Monthly archives: August 2004
I just finished watching a Nova episode on PBS about how the earth's magnetic field can reverse direction. Compasses that pointed north before suddenly point south, instead. These flips begin when pockets of reverse polarity appear in the opposite hemisphere, and weaken the magnetic field until it flips upside down. These flips usually happen every 250,000 years, but we haven't had one in over 700,000 years. We're quite overdue for a reversal, and there is mounting scientific evidence that such a flip may have begun.
And to add to that evidence, today there's this: Indians 22, Yankees 0.
The momentum between the opposite poles of the Red Sox and Yankees looks like it's reversing. The Yankees, who were cruising for most of the season, look terribly vulnerable now, while Boston looks like a steamroller. Just 3 1/2 games separates the two. Is a flip imminent?
Magnetic North has ruled the compass for an exceptionally long time. Unless you believe in some kind of supernatural intervention, some kind of blessing or curse, Magnetic South must eventually have its day. The flip will come. But whether it comes this year, or next, or another 700,000 years from now, only time will tell.
Chizum Checks In, Briefly
Moore speaks the truth. And the last time I checked, the First Amendment still permits the freedom to assemble peacefully – maybe Mayor Bloomberg didn’t receive that memo. Or was it President Bush and his disregard for the civil rights of the common citizen?
And in holding with the recent referencing of our brilliant forefathers, Thomas Jefferson once stated: “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.” I beg for the rain to pour.
But they have big teeth.
I'm reminded of a story I think I heard from my days as a summer camp counselor. The little girl walks up to the cute little bear sleeping in the cave and when she pets it, it wakes and shows big white teeth.
Dennis Hastert, the current Speaker of the House, looks like a nice Midwestern guy. He's kinda grandfatherly or nice old uncle that gives you candy. He seems relatively harmless politically, in his position due to not being Newt Gingrich or Tom DeLay more than any positive quality. He doesn't have much in the way of signature issues, but will occasionally pop things out like his trial balloon of a national sales tax.
But under the surface, it appears that Hastert has big teeth. Recent quotes show that he's just as evil, petty, and Roveian as the rest.
I hope George read that.
And reached for his checkbook.
To The Press
While the Republicans get under way, just outside the shadow of hundreds of thousands of protesters and the shade of Chicago '68, TFD's link to Hamilton led me to re-read Paper No. 10. The words still resonate as Hamilton and/or Madison discusses "factions":
I knew, but had forgotten, that the Papers were published in New York newspapers originally. Imagine that, today. Worse than the demise of the press is the demise of our leaders. Which of them today could write something of such lasting wisdom ... and which of us could read it?
It was the hair thing that clued me in that it probably wasn't me.
I remember when SI meant Frank Deford to me. It was the only game in town for good sports news in those days and Deford was the cock of the walk. The natty white suits, french cuffs, and cheesy mustache only served to make him more exotic to me, while his writing was second to none in the era.
I'm still not sure why The National, a sports daily newspaper, failed, especially in light of the success of USA Today, but I did my part. SI ceased to be part of my sports world sometime in the early 90s, but I'm not sure why. I'd blame Rick Reilly if I could, but that would be like blaming Bush - fun, but not always accurate in every case.
Somehow, SI is becoming a part of it again. As ESPN dumbs down, SI has smarted up. It's still the same mag, but the website is a better read. Peter King is a must-read, Dr. Z is damned good, and others, like my friend Daniel Habib, are getting more bylines.
Long way around to linking Daniel's latest missive from the exquisite Saratoga Springs. I was only there once, in 1993, but I loved it.
I'm glad I don't cover horse racing too. /falsetto
Nice protests in NYC today. Glad I don't live there today and need to, you know, get somewhere.
Yesterday, I was holding my daughter's hand as we crossed a street. A car, presumably turning left, stopped to let us cross. After we reached the sidewalk, the car did a u-turn. Instead of a 90-degree left turn, it ended up making a 270-degree right turn.
This puzzled me. Why not just turn right to begin with? Perhaps his steering wheel was faulty, and it could only make left turns?
I thought of this as I read Charles Miller's review of Paul Graham's essay on great hackers. Miller hilariously sums up Graham's argument about brilliant programmers like this:
1. Hire great hackers.Although I wouldn't say I was great, I am a hacker. I know where Graham is coming from. And four or five years ago, I came from there, too. I would have agreed with everything Graham said, including maintaining a huge blind spot for point #2.
Since then, I've found, among other things, sabermetrics. And the most important thing I've learned from following this crowd is to look at what actually works, instead of what I wish works. I wish that stolen bases and bunts and hit-and-runs were a productive way to play baseball, because I think baseball is more fun that way. But it's not.
And I wish that just letting hackers go off and do their thing was the best way to build a software company, because that would be fun, too. But it's not.
I think Miller is right. There are more examples of where hiring great hackers doesn't work than where it does. Just look at any of the companies with superior software that got squashed by Microsoft or Oracle.
Here's how I would build a software company, if (when) I ever do so again:
I can remember watching the Iran-Contra hearings and making fun of this guy's name. Now, he's back as a central figure in an espionage/conspiracy racket. I'm worried this is too complex and too vague to make much of a media hit, especially in the face of the RNC. Iran-Contra didn't make enough of an impact to try and make an equation meme; hell, Iran-Contra created the myth of Oliver North.
Modern American scandals must involve sex, money, or videotape to gain traction. This has none of those elements and is complex enough to go right over the head of most people. (Is the dumbing down of the public education system part of the plan to let politicians do pretty much whatever they want?)
It's sad; sad enough to make me start considering leaving the country I love and looking at real estate prices and internet access in Canada or the Caribbean.
A Few Batters Who Have Fallen Under the Radar Screen
Was reading an article about how Melvin Mora has been an elite player in 2004 and thought I would do a little digging to find some other batters who you might have been unaware of how great they've been playing this year. I was not looking for players like Adrian Beltre, who have received a lot of notoriety (deservingly so) for their breakouts, but batters who you might have not noticed.
Travis Hafner has fulfilled much of the promise many have predicted of him, this season. With a .984 OPS, it's amazing to think that the Rangers had him, Texiera, and Blalock together in the minors.
Mark Loretta has always been a solid player, not much more, but in 2004, he has an overall OPS of .903, 90 POINTS HIGHER THAN THE NEXT BEST SECOND BASEMAN!
In one of the great bone-head trades of the past 10 years, the Mariners let go an above average Shortstop for very little in return. Carlos Guillen has always been underrated, but this season he's mashing at a .942 OPS, 50 Points better than the next SS on the list.
Racking up impressive minor league season after minor league season, Lew Ford was like a few other Twins prospects, waiting for an opportunity. Ford's .391 OBP has made it hard for the team to sit him down.
Maybe the biggest surprise statistically of all players this season has been the emergence of Aaron Rowand. Seen by most as a 4th Outfielder type, Rowand has an OPS of .945 and a SLG Avg. of .576. Add to this stealing 15 bases in 18 attempts and playing an excellent centerfield and you are looking at the offensive bright spot for the White Sox.
By the way, did you know that 7 Catchers in the Majors have an OBP of .372 or greater? Has there ever been a season that this has happened? My guess would be no.
Mark Liberman at Language Log has an interesting take on the story about the Pirahă, who can't count above three.
Suppose that there's an isolated group -- call them the Nerdahă -- who just aren't interested in throwing things...There's no religious or moral prohibition against throwing, they just think it's boring and a bit stupid, when they bother to think about it at all, which is rarely.Liberman needn't have invented a fictional group. He could have simply called them "Swedes".
Which begs the question: how in the heck would you translate "Saving the Pitcher" into a non-throwing language like Nerdahă or Swedish?
Now Here's a Guy I Would Vote For
Anyone confused about the swift boat veterans controversy should read this.
Notes on Insanity
Yes, I really did. That is all.
In his latest Joe Morgan Chat Day recap, Mike rants:
Remember when a transporter malfunction split Kirk into two separate entities, one his good self and the other his evil self (sans beard), and the good Kirk couldn’t make decisions? He needed the evil half to survive. That was awesome!I do remember. And even more awesomely, thanks to studies by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, the good Kirk's behavior has recently been validated by science.
Call the evil Kirk "emotional", and the good Kirk "rational", and you've got it. For humans, it's impossible to make rational decisions when there's damage to the emotion centers of the brain.
It appears that the rational parts of our brains are able to follow step-by-step instructions without the use of emotion, but when it comes time to actually decide, the emotional system takes over and makes the decision. Without emotion, we end up utterly indecisive, just like "good" Kirk.
So when Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta blather on about keeping emotions out of their decisions, don't believe them. It's impossible to keep emotions out of it. The human brain doesn't work that way. Every decision is an emotional decision. The best you can say is that they have trained their emotions to react negatively to non-rational analysis.
Why It's Hard to Fall in Love
OK, I'm not a Presidential historian, but Dubya is the worst one in my history book. The guy has been a failure in almost every step of his life and since 2001 I don't see much to change that track record.
Having said that I know no one who is enthusiastic about John Kerry. A great column explaining why Kerry creates little passion was written by David Brooks in Tuesday's NYT.
Fire, Not Fire With Fire
Josh Marshall is brilliant. Not just in this post but generally.
The same sort of moral cowardice that led [Bush] to support the Vietnam war but decide it wasn't for him, run companies into the ground and let others pay the bill, play gutter politics but run for the hills when someone asks him to say it to their face, those are the same qualities that led the president to lie the country into war, fail to prepare for the aftermath and then refuse to take responsibility for any of it when the bill started to come due.
Now, if we could only get the Kerry campaign to be have as sharp as some of the bloggers covering the campaign ...
Not to talk football ...
... since it bores me to tears to analyze it, but recent negotiations between Philip Rivers and the Chargers are just laughable. In a salary cap environment with the marketing machine that the NFL is, why would you ever pull a stunt like the Chargers did?
I argue time after time that MLB needs to "sell its players" and market itself much differently than it has (think Super Bowl ad for the possibilities), but mostly, if it just stopped doing stupid things, it could be the NFL in a heartbeat. David Stern isn't the commissioner I would want; it's Tagliabue, who never makes himself the news.
(And yes, that's me saying he likes the non-self-promoter. Irony.)
Heck, if Scott can plug his gigs on this site, so can I.
I'm going to be filling in over on Baysball for a few weeks, while Mark McClusky heads out of town. I tell you what, if Mark's going to skip out on an A's pennant race to go globetrotting, he better come back with some pictures of himself riding an elephant.
You Can Still Rock in America
A couple of readers have emailed asking me why I feel qualified to be a rock music critic. I've decided to post a story I wrote for my book "Dysfunctional Thoughts of a 21st Century Man" which should show why I'm so supremely qualified to offer my thoughts on the Rock World.
A couple of years ago, I was in Omaha working at a comedy club, when
You see, Night Ranger was one of my favorite bands in High School, as
Well, I get to the club and the doorman shows me to the green room.
Since Night Ranger was a big-time band for this club, there were some trays
A Hard Punch
I'm not sure if this interesting article helps or harms Kerry. It definitely drops a couple bombs on the way, leaving both sides devastated, if true.
I'm certainly not comparing the recent "Swift Boat Vets" controversy to the Pete Rose story about this time last year. (Really? My how time flies ...) There are some interesting lessons that I learned under fire.
First, be honest. I had my story, told the facts, and did not attempt to inject opinion or embellishment.
Second, get the important parts of the story out. A political person I like a lot gave me a great piece of advice: get a notecard, right down five talking points, and get to them as fast as possible. It saved me.
Third, don't make yourself part of the story.
Watching the SBV group going through the same storm of fire I did has been interesting. They continually fail at the three above points, going all over the place with opinion, (what I percieve as) lies, and unsupportable 'evidence.' If you have the message, you hammer it again and again, letting the power of the repetition sink it deep into the consciousness of the public. If you don't have the truth, you dodge and evade.
Pete Rose was a curiousity, a remnant, a nostalgia piece. The Swift Boat controversy is just the first round of what looks like another brilliant piece of political psychology by Karl Rove. When Bob Dole waded into the mess this morning, I knew that the political combat was about to wound us all.
Chizum Checks In
Research assistant and barrista Brandon Chizum stops by from time to time to talk a bit about ... well, baseball mostly, but it could be anything. He'll be back once he learns Japanese and gets Will more anytime minutes.
As the wonderful month of October nears, I find myself frequently pondering the issue of baseball’s National League wild card race, and in turn, examining those teams vying for that fourth playoff position. Enumerated below are the clubs I believe will “make a run” for that elusive wildcard in the land of Major League Baseball; the teams have been given a grade in place of a numerical figure representing their respective “odds.”
The San Francisco Giants. Built around the greatest player this game has ever witnessed, the Giants are consistent in their winning ways. Jason Schmidt commands a respectable pitching rotation, and the experience in the field (“experience” is actually a euphemism for “old”) serves to stabilize the focus on the task at hand, which is, of course, winning. The fault of the Giants, though, is the instability of their bullpen. Hermanson as a closer is a nice step forward, and he certainly has the sideburns to get the job done, but then again, Matt Herges doesn’t necessarily instill too much confidence in the Giant faithful upon his entry into the game. So, the Giants chances of winning the wildcard: B+
The Chicago Cubs. Homeruns, starting pitching, and surprisingly, defense, have contributed to the Cubs win total this season. However, please see the previous discussion regarding an inconsistent bullpen. I’m not sure how Dusty makes it through the games without a bottle of Tums sitting by his side. The north side boys have been bitten by the one-run loss bug, not to mention the injury and roller-coaster-like bullpen bug. Nevertheless, despite the sporadic offense and bullpen woes, the Cubs have the best chance of making the playoffs, outside of the division leading teams. The addition of Nomar to an almost healthy lineup (not having Hollandsworth stings a bit) can only serve to strengthen a team scratching for a return trip to the playoffs. So, the Cubs chances of winning the wildcard: A
The San Diego Padres. Who? Oh yeah, that west coast team south of Los Angeles; you know, Tony Gwynn’s team. I must admit that the Padres tenacity this season has caught me off guard. The acquisition of David Wells served wonderfully to bolster the young rotation, and with Giles, etc. swinging for the fences (minus Klesko, one of the biggest disappointments this season), a winning season is certainly attainable. That said, in learning their new ballpark, the Padres have yet to know what it takes to succeed in that environment night in and night out, aside from the obvious answer of “scoring runs.” Until the Friars truly corral their “home field advantage,” they will remain a team on the outside looking in. So, the Padres chances of winning the wildcard: C+
The Florida Marlins. After losing arguably the best catcher in the game (Pudge), as well as Gold-Glove first baseman Derrek Lee, outfielder Juan Encarnacion (only to later regain him), and reliever Braden Looper, one might have thought that the Marlins would be suffocating on the sand under the hot Miami sun, stranded during the low tide, a.k.a., the 2004 season. But because of the evolutionary process, the Fish grew feet, and oddly enough, have scrambled back to the water. They have been playing strong since receiving Lo Duca and Mota in the trade that sent starter Brad Penny to the West Coast. The Marlins might be the best “team” in the majors, and though Jack knows how to strategically blow his cigar smoke into the face of opposition, the Marlins will fall short in their bid to reach the playoffs because of a floundering Josh Beckett and unimpressive A.J. Burnett. So, the Marlins chances of winning the wildcard: B.
The Philadelphia Phillies. Odds-on favorites to win the National League East this season, the Phillies have disappointed many a fan and bookie (quick, where is Pete Rose?). An underachieving batting lineup and pitching staff have left Bowa shaking his head and the front office shaking their fists. Aside from starting pitcher Milton and underrated Abreu, the only gem in the Philly organization at this point is Citizens Bank. The team is swinging and missing with ease this season, at a time when they should be relaxing and strategizing for their playoff run. Larry Bowa’s head will explode before the Phillies make the playoffs this year. So, the chances of the Philles winning the wildcard: C.
The Houston Astros. Certainly flailing from the season-ending injury to Andy Pettitte, the Astros have not come close to living up the hype surrounding them before the season (sound familiar, Philadelphia?). An inconsistent bullpen (losing Billy Wagner would make any team inconsistent in that category) and iffy starting rotation, aside from Clemens and Oswalt, have contributed to the ‘Stros woes this season. And the mere notion that Craig Biggio is tied for the team lead in home runs, ahead of Bags and Kent, is frightening, especially since Minute Maid is a launching pad. Houston has been hot as of late, but expect the Texas heat to remain only in a weather-related sense -- not in terms of the Astros diamond efforts. So, the chances of the Astros winning the wildcard: C.
Alas, my Starbucks triple-hot, non-fat, extra-hot caramel macchiato has finally cooled, as has my desire to continue typing. I look forward to reading your wildcard opinions and critiques of mine in the comments section.
I Love This, Though
Oakland 70 53 .569 -- Texas 69 53 .566 0.5 Anaheim 70 54 .565 0.5
I Hate Sweden, Too
But not for the same reason as God, apparently.
Why would anyone say God hates Sweden? It's because those who would like to send homosexuals to jail feel threatened by Sweden having recently sentenced a preacher, who wants to send homosexuals to jail, to jail. Stefan Geens has a pretty good take on the controversy.
It's a perfect example of my love-hate relationship with Sweden. (And with God for that matter.) I love the fact that Sweden will protect homosexual rights. I hate the fact that they're quite willing to sacrifice free speech to do so. It's such a typical Swedish thing to do, both for good and for bad. They were neutral in two World Wars; they're adept at covering all their bases and pleasing everyone: they're democratic, yet also socialist; they protect human rights, and yet they sometimes behave with an elitist, almost totalitarian, disregard for the individual and the general public.
It often takes a foreigner to point out the bad side of Sweden. Swedes won't do it themselves. Geens, a Belgian blogger living in Stockholm, has been working on his own list of things he dislikes about Stockholm. The irrational discalceation doesn't bother me, but the rest are spot on.
My family is Swedish, but I choose not to be. That's because I have my own Top 10 list of things I hate about Sweden:
But Sweden has its good side, too. Here are my top 10 likes:
OK, enough talk about the Swedish invasion. You're not supposed to notice it. Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.
Year of Hell
While we debate a battle fought thirty years ago, firing lies as bullets, our soldiers of today are going through BS like this. Right or wrong, our soldiers and sailors ALWAYS get the worst end of war. Unfortunately, this time through the Gulf, it's our own side doing as much or more damage than the enemy.
CINC Bush, why don't our troops have adequate medical care? If nothing else, why not this one thing they so desperately need?
God Hates ... Huh?
So on the way to a wedding in the midwestern community of Bloomington, Illinois, we pass a church. Nothing unusual about that, except this church - I didn't see which one - had the lovely and talented Fred Phelps "Ministry" protesting outside.
I'm all for freedom of speech, but this is one of the more foul examples of use of this right one can encounter without involving hoods, swastikas, or Ann Coulter. I'd never actually seen one, but it was just as I had seen on TV. Signs of hate, rage, and of course, the necessary small children carrying signs alongside their hateful parents.
So after learning that God hates fags, priests, and America (yes, the Phelps' believe 9/11 was caused by gays), I saw a sign I hadn't seen before and actually made me laugh: "God Hates Sweden."
Sweden? Home of Ikea, Volvo, and our own loveable Ken Arneson? How could a right and just God hate Sweden? Did that new Saab 9-2 that's actually just a rebranded Subaru screw up some delicate balance in the world? Could Phelps not assemble his $20 Ikea settee? Had someone taken the name of Princess Madeleine in vain?
I just didn't know. As Don King would say, "Only in America." The good, the bad, and the six steps past ugly.
War, Pestilence, Famine, and ...
I'm beginning to think America's political process doesn't just seem like a joke, but that it *is* a joke. Would Ashton Kutcher please come out from behind a tree, laugh at us a while, and let us get back to the real stuff again?
Please Say You're Kidding
I don't normally talk about injuries here in this space, but an article over at MLB.com by Mike Bauman - yes, the same guy who wrote a poor article about pitch counts that I was asked to rebut - is now crowning Gary Sheffield a "folk hero" for playing through pain.
I'll be the first to give Sheffield every bit of deserved credit for playing extremely well, for playing at all in an age when some athletes would shut it down, and for his continued, underappreciated excellence. Don't take anything I say as a denigration of Sheffield's season.
"Folk hero" is just about the most ludicrous thing I've heard in relation to this. Sheffield has, as I've detailed over in UTK, a partial thickness muscle tear of the trapezius near it's insertion at the shoulder. Let's look at the anatomy of this. The tear is at the insertion, near the acromion process (the "tip" of the shoulder, lateral (outside) to the collarbone). It's action is to adduct (bring towards the spine) the scapula (shoulder blade) and secondarily to flex, extend, and rotate the neck.
The fact then is that the action of batting only involves the trapezius in a) bringing the bat into the "cocked" position and b) turning his head. Yes, I'm sure Sheffield is dealing with some pain, but it does *not* affect the motion, range, or power Sheffield must generate to hit as he does. Using commonly dispensed medications, the pain is obviously being controlled.
Members of the media exhibit a great deal of ignorance at times, but there's no excuse for not doing the most basic of research. Perhaps asking a trainer or doctor would be appropriate. I've had any number of journalists ask me questions about medical topics. Some I've been able to assist with and in others, I point them in the right direction of someone more knowledgeable than myself. Asking questions is not difficult. In fact, it should be the most basic requirement of the job. I'm not asking for in-depth research here.
Sheffield is a great hitter despite the challenge he has. He overcame a much more serious thumb problem that sapped his power earlier this season. I give him and the Yankees medical staff credit for healing him in-season, always a more difficult task that a DL stint. In fact, that management, plus the effective usage patterns laid out by Joe Torre have helped Sheffield's performance to be maximized.
Calling Sheffield an MVP candidate is certainly well within reason; calling him a folk hero for nothing more than normal pain tolerance is certainly ignorance.
I guess my lack of math skills just have no excuse now.
I don't normally talk about stocks here and don't construe this as advice, though I sure wouldn't recommend taking the opposite side. I love the company, love the product, but I also loved Netscape, love Apple, and love Nintendo. Don't mistake great products for market dominance, especially in a world with Bill Gates.
So, my stock trade o' the day: Short GOOG @
Ken's post on neuromarketing got me thinking about the similarities between "Moneyball" (philosophy, not book) and market theories. As a former finance worker (risk management and hedging), I lived and died by Black-Scholes.
Implicit in the Black model is an understanding that the market is efficient - that is, all available information is priced into the security. Unfortunately, this isn't true. Instead, many have moved to the "semi-efficient" market theory, where all available known information is priced into the security. This leaves open the possibility that someone can have more or better information than another, making the price, for a time, inefficient and leaving possibilities open for expansive profits.
The same holds true for baseball. Pricing players is relatively easy when done relatively. This player is comparable to this other player who makes X. The market has corrected in price, so the comparisons don't always hold true and must be adjusted. This season, everyone expects Carlos Beltran to "set the market" at around $12-14m dollars. Since he's good, consistent, and young, let's assume his efficient price is at the top of the range. This doesn't preclude the Yankees from overpaying or that Beltran may like playing in Houston, giving a 'hometown discount.' It also gives a player a chance to undercut the efficient price by being the first to act.
Where semi-efficient market theory comes into Moneyball theory is that a team can know more than another. Perhaps a team is using statistical information more accurately, has better scouts, or knows something on the medical front. This appears to be the case for Andy Pettitte, where it's been whispered that the Yankees knew his elbow wouldn't hold up through the next three seasons. (No one's even suggested that they thought it would happen this quick, to be clear.)
These market inefficiencies can be exploited and, as shown in Moneyball, can be successfully used. Buying players in rehab, such as Ryan Dempster or Aaron Boone, seems to be the newest working strategy, but in theory at least, there are infinite numbers of inefficiencies, always moving and waiting to be exploited.
While I love seeing the medical aspects come into inefficiencies, I think a player-level volatility index is the next big thing. I just wish I had more math skills.
Just another post about Jenna Jameson
Ok, so I got your attention. I'm flipping around on the tube, when I see a flash graphic that says VH-1 News Presents: Jenna Jameson. Now I'm aware that the channel that brings us the Top 40 Hairbands of All-time and reruns of the Surreal Life is not going to bring a hard-hitting Frontline piece on illegal tax shelters, but the dramatic way they presented this show was truly ridiculous.
During the "documentary", America's most popular porno star reveals that she was sexually abused when a teenager and had a troubled relationship with her father. Shocker! If you've watched just one interview by Howard Stern with one of these sex performers it would've told you this would be the case. When is the FCC going to acknowledge that Howard is like an anthropologist when it comes to the subject of porn actress' childhoods.
It's actually interesting watching the show, as one minute Jameson discusses how she has been victimized and the next minute she tells how she hated men, but was completely focused on trying to fool them to enrich her bank account.
My favorite part of the program is when Jenna discusses how she was next to death and some friend of her boyfriend had come over and talked her into getting out of Las Vegas and going to stay with her father in California. Jenna claims this saved her life and she wanted to go back and and thank him, because she hadn't seen him since this life-saving moment.
Not since the Leif Garrett, Behind the Music episode has something been more uncomfortably staged. If you don't recall that moment, Leif meets up for the first time with the guy who he had caused to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, because of a certain dreamy Pop Idol was blotto drunk behind the wheel and buddy had the misfortune of being in the passenger seat. Thanks again, VH-1.
God, this guy is good. Bruce Sterling, who's not just a very good writer, but a great and challenging thinker gave a speech at an industry conference. Luckily, Boing Boing has the full text which is well worth reading.
The health parts just stun me. As much progress as we've made in the last 30 years is about to be eclipsed by the advances of the next decade. I'm sure there's a word for the re-integration of various specialties and sub-specialties, but I don't know it. As specialization led to the "knowing more and more about less and less", putting this all back into some holistic framework seems to be the next frontier of knowledge.
Will complained the other day that sabermetrics hasn't made many big leaps lately. As in any system that evolves, great advances become less and less likely over time; changes become smaller, iterative and incremental, unless some disruptive event comes along to change everything.
Sabermetrics asks questions about why teams win. Like Will, I'm interested in those big advances, but following the incremental improvements doesn't compel me much. These days, the interesting question to me isn't why teams win. That's so 2002! I want to know why people watch. What is it about baseball that compels so many people to invest so much time in this game?
There's a fascinating new article in Newsweek about behavioral economics. Some of the findings are particularly applicable to sports. For example, there may be a neuroscientific explanation for the appeal of superstars:
Male monkeys have a distinct dominance hierarchy, and Platt has found they will give up a considerable quantity of fruit juice for the chance just to look at a picture of a higher-ranking individual. This is consistent with field observations, Platt says, which have found that social primates spend a lot of time just keeping track of the highest-ranking troop member. It isn't known exactly why monkeys do this, but the finding might help explain the behavior of human beings who pay $1,000 just to sit in a hotel ballroom with the president.Or why people will spend $100 for an autograph of a famous player.
Doesn't it seem strange that people become so loyal to their favorite teams? Why isn't everyone a Yankees fan, since they're always so good, or a Marlins fan, since they're the champs? Don't they have the best products? There may be a scientific explanation for that, too:
Emory University psychologist Clint Kilts scanned subjects as they looked at a variety of products, from cars to soft drinks, and found that this sense of brand identification elicited a strong response in the medial prefrontal cortex. This is the brain area associated with what psychologists call the "sense of self," one's self-constructed identity.Our loyalty comes not from liking a particular team for any particular logical reason. It comes from having the team embedded into the structure of the brain where our self-image resides. Our own identities become intertwined with the team in our brains.
It's the difference between saying "I like the A's", and saying "I am an A's fan." The casual fan likes. The hard-core fan identifies, in the medial prefrontal cortex.
Often, you begin to root for your local team, because you identify yourself as a resident of that region. The A's represent the East Bay, and I am an East Bay resident. I am a winner, and the A's are winners, and I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
Interrupting that self-identity is usually interpreted as betrayal. Clearly, the strike of 1994 was interpreted as betrayal by many, and ticket sales suffered for many years afterwards. As the Newsweek article points out, our brains are especially attuned to detect acts of betrayal, but scientists don't quite understand how it works yet.
Why did Dodger fans feel betrayed by the trade of Paul LoDuca? Why did A's fans feel so betrayed by Jason Giambi leaving for the Yankees, but not by Miguel Tejada leaving for the Orioles? The answers lie somewhere in our brains.
The Moneyball philosophy works on the assumption that winning is the only thing that matters with ticket sales. But like the "rational market" theory, it's probably a useful rule of thumb, but it's not entirely accurate.
As the science of neuromarketing progresses, we can have a better understanding of not only what wins games, but what sells tickets, and what keeps people watching. The game will be better for it.
Chicago Area Appearance
Just thought I would mention that I will be headlining this weekend at the comedy club Wisecrackers in the Star Theatre located in Merriville, IN. Possible appearance on the Score 670 on Friday. Thursday I will be on the Huge Show at 5:00 PM, which is syndicated all over the state of Michigan.
I have finished whoring myself out, thank you. Scott
I'm sick. It happens every time I fly, I think. The dry air kills me and reminds me why I really don't want to live in the desert anymore (unless it's Vegas. I can suffer for Vegas.)
So, not much to say. NYC was great, mostly because of the great people, and I'll have more on that soon. I'll leave you with this funny non-work-safe video. I don't really think that protesting a political convention has much value, but this is funny AND strong.
Miracle on Wood
So the USA team is squashed by Puerto Rico and I have to say, I like it. When you look at the rosters, it's a more impressive victory than the miracle on ice. Of course, since the US team was beaten handlily by Italy in a pre-Olympic game, it's not seen that way, but truly it should be.
It's time to blow-up the US Basketball program and try a different path. Pay the players a CBA style wage and have them make a 2-year commitment ending at the 2008 games. Sure the quality of player will go down, but we at least should be able to produce a better quality TEAM than Puerto Rico or Italy and it will be a TEAM, not a group of individuals who can't shoot a jumper. Then, I will be able to root for my country again, which the current dream team, I mean Nightmare team has made so difficult.
(I should note that the current US Olympic team and coaches shouldn't be treated like lepers, because they did give up their NBA off-seasons to play for the US. It just hasn't been fun, even when the Dream Team was beating people by 40. A young TEAM would be much better for our country to offer, win or lose.)
One of the 20th centuries' greatest poets, Czeslaw Milosz, has died.
One of my regrets in life is that I didn't move heaven and earth to take a class from Milosz when I was a student at UC Berkeley. But perhaps, at that age, I was not yet ready to face great men; I could only watch from the side.
I'd see Milosz around campus from time to time; those bushy eyebrows were a quite distinguishing feature. Sometimes, I'd be with a fellow English major, and one of us would say quietly, "Look, there goes Czeslaw Milosz", and we'd stare in awe, as if we were baseball fans and Ted Williams had just walked by.
Reflecting on those fleeting moments, I feel rather like this Milosz poem:
We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
ESPN's Most Unheralded Commodity
Listening to the Dan Patrick Show today and Brian Kenny was filling in. Kenny, who seems to have become the top dog at ESPNews, was sensational. Arguing with Dibble about how Edgar Martinez's percentage stats, AVG., OBP, SLG, were so superior that he should be in the Hall of Fame, while Dibble was stuck on Edgar having only 2200 hits.
Now, I think there is a legit argument concerning should or should not Martinez make it to Cooperstown, but it was refreshing to hear a major media voice tout sabremetrics in his argument. Kenny has always been great about having sabremetricians have a voice on shows he hosts.
This is not the only reason I like him, though, as I feel he brings a lot of knowledge and passion to his arguments. Not one of these generic people you hear on a lot of ESPN radio stations. Kenny, Trey Wingo, and Scott Van Pelt are extremely good at what they do.
I've been doing some computer consulting work recently. Yesterday, I called a major computer company to track down some software my client had ordered, but which hadn't arrived.
I hadn't had much contact with this computer company in a couple of years. I was surprised how shoddy their customer service had become. This company, which I won't name but it rhymes with the last syllable of "Phone Tree Hell", used to have good customer service.
Their automated systems were no help for my problem; I needed to talk to a human being. But I couldn't find the right one. They transferred me three times (once to some off-shore customer-support know-nothing script-reader), put me on hold about a dozen times, once so long I hung up and called up and started over again, after which they ended up accidentally (I presume) hanging up on me twice, all without answering my simple question. It took another 45 minutes on the phone this morning to arrange to get the missing software shipped.
Now I should be angry about this, but this seems all-too-common; often, the larger a company gets, the worse its customer service becomes. I wondered why. Maybe, at some point in the success cycle, good customer service becomes too expensive, and you're better off letting the exceptions drown.
Then I thought about blogs. The more popular a blog gets, the less likely it is to accept comments. Comments are like customer service, in a way. At a certain traffic level, too many spammers, trolls and name-callers make the costs start to outweigh the benefits.
People complain today that baseball players aren't as accessible as they used to be. It's the same problem.
I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused. There's a natural ecosystem at work here. As organizations grow, the limits of human nature, such as the "Rule of 150", dictate that these organizations must become more mechanistic and impersonal. That creates opportunites in the ecosystem for smaller organizations to fill in, to provide the kind of personal touch the larger organizations cannot.
I've been to hundreds of major league games, and I've never had a conversation with a player during a game. But I went to one minor league game, sat in the first row by a bullpen, and Jamey Wright was kind enough to spend some time chatting with my kids.
There was less than a dozen people sitting near that bullpen. If there had been more than 150, Wright would likely have ignored us. We would have been just one of many indistinguishable voices chirping in a large, crowded phone tree.
Long Live the King
I don't care for boxing much, but there's one aspect that I like: if you beat the world champion, then you're the world champion!
I wondered, what would happened if we had that rule in baseball? You'd have several new champions every week.
So I followed the schedule so far this year, beginning with Florida's first game. I am proud to announce that the current MLB champs are the Milwaukee Brewers. Long live the King!
Tonight, the Atlanta Braves will try to retake the throne Milwaukee took from them last night.
Here are the teams that have been champions so far this year, and the number of days they've spent as champs:
Florida - 25
The A's held on to the championship for a week, sweeping Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, but then got swept in St. Louis. The champs never played another AL team. With interleague play now over, the title will remain in the NL for the rest of the regular season.
Pittsburgh went on a nine-game winning streak when they became champions on June 26. The Expos held the title at the All-Star break.
Read on for the day-by-day champions list...
Where Is My Mind
I just finished watching a British documentary on The Pixies, which appeared on the cable channel, Trio. With some great live performances and interviews from Bono, David Bowie, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, and Badly Drawn Boy, this documentary does an excellent job of showing how The Pixies were the most important alternative band of the 80's.
I figure this week in my music corner I will do a brief music retrospective of The Pixies.
Their first full-length CD, Surfer Rosa sounded like nothing I had quite heard before. With it's frenzied sonics mixed with other moments of whispered vocals, so many more recent bands (Nirvana, Radiohead, etc.) owe a lot to The Pixies.
Next came their greatest album, "Doolittle". With great pop songs like "Here Comes Your Man" and "This Monkey's Gone To Heaven", I believe "Doolittle is one of the top 25 albums in alternative music's history. Other standouts include "Debaser", "Wave of Mutilation", and "Gouge Away". (Rating A)
"Bossanova" followed and even though it might not quite match the first two releases, this is still great from beginning to end. "Allison", "Velouria", "Dig for Fire", "Blown Away" are best, but this is the Pixies CD in which almost all the songs are in the same category. (Rating B+)
The final album the Pixies did was "Trompe Le Monde", which among critics and fans was seen as a notch below their other works. I would tend to disagree, as I feel it still lives up to the high standards the band previous work achieved. UMASS (It's Educational!) is one of the great rock tunes I've ever heard, plus "Planet of Sound" rocks almost as well. Alec Eiffel and their excellent cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On" are other highlights. (Rating B+)
At this point, the band went it separate ways, as the leader of the group, Black Francis changed his stage name to Frank Black and has recorded a number of excellent solo albums. His self-entitled has my favorite song of his, solo or not, "Los Angeles". (Overall Rating B+)
His second solo offering "Teenager of the Year" is truly outstanding. It has 22 tracks and I would say 16 of them are great. If you have never heard this CD, pick it up. (Rating A)
Bassist and singer Kim Deal started a band you might have heard of "The Breeders". On their first album "Pod" check out their cover of "Happiness is a Warm Gun". One of the best Beatles covers I've ever heard. Their second CD, "Last Splash" contained the massive hit "Cannonball". On the single release is included a great cover of Aerosmith's "Lord of the Thighs".
The Pixies have reformed this year and have been touring to great success. Unfortunately, they haven't been near anyplace I could see them, so if you have caught them in concert, please give me your review.
Well, ok ...
You know, I don't so much mind a good sucker punch. Quick - anyone got a rugby ball?
I brought up the Hastert "sales tax" idea about a week ago, in the hopes that someone with a clue about economics would write up whether this was a good or bad idea. Someone has.
I'm not familiar with the leanings of this writer or organization, but a quick look makes it look centrist-right. The points on inflation convinced me. I'll still support a flat tax, but the conclusion here is great. No fancy economic jargon, just "very dumb."
A while back, I made a comment about gas prices being the way most Americans judged the economy. I got pounded by one of my smartest friends, saying it just wasn't so. In this one, while I think there are other measures - 401k statements perhaps? - gas prices are still the most visible, universal, and elastic.
Without going too deeply into the oil patch, the gas prices cannot be blamed on OPEC or even Bush/Cheney. It's too simplistic to do so. There's a better case to be made for the lack of a reasonable energy policy over the last decade, one that would decrease consumption, increase refining capacity, and reward alternative or conservation of fuel. (Why can I get a tax break on a Hummer, but not a Prius?)
Back to gas prices ... what do you think? Is gas price something that people use to measure the economy? Does Bush need gas prices to go down in order to hold his job? Would gas at a buck-fifty really change many peoples mind in this very polarized electorate?
That's my first non-baseball post in a while, so quit bitching. This blog talks about everything - baseball, culture, music, politics, scantily clad women - so get used to it. There's nine other blogs that live up to the All Baseball name to choose from if you don't like what we're writing on any given day.
I'd also like to give massive kudos to Ken and Mark McClusky for the kick-ass new autotagger. Now, I can just type in the names of players - Nomar Garciaparra, Sammy Sosa, Jairo Garcia, Lance Carter, or maybe Nook Logan - and it gets linked with no coding on my part.
Passing the Torch
Today, as the Olympic torch approaches Athens for Friday's Opening Ceremonies, baseball had its own kind of torch pass. Edgar Martinez announced his retirement, and Jairo Garcia made his major-league debut.
Martinez was on the other end back in September of 1987, debuting while Phil Niekro and Reggie Jackson took their final bows.
Here's hoping that those first two names join those second two names in the Hall of Fame.
Edgar probably won't make it; his career got started too late. But he struck HOF-quality fear in the fans of his opposing teams, that's for sure. My emotional side says he's a Hall-of-Famer, but my logical side says he's not.
Dammit, Jim, I'm a human, not a Vulcan! Edgar gets my vote.
Garcia probably won't make it, either. But holy smokes, 92 strikeouts in 55 IP this year? I can dream, can't I?
Games Without Frontiers
I've decided that there's a dearth of thought. It's Occam's Razor at work, but in the world of baseball, original productive thought seems to be at an all-time low. Some will call it a cyclic correction brought about by an historic shift (the publication of Moneyball and the mainstreaming of 20 years of research by James, Neyer, and BP.)
Instead of developing interesting tools, the current crop pales in the shadow of Bill James, Eric Walker, and Keith Woolner. Go ahead - show me the best sabermetric thoughts over the past five years. You know my position on DIPS, but I give it value based on the questions it raised rather than its results. PAP is the best available tool for measuring pitching fatigue over a broad population despite critics best efforts to topple it. Zone rating and it's stepchildren? I'll give you that one, though I'm not sure how many different ways we need to say that Derek Jeter sucks. PECOTA is more a distillation and application of what we've learned before than a true advance.
I'm sure I'm missing some, but that's the fault of the community itself. There's no good research "library," leading to many to go back and reinvent the statistical wheel. If there's some out there, I'd love to hear about them. I'd love to publicize the best ideas and get them into the broader consciousness. I'm hardly a sabermetrician myself, despite throwing injury analysis into the sabermetric stew over the past few years. Perhaps my contribution can be my loud voice and persistent nature.
I see three types of things going on that must be corrected to go forward:
1) Complaining about a statistic without offering an alternative or even suggesting improvements. All too common. Bitching is not productive and is bitching, not peer review.
2) Making a minute adjustment to an existing statistic/metric that gives an incremental and usually fractional gain is scarcely worth the effort to create and often not worth the effort to read. We have plenty of most things, offensive and defensive.
3) Reinventing the wheel occurs so often that the wheel is getting pissed. It's a function of not knowing what comes before; it's part library and part lazy. I'll pick on an old friend here - Steve Lombardi of NetShrine did an interesting, well-thought out study on contact. Unfortunately, it's also preface to Linear Weights and while I'll never tell anyone not to follow their bliss, Steve pretty much wasted his time. Did he simply want the mental exercise? Maybe. Did he not know that he was running down a treaded path? Maybe.
I think when we look back at this period in sabermetric history - which Alan Schwarz shows us is nearly as old as baseball itself in his phenomenal book, The Numbers Game - I think we'll see this as a period of consolidation or perhaps an historic 'plexiglass principle.' Perhaps there's a kid in a bedroom somewhere, learning Excel and watching MLB.tv. With an interweb connection and the right questions, that kid could be Keith Woolner, Rob Neyer, or Michael Wolverton.
Let's help that kid; let's help our game.
Tim Russert, Paul Krugman, and Rowdy Roddy O'Reilly
Hope you got a chance to see Tim Russert's interview show on CNBC this weekend, because it was a classic. His guests were Paul Krugman and Bill O'Reilly.
Now, it should be noted that I'm the only one of the 4 contributors at Will Carroll Presents who has defended O'Reilly, as I've felt that he is no rabid conservative, but a instead a Republican populist. Well I need to reform my point of view, because O'Reilly was completely rabid, doing his best to yell and use his imposing size to physically intimidate Krugman. (O'Reilly is 6 feet 4 and Krugman doesn't look like a guy who could beat up ESPN's John Clayton.)
Truly a pathetic appearance by O'Reilly, as he acted more like one of the Fabulous Freebirds than he did a responsible journalist. Krugman is not the most eloquent speaker (I mean he's an economist), but he did a good job of keeping his dignity, while The FACTOR yelled at him like he was Al Franken, incarnate.
The most interesting part of the show was watching Russert, who I couldn't determine if he was in shock or was trying not to laugh. Truly a surreal show.
It All Evens Out In The End
Getting shut out on both ends of a doubleheader is about the biggest waste of time possible at a ballpark. I will never get my June 26, 1988 back, and it still bothers me to this day.
But, I hereby declare the A's 18-inning victory over the Twins today to be my revenge for those godawful 18 innings I sat through on that dreadful day sixteen years ago.
Now, all I have to do is get my revenge for the 2002 ALDS...
Johan Santana: You Want No Part of Him
Since he plays for the Twins, which outside of the state, only TFD follows, it might have slipped past you that since June, Johan Santana has been the best pitcher in baseball. (Hey it slipped past Joe Torre.)
The first 2 months of the year, Santana didn't appear to be the same pitcher he had been during his first 3 years in the majors, serving up an ERA over 5.50 and a WHIP over .150. Since then he has been dominant in every way. In June his ERA was 2.39, his WHIP was .172 and opposing batters hit .160 against him. During July he was even better, with an ERA of 1.17, a WHIP of 0.63 and opponents "hit" for an average of .095 versus him! Throw in that since the start of June, during the 98 innings he has pitched in, Santana has struck out 129 batters and only given up 22 walks.
There is no starting pitcher in baseball who has been as nasty. I would take him against any pitcher who will pitch in the playoffs and that's includes Schilling and Pedro, as those guys just don't dominate like they used to. Combine Santana with a reinvigorated Radke, plus the difficulty of playing in the Metrodome (see 1987 and 1991) and I think the Twins are not getting their deserved credit..
Here's the challenge:
Magglio Ordonez is now out for the season, suffering from bone marrow edema. The condition is pre-arthritic and occurred after routine knee surgery in June. Ordonez was a plus player in every year of his career, including this year. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and prior to the injury was expected to command a 4-5 year deal worth 10-12 million per season.
In comments, make your offer to Ordonez as if you are the General Manager of your favorite team (please make it clear which team). We'll figure out a small prize for the winner.
The prediction I made that there would be more trades after the "deadline" than before is looking on track. Granted, there were more trades AT the deadline than I expected, but with the Larry Walker and Josh Phelps deals, I think we're only seeing the beginning.
The Walker deal is good, if dangerous for the Cards. The unknown of the deal is not what the Rockies get, but what they gave. Walker has one more year on his deal and is exceptionally expensive at this stage in his career. Despite Neil DeMause's discovery that New Busch may not be as expensive as first thought, it will still likely cost the Cardinals Edgar Renteria in the end. This Cardinals team is LOADED, but it may be a 'one and done' team, at least in this iteration.
No, I have no idea what the Josh Phelps trade is about. It surprised me as much as anyone, but I'll assume the Blue Jays know something I don't ... but the Indians are smart too.
Who else might be headed elsewhere? Bret Boone hasn't hit waivers yet, but surely will and could be an expensive claim. The M's would love to lose Boone's contract, but would be tough for them to give up another player without return. Kansas City got Mike Sweeney through, but he has a no-trade, so this isn't surprising and happened last season without a move. The Reds are expected to try and get Wilson and Lidle through, but I haven't heard that they've hit the wire yet. Matt Lawton, Geoff Jenkins, and Cliff Floyd are probably the biggest hitters to watch for.
It should be a fun August.
Establishing Their Presence
MLB.com has a nice article about three-digit pitchers up today. I've read more and more of MLB.com's stuff as their tech offerings have improved, ESPN's dumbed down (outside of Eric Neel and the Holy Trinity), and as they've made a real effort to branch out.
Back to the article - it's good, but I do have one nitpick. Nowhere in the article does Newman point out that the readings may be inconsistent, amplified, or even incorrect. I've found out doing the Velocity Project that many guns are off my as much as 3mph and not consistent from night to night.
But 95+ is still bringing it, margin of error or not.
On Mark Kotsay
More baseball talk: there's a nice interview with John Gizzi over on Athletics Nation, where they discuss, among other things, Mark Kotsay.
I have been envying the A's AL West rivals in recent years, watching Mike Cameron and Darin Erstad turn so many A's doubles into outs. It's great to see Kotsay do similar work out there for my team. Not since the last time Dwayne Murphy's hat fell off have the A's had center field patrolled so well.
Kotsay got on my good side right away, as I was in Phoenix for his first spring training at-bat. Kotsay drew a leadoff 13-pitch walk off Bartolo Colon, and the A's went on to win 26-3. Colon reached his pitch limit before the first inning was over.
Mark Kotsay's approach at the plate is easy to explain; it makes him an ideal batter to show little leaguers how to approach an at-bat. If it's in the strike zone, he nearly always swings. He's not waiting for the perfect pitch early in the count, like a lot of batters do. But if the ball is out of the strike zone, he nearly always takes. Swing at strikes, don't swing at balls. Sounds simple, but I've never seen anyone who approaches that ideal so often.
It's fun style to watch. And the results have been pretty good, too.
Not baseball, not lefty, though I think anyone that comes through here knows they have an equal chance of getting one as the other ... or something completely different.
But my question is: Is there professional courtesy in baseball? If another writer is trashed in your writing, do you have the obligation to give them a heads up? Do you, if trashed, have the obligation to hold back?
Please opine away in comments.
OK, there have been complaints about too few baseball posts lately. I don't have much to say right now, so here's a random diamond note poem, whose generator, I have upon good authority, has been updated with the latest roster changes.
Sniff. It's such a sad story...
You've Gotta Be Kidding
Just when you thought Katherine Harris (yeah, that one) couldn't get any weirder, she goes and tries to blow up a town near me.
And since I know some of you read this, where's the Indy media on THIS one? Damn I hate living in a ... wait, which is red and which is blue again?
Chimes of Freedom
He's an "artist and performer." Proving he's as good with prose as poetry and truly this generation's voice, ladies and gentlemen, The Boss!
I welcome this kind of passion, but I also wonder if it doesn't feed the divisive beast. Can't Rove now point to "Hollywood" trying to influence the election? Can't Bush continue the anti-elitist, anti-intellectual theme of his life despite privilege and higher education? Are there more people that will listen to the Confederate remnants of our society than the Brahmins?
Gouvernour Morris inserted the word "United" into the Declaration of Independence in hopes that the colonies becoming states would indeed stand together for the common good of the new nation. There are moments in our history that are truly united and those tend to be the greatest moments of our times. There was one near September 11th, but that's gone, lost to the past. That opportunity is gone, but there will be others, if we're only more ready to sieze them.
But Does Her Head Spin Around
Oh the stories I've heard from Austin, but instead of spilling, I'll offer this classic SAB.
Chizum Checks In
Research Assistant and Connoisseur of Life Brandon Chizum chimes in on his thoughts this week. Comment away; he needs more feedback than his mom!
While debating this week’s article, I pondered the idea of a “Clemens vs. Maddux” comparison, outlining each of their respective roads to success in obtaining 300-plus victories: Clemens, the flame-throwing, outwardly aggressive, dominating pitcher, and Maddux, the constantly one-step ahead, slice-and-dice artist whose desire to win is just as fiery as Mr. Clemens’.
Then it dawned on me. As monumental a moment it is that Maddux will probably become the last pitcher to reach the 300 games-won plateau (look for the future benchmark to become 250 wins), his accomplishment, rightly or wrongly, is overshadowed by the “general” baseball fan’s desire to see the homerun, and hence, an offensive display.
Constantly under a microscope, Barry Bonds somehow performs flawlessly with the ten-pitches-or-so-a-week thrown his way, last night a prime example with two home runs. His effortless swing and keen eye ensure that a majority of his hits serve as valiant acts, done so in order to better his team, and in turn, his chances of winning a World Series. And yes, he is that good.
Barry is the only 500-500 player in the history of baseball; there isn’t even a 400-400 player, and that fact alone should garner him the highest praise available within the forum of other baseball greats. And if you have a moment, glance at the total amount of intentional walks he has collected – it is a ridiculous number, and I believe the game takes a hit because of the fear other teams have in pitching to number 25. (The man has only struck out over 100 times once in his career -- that being his rookie season, 1986.)
His defense has always been far above average for the league, and though his arm strength may not be the equivalent of an Ichiro or Vlad, Barry’s defense has been terrific through his career, if not at times stellar. (He has eight Gold Gloves.)
His career batting average will soon eclipse .300, and though his steals have declined these past few years (he is 40 years old), his on-base percentage and slugging percentage more than make up for the speed factor, with each percentage continuously resting at an absurdly high figure.
As for the steroid debate and Mr. Bonds’ reputation, we live in a country where the laws declare that a person is innocent until proven guilty (at least on paper). But let’s say that Bonds did indulge in the usage of steroid supplements – my response: so what!? Would the physical enhancements from the drugs really assist him in hitting a curveball or slider? And does it truly matter if he hits the ball 485 feet as opposed to 500 feet? Steroids are a form of cheating, I agree, but they have absolutely nothing to do with bettering a baseball player’s innate ability to determine a pitch type and swing fluidly for the fences.
So no matter the allegations floating through the air, major league baseball needs Barry Bonds. He is the Shaquille O’Neal, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Peyton Manning, and Jarome Iginla of this world’s greatest sport, and without question, he should be treated as such.
Now my allegiance has always been, and will always remain, with the Chicago Cubs. But when we are able to witness the gift, and it is exactly that, of a ballplayer the likes of Barry Bonds, we should take note and realize the importance of such a celebrated figure. His effort on behalf of major league baseball is one of immeasurable magnitude, and how truly lucky we are to have been privy to his heroics on the baseball diamond we love.
So as we near the end of his illustrious career, let us urge Mr. Bonds to destroy the record books, for selfish we-were-there reasons, but maybe more importantly, just because he can. Records are made to be broken, so c’mon, pitch to Barry. Better yet, let's hope that on Friday as Maddux pitches again for the milestone, he'll let Barry see some pitches and give us a moment for the ages, no matter the winner.
This article about education really gets my goat. Dammit, it was my last one, and now I'm all out of goats.
It's supposedly a defense of memorization, which would be fine, if it didn't go off on these tangents that are beside the point. It's these tangents that annoy me:
Objective tests or subjective evaluations? Rote memorization or open play? Scouts or stats? Beer or tacos? Both, you fools. This need not be a religious war.
Now excuse me, I need to find someone to eat this tin can.
Things I Think I Think:
1. Peter King, who's format I am shamelessly thieving, is among the best living sports writers. He does football better than anyone, but he did a very credible job with baseball in this year's SI preview. I wonder if he's still glad he traded for Nomar.
2. There's a reason I go to Starbucks and McDonalds. It's consistency - I know what I'm getting everytime, on any continent - and in Indy, lack of options. Peet's would have me in there daily if they'd put one here.
3. Scott Long, stathead extraordinaire, was linked to in the very cool Soxaholix comic-blog. Nice job, SL.
4. Any debate that gets as religious as the Moneyball/Non-Moneyball one is never going to be settled. Let others fight and I'll look for the success in the middle ground.
5. Five of the six division races look decided to me. For all the talk about parity, Bud Selig is at least making the season interesting with the wild card possibilities. Yes, I give Bud full credit for that and yes, I like the wild card.
6. I have Tivo. I have XM. I have iPod. What's the next cool gadget?
7. Billy Idol is underrated as a musician, but his album "Cyberpunk" is even MORE underrated than normal. Idol's no worldchanger, but his thoughtful look at the universe of William Gibson was well ahead of its time. Worth a listen if you can find it.
8. I still miss Napster. Not the one now, but the real one. Audiogalaxy is dearly departed as well. This is not the next Napster.
9. Blogs are reaching the broadcast point. I'm expecting blog consolidation to be the big media story of 2005. As with news websites, the top bloggers will be consolidated under some umbrella - news, politics, magazines, something - and assimilated. Blogs won't replace or even threaten major media; they do threaten journalism schools.
10. I simply don't care about the Olympics this year and probably won't watch. Ok, I'll watch the HD coverage, but I'll watch friggin' bumblebees in HD. I hope there's a big story that comes out, like it almost always does, that makes us all care. Maybe it's Michael Phelps or some transcendent moment like Mary Lou Retton or Kerri Strug, but the Olympics are teetering on irrelevance.
Scott's Choice Tunes of the Week
This will be the first installment in a weekly series, where I open your ears to music you might have missed.
Before I start, let me mention that I've recently bought a Creative Nomad MP3 player, with 30 GB. I'm just as passionate about it, as Will is about his Ipod. My player cost $240 bucks and came with a 50 dollar rebate from Napster to download 50 songs. I did purchase a pair of $20 pair of Sennheiser MX 500 headphones, as I've heard that the standard headphones stink. Ok, there is the end of my commercial.
What's Playing this Week
Snow Patrol's "Final Straw"- Best album I've heard the past year. With echoes of Psychedelic Furs, T. Rex, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, and many other bands, Snow Patrol has the ability like Jet's "Get Born" to sound like many different bands, but always putting their own unique spin on it. Another plus on this CD is places like Target are selling it for less than 9 bucks.
Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Fever to Tell"- Lead singer Karen O sings like she's fused Chrissie Hynde and PJ Harvey, which is pretty great. The album itself is very solid, but you must download "Maps" and "Rich", two great songs.
Interpol's "Turn On the Bright Lights" is a wonderful debut album, from New York's other great new band (besides the Strokes). "Obstacle 1" is the must-have single from the band.
Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut has gotten a lot of press and deservingly so, as this group brings some funk to the College Music scene. From Scotland, like Snow Patrol, you may have heard FF's song "Take Me Out" on MTV2, but there are other songs on the album almost as good.
Libertines are a London band who have a sound reminiscent of The Jam or The Clash. One of the best singles of the past few years is their song, "What a Waster".
Hot Hot Heat has been compared to The Cure and let me say that is going too far. I get a little bored with their album "Make Up the Breakdown", but the song,
Playing Strat-O-Matic With Death
I was watching ESPN on Friday night, trying to absorb all the trades that were filtering through. A commercial came on, and I started channel surfing. I came across a PBS station that was showing Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. It was the scene where Max Von Sydow challenges Death, who had been following Von Sydow around, to a game of chess.
They speak an old, formal style of Swedish in Bergman's films. It has a somewhat Shakespearean sound to me, but it feels out of place. It throws me; I don't expect modern people to use old language. Imagine asking Rickey Henderson why he doesn't retire, and having him reply like this:
Let me be your servant:You'd think, yeah, right. Get real, Rickey.
Symbolism and formal language, which permeate The Seventh Seal, are out of style these days. It occurred to me that perhaps this is why some people really hate Field of Dreams. They see the blatant metaphors, and hear James Earl Jones give his flowery "But baseball has marked the time" speech, and cringe: "Yeah, right. Get real, James."
I don't mind symbolism, personally. I thought about the Dodgers-Marlins trade and tried to relate it to the chess scene. The players are just pawns. Their skills erode, and eventually Old Age comes to take them. The smart GMs are constantly trying to beat Old Age. A smart move, like DePodesta's trade on Friday, which makes you better and younger at the same time, helps you cheat Old Age.
Saturday, I attended my 20-year high school reunion. We had it on a yacht, and we cruised around San Francisco Bay. At one point, we went into McCovey Cove during the Giants-Cardinals game, which was cool. I couldn't see any of the game, but I could see the pitch count scoreboard. Kirk Rueter had thrown 70 pitches.
The Pitch Count is following Kirk Rueter. The Declining K/9 Rate is following Kirk Rueter. Old Age is following Kirk Rueter.
Old Age is following me and my classmates, too. We're all starting to turn gray now, get wrinkles, have health problems. In fact, four of my 250 high-school classmates have already passed away. At our next reunion, a few more of us will probably be gone, at the 40-year reunion even more. We're all just tokens in some crazy statistical contest, players in a mad game of Strat-O-Matic with Death. We keep playing, but eventually, we all roll that unlucky combination of the dice, and the final out is recorded.
Then we shake hands, walk off into that magic cornfield, and laugh.
Stunned and confused, that is. If the Bushies are actually going to move to a sales tax or VAT model, seemingly advocated by outgoing (in 2006) Speaker Hastert, then I'll be in a quandary. (I'd like a source other than Drudge and know we have some Hill vets around the board.) I've been an advocate of the flat tax, thinking that was a reachable goal. I never thought a sales tax/VAT - they're different, but appear the same to the public - had a chance. They look regressive, they make things appear more expensive, but actually the positives far outweight the negatives in my admittedly non-economist mind.
If the Republicans can sell this as "no IRS" and "more money in your paycheck" rather than "stuff's going to look expensive" and "we'll use this to bankrupt Social Secuirty and Medicare quicker", I think the public will bite. Heck, *I* might bite.
I hope Brad DeLong or one of our informed posters here will help educate me and the rest of the readership on this important, complex issue.
My Hacking Mass team is currently in 14th place out of 1,312, but that's about as high as I'm going to go, I'm afraid. The Pirates traded for two third basemen, and released Chris Stynes. Drat.
Well, at least the Giants didn't find a replacement for Neifi Perez.
We Get Letters
Is Garciaparra and Grudzielanek the longest-named middle infield in history? I can't think of any other combo that would even come close that doesn't involve one of those two.
My Core Has Been Corrupted
We all have a basic belief system that enables us to make decisions on what works in our daily lives. Even though at WCW there is a widely varied point of view on politics, music, food, etc, the thing that has brought us here to congregate is sabremetrics baseball. The father of sabremetrics is the Reverend Bill James.
I bring this up because the team that Mr. James consults for, the Boston Red Sox, made a significant trade today. Their GM, Theo Epstein, decided to send Nomar Garciaparra (.867 OPS) away and getting in return, Orlando Cabrera (.634 OPS) and Doug Mientkiewicz (.703).
Mr. Epstein was quoted as saying he made the trade because "I thought there was a flaw on the club that we couldn't allow to become a fatal flaw, that the defense on this team is not championship caliber. In my mind we were not going to win a World Series with our defense the way it was."
Now to be fair, Cabrera and Mientkiewicz should be expected to have OPS' of around .780 apiece, by looking at past performance, but then Nomar's would be above .900, if we use that formula. It also should be mentioned that Cabrera's defense has went downhill since his back injury, a couple of years ago, so his defensive superiority is questionable.
My biggest issue is that how can Bill James stand by quietly, while a trade is made which in many ways is a refutation of his life's work. It's almost like if Darwin was alive today and he just decided to sit one out, because his boss decided that evolution was a bit overrated. Now perhaps I'm being too strong here, but with the Twins continuing to thumb their noses at Moneyball tactics and doing it very successfully, I'm starting to question the core of my baseball beliefs.
Maybe I wouldn't be as depressed over this whole deal, if my favorite team, the White Sox, weren't going in the crapper, the team I dislike the most, the Cubs, were making a great trade based on my most fervent baseball principles, and the only other team not based in Chicago that has as strong of claim as being cursed in post-season, the Red Sox, deciding to embrace fielding over scoring runs. (I mean an infield of Mientkiewicz, Pokey Reese, Cabrera, and Bill Mueller. I think even Tinkers, Evers, and Chance had better power numbers during the dead-ball era than this "fearsome foursome".)
Is the world flat? Is Christina Aguilera's vocal range flat? Is Pamela Anderson's chest flat? I would have said no in the past, but now, I'm starting to question everything. Pastor James, I need your guidance.
Update: The link has been changed. I'm not sure what happened with SportsTalkCleveland, but I do want to credit them and Kenny Roda, who conducted the interview.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09
Personally On the Juice
Scott Takes On Society
Kick Out the Jams (Music Pieces)
Even Baseball Stories Here
Link to Scott's NSFW Sports Site