, Houston should be in the National League and the first pitch of every season should be thrown in Cincinnati—not, say, Australia (though I am partial to kangaroos). I believe “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” remains an excellent response in any number of situations.
I’ve covered a whole bunch of big moments and Octobers over the past three decades, and the way I figure it, just when you think you’ve seen everything, the Cardinals’ bullpen phone goes haywire on Tony La Russa in the middle of a World Series game. Talk about inconvenient dropped calls.
Baseball should bring smiles and laughter, debates and argument, an occasional lump to the throat and, sometimes, the urge to put a fist right through the flat-screen. But, yes, again: Enough about the Cubs.
So let’s have some fun together this season, shall we?
Oh, and one final thing: I believe Friday Night Lights is one of the greatest television shows ever, and Coach Taylor would have made one heck of a baseball manager, too.
Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.