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Monday, February 23, 2009
You should probably take a lesson from the industrial produce cooler industry:
Sanders also points out that besides enjoying steady growth, American Cooling is trying to diversify its base. What he means is that strawberries are becoming a bigger part of the commodity mix the coolers handle. "Our strawberry business has increased dramatically," Sanders said, which explains why he has been so busy.
So they build their strawberry coolers themselves and only when there's a demand for them. How novel!
Nate Silver runs a projection on A-Rod's chances at passing Barry Bonds. That's well and good and you can click through for Nate's handicapping of the chances, but I'm struck by one of the positive indicators he throws out:
Perverse Incentives, Part I. Rodriguez stands to make a $30 million bonus if he breaks the all-time home run record. If he gets close, those are 30 million reasons for him to extend his career until he does, rather than consider early retirement.
At the risk of sounding like one of those awful wannabe populist columnists -- and with the full realization that this would never, ever happen -- how much fun would it be if A-Rod announced next week that he was donating his $30 million bonus to anti-drug charities? It would be delicious chaos, no? How does anyone root against him? Sure, you could call him a crazy, image-obsessed drug user, but think of the kids! He could even let Hank Aaron pick the charities! The columnists' heads would 'asplode.
These are the things I think about when I'm hopped up on cold medicine like I am today.
Here's a fun story about the time Deion Sanders maybe wanted to kick Buster Olney's ass. Alas, it didn't end in violence:
So I returned to the press box before game time, not knowing about the Clippers' team meeting and wondering whether Sanders' anger had subsided and he thought it a waste of time to complain about a column written in a small afternoon paper (one that would fold a decade later).
I sort of like that Olney is leading off his link-o-ramas with stories like this. Sure, it started off poorly with the frozen dog poop thing, but he could write about different ballplayers wanting to beat him up every day if he wants to and I'd read it.
Many people have thrown up their hands in disgust with all of the steroids news lately, and I understand that. It's not baseball, for one thing. It's also so unseemly and tabloidy that it's easy to get fed up with it all in short order. But it is news and it is relevant, so simply hiding our heads in the sand about it all makes little sense either. What to do? Will Carroll has a suggestion:
If journalists are going to admit that they were asleep at the wheel throughout much of the steroid era, it’s time to start asking the hard questions. I’ve seen, so far, only one instance of this, with Ivan Rodriguez. Credit to whoever it was that asked, though I can’t find it online.
Will plays with the idea of asking individual players if they used or not. I don't think that's the way to go. Way too Salem for my tastes, and it really only gives us one piece of information. But I do agree that we need to veer away from the sensationalism in which the current state of the coverage seems to wallow and focus less on the names for the name's sake, because that leads us into the cycle of shallow journalism and opinion that gets us all sick of this subject to begin with.
As things are, your standard steroid story goes as follows: (a) user identified; (b) hysteria over the identification; (c) coverage of the apology/statement; and (d) some backfill on the player, usually of the salacious variety (e.g. Mindy McCreedy; phantom cousins in the D.R.). Then things are forgotten for a while, only to have the cycle begin anew when someone else is identified. How much nicer would it be if, instead of this endless cycle of tabloidism, we had some bedrock perspective on the issue as a whole? Some context into which we can throw the A-Rods of the world in at least an attempt to gauge the seriousness of their offenses against baseball and nature. Some depth of information that will allow us to properly analyze the history, culture, and impact of the steroid era and allow us to compare it with that which came before and since. To do that, we have to eschew the paparazzi mentality that currently reigns, roll up our sleeves, and ask some difficult questions. Questions like:
Obsessive followers of this blog will recognize those questions because I've raised them before in the wake of the Mitchell Report as a means of pointing out the flaws in that exercise. They're still good questions, and remain largely unanswered. No, no one or two ballplayers are going to sit down and explain all of this stuff to someone, but they are questions that ambitious reporters and researchers can use to guide them over time as they explore this story with the depth that is so desperately needs.
And until they are answered, we will never be able to get past the gawker mentality of the steroids story. A mentality that sickens so many of us and accomplishes so little.
(thanks to Pete Toms for the link)
Though I'd love to jump onto the "oh my God, why are we signing Garret Anderson?!" bandwagon with all of the other Braves fans, I think ire at that particular move is somewhat misplaced. Anderson, for as horrendous as he is, actually stands to improve the Braves' outfield in 2009, and this deal does not obligate Atlanta to Anderson for 2010. So in a vacuum, it's a defensible move. Of course, the precondition to the existence of that vacuum was Frank Wren's inability to put together anything approaching a serviceable outfield, thereby rendering Anderson a comparatively attractive option.
In other words, don't slam this transaction. Slam the half dozen made and missed transactions that allowed this one to make some kind of sense.
I don't mean that in the judgmental way cops say it. You'd be nuts not to have a lawyer in Rodriguez's situation. Lucky for him, he has a good one:
Alex Rodriguez has bolstered his legal team, adding Jay Reisinger, who has represented a number of high-profile baseball players who have been confronted with questions about the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
If you're not immediately familiar with Reisinger's name, it's because unlike the Rusty Hardins of the world, Reisinger looks to defend his clients' interests first rather than be the first one to a television camera. There's a reason why Andy Pettitte didn't get ensnared in a Clemens-like drama. And though I generally like Pettitte, I suspect it has nothing to do with his own savvy, skill, and guile. Rather, it is because he has been well-advised to tell the truth when the truth is required, and to otherwise go about his business and let his lawyers handle his representation.
A-Rod is often criticized for being too careful and caring too much about how he is perceived. Well, when you're in trouble like he is, those are wonderful traits to have, and they have led him to make a smart decision in the lawyer he hired.
I first heard tell of this back in December, but Saturday's New York Times updated Lance Niekro's attempt to come back as a knukleballer just like his old man and his uncle Phil:
The Elias Sports Bureau studied 190 father-son combinations in major league history and found that in 143 cases — three out of four — sons do just what their fathers did. That is, if the father was a position player, so was the son. And if the father was a pitcher, so was the son.
As most of you know, I have a pretty strong knuckleballer fetish, so I'd really like this to work. I also have a pretty strong comic book fetish, so I can totally feature this as one of those stories in which a seemingly ordinary man discovers his true superhero destiny. Like Kal-el speaking to Clark Kent from the great beyond in the Fortress of Solitude or the bat crashing through the window of Bruce Wayne's study. I mean really, how cool would it be for Lance Niekro, after years of walking his own path, to don his late father's armor and bring justice to the baseball world via inherited guile, filed nails, and the flutter of his knuckler?
But, as I noted back in December, the likelihood of such a thing coming to pass is low. Knuckleballers are not gimmick pitchers or mere tricksters. They're real pitchers who have to master mechanics and technique and a pitcher's mental approach to the game just like a guy with a plus fastball and a sharp slider. Indeed, it's probably harder for a knuckler, partially because few organizations seem to have the patience it requires to bring one along, and partially because the margin of error for a knuckler is so thin to begin with. And that goes for guys who have been pitching for years, which Niekro certainly has not.
Niekro is either going to click quick or he's going to get utterly shelled. And though I hope it's not the case, the odds favor the latter.
(thanks to Blaze, followed quickly by tHeMARksMiTh, for the heads up)
Good news! Newsday's Wallace Matthews -- a truly awful columnist if ever there was one -- has announced that he is no longer going to follow or write about baseball:
In the week since I spoke with Bud Selig, I have thought long and hard about what the Omissioner can do to right the dreadful wrong he, his players and the players association have committed upon baseball.
Well, he didn't actually say that he was giving up on the game, but he truly thinks it is now an illegitimate pursuit and he has no love left for it all, if indeed he ever had any. Surely that means that he can't lend his own integrity and that of his august newspaper to the corrupt spectacle that is Major League Baseball, can he? Surely he has written his last word on this hopelessly rigged pursuit, right? And even if he doesn't give it up entirely -- say, if he has mouths to feed at home and must absolutely have his paycheck -- surely his journalistic standards will demand that he point out, in every column he writes and every word he utters about the game, that baseball is a phony and disgraced institution and that about which he opines should be considered commentary on a malignant fiction, yes?
If the answer to that is no, and you find Matthews right back into the swing of things covering baseball this summer as if nothing has happened, I suppose the only conclusion you can draw from that is that his stated disgust with the national pastime is mere theater. Faux outrage designed to rile people up and sell newspapers and to place himself in the middle of a big story.
Seems like everyone is speculating that Jim Bowden is about to be fired, but maybe they're just not aiming high enough. How does prison suit you?
A federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses given to baseball prospects from Latin America is looking at Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden as far back as 1994, when he was GM of the Cincinnati Reds, according to a baseball executive familiar with the investigation.
One can only assume that the thrust of this investigation -- like any skimming investigation -- is tax evasion and some flavor of fraud and/or embezzlement.
More background can be found here. My thoughts on it from last summer here.
Things to read while getting your mind around the fact that "The Natural" -- a pretty yet deeply flawed movie -- somehow got four Oscar nominations. Man, 1984 has a lot to answer for:
Anyway, about "The Natural." Know what I think? I think a far, far better movie could be made about the woman in black played by Barbara Hershey. She is apparently a nut case, and was probably going to shoot The Whammer before old Roy Hobbs came along. I know she was based on the woman who shot Eddie Waitkus, but within the context of this move, what's her deal? Why is she fixated on killing the best ballplayer around? That, my friends is a movie. Certainly better than a bunch of sentimental pap capped off with a nighttime playoff game 32 years too early that should have been called on account of lightning and a faulty electrical system which allowed exploding lights to imperil the lives of everyone at the ballpark that night.