July 2012

Reason Why I Love Mitch Williams Number 27

On July 23, 2012, during the 7th inning of the Yankees/Mariners game, new Bomber, Ichiro Suzuki, wearing number 31 in place of his iconic 51, hit a soft grounder to second and was thrown out easily.

Mitch said, “now, see, that there… that should’ve been a basehit.”

Silence.

“The number’s lighter.”

Now that, my friends, is hilarity.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

Baseball Needs a Drinkhall

Although I probably should be watching baseball, I find myself oddly enthralled by the Olympics.  Ichiro’s chops as a Yankee?  Nah, I think I’ll watch some women’s badminton instead.  Fister putting a brief stop to the Tiger’s road woes?  Hm, I guess I’m going to go for some ping-pong (table tennis, if you want to be stuffy about it).  Rivalry weekend in America?  Nope, women’s skeet shooting.

I’m not saying I’d want to watch these games all the time.  I love women’s gymnastics as much as the next guy but I can only take so much of it.  But at the same time, there’s something special about the Olympics.  For instance, yesterday I was watching a British dude named Paul Drinkhall advance to the third round in men’s table tennis.

First of all, his name is “Drinkhall.”  How awesome is that?  That’s like a German guy named “Biergarten.”  Or an American named “Applebees.”  Second, this dude has little or no muscle tone, pasty white skin, horrible shorts and an equally terrible haircut but he’s an Olympic athlete.  That, my friends, is badass.  Badass in the same way as David Wells and his Churchillian physique somehow destroying opposing batters.

I freely admit that a lot of it is the novelty.  It’s hard for the 162-game slog of baseball to compete with the instant gratification of a Moroccan/Uzbek flyweight boxing match.  And once the new “Dream Team” really get’s going, baseball is going to find it tough going.  I guess it’s kind of like the guy who has always sworn that he’d never leave his frumpy but faithful wife but somehow finds himself behind the wheel of a convertible with his 24-year old secretary.  Sure, it’s cheating but really, what were you supposed to do?  Odds like those don’t come up everyday.

So, I’d like to say that this was just a weekend thing and tomorrow I’ll be back to MLB.  But we all know I’m lying.  Can you blame me though?  I mean, seriously, synchronized diving!!!

-A

The non-Filibuster

Jeff is off on a well-deserved break this week and we decided to give the filibuster a rest as well.  We’ll be back next week with all the jeremiadical paroxysms you expect from the RSBS crew.  In the meantime, to salve the pain of the missing filibuster, we present a recently discovered video of Jeff in the privacy of his own home:

Happy Sunday!

-A

We Breed ‘Em Special in the Former Northwest

Having grown up in Michigan, a part of the former Northwest Territory, I know that the people who hail from this region are a special brand.  Unfortunately, special isn’t always a good thing.

Take for instance former Wisconsin Senator Joeseph McCarthy whose last name became synonymous with unfounded witch hunts.  I have no doubt that Senator McCarthy cared very much about the United States and I also have no doubt that Communism was a very real threat in the 1950s.  However, going around accusing Americans of being Communists with little or no proof turned out to be pretty bad for his career and should serve as an example of how Americans don’t act.

Except that 60 years later we appear to be living the same thing all over again.  Much like McCarthy’s allegations of Communist spies in the State Department, the Armed Forces and in the Executive Branch, another representative of the Northwest Territory, Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann, launched spurious claims of Islamist infiltration of the State Department, the Armed Forces and the Executive Branch.  And Bachmann’s claims appear to hold about as much water as those of McCarthy.

Now, this should go without saying but people in sensitive positions like that of Huma Abedin, Secretary Clinton’s deputy Chief-of-Staff, are subjected to rigorous background checks that can lead to disqualification because of excessive debt.  Don’t you think that someone who’s delving that deep into your background might notice if you had been developing ties with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood?  On top of that, although some Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups are considered terrorist organizations by the US government, as a country we have reopened diplomatic ties with the group so why would it even matter if she did have ties?

Bachmann is no stranger to idiocy and this most recent story only shows what kind of a bullet we dodged when she finally dropped out of the Presidential race.  But sadly, she still has a lot of supporters.  Add in the fact that an uncomfortably high percentage of the US population still believes that our Evangelical Christian president is a secret Muslim and you can see where this is a problem.

The only positive development in this latest Bachmann debacle is that even people from her own party have finally had to start admitting that she’s out of control.  And unlike McCarthy’s four years in the limelight, throwing around allegations like confetti, Bachmann was roundly scolded within a few days.  But if there was ever any doubt, I think we can all safely admit now that the former Northwest Territories are still a special place with some very special people.

-A

Applying Some Common Sense

Baseball has rules against corked bats, pine-tarred balls and drugged up athletes.  Simply put, the idea is that these rules keep the game pure and provide neither side with an overt advantage in the duel between offense and defense.  When a batter goes down on strikes, he can’t claim that he needs a corked bat to counteract the pitcher’s pine-tar aided screw-ball.  Similarly, when a pitcher gets jacked for a three-run homer, he can’t lobby for the aid of pine-tar or some “foreign substance” to even the odds against the batters unnaturally sped up cork-filled bat.  As fans and as a sport, we require equality of equipment.  It’s common sense.

So after this past week’s most recent horrific shooting in Colorado, why have we still not come to the conclusion that we need to apply the same common sense to our gun laws?  Look, I have no problem with licensed hunters owning guns with which they can shoot deer and other sport animals.  The key word here is “licensed,” meaning at least subject to the same sort of procedure we require to operate a vehicle.  There also needs to be some sort of sanity rule applied to what constitutes appropriate equipment.

Let’s face it, guns serve only one purpose and that’s to kill.  You can argue that they also represent a deterrent in that their ability to kill can deter someone from doing something.  But the fact of the matter is that even that ability to deter comes from a gun’s ability to kill.  If you’re hunting, there’s a legitimate reason for you to kill.  If you’re a law-enforcement officer, there’s a reason for you to carry a visible deterrent.  But if you’re a 24-year old graduate student, what possible reason could you have for owning “a military-style semi-automatic rifle?”

This latest incident will bring out the usual hand-wringing from liberals and the usual ignorant denials from the NRA and other gun-rights groups but it’s unlikely that it will provoke any change in our nation’s gun laws.  Eventually the furor will die away until the next time someone decides to shoot up a school or movie theater and we have the same pointless debate all over again.

Here’s an easy way for you as a baseball fan to look at it.  How would you feel about Jose Bautista or Prince Fielder being able to use an aluminum bat in games?  These are guys with a record of mashing long home runs with simple wooden bats and you have to figure it would be madness to give them aluminum bats, right?  So why would you allow students, the mentally ill or even just normal everyday people like us access to infinitely more dangerous weapons?

-A

The Importance of Losing

On Saturday I did what any sane, obsessed ultrarunner might do on a fine sunny morning by running 32 miles on a 400 meter track.  That’s 128 laps for you mathematicians.  And a lot of left turns.

The infield of this particular track at Dunbar Park in Chicago hosts several tee-ball and tiny-tot little league games, so while I ran myself in delirious circles, I was entertained by our national pastime at its tiniest level.  Sort of.

I understand tee-ball and coach-pitch teams are for the young ones.  I would guess they were between 5-7 years old.  But some of what I saw on those fields turned my stomach.

During one game I counted 20 defenders in the field.  In another, a kid grounded out but was still allowed to occupy first base.  I even heard “let’s have a do-over” from one of the “coaches”.

I know we live in a semi-psychotic, hopey-changey surreality, where everyone is a “winner” and negativity is shunned like logic at an evangelical mega-church.  But I think people are missing the point here: there is very valuable lesson in failure.

Seriously.

Life sucks sometimes.  It’s hard.  It’s cruel.  It’s relentless.  But it’s also rewarding and serendipitous and full of potential.  If we rely on sheltered observations to teach our youth that failure and shortcomings are not a part of the process, then we are going to end up with a planet full of passive, stale, robots incapable of innovation and creativity.

Mistakes are a part of the success equation.  Let’s not rob our future of that valuable lesson.

Also, don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

The Filibuster

Do you believe in the A’s?

Rick T. 
Springfield, MO

____________________________

Do I believe in the A’s?  Do I believe that a team called the A’s plays in Oakland, CA?  Yes, I believe that.  Do I believe that despite a limited budget and a small market, a team called the A’s not only contended in the early 2000’s but also outperformed most of the American League?  Yes, I believe that, too.  Do I believe that the 2012 Oakland Athletics, a team currently in 3rd place in its division behind a much improved Angels franchise and a Rangers club that when hitting on all cylinders can torch the rest of baseball, will make the playoffs?  Unfortunately I’m going to have go another direction with that one, Rick.

No, in that case I don’t believe in the A’s.

Let’s look at the facts.  The A’s pitching staff is 4th overall in ERA, 5th in WHIP and 5th in opponent batting average.  Those are all pretty good.  But, to win baseball games, you also have to score runs.  On that side, the A’s are 28th in runs, 27th in on-base percentage and 25th in slugging.  Pitching may win you championships but if you can’t back up that pitching, you’re never going to make it to the championship.  Add in that half of the rest of the A’s schedule is made up of the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Angels, the Rangers and the Tigers, well, that doesn’t bode so well.  Even the easier part of the schedule involves the Rays, the Orioles and the White Sox.  About the only break the A’s get are series against the Mariners, Twins and Royals.  That’s not exactly promising.

I like the A’s.  I always have.  One of the fondest memories of my childhood was seeing the Tony LaRussa managed A’s at Tiger stadium.  But this team is light years away from being at the same level as the team that featured Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and Dennis Eckersley.

So, do I believe in the A’s?  I guess on that one, you’d have to consider me an atheist.  If they keep winning games, though, check back in and maybe I’ll have gone agnostic.

-A

Have a topic you want to see us Filibuster? Send us your Filibuster questions by emailing RSBSblog@gmail.com or by commenting below.

A Winning Strategy

A couple years ago I was out with some friends and even though it was still early in the night, one of the guys started dancing with a relatively unattractive young lady and making overtures to convince her to come with him and get out of the place.  When I say early, it wasn’t even midnight yet and the place was open for another couple hours.  It didn’t make any sense to me because a bevy of beautiful young ladies were still floating around, getting drunk and and seemingly unattached.  I couldn’t understand what was happening because this guy isn’t bad looking, has an interesting job and should be able to do better.

As soon as possible, I pulled him aside and asked what he was thinking.  He listened to my arguments for a moment and, once I had finished, responded with three words: “Go ugly early.”

In retrospect, he had a point.  At the end of the night, all the pretty girls left and the rest of us were still there, desperately and drunkenly hitting on what was left.  His thought was, why delay the inevitable when you can take care of things early and be assured of some sort of result.  It may not be a winning strategy in terms of quality but it seems to work in terms of quantity.

This is why I’m not all that surprised to see the Presidential race already shaping up to be nasty.  I guess if there’s any surprise, it’s that Obama, Mr. “Hope and Change,” seems to have gone there first and seems to be doing so pretty effectively.

Now, I’m actually of the opinion that Obama’s first term has been relatively successful.  His actions and those of his team prevented the recession from deepening into a depression.  Whether you agree with his politics or not, stepping in to save GM prevented catastrophic job loss at a moment when the economy could have crumbled under the weight of all those jobless people.  However, it’s hard to prove a negative so Obama is instead saddled with the weight of continuing economic sluggishness and jobs numbers that just refuse to grow.

But that’s not the story at this point.  Sure, it’s the summer and that means the undecided voters haven’t really tuned in yet.  But it was also summer when the Bush campaign launched its “Swiftboat” campaign against John Kerry and when people finally started paying attention, that had become part of the narrative.  Obama has managed to “Swiftboat” Romney with the tax return issue and if history serves, the issue will still be front and center come September when voters tune back in.

The story becomes even more interesting if you buy into the theory floated by Businessweek earlier this week.  Romney has adamantly refused to release his 2009 tax returns despite calls by some in his own party to do so.  This “lack of transparence” has damaged Romney’s standing but still he holds firm.  Why?  Well, Businessweek’s hypothesis is, maybe Romney didn’t pay any taxes that year!

It makes sense.  The very wealthy took a bath in the 2008 crash but losing a lot one year often means a huge tax break the following year.  So, if Romney’s fortunes took a dive, it’s natural and perfectly legal that he didn’t pay any taxes the next year.  However, try explaining that to the millions of unemployed out there or the sizable number of voters already paying a higher tax rate than Romney in a normal year.  The American electorate is notoriously immune to nuance.  News of Romney not having to pay taxes in 2009, justified or not, could pretty much lock up re-election for Obama.

So, Team Romney sits tight and continues to get battered from all sides.  Maybe they’re playing a Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope and want to wait until the news cycle is in their favor before releasing what might be completely innocuous tax returns.  Or maybe they’re just going to play it this way all the way through to the end.  All I know is that if Obama does win in November, you can chalk part of it up to my buddy’s strategy.  Go ugly early.

-A

Ba$eball $tar$

Sports Illustrated‘s annual Fortune 50 list of the 50 highest-earning American athletes list is out and Major League Baseball is heavily represented.  In fact, 36% of the athletes are baseballers — some better than others (looking at you, Barry Zito).  And while I’m sad to see an star like Floyd Mayweather, Jr at the top, one who eschews real glory at the highest level for a comfortable place atop boxing mediocrity, I am glad that baseball players are makin’ that pay-puh.  It makes me feel less suicidal when I pay $8 for a 16 oz beer.

Here’s a quick rundown of the highest paid American baseball players and their overall ranking among American athletes in parenthesis.

1.  Alex Rodriguez (6)
Too bad for the Yankees A-Rod can’t be young and steroided like the good old days.  His health is just going downhill from here.

2.  Derek Jeter (9)
He can do no wrong.  I would pay this man a bazillion dollars a year if I could.  And since Albert left me, I have no problems admitting my 17-year Jeet man-crush.

3.  Joe Mauer (12)
Really?  12th highest paid American athlete overall and third highest Major Leaguer?  I would feel better about this if he could hit it over the Target Field fence once in a while.

4.  Vernon Wells (17)
PSSSHH!!!!  I just ruined my keyboard with a mouthful of coffee.

5.  C.C. Sabathia (20)
Mo’ money, mo’ foooooooooooooooooood!

6.  Mark Teixeira (21)
Nothing says $23 million a year like a YEEE-HAW JAW!

7.  Prince Fielder (22)
I have a feeling if I make one more Prince Fielder fat joke then I’m going to be… eaten…

8.  Adrian Gonzalez (25)
He may have lost his power stroke, but with $21 million a year I’m sure he’s strokin’ plenty of power.

9.  Justin Verlander (28)
A man’s man, I would prefer to see Verlander at the very top of this list, or at the very least, have the opportunity to rifle a fastball at Mayweather’s head.

10.  Cliff Lee (29)
Way to go, Phillies.  You’re making Clifton Phifer look bad.

11.  Ryan Howard (32)
While many of my Cardinal fan brethren choose to hate on Albert, I prefer to hate on Howard, the man who made signing Albert impossible.

12.  Roy Halladay (35)
Way to go, Phillies.  You bring in the best pitcher in baseball to get you over the hump then s*** the bed three years in a row.

13, 14, 15.  Barry Zito, Carl Crawford, Albert Pujols (Tied for 36 overall)
One of these things is not like the other…

16.  Josh Beckett (44)
Is it me or has he gained like 40 pounds since he was traded to the Red Sox?

17.  Jake Peavy (45)
Up until this year, I thought dude was done.  Yes, the crow I’ve been eating tastes bad.

18.  A.J. Burnett (49)
Huh?  How did A.J. get on this list?  I’d like to know the same.  He should’ve signed two contracts, one for each of his personalities.  At least he’s been living up to it ever since his worst day ever.

Hate me ‘cuz I didn’t make the list, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right!

Peace,

Jeff

A Cookie for Your Tuesday

Like most fans, my undying love for baseball is deeply rooted in my youth.  Sifting through baseball card packs while watching a game just a foot or so from the old fashioned box television at my grandma’s house, equally mesmerized and infatuated with the moving pictures and colorful palette of MLB 1980s era uniforms popping off the cardboard… I can almost smell the goulash cooking in the kitchen and taste the brick flavoring of the free baseball card bubble gum.

For a long time now, I’ve been relying on a Tumblr blog to take me back, to calm me, to remind me how I came to love our national pastime.  So when you’re down and out or when you just need a smile to keep you going, head on over to 80s Baseball Player of the Day and enjoy the trip back in time.

I’ve been wanting to pimp this Tumlbr for a long time now.  I’ve just been waiting for the right moment.  And when dude hit the triumvirate of Bret Saberhagen (wearing his little brother’s jacket?), Atlee Hammaker (best name in baseball?) and Ozzie Virgil (he is the most interesting man in the world?), then I knew it was time.

You’re welcome.  Also, don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

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