Monthly archives: May 2005
Peter King Homage Notes
Peter Gammons may be my writing hero, but Peter King is just behind him. Despite the fact that I'm at best a passing football fan - my interest renewed by my friends at Football Outsiders recently - I've always read King. I feel like I know his daughter, he's as big a coffee geek as I am, and he drops insider knowledge like few else. So, in honor ...
Ten Things I Think I Thought:
1. Houston would collapse. Yep, got this one right. I had no idea how complete it would be. I thought that Biggio would be weak in the OF, that Bagwell would trend down, and that Berkman would establish himself in spite of the knee. Instead, everything's gone wrong that could and even Roger Clemens can't get wins. It's hard for a franchise to be loyal and rebuild, something the Astros will really have to do after this season. Their future is not what's on the field.
2. Eric Milton was a bad signing. Ballpark. Effects. Get to know them. My senior year of high school, we played in a park that was hillside, surrounded by trees except in extreme left, where the soccer fields abutted. There was one tree, planted for no apparent reason, that would bend in the breeze. I learned early that in or out, that tree read the wind and the ballpark well. I've never seen a tree like that at the GAP but you don't need a weatherman to know which way the ball goes when Milton's on the mound. Maybe the Reds could charge more for outfield seats on days Milton pitches.
3. Adam Dunn is the next Barry Bonds. Hmm, not so much. He's powerful and has a great eye, but he still watches the ball way too much. Dunn is the first player that makes walks seem like a negative. He's got the potential to have the power, but I'm not sure he'll ever be the danger Bonds is to not make outs ... at all.
4. The A's would be better than last year. No, way off. Chavez has been horrible enough to come up in trade rumors, the pitching has been miserable and injured, and no one has stepped up. Everything I thought would break right has broken down. The A's are a team that looks lost, which may be the downside to a manager with no charisma.
5. Chris Young would break out. Inside info here, but even the level of his success sans a real breaking ball has surprised me. Young has a chance to become Randy Johnson level dominant if he can develop even a 55-60 curve. Orel Hershiser might be my first hire if I were given the reins of a team -- and I'm not sure what job I'd put him in.
6. Boston would repeat. Too early to tell. The Sox are replacing parts on the fly and the Schilling injury is certainly problematic. He's clearly paying for last season's miracle. The Sox have the money and talent, though the Renteria signing (with Ramirez and Pedroia close) seems worse than I thought. Keith Foulke is the wildcard.
7. David Eckstein was a horrible signing. Eckstein (14.9 VORP), Renteria (11.4) and Cabrera (4.5) played musical shortstop. Eckstein's the highest through the first third? I never expected this and want to know what Jocketty saw that the rest of us didn't. What did he expect Eckstein to do? How much is La Russa or the team batting behind him? Numbers don't tell us everything, but with Eckstein, it told us nothing.
8. Omar Minaya made all the right moves. Beltran. Pedro. Shifting the middle infield. Eh, two out of three ain't bad. The team's underperforming projections yet still in the thick of the race. If Piazza can get going and the rest of the team just take one uptick, plus a bit more pitching at the deadline, they're right there. I still think this is next year's team.
9. Dusty Baker would wear out his welcome in Chicago.Baker was brought in because of his reputation as a clubhouse leader, managing to bring a winning attitude to a "lovable loser" franchise. So much for that as he's alienated half the locker room and forced the marquis player out of town. Somehow, in the midst of a run of injuries and with a terrible offense outside of Lee and Ramirez, Dusty's held the team together. A couple mid-level acquisitions by Jim Hendry and we have 2003 all over again and Dusty's got another trophy on his mantle.
10. Milwaukee and Detroit would make big moves towards respectability. Done and done. Neither team is going to make the playoffs and neither should, but both have been turned around by new administrations on and off the field. Rebuilding sucks and a good plan should keep that from being necessary in cycles, but Melvin and Dombrowski have shown exactly how it should be done.
Any Juice readers in Chicago - I'll be up there tomorrow doing media, including the WGN pre-game tomorrow evening. I'll have a whole lot of nothing going on in the afternoon, so drop me an email if you have lunch or coffee time free.
My pal - we'll call him Mark - emailed to discuss my post on gambling and press access. He was a bit surprised that I'd had as much problem with MLB as I'd had. Now, it's not that I can't get a press pass in most situations, it's that I have to jump through hoops not forced on the lowest newspaper.
We talked some about that and strategies to get around or through the problem, then got talking about the blog and how it synergizes with BP. I've always thought that the blog, despite not discussing my main focus, serves as something of an access point.
"That's your best quality - accessibility," Mark typed. "It's also why people get jealous. They can't email Peter Gammons. They can't email the guy on SportsCenter. With you, you're something different and that makes some wonder why you get to do what you love and they don't."
Fair enough, but I mentioned that my gambling/access post had a grand total of one reply. "Do you do it for the comments?" he asked.
"No. I don't want the so-called community around some blogs. More problem than it's worth," I said.
"Exactly. Doesn't fit your model."
"I have a model?" I said incredulously.
"Nothing like a supermodel. There's a bunch of blog models right now. Ads, subscriptions, and even free sites are some sort of model. Most are aiming at some sort of defined community. Cubs fans, Rangers fans, whatever - and trying to grab a subset of that community. Good strategy. The superset is certainly big enough to support multiple subsets.
"Where it gets interesting is when the community reaches a certain size or, better, when readership and mindshare reach a certain size, they have to define themselves. Do the readers become the center or the writer? Is it one to many communication - broadcasting - or one to one - narrowcasting? What do you think you are?"
I paused. "I guess all of the above. I broadcast UTK, broadcast the blog, and narrowcast with email."
"Exactly!!!!" Mark uses too many exclamation points at times. His typing speed, even on a crackberry, is insane. "Why choose? You end up being a donut, with all sorts of communication circling the center."
"Mark, there's no center in a donut."
"That's the best part!!! What genius invented the donut hole, something people assumed was there but never really was? But you don't have to be at the center of this. It circles you and you can step in and out. It's a perpetual buzz machine. Think - who's the biggest name on the web?"
I paused. "Kos?"
"What about in baseball blogs?"
I paused again. "Aaron Gleeman?"
"No, not even close, but let's check the blogbuzz on a couple names plus yours."
That surprised me. "Whoa."
"That's a heck of a donut, Will. Krispy Kreme. Quit worrying about hits or comments internally. There's nothing in the donut hole. The rest of the world is noticing and the right people are reading. So quit worrying about things and figure out how to get one of those cards you want around your neck."
Thanks, Mark. Now about that card ...
Just. Flat. Cool.
On the heels of my last post, consider this some faith restored.
How Quentin Tarantino Owes Me 4 Hours Back of My Life
Ok, let me begin by acknowledging that "Pulp Fiction" might be my favorite movie of all-time and "Reservoir Dogs" is not too much behind it, so I'm a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino's work. While I didn't like "Jackie Brown" on the same level, I think it's an excellent movie which probably gets a bit short-changed, being compared to the two previous Tarentino masterpieces. I mention this, because I went into seeing Kill Bill 1, with some great expectations.
What a huge disappointment. The first movie is a martial arts/blaxplotation-influenced mess. With a body count that Rambo would find appalling, reality is a quality basically ignored in Kill Bill 1. Now, to be fair, I don't like Kung Fu flicks, so I'm not the best person to review a movie like this, but Tarantino is too much of a special talent to be wasting time on a meaningless cartoon. The one thing which is spectacular in the first of the series is the gorgeous cinematography, but it can't overcome the ridiculous storyline.
After this waste of my time, I did not rush out to see the second installment at the theatres, waiting until it came to premium cable. Considering I had read where Kill Bill 2 was the more dialogue heavy of the two, I was hopeful it would redeem the first mess. NOPE. It basically was like a 2 hour Kung Fu episode, without Grasshopper.
I think the Carradine family is pretty talented, you know, the guy from "Nashville" and "Pretty Baby" and the star of the Nerd movies, but the one brother I don't get is David. His whole acting style is deadpan, which fits his looks. Add to this mix, Daryl Hannah, who unless she's playing a mermaid, I'm not digging and Uma Thurman who is not the super fine fox she used to be and there isn't any ingredient besides Michael Madsen worth watching.
Tarantino's film school was working in a video store, which is a blessing and in the Kill Bill's movie, a big stinking curse. Here's hoping he picks a genre of film that allows him to demonstrate his revolutionary film-making talents, instead of the Tarentino version of a 70's episodic television show that Kill Bill 1&2 are.
It's said that genius is the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts in your mind at the same time. If I've done that, it's likely simple confusion or lack of caffeine. I have however increasingly found myself at an interesting crossroads. Since Arnold Rothstein, gambling has been the third rail of baseball. Add in the complexity of the money line bets and it takes a serious bettor to play baseball much. Of course, the occasional sucker throws money down on games, making sure that Vegas continues to pay the neon bill and keeping Bobby Baldwin's pockets well lined with green.
I get, on average, about 250 emails a day in response to my columns or with questions that deal with injuries. I don't ask who people are or even whether they're BP subscribers, but I know that a number of them are gamblers. Injuries can give people an edge, especially if my analysis is different than the mainstream or if they get the information before it hits the streets. I deal with it by not asking questions. Instead of this being an "ostrich defense", I'm leveling the playing field. Anyone gets access.
There's really only three kinds of people that spend this much time on baseball journalists, front office personnel, and gamblers. The amount of time and its monetary value time really is money force this type of behavior. Some serious fantasy players probably venture into the 'gambler' category despite the normal lack of payoff. As I've said before, we all are looking for something and for those, winning is more important than cash.
I fell into the journalist path, not by any normal career, but by tripping into an underserved niche. However, as I've developed both credibility and readership, I haven't been given any more access. Very early in the UTK process, I started calling people. I had an "in" at the start and continued developing sources and racking up long distance bills. (Seriously, without long distance included cell minutes, there'd be no UTK.) Without sounding more egotistical than I am, I've got four years in on this column, control this space, and have earned some respect.
However, when it comes to baseball teams and more specifically, team media relations personnel, there's little difference between Baseball Prospectus and Bobby Joe's Bravez Blog. There's the notable exception given to MLB.com, but other than that, web sites and writers are either ignored, rejected, or given gift access. As far as I know, there is no web site that's been given season credentials for any team.
This isn't that I think I deserve access by some right. No, it's a privilege, one that writers not only have to earn, but have to keep earning. Then there's idiots in the clubhouse, working for papers that don't have the circulation that BP, Toaster, or Sportsblogs have. They have ink backing them rather than pixels, yet former BBWAA president Drew Olson once said "we all write for the web now," realizing that the Internets have often overtaken the paper as the way people access their local news and sports.
I've made some overtures of starting something like the BBWAA for the web, but those efforts have failed due to both lack of interest and my odd status as lightning rod. Someone like Rich Lederer, a guy with ink in his veins that also understands the web, could do something if he ever decided he really wanted to, but Lederer - one of the breakout writers of the last year in any format - also epitomizes the problem. He's not a writer; he's someone with a day job who also writes. Moreover, he can do his job without access.
The outsider perspective is interesting and challenging. Does someone like Tyler Bleszinski and his SportsBlogs change things? It's possible. His blog has been more "insider" than any other that I've seen. Add in the funding and credibility that his organization is building and his "30 beat writer army" might have the right mix to force change. Maybe. He also has the right mix to get MLB to make their walls against the web stronger.
So the question becomes will this change? Will I be forced to beg for press passes for the next ten years or does baseball want to force me out of the business? The recent launch of MLBlogs tells me that baseball likes the idea of blogs as promotion, but wants some level of control over them as well. What I don't think baseball realizes is that when they force people away from journalism and when there's no chance of a front office position, there's only one option left. We're all blogging in Risberg's shadow.
Seth Godin is dead on about podcasts.
And I'm happy.
BP Radio might be the perfect podcast. It's professionally produced (if not professionally hosted!), cheap, and comes from a known quantity with a large group of readers and subscribers. It has varied but predictable content, a manageable and regular schedule, and a back catalog of over 100 shows.
So, what makes BP Radio different if it's more a podcast than a radio show? Is there a difference? Would more frequent, short soundbites be a value-add? You tell me.
There Is Nothing Fundamental About Fundametalism
As the sun beat down on a hotter than average Arizona May day,
This woman was not your typical American woman as she was covered head to toe in a heavy garment which looked about as suffocating as wearing a Mickey Mouse costume at Disney World. No, as a Muslim woman she needed to show her modesty by covering herself completely. Having observed this woman's restricted existence reinforced to me why it is that most Muslim countries will never rise above their current third world status. As long as half of their population (women) is without rights, these nations will be behind the countries that allow their whole populace to be involved.
I would ask these Muslim men who subjugate women to their biblical laws, why does Allah give women brains capable of thoughts and desires? Of course, when it comes to the concept of thought, many of these countries forbid girls to go to school. And, to combat women's evil feelings of desire, Muslim countries like Egypt perform clitorectomies on 97% of their young female citizens. By removing their brains and their clitorises, they have created women who have little to offer other than to be baby-raising robots.
I'd like to mention that these men might think they have it good but let me say they have no idea what a spiritual experience it is to share the bed of an intelligent, orgasmic woman. Hey, you can put me on the Salman Rushdie list of writers with a Fatwah on my head, but if the only women I ran into were uneducated and frigid, I would consider martyring my own damn self.
I'm just sticking my head up for a second to thank everyone for tolerating my absence from regular posting. There's been a lot of work going into promoting "The Juice" while keeping up my regular UTK workload, plus some freelance opportunities and BP Radio. Add in a couple extra projects I'm working on and there's not much left to squeeze out of me here. I'll get back into soon, but I think you'll like the results.
One of the biggest has been BP Radio. The show is at a great stage, getting big name guests, expanding our correspondent list, and I think Brad and I work together very well. We're also in the 'right place' at the right time, with podcasting exploding. Apple just announced that iTunes next update will bring podcasting into the biggest music service in the world (yes, bigger than XM even.) If you're not already into podcasts, get ready for this to be the breakout technology of 2005.
I'm also glad I wasn't stubborn about my short of Google. Not my best investment decision.
I'm also hoping to announce a slew of Pizza Feeds and ballpark get-togethers soon. I love getting out, meeting readers and new friends, and talking - or seeing! - baseball.
You know where I'm at in the meantime. At least you should. For now.
Newest MLB Power Rankings
1. White Sox- When your 6th starter (B. McCarthy) can battle Mark Prior, you have some kind of depth. Posednik's OBP is .394, while Carlos Lee's is .307.
A Complete, Extensive, Exhaustive..... Look at Chicago Baseball
Over the past 2 Wednesdays, I have visited Wrigley Field and US Cellular ballparks in Chicago. With the White Sox and Cubs starting their cross-town games today, all the Chicagoland media and blogs are breaking down the battle. Well, forget searching the other sites, as here at The Juice, we have everything covered. This will not be about game specifics though, as this piece is focused on what makes the team's different.
When you talk about the Cubs, you must start with Wrigley Field. It's what makes the team special and it could be the biggest reason the Cubs have failed to win a World Series. When your park holds such drawing power, it takes away the financial incentive to spend money. Just visiting Wrigley is a schizophrenic experience, as it sits in a great neighborhood, but because of this parking is difficult and expensive.
Sitting close to Lake Michigan gives you a great flavor of Chicago, part of that flavor, though is the bitter winds off it. The day I attended the game, the temperature was 45 degrees, with a windchill somewhere in the 20's, despite the temps being in the 60's in the suburbs. Just to give you an idea of how cold it was, even the gameballs seemed to suffer from shrinkage. Being someone who likes to play the heretic, after a couple innings of dealing with this brutality, I loudly mentioned that "someone ought to put a dome on this dump!"
Despite the weather, the park has charm galore, from the brick, the ivy, and the view of people sitting on rooftops behind the outfield. Wrigley Field is the way an old park should look. Speaking of old, the Cubs must have an outreach program to the local mortuaries, as their ushers have a "Night of the Living Dead" appearance. Despite not wearing any paraphenalia to give myself away, I swear the offensive octogenerian, who was my aisle's guardian, must have sensed I was a White Sox fan, as she came down to check my ticket each inning. This cranky old broad treated me like I was Hamas and she was a Golani Bridge paratrooper.
Jim Lampley's one of my favorite announcers, especially for boxing. TFD sent along his latest post, on steroids, at the Huffington Post. (I'm still determining my feelings on this site.)
The problem I have is that Lampley offers up nothing more than anecdotal evidence and innuendo. I hope he has more proof than this and given his in-depth coverage of sports, I'd think he does and is having trouble finding that ethical line. Remember, no one likes a rat.
Still, if we're going to make these types of allegations - and by saying "big name athletes" you cast a wide net - then you have to be prepared to back them up with more than an implicit "I'm Jim Lampley. Trust me." My trust and respect for him makes me read the post; it's that same trust and respect that makes me believe he can take this further and truly make a difference.
This time, there should be no doubt.
Joey Niezer threw a one-hitter yesterday and, heading into the tourney season, is ready to go. Yes, the gyroball was thrown for strikes and, for those that doubt, here's some video.
Author Will Carroll Interview: The Juice Q&A
Over the past year Steroids have been one of the major points of discussion in baseball, but of the information that has come out on the topic, little of it was informative. The answer to this dilemma has been solved by Will Carroll's book, "The Juice". Every facet of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) is covered, as Carroll explores the medical, legal, and production elements of these drugs. The best part of the book are the real stories he tells like a high schooler who is driven to get bigger to succeed in baseball to the Triple A ballplayer who is put in a similar situation. The book also introduces us to a real chemist who develops these PED's and one of the leading people involved in testing for them. Below is an interview I did with Will this past weekend.
Scott: Well, I won't start off by asking if there is a moral to the story, since you said you didn't have one in the book, so let me begin by asking, what was your agenda going into "The Juice." Oh wait a minute, you also wrote you had no agenda going into the book, so let me start with this. How did this book come about in the first place?
WC: I really resisted writing this book. With STP, I really enjoyed the process. I got to know a lot of pitching coaches and learned more about pitching than I ever knew existed. With this book, I met a lot of people that I didn't want to believe existed. It was something of a depressing process, but when the book wasn't already there, it's hard to say it wasn't important enough to write. I thought with STP that maybe I could keep one kid (or Carlos Zambrano) from hurting their arm. With this book, it's possible the effect could be greater.
Scott: You have some blurbs on the back of "The Juice", by great writers like Allen Barra, Ira Berkow, and Rob Neyer. If you were to give a blurb of your book, what would it be?
WC: "The first holistic look at the problem that baseball and society has a limited time to deal with. If drugs are changing the game on the field, it's doing more off the field. Before testing becomes irrelevant, read The Juice and start the solution."
Baseball Toaster Chicago Gamewatch Update
Yes, still going, but the update is to mention that the Wednesday, May 18 game starts at 1:05, not an hour later, like I had mistakenly written, originally. Set to appear besides myself are Toaster Derek Smart, plus former All-Baseball alums, TFD and Bryan Smith. We plan on meeting at the bullpen sports bar around 11:30.
Where is the Bullpen Sports Bar located and how do I get there?
One of the more surprising things about "The Juice" thus far has been the lack of reviews, both in the normal venues and on Amazon. This is good and bad - Amazon reviews certainly have their problems and STP was attacked by the Marshallites on Amazon, bringing in some very negative but wrongheaded vibes.
The first big review is out and I couldn't be happier. Scott Long just finished the book and in a psuedo-meta, has some questions that I need to answer.
My Roots Are Showing
So I was on the Paul Finebaum show the other day, which is basically the southern Dan Patrick show. I end up blogging around afterwards and I found a group of Alabama expatriates, natives, and residents, all loosely affiliated in the red clay manner of insanity.
I've felt oddly Southern lately, even more oddly given that I'm working on my first short story in quite a while, basing it in New York City. So, anyway, I'm in. I need some Milo's sweet tea in the worst way. Only that or Jamba Juice might kick this coffee habit.
Ten That Are Coming - GM Edition
A couple years ago, Baseball America had a great article about up and coming GM candidates. I dug around the web for the article, but couldn't find it. I was hoping to see just how accurate they were and hopefully learn before making my own mistakes. No such luck, so I'll go out on a limb here.
I made calls and emails to a number of front office and media types, asking them which front office personnel do they think would be considered for a GM opening in the next twelve months. I got a broad range of responses and tried to categorize and distill them. It was hardly a scientific survey and the rankings are pretty subjective. I know who was mentioned more than anyone, but some were mentioned by two or three, so I tried to go with who had the more stronger reaction, positively or negatively.
I almost put in "honorable mentions" but that's a crutch. Of course, not all of these will be mentioned when the next opening does occur. Situations are all different and owners will make decisions based on a number of factors that I didn't consider. This is a mythical job opening and there's always things that make the person that is eventually hired the best candidate - or at least percieved to be the best candidate. How many times was Willie Randolph passed over and do we know yet if those passes were right or wrong?
These are just my informed opinions and I hope to start some discussion. If nothing else, let's learn a bit more about these ten people which even if they never get the big chair are making decisions we can only make with our fantasy teams.
Sports Radio Shows
Will and I do a lot of sports radio across the country and just like most everything, quality is in short supply. Since I want to continue to do many of these stations, I will keep to myself my thoughts on the various local sports radio shows (the good ones know who they are), but I thought I would share some thoughts on some of the nationally-syndicated programs. (Please Note: These opinions are solely the views of Scott Long and do not specifically reflect the viewpoints of Will Carroll or the other Toast contributors.)
The First Team (with Steve Czaban)- I used to really dislike Czaban, when he first started filling in for Jim Rome, but I started listening to him on his night-time show on Fox Sports radio and have had a huge turnaround on my thoughts regarding his talent. I think he's as good as it gets, as he does "guy" radio, as well as any sports host I've heard. His sidekick, Scott Linn is as good of co-host, as there is in the biz. Now that they are on in the mornings, I recommend catching them, if you have the choice over ESPN's Mike and Mike Show.
Colin Cowherd- Much like Czaban, I hated this guy when I first listened, but decided to give him another chance, after TFD said he liked him. Much like Conan O'Brien, I think he started really shaky and had the problem of following someone that many were passionate about. (Conan-Lettermen, Cowherd-Kornheiser) Well, over the past couple of months, there has been something of an evolution by Cowherd, as he goes off on these generally non-sports rants that have wonderful analogies and are usually really funny. I know that many of you have decided to hate the guy, but I echo TFD in saying you need to give the guy another chance. Now, it should be mentioned that he offers very little on the subject of baseball, as football is his forte, but now I see why ESPN brought the guy in.
Toaster Game Watch in Chicago (May 18)
Will and I will be up at US Cellular to catch the Sox playing the Rangers on May 18. The game starts at 2:05 and we were thinking about meeting up with any of our readers at around 12:30, so if you are interested, mark it down on your calendar. Even if you are a Cub fan, aren't you curious how the Southsiders have a winning percentage around .800?
Now, we are taking suggestions on where to meet up at, as there isn't exactly a lot of great places to go to around the Cell. Please use the comments area to help us on this decision. I figure we could meet up inside the park, but we are open to any of your other suggestions, as long as it is in walking distance. Hope to see you there. Send me an email at email@example.com if you are interested in attending or have any questions.
Ben Folds (SCRATCH THAT)--- Old 97's Concert Review
Last fall, I mentioned to Will Carroll that we ought to go to the Cake concert. We get down to the show and find out it is sold-out. Well, just 2 nights ago, we finally worked out our raincheck to go catch a concert together, only to find out that the Ben Folds performance was sold-out, as well. Now, you might ask, bonehead, why didn't you just buy them ahead of time. One word, Ticketmaster. Since I consider this organization in the same league as Hezbollah and Clay Aiken, I do whatever I can to not kick in the extra 7 bucks they extract from me for their "service". Much like Pearl Jam, though, I'm realizing it's a losing battle, so tomorrow I'm calling them when Pixies tickets go on sale, as I can't risk missing that show.
Well, since we were out of luck on the Ben Folds experience, I remembered that the Old 97's were in town, also, so I mentioned this to Will, hoping he would forgive me for dropping the ball twice. So we make the trek up there and catch the show, lucky to be able to have a quality band like this available to pinch hit. Now before you click off to find something more interesting, like the OBP of Colorado Rockies hitters at home vs. away (it's .895 to .652, so stay here)I promise this is more about the overall concert appearance than breaking down Philip Peeples' drumming skills.
The opening act was a group that seemed to be friends of the headliners. They were decent, except for the last song they did, which was the most kickass thing I heard all night. If you know who they are, tell me, as I'd like to download that song I spoke of. The rest of their performance was best described by Will, "as something he could hear by hundreds of bar bands across the country." One mistake the singer made was mentioning to the crowd between songs that "I'm not good at between song banter". Dude, unless you are writing like Bob Dylan or singing like Jeff Buckley, you better be able to do a little soft shoe and give your audience some pizzazz or it ain't going to happen on any large scale.
Question on Pronation
There was a question in the comments to "Picture, Imperfect?" that I realized was both common and important enough to do outside of comments:
FoulTerritory asked How does pronation help prevent elbow injury, or conversely, how does not pronating lead to elbow injury?
You'll have to go with me on this one. We'll use the curveball motion as the example. Get a hammer. Hit something a couple times with it, like a table or counter. (You don't have to hit it hard and certainly don't break anything.) You'll find that you "set yourself" to have the hammer hit the surface (and stop) just before your elbow "locks out".
Now, step away from the surface and swing the hammer in space, where you're not hitting anything. DO IT GENTLY and as if you're hitting something in front of you. Your arm will lock out and you'll probably feel tension, maybe even some pain. Your shoulder will lift slightly, the biceps will tense, the wrist will bend - all trying unconsciously to take the tension out of the elbow, which cannot extend further.
Final step - just as the elbow is about to lock out, pronate. Pronating means turn the thumb downward. If you're right-handed, the thumb will move anticlockwise. The elbow now has a path that goes from flexion to near-full extension, pronates, then extension to flexion again. The larger muscles of the arm and shoulder can now slow the hammer.
What does a hammer have to do with a curveball you ask? That's the same motion you'll do for either, including (roughly) hand position. So, short answer now demonstrated for you? Pronation keeps the elbow from locking out and causing damage.
I've been reading Sports Illustrated more lately as I realize it's become (while I wasn't watching) the smarter alternative to ESPN's coverage. They're also more visual, being, you know, "Illustrated" and all. So, I thought I'd have a little fun with one of their slideshows, this one on the Top 20 Young Pitchers. I won't even debate the rankings. Instead, let's look at what we can see on these twenty pictures when it comes to mechanics.
Obviously, one picture isn't going to give us a complete view, but these are some *great* pictures so there's something to be learned. I get a lot of questions about mechanics, so think of this as thumbnails sketches of that, after the fold.
How are the White Sox Winning?
Tuesday afternoon, I was listening to one of my favorite baseball experts on a radio talk show, when he was asked what is the deal with the White Sox? This author of one of baseball's best new books of 2005, answered that he has no idea how they are doing it. At least he acknowledged the team, as most of the baseball experts seem to be ignoring the White Sox, my guess hoping this horrible nightmare would go away for them. Well, past history would show that teams which start 20-7, almost always have a winning record at the end of the year. Here is a briefing on why the White Sox have the best record in baseball and are 4.5, 8.0, and 8.5 games up on division rivals Minnesota, Detroit, and Cleveland, respectively.
There has been a lot of talk about small ball being played in Chicago, but it's not this style that is why the Sox have been so outstanding. It's been the pitching. The team has gotten 20 quality starts out of 27, which is how they had the lead at one point in every game they've played this season. (new all-time record, surpassing the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers 25 game consecutive streak.)
You would think with such an amazing streak continuing, taking place in the third biggest market in the country, it would be a front-line story across the country. Turn on Baseball Tonight and you hear little, Sportscenter doesn't even get to their highlights until 40 minutes in, and outside of the Chicago media, there has been little analysis of the team. Hard to even find much discussion of them at baseball internet sites or top bloggers that don't solely follow the White Sox. When you have vital stories about the Yankees early season flopping and the continued health issues of Cubs pitchers, I guess it makes it difficult to fit in the story of the team with the best record, who is on a historic streak.
The only in-depth look at the White Sox I did find, was written by Aaron Gleeman. Not surprisingly, Gleeman spends almost the whole piece discussing how their start is basically a facade, with his conclusion being the team is in for some trouble, "assuming Chicago's entire starting rotation didn't make the same deal with the devil that Esteban Loaiza negotiated when he was with the White Sox in 2003." Sure, this staff isn't going to pitch as well as they have so far, but it was underrated at the start of the year and now, with the injuries to the Red Sox and Yankees starting staffs, I would argue it's the best in the AL. Add in that they have the top strikeout pitcher in the Minors (Brandon McCarthy) and the White Sox will continue to be a factor in the playoff race all year long. Sorry to wake so many out of their slumber, you can all go back to sleep.
Just a Thought
Via Billy-Ball, Mike Scioscia is quoted as saying, "If Juan Rincon comes back and pitches 11 days from now, are the effects of steroids going to deteriorate to where his talent is back to his God-given level? No. He'll have the benefit of whatever steroids he took. I guarantee you, in 10 days, Juan Rincon does not become a mere mortal. I think he'll still be throwing the ball pretty good with the enhanced chemicals."
I haven't fully thought this through, but how about using the detectable of the substance as the suspension period? If Rincon tested positive for something, he'll be re-tested every ten days until he comes up clear. It would only count as a single violation, assuming his levels continue to drop and that there's no stacked substance. For a second offense, you test every thirty days, etc.
This is actually an interesting idea. Winstrol, the drug that was caught the most in 2004, has a short half-life (around a week) compared to 2003's drug of choice, Deca, which can stay in the body up to 18 months. Getting busted for Deca would be one heck of a suspension.
El Jugo, Estilo Latino
David Ortiz era recientemente el refrán cotizado que la barrera linguística ha contribuido a los jugadores latinos que probaban el positivo bajo nueva política esteroide. Él tiene un punto, pero no completo. Mientras que es ciertamente verdad que la traducción es un problema, uno que se ha dirigido mal a través de béisbol, allí es también un problema cultural. En México, Belice, Venezuela, y otros países americanos latinos, hay poco control de esteroides y de otras drogas que realzan del funcionamiento.
Las cosas que estos jugadores ven en los estantes en el país van apenas a llevar a cabo una cierta clase de tabú a menos que entiendan claramente las consecuencias. Los comentarios de Ortiz pueden demostrar que éste no es el caso. Mientras que hemos pasado el último par sazona preguntarse cómo los jugadores japoneses aclimatan a las ligas principales, nosotros ha no hecho caso de cómo preguntan los jugadores latinos "caben adentro."
Es más fácil, yo es seguro, puesto que hay jugadores más hispánicos que americanos negros. Las pandillas de jugadores no son ningún ese menos común las pandillas de cabritos en el lunchroom. Se amplifica la dificultad cuando envían a los lugares como Butte, Vermont, o Lancaster y se piden los viejos latines de 16 años realizarse en los niveles más altos atlético.
Apenas pues es difícil, si no imposible, para muchos lectores regulares de este Web site leerlo qué estoy escribiendo aquí - incluyendo mí - es difícil, si no imposible, para que algunos jugadores se escapen el culturales se dividen que todavía existen en béisbol y son una preocupación cada vez mayor en sociedad americana. Con los minutemen supuestos en la frontera mientras que el mercado de las compañías al mercado hispánico tan difícilmente que el menú de McDonalds en Indy ahora está en español, nosotros tiene un conflicto que deba ser resuelto.
(Y sí, estoy enterado que éste no es probablemente español perfecto. Fue hecho posible por el Babelfish asombroso.)
Why Fox's 24 is the TV Equivalent to the Die Hard Movies
After a promising start, this season's 24 has become ridiculous over the past couple of episodes. With most of the characters fitting such strong stereotypes and constantly changing from bad to good or vice-versa, I'm starting to think the show is written by the same scribes hired by Vince McMahon for his male soap operas.
Actually, the show reminded me of the Die Hard movies, as it had a strong central character, who used his brain as much as his brawn to outsmart the villians and save the world. Echoing each other, the second installment of Die Hard and 24, were even better than their initial offerings, as they both were a little more far-fetched, but the characters had been established so well that it allowed for more freedom to move the plot and not spend as much time on personal backstory. It has been proven out by many sequels that the second offering can be good (see Godfather 2, Terminator 2, Lethal Weapon 2, etc.), but by the time a third is done, most of the tricks have been exposed and there is a sense of formula creeping in. This happened with the third Die Hard (with a Vengeance) and also to 24.
As I mentioned before, the season did start out promising, but it would appear like the time has come to shut down the 24 franchise, as Keifer Sutherland has been relegated to repeating his acting tricks of screaming Dammit(!), every chance he can. This is not to say that Sutherland hasn't been great in the role, (there will never be an actor who works with such intensity every time he talks on his cellphone), but much like Bruce Willis in Moonlighting, there just wasn't much left to do with his character after the first couple of seaons. Let me repeat, it's time to shut 24 down. Of course, quality doesn't determine if a show stays or goes on Television, ratings do, so look for another season. What catastrophe will the country face that Jack Bauer will just happen to be in the middle of? I'm not planning on staying tuned to find out.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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