Friday, July 29, 2011
*I did put an explanation for the plus-minus in the pages section of the blog.
Not to give away anything you don't already get in the trailer -- in Source Code this super-secret government agency is trying to catch a bad guy, and because of some vague scientific breakthrough that is only ridiculous if you think about it, they can send Jake Gyllenhaal back to the scene of a previous bombing for eight minutes. And they can keep sending him back, over and over again, eight minutes every time, though something quizzically called the "Source Code." For some reason, he doesn't just watch the past -- like Harry Potter when he goes into the Pensieve -- but he can actually change things. The Gyllenhaal character thinks he's really changing the past. The scientist explains he's only changing the source code. And so on. A lot of it doesn't hold up well to even mildly critical analysis, but it's a lot of fun to watch, and I'm strongly considering naming Michelle Monaghan as my top Hollywood crush.*
*I kind of feel I need to change things up: I've had Natalie Portman as much Hollywood Crush for too long (and Wynona Ryder was there for perhaps even longer). Meanwhile my wife Margo changes her crush every three minutes -- it's Daniel Craig … no, it's Ewan McGregor … no, it's Jude Law … not it's that Horatio Hornblower guy … no, it's Colin Firth … no, it's some British actor I've never heard of … she's just spending a lot more time on this than I am. So, I might just switch to Michelle Monaghan to keep her guessing.
Anyway, the whole idea of being able to go back and change the past made me wonder: What would be my Top 10 Sports Code moments in sports? That is to say: What would I go back and change.
There are only two conditions that I just invented for Sports Code.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
My friend Bob Costas left a message for me yesterday. It was a very nice message -- Bob is a great guy -- but he also had a slight disagreement. Bob and I are very often on the same page when it comes to baseball, but he was reading a small essay I wrote in the magazine this week and he noticed this line:
"(Barry) Bonds and (Roger) Clemens are two of the best who ever played the game. If not for the steroid noise that surrounds them, you could make a viable argument that they are simply the two best ever."
I should say that my thinking, when I wrote the line, was simply that if you took their numbers and performances at face value, you could make the viable argument that they are the two best ever. Bob, though, read it differently. He thought that I was actually saying without steroids Bonds and Clemens are two of the best ever, perhaps even THE two best ever. This did not bother him so much for Clemens, but it did bother him for for Bonds. He strongly disagrees.
There is something I have wanted to say for a while about big-time college athletics, but it is one of those weird thoughts that is both blindingly obvious and strangely difficult to put into words. That's why I had never written it before. It was reading Michael's piece, and this sentence in particular -- "If we wanted to be completely fair, then football and basketball players would not be forced to subsidize non-revenue athletes" -- that opened the door. It has been a long time since I read a sentence I more strongly disagreed with.
And that led to the words that form the heart of this piece … words that, I have to say, surprised me: "College athletics are NOT about the players."
You are more than welcome to stop reading now.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Meanwhile: E-migo Rob Neyer has an interesting post that he titled: Jerry Meals might have been right. Seriously.
Once again, I disagree with 63% of it. Maybe 64%. I don't think that the word "might" is wide enough to cover the chance that Meals was right on the call that ended Tuesday's 19-inning game between Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Well, I suppose if you want to use "might" in the grand sense, as in: "Lady Gaga might be Mozart reincarnated," or "newspapers might be the hot business model for the next century," then it could work. But if might represents something that actually MIGHT be true, then no, I don't think there's almost any chance that Meals got the call right.
BUT, I think Rob's larger point is dead on.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
The 2011 Mariners are averaging a 10th a run or so more per game -- maybe because a higher percentage of the few hits they're getting are for extra bases. But, as a friend of mine says, distinctions on a certain level are not worth making. The Mariners offense was in full bloom of stinkiosity in 2010. And it's no better in 2011. The losing streak should be no surprise.
No, the surprise is this: Before the losing streak the Mariners had a .500 record.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Still ... this is all just the prelude. We are about 18 months away from the craziest Baseball Hall of Fame election ever, the one that I think will define Cooperstown for future generations. This class will be even crazier than the FIRST Hall of Fame election, I think. Six remarkable players will become eligible for the Hall. All six may end up in the Hall of Fame. Then again, none of the six may end up in the Hall of Fame. It all depends on how the wind blows.
I was going to say "I don't care," because, to be honest, that's the sort of thing that I say when I'm driving and we had just made another unscheduled rest stop for one of the daughters, and there's a car hovering just behind me in the left lane, and we're behind schedule. But the truth is, I didn't even care enough to say "I don't care." Blueberries? Somewhere? I could not muster the necessary energy to pull "I don't care" out of my vocal chords.
And so I said: "Idoca."
So that's my newest word: "Idoca (EYE-doh-kah), noun, an exclamation made when prompted by something so uninteresting to you that you cannot summon the passion to enunciate the entire phrase: 'I don't care.'"
Friday, July 22, 2011
The frustration part is easy too: I just can't get to ALL the good ideas or MOST of the ideas or even SOME of the ideas. Every now and again, I can get to one. But that's about it. There just aren't enough hours ... well, you know.
So: Here's an effort to beat the frustration. I threw a few reader ideas into one blog post.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
*Mother's Basement Geeks. I am hoping to have membership cards made.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
As part of the celebration, the Royals players and the opponents usually wear Negro Leagues replica uniforms. This is a nice gesture that gives the game a special feel. Later, they auction off the uniforms to raise some money. It's a nice, easy, and relatively cheap way to make the promotion a little bit better.
This year, the Royals decided not to wear the uniforms. The reason for this is generally unclear -- the explanation in Sam's column is that the Royals just wanted to try something different -- which strongly suggests that, once again, they were too cheap to do the thing right.
If the Royals had a strong history of doing things right, of course, you would give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was just an innocent mistake. But they don't have such a history. In fact, while reading Sam's column, I felt a shudder of memory: I wrote about the Royals being too cheap to wear Negro Leagues uniforms NINE YEARS AGO. At the time, the Royals were a wreck financially and structurally. Their connection to the community had become frayed to the point of breaking. They were, essentially, a national joke.
Things are supposed to be different now. The Royals are supposed to be going in the right direction. They are supposed to be building a model franchise. You may or may not care about Negro Leagues Day. You may or may not think they should even have one. But that's not what this is about. If they are going to HAVE a Negro Leagues Day, they should not let a few grand keep them from buying special uniforms for the players and the event. But they did.
Anyway, Sam's column sparked me to go back and find my original column. It ran June 28, 2002 in The Kansas City Star. With a mere changing of the names, it could run today. I enclose it here:
Jeff Francoeur this season is hitting .269/.312/.451.
Jeff Francoeur in his career is hitting .268/.310/.427.
In other words, Frenchy is hitting EXACTLY like he has hit his entire career. Well, not exactly -- over 369 plate appearances, has basically has one more hit and eight more total bases than his career numbers would predict. But it's almost mathematically and logically impossible for a player to hit MORE like his career numbers halfway through the season.
So: Frenchy is Frenchy. No better. No worst. Exactly the same.
But ... he is better. Why?
Thursday, July 7, 2011
The 1957 Kansas City Athletics lost 94 games. That was still a terrible team. They finished dead last in the league in runs scored and next-to-last in runs allowed, and that will often prove to be a nasty cocktail for a baseball team. But that team did have a 29-year-old bantamweight of a second baseman who had been a World Series hero. That was Billy Martin, who would manage his players to two pennants, a World Series championship and many, many hours of therapy.
Any day now, Derek Jeter will become the 28th man to reach 3,000 hits. And Jeter, like the rest, won't be remembered for that. Hey, how do you remember 3,000 anything? You don't. Nobody remembers the sales figures. With Jeter, people cannot help but remember the moments because there were so many moments and we saw them all.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
That, more or less, has been the short and happy history of the Poscast.
Monday, July 4, 2011
*Though, there could be prizes involved. I'm just saying.
The biggest issue, we both think, is that the All-Star Game isn't about anything anymore. It's an exhibition that claims to count. Or it's a game that counts except that nobody who participates in it cares. The All-Star Game knew what it was once -- it was an exhibition game featuring the best players as voted by the fans. It didn't mean anything, no, but it DID mean something because in the All-Star Game's best days America still had an enthusiasm for meaningless but interesting events. Match races. Battle of the sexes. Battle of the Network Stars. Non-championship bouts. Grudge matches. That sort of thing. The All-Star Game was an event because, well, when else were you going to see the best players in the world?
That was then. Now if you have the baseball package, or you just watch Baseball Tonight, you can see the best players in the world EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. We are overloaded. Our attention must be wooed and recruited and captured. The idea that our nation would be riveted by a consolation game, much less an exhibition game for nothing at all, seems as quaint and old fashioned as the rotary phone.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
"You mean HIGH quality," she will snap. Dictionaries allow for "quality" to mean "superiority in kind" (Merriam Webster) or "general excellence" (Oxford) but my friend will tell you that this is because dictionaries have become wimpy and won't stand up for anything ("Dictionaries are of low quality these days," she might say). In her world "Quality" will always mean a DEGREE of excellence, meaning the word will always need a modifier to make it say anything. Something can be of high quality, low quality, barely acceptable quality. But to say something like "This is a quality sandwich," or "She is a quality human being," will make her insane.
Friday, July 1, 2011
The idea for this list sparked this week when Johnny Damon got the 2,654th hit of his career. This tied him with Ted Williams. And it AMAZES me. It doesn't amaze me in the larger context. Damon has 1,500 more at-bats than Williams. When I tweeted about, people immediately sniped with the point that Ted Williams went to war twice -- a fact that, it is at least possible, I already knew. But that's what I mean about taking stuff seriously. I'm not suggesting that Johnny Damon is as good a hitter as Ted Williams or half as good or a quarter as good. Johnny Damon's BEST full offensive season (2000 was no slouch of a year -- for Kansas City, he hit .327, scored 136 runs, led the league with 46 stolen bases) was probably not as good as Ted Williams WORST full offensive season (1956, when he hit .345/.479/.605 in 503 plate appearances).
And yes, Ted Williams went to war. Twice.
But that does not change this: Johnny Damon has as many hits as Ted Williams. If you phrase the question right, you could probably win a free beer with the next time you're at a bar with that one. It's something fun to talk about.
So, I spent a day just looking around and came up with 14 little baseball facts -- maybe they are conversations starters, maybe they will win you a bar bet, maybe they will just give you a fun little buzz. And maybe they will inspire you to write in the comments: "So, wait, are you crazy? Are you really saying that Ron Kittle was better than Lou Gehrig?"
Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying.