Monthly archives: April 2004
[Cranky old man voice] Back when I was a youngin', way back before they had these fancy-pants Inter-Nets, I was livin' in the Old Country across the ocean, walking six miles in the snow every day, uphill both directions, with nothing to think about 'cept how cold and miserable it was, cuz thar warn't no way to get baseball scores 'cept what the newspapers wanted to tell ya. And the only paper that wanted to tell ya anything was the International Herald-Tribune, and all they'd give ya was some line scores and the standings.
But then one day, the USA Today started publishing Over There, and hallelujah, it was a miracle! Box scores! Real, full, honest-to-goodness boxscores available to read five days a week. When I saw that, right then and there I jumped up, clicked my heels together, a let out a whoop of pure joy I ain't never heard before or since, for life in that frozen hellhole had now become bearable.
So y'all can rip up your USA Today to shreds if you like, but they're a savior to me, and I love them with every creakin' bone in my body. And 'taint nothin' you can say to get me to change my mind.
First things first
My brother's neighbor, Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, spent an hour yesterday with President Bush. Apparently they spoke about such things as Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a Swedish citizen being held at Guantanamo, and the situations in Afghanistan, Turkey, Cyprus och North Korea.
When I went to Sweden's most respected newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, to read about the meeting, I had to dig a little bit. The top story of the day was this (my translation):
"Henke" Larsson is back!
Glad to see that the Swedes have their priorities straight.
I made the mistake of reading the latest Jackie Harvey just before I read Scott's entry on the White Sox. The effect was strange, as I half expected Scott's essay to contain a bunch of bungled names and misstatements, something like this:
You're fired! Despite the Giants' poor 9-18 start, Felipe Alou won't have to worry about hearing those words. Giants owner Peter MacGyver just extended Alou's contract another year. Congratulations, Felipe!
Ozzie Guillen: Manager?
When the White Sox chose Ozzie Guillen as manager, I was horrified, as Ozzaroo was one of the worst statistical players in baseball history. With a lifetime OBP of only .287 (.23 points above his batting average) and a slugging average of .338, Guillen's miserable .625 OPS could only be surpassed by his reckless style on the base paths accumulating 169 steals out of 277 attempts (60% success). Throw in that the guy is completely schizophrenic and not known for his tactical baseball knowledge and of course you know that Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams had to hire him.
From day one, Ozzie has stated that the White Sox would play aggressive baseball, not being afraid to manufacture runs by playing small ball. Of course when your starting roster has Frank Thomas, Carlos Lee, Paul Konerko, Joe Crede, and Magglio Ordonez, small ball doesn't seem like the best strategic plan. So right from the start, Ozzie seemed to be about as good of a fit with the Sox, as Kerri Strug doing a porno scene with Ron Jeremy. Smartly, Guillen has mainly used this style with the 3 guys on the team who have some speed, Willie Harris, Miguel Olivo, and Juan Uribe. So far the returns are 13 steals out of 16 attempts, which registers out to be a very worthwhile 81% success rate. The big boppers have not been asked to sacrifice bunt any runners over, so that is a good sign, also.
Guillen's handling of the pitching staff has been very different than past manager, Jerry Manuel, as he has not been afraid to let his starting pitchers work their ways out of jams. One reason Ozzie might be doing this is that the bullpen has had no consistent ability to get outs at the end of games. Despite all the talk that the White Sox were going to miss players like Carl Everett and Roberto Alomar, the guy that the team misses the most is Tom Gordon. Kenny Williams has struck out on the acquisitions of Billy Koch and Shingo Tataksu, though the revival of Mike Jackson has given Williams something to hang his hat on.
On the subject of Williams is there anyone else in baseball with a more checkered trading history? In the book "Moneyball" Williams was seen as a stooge for Billy Beane, especially during the Chad Bradford deal. I was one of the few upset White Sox fans when the trade went down, but Williams might have the last laugh, as the player the White Sox received for Bradford, Miguel Olivo, continues to improve and already might be the 4th best overall catcher in the AL, behind Posada, Lopez and IRod. As bad as the Keith Foulke/Billy Koch deal looks on a one for one basis, Williams should be commended for picking up throw-in pitcher Neal Cotts, who looks like he has the chance to be quality back of the rotation starter. Williams worst trade by far was giving up Kip Wells for Todd Ritchie, but he made up for some of that failed deal by getting back in another trade from the Pirates, Damaso Marte for Matt Guerrier. The trade for Juan Uribe (for Aaron Miles) looks like it could turn out to be a steal, as Uribe is only 24 years old and seems to be thriving without the pressure of being a "future star" the Rockies put on him.
So the White Sox sit at 12-8, which is a good start for a team who rarely gets off to them. The AL Central looks to be a two-team race between the Twins and the White Sox. With Jon Garland looking like he will perform up to the promise he has shown in the past and Esteban Loaiza and Mark Buehrle sitting solidly at the top of the rotation, the Sox seem to have an advantage over the Twins in starting pitching. Despite losing Guardado and Hawkins, the Twins bullpen looks to be superior to what's on the South-side. Even though the White Sox have improved their defense, the edge would still go to the Twins. If the White Sox are going to win the Central, their hitting, as usual, will have to lead them. Currently, having Willie Harris leading off with his .294 OBP is hurting the team. The White Sox seem to have two positions ripe for platoon action with Harris splitting time with Uribe and minor league sensation, Jeremy Reed leading off against righties, while Aaron Rowand doing the same against lefties. (Rowand has a career OPS of .834 versus LHP.)
So is Ozzie Guillen the right guy for the job? One month into the season I would give him a B-grade, as his enthusiasm and passion for playing hard has rubbed off positively on a team, which has sleepwalked the last few years. A lot of people have attacked him for making some brash statements, like ripping the media for being fixated on the Cubs. From the outside, these comments seem like sour grapes, but this point of view is what the White Sox players and fans feel, which during the first season might be a useful motivation tool for Guillen. I still have a hard time imagining Ozzie Guillen being a long-term success as a manager, but in the short-term, he might just be the right guy to lead this team into the playoffs.
New design up at BP. Your thoughts?
Note - not everything's finished, so leave us a little slack.
Nice column by John Perricone, in answer to Skip Bayless' latest hacktastic column. It doesn't take much to outthink Skip, so John runs circles around him.
Here's something else that the press hasn't picked up on - Bonds began to explode when he became a Boras client. Most of the trainers, nutritionists, and other performance helpers came at the point where Barry became a Boras client. This might be the first time that no one has tried to blame Boras for ruining baseball, even with his ... oh, that's too easy. Let's let the press work to figure out what Scott's doctorate is in.
This one however: Ouch!
6:30pm is family dinner time, so I mercifully missed the Great Bullpen Disaster of April 27. All was well when I sat down for dinner, but apparently the Yankees dribbled a bunch of balls through the infield off Jim Mecir and came back from a four-run deficit to win. Yet another Tim Hudson no-decision. Argh.
I don't know why Hudson was lifted. He had only thrown 97 pitches; he could have gone another inning without hitting any alarms on the pitcher abuse meter.
The A's middle relief doesn't match up well with the Yankees if Mecir can't perform. Ricardo Rincon is a pure LOOGY: you really don't want to see him facing righties. Chad Bradford is a ROOGY: you don't want him facing lefties. Mecir can face both, at least in theory, because his screwball gives him a good weapon against lefties. There's also Chris Hammond, but Macha seems reluctant to use him in a tight spot, for whatever reason.
Usually, Ken Macha can set things up so Rincon and Bradford face the hitters Macha wants them to face. But the Yankees have five switch-hitters on their roster, so if Mecir's having a bad day, the A's have problems. Either Rincon or Bradford is going to end up facing someone from the wrong side of the plate. Macha chose Rincon to face Ruben Sierra; a line drive hit the chalk, and there's your ballgame. That one stings.
As the first month of the season is on it's way to passing - especially if you include the Japan series - we're getting to a stage where we can look at records and see things, patterns, if not truths. The bad teams look bad, the good teams look good, and there's a lot of teams in the middle, struggling to find themselves.
The Yankees at 8-11 is probably the biggest story, but the Yanks will likely be the biggest story at any record. I half expect George to come storming in, make a trade for Barry Bonds and put him at leadoff. (Yeah, just imagine Barry with a short porch ...) The Yanks will put things together, but this early season malaise speaks to a couple things.
First, does Torre miss Zimmer? Why is this team of all-stars not coming together? Does the slow start make it more likely that they'll go get a second basemen? Do they see a need for another pitcher - beyond the soon to return Jon Lieer - as I think they do?
Scott McCauley pointed out to me the other day that the Dodgers hot start could be huge. There's no team in the NL West that has the firepower to catch up if some team runs away at the start. Given their assumed payroll power and DePo's assumed genius, the Dodgers could very well go wire to wire despite not being a great team. The Milton Bradley trade is certainly looking good so far.
Chicago's been hitting, while Toronto hasn't. Prior and Pettitte have been out. Podsednik is still possessed by the alien that possessed him last year. Baltimore isn't very good, nor is Cincinnati, but my lord, hasn't it been a good April?
Let's play interactive blog here - whats been your biggest surprise? Give me one negative and one positive one in comments.
Yeah, the A's got swept. It was more weird than stinging. The Angels are good. Some Angel hits a home run, or you make an error (Bobby Crosby's defense has been missed), and then you're behind and have to face K-Rod, who is just unhittable right now.
And then there was the absence of Roy Steele, the A's PA announcer, who was out this weekend with hernia surgery. Steele had only missed one previous Oakland A's game ever. Dick Callahan filled in, and he's a competent and familiar voice, having been the PA announcer for the Golden State Warriors and Cal football, but it wasn't the same. Steele's deep voice is so entwined in my mind with the Coliseum that hearing someone else's voice there made it seem like I was living inside a badly dubbed foreign film. The stadium felt disembodied.
So it was a weird weekend, in many ways. Hopefully, Steele will be back soon, as will Crosby, and things will get back to normal.
The A's are headed to New York to play the Yankees now, and that suddenly seems like an easier task that what the A's have been up against recently.
I'm tired of facing the same three teams. I'm VERY curious to see how the rest of the AL compares to the AL West, which looks really tough this year. We'll start finding out this week.
For some reason, I enjoy the NFL draft more than I enjoy the NFL games themselves. I like all the speculation, all the trading up and down.
One quibble: 15 minutes between picks is too long. We don't need a gazillion hours per round.
It's weird, I hardly even watch college football at all, or the NFL. I know absolutely nothing about these players. But for some reason, I form strong opinions about these picks, anyway, based on little to no information whatsoever. It's just fun to cheer and bicker.
For example, I am certain that the Chargers are idiots. With the first pick in the draft they trade down to take a high-risk quarterback and then use the third-round pick they got to draft--a kicker?
Every kicker is a replacement-level talent. Drafting one is a waste. Drafting one early in the third round is just plain stupid. It's not like the Chargers were a good kicker away from the Super Bowl.
Best drafts: Detroit, New England, Oakland. The Raiders actually picked a good player and not lame QB (Wilson/Marinovich) or kicker (Janikowski) for a change. They picked a guy who will open some big holes.
I have more opinions like that, but who cares, because what do I know?
But for those who say that a televised baseball draft won't work because people don't follow college baseball: pshaw. You can be as ill-informed as I am, and still get sucked into the show.
Redman Considered Dangerous
I have season tickets behind the screen at the Network Asso...er...McAfee Coliseum. When I first purchased the seats many years ago, I specifically asked for tickets behind the screen, because I have young children, and I don't want to have to worry about my kids being hit by foul balls.
My seats usually serve that purpose very well. Foul balls in my section are rare, maybe three or four a year. If ball is hit too low, it hits the screen. If it's too high, it usually goes into the second deck. Reaching my section requires a weak pop foul by a right-handed batter off a soft-tossing, fly-ball lefty.
On the fourth pitch of today's game, David Eckstein hit a weak pop foul off of a soft-tossing fly-ball lefty, Mark Redman. At first it seemed headed right toward me, but then it started spinning away. I tried to catch it, but it landed just out of my reach, in the row in front of us, and two seats to the right. It bounced off the seat and into another section.
In my row, directly behind the seat where the ball hit, sat my three-year-old daughter. My wife had jumped in her way to protect her from the ball, so she wasn't really in any danger. But the thought that my daughter was less than three feet away from serious injury was very frightening.
Four pitches later, Vladimir Guerrero hit a pop foul that also seemed headed straight for us. It fell short, landing three rows in front of us.
Four pitches after that, Troy Glaus hit one that landed about three rows behind us.
A couple of innings later, another pop fly nearly hit a man sitting in a wheelchair at the end of our row, five seats down. All in all, we got six or seven foul balls hit into our section in the first five innings. That's about twice as many as we usually get all year.
As soon as Mark Redman was removed from the game, the assault from above mercifully ended. I like watching Redman pitch, but from now on, if Redman is the scheduled starter and I have tickets, the kids are staying at home.
I'm holding a book that has my name on the cover. The small package arrived in the mail today and I just couldn't open it. I guess some people are like that with test results or college admissions letters, but I just held the package and looked at it a while.
I don't want to diminish BP 2003 or 2004. I was and remain immensely proud of being associated with the books. This is different - it's a solo work. It's the first book from the BP stable (and more are coming.) This is one of the first tangible things I've done. There's something ephemeral to web writing and perhaps an overstatement of the value of the printed page.
It doesn't feel like that when I hold it.
I can flip the pages and see the words. I can see the pictures that Christian and Susan and Jay worked so hard on, the graphs from Dave, things that jumped from my fingers to the screen I'm looking at now to this page. Hardcover. 202 pages. It's a bit smaller than what I had in my mind's eye, but it fits nicely. It's not intimidating - a child might pick it up or a father could point to Mark Prior's grips.
It's very literally a dream come true. I want to sit down and read every word, but I already know it by heart.
Upon seeing the picture accompanying this article, Darren Dreifort's mechanics don't look so bad.
Stick to signing checks, Frank.
(Oy, is my next book "Saving The Owner"?)
With Glass, Blair, and now Kelley, this article says something we should all be aware of. We should never accept anything just because it's printed, broadcast, or comes to us. Without trust, there's no validity in any media, but even trusted sources should be questioned and checked.
This hits home for me since much of my work in UTK is based on unnamed sources. I don't do this to be cute, but because without anonymity, almost no one would speak to me. Most of the sources I have would actually be on the edge of a HIPAA violation by giving me information, but they've all learned to trust that I'll use the information responsibly. Where I can, I use names or offer information to show the source isn't blue sky, but I also have a responsibility to my sources.
How then do we check? By checking, double-checking, and watching each other. The blogging community and the interactive reader act as that check. I couldn't do something like plagiarize or make something up without getting called out quickly on any number of sites, discussion boards, and such. Newspapers and larger media outlets don't have this. Yet.
I had an email exchange today with Larry Rocca. You'd know him as the author of this article, which got widely discussed. Rocca thinks I misquoted and misinterpreted him in my discussion of his piece on UTK. I won't detail the private exchange, but we disagree. I have offered Rocca a slot on BPR to give his side, but he hasn't responded yet.
I posted a link to one of these pictures earlier, but this series from Drudge seems important. The government, in what I don't think is evil, but wrongheaded manoeuvering, is trying to block all access to these photos.
There's a sort of simple beauty to them, something that tugs at the heart strings of this veteran. Sacrifices, covered under the flag they fought for, is an appropriate sendoff. For those of you that have never been to a military funeral, there's a dignity there in their order that is seldom seen elsewhere.
In towns across America, these funerals are going on. We'll never see most of them, but I'm sure many people will. They probably get local coverage when they fall close to home. Small town newspapers eulogizing 19 and 20 year-olds. A few more headstones in cemeteries with the numbers too close together.
Whether you're for this fight or against it, the men and women that fall deserve our respect. Hiding them from plain sight denies them that honor.
UPDATE: More pictures.
I have a rules question. Maybe someone knows the answer.
In the top of the tenth in Monday night's game between the A's and Mariners, Mark Kotsay struck out, then got ejected.
The game was tied after the ejection, but the A's still were at bat with runners on base. The only true outfielder the A's had remaining was Bobby Kielty, but he was the DH. So they had a choice for replacing Kotsay: lose the DH and have the pitcher bat, or put an infielder in the outfield.
I wondered: did the A's have to make the choice of who replaces Kotsay right then and there, or could they wait to decide? If the A's took the lead, they might want to put Kielty out there, to maximize defense and protect the lead. If it remained tied, they might want to keep the DH in the lineup.
The A's ended up not scoring, and Eric Chavez was moved to left field.
I looked it up in the MLB rules, but found nothing. So I'm assuming that the A's didn't have to decide how to replace Kotsay until either (a) Kotsay's turn at bat came up again, or (b) the A's had to take the field.
Am I assuming correctly?
How many of the 50 worst songs ever do you actually like?
I'll admit to five: #3 (Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung), #13 (Illegal Alien, Genesis), #35 (Shiny, Happy People, REM), #48 (Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, Beatles), and #49 (I'm Too Sexy, Right Said Fred).
I'm not saying these five songs aren't bad. But I think they're silly bad, which I guess appeals to my sense of humor.
They're similar to limericks, but the requirement that one line be a single six-syllable word makes double dactyls harder to write.
The scarcity of those six-syllable words make them valuable. Now, every time I hear a six-syllable word with the ON-off-off-ON-off-off beat needed, I feel compelled to build a double dactyl poem around it. Can't let a word like that go to waste.
After my rant about the A's not driving in runs I heard: "The A's will be fine. Small sample size."
Sure the A's will be fine. They've been fine for four years. It's just this one detail about them, their inability to drive in runs, that annoys me. But I disagree about the sample size. The sample size is not that small.
With 2 outs, when a walk is not as good as a hit, is when I get the most annoyed at the A's failure to drive in runs. So here are the AL batting averages for Runners in Scoring Position, 2 Outs for the last three seasons ('04/'03/'02):
Sure, the A's might improve on their current .217 average with RISP and 2 outs. I keep waiting for our luck to even out. But I've been waiting over two years now, and the A's keep regressing to Detroit instead of to the mean.
So far this year, it looks like the same old stuff as the last two years. How much longer should I hold onto my faith in regression to the mean before I give up and declare this a flaw in the design?
Barry Bonds' OPS is 1.900.
Forget steroids; I'm beginning to wonder if he's human.
Ricky Fante is the best new singer I've heard since Kelly Clarkson. I'm also enjoying the heck out of Nellie McKay - I never "got" the fawning over Norah Jones, but there's more substance in the first song of Nellie's "Get Away From Me" than there is two albums of Norah.
I'm about as obsessive over baseball as anyone I know, but I haven't made that full-on leap yet, what I call the "following the Dead on tour" phase. My friend calls it "face painter syndrome." I think that I'd know if I was. Baseball has the most intensive, yet non-obsessive fans I've ever seen.
Memo to the fans: getting drunk really shouldn't be part of going to a game. It's getting pretty obnoxious at Wrigley and I know it's pretty bad elsewhere.
Eli Manning won't be Ryan Leaf, but he's the wrong pick.
I miss Napster. The old version. Actually, Audiogalaxy was better, but the spirit of Napster was pretty amazing.
What in the heck did George W. spend $50 million bucks on in March?
Who gets the credit for Adrian Beltre's sudden turnaround? I know it's very early, but Beltre and Aramis Ramirez are looking all the world like the All-World 3B many expected them to be.
Dontrelle Willis has made some small changes to his mechanics, but his glove is still the key. It's in the wrong place and if it's not fixed, he's going to get worse - fatigue, not injury.
Speaking of fatigue, I need to write more about it. Just found an amazing study with serious application to baseball.
And speaking of fatigue ... I should get some sleep. XM Radio will probably require full rest once I get it in a couple days.
Let me now curse all those Mariner bloggers who cursed the Raul Ibanez signing. $*(@&$#*)^@!*(@#*&$* you!!!
Also, losing a game on a fake-to-third-throw-to-first balk? What do the A's think they're doing? That's the kind of stupid way to lose the A's usually reserve exclusively for the postseason.
One thing drives me nuts watching the walk-walk-walk A's. Nobody can drive the damn run in. They had the bases loaded multiple times last night, got two walks in the first and three in the third tonight, and scored nothing out of any of that. Kielty and Durazo, Beane's darlings, are the worst offenders. Popups and strikeouts when all you need is a grounder or fly ball to score a run. I don't mind seeing them lead off an inning, because they can get on base OK, but if there are runners in scoring position, Lord help us.
It's not just this year. The year Tejada won the MVP, the rest of the A's lineup batted like .208 with runners in scoring position. The numbers may not support my feelings about this, but it seems like a chronic problem with Billy Beane teams.
I'm beginning to think the optimal lineup would be to have two or three Dusty Baker types mixed in with the Billy Beane guys. Get some guys on base with walks, and then sprinkle in some guys who make a lot of contact. A little diversity can be a good thing.
Every weekday afternoon, I hear the tink-tink-tinking of aluminum bats emanating from Willie Stargell Field, one block from my house. Over time, the sound has become oddly soothing to me, like the ticking of a favorite clock. I often wonder, am I listening to the sounds of the next Dontrelle Willis or Jimmy Rollins to come out of Encinal High?
Willis, who grew up two blocks from here, was mentioned in two recent articles about the scarcity of African-American baseball players. Tim Keown pointed out that there are only four African-American starting pitchers in the majors now: Willis, Darren Oliver, CC Sabathia, and Jerome Williams. Bruce Jenkins points out that only 10% of major league rosters are now African-American.
Keown blames the urban/suburban cultural split. Jenkins blames TV. But is there really a problem?
I count 207 foreign-born players on current 25-man rosters. So that means that there are 543 American-born players.
If 10% of all 25-man rosters are African-American, that's 75 players. That means 13.8% of American major leaguers are African-American, compared to 12.9% of the general US population (pdf). Jenkins' complaint looks like it's not really even a problem.
Keown, however, may have a point. Since 20% of major league rosters are starting pitchers, you should expect about 15 African-American starting pitchers out of 75. Instead, there are only four. But the issue isn't, as Keown and Jenkins present it, why African-Americans are not playing baseball enough. The issue is why, when they do play, they don't become pitchers.
It seems unlikely to me that the cause of that is TV or suburbia. I'd guess that stereotyping is the most likely culprit. If you're African-American, you get stereotyped as an athletic type, so you get to play a position where speed or strength matters. Often, that means "not pitcher".
Willis, Oliver, and Sabathia are all from Northern California. Williams is from Hawaii. It is a coincidence that the only African-American starting pitchers come from the only two US states where no ethnic group has a majority?
[Correction: New Mexico also has no ethnic majority. Texas does, barely, according to the 2000 census: it's 52.4% "white, non-Hispanic".]
Air America Review
So I've spent a few days listening to the channel and here are my thoughts. It should be noted that these shows are all in their infancy, so I would guess all of them will get better over time. As someone who has appeared on over 100 different radio stations, I realize how tough it can be to fill 3 hours, day after day.
9AM to Noon (All times EST) Unfiltered is co-hosted by Lizz Winstead, Chuck D and Rachel Maddow. Show seems to run by Maddow. Winstead was one of the creators of the Daily Show. (Kilborn days) Overall, I was not to impressed with the show, as it has a whiny feel. Chuck D. doesn't say a lot or (Bring the Noize).
Weekdays noon-3pm The O'Franken Factor: Drug-Free Radio
On XM radio from this point on, the programming differs some from Air America.
3:00-6:00 PM The Ed Schultz Show
6PM-7PM ET The Randi Rhodes Show
7PM-8PM ET So What Else is News Marty Kaplan
8PM-10PM ET The Majority Report Janeane Garofalo, Sam Seder
10PM-1AM ET The Alan Colmes Show
I haven't listened to Morning Sedition with Marc Maron, Sue Ellicott, Mark Riley, (6AM-9AM ET) but I'm a huge fan of Maron, who is one of the top 10 standup comics in the country and I believe is the closest thing to Bill Hicks around today. (Sometime soon I will rate the comics, kind of like what Comedy Central did this weekend.)
Overall, I have heard no glitches on XM for Air America, but I know that on the local stations, (NY, LA, Chicago, etc.) there has been a lot of technical problems. There is a market for this channel, but it is going to bleed money for a couple of years, until they get the whole concept figured out. One thing which is better than most conservative radio is that the hosts don't give a free ride to the Democratic party and don't seem to be screening calls, ala Rush.
Hope this has given you a window into the channel on XM.
XM Radio Lovefest
I've had an XM radio since it came out and I can say that XM and TIVO are the best technological inventions, since the internet. (By the way, the internet was created by Al Gore. Just want to feed the right-wing dismissal of my beliefs. I'm willing to admit that Gore was a very flawed politician, now it's time for some Bush followers to do the same about the Shrub.)
Oh yeah, XM radio. It's great to have all the diverse, ecletic music stations of XM, which are commercial free, but my favorite thing are the talk stations. ESPN, Fox Sports, and Sporting News radio are always available, plus CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, CSPAN, BBC, and Fox News, also. The newest addition to XM is Air America, the liberal talk channel that unless you live in New York or listen on the internet, you will be missing out. I will review Air America, later this week, but if you are a conservative, XM has a channel for you, also. (Not that it's hard to find conservative talk any time of the day.)
If you spend more than a half hour a day in your car, you should get XM. Now, where is my check from XM?
Apologies to Jayson Stark: A Google search of the phrase "is the worst hitter" returns the following names:
Not again ...
Look, I realize that I'm no political expert. Someone I know and respect calls me out on the fact that my political discussions don't have the same logic and factual support that my baseball reporting does, but I acknowledge that. It's little more than my own, reasonably formed opinion.
This just makes me ill. I won't try to frame it so as to not color it or take away from the gravity with my own rhetorical failings. I'll even share an opinion from the Conservative side of the aisle that I agree with strongly.
You'll see less political stuff from me in the future, unless I frame things this way. It's not that I'm less passionate about it, it's that I'm not willing to weaken the arguments that others can make. So, my position on this is "what they said."
I'm conducting a little experiment in my head. I'll be heading to Wrigley Field tomorrow after watching a couple games today in HD. I watched a good bit of the Yanks-Red Sox game and am moments away from watching the A's-Angels on ESPN HD.
While it's not fair to compare the live experience to HD, it's also not fair to compare regular TV to HD. The view is deeper, richer, and so much more vivid. Whites are whiter, blacks are blacker, and the detail is incredible.
(Speaking of detail - why do Cubs highlights look washed out when they show them on BBTN?)
If you haven't had the chance to see a baseball game in HD, you really ought to. I'd invite you over, but ... Of course, it might also be a bad thing - it's very hard to go back once you've seen it. I highly recommend the JVC units.
Random Thoughts about Gadgets
Yes, it's a blogger's crutch to do a Larry King style dot-dot column, but they're easy and they so accurately portray my mental state ... oooh, shiny object ...
Scooter the Talking Ball was worse than I expected. Scooter had no wherewithal.
I knew Josh Beckett was good. I knew he had the chance to be great. He showed a lot in the post-season. Right now, he's just filthy. FILTHY. Granted, he still should have gone to college ...
CIA, NSA ... dammit, Goldman, at least you haven't told them about Majestic!
XM Radio. Who has it? Who likes it? Worth the money? (No Sirius talk either - it's not an option.)
I'm sorely tempted to write a whole screed about the state of porn, but no one really wants to hear that, even me ...
Free Wily Mo!
I could honestly care less about the NFL most of the time, but the NFL Draft is compelling somehow. Mel Kiper Jr. as national hero - who knew? He's very good on radio.
We all talk about announcers, but no one writes about them. Why isn't there a TV sports critic?
Tivo. How did I get along without it?
The New Era batting practice lids are the most comfortable hat I've ever worn. They hold a nice curve, your dome doesn't overheat, and they don't get squished easily.
Dave Matthews Band - overrated and underrated, all at the same time.
iPod. Coolest toy ever.
My fantasy teams all stink right now. Badly. I think they'll come around. It's impossible mathematically for them all to perform at the 10% PECOTA level. Right?
Seachrest, out! No, really, get out. Really.
I'll add a little twist to it. Here are the 5th sentences from page 23 of ten baseball books. Can you match the quote to the book?
1) Even now before a world series you find a lot of the experts predicting that "pitching will win the series."
2) Devore beat out an infield hit, and Doyle bunted and was safe, filling the bases.
3) Neal and Zimmer looked unchanged--Neal intense, withdrawn, talented, too tighly wound for an ideal infielder, and Zimmer eager and competitive, angrily trying to make pugnacity compensate for what he lacks in size, skill, and luck.
4) He lost, but I haven't noticed any holes in his shoes.
5) He'll get a look in camp and will pitch in the BOB at some point this summer, perhaps stepping into Valverde's setup role after Mantei breaks down again.
6) But to get back to that day in 1898 when I first reported to Louisville.
7) If modern players battle fiercely for starting assignments, I have to say that the old-timers were even more wolfish.
8) Yet the Whammer felt oddly relieved.
9) Together with their own first round pick the A's had, in effect, seven first-round picks.
10) Even now, I can't stand a dirty house.
And your choices are:
a) Babe Ruth's Own Book of Baseball
I'll let you guess, then I'll post the answer in the comments.
Drawing a Blank
I (Ken) went to San Diego this week. Thursday evening, I went to a game at Petco Park. I'll assemble my thoughts on Petco later, but here's a quick story:
I was wandering along the main concourse at Petco, when I realized I was walking shoulder-to-shoulder with someone. I turned to look at the guy, and I recognized him.
I searched my brain for a name to match the face, but I drew a blank. Where did I know him from? School? Work? TV?
Nothing. I couldn't think of a name, or where I had seen this man before. He turned to look at me, and we made eye contact.
If I hadn't recognized him, I could have just smiled or nodded and moved on. But what if it was an old friend or something? I didn't want to be rude. I had to say something. So I entered into chit-chat mode.
"Hi," I said.
"Hi," said the man.
I recalled once running into Paul Molitor this same way, walking along a concourse. Is this guy an ex-player? A scout? A GM? Maybe he works for the Padres, I thought. I decided to say something about Petco.
"Nice ballpark," I said.
"It is a nice ballpark," he agreed.
Then he turned to enter his seating section, and we parted. An instant later, the name came to me: Frank McCourt.
I had just been chatting with the owner of the Dodgers, and the only thing I managed to say to him was how nice the Padres' home ballpark is. D'oh!
I've been suffering from a major case of l'esprit d'escalier ever since. If you have the chance to say one sentence to Frank McCourt, what should you say?
It's always special when one of your heroes gives you the nod. In this article, one of mine, Allen Barra, mentions a couple A-B guys.
It's also a little odd, but in the last week, three guys have come up to me with the offer of free tickets if I'd go to a baseball game with them. Short of that thing I was always told about not trusting strangers, this is one of the cooler developments in a long time. People, coming up to me, with tickets. ILBIW.
Oh, and Derek J? Consider your goal reached.
If you're a cheap bastard that won't subscribe to BP, keeping me begging on the street for loose change and keeping it so that Joe Sheehan has to hustle money at poker, you'll love the latest BP outlet ... expect lots more here after a great opening shot from Chris Kahrl. You go, girl!
2004 Season in Review: Final Installment
(This is the last of 3 part series)
With all the talk about drug testing for players, why aren't we more focused on the real addicts, big-league managers. From Jack McKeon?s geritol abuse to Bob Brenly's Retin-A habit, manager?s drug addiction is baseball's dirty little secret. It should be noted that despite these substance problems in the managing profession, Larry Bowa should be prescribed some type of lude.
Vice President Dick Cheney threw out the first ball on opening day in Cincinnati. Analyzing his pitching form is like doing the same for his political style; throws a lot of junk, with deception the key to his delivery.
Donald Trump is trying to copyright the phrase, "You're Fired." Excuse me, but didn't George Steinbrenner already do that in the 1980?s?
Another Scott Long scoop! Commissioner Bud Selig, after his "stunning" success whoring out opening day to another country is set to open the 2005 season in Haiti. The commish does recommend all players to wear their batting helmets and cups, even when they are checking in at their hotel. The games will be shown on the Travel Channel, as part of their series, "The World?s Most Dangerous Places". The announcers for the game will be Rex Hudler and Robert Young Pelton.
Look out for my mid-season report card sometime in May!
April Fools, Just Late
Please, please, please tell me that Fox is kidding.
Every time I think Bud has run out of bad ideas ...
"I'm sure something will pop into my head."
Press conference. Preznit gets asked hard one by John Dickerson of Time.
JD: "You used to say your biggest mistake was trading Sammy Sosa when you owned the Rangers. After 9/11, what would you say your biggest mistake is and what did you learn from it?"
GWB: "I wish you'd given me the written question ahead of time so I could plan for it."
(Six second pause.)
"John, I'm sure historians will look back on it and say he could have done it better this way or that way. Uh."
(Five second pause, shaking head and puffing his cheeks.)
(Three second pause, still looking down and to his right.)
"I'm sure something will pop into my head in the midst of this press conference. All the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but I haven't yet."
(Shakes head. Three second pause.)
"I would have gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan."
(Four second pause.)
"Even with what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would have called upon the world to act on Saddam Hussein. See, I happen to believe we will find the truth on the weapons. That's why we set up an independent commission. They could still be out there - they could be hidden like the fifty tons of mustard gas on a turkey farm. One of the things that Charlie Dolfort (sp?) talked about ..."
(four second pause)
"... was the level of intimidation he found among people that should know about weapons. They fear talking about them because they don't want to be killed. There's this, there's this, there's this terror still in the soul of some of the people in Iraq. They're worried about getting killed. It'll all settle out, John. We'll find out the truth about the weapons at some point in time. The fact that he had the capacity to make them bothers me."
This is word for word and yes, I timed the pauses. I don't have the time or expertise to go through this and blast it, but the Preznit simply had no idea how to answer what seems to be a relatively important question. It's no harder than ones asked in a typical job interview and he answered it like someone who wouldn't get hired. Stall, then talk in circles until you get to something you feel good talking about.
He's still convinced the WMDs are out there, somewhere. Hans Blix and David Kay haven't done enough, I guess, for this guy's liking ... or he just doesn't like the answer. I'm not so much worried that he's incompetent any more. That's established. I'm worried that not enough people realize it. I would like a president who can actually think on his feet, know his own answers, put together cogent thoughts, and have some semblance of a grasp on reality.
No turkee for Time.
2004 Baseball Season in Review: Part 2
Have there ever been a more diverse duo in the dugout than manager Ozzie Guillen (constant unintelligible chatter) and bench coach Harold (speaks less often than Grasshopper) Baines? It?s like the White Sox hired Penn and Teller to coach the team.
Surprise prediction for AL MVP: Rafael Palmiero. Combine going back to the friendly confines of Camden Yards, with him switching from Viagra to Cialis and Raffy should be able to go all out for a full weekend, including doubleheaders.
Leafing through the Reds Media Guide I was surprised to find that pitcher Todd Jones? favorite television show is ?Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? and his favorite player is Kazuhito Tadano. Not that there is anything wrong with that
(Look out for the final installment, tomorrow)
My Name Is ...
Instead of working the phones and the email, I took the night off from the world of baseball. My best friend and I headed off to the Prince concert. Twenty years after seeing the "Purple Rain" Tour, I was ready to see one of the musical geniuses of our time put on a show.
Opening with his intro from his recent Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction by the sultry Alicia Keys, Prince popped up into the middle of his stage. While it may have been advertised as 'in the round', the stage was actually a cross – appropriate for Prince's male version of Madonna vs whore. He ran around the stage in his usual four inch heels looking almost unchanged from twenty years ago.
It's amazing – in 1984, I remember actual debates about who the top musician was, Prince or Michael Jackson. Twenty years later, Michael Jackson doesn't look like the same species and he's more a punchline than an artist. Prince went away for a while, toiling in his own purple underground for the better part of a decade, coming out rejuvenated and rocking.
Prince was resplendent in a white suit and red hat. The suit was one of those only Prince could wear – white, thick chalkstripes and a cross over sash that buttoned in the back. All he lacked was … oh no, there's the pocket square that became a prop as he danced in every direction of the compass.
Called the "Musicology" tour, he highlighted one line from the titular song – pausing three times in some sort of live, only-a-band-so-tight showoff rewind. "Don't you remember when music used to mean something?" He'd return to the theme later saying "there's no lip syncing tonight. I don't sing unless the microphone is on."
The band was incredible. He wasn't going from a set list and seldom paused between songs. For the first hour, he rushed through his immense catalog like a nine-year old that forgot his Ritalin. The songs seldom played through and almost never sounded like what you remembered. The medley-fashion worked somehow, giving the audience just enough of what they wanted, then moving on.
There was no banter between songs, mostly because there was no between songs. The band took breaks during drum solos or one of Candy Dulfer's sax wailings. Finally, the show shifted gears as Prince sat alone in the center of the stage with a purple Gibson acoustic. Everyone expected we'd hear "Little Red Corvette," but no one expected it to take on a bluesy love song gone wrong tone. He followed up with a pure Chicago blues piece I didn't recognize, claiming even the legacy of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters for his own.
There didn't seem to be a style he wouldn't go for. Rock, blues, funk, soul, bedroom pleadings, it all worked and he owned every one. He asked the audience to sing and dance with him only to walk away, saying "you can't handle me." They couldn't and they knew it, loving him the more for telling the truth.
He flat out owned the crowd and knew it. I've never seen a more confident performer. He took a song so obscure that his own keyboardist didn't know it – "The Question of U" from Graffiti Bridge – and turned it into a fifteen minute jam that took in Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" and references to a half-dozen other Prince songs. He remade "Sign O The Times" into something hard, "Delirious" into a playful acoustic romp, and seared "Purple Rain" to close the show.
There were no missteps, no bad songs, never a drop in energy. If Prince holds true to his word that he's playing these songs for the last time, he's sucking every drop of marrow from them before leaving them behind. On the day where Barry Bonds tied his godfather, Prince hit a home run of his own. Just like Bonds, Prince knows there's no one in his class.
If you didn't see the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductions, you actually missed something. Usually, it's a tired nostalgia fest saved only by the all-star jam session. Prince opened the show with a greatest hits medley, but tore the roof off the joint when he stepped onto the stage with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, and Dhani Harrison for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." His closing solo was six minutes of Prince saying "you can't touch me."
Jeff Lynne stopped playing while Dhani Harrison just laughed, knowing that he was ten feet away from one of the most blistering, show-off, fuck-you guitar solos in history. A left-handed run of hammer-ons and a deep tremolo slam just punctuated that he could take over even one of the best songs from The Beatles.
He did the same thing for nearly three hours Monday in Indy. He owned the stage, he owned the songs, and he owned the crowd. As Alicia said, "there may be many kings, but there's only one Prince."
2004 Baseball Season in Review: Tigers Stun the World!
One of my favorite things to read is the end of the year capsules on Major League Baseball. Knowing that I have neither the contacts nor the resources to write a quality season in review, I figured the best thing I could manage would be to write the first one. So here is the most comprehensive breakdown of the 2004 season you will read, until someone in the know, takes the time to do it properly.
Nothing to me says it's baseball season more than seeing Chris Berman enlighten us about the intricacies of the game, on Baseball Tonight. Only Berman's sartorial splendor can match his knowledge of the sport. (Please note Sarcasm Terror Alert is on Red.)
Okay, there has been a lot of speculation on the story behind Johnny Damon sporting a disguise most people in the witness protection would never wear. The real story is he's growing his hair and beard as long as possible, to rub it in to former teammate, Jason Giambi. (Isn't it about time the Yankee's calm down the military code on personal hygiene?)
(Check out tomorrow for Part 2 of a 3 part series.)
Usually, my friend Bill Fulton leads me to good things ... good beer, good people (like Scott Long), and good times. This time, he's leading me down the road to ruin. With Scoresheet pal Kevin Carroll (no relation), he's got me hooked on a new game called MLBSportsClix. This page shows you the horrors lying in wait for me. So, imagine a strat type game with a collectible "checking eBay at all hours" mentality.
This is not what I needed in my life. Money falling from the sky, sure. Elisha Cuthbert moving in next door, sure. Not an addiction. You try finding a Pujols for under 25 bucks!
Blogging from me (Ken) will be light this week. So I'll just offer a few quick notes. I'm apologetic.
It's nice to know that I'm allowed to write about politics if I want. Of course, I'm also allowed to have a root canal without anesthetics.
Bobby Crosby has been very solid on defense, but shaky at the plate. I had expected the opposite. He seems patient early in the count, but if you get two strikes on him, he swings at anything. Kinda reminds me of a young Matt Williams. If Crosby can have a career resembling Williams', you'll have some happy fans of the Athletics.
Et maintenant: I have seen Khalil Greene. Wow. He looks spiffy both in the field and at the plate. Suddenly, Rey Ordonez's character is a lot more sympathetic.
This architectural review of Petco Park is good. I especially like the phrase, "The quality that makes SBC Park so lastingly seductive is that its virtues are born of necessity. [snip] But at Petco Park, and at many of the other 15 major-league ball fields that have opened since 1991, quirks were designed by committee." Exactly. There's a difference between real beauty and cosmetics.
Every personality test I take says I'm an architectural type: I am driven to understand and design systems. I love to see a simple system of ideas result in complex functionality. I get jazzed about the simple idea of a logic gate making computers possible. I'm fascinated that the difference between two kinds of human memory can result in aesthetics.
So this explanation of Google's architecture really excites me. Oh, the possibilities! But I find that my enthusiasm for an architectural vision is usually hard to share. People don't get it until they can see and touch the final output. I always end up feeling like Tim Robbins in The Hudsucker Proxy. Here's my great idea:
For kids...see? And I think I'm brilliant, and everyone else looks at me like I'm pathetic.
I don't share Jason Kottke's enthusiasm that this architecture will make Google the most important company in the world in 5-8 years. I once helped found for a company that was a calculated bet on the Netscape/Java web architecture. I thought that one of two things would happen: (a) Microsoft would change, or (b) we'd be on the winning side. Wrong, bozo. Microsoft found a third path: (c) use your monopoly power to crush the competition. When Microsoft is an obstacle, I learned the hard way not to be optimistically prophetic.
That's all the time I have, so now I'll stop waxing poetic.
I've been talking to people today, smart lawyers, about what constitutes perjury today. I've learned a lot, more than I could possibly type into this little space. It will be something we'll all be dealing with soon.
This memo may not put Dr. Rice in the hot seat for perjury, but I'm not sure what defense would be effective. For an administration that loathed all that was Bill Clinton, they certainly kept his penchant for parsing.
As John Stewart said on the Daily Show, "Are you F^@%ing kidding me?"
PS: In this blog-bar, we talk about anything. I have the right to talk, Scott and Ken and TFD all have the right ... and so do you. Until you say something patently offensive - not disagreeable, but offensive - the comments are there for you. Every one.
Some on this weblog have made the point that anything that isn't directly related to baseball should not be discussed here. Who made the rules on that? I brought up Martha Stewart and Henry Kissinger because they were shown attending the Yankees home opener. As I mentioned in a past response, Bill James used to discuss politics and society in his Abstracts, which made the books a more enriching experience for many. My goal is to write stuff that not just a sabremetrician would find interesting, while at the same time, keep my posts mainly focused on baseball.
Both Political parties claim they are a "big-tent" of people, but that is really a joke. Can't we be a big tent here? Actually, baseball might be the best example of the big tent philosophy of any sport. Mix two songs and you have covered the diversity of MLB. 1."Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his site." 2."Fat kids, skinny kids, kids that climb on rocks, Tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chicken pox." (1. "Jesus Loves the Little Children" 2. Armour Hot Dog Jingle) Now try to argue with me on that point! Hah, I didn't think so!
I have true SABR roots, as I started buying Bill James books back in 1981, I'm a huge proponent of Baseball Prospectus, I digested "Moneyball" in one sitting, plus most importantly, I never went to my High School Prom. (What says sabremetrics more than that?) Having given my credentials, there are more effective advocates for SABR than myself, so I will only dabble in statisics and instead offer insight to hidden game of baseball, it's bizarre comedy.
Here's my suggestion if you don't like my offerings: Turn the dial, much like people should do with a radio, instead of some big brother, FCC approach of censoring Howard Stern-types. Oops, I just went off topic, may the Gods of baseball weblog purity, put me on the bench next to the draft day bonus baby who is out of options.
(By the way, what I mean by turn the dial is to scroll up to one of the other excellent writers on this blog, led by W.C. Fields of Dreams.)
I'm following this. It's going to break HUGE in the next 48 hours. Keep your eyes on BP and this space.
Need your help with a small piece of "investigative journalism." Scott McCauley of BPR has been working on the whys and hows of MLB blackout rules. He's found out a lot, but he's also determined that it's not always working like it's supposed to be. We'll have a LOT more on this during this week's BPR, but if you've been affected by blackouts over the last couple years, please comment if you can or if you need to be anonymous, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Employees and customers of DirecTV and Dish Network are especially encouraged to help.
Criminal Celebrities at Yankee Stadium
Watching the Yanks/White Sox game, they showed celebrities in the stands like Martha Stewart and Henry Kissinger. What's sad is that Ms. Stewart will be going to the slammer for making $60,000 bucks on insider trading, while Kissinger has never been tried for his murderous crimes against the world, as Nixon's Secretary of State. (See documentary, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, which focuses on the investigative journalism of Christopher Hitchens.)
On a baseball note, Vasquez looked dominant and after pitching in San Juan, so many times in 2003, Yankee Stadium will seem like Dodger Stadium to him.
The French Cousin?
OK, I've heard "Who's on First" a gazillion times, but there's one joke I don't get. Can anyone explain this to me?
Abbott: Strange names, pet names...like Dizzy Dean...The audience on the recording laughs at this, but I just go, huh? Goofy Dean? French? I'm missing something. Why is this funny?
We put the kids to bed, then I told my wife I had a surprise for her.
"Hey, new shoes! Nice," said the wife. "Now are those quarters in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
For some reason, she wasn't very happy with my answer, or the surprise...
So I'm happy to welcome my new leader, Scott. Which reminds me of a corny joke I heard today. Don't know if this joke works outside the Bay Area or not, but:
In regards to the Godfather question.
Maybe Sonny, when I was back in HS, as I had some curly blond hair at the time. Though in the book, Puzo described Sonny with a horse like appendage, so maybe not. (My last name is not complete truth in advertising. My middle name should be Adequately Long. Too much info, yes.) Actually, I would go with somewhere between the Duvall character in the Godfather and Apocalypse Now. (Coppola non-mafia masterpiece.) Though, after being in Florida, throw in George Hamilton's skin tone in Godfather 3.
By the way, I will speak to baseball issues soon. I will leave you with this. Was there any human more personally affected by the movie, The Passion of the Christ than Johnny Damon? If the savior wore cleats, he would resemble, Damon. Now, leading off for the Red Sox, the American Taliban!
Welcome to my blog. I will only make one promise and that reading my rants will probably change your life. Keep in mind that my words often make people follow me like I am the reincarnation of Jim Jones or David Koresh (without the pesky belief in God thing). Despite this ability to brainwash, I refuse to use my powers to create a L. Ron Hubbard-like movement.
Now, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
PS: Please note that I will get back to you when the next Hale Bopp comet hits. To be prepared, immediately castrate yourself, at all times wear your black Nikes and keep your pockets filled with quarters. (Do the last thing, because behind heavens gate is lot a foosball tables and the cell phone service isn't good there, so you have to use the pay phone.)
Hide The Women and Children
Did I say I didn't like shaking things up?
Maybe I just like testing my luck. I think all will agree that getting Ken on board here was a major addition, so I figure why not see if lightning can strike twice. We're adding a new voice: Scott Long is one of the top working comedians in the country, with books, albums, and nationwide appearances. Whether he's terrorizing job interviewers or writing for "Fox NFL Sunday," he never ceases to make people both laugh and think.
He's also one of few people I know that can talk about OPS, then make fun of Rafael Palmeiro's "big black bat" Viagra ads. His book "Dysfunctional Thoughts of a 21st Century Man" is about as perfect a title for someone at this blog as possible. I hope everyone will enjoy reading his stuff as much as he does.
All Is Good
You know, I don't like to shake things up, as much as people think I do. I don't sit down to my laptop and think "what's controversial?" Really, I don't. Mostly, I write because I have to. There's something vaguely cancerous about holding words back. Since I was in elementary, somehow words flowed out of me and I could usually work them together. Sometimes it was stories, songs, or even just trying to convince that girl that just because I was short (and I was up until high school) that it shouldn't mean that we couldn't be 'good friends.'
There was college, where a chance meeting with a writing teacher led me to take it seriously. Jim White saw something in me and tried to hone it, despite my best resistance and while he birthed a series of short stories from my addled brain, it was a short lived burst of wordsmithing.
I'd convinced myself that writing wasn't something I could do. It never went away. I'm proud of those stories and hope they find an outlet someday. I'll finally send my novel out into the world, finish the Dalkowski novel, the Rushford bio, and about six other projects that I have bubbling in the cauldron, but my first love is baseball.
I could write like this every day, but while I can be a little free-formish here, I'm boxed in by format and success with UTK. It's informational and that's ok. I occasionally sneak in a phrase or passage that I like, that's good work outside of the data, but of all the BP works, mine's the least readable.
But I like what I do. Love it, actually. I'll keep trying to improve while providing information, but I've also discovered something else. I love helping writers almost as much as I love writing. I'm not sure where that will lead, but I never expected to BE a writer myself. I never expected to write books or coach pitchers or get major league people on the phone at all hours.
All is good in this small part of the world. For right now, that's enough.
A's 3, Rangers 1
I'm gonna play Will Carroll for this one.
The protagonists of tonight's Rangers-A's game were four players who had injury-plagued seasons last year. They all look healthy now. Mark Mulder and Chan Ho Park dueled it out, and both pitched fabulously. It helped that the home plate umpire, Brian Runge, had a far more generous strike zone tonight than last night's ump, Dana Demuth.
Jim Mecir took over for Mulder in the eighth. He is quite noticeably thinner; he lost over 20 pounds to take pressure off his troublesome knee. He also pitched great; his screwball seemed to have much more bite than it did at any time last year.
And then there's Jermaine Dye. Dye won the game with a homer in the sixth off Park. I've seen Dye four games in a row now, and he is a monster. The last two years, with his legs hurt, you could blow fastballs by him at will. Now, his hips are rotating quickly; he is getting around on those fastballs, and crushing them.
On Saturday, he took two fastballs off the plate inside and yanked them for a homer and a double. Yesterday, he singled and doubled to right. He's smoking the ball all over the field. Everything is hit hard, even his outs. Yadda yadda sample size, but unless he hurts those legs again, he looks to me like he's going to destroy all of those conservative projections for him. This isn't the Jermaine Dye of 2002-03.
I'm going to the game tomorrow; Colby Lewis vs. Barry Zito. Should be fun.
Mouse Potato: Rangers at A's
It's late, these notes will be short, cuz I'm feeling tired.
Mouse Potato: Giants at Astros
This game has some moments, and a couple of strange plays. But forget that: only two things mattered here: Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.
Bonds raked two fastballs off Roy Oswalt to left field for doubles. Oswalt walked him next time up, to save himself the trouble.
Mays joined the Giants broadcast booth for an inning, which was pretty fun.
In his day, besides himself, Mays decreed, only Vada Pinson and Mickey Mantle had more speed.
Bonds came up in the eighth, with two on and one out, Giants down 4-1. Jimy Williams decides not to put on base the tying run.
Not an easy choice; a hard one to decide; but Jimy's choice was wrong, one pitch and we were tied.
I don't think Mays will need that torch as a gift to give, because Barry Bonds shouldn't see a pitch to hit as long as he shall live.
Mouse Potato: Phillies vs. Pirates
Kevin Millwood and Kip Wells throwing well, the innings fly by fast.
Game Break: Ben Grieve goes deep! Brewers lead 4-1. St. Louis comes back and ties it. Dave Burba relieves Ben Sheets. Dave Burba? Isn't he from a decade in the past?
Pirates take the lead in the fifth with a double to right by Tike.
Imagine a ballpark designed by Frank Gehry. What would that be like?
Is it the fault of teachers that more kids don't turn to poetry for enjoyment?
Littlefield and McClendon got contract extensions today? Okayyyy...I guess it's not brain surgery, and somebody needs to give Raul Mondesi employment.
Royals score six in the ninth to beat the White Sox, 9-7! That's a surprising Game Break.
Craig Wilson homers. Dude can rake.
A scary thought for Pirate fans: they're going to the pen.
Rollins drives in a run with a sac fly. Philly down 2-1.
Mesa mows 'em down in the ninth, and the Pirates have won!
There's a building body of work surrounding Moneyball and Moneyball-as-proxy for sabermetrics. Today, Steven Goldman wrote an article that stands with Joe Sheehan's 2000 Manifesto and Dayn Perry's "Beer and Tacoes" piece.
It should be sent to every team at every level, to every coach and every player. Next time someone questions you on why you look at numbers or at baseball in an objective, scientific fashion, pull this out and educate them.
I'm proud to be associated with a writer and a person like Steve.
The LA Times shows again why it dominated the Pulitzers. Maybe it's just me - and I'm no pundit - but why, why, why would all these people connected to Iraq be considered for what amounts to promotion?
Let's look at this objectively ... assume that Bush is re-elected. Normal turnover opens up a ton of positions. Still, the biggest of the Bush administration failures is Iraq. There are likely people in the administration working on projects that worked ... or failed less spectacularly. If the Bushies are just going to rub our face in the people that failed to plan properly for the Iraqi occupation, they either just don't get it or just don't care what we think.
I'm torn on this, going back and forth explaining the Bush administration as either incompetent or violently ideological. We'll know more after Rice's "conversation" this week.
A little help?
Ok, I'm missing something here, so as always, I turn to my friends ...
I've enjoyed watching the digital cable version of Extra Innings all day, but I'm also considering the MLB.tv package since I could watch that on the road or at the studio. At $19/mo, the cost is about the same ... so question 1 is, is there any difference besides screen size? Are the extras like audio and condensed game worth the difference?
Now, here's the thing I think I'm missing. MSN is promoting their Premium package by tossing in the All Access package. At $9 bucks a month, I'm not going to worry about putting money in Gates' coffers, but I think there must be a catch I'm missing.
BTW, does anyone actually listen to MLB Radio? It looks like they have some good shows, but it's never enough to make me go "I have to hear this so much that I'm willing to pay." It's the XM/Sirius situation all over again.
Mouse Potato: Cubs vs. Reds
Top 1, Corey beats Cory, as Patterson takes Lidle deep. "Dusty Baker doesn't want to see that," says Joe Morgan, immediately placing his unique logic on full display.
Sosa pops up. Alou flies to left. If they're hitting the ball in the air off Lidle, the Reds are in for a long day.
Adjectives: there's no reason to fear them.
When Lidle struggles, he nibbles, and now he loads the bases. Alou doubles to clear them.
Reds scratch out a couple against Wood, but the rally dies when Casey strikes out.
GMail looks tempting, but privacy makes me pause with doubt.
Barrett hustles himself into a triple. He should have been out at third.
7-0 Tigers. Perhaps picking the Tigers to win the AL Central wasn't so absurd.
ESPN shows Sandy Alomar Jr. homering in Ozzie Guillen's managerial debut. My wife says: "Ozzie Guillen? Ozzie Guillen is managing? Whose idea was that?"
5-4 now after a double by Casey at the bat.
Hey, Ruz, it's Mike Wuertz! He throws strikes! He goes 1-2-3! He knows how to perform!
Stretch time. The last few innings have been quiet. The clam before the storm?
My spelling is gelling!
Kent Mercker? Isn't he too old yet?
Cubs score two when Dunn arrives at a fly, but then forgets to hold it.
Wow! A single to center with men on first and third becomes a double play: 8-2-5!
Borowski's save looks shaky, but he manages to survive.
I may get blacked out of the opening Cubs game, but I get to hear Vin Scully on the Ticket ... gotta love that.
Also a big fan of these new San Diego road unis.
And Dusty took Wood out when he hit 95 pitches ... I live for this!
Meeting the Babe
There's a nice story in today's SF Chronicle magazine about a childhood encounter with Babe Ruth.
The True Giant in the Lineup
I went to the A's-Giants game yesterday, and saw something yesterday that may never be repeated. Granted, this was just spring training, but still...
Ricardo Rincon was pitching, top of the 7th, game tied, one out, one run in, runners on second and third. First base was open and Barry Bonds was up. Pedro Feliz was on deck, with A.J. Pierzynski following.
So you walk Bonds, right?
Not Rincon. He has a huge lefty/righty split, so he prefers facing left-handed batters. So Rincon goes right after Bonds and gets him to pop up. He walks the right-handed Feliz semi-intentionally on four pitches, then retires the lefty-batting Pierzynski to escape the rest of the inning unharmed.
I laughed. It's as if Rincon said to himself, "OK, Bonds, Pierzynski--easy outs. Just don't let Pedro Feliz beat you. You always gotta be careful with Pedro Feliz."
Jamey Newberg tells me that Milton Bradley has been dealt to the Dodgers. It's far from the deal I floated, but it's not completely off. The deal is yet another that DePodesta has pulled off, remaking the Dodgers in small bites.
It should make Dodger and Indians fans happy while keeping Chris Kahrl and Christian Ruzich in transactions ...
Will Is Insane
Not me, but George Will. This article on the shrilly conservative TownHall.org site proves it. His comparisons to terrorism and Viagra are simply inane. Will's a writer I respected even when I disagreed with him ... but he's lost it. I think writers, like players, seldom stay good for long periods of time.
This article, co-written by John Erardi, a really good writer, is more along the lines of what we should be seeing from really good writers. He investigates why the Reds seem incapable of developing pitchers. The biggest cause? No surprise to my readers, it's health. I think Tom Browning hits on velocity as a cause. Velocity comes from maximal effort and that maximal effort taxes arms if they aren't protected by good mechanics.
I also like the "oneness" line from O'Brien. While I'll stick with my "wrong man for the job" he might be as right as Cincinnati can handle.
DIPS, Contact, etc
I'm a well-known anti-DIPS guy. I don't question the math or a lot of the logic, but I think it discounts the ability of the pitcher far too much. That said, I'm curious how DIPS and the new Elias/ESPN-pushed contact rate play together. If you make more contact, but have an "unluckier" BABIP .... or if you make less contact with a luckier BABIP, both could look identical, right?
Paging MGL ... if we break BABIP into zones, do we learn anything?
Help a brother out and discuss ... don't use a lot of math, if possible :)
Besides the Yahoo league we set up here, I'm in a couple other leagues ...
One is a Scoresheet league where I hope to be above water. Playing against guys like Nate Silver and Theron Skyles, I feel like Omar Minaya ... I give Scoresheet my full Fred McGriff endorsement.
I'm in a Sportsline Expert league (now there's a misuse of the term) which should be interesting. I mostly used the BP Fantasy Manager to pick the team, which is why it looks so similar to our NL Tout Wars and LABR teams.
I'm also in a long term league using Front Office rules. Great league, great fun, and I'm very proud of how I came out of the draft. You can check the rosters here. I'm always open for advice on any of these.
Is It So Wrong?
I don't ask for much in life ... and I have no idea why I like these ...
... but I do want a a pair of these.
Watchin' and surfin'
Surfing the web while watching A's vs. Giants on TV.
"Jerome Williams looks like he still needs a note from home to pitch in a night game." Ah, it's so nice that Hank Greenwald gave up being a retiree.
Top of the first, Eric Chavez takes Jerome Williams yard.
If Ed Cossette can complain about Sears, then I can proclaim that I'd rather work side by side with the Poopsmith all day than stand in line to return something at Home Depot. Why must they make it so hard?
I didn't want this: a reason to bring my laptop to the game.
Zito walks Snow. His fastballs are up too high. Grissom pops up on a high 3-1 fastball with Bonds on deck. Then Bonds pops up, too. It didn't take Zito long to rediscover his aim.
Williams' sinker looks good tonight. The Chavez blast didn't leave Williams shaken.
Who is this SB Poet person? Isn't that name taken?
"Mohr struck out 106 times last year, and is not unfamiliar with that walk back to the dugout," says Hank.
Things I never considered before and never will again #298: the fine art of avoiding dishes that clank.
Greenwald on Zito's batting: "Some guys would be happy to hit their weight. Barry would be happy to hit his number."
The other Barry, Bonds, rakes a line-drive double to the wall even though he broke his lumber.
Neifi Perez is worth $6.1 million! Statistics now show it!
This explains everything: a good programmer is a poet.
Zito has a new upright position out of the stretch. A's pitching coach Curt Young is on mic and says Zito thinks it puts him closer to the same motion as his windup. The better posture also gives him a much better pickoff move, it helps take pressure off his knee, and just generally makes him look more handsome.
Just to prove Curt Young right, Zito picks off Cody Ransom.
Oh no! What happened to homestarrunner.com?
Zito is mowing guys down. If you were worried about Zito losing it, be calm.
I've wondered why my poetry is so much better than my prose; now I found a tool that shows me the reason.
I don't agree with all of Will's politics, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "curiously nattering philosophy of treason."
Today's trivia: "Six players from the 1989 World Series played for both the Giants and the A's. What are their names?":
Says Hank, "The 1989 World Series, isn't that the one where the underdog Giants took the heavily favored A's all the way to four games?"
Of all the things that happen in April, isn't National Poetry Month is the biggest event?
Barry Zito's pitch selection last year: fastball 55.3%, curveball 22.0%, changeup 22.7%.
Bonds pops up to right on a 3-0 two-out fastball. McMillon drops the ball. Santos, on first, wasn't running hard all the way and gets thrown out at the plate.
Zito goes seven scoreless. He was great.
Ugh. Eric Byrnes gets beaned in the helmet by Leo Estrella. He's lying prone on the ground. Blood is flowing down his head.
Byrnes gets carted off. Good news, it seems there's no concussion, just a nasty cut that bled.
Trivia: if you answered, "Dave Henderson, Stan Javier, Bill Bathe, Kelly Downs, Kevin Mitchell, and Ernest Riles", you were right.
Scutaro makes a nice diving catch in the 9th. I'm rooting for him to win the job at second. Mecir closes it out. A's win 4-0, game over, and good night.
I give Dusty Baker a hard time here, deservedly so much of the time, but also a hard time that only a die-hard Cub fan can give. It's like a sibling - you can talk as much shit about them as you like, but woe is the outsider that casts aspersion.
One thing Dusty has been extremely right about are his comparisons of the steroid craze to McCarthyism. With Jack McDowell's recent idiocy, it gets taken to a new level.
I wish that McDowell, Palmer, and others could be held accountable for their baseless, truthless statements, but really, in a way, they are. I think that fans will see their comments and cost them what ever small scraps of credibility they have left.
Yes, this one's personal. I'm not a big fan of Palmer and yes, playing the steroid card on the guy I've based my book around hits me in the wallet.
For those of you with a good connection and some free time this afternoon should dial up www.espn950.com from 3-6 EST. McCauley and I will be talking a lot of baseball and might even bust out the announcement I spoke of yesterday. (I'm not teasing, I'm just waiting on the confirmation. The press release is at the ready.)
Milton Bradley's evidently worn out his welcome in Cleveland. For the Indians, this really isn't the worst case scenario. They're stacked with good outfielders and the depth was actually something of a problem. Heading into the season with a projected OF of Bradley-Escobar-Lawton/Gerut, the Tribe also has Coco Crisp and Grady Sizemore at the ready.
The imminent trade of Bradley may bring back some needed pitching to add to the Sabathia-Lee-Robertson mix, but let's take a look-see at the Indians and see if this really makes sense. The Indians have good, but not great talent at pretty much every position. The outfield might be a bit more stacked than other positions, but there's plenty of talent, such as Billy Traber and Brian Tallet recovering from surgeries that has to be counted.
The Indians, with depth, are playing the odds that a certain amount of prospects will fail and that just enough will succeed to form a credible team. In the AL Central, credible becomes contending with just a few breaks. That depth also allows them as much or more flexibility than other teams in the division to make a deal at the deadline to try and "win now" if that's what looks possible.
The Indians, with this depth, don't have what they once had. In the early 90's, the team developed a gaggle of superstars - Belle, Thome, Ramirez, and Lofton - that this team doesn't appear to have. The prospect with the most upside, Grady Sizemore, projects more like Jim Edmonds Lite than a superstar. The Bradley trade would then have two possible goals: get that superstar to add to the mix in three or four years or fill a current need.
Failing the superstar, the Indians probably most need, in order, a third baseman, starting pitching, and power.
Dealing Bradley is going to be an interesting transaction. He's not the typical distressed dealing in that there are several teams that could use the boost of offense. The Dodgers are becoming the "usual suspect" in any trade that involves something that looks like offense. Would Bradley help this team? Certainly, he'd be better than recent acquisition Jayson Werth, but would the Dodgers be willing to give up one of their superstar level prospects like Loney or Jackson? Doubtful, but possible.
The Mariners, A's, and Cardinals are the names being spun around the watercooler today, but none of these teams has a superstar prospect. Do they have usable parts? The M's could give up some pitching, the A's don't seem to have much, and the Cardinals farm system is as barren as Edwina McDunnough.
So, playing baseball shadchen for a moment, I'll turn off the part of my brain that reminds me of the futility of suggestions to people smarter than me.
The Dodgers get Milton Bradley, Travis Hafner and Coco Crisp.
There's a free UTK up over at BP today. It happens once in a blue moon, so go check it out.
No Man's Land
While I'm a fan of globalization, the Japan series just completed comes off as a nice idea on paper. As my oft-quoted pal John Goalder says, "Good anecdote, bad reality."
We're left in something of a no man's land between games that "count" but seem more like an exhibition and the 'real' Opening Day. I'm far from a traditionalist, but Opening Day is special. The NFL has tried to make their season kick-off special, but it's not. However, if baseball keeps taking away from the actual Opening Day with Opening Night Before Opening Day and Opening Series A Week Before Opening Day, baseball will soon be in the same boat.
You have to page down to the March 30th entry (what? no permalinks, Brian?) but a recent email to Redbird Nation is not only interesting, but possibly one of the more effective uses of the blog phenomenon. If teams will use blogs as PR, scouts, and analysts or as an outlet for their own propaganda, I think it's very smart. I'm curious to see what comes of this, but kudos to Brian at RN and to Jeff Luhnow of the Cards, showing one of the more creative minds in baseball with several moves.
If I get one more email about Mark Prior, I'm gonna ...
This is fast becoming one of those things like "why does the Newsletter come out so late?" and any question involving steroids, Pete Rose, or my hair that I just cringe at. Honestly, I'm torn. I think it's great that not only do people think of me as accessible, I am accessible.
TFD makes jokes about me being a "rock star" and even my grandmother is telling me not to get the big head (waaaay too late, grandma), but I like doing Feeds where I can talk to people and answering emails. I just don't want to burn out. Maybe I'll start putting those FAQs over here, somehow ... hmmmm.
I hope to have one more announcement before Opening Day. Oh, and if anyone's coming to the Cincy Pizza Feed on the 8th, I will be at the Reds-Cubs game that afternoon. Email me and I'll let you know how to find me.
The Good Old Days
I don't really disagree that SportsCenter was better in the old days with Olbermann and Patrick. But I don't think it's quite fair to blast the current anchors. They have a much tougher job.
It's far easier to be innovative in an immature art form. Certainly, you have to be talented to innovate at any time. But when an art form is new, you don't have a whole library of clichés to battle against. Now, there have been over 25,000 SportsCenter shows. What's left to do that hasn't been done before? Is it even possible to avoid clichés at this stage? I think you'd have to be extremely, extremely talented.
Lately, I've been mulling what the predictors of quality are in daily art forms (talk shows, comic strips, blogging, baseball play-by-play, etc.) It's impossible to create great work on a daily basis. You don't have time to refine things.
Half the battle, I think, is just showing up. Longevity seems to be important in judging the quality of daily art forms. The reason Johnny Carson is viewed as being better than Jack Paar is probably because Carson stuck around longer. 40-year-olds don't win the Ford Frick Award for baseball broadcasting excellence, 80-year-olds do.
You also need a certain level of competence. The best daily artists have moments where they break through the clouds of routine and let their brilliance shine through. But to get to those moments, they need to show up every day and go through the inevitable motions.
Some daily artists, like Gary Larson and Bill Watterson, won't accept going through the motions, and quit when they hit the wall of clichés. Others, like Charles Schulz, find a way to change things up (getting Snoopy up on two legs) just enough to keep going.
Which of today's bloggers will be the Carsons of tomorrow? We'll see who sticks around for 30 years. In the meantime, damn the clichés, full blog ahead!
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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