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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The Astros are closing their Venezuelan training academy:
Twenty years ago, the Astros were the first team to start a baseball academy in Venezuela, and since then, dozens of products from that grassroots undertaking have gone on to enjoy successful and lucrative Major League careers, including outfielder Bobby Abreu and ace left-hander Johan Santana.
My first thought when I read this was "it has to be the economy." My second thought was "if it's not the economy, it's the fact that it's not safe for a promising ballplayer or their family in Venezuela these days, so best to get them out of country ASAP." If the Astros are telling the truth, I was wrong on both counts:
The changes have nothing to do with on-going political unrest in Venezuela, or the flailing economy in this country, according to club officials. This is instead an effort to develop players at an earlier age and accelerate their ascension to the big leagues, using the bulk of their resources on signing players while saving on operating costs.
Which would be a good reason. Still, what was it about the Venezuelan academy that forced the Astros to keep the kids down too long? Lots of teams have foreign academies, and this doesn't seem to be a problem. Won't Houston just keep the guys in the Dominican or the GCL too long now?
They're playing a bowl game at Tropicana Field this weekend. As soon as I read this, a question popped into my head. Thankfully, the article answers it:
Could a football hit the catwalks at the Trop? The highest catwalks — the A and B rings — are at least 142 feet above the field, far too high for any football. The C catwalk, which goes directly over the end zone in rightfield, is 99 feet up, leaving the only reasonably reachable catwalk as the D ring, which never crosses the field of play but sits at 59 feet in centerfield and slightly higher over the stands in rightfield.
A video of Vin Scully reflecting on his near 60-year career in the booth. Try not to mist up a bit when he says that "the wolves are getting near the campfire."
In other news, I'd listen to Vin Scully read the instructions for heating up a microwave burrito.
Looking for a fresh opportunity, Cesar Izturis believes he's found one with the Orioles.
Look, somebody has to play there because if there wasn't a shortstop, there would be an awful lot of base hits to the left side of the infield.
As for the hitting? Well, that might have been a wash.
As a Braves fan, I'm not sure what to think about this. I like Furcal -- always did -- and if Wren is intent on giving up on Escobar to get some pitching, at least he's got a good glove to go along with that bat. If healthy, he's better than Escobar, and if healthy, he can help the Braves return to the playoffs. A place, I might add, they haven't been since Furcal left town the first time.
Thing is, I kind of like Escobar, and I hoped that he would be the shortstop for, oh, the next decade or so. There's something nice about watching a team win with players who were there when the team was losing. Yes, Furcal was originally a Braves product, but he left, and my feelings towards seeing him in a Braves uniform again will be much like my feelings upon seeing Glavine return last year. It's nice, but it's different, and it can never truly be the same.
As I noted this morning, THT's Fantasy Focus has enabled comments. I think this is a good thing in that, as I've said before, blogs are about conversations, and comments make the blogger-reader communication a genuine two-way street. I encourage you all to comment on the stuff you read wherever you read it, because the more feedback someone hears, the less likely they are to believe their own baloney, and the belief in one's own baloney is the cause of about 75% of the bad writing out there.
The Fantasy Focus comments got me thinking about my own comments section. Since the move over to THT a couple of weeks ago, I've gotten the sense that comments are down. Since I'm lazy I wasn't going to go back and count, but blogger Scott Simkus isn't lazy, and he sent me the following email this morning:
For fun, I took some time comparing your last 120 posts at the old “Classic” site versus your first 120 at the new home, just to analyze the comments sections.
Hurm. My intuition is confirmed. My first response was to blame the tougher steroid testing regime, but that's probably not true. Beyond that, here are some non-mutually exclusive thoughts on the matter:
1) A bigger pond like THT makes some readers feel like they have less ownership, for lack of a better term, over the forum. When people felt like it was just me and them and a couple of other people talking -- which is how it really was a little more than a year ago -- they may have been inclined to gab all day. Now they may think that there are too many eyes, or the club is not as exclusive, or that I'm too busy or something, and are thus less inclined to comment. This is not true, but I understand that some people may feel that way;
2) The content in the first two+ weeks since the changeover has, I'll admit it, been a tad boring. Or maybe not boring per se, but certainly less conducive to commenting. That's the news cycle, really. It's hard for me to describe precisely, but there are certain types of posts that draw comments and certain types that don't, and for the past couple of weeks, there have been far more of the latter rather than the former. These things tend to even out, but I wouldn't be surprised if that has contributed to lighter commenting. Meta-bloggy posts like this one and the one from this morning don't help, by the way, and I realize that;
3) A technical explanation: I have no idea why it is, but THT, for some reason, makes you refresh in order to immediately see your comment if you were just recently -- say, within the last five minutes -- on the comments page on which you posted. It could be a cookies thing, but I don't pretend to understand, and just talking about cookies makes me hungry. In any event, I'm guessing that we've lost some commenters because they either think that I'm moderating comments or they think their comments are disappearing into the ether or something, which is not true. If you have any thoughts about this, by all means, comment.
Overall, traffic has increased pretty nicely from the old site to the new, so I know people are reading. The hope now is that you all find it worthwhile to tell me when I'm full of it, and then some of you others tell them that they're full of it for telling me that I'm full of it. I find that sort of thing to be great fun, and the best part is that we all usually learn something when smart people start arguing.
So, play nice, but play hard.
Yesterday I threw out a quick jab at ESPN's "report" of Barry Bonds saying he was still not retiring, taking issue at the fact that the story wasn't really reporting as much as it was regurgitating a paparazzi encounter and passing it off as news. I received the following comment in response to the article from a reader named Floyd:
I am surprised, actually. To begin with, I think we can agree that Barry Bonds’ assertion that he is not retired is of interest (to some), and is newsworthy. Thus, your complaint largely rests on the source of that information. And it surprises me that, as a user/advocate of one newly-emerging medium, you would be snobbish about another newly-emerging medium. Frankly, this post kind of sounds like the BBWAA members who sniff and turn their noses at blogs.
It was a fair comment given my brief and rather flip post. I responded to Floyd in the comments, but I want to reiterate it here. Not to pick on Floyd, but because as is often the case when I blog on the fly, a fuller, more satisfying take formed in my head later, and I think it's worth sharing with the rest of the class. WARNING: this is meta-bloggy-media stuff, and I realize many of you don't care for that sort of thing. If so, please click referesh for a while, and I'm sure some baseball will happen along eventually.
Actually, I won’t grant Floyd's first point about Bonds' assertion being newsworthy, partially because of the second point (i.e. the source of that information). Barry Bonds has long said he is not retired. Said it all last season, in fact, and much was written about grievances and feelers to teams and all of that. As such, unless and until Bonds says something different, a reiteration of his unretiredness is not terribly newsworthy. Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.
The context matters, though. Here, a Paparazzo stuck a camera in someone’s face and they said something. That’s fine. It’s a free country. But how much weight should we give that? What if Barry is seriously thinking of filing his retirement papers tomorrow. Is he going to decide to just jump the gun and announce it to a guy with a camcorder in the valet line? Even if he does, how do we know he’s not messing with the guy on the spur of the moment? We don’t know, really, and part of the reason we don’t know is because it’s not a setting in which a followup question can be asked or the subject's answers challenged. On that basis, I'm fine with criticizing the report as non-news.
But I also take issue with the accusation of snobbery on my part for not taking the side of my fellow travelers in new media, the video journalist. Yes, I'm a blogger, and not surprisingly, I think the medium of blogging is great. But I also think the medium of traditional reporting is great. I also think citizen photo journalists armed with cameras and no fear is great. In other words, it’s all good. The thing is, however, each medium has its strengths and weaknesses.
How does this work in practice? To see, we'll need more bullet points!
The point here is that it’s not us against them. It’s not bloggers vs. the MSM. It’s not even words against video. They’re all tools in the media’s toolkit, and they’re all essential to giving the fans and the public the full picture of what’s going on in the world. Anyone who talks about blogging being an inherently better medium than reporting, or vice-versa, or vice-versa-with-video, is someone more interested in turf wars than they are in learning about anything. Hell, I am a blogger, and if you told me that I could only read blogs going forward, I'd probably kill myself.
Back to the toolkit: in this case, I think ESPN relied on the flat side of a crescent wrench to pound in a nail. Rather than run a transcript of a TMZ video like they did, they should have used it as the basis to ask Barry or his representatives a couple of questions: is it true you’re still wanting to play? Have you talked to any front offices about 2009? Have you been working out? Something that would render Barry’s assertion more or less believable depending on his answers. ESPN didn’t do that, however, and I found that rather lazy, which is why I posted what I posted. Fidelity to the "new media" or whatever didn't enter into it, and it won't as long as I'm writing this blog.
Sports Business Journal has released its annual 50 Most Influential in Sports Business list. Your top baseball guy is, no surprise, Bud Selig at number 6. Part of the comment on Selig: "While he’ll never be fully appreciated or beloved by the public, Selig remains highly popular with club owners and fully secure and effective in his position."
Which is absolutely right, no matter what anyone else says about him.
The Phillies just gave a 46 year-old pitcher a two year deal. The fun part: it's way less likely that they'll be burned on this than it will be for the Yankees to be burned by the five-year deal they just gave a 32 year-old.
Columbus like a Christmas tree,
Tonight this city belongs to me.