Monthly archives: June 2004
Of Wisdom and Experience
Sometimes I think I read too many blogs. Before I came to visit friends and relatives here in Sweden, I was a bit afraid that Europe was awash in anti-Americanism. All these blogs told me so! But here's an interesting statistic:
American sportswear observed by a certain American tourist in Sweden:OK, maybe I exaggerated that last number a little. But only a little. Here in Sweden's third-largest city, MalmŲ, I have found it impossible to walk downtown more than a block or two without seeing someone wearing a Yankees cap. Damn Yankees are everywhere!
With so many people advertising on their heads the sporting equivalent of American imperialism, it's hard to say that anti-Americanism is much of a issue. I've noticed much more anti-EU sentiment so far; EU policy is a much bigger factor in their daily lives than what the US is doing in Iraq.
That said, I have found a general anti-Republican sentiment. Or perhaps, I should say anti-Republican bewilderment. Swedes find Bush maddening; Fahrenheit 9/11 hasn't been released here yet, but it's getting a lot of press, and each story seems to be rooting for it to cause so much bad publicity for Bush that he'll lose the election. But what really flabbergasts the Swedes I've talked to is that Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor. Being from California, I try to explain, but Republicans might as well be aliens from the planet Tralfamadore who communicate by dancing and farting, for all that Swedes can understand them.
I think this may go back a long way. Yesterday, I took from my brother's bookshelf a copy of the HŠvamŠl, an ancient Scandinavian poetic book of advice that is probably about 1,200 years old. I found a stanza that seems rather apropos. The translation from the original is mine; the interpretation is yours:
A wisely counseled manToday, my family and I took a day trip across the bridge into Copenhagen, Denmark. On the train back to Sweden, a group of three young women wearing Muslim headdresses sat down just ahead of us and across the aisle. They were probably teenagers or perhaps in their early twenties. One of the women was holding a clear plastic purse with nothing but an Iraqi flag inside. Another woman had a necklace with the word 'Iraq' and small Iraqi flags printed on it.
The American transfer of power to an Iraqi government hit the newspapers just this morning. Were these women celebrating that fact, or were they protesting something? I felt a bit uncomfortable. I'm sure they could hear my family speaking American English, so they must have known we were American. What would they think about these Americans sitting across the aisle from them?
I made eye contact with one of them. I gave a little smile, and she smiled back. She said something to the other women, one of whom turned around to give me a look, and quickly turned back. This second woman said something to the others, too, and then all three women started to giggle.
They giggled the kind of giggle that teenage girls giggle amongst themselves when they're making fun of somebody who just isn't cool, teasing the hopeless dweeb who will never, ever get it.
You know that giggle. In high school, I lived in constant fear of that giggle, the one that lets everybody know that you don't know the One Big Thing (s-e-x) that everyone else seems to know. The giggle both humiliates and confuses you all at once, because no matter how much theory you take in, there's no full understanding without experience, and you don't have it. And so you wonder, what is this mysterious information that you're missing?
I read so many blogs on both sides of the political aisle that I thought I was ready to discuss American politics with my European friends. But then came that giggle from across the train aisle, and now...now I'm just a confused American in Europe, holding an unanswerable question.
Breaking down the AL All-Star Squad: Position Players
When Joe Torre chooses his players for the American League All-Star roster, he will be hampered by having the first 3 positions around the infield diamond clogged with unworthy selections chosen by the fan ballot. With the addition of 2 more spots added to make for a 32 roster, this should alleviate some of the problems the Yankee or former Yankee bias has created on the All-Star ballots. Here is my breakdown.
Catcher- Ivan Rodriguez leads the balloting and has been the top backstop in the Majors. Torre will have to decide if he wants to carry 3 catchers or not, with Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez being the other choices. I would go with 3 catchers and reward Martinezís fabulous season, as his OPS might be 26 points lower than Posada (.922 to .896) and Jorge is much better behind the plate, but Victorís 52 RBIís to 32 for Posada, makes this a pretty close race.
1st Base- Jason Giambi is a lock to win the fan vote, so he takes one deserving choice from the AL team. A lock should be Frank Thomas with his .453 OBP and .1053 OPS, but after that it gets tougher. David Ortiz (.937 OPS), Travis Hafner (.931), Paul Konerko (.924) and Scott Hatteberg (.903) are all very close, but Ortiz should be the ultimate winner, with his 69 RBIís. By the way, Ken Harvey makes the squad, above all these other more deserving candidates, as Beltran being traded, leaves him with the only decent major league stats on the Royals roster.
2nd Base- Alfonso Soriano continues to live off his Yankee high profile past, but Ronnie Belliard should be the starter. With more top-notch players at shortstop, I would have Micheal Young play his old position, replacing Soriano after his first at bat.
Shortstop- Derek Jeter is the final poor choice by the fans on the AL side, where even with ARod moving over to 3rd and Nomar hurt most of the first half, there are at least 4 more deserving candidates. With Young moved over to second, the 3 remaining choices would be Jose Guillen (.914), Jose Valentin (.904), and Miguel Tejada (.847). I would take the top 2 OBP candidates, but I expect that Torre will select Tejada over Valentin.
3rd Base- Alex Rodriguez is the ALís top 3rd baseman, shortstop, and probably would be the best at about 3 or 4 other positions. Hank Blalock is one of the top 5 players in the league and should demand ARod be put back to his rightful spot of shortstop, so this great young Ranger is not kept from ever starting in the All-Star Game.
Outfielders- If by luck or not, the fansí vote is hard to argue with, as vote leaders Vlad Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Sheffield are excellent choices. Only Melvin Mora and Hideki Matsui are on the same level at this point. Since the Blue Jays have to have one all-star, add Vernon Wells.
I will visit the AL Pitchers in the next couple of days; so calm down Aís, Twins, Devil Rays, and Mariners fans. I chose 21 position players, as 11 pitchers is plenty, as even in an extra inning game, itís going to be hard for Torre to use more than 8 hurlers.
I'm working on a Slate article on "oddball" deliveries. Maybe I should call them non-standard or alternative, but baseball's a sport that likes it's oddballs. If anyone has a good memory of a guy with a really unorthodox delivery, drop it in comments. Big sweeping sidearm deliveries like Walter Johnson or Jim Bunning count, but I'm more looking for Chad Bradford "WTF is that?" deliveries.
Follow The Leader
Wasn't that a Rakim song? Can't remember, no time to look it up.
LOTS of trades working right now. The Beltran and Garcia deals have really heated things up. Couple things at work here - some creeping "me too"ism and some flopsweat, my job's on the line desperation by some GMs.
Who's in play? Andruw Jones is the biggest name with the White Sox, Red Sox, Yankees, and one other team I can't let out yet after him hard. Most of the problem is money - only the Yanks can take on the money the Braves want to offload without juggling or begging ownership. This one is "blockbuster" however it plays out.
Jamie Moyer's in play slightly, but only to Boston or New York. Neither team is aggressive right now, so this could be a deadline deal.
Peter Gammons says Carlos Beltran could be back in play if Houston continues to underperform. Peter certainly knows better than I, but this is one I don't understand. Houston didn't pay much, gains the draft pick when Beltran walks, and likely won't get far enough back by either deadline to feel out of it.
The Mets hold a lot of cards, with money to spend and prospects in the system. Some are saying that they'll make a rush, but they could just as easily be sellers. While everyone wants David Wright, it's Mike Piazza that would be the best bait. I don't expect much happening there since the NL East is so tight.
I have no idea what the Dodgers are doing, but I don't expect them to be terribly active. DePodesta didn't expect this team to win now.
The Giants are lying in the weeds. Like Beane, Brian Sabean always makes deals and he's shopping Pierzynski. The Marlins want the young catcher to shore up their lineup and they have some bats to deal. I wouldn't give up Jason Stokes cheaply like they did Adrian Gonzalez, but flags fly forever.
Lots else, but those are the big ones coming to mind. I'm following them, here and at BP.
I promise - last political post, at least for a while.
Paul Bremer handed over power two days early, then left. Left the country he supposedly ran, like a thief in the night. Well, I guess that's appropriate.
Ok, with just weeks before Bud reportedly will announce the new home of the Expos, let's have some fun with the drama. DC's bid is dead, but they'd be no fun anyway, surely naming their team the Senators. What I'm unsure of - and can't find mention of - is what a NoVa or Vegas team might be named.
Name away in comments. Best name (and I'm the sole judge) gets ... umm, I'll come up with something cool.
My best? Virginia Generals, Manassas Bulls, Virginia Colonels; Las Vegas Stars, Las Vegas Knights, Nevada Neons
First thoughts on the White Sox trade
So you give up a young, solid catcher (Miguel Olivo), and a prospect that has minor league stats like he's going to be the next Tony Gwynn (Jeremy Reed) for a starting pitcher who has only 3 months left on his contract. BFG! (Big.......Gamble!) Since Kenny Williams has made more good moves than bad over the past couple of years, I'm going to give him a little leeway, but I wouldn't have made the deal.
Having said this, I do appreciate that he's attempting to put a team in the playoffs that can compete for a World Championship. When you are a franchise that hasn't won a World Series since 1917, haven't been to one since 1959, you have to be aggressive, when the opportunity presents itself.
One other thing this move declares is that Williams likes Borchard more than Reed. Maybe that is because Kenny and Joe are both Stanford alums and Williams invested a lot of money in Borchard, just to sign him away from a football playing career.
On the Mariners side, I think it was a slamdunk deal and I didn't see any other offer for Garcia that was as good. Ichiro and Reed are hitting machines, well-suited for a park which is set up for double hitters. US Cellular is more a park setup or Borchard's talents.
Interesting article on Bush's record as a "war President." I'm unsure of the background/politics of the writer and his publication, but it seems very wonkish in it's makeup. Worth reading and certainly more balanced than anything Christopher "My Dick is small, so instead of buying a car like most men, I whip out my vocabulary" Hitchens has written in a decade.
Light A Match
A group of us went to Fahrenheit 9/11 last night, not to be wowed, but to merely watch a fire burn. Like my recent link to a P.J. O'Rourke essay, few in the theater were swayed by the arguments; it was a choir in the face of preaching.
The film itself is typical Moore. Heavy-handed, self-focused "everyman" documentary interspersed with an occasional powerful image, perfect metaphor, and powerful truth. Near the beginning, the screen goes black and the sounds of September 11th are more powerful. We all have the images burning in our minds (yes, the tense is intentionally present) so that we all can see in our mind's eye the horrors of the day.
As the screen comes back - long enough that we wonder "is the projector broken" in an uncomfortable yet powerful way - it is to people looking up and papers coming down. In a sequence disquietingly similar to American Beauty there is a simplistic yet beautiful sequence of papers floating down. While this was seen in Blue Man Group's amazing Episode 13, the image is still sledgehammer powerful.
Moore lets the tomfoolery of Bush make his case. This is not "fair and balanced," but it makes no hypocritical facade that it is. He intercuts facts on the Saudis, the flight (in both sense of the word) of the Saudis in the days just after September 11th, and the strange career of George W. Bush. The image of Paul Wolfowitz doing his hair will stick with me for a while.
The film then shifts abruptly as we move from Bush to Iraq. Instead of the heavy-handed polemics we expect from Moore, it moves to a rushed, near-Winchellian mode with a heavy dose of Orwell. There are views of boys playing Army - real Army, feeding heavy metal through a tank's comm system, and only after, realizing this is no game. There is blood and gore, perhaps too much for some, but much less than war. We see the stares of those that cannot handle killing and violence, but have seen it anyway. Those faces always make me wonder how the rest make it through unscathed.
It ends quickly. Moore obviously rushed contemporary footage in, but it holds together, especially in following a mother from Flint as she deals with her son's death in Iraq. Her stand near the White House is heartbreaking and true. Moore goes back to Orwell, quoting out the views on War that Orwell saw a half-century ago and that a royalist government has brought to pass.
As we left, I looked out to the streets. I was heartened to see the crowd skewed young, but I didn't see something I hoped. Where was the sign for Kerry? The people ready to help people register to vote? Heck, where were the protesters? The Kerry "campaign" needs to understand that Moore holds a grasp of the everyman metaphors that a patrician senator needs to reach America. Instead of hiding from fire, it's time that America needs to light a match.
"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." - Jefferson
Scary Stuff Going on Under the Radar Screen
In the continuing fall-out from a pop singer's nipple, a bill which was mainly about funding the military, added a completely different issue, allowing the FCC immense moral power over radio. Of course, being a military spending bill, first and foremost, the Senate voted 99-1 for it, as these politicians couldn't risk being villified as "not being committed to helping the troops."
I have linked an article by Mark Morford, America's edgiest columnist for a major daily newspaper. My favorite line in this screed is the following:
"You know what scars kids? You know what traumatizes our youth and stabs at their innocent spirits like Dick Cheney thrusts at integrity? Kraft Lunchables, that's what. Drug-happy shrinks. Refined sugar. Abstinence-only sex education. Gutted school-music programs. McDonald's marketing gimmicks. Joe Camel's head shaped like a giant penis. Bovine growth hormones. Homophobic adults with guns. Rampant hypocrisy, like legal Zoloft but illegal pot, or being sent to Iraq at 18 but you can't have a beer until you're 21."
Sure it's a litany of liberal issues, but pretty funny all listed together. By the way, while listening to Howard Stern today, he said that the new law is the final straw and that he will be leaving the air very soon, as he's not willing to risk financial ruin to be try to fight the FCC. Stern is the funniest morning radio talent and it's a sad day when so many other mediocrities will be all that's left, because of this Big Brother-type bill.
[Ed. - Scott's still learning HTML, but he'll get there. Stern on XM? Heck, even I might listen ... W2]
Best. Show. On. TV.
Why, why, why is the best, most honest news program on Comedy Central? It's a FAKE news show, yet it does a better job covering the day's events than any of the SCLM. This post with two links to Daily Show content just goes to show that our press corps sucks. Sucks.
Let me stop you before you get started, conservatives. The Daily Show skewered Clinton just as hard as they go after Bush. This is equal opportunity mocking.
The recent problems of Jack Ryan in Illinois don't seem to have much to do with baseball injuries, but surprisingly, there's a major issue common to both. In this article at the always-quotable Pandagon, the response to off-the-record quotes is definitely something near and dear to me (and other baseball journalists, like Gammons.)
Most of my work is done not "off-record" but "on background." I use anonymous sources regularly, due to need and regulation. If I were to say "Joe Smith, the doctor for the KC Monarchs ..", Smith would have HIPAA problems as well as being out of a job. If I say "a source with the Monarchs ...", then everyone gets what they need.
Yes, I've had sources give me bad information. Usually, they simply make a mistake or misinterpret something. I try to avoid this by having more than one source. A player recently denied having a cortisone shot, despite several reports to the contrary. While I couldn't find a source that had actually seen the event to confirm or deny, I was able to talk to someone in the clubhouse that knew the player hadn't been in the training room long enough to have the shot performed.
Over the past three years, I've built up a great network of sources. With that and with my ability to interpret the information they give me, I think I give as accurate a picture as is possible. Without off-record and background sources, the information flow would be near zero. It could certainly be better. If beat reporters would learn the right questions to ask trainers, we'd have better and more timely information. (And if they'd like lessons or help framing questions, you have my contact info.)
Would I out sources if they knowingly lied to me? I'm not sure. I'd have to know they were malicious and I'd have to be willing to accept the consequences as well. Depending on the info, I'd certainly keep others from being as open with me in the future. I agree that sources that lie or use off-record quotes to manipulate the press should be punished by public declaration.
I hope I never have to make that hard decision.
I know I'm beating a dead, dead horse here, but the NBA Draft tonight PROVES that MLB could do a televised draft if they wanted to. Every objection is killed by tonight -
"But baseball draftees are years away!" Yeah, and we just saw Shawn Livingston go at #4 and a number of other high schoolers that will likely never do anything will go in the first round (at high cost).
"But we don't know these guys!" Yeah, and I'm betting you don't know Pavel Podkolzine, Beno Udrih, or even the lower-level high schoolers. More baseball fans know Jered Weaver than they will whoever the #12 pick is tonight.
Heck, just a draft blog would be an improvement. That said, Jonathon Mayo did a great job on the webcast of the baseball draft. Maybe they're just way ahead of the curve.
(The kid that left after his frosh year at Stanford's favorite class is listed as "Art History 101". That sounds like a bogus class to me, but it IS Stanford.)
Finally, baseball needs a Mark Cuban in the worst way. Or at least a Gavin Maloof ... hmmmm.
Sleeping Through Greenland
Yesterday, I arose in sunny California. Last night, I fell asleep somewhere over Hudson Bay. Today, I woke up near the west coast of Iceland. Tonight, I'm blogging from a centuries-old building in damp Scandinavia. These are the days of miracle and wonder. This is a long distance blog.
While sleeping through Greenland, a title comes to me, and hardly are those words out than a blog entry is loosed upon the world, a rough beast, body of a lion, head of a man, jetlagged into waking nightmares by a land where the pitiless sun stays aloft after 10pm and darkness will not drop. Surely some long stony sleep is at hand! Mere anarchy rocks my insomniac mind; the writer and the written turning, widening, falling apart. This entry cannot hold.
The Best Record of the Past 10 Years
On April 4, 1995, Radiohead released a CD called the Bends, which no release since has matched it's quality. Their next release, OK Computer, was even more critically acclaimed and is one of the 20 best records of the 1990's. Since then, Radiohead has followed the Pearl Jam route of being so experimental and trying to stay so far from the mainstream that the band has not released anything close to the quality of their 2nd and 3rd offerings. (Sorry TFD, I know you love some of these newer Radiohead releases, but to me they are just modern day Kraftwerk, which is not my bag.)
It's hard to argue that any other band since 1995 has been more influential in the music business. Unlike Pearl Jam-clones (see crappy bands Creed, The Calling, Lifehouse) most of the Radiohead influenced bands are generally very good.
The most famous is Coldplay, but there are others well worth checking out. Travis is from the "Fake Plastic Trees" style of Radiohead that Coldplay and Keane comes from. (For more on Keane, check out Will's previous entry.)
In the more rocking from America category, Remy Zero and Palo Alto should be mentioned. I recommend the Golden Hum CD by Remy Zero, as it's echoes U2 and Radiohead, kind of like what Radiohead's first album, Pablo Honey sounded like. Palo Alto is a great unknown band for which their 2003 release, "Heroes & Villains" is a great starting off point.
Finally, let me get to the best release of 2004, "Absolution" by Muse. Have you ever wondered what Radiohead would sound like if they were trying to completely rock out? Well, Muse is that band, sounding like a Heavy Metal Queen, with a Thom Yorke sound-alike behind the mic. Not all songs are heavy on "Absoulution", but all of them sound majestic, with a couple by lead singer Matthew Bellamy reaching Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright heights.
What Will's Listening To
Isn't it the height of ego for me to break in the middle of writing UTK to tell you what I'm listening to? Two new iTunes albums are just too perfect for words ... or at least the words I have. Luckily, a quick Google turned up brilliant reviews of each.
Wilco is one of the best bands around, hands down. From their roots in Uncle Tupelo through the changes that led to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, this group has grown into something amazing. Alt.country is a label long since left behind, but Wilco really has left ever label behind (including Warner Bros, but that's another story.) Check out
From a Great American Album to a great debut for a new band. I've talked about my friend Goldy's "anything can be described in three words" philosophy before, so I have to give him credit for hooking me up on Keane. "Radiohead sings Coldplay" is about a apt a description as I could imagine. Check out the review and then check out the music.
For me, I'll just listen to this, write, and smile. These two will be in heavy rotation with "Al Dente and Ill Chemist" for the next brainturn.
Explaining the White Sox
The most dominant hitting team in baseball has been the Chicago White Sox in 2004, leading baseball in batting average, runs scored, runs batted in, and a slugging percentage 10 points higher than the second place team. The only major category they don't lead in, OBP, they sit second behind the Cleveland Indians by just 2 points. (.359 to .357)
The first four starters for the White Sox have been far from dominant, but all of them have been solid, with ERA's of 3.82, 4.07, 4.36, and 4.64. The top 3 current relievers have ERA's of 1.08 (Takatsu), 2.74, and 2.79.
While not the best fielding team in the league, they have been solid at every position. So why is a team who has outscored their opposition by 58 runs (374 to 316) sitting 2 games behind in the standings the Twins, who have been outscored by their opponents by 4 runs (322 to 326)?
Without going into a detailed Pythagenport look at the teams, (me have little interest in math) I will just throw out why the White Sox sit where they do.
If you noticed when discussing the starting pitching, I just mentioned the top 4 starters. Well that would be because the 5th starter for the Sox this season has produced a 0-8 record with an 11.97 ERA in nine starts. Since last season the fifth spot is 3-19 with a 7.92 ERA. Yes, you did read that wright. (Danny Wright for the majority of those stats.)
Also, I mentioned current relievers, leaving out the abysmal Billy Koch who had an ERA of 5.40 and a WHIP of 1.71, before being traded. The ERA was very decieving as it seemed that every inherited runner he was given, scored by the time he left the mound. (I'm not a proponent of the inheritance tax, but if you can throw in a loophole making Koch pay for his inherited runners, I would have to reconsider my position.)
So a dominant offense with a solid pitching staff and defense have been undone by a 5th starter and their "closer". Now that the Koch is gone, the 5th starter issue is at the forefront.
ESPN on Injuries
Peter Keating does a fine job in this article. It's a very important subject and kind of sad at the same time. Why isn't baseball doing more? Why doesn't the PA care more? Why are there seemingly only three people willing to talk openly about this problem? (Myself, Stan Conte, and Glenn Fleisig)
$100k is a nice start and actually will buy a lot of research, but it's kind of laughable in the face of baseball's losses. More on this tonight on ESPN's Outside The Lines. (Check local listings.)
Their newest song may be the Scott McCauley anthem, but this mashup is pretty amazing. I knew that Nickelback sounded like 900 other bands, but this is amazing even to my own lowered expectations.
(Oddly, listening to both at once is much cooler than either alone.)
File this article under "I'd be a Conservative if they were more like this". PJ O'Rourke was one of my favorite writers, back in his Rolling Stone days. With William Greider , David Sager, Anthony DeCurtis, and a pre-MTV Kurt Loder, O'Rourke helped shape my worldview. I even went to the archives for the great stuff from Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe.
Sure, that sounds kind of sad now, but what connects to a teenager more than the primal force of music? I may have bought the magazine for the review of the latest Clash album or to answer the burning debate of who was hotter - Debbie Gibson or Tiffany - but it led me to look further outside the boundaries of my life. (In the case of Thompson, WAY outside.)
Rolling Stone was a damned good magazine. Maybe it still is today. I graduated from it to Spin, then on to the Atlantic and New Yorker. Information is freer today. I can find words on the web that then only crossed my path in the pages of the Rolling Stone. It's a better world in some ways now, but I can still be nostalgic for days when things seemed simpler and Debbie Gibson still loved me.
The Most ANNOYING "Guy" in the World
Ok, I don't watch golf much, but I do try to watch the major tournaments. I'm not sure I'm even going to be able to do that any longer, as the gallery screamers grate on my nerves like nothing else. I don't know when it began, but this need to yell, "you're the man" right at the moment of club hitting ball is just about the most ridiculous thing a man can do. Throw in that the guy doing it is usually some preppy dork who shoots 100, himself, with the only quality drive he's capable of producing is when he motors his Ford Expedition, with Bush/Cheney bumper stickers, down the Cul-de-sac.
Sports history is littered with pathetic attempts at trying to transcend being just a fan, but actually being mental enough that you think you are part of the real action is just looney. (See Spike Lee dressed in Knicks jersey, sitting in front row, agitating Reggie Miller during many 1990's playoff games, for best example)
I'm not one that thinks golfers should perform in some kind of sound-proof gallery, like some traditionalists do, but this "you're the man" stuff is just delusional self-aggrandizing.
I would be curious if there is anything more annoying in sports than the "you're the man" guy. Please list your suggestions.
It's Alright Ma (I'm At The Ballpark)
Very cool tour made cooler by where they'll play it. Bob Dylan may not be everyone's cup of tea and Willie Nelson often threatens to become self-parody, but I'm seriously considering getting up to see this one.
I guess with Britney off tour, this fills a niche.
Rashomon: I, Robot
I had everything set until the last inning. Watching the game on MLB.tv in both normal and condensed fashion was fine. While I much prefer watching games on the big screen with Tivo for pause, rewind, and naps, MLB has an amazing product on the web. Archives? Check. Every game? Pretty much, despite some arcane black out rules. Condensed games? These are the real deal. I can watch a full game in about half an hour, only missing the gap between pitches. Once you get used to the rhythm of the game in this form, it's a great tool.
So while I was ready to talk about the Dodgers-Yanks and how I don't care a lick about their history, while I was ready to wax rhapsodic about Vin Scully, and while I was ready to recount my experiences watching the game hours after it occurred in a two by one screen, the umpire stopped me.
Joe Sheehan sent me an email just after the game. Sure, Joe is a Yankees fan to his very core, but his point remains true: the umpire at home, Jeff Kellogg, blew it in the last couple innings. With Eric Gagne on the mound, Kellogg shifted to the Jordan Rules. Gagne's strike zone looked significantly different than anything else in the game. Was Kellogg dazzled by Gagne's goggles? Did he have a plane to catch? Are the umps complicit in Gagne's record streak of saves and misuse by Jim Tracy?
Probably not, but it highlights why umpires are the weak link in pitching. All most pitchers ask for is a consistent zone. Even if it's small, a pitcher can adjust and even help an umpire expand the zone. For pitchers, especially those like Tom Glavine or Jamie Moyer, that's a skill. With Questec and ESPN's "K Zone" technology, we have an available tool to correct the problem.
I've umpired and recommend everyone try it. It will give you a new appreciation for the fantastic job most do out there. With no replay, with human eyes, bad angles, hot nights, and antisocial players, they get better than 99% of calls right. Yet nothing affects play like ball/strike calls and there's almost nothing a human is less equipped to do. This is a job for a computer. As with tennis, I think a human should be involved; the ump will need to be behind the plate for some calls anyway.
Here's how I think it should work: the ump behind the plate will hold a small wireless tool, not unlike the clicker most hold. When the Questec or other such device determines the ball passed through the strikezone, it will buzz. The ump will then call a strike. No buzz means a ball. The umpire would have the ability to overrule the machine, but as with current evaluations, he should be called to task if wrong on a regular basis.
Umpires always search for the best angle to see a play. In this instance, the best angle is using lasers and cameras to determine the path of the ball through a cubic zone. It's time to use the available tools to make the game better. Watching this game showed me that the need is great.
Rashomon: Spit Take
For Father's Day, my seven-year-old daughter Linnea wrote me a joke:
Q: Why did a hot dog go to the bullpen?Now there's a girl who knows what her dad likes. I'll take a baseball joke over a necktie every time.
Father's Day dinner was a gathering of thirteen people at my wife's parents' house. The Yankee-Dodger game served as background music, but the primary entertainment was my wife's nine-month-old niece, Julia. Julia lives in San Diego with her parents, and Sunday she made her first Bay Area appearance since Christmas. Back then, she couldn't do much, but now she could crawl, stand, smile, and grab things and put them into her mouth.
MLB has had a century to refine its product to compete with the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, and other sports for entertainment value. But evolution has had eons to refine babies and our brains' response to them. Nothing can compete with babies.
Julia and I played catch with a small squishy baseball for quite a while. Her scouting report reads, "DELIVERY RESEMBLES GAYLORD PERRY." I'd hand her the ball, she'd hand it back, and somehow, the ball returned each time covered with more and more saliva.
Dinner was served. Julia took a break from playing to drink a bottle of milk, and the baseball game got some attention. The room was filled with A's and Giants fans. Everyone in the room hated both the Yankees and Dodgers, but it's hard to watch a game without taking sides. In general, the A's fans rooted for the Dodgers, while the Giants fans rooted for the Yankees.
Linnea tried out her joke on the dinner crowd, and an aunt gave her a new punchline:
Q: Why did a hot dog go to the bullpen?Sad, but oh so true. When Guillermo Mota came into the game, and ESPN put up his stats, I took a cue from baby Julia and started drooling. I daydreamed about the rumored A's-Royals-Dodgers trade that would send Carlos Beltran to L.A. and Mota to Oakland. I'm crying for a closer the way a hungry infant desperately screams for milk. Trade rumors are my pacifier.
During the seventh inning stretch, Linnea went to the piano and entertained her aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents by playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame".
It struck me that here lies baseball's competitive advantage. Vin Scully tells us on TV about the Dodgers beating the Yankees in '55, in '63, and in '81. Gagne strikes out ARod last night on the way to his 81st consecutive save, and our generation has its own memorable moment we can pass on. This interaction between young and old is so hardwired into us, even a nine-month-old can understand it. We hand these traditions and memories to the next generation, and in doing so, they give us something back, a connection to something beyond ourselves.
They may not remember perfectly what we did this night or how we felt about it as it happened; they may not play the song the way the composer intended; but it's the interactions, not the facts, that matter. This is the game we're designed to play. And if the ball is all covered in slobber, so what?
Rebel Alliance, Part II
Edw.'s right, at least on this one.
BTW, Edw. is proof that you don't have to be an asshole to be passionate about the Red Sox.
Great Documentary to catch on Trio
Kind of embarassed that all I have offered the last week is TV reviews, but "Final Cut: The Making of Heaven's Gate and the Unmaking of a Studio" is something you should catch, if you are interested in why most major studio releases have lacked much artistic merit, since the 1970's. This documentary on the Trio Channel tells the tale of how this spectacular failure destroyed a whole studio, United Artists, and changed how Hollywood does business. Cautionary tale of how film directors need some guidance and should never be allowed unchecked power, unless it's their own money.
Artistry is something much more unique than accounting and management skills, but all three is needed or other artists will have no money to do their projects. Simplistic review, catch the show and you will know more.
My Favorite Drug
My early morning surf seems to be drug related. Before heading in for BPR, I usually surf the web pretty randomly, just getting my brain ready. On CNN, there's a link about how rituxan may help with arthritis. Rituxan is one of the drugs that helped keep me alive when I had cancer, so I'm biased towards liking it anyway, but the results look promising. For ex-athletes, arthritis is probably the number one health concern and as Garret Anderson recently showed, it can be a problem at even younger ages.
Bush On Drugs
Heh. Nice title.
After reading this article , I honestly have no idea if this is a good or bad thing. I like the idea of mental health getting a boost almost any way it can, but I don't like the idea of a government algorithm. I'll be researching this one more.
Look, I love Google. I
So I'm getting frustrated that I not only can't get a Gmail invite, I don't even know who to call to get one. So, help a brother out ...
UPDATE: Wow, that didn't take long. Zachary D. Manprin from Elephants in Oakland hooked me up. Go read his blog, buy him a beer, or ... well, the guy just rules.
This is just stunning ... while seeing the notes is interesting, it's the comments (man, can you imagine 100+ runs of comments here?) that get this. It looks like - sounds like - but isn't lock, stock confirmation that recent accusations of rigged press conferences are true.
Sure, this isn't a big offense, but it's a pattern of disingenuousness at best; outright lying at worst. Isn't it sad that so many things in this administration are worse that most of us think the 'worst case' could be?
If the Yankees are indeed the "Evil Empire" - and they aren't - might the Cubs rather than the Red Sox be the Rebel Alliance? Don't ask me to get all Star Wars geek because I don't know the mythology, but every story needs a "good" to balance the "evil." Baseball is nothing if not a great story.
While the Red Sox try to position themselves as the white knights (to add a midieval metaphor), they enjoy much of the same advantages if not the unbridled lust to win. They have a deep history, a park that will always draw, a good sports town with plenty of national following, and their own TV network. That the Yankees continue to beat them is more testament to Steinbrenner than anything else.
Over the horizon, however, is another team that actually holds a better claim on the title. Throwing in yet another metaphor, the Yankees are Sugar Ray Robinson and the Red Sox are Jake Lamotta. Sure, they can win and yes, the fights are both epic and entertaining, but there's a favorite and there's a slugger's chance. Who then is Gene Fullmer? (Yeah, go look him up.)
It's the Cubs. As Nate Silver's article today states, the Cubs are second only to the Yankees in road attendance. While Nate's data is only for 2004, I make a very reasonable assumption that this holds true in the last decade, maybe more.
The Cubs have one advantage no other team holds. Even in the playoffs or in a big series like the current one against the Astros, there are often as many Cubs fans in the stand as there are root, root, rooting for the Cub... errr, see, even the phrase "home team" is often learned as "Cubbies" across the country. With next year's move to Comcast SportsNet, the Cubs have the opportunity to both control and destroy their advantage.
Less Cubs games on cable would detract from the Cubs in the worst way. I grew up in Texas watching the green grass and ivy on WGN each afternoon. I fell in love with the game all over again watching Ryne Sandberg and Jody Davis. Done right, the Cubs could have a national YES Network that could eclipse even the Yankees for revenue.
People go to see the Yankees, no question, but they often go to hate them. They want to see the underdog win. They want to blame everything on them that's wrong with baseball. For the Cubs, they go to cheer the "lovable losers" on. As the Cubs have turned their franchise around on the field, the Tribune now has a chance to change the face of the game.
I may not know Star Wars in minute detail, but I know that the Death Star blew up.
MSNBC is reporting that Kerry is down to three, maybe four short list VP candidates, but there's the odd dark horse. While some are looking for McCain Lite (Nunn, others), the real focus is on Tom Vilsack, Kathryn Sebelius, and Dick Gephardt. None of these is a winner, though I guess Sebelius is at least symbolically progressive -- but then again, so was Geraldine Ferraro and where did that get Mondale?
With gas prices down (and no, it's not a conspiracy by Bush, but his short-sighted position on energy should be blamed) and now this bombshell, he's past the worst of it with five months to campaign.
You know what we're in for? Clinton's second term, all over again, mirror image. With movies and books out and a short-term memory society, it won't take much to scandalize the next four years. Ready made topics like war crimes, profiteering, and more, the only difference will be a Republican-controlled Congress and, too soon and too importantly, a conservative Supreme Court.
Smarter people than I will have to figure out what that means, but the Kerry campaign will have to, you know, CAMPAIGN or something, praying that Bush implodes or that Josh Marshall has a really big story coming. While Kerry's VP's aren't winners, Kerry isn't looking like one either.
Let's see ...
New coffee maker comes without filters.
Lost the sound files of Josh Lewin and Frank Viola I recorded yesterday.
Lost sounds files because my iBook is having massive problems. It heads to the shop after I finish my morning routine.
Still wavering between bummed and pissed off about something stupid I said yesterday on the field at Cincinnati. Let's just say Buck Showalter has NO sense of humor.
Did I mention my iBook is having massive problems? Again?
I'm STILL working on my ASMI piece. I've never started and re-started a piece so much. I've actually gone McInerny on it and this one's either going to work or not.
Oh did I mention that piece - about 1500 words in - is on the iBook?
It's one of those days where you just wait for something to go wrong. I'll count my blessings, knowing that these days are few and far between, that my life is among the luckiest I know, and that life does go on. There are far more important things than my bitchy little bad day.
My best friend's friend's child (follow that?) is facing cancer or some other medical condition. It's tough to be hoping for something like osteomyelitis, but that's the situation. Given the closeness of that subject to me and too many friends, it puts things even more in perspective.
Sometimes, the rain is cleansing as long as you avoid the lightning.
The Birgitta Shining Light
This will likely be my last post for awhile, as next week I am heading off to the Land of the Midnight Sun and 179,983 women named Birgitta. I want to tie up as many loose ends as possible before I go. So oddly, I'll probably have more time to blog while I'm gone than before I leave.
I'm not sure what I would blog about from Sweden, though. This is my biennial trip to visit my kinfolk. I'm the stray cat of my family: save a few second cousins, all of my relatives live in Sweden. Blog entries about relatives probably wouldn't be much fun to read.
One thing that might be of interest while I'm there is the playoffs of the Euro 2004 soccer tournament. I can't get any of these games with my current cable package here in the US, so it'll be nice to be able to watch some of these games on TV instead of having to resort to cartoons on the web. Sweden got off to a great start, beating Bulgaria 5-0. Sweden still has to play Italy and Denmark, but if they can manage at least a tie with one of them, they should advance from their group.
I'll watch the baseball boxscores while I'm there, but that's all. I can get so intense about baseball during the season, worried about winning, agonizing about losing, that I sometimes end up not enjoying myself nearly as much as I should. A three-week detox session every other summer is quite welcome.
So, that's it for me for awhile. Unless you want to hear a "my mom made Swedish meatballs and potatoes for dinner" report every day, I'm not sure I'll have much to say until after the All-Star Break. Until then, be good.
I like concerts. I don't go to many because I'm old and cranky and hate parking at the amphished here in Indy. With the advent of iTunes and P2P before that, concerts have been popping up on the web just hours after the show happened. I'm also reading that some acts (Barenaked Ladies, Guster) are selling downloads of the shows on an official, high quality basis.
If it goes more or less straight to the artist, it's gold. I'd more than likely buy it if it's a good show. I'd kill for a copy of the recent Prince show. I'd be interested in some shows that I just won't put up with going to for one reason or another.
One of my more interesting experiences was a couple years back. Guster opened for BNL and near the end, the lead singer said "we'll be having nachos in Section 7." I thought it was a joke I didn't get, but when I went looking for a bathroom, I passed Section 7 and there was the band and a small group of obviously big fans eating nachos.
A guy walked up, handed the guitarist a twenty and said "thanks." The guitarist looked up and said "Napster?" The guy nodded, said thanks again, and walked away.
I've heard all the arguments for why record companies are needed and that they lose money on many artists. I'd still love for technology to free artists. Apple's leading the way with iTunes and Garage Band, while DJs are mixing and mashing all over. (DJ Danger Mouse may have one of the best albums of the year and he's just a guy in his bedroom cutting up Beatles sounds.) I'll support artists as much as I can, but I'd rather hand the money to them over nachos.
Now, would someone tell Apple that I miss liner notes? That has to be fixable.
Steve over at Mariners Wheelhouse (who has more blogs - the Yanks or the Mariners?) has a nice set of links to some good pitching articles.
Be sure to read down as well. Steve does good work over there.
Will's Perfect June Night
First Mark Prior pitches 5 shutout innings, while Roger Clemens gets bombed on the way to a Cubs win. Then, two back to back episodes of Monster House on The Discovery Channel, with one episode featuring surfer girls working power tools. If only Prince would have sung the National Anthem at Minute Maid Park and it just might have been the best night of Will's life.
Confining Beltran, II
As Prior beats Clemens ...
While I still think my offer on Beltran (see below) is better, the Royals have focused in on what they want. Peter Gammons had all the details in his column today, but they want a 3B and C. That knocks the Cubs out on both counts. I still think the pen and CF are the prime targets for improving the team. (No, I'm no Alex Gonzalez fan, but I don't see a better player available.)
So, reader contest - make your best trade deal. Best one gets to present it on BPR this weekend.
Sound and Integrity
All a man's got is the integrity of his work.Any rational person could probably come up with a dozen objections to that statement, a quality that probably holds for a lot of Wiley's writing.
Ralph Wiley passed away of heart failure yesterday at the age of 52. Wiley may not have worshipped at the altar of Objective Truth (he called objectivity "a sham"), but he did write with integrity: he was true to himself. I admired that.
Conan O'Brien said it took him 10 years just to learn how to be himself. Elmore Leonard said it took him 10 years, or about a million words, to "find his sound". You could probably point to Ralph Wiley as an extreme example of this phenomenon. I've followed Wiley his whole career, as I read his columns in the Oakland Tribune as a kid, followed his later work in Sports Illustrated, and then on ESPN.com. At the Trib, Wiley wrote in a fairly straightforward, conventional style. But in the end, Ralph Wiley found his sound, and it was unique.
I can only hope, when my day comes, I will have been so fortunate.
John Tomase did a great job with this article on labrums. I referenced him in today's UTK for digging out the confirmation on Schilling's labrum in '95.
Thanks to Steve Foley for the link and to John for writing it.
Since we know officially that Carlos Beltran is available - stunner, eh? - what might the Cubs offer to get him and is he even necessary?
Let's answer the latter first: One of the weak spots on the team has been Corey Patterson. While I think he has upside and was indeed rushed to the majors, as Dusty suggested, this team is in an odd configuration - it can win now without sacrificing the future. Jim Hendry and Onari Fleita deserve a ton of credit for building the team with the minor leagues, good trades, and smart free agent signings. Patterson, with an 8.1 VORP thus far and what I'd describe as above-average defense, is clearly inferior in almost every aspect to Beltran's 19.3 VORP. Beltran may not answer the Cubs need for a leadoff man, but he certainly makes the lineup look better immediately.
The only downside then is cost/value and what the Cubs have to give up. With the Tribune and Wrigley Field, the Cubs should not worry about $5m at this stage. With an additional playoff run, merchandise sales, etc, the move should be a wash and involves no long term risk (tho I would hope they would attempt to sign Beltran long term.)
What then could the Cubs dangle to the Royals to entice them from their best player? Taking into account the Royals preferences and payroll as well as the Cubs system and needs, an offer is pretty simple to come by:
A) Corey Patterson
While the Cubs take on $5m in payroll from the Royals, they give up only a player immediately replaced by a better player, an outfielder caught behind a solid outfield this year and likely replaced by someone like Nic Jackson next season, one A/B pitching prospect (they'll still have several more, even if they give up the best of the bunch), and a C pitcher who could step into the Royals rotation now. Mitre could be upgraded to Matt Clement, but that seems like overkill.
The deal is right there and I doubt the other teams involved/interested could better this offer. Without an upgrade - this or another - I don't think the Cubs can equal last year's playoff run.
A very nice reader sent me the SCTV DVDs. I'll thank them personally, but it was an amazingly nice gesture and it is appreciated.
Unlike a lot of blogs, this isn't my primary outlet and at BP, since it's a subscription site, I'm not going to ever beg for money. I'll just ask that you support your favorite writers, especially when they're in danger of having their voice silenced.
You choose who you support, but please don't think your support - in whatever form - isn't appreciated here.
Blocking mental health parity is just wrong. Granted, the bigger problem is the healthcare delivery system in the US, but this is at least an intermediate step. Speaker Hastert is again blocking the bill, but I hope he's above pure politics and lobbying when it comes to this bill.
It will be interesting to see how the Congress shakes out in the next election. Daily Kos is doing an amazing job not only covering these races, but shaping them in some cases. "Speaker Pelosi" is probably out of reach, but anything goes in this race. If the Republicans want an issue other than culture wars and spending, why not start with "doing the right thing for the people." That's mental health parity, to start.
I've been a bit quiet here lately, so wanted to fill everyone in on what's been going on. I've been working on two fronts, besides my normal BP writing and BPR (which is going to be a great show this week.) First, publicity for STP is going extremely well. I don't have much to judge it against, but I'm doing more and more media. It's growing as well. After doing ESPN Radio's Baseball Show last week, I'm doing Chuck Wilson on Sports this week. Chuck's one of the best interviewers out there, so I was honored to be on with him. There's some possible ESPN TV as well.
I'm also working with a "major journalist" on a story that could break pretty big. I'm just the "expert witness" on this story of what baseball is doing to prevent injuries. There's a steroid side to this, but mostly, it looks like an evenhanded look at why there's no coherent research effort underway at MLB. It got really interesting when I found out that MLB is using Frank Coonelly as their front man on injuries. Huh? The labor counsel on the injury beat?
I'll keep you informed as this one goes forward, but it should be yet another interesting week. I think the recent talk of writer's block is great; it's something I've fought, like every other writer has other than Steven King. I can't wait for Ken's takes on burnout!
Great column by Jimmy Breslin. Are there any more newsies out there like him?
Words Not Spoken
How long do you think it will take before a fan and an athlete get into a fight because of one of these?
I write about writer's block one day, and the next day, two stories appear about that very thing.
The New Yorker has a new article that details the history of writer's block. It's quite interesting, but I didn't really need to hear that some writers never get over it.
UIWeb.com has some handy advice about how to get past the burnout. I'll keep it in mind, but I usually find the best solution for me is not to try harder, but to wait. You never know where that inspirational spark will come from.
Wednesday night, I did my waiting at the Coliseum. I went to see the matchup between Oakland and Cincinnati. Somehow I was misinformed about the event, as I thought I was going to see the A's and the Reds, but a football game broke out instead. The Raiders defeated the Bengals, 17-8.
Rob Neyer thinks the Oakland victory might be momentous, because it puts the A's alone into first place. Neyer suggests it may be for good. I wish he hadn't said that; it's classic jinx material.
When I watched the Reds shrink the A's 11-0 lead down to 11-8, another momentous day came to mind. In 2002, the A's blew an 11-0 lead against the Royals in the final game of their 20-game streak, only to win the game 12-11 on a ninth-inning Scott Hatteberg home run. But this time, the A's thwarted the comeback, and added six more runs in the seventh to avert the need for such late heroics.
Honestly, I don't know what's gotten into the A's lately. 8, 13, 10, and 17 runs in their last four games? The A's don't win like that; their M.O. is to win 4-2 and 2-1. Really, it must be some other team I've been watching. I don't really recognize them when they hit like this.
The most memorable thing about the game, though, was not that the A's scored 17 runs, or that they took sole possession of first place. It was a battle between Rich Harden and Ken Griffey, Jr. in the sixth inning. Griffey came to Oakland with 498 career home runs. The A's had pitched him carefully all series, and in the sixth inning, Griffey was still stuck on 498. But with the A's ahead, 11-0, it was time for Harden to challenge Griffey.
It was a classic power-on-power battle. Harden's best stuff against Griffey's.
First pitch: fastball, 97 mph on the stadium gun, Griffey swung and missed. Next pitch, fastball, 98 mph, Griffey fouled it off.
Then on 0-2, Harden threw another fastball, this time at 100 mph. And Griffey fouled that one off, too! When the "100 MPH" flashed up on the scoreboard, the crowd really started buzzing.
Griffey fouled off two more pitches, a fastball at 98 and an offspeed pitch, then took a 98mph fastball off the plate inside for a ball. Then another fastball (97), and Griffey fouled it off again! Griffey fouled off five of Harden's nastiest pitches to keep the at-bat alive. Amazing.
Harden threw a slider in the dirt for ball two. Finally, on 2-2, Harden unleashed a 98 mph fastball that got Griffey to hit a high, high popup to center field for an out.
Harden won the battle, but he emptied his tank in the process. The following five batters all reached base. Five runs scored, and Harden was done for the night.
Griffey didn't homer, so the at-bat will likely go down in history as just a minor obstacle blocking his path to 500 homers. But to me, it was a special moment: a truly great battle I feel privileged to have witnessed.
Who'd have thought you could see a memorable popup in an 11-0 game in the middle of June? If that doesn't inspire my creative juices to flow, I don't know what will.
I decided to write down the shows on television that is destination viewing for me. Here we go.
Deadwood- The best show of 2004, all the characters are beautifully developed, with dialogue to match, written by David Milch (NYPD Blue).
6 Feet Under- Looking forward to the new season of one of the best dramas in television history. Had some uneven moments in year two, but always challenging.
Curb Your Enthusiasm- This show would never work on network TV, as Larry David is the most unlikable, unattractive person ever to star in a sitcom. The episode this year where Larry hires a prostitute to drive with him so he can use the carpool lane to get to the Dodger game, was not only genius for humor, but also saved a man from a possible death sentence. http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/06/07/larry.david/
Penn and Teller's Bulls***- Taking on many phony elements of society like psychics, organized religion, PETA, etc., this show is like the magazine Skeptical Inquirer come to life.
American Experience and Frontline- The two best documentary programs on television, PBS funding allows these shows to not cater to idiots, unlike the Dateline and 48 Hours style of making things a mystery to keep short attention spans involved.
Inside the Actor's Studio- I don't know why I love this interview show, hosted by the most pretentious man on the planet, James Lipton, but it's always interesting, even when he's chosen subjects like Jay Leno or Roseanne, who are not what I consider, Master Thespians.
Unwrapped- For some reason, I enjoy learning about how Twinkies or Cheetos were developed and made.
Arrested Development- The funniest new show on TV this past season, a great supporting cast led by something I thought I would never utter, the very dryly funny, Jason Bateman.
Gary and Mike- A claymation cartoon show, which appeared late-night on Comedy Central. Not many episodes and the show actually was produced in 2001, but I caught it for the first time, this year.
Cheap Seats- This ESPN Classic show is kind of like a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 show for sports. Led by the Sklar Bros., twin comics who I've never cared for before, Cheap Seats skewers archived footage from Pro Wrestling to Spelling Bees. Not all of it works, but when it does, it's really great.
Trio Channel- A pop culture lovers nirvana, this channel shows old Late Night with Dave Letterman shows, Battle of the Network Star reruns, and documentaries on the greatest network flops of all-time. Had a special week celebrating the edgiest stand-up comics of the past, including a brilliant documentary on the late, great Bill Hicks.
What you will see from my list is that network television is not included, except for Arrested Development. Reaching the masses guarantees diluting the product, which is why I celebrate the segmentation of cable and satellite.
Baseball Is A Language
I tried but failed to adequately explain Automata and Formal Grammar in the comments to this post by Will.
You can live a perfectly satisfactory life without understanding Automata Theory. I don't completely understand it myself. But I'm a stubborn sort; I hate to fail, so I'm going to try again here, below the fold.
I'll try to keep it as simple as I can, and use baseball as an example, since that's something we all understand here. I'll show how baseball is, by one definition, a language. If you still don't get it after this, don't worry, be happy.
Now, Phil Carter has done it again. All day, he's been nails on this smoking gun memo about torture. His link will allow you to look at the document yourself, so there should be no questions. His point to FN 14 (pg 17) is especially damning. The President made a determination that al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not subject to Geneva or Hague protections. (Those of you with military pasts will know these as important guards against enemy interrogations. Name, rate, and serial number, sailor ...)
It's harder and harder to say that this administration did not knowingly and willfully lie in arguments before the Supreme Court, something I'm still getting my head around, but sounds worse than Watergate.
In other news, Pedro and Ben Sheets are good pitchers.
Aches and Pains
The A's drafted Bret Saberhagen's son. Good Lord, I feel old.
One of the reasons I love having Ken writing here is that he challenges me. He accepts nothing as face. His links are far out too.
His most recent post - very Swiftian, if I may say so - led me to this link. Frankly, I see the words, but I can't make heads or tales of it. I like seeing the limits of my intelligence tested. For one, it kicks me in the ego and for another, it keeps me growing.
(So would someone explain this crap to me?)
Oh, I need to get a copy of this asap. I know far too many people that never had the chance to see SCTV. I remember fighting to stay up after SNL to watch a show that was every bit as funny. Definitely worth checking out ... and if anyone wants to get me something, well, I don't deserve it, but I won't send it back either.
Amazon Wish List ----------------------->>
I started this post as a call to impeach George W. Bush, but I've moved on, just like the country did once they realized the idiocy of the Clinton impeachment. Instead, I'll just point out things like this clear, concise post and remind you to register to vote.
Opening The Door
Looks like Ohio State is setting the stage for Bob Knight. Should be an interesting couple of weeks in Columbus -- and Indiana!
My creativity ebbs and flows, and lately my well has been dry. When I hit a drought, I tend to forget what creativity even feels like. A door closes in my brain, and blocks me from accessing my muse. I always fear that the door may never reopen. Without a creative outlet, my emotions end up feeling shallow and superficial. I'm left with my annoyances.
I'm annoyed that I have resorted to talking about annoyances.
I'm annoyed that Garfield has a movie.
I'm annoyed at all the hype that this DidYouReadIt.com crap has been getting.
I'm annoyed that the USS Mariner guys called the Moneyball draft "a disaster" and "a flop". Joe Blanton is by most accounts a top pitching prospect. Bill Murphy was flipped for Mark Redman, and is pitching very well in AA for the Marlins. Brad Knox is still in low A, but he has a 81/11 K/BB ratio in 66.1 IP. Nick Swisher, after a very slow start in AAA, is now hitting .254/.376/.480. Mark Teahen just got promoted to AAA after hitting .335/.419/.543 in AA. Brant Colamarino is now hitting .355/.412/.645 in AA after his promotion from Modesto, where he was hitting .355/.460/.601. John Baker is hitting .324/.391/.512 in AA. I don't see anything discouraging about any of those numbers. Sure, some of the picks look poor now, like McCurdy, Fritz, Brown, Obenchain, and Stanley. The draft may have been suboptimal, but "suboptimal" is not a synonym for "disaster" and "flop".
But even if they're right and all the draft picks fail, I'm still annoyed at them for mentioning Moneyball. Michael Lewis has turned Moneyball into a philosophical war, going to Sports Illustrated and radio and TV talk shows to ridicule the people who disagree with it. That makes people defensive and angry, and back and forth we go. In reality, the difference between the A's draft philosophy and other teams is a difference of degree, not of kind. The A's picked a high school pitcher in the fourth round this year. It's not the first time a false conflict helped sell books, and it won't be the last. But please, can we take a nice, long Moneyball timeout?
Maybe Will ought use the same polarizing name-calling strategy to promote Saving the Pitcher. Those coaches who abuse the arms of their players: they're criminals! They're a brainless, lower form of life! They're primitive Neanderthals! Forget discussing reasonable degrees of risk. We need a War On Pitcher Abuse and we need it now!
Pitcher. Abuse. Two nouns, no verbs.
Phil Carter nails it in this piece on his indispensible blog.
This "inherency" doctrine has been sliding around as a ooze-covered meme for a while in D.C., starting with the ability to conduct a war on terror. Not a War, like with a declaration or even a target. Just this generality.
Terror is barely a noun, let alone a target. It's the idiocy of using a war metaphor carried to the nth degree. It's a war; you don't need a war metaphor.
One of these days, we'll declare war on al-Qaeda or even war on bin Laden. I'll be behind that. Give me the slightest reason for a war on al-Saud and I'll back that. Right now, I'll take the metaphor and declare war on our Chimp King George; our weapon is the vote.
I'll admit to watching the Amazon rankings of STP, but mostly I have watched them to gauge the impact of various things I've done in the media. It's been an interesting week and one that makes it tougher to isolate any one factor. When I did WGN on Monday, it popped. The USA Today article got a bit smaller pop. MLB.com doesn't appear to have had much effect.
As much as we criticize ESPN around here, my appearance yesterday on the ESPN Radio "Baseball Show" popped it higher than any other source. It says something, but I'm not sure what. I'll agree with TFD that Jim Rome would push it off the charts and I'm curious what ESPN TV might do.
Anyone else have any ideas on where the power lies?
Say what you will about his politics and legacy, Ronald Reagan was authentic. At 93, he certainly had among the fullest of lives imaginable. My reaction to his Presidency is one of the bases for my current political leanings.
Watching the ABC News coverage, they're showing Reagan on his ranch chopping wood and riding his horse. He was a Hollywood cowboy, but likeable. It's amazing how much similarity there is in imagery and cast of characters between Reagan and Bush (43).
To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "I remember Ronald Reagan and George, you're no Ronald Reagan." From communications skills all the way down to his scandals, Bush doesn't reach the bar that Reagan set for conservatives in any category.
Thoughts and prayers to the family, but to Ron, that final bedtime.
EDIT: I've edited this post. My last line was not intended as an insult in any way and I don't believe it reads that way, but I wanted to be clear. Phil Carter of Intel Dump says something similar to what I intended, just better said.
There have been a lot of retorts to the recent MLB.com piece by Mike Bauman about pitch counts. Many of them are very good and its an interesting discussion. I don't think Bauman was completely off and I certainly think Stan Conte was right in what he had to say.
MLB invited me to write a piece in rebuttal. While the piece was edited slightly, they didn't change much and I certainly feel that it reflects what I intended.
This piece would not have been possible without Keith Woolner and Derek Zumsteg. I wish I could have co-bylined them, but they deserve a ton of credit for all their work.
According to ESPN, more players are on the DL now than at any point in history. That's just stunning to me and I have absolutely no explanation for it. I'm hoping someone here as some plausible explanation or at least something to investigate.
First one that says steroids gets banned.
Cheney Finally Does an "Interview"
So I'm flipping around my tv in my hotel room in Houston (why is it that the nice hotels have 13 channels to choose from, where if you're in a Motel 6 you have 60?) when I see VP Cheney being interviewed by Larry Kudlow. I recommend catching a replay of this, as it has to be seen to be believed. Kudlow lobs questions at Cheney like a pitcher in Coors Field, to the point where the VP only has to answer in a sentence or two, as Kudlow seems to have gotten his questions straight from Scooter Libby. Kudlow accepts everything Cheney says, using an interview style which I call missionary style, doing everything but putting his legs above his head for Dick.
Kudlow, if you are not familiar, only breathes the nitrous oxide air that supply-side economists must consists on to hallucinate their ideas. His pet issue was the dividend tax-cut, which might have been a short-term stimulus for the market, but overall was just another Bush/Cheney giveaway to the wealthy. (Instead of getting into the specifics of this, I will just wait to get hammered in the comments section and give my rebuttal.)
I have always enjoyed the wild man antics of co-host Jim Cramer (the Dick Vitale of Investing), but as he spends more time with Kudlow, he has drifted further and further in seeing the whole world through a supply side lens. I do recommend listening to Kramer's book on tape of "Confessions of a Trading Addict", as it's interesting to hear Cramer rant and tell about his manic-depressive life. Not sure I believe all of Cramer's version of his story, but it's pretty damn interesting, especially listening to him go nutty.
Six pitches, three outs. Very nice start ...
Note: the Cubs/WGN gun is +1.
Note: Mark's front leg is higher on the windup, lower on the stretch.
Note: He lived at 95 in the first, with no breaking balls.
What ever happened to the ideological children of the Reagan era? Instead, we get those yearning for theocracy and divisive culture war.
I once defined myself as a thoughtful progressive - conservative financially, socially libertarian, and always willing to examine any position. I worked for the Perot campaign in '92 and cheer independent thinking of any ideology, almost to the point of promoting Jeffersonian revolution.
Today, I find myself pushed sharply to the left or rather, the Republicans have gone so sharply right that it looks like I've become more Liberal. If anything, I'm yearning for a centrist, pragmatic leadership and I see it in neither party. I am active, but uninspired and I don't like the feeling.
Kinda full circle. My first media mention was in John Hunt's Fantasy column in USA Today Baseball Weekly. The name has changed to Sports Weekly, but John Hunt is still a good writer. He made me look great in this column about STP and injuries. Enjoy.
Tough to Teach an Old Hawk, New Tricks
Last week, during a White Sox television broadcast, Darrin Jackson mentioned that Frank Thomas was in an elite class of players who over their careers, had 400 homers, 400 doubles, and had an OBP of over .400.
While naming off the Hall of Fame list, Ken (Hawk) Harrelson said that this OBP stuff is newly in vogue and it's going to get a lot of guys fired. This from a guy, who had to have one of the shortest stints as a team General Manager (one year), in baseball history. Not quite sure why Harrelson is so anti-SABR baseball, considering that during his career, his OBP was a very respectable, .86 points higher than his miserable batting average (.239).
Today during the broadcast, Harrelson said the A's can decide not to bunt, hit and run, steal bases, whatever they want to do and be successful, because of their starting pitching. While there is some validity to this idea, baseball traditionalists like Hawk, make it seem like the A's have lucked into all these great young pitchers, instead of acknowleging that the A's method of drafting college players, with excellent SABR stats, takes a lot of the fluke out of selecting. It's weird to think that a guy who was known as an iconoclastic player is now one of the leaders in pushing the old party line.
No sarcasm. I'm really crying about this.
Ghosts in Me
For the last few days, I've been sick as a dog. Poor dog. As a result, my brain hasn't been my brain. Go droop.
Strange thoughts come to mind when minds come to thinking strangely. Palindrome-like sentences aren't sentences like palindromes.
So this weekend, I've been sick, my car was stolen, the A's bullpen lost three games in a row, and my brain is was has been will be having been possessed by ghosts from outer space. I've had better weekends.
Perhaps, this ghost is was having suggested to me, my car isn't having been stolen after all: it is just spontaneously has been leaped to a different quantum state where it is no longer will be visible in my local space-time continuum. Meanwhile, there's another universe where my car is still parked outside, my sinuses are clear, my brain is unburdened by poltergeists, the English language gets along fine with only two grammatical tenses, and Arthur Rhodes actually gets people out.
Or perhaps I could just use a nice orbitofrontal cortical lesion, so I would no longer regret eating that spicy chicken pilaf at IKEA on Friday, just before Jim Mecir hung a screwball and all hell starting breaking loose.
Tom Hicks might want one of those lesions, too, if he finds out that IKEA now has ARÖD on sale for just $23.99. A warning though, if this tempts you: you might run into an IKEA shopper buying this. If you do, you might want to go find one of these as protection.
One good thing happened this weekend. For a moment, in my alien state of mind, I came to understand the source of conflict between the sabermetrician and the traditionalist: the fact that 73% of the universe is dark energy. Only 27% of the universe is observable and measurable, and the rest stays hidden until it feels like messing with your calculations. I found this to a general truth: no matter how you slice the universe, you can only shed light on 27% of what's really going on. This means, basically, that the sabermetrician is 73% full of crap. Meanwhile, the traditionalist can't see where he's going, and falls into a black hole.
I'm going to the A's-White Sox game this afternoon: Mulder vs. Buehrle. These two Marks matched up three times last year. Time of games: 1:54, 1:49, and 1:53. That means there is a 73% chance the game will leap into an alternate universe where Mark Mulder is possessed by the spirit of Mike Moore, Miguel Olivo gets taken over by Carlton Fisk, and we'll be stuck out at the Coliseum until all the dark energy has been absorbed into the full moon of the midnight sky.
Ghost In You
(Pausing a moment, contemplating the stevage run I got out of that P-Furs song in the mid-eighties.)
Here's a funny thing I do - when I read, I hear it in my head. It competes with the other voices, but it's much like when I write fiction. It's almost as if someone is reading to me. For writers I know, it works well; I hear their voice. It really throws me if the voice I imagined is nothing like the actual voice. Lee Sinins was probably the biggest surprise, but he's great on radio ... which reminds me I need to get him on more. Most of the writers I've been lucky enough to meet or speak with on the phone speak like they talk. (I'm one of few exceptions.)
It gets even harder with faces. It struck me as odd that I felt so stricken at Doug Pappas' passing when I'd never met him, but through his writing, I actually did. People at Pizza Feeds often speak to me like they know me, in much a similar way. There are no faces at BP, unless you've been to a Feed or seen one of us on TV. I made a conscious decision not to have a headshot on STP as well, just because I didn't on BP. After the Rose story, I realized the last thing I want to do is *be* the story. I'm just the messenger ... for now, the faceless one.
Jose Valentin: Putting together a Jose Hernandez season
So far this season Jose Valentin has an OPS of .865, with nine homers. At the same time he has struck out 45 times out of his 134 at bats. One thing should be mentioned that he plays a lot better defense than Hernandez. Valentin makes a lot of errors, but as someone who watches most Sox games, his errors rarely affect the outcome of a game, as it seems to happen when the Sox are way up or way down. To think that the White Sox have constantly tried to move him from SS, like when they brought in the awful Royce Clayton. Valentin has been one of the most underrated players in Major League baseball, during his career.
Over the past 4 seasons, Jose has had SLG averages of .491, .509, .479, .463. For a shortstop with excellent range and the team leader in the clubhouse, that is pretty awesome. Of course, he has been under the radar screen, even underappreciated by his own team and fans. I will admit that the pencil-thin mustache he sports really creeps me out.
Air America: Not such a bust
Had read the article in NY Times about this and then saw a blurb in Salon.com discussing how Air America is proving to be a viable entity in New York. Here it is.
Arbitron shocker: Franken beats Limbaugh
Boy, talk about burying the lead. In its Monday profile of the new liberal talk radio network Air America, the New York Times spent so much time dwelling on the financial woes that have reportedly plagued the start-up company that it wasn't until the 15th paragraph that readers learned this bombshell: Talk radio novice Al Franken's new Air America show beat conservative kingpin Rush Limbaugh in New York City where the two go head-to-head every weekday afternoon from noon to three o'clock. That's according to preliminary Arbitron rating estimates for April.
Heard in New York on WLIB-AM, whose ratings were virtually non-existent prior to switching over to Air America's programming earlier this year, Franken and the rest of Air America's 10 a.m-to-3 p.m lineup grabbed a 3.4 rating among listeners age 25-to-54. By contrast, Limbaugh who has been the most highly rated political talk show host in America for the last decade, and who is heard in New York on talk radio powerhouse WABC, lead the station to just a 3.2 rating. There's more (although the Times forgot to mention it): Among listeners 18-to-34, Franken and WLIB won in a knockout, garnering a 2.9 ratings share compared to WABC's dismal 0.4 showing.
-- Eric Boehlert
I read another article somewhere recently, though, talking about how difficult it is to get acceptable sponsors, as many of it's listeners are anti-corporate and complain about sponsors like Oil Companies. Satellite radio I think is the ultimate answer on a national basis for this type of channel, maybe charging a specific fee, like the Playboy Channel does on XM.
Mentioned in STP, here's a mainstream article on kettlebells.
Yes, I'm a media whore ... WGN last night, a station in Minneapolis after that, and now I find out that the KC Star has an article which mentions STP.
Guess I should tip my publicist or something.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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