Monthly archives: January 2009
At the age of 10 my Dad decided that it was time for me to get a paper route. I mean I was in 4th grade, so why not give a child of one whole decade on this earth a job which required 7 days of work for 365 days a year. Sure no one else has a job that you are responsible doing every day, including holidays, but hey, with a generous pay package of 15 dollars a week, who wouldn't want that for their child?
Oh, did I mention that my Dad lied about my age because you were required to be 12 years old to get the prestigious gig? Fortunately for me, I had that Greg Oden disease where I looked older than my age. Remember the kid who could grow an Abe Lincoln beard at 10? Remember the kid who you noticed in the locker room having pubes at 8? That would have been me, so my Dad knew I was in the clear. I guess he felt he deserved such luck considering that he got dirty stares claiming I was younger than I was when it would help him pay less at the movie theatre. (He didn't have the same problem at drive-in movies because he would make me get into the trunk until we got through the gate.)
So I'm delivering the Des Moines Tribune, the afternoon version of the Register. (Yes youngsters, there used to be an afternoon edition in every major city in the country.) After school, I would ride my bike to the area they dropped my bundle off at, then I would stick the papers in the newspaper bag I tied to my handlebars. Since the route was more than a mile away, I would ride my bike anytime it was possible and sometimes even when it wasn't. Snowfall wasn't a problem, as long as the streets were plowed.
When I was 12, I can remember getting a moped for Xmas. At the time, it was kind of the rage, so on one-hand it was thrill seeing it on Xmas morning. The other hand was that I knew that a gift of this quality meant indentured servitude to my Dad for the rest of the year. consider that your allowance. He ended up driving the moped as much as me to work , which wasn't good considering the weight limit was supposed to be 190 and since he was pushing 240, he looked like one of those brothers from the Guinness Book of Records, when he was riding the hog.You need to paint the house this week, I mean I bought you a moped for Christmas! An allowance? I bought you a moped for Christmas!
Don't think that this was a Honda moped, my Dad was far too cheap to go that direction. This was an AMC moped.
For those of you that never had a paper route, one of the most amazing parts of doing the gig was that you had to collect your money from your customers. For some reason, the electric company or Ma Bell didn't need to go door-to-door to get their money, but a young kid who was collecting a $1.50 a week, was required to do it. Since I had an abusive father, I lacked confidence with adults, so if someone didn't answer their door a couple of times, I would get intimidated asking for 2 or 3 weeks pay. A bill of $4.50 seemed enormous to me and I was scared to ask them, so I would often just eat it. Maybe I only made 12 dollars that week, but at least I didn't have to deal with some possibly angry authority figure.
The thing I remember most about doing the job was how cold I would be delivering papers in the winter. There were times where I was walking home in windchills below 0 degrees wondering if I would be losing a toe. It was like I was on some expedition of Everest, except there was no great end result of reaching the summit. My summit was getting home and getting to relive this ordeal the next day. It blows my mind, now that I look back at it, that children were encouraged to do this. It really irks me to think that many of the people who I would collect from would claim they didn't have the $1.50 or in cold weather would say "I'll go get it", then slam the door and make me freeze my sweet cheeks off while they putted around looking for their checkbook.
There was a silver lining, though. This job allowed me to buy sports books and sports cards with the money my parents didn't make me put in a weekly savings for college. (NOTE: The couple thousand bucks I was able to save during my time doing this gig was taken out by my legal guardian, my Dad, who used it on a private investigator to try to find me and Mom, when we finally left and did are own version of witness protection. I can't pretend that during the 8 years I spent paying off my student loans I didn't think about this with some bitterness. Now back to the silver lining.) I had quite a collection of cards, which were my most treasured possession. I considered using a baseball card to get me into this writing exercise, but I thought it seemed kind of gimmicky. Really, who would want to read such a self-absorbed concept?
I also would occasionally buy wacky packages. Since I loved Cracked magazine (better than Mad magazine to my young brain), the wacky packages were a perfect extension. I decided to use the Gadzooka offering here, because I was a serious bubble gum freak. While I loved Hubba Bubba and thought that watermelon Bubblicious was the bomb, the greatest gum was Grape Bubble Yum. Just the smell of it would make my mouth water like I was Amy Winehouse at a meth trailer.
Since I was not exactly flush with cash, but needed to fill my addiction to sugary nuggets of gum, I would buy a couple of packs on my way to school and then sell each piece to other students who weren't as industrious. Grape Bubble Yum
Catch Past Juice Blog Contributor Tommy Johnagin on Comedy Central this Friday
If there is a better comic under the age of 30 than Tommy Johnagin, I haven't seen him. This Friday night, Tommy's Comedy Central special will debut at 10:00 pm EST. A couple of years ago, Tommy wrote a great road story for this site. Since then, he has had a meteoric rise in the comedy biz, which includes a highly coveted spot on Lettermen in 2008. (Very few standups get on with Dave.) Now comes the Comedy Central special, which I'm pretty confident you will love.
On another standup note, I want to congratulate another good friend, Dan Cummins for finishing 3rd in the Comedy Central Standup Showdown. If you haven't seen Dan's standup, you are missing out, as he has a completely original voice. While this is not like his standup, I suggest you check out the Myspace video he has done, featuring the talents of a Johnny Gunn.
Please Explain: The Initial Launch of the MLB Network
Are you officially a network if no one is watching? OK, maybe that is a bit harsh, but what a colossal bore the new baseball network has been. Unless you have never seen Ken Burns' wonderful PBS documentary or you are a historian of old game highlights, the only thing the network offers of any quality is its Hot Stove show. Yes, I know that it is January and it will amp up when spring training and the WBC begins, but that is no excuse for not coming out of the gate with more intriguing programming.
I'm aware that baseball doesn't lend itself to the exciting footage that the NFL does, but the clips are only part of the magic that NFL Films has added to its finished products. Steve Sabol has brought humor and an edge to most of the work he's done, with the NFL having enough foresight to know that their work has helped grow their game. While MLB doesn't have a great library of shows to offer to its new network like NFL Films brought to the NFL Network, it is inexcusable, considering the lengthy amount of time it had before launching that the MLB Network didn't create some better documentaries than its weak Prime 9. I wrote over a year ago that the MLB Network should emulate the NFL Network and create its own version of America's Game, the brilliant documentary program covering each Super Bowl champ. Sadly, nothing even close has aired on the MLB Network of America's Game quality.
The one major topic that baseball has which completely trumps football is the place statistics holds to its fans. If you wanted to get many of your hardcore customers to watch the channel in January (and who else would have that much interest, otherwise), there should be a show featuring sabermetrical talk. Even if it was just once a week, why isn't there a round-table show with statistical experts discussing current and historical issues with a sabermetrical slant? And while I'm on the subject of the MLB Network whiffs, where is a fantasy baseball show? This is the other subject that could interest many hardcore fans during the off-season.
I have no beef with the hiring of the on-air talent for the Hot Stove show. Its analysts are head and shoulders above what you see on Baseball Tonight, well except for when you get the occasional Gammons or Kurkjian sighting. The hiring of Tom Verducci and Jon Heyman were really good moves. I know a lot of people around here rip Harold Reynolds, but he is really telegenic and baseball on ESPN has suffered since he left. Where I do think the MLB Network missed out was by not hiring a top-notch host to be the face of the channel like Rich Eisen has provided for the NFL Network. Someone with some edge and a good sense of humor is needed to keep a 24-hour network dedicated to one topic seem fresh and it just isn't there right now. The Big 10 Network has its own problems, but the hiring of Dave Revsine from ESPN was a wise move to be their version of Eisen.
I'm sure when the actual season starts I will look past some of these issues, as having a channel completely dedicated to baseball, featuring highlights and live look-ins will camouflage a lot of problems. I'm just at a loss of why the channel decided to kick off in January 2009, instead of waiting at least until pitchers and catchers show up. I'm even more disappointed in the pathetic quality of its original documentaries.
If you're going to have your own network, you need to invest more in original programming. My first move to improve the network would be to hire some of the top people away from NFL Films and let them have the freedom to do what they need to create quality documentary programming. The other move I would make would be to give Baseball Prospectus its own show, which would give the network some edge and at the same time take away the idea that the MLB Network is just a mouthpiece for the owners. (I realize that probably won't happen, but a good compromise would be to hire a couple of the guys from BP to bring some much needed contrarian analysis.)
I'm happy that the MLB Network exists, but it is off to a pretty dismal beginning.
Best Dressed President of All-Time
Note: This is not a picture of recently signed Sox free-agent Bartolo Colon.
Why I'm Not Part of the 79% Who are Optimistic about the Next 4 Years
A recent CBS/NY Times poll reports that 79% of Americans are optimistic about the next 4 years under Barack Obama. Here's my thoughts on that question. I feel Obama is the right person for the job, but it is the job itself that is the problem. Even though Obama mentions the disaster our current economy is in, most Americans seem to have little understanding of how bad it really is since it hasn't really hit like it will. Unless you live in a state like Michigan or Ohio, you don't have a great feel of how it will be in the near future.
Here are my thoughts on what needs to be done.
Tell the AARP and its members that there is going to be major changes in how Social Security and Medicare will be used.
Politicians have been afraid of doing anything to social security benefits for decades, despite anyone who had a shred of honesty knowing that the government's version of a Madoff scheme was about to combust. Well, the subprime mess has exacerbated the problem, as we now are printing money like we are working in a Parker Bros factory. It is time to raise the retirement age, cut benefits to people who make over 100 grand a year and pull back the financial disaster that is the Medicare prescription drug plan. There are plenty of good articles about this subject, but I suggest a good place to begin is a column Robert Samuelson wrote in Newsweek. The greatest generation got way more than they ever paid in, so we need to act quickly on making sure the baby boomers don't continue this heist. We never could really afford it as a nation, with now more than ever that being the case.
Global Warming isn't as Important as Some Tell You
I believe it exists. I believe in promoting being a more earth-friendly citizen. This is not the time, though, that we should be pushing more new regulations that will hurt American business in the short-term. While I'm not someone who doesn't believe that global warming is a problem, there are real questions if its effects are as great as is preached by its zealots.
Push for Civil Unions for Gays
I'm all for Gay people being able to marry, but I'm in the minority on this one. Most of the country is not ready for Gays to marry. Instead, the focus should be on civil unions that would provide many of the protections that married couples have. The success of civil unions will eventually make for the next step, especially after a lot of old people starting dying off. Much like legalization of pot, it is more of a generational issue in being opposed to the concept of gay marriage. If you want to help the President you love so much, give Obama some time on this one. He doesn't need a hot button issue like this one to come up too soon, while he's dealing with bigger things.
Set a Time Table for Major Withdrawal in Iraq
Use the problems in Palestine or Afghanistan or our current financial crisis as reasons for needing to get out, but do it soon. The Iraqi government needs to be motivated to take more control. Yes it won't be a pretty exit, but here is where being a man of color with a Muslim middle name should help, right? It will also be time to see if Europeans mean what they say in their supports of Obama. The big, bad Bushie is gone, so we are going to need some of your troops to make-a-the-peace, when we leave the massive vacuum of security for the Iraqi's when we high-tail it out of there.
Increase the Size and Power of the IRS
During the Bush administration, this department has been devastated. It is part of successful democracy that people are forced to pay their fair share. We need more agents and we need to quickly shutdown the Cayman Island money shuffle which has gotten worse and worse over the past decade. Oh and can the nomination of Timonthy Geither, Barack. It sets a horrible example to have the US Treasury Secretary be a guy who doesn't pay his taxes properly. I'm not buying his excuses. If he's such a brilliant guy, he shouldn't have been dumb enough to do what he did.
Put Universal Health Care on the Backburner
This one hurts, but with the current economic mess we are in, it just isn't the time to push this through. We should try to set up a system that covers uninsured children in a more cost-effective way than Medicaid does, but that might be about all we can do right now.
I'm sure I pissed off about everybody with this list, but we are in really dire straits right now and we need to to have political leadership that is willing to look past what will get them elected next time. Since I don't feel very confident in Pelosi or Reid and have no confidence in Boehner and McConnell, I'm really hoping that Obama will be willing to make the tough choices Bush rarely ever did. I feel positive about him being up to the job, but I'm very pessimistic on the massive challenges we are set to face. Hopefully, I'm wrong and the next 4 years will be a positive place. Considering the way we have been running up our personal and government credit cards over the past 8 years, I'm not confident about that, though.
My Apology for a Past Piece
Back in September of 2004, I wrote that for the Democrats, winning the election might not be the best thing in the long run. I further added this prediction of the future.
OK Scott, we get it, you are a political genius. Is this another self-congratulatory piece of bloggery? No, I am here to apologize. While what I wrote did mainly come true, it came at a lot heavier price than I could've imagined. You see my dislike of John Kerry clouded my judgment, as because even a pompous ass like him would have helped us avoid some of the turmoil we find ourselves in. I apologize for my thinking Bush winning would be best for our country in the long run.
Do Hall of Fame Voters Understand the Game?
Let me begin by sharing this little nugget. Jim Rice was my favorite player during the time of his career. I can remember when he came up with the Red Sox in 1975 and believing, despite Fred Lynn winning the rookie of the year, that Rice would have won it, if not getting hurt in September I am not an unbiased person when it comes to his candidacy. Despite all these wistful feelings for him, I realize that Rice was not a Hall of Fame player.
It really comes down to this for me. His home splits kept him at a higher respect level than he truly deserved. His OPS in Fenway was .920, which during the time period was automatic Cooperstown numbers. It is on the road, where his OPS was .789 that changes the equation. A corner OF/DH with these numbers is just not good enough. Even his tracking stats aren't enough, as he didn't have 400 homers and didn't have a lifetime BA over .300. As a player, he reminds me of Albert Belle. A power-htter who intimated with his bat and his disdane for the media, but a player who ultimately fell short of Hall of Fame numbers. Of course, now he's in, so it just goes down as another example of the HOF voters blowing it.
(A note on Home/Away Splits: I believe they are the most underused statistic in baseball. Where it is really hard to judge players from one time period to another, it is much easier to see who was underrated and who was overrated by looking at their home/away splits. Cub fans, check out Milton Bradley this way. His road split for 2008 was very similar to what he has done his whole career. There is a reason that Michael Young isn't as hot of a commodity in the trade market. His road OPS during his career is .just 728. Last year I discussed how the topic of Josh Hamilton being the AL MVP was completely wrong-headed, considering how much worse he was away from hitting heaven in Arlington. (OPS was .200 points lower on the road.)
The biggest travesty of the 2009 HOF voting was how Rickey Henderson didn't even get 95% of the votes. Someone needs to do a personal investigation on this one, as Rickey was the greatest lead-off man since Ty Cobb. Some might argue that hey, what's the big deal, he still got most of the votes, but that misses the point. There is not one person who shouldn't have voted for him. His value to the teams he played for should have made him a unanimous choice. I realize that no one has ever gotten that high of a number, but for more than 5% of the voters to leave him off should be enough to have their membership revoked. Hopefully they work for one of the papers that will be folded by next year. Of course, the value of a great leadoff man has always been underrated. If you don't believe me, look at the miserable voting record for Tim Raines, who should already be in Cooperstown.
I have written before on this subject, so I don't want to spend a bunch of time revisiting my reasoning. If you want to know more specifics on who should be included, check out this piece from 2006 and add Raines to the list and take-off Gossage, who was put in last year.
Bowl Game Wrap-up
Who else would reference Britney, MSNBC Lockdown, the Wu Tang Clan, and Strom Thurmond while they were doing a bowl game review? Also included is how the Pac-10 is getting jobbed and USC is the best team in the nation.
Go to my new website, NSFWsports.com. This is the place where you will get the uncensored thoughts of Scott.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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