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Top 2: Chris Davis called out on strikes against A.J. Burnett

Top 3: struck out swinging against Burnett

Top 5: struck out swinging against Burnett

Top 8: called out on strikes against David Robertson

Top 10: struck out swinging against Hector Noesi

Top 11: grounded out to second against Noesi

Final Line: 0-for-6, 5 K, 7 LOB

Notes: Normally I’d take some time to enjoy Reynolds’ golden sombrero, especially after it took 139 games to happen.  However, the incredibly rare platinum sombrero always trumps a golden, and on Wednesday Chris Davis entered elite terroitory.  Hitting sixth in the Orioles’ lineup, just two spots behind Reynolds, Davis had a day to remember (or forget if you’re him) at the dish.  In six at-bats in the 11-inning contest, the recent import fanned five times to secure the first platinum sombrero of the 2011 season.  He even had a chance for a sixth strikeout in the 11th inning, but somehow managed to weakly ground out to the right side and spare himself the agony.

But seriously, it’s hard to have a worse day at the plate than Davis did on Wednesday.  He saw a total of 20 pitches (Burnett 11; Robertson 3; Noesi 6) over six at-bats. I guess 20 pitches might be acceptable for a player with a high contact percentage or average on balls put in play, but definitely not Davis.  It also just adds to insult that he was down in the count—either 1-2 or 0-2—in every at-bat.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 111

Golden Sombrero: Mark Reynolds

Top 1: Mark Reynolds struck out swinging against A.J. Burnett

Top 3: called out on strikes against Burnett

Top 5: reached on error by Eduardo Nunez against Burnett

Top 7: struck out swinging against Luis Ayala

Top 9: called out on strikes against Rafael Soriano

Top 11: singled home the go-ahead run against Hector Noesi

Final Line: 1-for-6, RBI, 4 K

Notes: It’s about damn time. On Wednesday afternoon, Reynolds collected his first golden sombrero of the 2011 season in Baltimore’s 11-inning victory over the New York Yankees.  With the feat already in the books and the game on the line, Reynolds came through in the clutch with an RBI-single in the 11th inning that gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead.  I’m actually pretty irritated that it took 139 games; his 31.4% strikeout rate, 27.41% Z-Swing% (percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone), and 48.4% O-Contact% (percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown outside the strike zone) suggest it should have happened a long, long time ago.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 110





Changeups and Screwballs: A Southpaw’s Perspective for 9/8/11



–  Nyjer Morgan is exciting.  His defensive prowess in the outfield is absolutely fun to watch.  He brings a competitive nature to the game that should be lost on no man.  However, with that said, I wish Albert Pujols would have continued past the mound and cold-clocked Morgan right in his jaw last night.  C’mon Nyjer, there was no reason to get all butt-hurt over that AB last night.

–  It would appear that that Ian Kinsler just can’t help but lay lumber right now. (7 HR’s in his last 7 games.) I am proud to call him a fellow Central Arizona College Alum…ride Vaqueros, ride!

–  Is there anyone out there that can overtake Ben Revere’s over-the-shoulder masterpiece for play of the year?  Of course not.  So I ask you, which catch is better?  That one- or this one?

–  What is up with fans reaching over into the field of play on homeruns? I get it on foul balls, but really people? Don’t screw up a ball in fair territory folks.  It just makes you look bad.

–  Speaking of balls leaving the yard…heads up, pal!

–  A.J. Burnett sure is working hard to make his case for sticking in the Yanks starting rotation with amazing efforts like this.

–  If the criteria for voting on the MVP are so vague, why not just give the award to the player who accumulates the highest WAR at season’s end?  Are wins not the most valued outcome in all of baseball?

–  Did you know that Jeff “Frenchy” Francoeur is tied (with Ben “The Zorilla” Zobrist) for the most doubles in the AL?  Me neither.  To put the cherry on top of an excellently resurgent season, Frenchy turned back the clock to the first year of playing baseball on 90’ bases with this play.

Changeups and Screwballs: A Southpaw’s Perspective for 8/31/11

–       Another Yankees vs. Red Sox series got underway last night…yawn.  At least there was a little bit of tension after Francisco Cervelli’s (weak) celebration of his own homerun.  But other than that, what is the point of so many meaningless games for these two teams down the stretch Bud Selig?

–       How cool would it be to play for Joe Maddon?  The guy used to go to elementary school with Julius Caesar, supports awesome Rays fashion wear , and is a leading man in the case of using crunched numbers (to give his team the best chance of winning).  Is he baseball’s Phil Jackson?

–       Why does MLB not care about exciting pennant races?  Here’s a great article by Rob Neyer over at SB Nation.

–       I can’t seem to understand why so many people hate the Mets blue and black unis.  Not the “Los Mets” ones, these.  They seem to be fitting for a team who is getting beat day after day.

–       Matt LaPorta is being sent back down to the minors.  Is anyone surprised anymore?

–       How about Alex Gordon?  After being the 2nd overall pick of his draft class, and not living up to people’s ridiculous hype, he has finally hit his stride as a ball player.  It is my personal opinion that maybe if the Royals had pulled their heads out and given him enough regular AB’s with the big club this probably would have happened sooner.  Just look at his Triple-A numbers.

–       I have become discouraged with youth baseball over the last couple seasons.  I am sick and tired of watching 11-year-old kids quit all other fall sports to play baseball year round.  I find it extremely frustrating and detrimental.  It not only limits a child’s athletic development, but it deprives them of experiencing different aspects of sport and what it offers.  This idea is probably best reserved for an entire article of its own and most likely will find its way to the Sombrero very soon.  Just wanted to vent my frustrations.

Come on out to the ballpark with us, Part II: One fan’s top five MLB venues

5. Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Anaheim, CA)

Angel Stadium, despite being the fourth-oldest ballpark in the Majors today, is definitely an interesting ballpark and a fun place to watch a ballgame.  One of its notable features is the rockpile in left center field.  Scattered with a few palm trees and set against a background of hundreds of parked cars beyond the outfield gates, the rockpile gives Angel Stadium a unique feel.  A couple of blocks away in the parking lot, a huge Angels logo known as “The Big A” lights up after all Angels victories.  But perhaps my favorite feature of Angel Stadium is the famous Rally Monkey, who of course earned national prominence in the 2002 World Series.  Late in the game, with the Angels down a run against the lowly Indians, a playoff berth well out of reach, southern California’s favorite primate made a dramatic appearance on the video board, shown saving the world from Armageddon much to the delight of the hometown crowd.  The Angels went quietly in the ninth and lost the game 3-2, but the Rally Monkey no doubt made for some excitement in the late innings, even during a lost season for the Halos.

4. Busch Stadium (St. Louis, MO)

Busch Stadium may have been placed unfairly high on this list due to the fact that my most memorable game there was the Cardinals’ 2006 Series-clinching win over the Tigers in Game 5, enjoyed in the comfort of the exclusive Redbird Club.  Every part of the ballpark was state-of-the-art, including the gourmet pizzas served in the Redbird Club.  Still, the downtown location of the five-year-old ballpark and the rabid St. Louis fans also helped make this ballpark special.  Despite boasting football and hockey teams, St. Louis is and always has been a baseball town, and the fans there love their Cardinals.  Of course, having stars like Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter around certainly doesn’t hurt, but I quickly got the feeling that that fans would fill Busch Stadium night after night even to see a seventy-win team.  And since the Golden Sombrero’s base of operations is still located in the St. Louis area, I know one day I’ll be back at Busch Stadium, and I certainly look forward to that day.

3. Yankee Stadium (Bronx, NY)

Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009, is the newest ballpark I have visited, and it obviously has several features that set it apart from other venues.  Among the most notable of these are the legendary “Bleacher Creatures” in right field.  The Creatures are known chiefly for their “roll call” in the top of the first inning, when they chant the names of each Yankee infielder and outfielder until they offer their acknowledgment.  The creatures are also known to mercilessly heckle opposing teams, fans and (especially) right fielders.  Fortunately for Eric Young Jr., the Rockies do not inspire too much venom in opposing fans, because his bumbling performance the last time I was there left much to be heckled.

I think the mere words “Yankee Stadium” raised my expectations to the point where I was somehow expecting the hallowed grounds of Ruth, Gehrig and so many others to be something more than just a nice place to watch a ballgame.  Make no mistake—it’s a very nice ballpark, and the Yankee Museum inside the ballpark (which I had time to visit while the Bombers were crushing a hapless Aaron Cook) is also a very cool feature of the park.  Watching Mariano Rivera nail down a save to clinch the AL East title (on their way to a world championship) over the Red Sox was certainly one of the more memorable events in baseball that I’ve witnessed in person.  Yankee Stadium misses the #1 slot not for any shortcoming in its own right, but merely because as a non-Yankee fan, I suppose I never felt its “Yankee mystique” that I assumed would touch every fan to pass through its gates.

2. Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore, MD)

Camden Yards ushered in a new era of ballparks when it opened in 1992.  Just two years later, Jacobs Field opened in Cleveland, mercifully shutting the doors on Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  Coors Field opened the following year, and others such as PETCO and AT&T Park quickly sprang up before the decade was out.  Located in Baltimore’s beautiful Inner Harbor neighborhood, by far the nicest area of the city, Camden is truly a choice destination for any night on the town.  It’s also easily accessible from Washington via a quick trip on the Camden line of a local commuter rail.  Although fans are very casual about the game and largely treat it as more of an event, much like in PETCO Park or Dodger Stadium, the actual ballpark itself is very well-constructed and there’s hardly a bad seat in the house.  With Eutaw Street fronting a red brick building in the background, it has a true baseball feel, even though it was built in an era when many facilities were used for baseball and football.  The ballpark has never hosted a World Series game, and has only been home to two playoff teams in its twenty-year history, but is still a fun place to enjoy a ballgame.

1. Coors Field (Denver, CO)

Coors Field, home of my beloved Rockies, has truly set the standard for me as to what the ideal ballpark experience should be like.  Aside from one game in the old Mile High Stadium when I was six years old, Coors Field was the first major league park I ever visited, and the other nine ballparks I’ve visited (some newer, some with more tradition, some with more features to keep fans entertained) simply have failed to top the experience of watching a ballgame at Coors Field.  The ballpark is located in the heart of downtown Denver on 20th and Blake Street, surrounded by bars, restaurants and entertainment as far as the eye can see.  $15 will buy you a spot in a parking lot just a five-minute stroll from the home-plate gate.  And once inside the ballpark, nothing can get me ready for baseball like the PA announcer’s booming voice proclaiming, “This is Coors Field—home of the Colorado Rockies!”

The Rockies have struggled as a franchise for many years.  Outside of a strike-shortened 1995 season, the second half of September 2007 and a few months of the 2009 season, the team has been mediocre at best.  And without a rich, tradition-filled history, it can sometimes be tough to get people excited at the ballpark, especially when the home team falls behind early.  Not so at Coors Field.  From the Blake Street Bombers era of 1995 (which saw the Rockies routinely pound out double-digit runs and cobble together game-winning rallies in the late innings) to the more mainstream brand of baseball today, the game is simply never over at Coors Field.  Fans know this too, and it’s why you won’t see anyone head for the exits trying to beat the Denver traffic with the Rockies down three in the bottom of the ninth.  It is this element of Coors Field that I like most of all—the fact that, humidor or no, Rockies fans have simply been trained never to give up on their team, and they enthusiastically support the hometown nine until the final out is recorded–or, in more cases than rival NL West teams would care to count, not recorded.

Coors Field certainly isn’t the newest ballpark I’ve ever visited.  It doesn’t have the best concession-stand food, nicest bathrooms or most comfortable seats.  And it definitely doesn’t sport an array of pennants along the outfield wall marking World Series titles of long ago.  But there is simply nothing like the experience of watching a game at Coors Field.  So come on out to the ballpark with us—and let’s go Rockies.