Baseball Toaster The Juice Blog
Monthly archives: May 2008


Please Explain: The Foot Fetish
2008-05-31 23:20
by Scott Long

Look, we all have our own sexual turn-ons. Some people like to dress up like babies, while others like to watch hot babes crush insects or rodents under their high-heeled shoes. Yeah, these are really f-ing weird, but these type of fetishes are only desired by a very few.

I have a better understanding of body part fetishes. Let's take the woman's body, as it is something I have been obsessing on for most of my life. Boobs are a favorite, while the ass is not far behind. Legs are a nice feature of the female form and let's make sure to give a shout-out to the 'gine. Personally, the older I get the more I've become a real sucker for a beautiful face. My specific fetish would be the mouth, as I like a full pair of lips with some really pearly whites behind them. I can look past a lot, if you have that going on.

There is one body part that is most boneriffic for a fairly significant part of the population that I just don't get. Feet. Now, I will admit that I'm not the most unbiased judge on the subject, as I barely can even stomach feet. Especially mens. Keep this in mind dudes who mostly wear flip-flops. Many of us have no desire to look at your hairy toes or yellowed fungi nails. You don't see a guy at your local Olive Garden with his shirt off exposing his fat belly or man boobs, but people's feet are all out their on display. Keep that in mind, next time you want to expose your piggies. Here should be the rule. If you don't see people with their shirts off, than don't think it is appropriate to flash your foot. If you're not on the beach or at the pool, cover up the corns.

In my life, I have run into 2 serious foot fetishists. The first one was in college. I worked at a place called the Burger Palace. Working the counter was this really strange dude named Doug, who was in his late forties. Now when you are working a fast-food counter at this advanced stage of your life, it is fair to say that you don't have the world by the tail. Doug's life focus was co-eds. Nothing particularly strange about that except that it was their tootsies that he was single-minded about. Doug was banned from the public library because he had crawled on the floor and started sniffing some unsuspecting sorority girls feet, while she was studying for a test. The frightened shriek that echoed from her was not the sound you would usually hear at a Public Library. This happened during the late 80's in Iowa City, so it was before there were tons of websites to feed Doug's addiction. Because of this paucity of podiatric porn, Doug would drive to Chicago where they had some adult book store that trafficked in the magazines that focused on his driving passion.

Early in my comedy career, I worked with a guy who I will refer to as the Foot Doctor. He was an extremely likable dude, who resembled Barry White. At one point during his show, he would discuss his predilection for pedic charms. The line I can remember was I sure do love me some feets. Then he would say if any woman wanted a foot rub after the show, he was glad to oblige. The truly amazing part was how women would take him up on it. These dopey broads just thought they were getting an enthusiastic foot rub, but what they weren't realizing was that the Foot Doctor would be rubbing one out later to the pleasures he was getting earlier.

The best thing I can say for a foot is when it doesn't bother me to look at. At no point has it ever crossed over to the realm of being a sexual object. I figure that I have spent my whole life trying to keep from putting my foot in my own mouth, why would I want to put someone else's foot in there. I would really like to better understand why this particular body part would cause a guy like Quentin Tarentino to waste precious celluloid focusing on them. I mean could you imagine Howard Hawks on his knees judging the prettiest foot on some second-rate talk show? Such is the life for the man who loves some feets. Here is one time I can appreciate the concept of anonymity in the comment section, so go ahead and set up a moniker if it will help you give me a better idea. Please Explain the foot fetish.

2008-05-30 15:06
by Will Carroll

Assuming "P" is for Politician.

Good luck, Nate.

The Cynic and Senator Obama
2008-05-29 12:17
by Scott Long

This is the title of an excellent essay written by the all-world writer, Charles Pierce, in the June issue of Esquire magazine. I highly recommend you pick it up. In 2004, Pierce wrote a piece on John Kerry that almost made me like the Senator, as it came close to even humanizing the guy. On the essay on Obama, here are a few quotes I wanted to share.

There is one point in the stump speech, however, that catches the cynic up short every time. It comes near to the end, when Obama talks about cynics. Obama says that cynics believe they are smarter than everyone else. The cynic thinks he’s wrong. The cynic doesn’t think he’s wiser or more clever or more politically attuned than anyone else. It’s just that he fears that, every morning, he’ll discover that his country has done something to deface itself further, that something else he thought solid will tremble and quake and fall to ruin, that his fellow citizens will sell more of their birthright for some silver that they can forge into shackles. He has come to believe that the worst thing a citizen of the United States of America can believe is that his country will not do something simply because it’s wrong. It would be a mistake for anyone -- but especially for a presidential candidate -- to believe that the cynic thinks himself wise or safe or liberated. In 2008, the cynic is more modest. He considers himself merely adequate to the times.

Later on Pierce adds:

Cynicism was noble, the cynic believed. It was to be directed only at targets worthy of it and not at a candidate’s failure to provide what the elite political press could sell to a complicit nation as the proper proletarian dumb show. It was to be directed at how seriously Barack Obama has misjudged the country he so obviously wants to lead, which is not the country he talks about but the spavined America that actually exists, because that’s the country in which the American people, in a hundred different acts of omission and commission, have freely determined that they want to live. A country of stunted anger and, yes, bitter denial of all that it’s done to itself. That’s the country in which Barack Obama is running now. If he sees it from the stage when he tilts his head and looks off into the far distance, he gives no sign of it.

He talks forever about “change.” Change from what? the cynic wondered. Obama never really says. He criticizes Bush, and his people, and his policies. He runs through the litany: Iraq. Katrina. The collapse of the subprime mortgage industry. The overall economy, now barely clouding the mirror under its nose. He’s tough when he does it, and smart, and shrewd. But it ends there. Obama never addresses the era of complicity, the fact of the country’s accessorial conduct in its own murder. He just tells the country that it’s really better than all that. And the cynic’s questions are never really answered. And he talks forever about “hope.” The cynic hears it and remembers the legend of Pandora. Hope was the jewel left in the box after she’d opened it, but Pandora never noticed Hope until she’d loosed all the demons onto the world.

Why would anyone have faith in America, which is not tough but fearful, not smart but stupid, and not shrewd but willing to fall for almost anything as long it comes wrapped in a flag? Why would anyone have faith in Americans? Barack Obama says that he has that faith because of his own life, because he was able to rise to the point where he can be thought of as president of the United States. He is the country’s walking absolution. That’s his reason, the cynic thinks, but it’s not mine. There has to be confession. There has to be penance. Being Barack Obama is not enough. Not damn close to enough.


Pierce finishes his essay with the inner turmoil he feels and then finishes with a desperate plea.

Obama takes the stage and the hall explodes, the way all the halls have exploded in this, the last really good week he will have. All the rest of the upcoming weeks and months will be about becoming aware that the country he imagines is not the America that is, and that it hasn’t been for a very long time. And the cynic realizes at last that he is more naive than anyone else here, particularly more than the slim, smooth candidate himself, stalking the stage in his edgeless way and looking out over the crowd at something in his private distance. The cynic believes in an old, abandoned country that’s no less illusory than the redeemed one Obama is promising to this crowd. Isn’t that something? the cynic thinks. Maybe that’s enough, that single revelation, just a flicker of the lost imagination. For the last time, in the roar of the crowd, it comes back to him again. Convince me America is not an illusion. Convince me that it never was. Convince me that you’re not a pious mirage. Convince me that we’re not. Now that you brought it up, convince me.

Convince me.

Convince me.

Convince me.


While not all of Pierce's sentiments are mine, he does echo a lot of my unease with Obama. Idealism is pretty much dead in my life. After 8 years of if you want to help the country in its current crisis---go out and spend like there is no tomorrow, I thirst for someone who is willing to leave the platitudes back in the primaries and instead being willing to level with us. People in some parts of the country are beginning to be more open to an honest dialogue. It's funny how a region of the country who has been battered economically by the results of globalization can begin to pull their heads out of their asses about what another man wants to stick in his. (gay rights) It's interesting how the real estate bubble can motivate some to contemplate how the free market isn't the perfect model that the Larry Kudlow's of the world want to make it. (meet our friend, government oversight)

I know telling people they need to put on a sweater and turn down their thermostat hasn't generally been a saavy political move, but giving us absolution for our sins and offering hope and change as the antedote leaves us cynics a bit empty. It's not like the cynic is left with much choice, though, as Pierce writes:

In the end, the Republicans settled on John McCain, who’d traded his shiny armor from 2000 for a tattered choir robe, and who was promising to run on being better at everything at which George W. Bush had been bad. The cynic had spent time with McCain almost a decade earlier, and he had liked him tremendously, and now the cynic didn’t recognize him at all.

There is still time to be convinced. For those of you that think the states Hilary Clinton has been slam-dunking Obama in that the reason is all about racism, I suggest you visit these places. I won't claim that an unhealthy part of these voters decision-making was based on not giving the country's top job to a black man, there was a bigger portion that chose Hilary because they wanted to go with the devil they knew. Life was pretty good for these people in the 90's and they are nostalgic for those days, not for a product that has been promised to be new and improved. If Obama can't be more concrete in how these people are going to be included in the change and hope tour he promises to bring to the nation, the electoral math just isn't going to happen for him.

(By the way, the best 8 dollars I spend a year is on a subscription to Esquire. I know some here have given up on reading anything that isn't in online. I suggest you break that vow and turn the page back. Esquire is where many of the best writers offer up an active view of life.)

Making It Yours
2008-05-29 06:47
by Will Carroll

The picture of Inter Milan without real explanation confused a lot of people. While I still can't give a full detailing of the reasons why I put it up, I can give some back story. A couple years ago, someone from an English soccer team ... err, football club ... contacted me about whether the style of injury analysis I do for baseball teams would work in soccer. My answer was "I have no idea, but I'd like to find out."

Let me preface this by saying I loathe soccer. It may be the beautiful game and many in the world are as passionate about it as I am about baseball, but it's boring. Yes, what I call boring, others call beautiful, so I'm not asking anyone to change it and in fact, I can appreciate now some of what they see. The athleticism is amazing - players regularly run 10 miles in a game - and the opportunities for analysis are astounding. Just like baseball has PitchFX, the Premiership has Sportrak, a system of cameras that tracks each player and can use their movement to generate a distance run.

Moreover, the passion that fans and the people inside the game really sucked me in. I wanted to know why fans are so rabid, to the point of functioning as street gangs in some cases. Outside of Boston and New York, the type of local and even inherited team sense just isn't in place here for anything. ("America has no history," one of my soccer mentors explained to me, trying to explain why losing teams don't lose fans in England.) In my seasons of consulting, I came to feel some of the passion. While I don't think my consultations had much effect -- most of my recommendations were completely ignored -- I did come to think of the team as "mine."

Most interestingly, there is a sick amount of money in European soccer. The transfer system is not unlike the posting system used to bring Japanese players over and the payrolls of the top teams would make the Yankees look frugal. The sponsorships - right on the jerseys! - are much more noticeable than even Spiderman bases. An influx of loaded ownership from all corners of the world, including the US and Russia, have amplified this. Add in the Champions League, which is like a second season in the midst of a season, and the various country games, which always take precedence and players, make it almost like having a World Baseball Classic every year.

Now as the season in the Premiership ends, so too does my consulting arrangement with the team I've come to call "mine." People I know and respect have moved on and it looks as if I probably will as well. That's not a bad thing, but it does feel a bit mercenary ... which is exactly what it is. I'll learn a new team, develop some passion for it, and maybe feel a bit of pain when my new team meets my former team, the way you think about a first girlfriend. People have been doing it in sports for years and I'll do it as well.

But one thing will remain -- Man U sucks.

2008-05-28 07:45
by Will Carroll

Two Things, Probably Only Funny To Me
2008-05-27 13:53
by Will Carroll

1. Bob Timmerman noted that Randy Johnson has 104 10+ strikeout games as a Diamondback. It surprised me more that Johnson had started 100 games for the Deutschebanks, let alone had that many great ones. I regularly find that I overestimate how much someone is injured, probably because I'm talking/asking/writing about them so much when they are cuffed up.

2. We're taking on a new batch of interns and in one of the resumes, I noted "Leland Stanford Junior University." Umm, is that like a Junior College where they prep 'em for the big school? No, that's the actual full name of the school most of us just call Stanford, named after the son of the governor and railroad tycoon that founded the school.

Bonus item: I'm prepping an updated Laminated List with what could be the most entertaining post ever (by me) at Juice. If there's someone you think should be considered, drop 'em in comments.

Blogger Challenge
2008-05-27 08:00
by Will Carroll

Here's my challenge to my baseball writing, internet-based brethren: open it up a little. Over and over, I see the same interviewees, guys who are heroes or at the very least accessible. Geoff Young has a nice interview with Rob Neyer over at Ducksnorts, but how many times do we see Neyer, Keith Law, or similar interviewed? Yes, accessibility has a lot to do with it, but I'm going to challenge everyone to find someone who doesn't share their views and have an interview. See if you can help bridge the gap.

I'm not expecting many takers so ... surprise me. I've got to go try and schedule something with Jay Mariotti.

Watching Will Think (Seesmic)
2008-05-26 10:45
by Will Carroll

If that doesn't work for you ... and embedding seems to be one of Seesmic's weaknesses right now ... the link does work:

(It does seem to work, which makes it Fairpole 1, Wordpress 0, though embeds don't seem to work in comments, which is interesting ... Ken?)

I hope some of you will respond. Seesmic's in alpha right now, but if you reply to a video, it will allow you to set up an account. To do that, it looks like you will have to click through using the link. Growing organically? That's pretty smart.

Interestingly, a couple guys -- one from Norway! -- have responded over on Seesmic. Neither appears to be a big baseball fan, so there is some conversation going on. Interestinger ...

Meet Your AL MVP---So Far
2008-05-22 21:10
by Scott Long

If before the season you thought that Carlos Quentin would be the best player in the AL---I tip my cap to you. I guarantee you MLB didn't think so, since he isn't even on the all-star ballot. I guarantee you the White Sox didn't think this would be the case, as they most likely would have sent him down to Triple A, if Jerry Owens wouldn't have gotten hurt during spring training.

Since most have no idea what Quentin has done so far, try these stats on for size. Leads the AL in OPS and homers. He is 3rd in RBI's and SLG, while is 4th in OBP and runs scored. His defense and base running has been better than his past reputation hinted at. The White Sox got him in the off-season for a good hit-no field minor league first baseman named Chris Carter, who the D-Backs shuffled off to the A's in the Dan Haren trade.

Sure the D-Backs are loaded with young outfield talent, but this appears to be a major heist by the White Sox, as Quentin seems to have recovered the ablility he demonstrated in the minors. His biggest competition so far for AL MVP has been Josh Hamilton, who obviously is a compelling story. While they both have similar stats, I give the edge to Quentin, as the White Sox lead their division and Hamilton cost the Rangers the best pitcher up to this point, in all of baseball, Edinson Volquez.


Non Baseball Notes-ish Thing
2008-05-20 14:51
by Will Carroll

* Netflix pushed out a box today that downloads movies and shows them on your TV. Ok, that's nice. My Tivo does the same thing, albeit that I have to buy/rent them through Amazon's Unbox service (which I haven't found compelling enough to use aside from a one-time trial.) I can't figure out if there's HD content on them (looks like no, but I can't figure it out for sure.) Honestly, I don't watch enough movies at home or in theater for this to compel me. No, I don't have an Apple TV either, for precisely that reason. I could load up movies on the Tivo if I wished, but never seem to get around to watching them. I don't even have a DVD player, let alone a Blu-Ray. I think physical movies are dead, personally.

* I will watch things in HD that I otherwise will not. Yet somehow, the most compelling show on TV is also one of the best looking despite not being in HD. Top Gear is entertaining and beautiful. It's Maxim for cars. NBC is bringing Top Gear to the US -- as just "Gear" -- and will promptly ruin it. If someone could figure out a way to do Top Gear for sports, it would be the #1 Season Pass on Tivo for me. Ok, #2, since if I touched Gray's Anatomy, I would be thrown out of my house.

* Saw Scott Long at Cracker's the other night. He'll say he was off, but I'm telling you the dude is funny. Go see him if he's in your area. One of these days, I'm going to try an open mic night. Problem is, I think I'm funny and actually doing standup without any experience might relieve me of such an illusion in a hurry.

* The new "Amp" energy drinks are pretty astounding. They did their homework on these and right now have the best all-around product out there.

* It's interesting that Gene Upshaw is talking about the end of the salary cap in football. With the success of baseball, could the NFL (or NBA?) go back to an uncapped system? With the revenue sharing in TV, I think they could, but it would still stun me. I guess I'll see all my NFL friends here in 2012?

* I love Google, especially Google Docs and GrandCentral, but Google Health? That's past that comfort line I have by about three steps. Worse, the BALCO case actually has a piece that could end up invalidating some provisions of HIPAA, if the decisions on several points go for the government. I won't try to explain why, but it's regarding the seizure of testing results.

* I love Facebook, mostly. It's pretty much AOL, a walled garden of interesting stuff that I could probably do elsewhere but is just convenient and has enough critical mass that I put up with the annoyances. If Microsoft buys them, I'll congratulate Mark Zuckerberg and delete my account. I've come THIS close to deleting Microsoft Word, the last vestige of MSFT in my life, and will do it soon.

* Brilliance from the father of blogging.

* This whole Obama "Whitey" tape is an interesting meme. It's precisely the kind of thing that feeds my cynicism. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe that it's not politics as usual, whether that name is Obama or McCain. I'm a guy who worked for Ross Perot, remember, so to me, change and hope (and a little bit of crazy) is a good thing.

* There are few guys who inspire me like Jim Webb. If he's the Vice Presidential nominee, I'm in. All the way in. Money, time, you name it. There's a list of about ten people in the world .... actually nine now that I think about it ... who I would take a bullet for. Webb's one of them.

* I had to explain to a friend of mine the other day that Emma Watson really does belong on the Hot 100 list. That said, the list is a mess. Alicia Keys at 77? Roselyn Sanchez at 70? I stopped there. Seriously. I don't even know where Julianne Hough rated. And yes, I probably should link some hot pics to all of those, but cmon, we all have Google.

* Chelsea! Go Blues!

* The Maxim list reminds me that I should re-do the Laminated List.

* Ok, one baseball note: The Pirates are collecting baseball minds in a way I haven't seen since ... the Rays three years ago. Just sayin'. The downside is that the Rays got better drafts out of Chuck Lamar than the Pirates ever did from the Bonifay/Littlefield eras. (Which is funny since Bonifay was (is?) with the Rays.)

It's Triple-A Baby!
2008-05-20 06:55
by Will Carroll

In one of my favorite baseball stories ever, we were at the Opryland Hotel back in 2002. I was randomly wandering the halls, meeting some of my idols -- Peter Gammons, Joe Sheehan -- and meeting people. One guy I met had recently graduated from college and was looking for a job in a minor league front office. He had one offer from a Double-A team, then got one at nearly the last minute from a Triple-A team (Albuquerque, I think.) He was torn and asked everyone for advice -- including Dusty Baker, who just happened to be wandering by. Baker listened and quickly said "It's Triple-A, baby!" then smiled and walked off.

On the heels of a blog report that Ned Yost would be fired on Monday and it being picked up with glee by Tom Haudricort, the old school but very solid Brewers beat writer in his (irony!) blog, it's being used as one of those wedge issues. "Look! Blogs have no credibility!" we're already hearing. No, the problem isn't blogs. It's the people writing blogs, just as it's the people on TV, writing for newspapers, or anywhere. The issue is credibility.

Five years after the Pete Rose story, I still get asked about it regularly. There's always one asshole per chat that gleefully points out that I was "wrong." Yes, I was wrong, in the sense that the story didn't happen in the way it was written, that by writing the story, it changed. But I don't want to get in that debate. What that tells you is that people have a long memory and no matter how many times I've been right since, they'll always bring up the things I did wrong.

Credibility is a tough road, but is really the only way we have to judge information. We assume that our local newspaper, or any newspaper, is a credible place that employs credible people. By saying "New York Times", we immediately assume that Murray Chass or Tyler Kepner or Will Leitch is credible. We don't go checking their bona fides. But it's not always the case. Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, and others remind us of this and while sports is hardly an area where things can be made up out of thin air, one of those things is an "anonymous source."

Once again, I have to look to myself. Most of my work is by need based on anonymous sourcing. The reason for that is that medical personnel are precluded, both by league rules, team policy and Federal law, from speaking with me. The only way for them to do so is anonymously. They have to trust that I will protect their identities. The reader then has to determine my credibility based on my information and the results of that information. It works the same for everyone, no matter their medium.

The issue with blogs is that there's no editor -- I have one at BP and SI, but don't have one here. There's no check beyond the reader and no way to, at sight, check the credibility, record, or reputation of a blog. In the past, I've called for some sort of BBWAA-like organization to help build the credibility as well as making sure that blogs are held to a standard, building to a point where discussions like this are unnecessary and that teams give access to those that need and deserve it.

So if we acknowledge that blogs are the "minor leagues", is it possible to set up a voluntary, user-monitored system that puts blogs in some sort of category? A new blog could be considered "Rookie League" at the start, but would voluntarily adhere to the standards. In essence, they would be saying "Hey, I'm new but I understand the rules and am working on my game." After a period of time and no gross violations, they could move up to "Single-A" status. Let's say it's six months or a year. That badge or icon would show people that they've been around a while and have some level of credibility. It would continue on up to "Triple-A", where a long period of credible writing would get you on the cusp of the major leagues.

The problem of course is that there would need to be some sort of standard setting body and as yet, I haven't seen any organization that could do this. Maybe the FSWA, though they've shown little regard for the smaller voices. This type of system wouldn't fix things, but at least we would have a fighting chance at realizing quickly when a blogger is spewing crap in hopes of generating hits. I like to think that like Baker, many of us could gleefully say "It's Triple-A, baby!"

The Biggest Please Explain Band in Rock History
2008-05-19 19:53
by Scott Long

I am completely addicted to this documentary series that is on VH-1 Classic titled Classic Albums. It is a really cool behind the scenes retelling of how some of the great rock albums came about. The series has actually inspired me to reconsider some of these works, even going as far as helping me understand why Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell was such a world-wide sensation. I never knew that Todd Rundgren produced it. (Rundgren is one of my all-time favs). I never thought of the obvious Springsteen-like influence, which now intrigues me about a record that I hated for my whole lifetime. Amazing that a hour-long documentary series could accomplish that, but it has.

The one episode that I could not get through was the Grateful Dead's American Beauty. I have never understood the appeal of this group, as their music always sounded like the Allman Brothers, without the musical chops. I did enjoy a few songs off of the Dedicated tribute album, as having some people who could actually sing helped along their few quality songs, like Uncle Jon's Band, Casey Jones, and Friend of the Devil.

In this discussion I'm asking for rock band, so don't offer up a boy band.  The other caveat is pick a band that has some critical acceptance.  Sure it is maddening to try to understand the large-scale success of groups like REO Speedwagon and Warrant, but I want you to offer up a choice that will have its defenders here.  I have known actually intelligent people who really have loved the Dead and I've just not been able to understand why.  Sure these people had drug addictions, but so do many fans of Pink Floyd and that band was brilliant. 

So tell me what your biggest Please Explain band is in Rock History. 

Quest for Fire: Cigar Reviews
2008-05-18 11:08
by Will Carroll

Time for some quick cigar reviews:

Cabaiguan Guapo
I've been hoping to try some of the Tatuaje cigars, some of the highest rated and hard to find cigars, for about a year now, so a recent visit to a local cigar shop was a gold mine. They didn't have Tatuaje - honestly, they're nearly impossible to find outside of a box purchase - but they did have the newest blend from the same company. It's called a "Cabaiguan", after a small city in Cuba. It's a gorgeous cigar with a great Connecticut wrapper that looks like a Cuban Cohiba. It's mostly well constructed, though mine may have been a bit dry. (Not sure how ... it was well taken care of and stored at just under 70% humidity. I saw some other reviews that complained of the same problem, so maybe it isn't just me.) As I was feeling how packed it was, the wrapper cracked a bit in the middle, exposing the binder. Didn't hurt the smoke, just ... you'd rather have it perfect, of course. The open was a bit woody with some spice/pepper. It's not as strong as some, like the Don Pepin Cuban Classic, which just kicks you in the teeth with pepper on the open. It mellows quickly and shifts to a more creamy taste. Despite the cracks and some heavy veins, the burn was great and by midway (just past the cracks) there was a coffee note that became the strongest flavor. It rolled through floral, coffee, bread, and back to creamy as it got to the end. The wrapper unfurled a bit at about an inch to inch and a half, which is annoying, and it got a bit grassy at that stage. I think much of the flavor is in the wrapper and with the construction issues, that could be a problem if it was much worse. I really liked this cigar, far more than I expected. It's still a bit expensive ($11) for what you're getting and I still want to try the Tatuajes. Ah, someday.

Cohiba Cameroon Robusto
The Cohiba was part of a sampler a reader sent me and not one I would have picked for myself. It's known for being exceptionally strong and I found that was very true. To me, it reminded me of baseball -- in high school, about everyone had a dip and I'll admit I did it too. You knew guys were serious (or addicted) when they shifted up to Copenhagen. The stuff was pure tobacco with no flavor and as strong as it comes. A Cohiba is like that. If you get to that stage where you just need the strong stuff, the Cohiba is a nice cigar. It's consistent, well constructed, but just too much for me to really enjoy.

Nub (Cameroon and Habana)
The idea is that a cigar has a sweet spot and that by making the cigar shorter and fatter, the whole cigar becomes the sweet spot. Ok, nice idea, but the gimmick is mostly just gimmick. It's not a quick smoke as I'd expected because the volume is similar. Unfortunately, the sweet spot for this was still about an inch in and once I got there, it was like a mid-level Oliva, not bad but far from my favorite. It was decent, but I don't think the gimmick is much more than that and will fade quickly. If handed one, I'd say thanks, but I don't think I'd buy one again.

Drew Estate (Kuba Kuba, Root, Java)
Here's the problem with Drew Estate -- they're just too much. With any of them, there seems to be one flavor note that they're going for. With the Kuba Kuba, a torpedo that's too big for me, it's the cloying sweetness of the sugared cap. The cigar never overcomes that pixie stick start. It smells good, but the experience is dominated by the candied taste. The Java (made with Rocky Patel, which I am yet to find one of his I like) is almost as if it's dipped in hot chocolate mix. There's a powdery feel even and the coffee notes never overcome this. Fine cigar, though I'm still trying to figure out why people like box pressed. (Anyone?) The Root was very clean with a nice floral smell and taste, It was the most consistent of the bunch, but nothing special. I tried to like these as a change of pace, but none of them are for me.

La Aurora Preferido
Another from the sampler, I had tried a couple La Auroras before, but never their high end Preferidos. It came in a tube and had a distinct cedar smell to it. It was a very tight draw, more than I'd like, and it never really loosened up. There were a couple points where I thought I'd have to relight. I don't like long ash, but maybe that would have helped it. After an inch or so, it got kind of nutty, maybe an almond taste, but by halfway, it was mostly wood and ended with a strong cedar, much like the aroma upon opening the tube. It's a very nice cigar that would go well with a big steak and a strong Cabernet.

Romeo Y Julieta 1875
RYJ is an old Cuban brand that's shifted to the Dominican. It's very "old school" in both look and taste. It starts off very strong with a great construction and the thickest smoke I've seen. It wasn't nearly as strong as Cohiba, but stronger than the La Aurora and stronger than I'd like. It got thicker and stronger as I got further down, which I think had something to do with the small ring (thickness) on it. The biggest downside for me was that from the first puff on down, it was the same flavor notes and feel. It never changed, didn't have much beyond the woodsy, syrupy taste to notice, and by the second half, I was bored.

Ted's Handmade
Marketing isn't a priority for Ted's. Its a dumb name with poor packaging, but if you're not after a name, the smoke is solid. I double-punched it and it had a great draw. It was recommended to me as similar to Graycliff and while it wasn't, it wasn't bad and did have some of the same flavor. It's a nice mid-range, not too expensive, but I'm not looking for an "everyday" cigar myself. I have this routine now where I sit on my patio while smoking a cigar and trying to learn Spanish. Maybe I'll get a Cuban or Nicaraguan accent.

Next on my list? Some Gurkhas, some Graycliffs, and a Cuvee Rouge.

Catch Scott in Indy---See My Buddy on Letterman
2008-05-16 22:24
by Scott Long

I will be filling in Sunday night for my friend, Tommy Johnagin, at Crackers in Broad Ripple. Showtime is 8pm. Time to see the evolution of Good Scott/Bad Scott.

Tommy needed the night off, as he will be taping on Monday his debut appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. If there is a better young comic than him, I haven't seen him/her. The show will actually air on Friday night. Tommy contributed a piece for the Juice blog in 2006. Big things can happen for people who decide to offer up a story for this site, so keep that in mind. I can't promise The Tonight Show, but I think there is a good chance you could at least appear on a show of this quality.

Gammons Homage Notes
2008-05-14 11:21
by Will Carroll

* PitchFX is changing things so fundamentally that I'm not sure we have any comprehension just how much. Was color TV considered a gimmick when it first came in?

* I've finally cracked the video thing. No, my big egg-shaped head isn't different, but the problem isn't me ... well, it is, but you know what I mean. The problem is that most people surf at work, meaning video is both a bandwidth and an attention problem. What's needed is closed-captioning -- the video could run, but you could read along. Of course, if all you get is a talking head that's muted and reading along, that's not compelling. I need to figure out how to get more stuff -- diagrams, anatomical drawings -- into the act. Ideally, I could show the injury happen itself, but that's still a rights issue. So, if you want to start a business, vlog captioning is my idea. If it's already out there, let me know.

* A Ken Griffey Jr deal back to the Mariners will probably end up being the last deal of the Bavasi Era in Seattle. I have a piece that's been in limbo regarding the "Top Ten GM Candidates" that I need to finish.

* If Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) sang together, would the world end? I think it would just be very depressing, if brilliant.

* American Idol has jumped the shark. If they were smart -- and they are -- they'd take about five years off and let the talent "build" out there. An interim step would be some kind of "celebrity" AI. Take a group of already signed, but neglected talent jump in. Add in some people looking for respect or a second chance - I'm thinking Ashlee Simpson here - and you have something interesting. Even a seeming "ringer" like Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera might have trouble with the wrong theme.

* Jay Bruce is leading the International League in nearly every hitting category of note and Dusty Baker is inserting Corey Patterson as his leadoff man. I don't have anything past that. "We hold these truths to be self-evident."

* More fun with Minor League stats:
*Mike Hessman has 17 HR. SEVENTEEN!
*Brian Mazone has four wins for a team that doesn't have ten wins.
*How is Luke Hughes not better right now than Nick Punto?
*Bobby Brownlie is making something of a comeback in the Nats organization and was just bumped up to Triple-A. *Mat Gamel and Matt LaPorta both have OPS over 1000 in Double-A, but will have to convince the baseball world that defense really doesn't matter. With Ryan Braun in LF and one of these two in RF, I'm not sure having Dwayne Murphy would help. The Brewers would have to have nothing but K/GB pitchers to make it work. Hmm.
*Ever root for a guy just because of his name? I'd love to hear several announcers deal with Chris Jakubauskus. Heck, I'd like to hear the Raniers great Mike Curto do it.
*Same thing with Kila Kaaihue.
*It used to be you could tell when someone really knew prospects by whether they knew how to pronounce "Nageotte" (Nazh-ette). Then it was "Komine" (Ko-min-ay). Who is it now?

* Is there a better site out there now than Ballbug? No, there is not. Even better, it's the epitome of "Bissinger's Dilemma" - content is content and good blogs are right there aside good newspapers or "pro" web sites like BP and The next step will be disintermediation of comments, which will be a big deal because of ad revenue. After that, I think there's going to be a much bigger disintermediation, but I'll wait until I've figured out the profit angle on that before talking about it.

Playing Like ...
2008-05-14 07:52
by Will Carroll

I've always tried to look at baseball in a way that helps me to grasp it. I'm a simple guy and I understand simple things. I try to leave as many complex numbers out of it as possible and I don't have the Excel chops to do graphs or charts, though those just usually confuse me.

So here's a concept -- if each team was a player, who would they be? It's a riff off my idea of "who faces him?" which is simply turning a pitcher's opposing AVG into a player. For instance, Roy Halladay is only allowing batters to hit 273/358 (OPSc) against him. That's the equivalent of Yorvit Torrealba (this year's version, not the fluky 2007 one.) On the other side, Brett Myers is 341/535. That's like facing a lineup of nine Adrian Gonzalez clones.

For teams, it's the same thing. The Red Sox have slash stats of 293/364/450. The most equivalent player is Andre Ethier. The Rays are at 259/330/390, good for the middle pack and the equivalent of Jason Varitek. Bringing up the rear is the Padres, going 234/305/348, which is a lineup full of Rod Barajas.

I don't have time to go through and do the whole list, but you can do your favorites in comments.

** UPDATE: I must have read Scott Lucas' column from November, the one that did a very similar thing to what I did here. He writes about the Rangers' minor leaguers for The Newberg Report, so he deserves the credit. I honestly don't remember the column, but knew I'd seen it somewhere. Thanks to Scott and to Jamey Newberg for reminding me.

A Good Year (In Five Months)
2008-05-12 09:37
by Will Carroll

It's never the good old days in the present tense. Just like baby boomers pining for the golden days of Beatles, Stones, Hendrix and Dylan, my generation dreams of vintage Prince, remembers discovering R.E.M. and U2 before the arenas, and the rest of the greats of that generation. Over the past few years, music has seemed to lose itself as the business dropped off, causing some solid music to fall between the cracks and leaving artistry behind for artiface.

That's changing. The artists are beginning to grasp the medium. Without CD lengths to fill, R.E.M. was willing to put out an album at under 40 minutes, recharging themselves in a way we haven't seen in a decade. With no need for lead time and knowing that a record company would only fail them in marketing and leak it ahead of sales, the Raconteurs and Elvis Costello went from studio to iTunes in weeks, not years.

It's not just the Juice favorites that are here either. Sure, it's great to see Costello, Stipe, and White continuing their careers, but there's new bands like Helio Sequence that are making exciting music and Roots continuing to challenge the edges of hip-hop. With new albums on the way from Old 97's, Coldplay, and Death Cab for Cutie, the year seems to be shaping up as a really solid year. I'm sure there are things I haven't heard yet (Duffy's getting amazing reviews) and things I've missed (which I'm sure you'll fill in down in comments), but while there isn't the one defining album or song, there's plenty that are on their way to the year-end Top Ten.

Hammock - Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow
Elvis Costello - Momofuku
Nick Cave - Dig Lazarus Dig
The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
The Roots - Rising Down
The Raconteurs - Consolers of The Lonely
R.E.M. - Accelerate
Drive By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
The Black Keys - Attack and Release

Check 'em out.

The 10 Tunes You Must Have
2008-05-10 15:15
by Scott Long

Now here is your assignment. You have an Ipod that only holds 10 songs. These are the only 10 you can listen to for the next year. This is not a I have to be cool list. These are the only 10 songs you would hear for a whole year. These aren't the 10 greatest singles of all-time, just the 10 I would want to hear most right now.

In My Time of Dying (1975) - Many of Zeppelin's best work has been killed by Classic Rock radio stations in their desire to get the Led out. In My Time of Dying comes from the band's greatest work, Physical Graffiti. The song mixes the dirty blues sound that made them the biggest band in the world and adds an incredibly funky groove mixed in with Page's Eastern-influenced guitar playing. Despite being over 11 minutes long, the song never lags, as the group is completely in the pocket.

Fat Bottomed Girls/Bicycle Race
(1978)- This might be cheating a bit, but these 2 songs were always played together on rock radio, like a follow-up to We Will Rock You/We are the Champions. How ahead of their time were Queen extolling the virtues of ample backsides? This was a couple decades before Sir-Mix-a-Lot and his other fellow rappers would offer up. Brian May's guitar sounds are really underrated, as the roughed up rockabilly sound propels Fat Bottomed Girls along. The companion piece, Bicycle Race is classic Queen, with stream of conscious-like lyrics are blended with rock musical choruses. Complete silly fun.

(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding (1979) - This songs fulfills my Costello-fix, my early punk/new wave fix, and gives me a little Nick Lowe as well. (He wrote it.) The lyrics are brilliant and Elvis shows a range of voice which conveys the great themes the song discusses.

Hghway to Hell (1979)- This is about the sleaziest rock song of all-time. It begins with a brilliantly simple guitar riff, followed by a just as simple and just as brilliant thud of the drums by Phil Rudd. Considering that Bon Scott would drink himself to death soon after, the lyrics of the song seem even more real. Highway to Hell builds into a final crescendo, after a Chuck Berry-like solo by Angus, with Scott ending the song with a sinister vocal reciting the title.

How Soon is Now? (1984) - I should begin by mentioning I'm not a huge Smith fan, but no song from the early stages of alternative rock knocks me out more than Nothing in Particular. (This is what I thought the song's title was for quite awhile.) The swirling, hypnotic guitars of Johnny Marr are as Paula Abdul would say---brilliant! The effeminate British vocals of Morrissey blend beautifully with the driving beat of the song. 24-years later, this one totally holds up on the radio.

Sign of the Times (1987) - I'm not sure any one artist in music history was hitting on all cylinders more than Prince was on Sign of the Times. Playing all the instruments on a song which blends funk, rock, soul, and rap into a seamless classic. The lyrics are a more story/documentary of what was happening in the world at the time. Prince uses a weary-sounding sing/rap style which conveys the message perfectly.

God (1994)- I've heard this song hundreds of times and it still resonates with me. It rocks hard, while Tori is at her most sensual. I dig the feminsist rant against how God sometimes you don't come through and asks if he needs a woman to look after you. Tori is the type of crazy-alternative chick I would fall for in college, even though I knew I didn't have the Bauhaus/goth-look she needed to really connect with her.

Blue (1995) - This is my favorite alt-country song of all-time. The harmonies are Beach Boys meets CSN, with a country tinge. Blue has a quality that few can do, as it radiates sunshine. Feel-good beauty.

Beautiful Day (2000) - No song encaptures the brilliance of the last great rock band on earth more than Beautiful Day. The chrismatic vocals of Bono, the ringing guitar fills by the Edge, and the great rhythm section of Mullen and Clayton are an energy force when they are at their best. On their amazing IMAX release, U2-3D, the song reachs even greater heights, as Beautiful Day is one of those magical musical moments that will always drive people to their feet.
NOTE: When I was looking on Youtube for this song, I ran across a guy named Kurt from World Idol, who does a cover of the song you have to see. He is one of the most unlikely rock singers I've ever seen, but he really nails every song I pulled up that he did on the show. Weird karaoke brilliance.

Lost (2007) - I have a romantic side. Who would have known? Sometimes you need a ballad and this is my current favorite from the best Canadian crooner of his generation. Michael Buble would wipe the floor with the competition if he would have went the American Idol route. Great vocals, great instincts, and the guy is O.C. delicious in the looks department. Have you ever wondered what a guy influenced by Frank Sinatra and George Michael would sound-like? Meet Buble. Sure he might be a bit too Manilow for some, but there are some songs I like by Barry, so I have no problem with that. Yeah, call me a puss. I can take it. Now I have to go and change my panties.
NOTE: All the videos for this song are really Lifetime Network, so I picked this one because it is a mix of good art and really bad art.

There is my list. A few things jump out. No music before 1975. I initially figured I would have a Beatles, Stones, Who, or CCR song, but they aren't what my ears would first go to at this point in my life. I almost went with Living for the City by Stevie Wonder over Queen, but I just liked having the fun of that double-shot single. No rap, as it just isn't something I really seek out much anymore. I was tempted to put a country song on the list, but the Jayhawks is close enough. Before you put up your lists, remember I'm not asking what you think are the 10 best singles of all-time, as only Sign of the Times would be on that list from what I have here.

List the 10 songs you would choose if these were the only ones you had to listen to for the next year.





What I Made Yesterday
2008-05-10 07:36
by Will Carroll

And just so you can see what a professionally shot video looks like:

Give me a professional crew, an Avid machine, and a week and I could do that too. Amazing what me and Jenn can throw together with a Mac tho.

Blow-up Dolls in the Clubhouse
2008-05-09 09:37
by Scott Long

In case you might have missed it, during a recent downturn some White Sox player(s) took slump busting to a different level. They put a couple of blow-up dolls in their visiting clubhouse in Toronto. Well, it was no big deal to the beat writers from Chicago, as they realize that it was a pretty harmless joke. I mean as long as Bobby Jenks didn't jump on one, who was it going to hurt?

Well, it was newsworthy to the Toronto media and then became an issue for the Chicago Sun-Times. If you don't live in the Windy City, you are probably unaware of the bad blood between the paper and the Sox. Most of this stems from douchebag columnist Jay Mariotti. Mariotti is a person so vile that even Will Leitch and Buzz Bissinger could agree that he's a hack. Now I appreciate edgy writers who are willing to be contrarians, as I think it helps push the dialogue on issues in a different way. This is rarely what Mariotti does,though, as his general stance in putting together his column is who can I slam for the day, if they deserve it or not.

Mariotti seems to have a specific vendetta against all things owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, with the White Sox his favorite targets. Considering that Ozzie Guillen is the manager, this is a pretty easy mark, as Guillen is always offering up something to comment on. Most of the writers in Chicago realize that Ozzie is a fountain of copy. They also realize that he is a fun-loving guy, who grew up in a locker room, not an Ivy-League, human sensitivity lab. I would agree that Guillen crosses the line of good taste sometimes, but in a world where corporate interests generally determine that all public comment must be sanitized, it's refreshing to my ears to hear a guy who is willing to not just tip-toe up to the edge, but leap over it at times.

Located in Mariotti's latest commentary on Guillen included this comment. (I won't even link this garbage, as if you want to find it, go ahead and do it on your own time.)

I'm just wondering how he's still employed. If this was bad standup comedy, I'd understand why a trashy nightclub might hire him to humor drunks for $5.50 an hour.

Just another hack effort by Mariotti, throwing my profession under the CTA. I'm not about to claim that what I do for a living is on the level of being a doctor in a Children's Hospital, but I do know my trashy comedy leaves people with a lot better feeling than the one they get after finishing a Mariotti column---you know, having the need to scrub themselves down like a rookie porn star after doing her first scene with Ron Jeremy.

Even the worst standup comics, who as a group I generally don't defend, at least have to do one thing that Mariotti never does. They have to face their audience. This is the beef that many of his critics, and fellow journalists hate the most about the guy. Mariotti spends most of his time hidden away in his dirt-filled coffin, sticking his fangs in whatever victim he can suck the most blood out of---only leaving his lair occasionally to convalesce with the other vampires which appear on ESPN's Around the Horn.

The one up-shot that has happened from the dreaded blow-up doll event is that others in the media have put it in perspective. It has even created a fun little newspaper war of words, as some on the Tribune staff have called out the Sun-Times for their hypocrisy. My favorite was written by the Trib's Mike Downey. This is the beginning of his column.

Naked Dancers: Peep Show, $20 for 1/2 Hour"

X-Treme Body Massages with 'Hotties' "

Hot, Wild, Fun—Blonde or Brunette?"

— Ads that ran in Wednesday's sports section of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Awwww, isn't it sweet of the Sun-Times to go to bat against Ozzie Guillen's bad language and the sexism of the White Sox?

It reminds me a little of the glory days when the greatest newspaper columnist I ever read, Mike Royko, would rail against the Trib and then the Sun-Times (after he switched sides). Newspapers are in a tough business climate. The best way they can stay relevant is to mix the hard news reporting that is so vital to our Republic, with opinion writers who are willing to push their readers with edgy content. It is a fine-line that the best columnists are able to deliver.

The buffoonish work of Mariotti might sell some papers, but I think hurts the paper's credibility with their readers. The bigger problem is Mariotti-types create dissension among his fellow employees, bringing a bad working atmosphere. While Mariotti's merits can be debated, he would seem to be a clubhouse cancer on the level of a Terrell Owens. It is a wicked irony that Mariotti is the newspaper writer version of the athletes he most attacks from his ivory tower.

Is it just me that sees the problem with Mariotti ripping the White Sox for creating some comedic relief from installing a couple blow-up dolls? Think about it. Mariotti and blow-up dolls have so much in common. The 2 biggest similarities they have are that they are  substitutes for the real thing and they both are filled with hot air.

Red Menace
2008-05-08 13:12
by Will Carroll

Let's say I'm Walt Jocketty. I've got some World Series rings and a new job. I'm wondering, "hmm, how can I turn this thing around?" First, I might wonder if things are that bad. Yes, my minor league system's thin, but there's some help on the way. No, my major league team isn't playing up to potential, but there's not a really weak spot -- a significantly below average player -- on the starting roster.

One of the things I wouldnt do? Call Steve Phillips, the failed GM and ESPN know-it-all, and ask for his assistance. Unfortunately, he didn't wait to be asked:

1. TRADE JUNIOR : Phillips suggests Griffey (who has full no trade) should go to the White Sox in return for Josh Fields, then call up Jay Bruce. Ok. This isn't insane. I'm not sure Kenny Williams wants Griffey or more importantly needs Griffey or if Griffey would go there. Junior has been clear that he would only allow a trade to go to a potential champion. The White Sox? Not so much. The confusion between GM and CF might be an issue as well.

2. DUNN DEAL : Ok, trade Adam Dunn. I'll buy this idea, but in return, Phillips is suggesting asking for Matt Cain, Adam Lind AND Dustin McGowan, or Cliff Lee AND Franklin Gutierrez. Are you serious? There's not a chance that the slow kid in the fantasy league would make this deal, let alone one of those GMs. Not even JP Ricciardi! This is just a travesty and reminds us why Phillips is out of a job. Dunn's value is much closer to that of Kenny Lofton than Mark Teixeira.

3. BYE, BYE BRONSON : Phillips thinks Bronson Arroyo is toast, but that several teams like Texas or Milwaukee would give up a couple prospects for said crostini. Umm, no. At best, Arroyo's going to go somewhere big market to fill in at the back end of the rotation and the Reds will have to eat much of the deal. I'm not sure Jocketty should make this move and remove some flexibility, let alone do it with no backup plan aside from Homer Bailey.

4. CALL HANK : I'll just lay out what Phillips does - Jeremy Affeldt and Jared Burton for Phil Hughes. The same Phil Hughes that the Yankees wouldn't trade for Santana. The same Phil Hughes that's the surest thing of the four young Yankees pitching prospects despite some injuries. "Castellini and Hank will love it!" he says. Good lord, I'm sure Castellini would. He'd like a trade of a couple replacement level guys for a future ace, but who wouldn't? This isn't even good stuff if he'd initially made a list of three things and had to come up with a fourth on the fly. John Kruk would laugh at this if he could read.

5. SHORT CUT: Freel for Scott Proctor. It's not a horrible deal, but it seems a bit superfluous. Proctor, I guess, ends up in the Jared Burton role where he'd be a slight upgrade, if a bit more expensive.

Now, I'm no former GM, but if I'm Walt Jocketty in this exercise, I'm doing one thing -- changing my cell number and telling my secretary not to take any calls from Bristol, then going about my business.

Scott Performs In Chicago Area this Week
2008-05-08 08:53
by Scott Long

I will be headlining at Comedy Comedy located in the Walter Payton Roundhouse entertainment complex in Aurora, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If you would like to get 2 for 1 tix for Thursday or Friday, email me at

Look forward to seeing you there.



Thumbs Up
2008-05-07 11:15
by Will Carroll

Roger Ebert is doing a blog. I didn't know until one of my favorite bloggers, John Gruber, mentioned it. The first post I read was the above link, riffing on a movie version of the primary season. Like much of Ebert's thoughts and writings, I found it brilliant.

Then I wondered. Ebert's always been very good and very entertaining. He crossed over to television without problem despite a face for print (*wink*), so making a shift to the unfettered blog-style shouldn't surprise me. I look forward to reading more when I have a chance and he's definitely going in my bookmarks. But the real wondering is this: was Ebert 'held back' by the newspaper format or even the TV segment?

Not to belabor the man as point, but Buzz Bissinger made the shift from newspaper reporter to columnist to feature writer and finally to books. Each time, he got more "inches." It's a pretty classical, Darwinian progression. You could say then that the original format held him back. He was able to succeed enough to get to the next step, but I'm sure there are some out there that couldn't handle the shorter format. Joe Posnanski also followed this model, but what about Aaron Gleeman? Here's one of the most successful writers of the new generation, a guy who famously couldn't get a job on his school's newspaper, but now has a national seat. What if Gleeman had gotten the job and couldn't write "inside the box"?

You can look around the web and see the free use of space opening up things. From Trent Rosencrans' liveblogs to Amalie Benjamin's lineup posts, we're seeing things that newspapers - the physical, paper product - can't do for various reasons. Sure, for every one of the positive examples, there's probably a handful of poorly written, crass, or simply uninformative blog out there to match it, but you click past it. You ignore it. You go back to the ones that are good.

Now I can only wonder ... how is the web holding us back?

- * - * -

As I wrote this, my spider pulled in a post from Chris Needham*. Needham's leaving blogging, following in the path of guys I've read regularly like Brian Gunn, Ed Cossette, and others. Someone will replace him, just as Larry Borowsky became my go-to Cards guy (though admittedly, the Cards' beat is covered by great writers.) I continue to believe that the currency of the blogosphere is feedback. I should dig through the archives to find my original piece about this, but the gist was that bloggers need feedback, whether that's attention (comments, links, hits), influence, or money. I'll wish Needham luck in whatever he chooses to do next.

* I still cling to the belief that we should refer to blogs by their author, not by their URL or randomly selected title. "Did you read Will Leitch's latest piece in GQ?" makes sense in the real world, so why not carry that on if the writer and his/her viewpoint is the important thing?

Without Comment
2008-05-06 19:45
by Will Carroll

U Missing Out?
2008-05-05 12:33
by Will Carroll

Mark Twain famously said that "he never let his schooling get in the way of his education." A less known quote from the less impugned Clemens is that a "self-taught man seldom knows anything accurately." That's all changing through one of the most amazing and yet little known features introduced by a well-known company: iTunes U.

Is the iPod an educational tool? Yes, if you use it well. My time at college was ... mis-spent, we'll say. I learned far more outside the classroom than in, but that holds true for most things and I'll guess most people. We'll leave my educational malpractice out of this and focus on the idea of using technology to help yourself and help the world. Over the past few weeks since discovering this free service, I've listened to Norman Mailer discuss writing, an archaeologist lecture about his years spent trying to discover Hannibal's route over the alps, and economists discussing the impact of the Starbucks economy.

Does it help me to know that the Phoenicians were the founders of Carthage? Not really, but it's an interesting fact. What's much more interesting is that in an hour, I heard from a man at Stanford discussing archaeology - something I know little or nothing about and frankly have little or no interest in - in a manner that held my attention. For free. On my iPod while I sit on the deck or sit here writing.

The best teachers in the world are a click away, making me wonder how long before lesser universities have to address this shift and disintermediation. While the University of Phoenix was the first Christensonian disruptor, they've gone for a populist, volume-oriented model over the elitist model I think will prevail. Given the chance to hear the best lecturers and researchers and the inevitable shift to video, on-demand, or livecasts, the idea of paying big bucks to sit in a room of bored teenagers pretending to listen to a graduate assistant while chatting on Facebook loses some sway.

Right now, college is the "safe choice" for people and like college, the online elite model won't work for everyone, but it's a much more inspiring ideal. Imagine a high school where a world-class chemist is teaching chemistry or that an award winning teacher is in every classroom. With this type of technology, it's within reach. In a location-based economy, this high school might have the best teacher or an advantage of money or location, but in a technology-based economy, every school can take the best teacher and have them in their classroom virtually. It's much more cost-effective to take the top 1% of teachers and give them 99% of the money, while hiring monitors to handle the in-person tasks that schools have. There's clearly a lower limit on this approach; I'm not sure it works with kindergarteners, though I'm not sure it doesn't. Maybe Barney has a use after all.

For now, I'd just invite everyone to check out the amazing array of free content on iTunes U. Steve Jobs never enters a market unless he's going to change it and I think he might really be on to another world changing idea here.

Now, how do I get the Tufts class on sabermetrics available for download or get Prospectus University started?

The Return of Random Gammons Homage Notes
2008-05-05 07:12
by Will Carroll

* Costco had a three pound bag of New Guinea coffee and it's phenomenal. I'm a HUGE fan of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, but the quality has gone steadily downhill over the last decade. I'm not sure why, but at the same time, New Guinea has gone up. It's already similar - New Guinea's coffee stock came from Blue Mountain seeds - but the consistency and the variety have both been raised (which seems odd, that pair.) Peet's New Guinea is the class of the field, but any is darn good and a third or less of the cost of JBM.

*'s Mosaic is just a sick piece of technology. At some points, it gets a bit slow, but even on my Air with craptastic Comcast service, the thing just works. I'd love to see the player alerts -- does anyone use those? -- but don't due to some complex behind-the-scenes issues. I'm excited about the Baseball Network, but I still think the future is going to be the online, near-on-demand video. If Apple really wants to get AppleTV into living rooms, they should quit worrying about movies and figure out how to stream and other online content to my big TV.

* I'm surprised at the lack of mainstream coverage of the Costas Now incident. One writer I spoke to about it said that the reaction isn't going to be at the writer level, but the editor level. One other writer made an interesting point in that the online medium might be relying too much on links. I love Deadspin and they do original content, but most of their content is actually comment. Funny, well written comment, but it's the exception. I have no doubt that Will Leitch or the FJM guys or hundreds of others could do their own content and build an audience. I just don't think it would be as big. Honestly, the same could be said about most blogs or even sites like Drudge Report, so this isn't a sports thing.

* Do you know how cool it is to pick up the phone and the voice on the other end is Bob Costas? It's cool. Almost as cool as hearing Harry Kalas.

* One MLB team is trying to put together an ISO-style "player instruction system." I'm curious to see how this comes out. More than a "Dodger Way", I'm not sure this will work. Coaching is somewhere between a mystical personality cult and trial-and-error tweaking when it comes to both hitting and pitching. It's worse for infield -- Ron Washington made his reputation on his infield coaching and yet I have no idea whatsoever what his reputation was made on, aside from Eric Chavez being very good. I'm not saying he's not, just that no one -- for any coach -- seems to have any replicable way of extending the advantage beyond keeping the guy on the payroll.

* I'm growing more and more convinced that online video doesn't work because most people do their surfing at work. I have no idea how to overcome that currently, though my guess is that as the iPhone and other phone-style connected devices get more powerful, we'll use those more than the company PC. At that point, bandwidth becomes an issue again.

* Letterman is doing Magician Week on his show. I still completely geek out for magic. Close up magic remains my favorite though I will admit that I really want to see the Criss Angel/Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas as well as seeing Hans Klok, who's show is supposed to open at Planet Hollywood.

* Hearing that the food in the new Palazzo is a disappointment. Charlie Trotter's place just doesn't seem to translate to Vegas, Emeril's running out of ideas, and while Mario Batali's steakhouse is solid, it's expensive. (Yes, everything's expensive in Vegas, but I mean it in a value sense. Craftsteak is expensive, but you won't bat an eye after the quality and service you get.) I'm still very curious what food will go in City Center, but haven't heard any news.

* An absolute flood of great music out right now ... Elvis Costello's new record - yes, record, since it's only on vinyl - is perhaps his best work since Blood & Chocolate. New bands like Helio Sequence and M83's John Hughes homage give me some hope while REM , Roots, and Raconteurs prove that there's more life in existing acts. Hammock releases tomorrow, Coldplay's single is out with an album on the horizon, so 08 is shaping up to be a much better music year than 07 was.

* While a Barack Obama candidacy held the promise of a post-racial, post-Atwater politics, I'm not sure that an Obama loss won't be a bigger setback. The gulf between black and white, men and women, young and old is just massive right now and no one seems able to bridge it. I'm not panicked about the process yet, but I'll maintain my near-nihilistic cynicism. While I want to be an Obama supporter, the fact that he keeps taking punches without throwing them really confuses me. He can't be what he wants to be if he does it, which makes for an interesting dynamic. A ruthless attack dog as VP is the perfect fit, but I can't imagine Hillary Clinton wanting that role. Obama has the reverse McCain VP problem -- he needs a Cheney (minus the evil, we hope.)

* If Clayton Kershaw is available in your league, grab him. Scouts that have seen him are near-orgasmic in a way I haven't heard for anyone.

* Lost is getting more and more complex. The writers are boxing themselves in with things I only hope won't take a Tommy Westphall to save them.

* What bizarre circumstances led to the Brewers being short of pitching and the Cardinals having a "surplus?"

The Dramatic Entrance
2008-05-03 15:38
by Will Carroll

There was a time in the late 90's where the WWF (as it was then) had perfected the introduction. Hot, driving music that was instantly identifiable, whether it was the breaking glass of Steve Austin, the droning beat that led out the Undertaker, or any of Mick Foley's many iterations, with my favorite being the car-crash at the start of "Mankind"'s open.

Baseball never got really good at it. "Enter Sandman" for Mariano Rivera and "Hell's Bells" for Trevor Hoffman was about as good as it got. Neither of them was nearly as good as the "Wild Thing" entrance for Ricky Vaughn in Major League either. I'm not sure why it never got more dramatic; maybe it's because baseball is a game of failure and having a closer come in to a dramatic setup might make a blown save all the worse. If Jose Reyes can get yelled at about complicated celebration handslaps, I can't imagine what someone might get for a video piece and a smoke machine.

So, if you were a closer -- or a hitter -- what would your entrance music be and why? And also, a friend of mine who is a major leaguer was recently asked to pick a tune for when he comes to the plate. He's not much of a music fan and is looking for suggestions. Hit the comments ...

Get Your Freak-on-mics
2008-05-02 15:12
by Scott Long

Recently I was booked to perform in a small Midwestern city which has had a serious economic downturn because of a loss of automotive-related plant closings. All the booking agent told me was that the one-night show would take place in a rowdy bar. Well, when I pulled up to the venue, I realized that the agent had failed to mention one thing. It was a strip joint. And don't think it was a Gentleman's Club. This was the kind of place where not even the owner referred to his employees as dancers or entertainers, they were strippers.

Now as most of you realize, I am not a prude, so no big deal. This wasn't even my first titty bar rodeo, as early in my career I had set up a show at a more ritzy nudie club. My idea was to do an old-time burlesque show, with myself performing comedy in-between the girls. The show actually went really well, as many friends of mine who claimed they couldn't come out to see me before, somehow were able to make this show. I'm sure getting away for the night went something like this.

(To girlfriend/wife): Hey honey, I'm going to see Scott Long do comedy....Nah, don't worry about coming along, I'm just going to support him. I wouldn't want to put you through his act....Oh and if you don't mind, can I grab some money our of your purse. I'm a little short on cash....No, I don't need a twenty, I will just grab whatever ones you have....Love you, don't wait up.

After the success of my first show, the owner wanted me to do another. This one did not go as well, as it had gotten out where I'd done the last show and I had to find a different group of people to help support me. This was a much smaller group who were made up of comics. If you weren't aware, most comics do not laugh much at other comic's jokes and actually get a perverse pleasure watching a fellow comic bomb. There was plenty of that going on, as the audience there seemed to have no idea what was going on and why this idiot was up on-stage cutting into their time oogling naked broads. I get that they were just trying to escape their pathetic lives one table dance at a time. I will admit I came into this event a bit too confident after my initial success, as I had hatched what I thought would be a sure-fire comedy bit. My final appearance for the night, I came out in a pair of dockers and a cardigan sweater. Telling them that I was the top children's host/adult entertainer in the world, I had the DJ begin playing the Mr.Roger's Neighborhood theme, while I proceeded to undress. I know, I know, but it seemed like a funny idea at the time. The success of a bit is often incumbent on the audience and this wasn't the right one for ths. I"m not sure where the right one is located, but I can promise I have no interest trying specific act again to find out. After my shirt came off, my nipples were encased in pasies, with attached tassles that I began to twirl. I wasn't exactly Gypsy Rose Lee, but I was definitely giving it my all. All I can say is thank God, Jesus, Buddah, etc. that there wasn't camera phones or Youtube at the time, as I would have had my Michael RIchards moment.

So this was my past. The show a couple weeks back was less momentous, as there were no dancers on the bill. You see, the economic downturn had impacted the strip clubs bottom line (yeah, I realize) and so the owner decided to open up on the sabbath and bring comedy to his one-stage room with a poll sitting right in front of the mic stand. It is here where we get into economics. The closing of the factories had impacted a lot of the town, but probably not one industry more than the discretionary income for tuckin' bucks. The downward spiral continued, as since the strippers were making less money, they left for bigger riches in more high dollar cities. The owner admitted to me that this had brought down the quality of talent he could provide. Talk about the ultimate ugly cycle. Now no matter how much he might gain in the short term from promoting the idea of use your government stimulus check to do some real stimulating, I'm aftraid in the long-term things look pretty bleak for this establishment. Maybe enough attractive stay-at-home MILF's will be forced to help their household income and shake their moneymakers part-time on-stage, but imy guess it will be too late by then to save my new friend's club.

Things are really bad in the Industrial Midwest and I just don't see much help on its way. Maybe the government should rethink its economic indicators which focus on consumer goods. It might just be that chicks dancing to Motley Crue songs are the biggest determining factor on if the economy is boom or bust. Bust might just be the keyword, as if a stripper can afford to invest in iimplants, things are probably going well. Inflating keeps away inflation?

The Perfect Person to Break Down the Bissinger vs Leitch Duel
2008-05-01 07:50
by Scott Long

(Will Carroll and I were working on pieces about the same subject and just before I decided to post this one, I noticed he had beat me to it. I suggest you read his offering that is below mine. Since he knows both the participants, he gives great insight. Mine is more of your typical blogger read and react. We don't have opposite views on the subject, but do have some differing points.)

After careful study, I realize that I am the exact connecting piece between mainstream media and the blogging world. I grew up delivering newspapers, reading them from front to back, and dreaming of becoming a columnist. I went to college to study journalism, tried giving free-lance writing a go, and then...gave up this dream because I had no interest in climbing a ladder which started with covering high school sports. I have an immense respect for the reporter who is just interested in delivering the basic facts of the event. I learned imy 5 W's and a H, but I always wanted to explore my creativity and had the narcissistic desire to share my opinion, if people wanted it or not. I decided to become a standup comedian...a job where it is all about me. Look, I've never claimed I don't have attention issues.

While my main focus became coming up with funny, edgy material thaet makes people laugh, I never gave up my sports focus. I've regularly appeared on local and national syndicated radio shows. I've written comedy sketches for TV. I never felt a great sense of creative freedom, though, until I started blogging. It is at the Juice Blog where I can offer up my thoughts, without having corporate management types determining what I will write about. While I am always interested in entertaining my audience here, I don't have to mix in some lowest common demoninator material like I do in my standup. I'm not saying I don't offer up LCD stuff here, but I do solely because it makes me laugh. Blogging is the most freeing creative exercise there is.

With these credentials, I believe I am the perfect person to mediate the slamdown that happened on HBO between Buzz Bissinger and Will Leitch. If you haven't seen the event moderated by Bob Costas, I suggest you watch it first. OK.....and your back. Let me begin by saying that I happen to agree with most of what Bissinger said. Most blogs don't provide insightful writing, instead just offering up a snarky takes on information that they generally got from MSM. Blogs are often more like what you get from a caller on a sports talkshow or the guy sitting at the corner bar. I would argue that baseball blogs are the top in their field because so many do it because they are sabermetrically-driven. As fanatical as this group can be, they also happen to be usually highly-intelligent, so there is little tabloid journalism involved.

Will Leitch is actually one of the best writers that has come out of the blogging world, which is why he now contributes work to the MSM, as well. Leitch also has his name on the byline, so he can't hide behind a moniker, which as I've addressed before I think offers crediblility to your work. One problem with Leitch representing the blogosphere is that his site is more of an entertainment site than a blog. Deadspin to me is kind of like a TMZ for sports, with a Daily Show satirical view of its proceedings. Bissinger (and Costas) went on the attack against blogs using the comments section of Deadspin. That was unfair, as smearing Deadspin or other blogs for what a few readers offer misses the mark. At Baseball Toaster there is a policing of what is offered up and since our readership is much smaller, we rarely have some idiot post a comment that needs to be pulled.

A lot of people in the blogosphere have been slamming Buzz, but I thought it was great that he went postal. Truthfully, his performance defending old media was very new media. It was like he was Bob Knight and Jay Mariotti all thrown into one personality. Considering that these are 2 of the people I loathe the most, it is weird that I'm complimenting the guy, but the MSM usually is defended by David Brooks-types, so it was fun to hear Bissinger offer up the same shots, but in an aggressively profane style. Bissinger has written 3 of the best non-fiction books of the past couple of decades. This is an important point, as Bissinger is an author. He is not writing a column for a newspaper. He isn't as limited by newpaper editors or corporate interests like MSM is. When he writes a book like Friday Night Lights, Bissinger doesn't have to continue to cover the Odessa, TX scene every Friday night. Outside of the considerable legwork he does in reseach and the large bonus of having a top-notch editor help him craft his art, Bissinger has more in common with bloggers than MSM-types, when it comes to the freedom he has.

There is a place for both MSM and the blogosphere, just like there is a place for both the New York Times and the New York Post or C-Span and E! Entertainment. I know many bloggers and their readers take some kind of perverse glee in the destruction of newspapers. This is short-sighted, as most of the info they get to write their read and reacts comes from newspapers. The transitional period we are in of mostly commentary and little hard-nosed reporting does not help the culture. If ths was Bissinger's ultimate point, he was right and I'm sure it was something that Leitch would have agreed with. I welcome Bissinger to read most of the stuff that gets written here at Baseball Toaster, as I believe it is some of the best blogging that is offered up on the web. My guess is outside of some of the stuff I offer up at the Juice Blog, it would give him a more hopeful attitude about the concept of blogs.


Notes on an Execution
2008-05-01 07:20
by Will Carroll

Warning: Gratuitous Cursing!

Everyone on the fucking interwebs has had a chance to say their piece on the Costas Now panel discussion that saw Will Leitch (full disclosure: he's one of my friends, though we've never actually met, and we've written together) attacked by both Buzz Bissinger (full disclosure:he's an asshat of epic proportions and someone I have a long history with) and by Bob Costas. Bissinger was more overt, flailing his "notes" and cursing as much as Will ever does in a Deadspin post. It was Costas, who's made his disdain for blogs known, who did the more subtle placement of the dagger.

On the heels of the Clemens-McCready story, of the widespread reporting of Brian McNamee's stored garbage, of Alex Rodriguez's stalking which resulted in pictures of him and his swingin' pal, and countless others, Costas had the gall to ask Will if he'd go through someone's garbage. Braylon Edwards, who at least doesn't hide behind the stanchions, said it was wrong to post pictures of athletes doing stupid things. Here's the thought -- if you know that camera phones are everywhere, how about not doing something you don't want pictured?

One player I spoke to recently took things a step further. He noted that a club he frequents now requires patrons to "check" their cellphones at the door. The place is pretty popular with athletes and celebs. I figure this will be a growing trend at those high-end clubs, though I probably still can't get in.

Will brought up a great point. Matt Leinart is young, rich and good looking. He's drinking beers and hanging out in the hot tub with hot chicks. Good for him. He's not drinking and driving as far as I can tell. He's doing a beer bong, not a line of blow. I've been out recently and put a few more drinks into me than I should. If someone had pictures, I'd probably laugh, but I wouldn't hate that they were out there. Someone's going to have to pull a Barkley and remind people that if you're going to make athletes your role models, you might be disappointed when you find out their just human.

Minor off-topic: The other night on ABC's nightly newscast, they covered the "Miley Cyrus" controversy without once mentioning that they were owned by Disney, the company that created Cyrus and has a long term deal with Annie Liebowitz. Are you kidding me? How do you not at least mention this? ABC has done more damage to their journalistic credentials over the last month than Big Daddy Drew.

Update on this ... it was pointed out to me that Bissinger and Costas worked on a book together. I haven't read it, but it should have been disclosed. As well, Bissinger wrote the screenplay for "Shattered Glass." I think that fact is key here and might color much of his commentary on journalism.

As we see blogs growing and newspapers dying, I just laugh. We've had recent news that Murray Chass is being bought out by the NY Times and that Gordon Edes is headed from the Boston Globe to Yahoo. Is Edes' writing any less readable or informative at Yahoo than it was at the Globe? I read Peter Abraham's blog every single day and unless I go look it up, I have no idea whatsoever what newspaper he writes for. Kat O'Brien was a must-read for me on the Rangers and now she's a must read on the Yankees. I not only don't care what paper she writes for, I don't even care what TEAM she writes about. I read a ton of writers every day and I don't even get my local paper delivered. I'll read Evan Grant, T.R. Sullivan, and Jamey Newberg when I want to know about the Rangers. They're three writers in different mediums with different viewpoints -- and that's what I want!

For me, the democratization of the internet just allows the opportunity. Will's point about building readership was strong, but building credibility is an even harder thing. Will's had a hard time with that because he's willing to run things that don't meet the typical standards, such as the Albert Pujols connection to the Jason Grimsley story. Fact is, I was one of Will's sources on that, but he took the heat. I gave it to Will because I couldn't get a third independent source. I know now it's because the base information I was working with was incorrect.

But guess what -- factchecking wouldn't have stopped that any more than Buzz Bissinger's completely infactual article on pitch counts that ran in the NY Times. I've written for that same publication -- with Will Leitch! The irony! -- and know how they work. Bissinger made claims about pitch counts, pitcher age, and medical information that was such a leap as to be as out of touch with reality as he was out of touch with sanity and decorum on HBO's panel.

Several years ago, I tried to organize an Internet-based BBWAA. It was a wrongheaded idea, because it's not needed. Instead of artificial constructs, modern journalism is based on merit. If a writer comes from a newspaper, a blog, or something in between like or FanHouse, he'll get an audience if he's credible, talented, and informative. If he's not, he'll end up passed over and the blog will die. How many flash in the pans have we seen? Even the really good ones -- Brian Gunn, I'm looking at you -- can fade for various reasons. Just because we don't have a membership card or press box access doesn't make me feel like less of a colleague with Will Leitch, Ken Tremendous, Alex Belth, or Eric Seidman.

But I also feel like a colleague of Matthew Leach, Joe Posnanski, Jeff Passan, and Peter Gammons. They're all great writers, guys I aspire to match, and guys who are just one click away from me. On Ballbug, we're all equal, the way it should be.

HBO does an amazing job with sports coverage. The Costas Now show was done in a way I can't imagine any other organization doing it. While I feel they put Will Leitch in a near-impossible situation (almost as bad as the one Braylon Edwards was in!), he came out of it stronger. The best response is not flailing around on the net -- though the lack of discussion by Bissinger's peers is intriguing -- but watching the tape and seeing how Will acted in the face of what was, I think, supposed to be a firing line.

He made us proud. Now let's do the same by doing good work in whatever fucking form we choose.

Update: Bob Costas called me and had a long, off-record discussion about this situation. While I can't discuss the content, he came off as he usually does -- smart, classy, and open-minded. On the heels of that conversation, I want to clarify my statement about Costas. The conflict was clearly produced, but wasn't a "setup" or "ambush." You put people in the situation and hope that something happens. It clearly did and that's the medium - not right or wrong.

Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
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