Friday, June 29, 2007

Why is This Man Smiling?

Because he's going to have a front row seat for one of the most entertaining depositions anyone will ever have a chance to see. At least he will as soon as his attorneys sober up from the massive champagne party they've likely been having since checking the docket Wednesday morning and seeing this:

A woman who worked on the set of the ESPN talk show "Cold Pizza" is suing the sports network, saying she was fired after complaining about sexual harassment by the show's host and a regular panelist.

In the lawsuit, which also names ESPN host Jay Crawford and sports commentator Woody Paige, Rita Ragone claims she was subjected to crude sexual comments from Crawford and that Paige pinched and fondled her.

Reynolds was allegedly fired over less egregious allegations than those in the Ragone lawsuit. His lawsuit claims that his termination was wrongful. At press time, Crawford and Paige still have jobs. It's also worth noting that at press time, Paige and Crawford are white as well. I can't recall if the Reynolds lawsuit alleges racial discrimination, but if those guys don't get canned now, you can bet your bippy it will be amended to do so.

There are certain things I would never want to do as an attorney. Prepping ESPN's human resources manager for his depo is one of them.

Biggio and Thomas

While hyperbole like that seen in's story seems a bit much -- no, historians won't recall June 28, 2007 as one of "the biggest days in baseball history" -- having two players reach milestones on the same day was interesting. But more interesting to me was the manner in which the milestones were reached.

Thomas' 500th home run seemed to comment on his career as a whole, coming as it did in a loss (8-5 to the Twins) and coming in a game in which he was later ejected. This is not to call Thomas a loser -- far from it -- but I have always had a vague feeling of incompleteness or disharmony when thinking about his career, underscored by the bad or injured seasons that tended to interrupt the flow of dominant ones. The fact that injuries rendered him a non-factor during his club's championship season. These factors, combined with him playing DH as opposed to some glamor position have caused many to underrate his accomplishments, which in turn renders his 500th home run somewhat less magical than other players'.

Biggio's 3000th hit likewise came laden with meaning. From

He singles to right for No. 3,000, tying the late Roberto Clemente on the all-time list and securing his Cooperstown future. Then he tries to leg it into a double, is thrown out to end the inning and sees teammate Brad Ausmus rush to him as a celebration scene begins.

Being gunned down while attempting to squeeze out a little something extra describes much of the past several years of Biggio's career. Biggio hasn't been an elite player for many years, and ceased being even an average one two or three seasons ago. His quest for the glory of 3000 hits, while understandable, has cost his team much recently, as the Astros have forgone a desperately needed rebuilding effort in the name of keeping their biggest name happy. Has Biggio demanded this? Not that I know of, but the effect has been the same as if he had.

I have great admiration for both Thomas and Biggio, and I consider each of them to be among the best to ever play the game. But their milestones are bittersweet ones, each carrying a reminder of some of life's more troubling aspects. No matter how important you are, you're not indispensable. No matter how skilled you are, there are no guarantees that you will always be appreciated. Even the most loved among us will one day wear out their welcome and become a burden. Yet we all hang on anyway, because really, what else is there to do?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Because There's Nothing More Sacred Than a Nats Game

On Tuesday, in a post regarding Christian Family Day at Busch Stadium, I noted that "Given our society's penchant for outrage it's not hard to imagine someone making a fuss about this sort of thing."

Guess what? People are making a fuss over this sort of thing.

Today, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher argues that such events are a bad idea. Why? Um, because a local rabbi has a major beef with Baseball Chapel, an organization that was once affiliated with the Nats which did something he didn't like. Does Baseball Chapel have anything to do with the Faith Night event? No. Does that seem to matter to Fisher? No.

Look, the closest I ever get to a churchgoing experience is listening to Procal Harum albums. I am not a Christian. I don't believe what they believe, and I don't think religion has a place in politics. When it comes to this kind of stuff, you can't get farther to the left of me without falling off the page.

But I also see no harm in baseball teams offering ticket packages to religious groups and providing a non-mandatory, non-subsidized post-game forum for whatever those groups feel like doing short of human sacrifice (I think I read that the Episcopalians are doing that now). It's less offensive than the kiss-cam, dot races, and dancing groundskeepers. At the very least, if ballparks are going to allow me to combine my dual passions for baseball and beer in one location, I don't see why they shouldn't allow others to combine their passions as well.

Questionable chatter is the disease, and Jim Oskola is the cure

Listen, you f***ers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the c*nts, the dogs, the filth, the sh*t. Here is a man who stood up.

Yes, I'm talking about Appleton, Wisconsin Post-Crescent columnist Jim Oskola, who is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore when it comes to bad behavior at little league baseball games:

The Fox Valley Association has a code of conduct for people attending its athletic events.

Some of the people who attended Tuesday's Appleton Little League City Tournament championship game between Travelers Protective Association and NEW Anesthesiologists should read it very closely and then take a look in the mirror.

Oskola then proceeds to unleash 350 words of hellfire, calling out gum-flappin' fans, trash-talkin' coaches, and twelve year-olds who round the bases in the flaps-down position following home runs. He doesn't go so far as to say that the venerable legacy of the NEW Anesthesiologists has forever been sullied, but you know he feels that way. As should we all.

So Casey, you got somethin' against belly-itchers? What are you, some kind of comedian? You a clown? You here to amuse Jim Oskola? And you, Billy's mom. You think that last pitch was outside, huh? You talkin' to me? You must be talkin' to me, because he doesn't see anyone else. Who the f*ck do you think you're talking to? Oh yeah? OK.

Editor's Note: There will be no Jim Oskola column in tomorrow's Post-Crescent, as Mr. Oskola will be taking the day to get in shape. Too much sitting has ruined his body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be 50 pushups each morning, 50 pullups. There will be no more pills, no more bad food, no more destroyers of his body. From now on will be total organization. Every muscle must be tight.

Take a Bite of Peach

Skip Caray, who along with Andy Griffith spent a few decades helping turn a rinky-dink local UHF station into a national cable powerhouse, and who almost single-handedly turned non-southerners like me into Braves fans, will soon be demoted to broadcasting a handful of games for a rinky-dink local UHF station. This unwarranted indignity is brought to you by Turner Broadcasting, who will be changing the name of the local feed for WTBS in Atlanta to WPCH this October, and will go by the name "Peachtree TV."

While I hate to see one of my all time favorite broadcasters exiled to a low-fi ghetto, maybe Peachtree's apparent low-rent nature will enable someone to pull the trigger on restoring Two Mules for Sister Sara to its rightful place as the first bat off the bench for rainout programming.

There Had Better Be a Role for David Lander

Penny Marshall is planning on making two new baseball movies, both focusing on the Negro Leagues: one about Newark Eagles co-owner Effa Manley, who in 2006 was the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The other will be a documentary about the Negro leagues in general.

Your mileage may vary when it comes to A League of Their Own, but on the whole, I think it's a pretty good movie, so there's reason to hope that these will be quality films. But really, given how damn few movies there have been about the Negro Leagues, anything will be welcome.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Among the many reasons I will never become wealthy practicing law is my utter ineptitude when it comes to marketing. I don't do well at cocktail parties, I am lazy when it comes to maintaining my pitiful professional network, and I usually find myself counseling potential clients about how to avoid needing my legal services as opposed to closing the deal and accepting a retainer. Shyster: decent lawyer, pitiful businessman.

Irving L. Blackman has no such trouble. While he's a CPA and not a lawyer, he's likely worth several times what I ever will be. Why do I think this? Because the man has absolutely no compunction whatsoever about using dead baseball stars as props in scare-tactic columns that, in reality, are thinly-disguised advertisements:

Joe DiMaggio, unquestionably one of the great baseball legends of all time, now plays in the big ballpark in the sky. He knew how to use his arm and his glove, but mostly his bat, to win countless ballgames. When it came to baseball, Joe was a winner.

But his last time at bat (with the IRS pitching) was a disaster. He struck out. I'm sure he didn't know the rules of this game: the estate tax game. Certainly the person who drew his Last Will and Testament didn't know the rules either . . . DiMaggio's estate got clobbered by the federal estate tax. Here's the part of Joe's story you should know.

I have no doubt that Mr. Blackman's "column" will drive more estate planning business his way than one in which he uses a generic Mr. Smith or Jones as his case study. I also have no doubt that he did not get permission from the DiMaggio estate before trotting out the Clipper's corpse as a defacto spokesman for his firm, though I suppose the charade of this being a column instead of an ad puts him on solid legal ground.

So here's to you, Mr. Blackman; may your professional services always be widely utilized and handsomely compensated.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Where are the D-Back Fans?

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune has some questions for Arizona Diamondback fans:

Where are you?

It’s a Monday night in late June, the Diamondbacks are playing the Dodgers for first place in the National League West, and only 24,966 fans are at Chase

Where are you?

The Diamondbacks woke up Monday morning with the best record in the NL, yet they rank 12th in the NL in attendance, with 26,204 fans per game. Only Cincinnati, Washington, Pittsburgh and Florida play to smaller crowds. The combined record of those clubs: 129-174.

Where are you?

They're good questions. Just a week ago I took Mark Kiszla to task for insulting Rockies fans who were simply responding to the laws of supply and demand. I'm not going to apply a different set of rules for Diamondbacks fans, but the fact is that average single-game ticket prices in Arizona -- $13; the lowest in all of baseball -- can't go much lower. Bodrow notes that much of the problem is that the Diamondbacks boast a much smaller season ticket base than most teams -- only about 13,000 -- and that single-game sales are a much tougher nut to crack. However, the D-Backs lowered ticket prices by 29.9 percent before the season. At present, the price of a full-season ticket package for D-Backs games ranges from $5/game for the cheapies up to $110/game for, I dunno, sitting on Bob Melvin's lap. Doesn't seem out of line.

So what gives in Arizona? The Sports Business News blog has a theory:

Delivering a World Series in the teams’ fourth season was amazing. Winning 100 games in the teams’ second season must have seemed unbelievable, but at the end of the day it’s too much success to early on. How exactly was the D-Backs management team going to follow-up their first four seasons. It was 86 years between World Series titles for the Red Sox. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 103 years. The Cleveland Indians who joined the American League in 1901 have NEVER won a World Series. D-Back fans have no understanding of the suffering and pain fans of the Cubs and Indians have had to endure. They’ve only experienced success, not exactly a recipe for building long term box office success.

While retroactively stripping the Indians of their 1920 and 1948 World Series championships kind of kills SBN's credibility, the general point -- too much too soon for the Diamondbacks -- may be right.

For the sake of baseball in Arizona, one hopes that this season's seeming return to winning form will serve to stave off the hemorrhaging of fans, and a solid base of young prospects will keep the momentum going. If that fails: Los Diamantes may want to send an exploratory committee to the greater Monterrey area.

Green Cathedrals

I would be a card-carrying agnostic, but the agnostic leadership isn't quite convinced of the need for cards. Really, they're not quite convinced of anything, and when we all get together, no one can ever make a decision. I have no regrets about my agnosticism, but as you may have guessed, our meetings totally suck. Ordering in lunch? Forget about it.

Not so for Christians in St. Louis, who have managed to pull off what sounds like a fine gathering called Christian Family Day for the past seventeen years at Busch Stadium(s):

The annual program at Busch is one of the most successful promotional events of its kind in Major League Baseball.The Cardinals allotted 9,200 seats — about 20 percent of Saturday's tickets — to organizers of Saturday's event. Two hundred of those were sold to South County Baptist Church. The Rev. John Childers, the church's pastor, said he emphasized to his congregation the connection between St. Louis baseball and a Christian's duty to evangelize.

St. Louisans worship the Cardinals, which makes Busch Stadium the sanctuary of this city and this culture," he said. "Christians need to impact that culture, not just watch it go by. What better place to do that than Busch, which is part of the heart and fabric of St. Louis?"

While such an event is obviously not my cup of tea (English Breakfast? Earl Grey? Man, I just can't decide), one has to admire the way the Cardinals marketing folks have managed this event. For those of you not aware, differences of opinion about religion occasionally cause problems. It seems, however, that Christian Family Day is pulled off in such a way as to neither (a) make the non-evangelicals feel uncomfortable; nor (b) serve to marginalize or ghettoize the event for the participants:

Bringing Jesus into the ballpark is not always easy, and [Marty] Hendin [vice president of community relations for the club] said the Cardinals kept an eye on other clubs that have had problems with similar events.

[Jeff] Miller [a senior group sales executive with the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers] said that after holding Christian Family Day in the Kauffman [(the Kansas City Royals’ stadium)] parking lot before the game for a couple of years, the Royals decided to move it inside the stadium. But they still “did the Christian stuff” before the game.

“We brought in a huge banner that said ‘Jesus is King,’ and that didn’t go over too well,” said Miller. “People were calling the marketing department from their seats and complaining. It was not good.”

Hendin said that’s why the Cardinals do most of the Christian Family Day activity after the game. The Cardinals allow the organizers to hand out the player testimonial cards at the game with invitations for all ticket holders to stay afterwards, listen to the music and hear the player testimonials.

“People can choose to leave after the game,” he said. “We’re not subjecting them to any message they don’t want to be subjected to.”

Given our society's penchant for outrage it's not hard to imagine someone making a fuss about this, but it all seems totally reasonable to me. Indeed, as a Catholic-raised agnostic who has sat in the stands while simultaneously crossing my fingers, wearing a rally cap, praying to Jobu, and eating a Hebrew National, my view is that there is no harm in adding a bit of evangelism to the mix.

(link via

Clothes make the Manager

Ernie Palladino takes a look at the sartorial stylings of managers and coaches:

Believe it or not, there's no rule that forbids a manager from wearing shirt, tie and jacket.But the chances of that happening again are, well ...

"They can make that request," MLB vice president of public relations Pat Courtney said. "Managers are only required to wear licensed apparel. The sponsors can make them a suit."

I think some manager should try this. I'd love to see what the folks at New Era could do in a double breasted number. I'm guessing it would look great until the damn thing shrank and started to show sweat stains.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Jonah Keri channels Erwin Schrödinger

Quantum physicists will tell you that a particle may simultaneously exist in a superposition of possible states. In order to explain this concept to math-averse dunderheads like me, Erwin Schrödinger came up with a thought experiment involving unspeakable cruelty to non-indeterminably probabilistic things like cats.

Number crunching baseball analysts will tell you that a right fielder may simultaneously exist in a superposition of possible states, in this case, injured or uninjured. In order to explain this concept to math-averse dunderheads like me, Jonah Keri came up with a thought experiment involving assumptions about how many home runs Ken Griffey could have hit if he had hamstrings stronger than Erwin Schrödinger's.

The answer, if you care, is a heavenly 666, which Keri believes to be a conservative estimate. I have no basis to quibble and won't, even if I think exercises like these are silly and suspect that they are strongly suggested by a factoid, list, and hyperbole-driven editorial agenda over at

The fact is that Ken Griffey did get hurt a lot, and though we don't think less of him as a person for being injury prone -- indeed, maybe we think more if we believe he missed more time than someone taking steroids may have missed -- we must necessarily accept his actual statistical accomplishments as a ballplayer for what they are, because there is no "what if" record book.

In other words, shit happens, and to engage in speculation about the results were it not to have happened has always struck me as an empty exercise. To me, baseball ceases to be interesting when it is removed from its moorings to the real world, and I would think less of the game and its history if Griffey's injuries, Ted Williams' war record, Roy Campanella's accident, and Mickey Mantle's bar tab were removed from the equation in the name of wondering "what if?"

What if nothing. Life is. Baseball is. And I don't want to think about one without the other.

Piniella: All Women Need is a Good, Hardened Man

This interview with Lou Piniella appeared a week ago in the New York Times Magazine. Since I live in the glorious Midwest and not Manhattan, and since I usually devote my Sundays to chasing toddlers and not reading the New York Times Magazine, I didn't see it until the Rocky Mountain News reran it. Some fun bits from Lou:

Q: Do you think a woman could be a good manager?

A: If she had a good bench coach, why not? I would think she would need a good, hardened professional baseball guy that would help her with the X's and O's during the ballgame. Someone who knew the intricacies in and out of the game.

Q: Plenty of women already know the intricacies of the game.

A: I'm not sure of that. I think some of the sportswriter women probably think they do.

Lou's Al Campanis moment? Probablly not. My sense is that he's really only saying that to be a good manager, you have to have played the game. While it's a sentiment I don't necessarily agree with -- I can imagine a person who came up through scouting or something having enough exposure to the game to the point where actually not having played on a professional level doesn't matter -- I understand how someone like Piniella could hold such an opinion and not, you know, be a raving sexist. Whether I think a woman could actually play major league baseball is another column (short version: I'm guessing Jackie Joyner-Kersee could have played a decent second base).

Still, his comments didn't come across very well, did they? After all, one need not be a sophomore at Wellesley to take a bit of offense when someone in Lou's position says that a woman would be lost without a good, er, "hardened" man. Frankly, I'm surprised that no one has made a fuss over this yet, even if I think the fuss would, in and of itself, be unwarranted. At the very least it seemed like the interviewer left about seven good followup questions unasked.

What else does Lou have to say?

Q:Why are the Cubs doing so poorly?

A: I don't know. I've been here a couple of months.

Way to take responsibility, skip! Remind me to never need CPR or something if you and Bobby Valentine are hanging around. Finally:

Q: What do you find so satisfying about kicking dirt on another person, a practice you've been known to favor since you managed the Yankees in the '80s?

A: My mentor, Billy Martin, did it. And Earl Weaver did it. I've kicked dirt more out of dissatisfaction than anything else. When I was informed that kicking dirt on somebody can be termed as degrading - you know, I never thought of it that way.

Given that Lou had to be informed that kicking dirt on someone was degrading, maybe it's better that the reporter didn't followup on what he thought about women managing.

Abel Moreno is a Shmegegge; the Petah Tikva Pioneers: Schlimazels

The Modi'in Miracle defeated the Petah Tikva Pioneers in the inaugural game of the Israel Baseball League on Sunday. Would've started on Saturday, but they told those fucks down at the league office a thousand times that they sure as shit don't roll on Shabbos.

Pioneers manager Ken Holtzman (yes, that Ken Holtzman) couldn't have been happy when his opening day pitcher Abel Moreno gave up seven in two and a third (free Ryan Butkowski!), but he must've plotzed when this happened:

The Pioneers' low point perhaps came in the top of the fourth, when several players started to leave the field after the second out in the inning, allowing a Modi'in baserunner to advance before the players caught on.

Oy, it's going to be a long season in Petah Tikva!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fathers' Day in Troy, NY

Stories of fathers and sons bonding over baseball tend to be misty-eyed accounts of white folks tossing a ball in a corn field or a respectable middle-class grandfather introducing the little ones to the game via the season tickets he's held since just after the Korean War. The New York-Penn League's Tri-State Valley Cats and the New York Department of Temporary and Disability Services want people realize, however, that the joys of baseball aren't reserved for the middle class:

The Tri-City ValleyCats and one of the state's largest human service agencies are teaming up to let non-custodial fathers on welfare know they are still a critical part of the lives of their children. The minor league baseball team will give one deserving father the chance to throw out the first pitch of a game against the Lowell Spinners on June 27. Children are asked to submit an essay of 100 words or less on why they think their father should win the honor. Ten winners will receive two tickets to the game. The grand prize winner gets to watch their father take the mound for the game's first pitch.

Officials with the Office of Temporary and Disability Services hope the evening will continue its statewide efforts to promote responsible fatherhood and let low-income, non-custodial fathers on welfare know about the services available to them.

Sounds like a nice little program, although I'm not sure how I feel about making a contest out of it. How about simply finding a way to get these dads and their kids to the game and dispense with the essay contest/first pitch spectacle?

That quibble aside, it's nice to see a government agency thinking about ways to deal with a problem that doesn't simply involve throwing money at it.

Score One for Economics

On Monday, Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla was bellowing about how those "greedy knuckleheads" who run the Colorado Rockies were going to increase ticket prices this week as the Yankees came to town, implying that only "suckers" would buy them. So what happened?

Tuesday attendance: 48,077 (95.3% full)
Wednesday attendance: 48,440 (96% full)
Thursday attendance: 48,611 (96.4% full)

Keep in mind that these were all mid-week games.

How did the "suckers" turn out for Sunday afternoon's game against the Devil Rays? 31,190 (61.8% full). Indeed, not counting the three games against the Yankees, the Rockies are averaging a draw of 23,891 for each home game.

So, Mr. Kiszla: since I assume that you won't be apologizing to Rockies' management for calling them a bunch of knuckleheads, can we at least expect you to apologize to baseball fans in Denver for calling them "suckers?"


Kiszla responds via email:

In the past 11 years, the knuckleheads who run the Rockies have produced
zero playoff appearances. The sweep of the Yankees was great. It doesn't change
the history of incompetence. Thanks for asking.I appreciate your feedback,

Mark Kiszla

I suppose on one level it's refreshing to see that Kiszla's bile against the Rockies is based on their failure to put a winning ball club on the field. Unlike many baseball writers, maybe he's still a fan.

Still, no matter their record, it seems wrong to suggest that jacking the ticket prices for the Yankees' series constitutes "incompetence." The revenue gained via increasing ticket prices for the Yankees' series is likely well north of a million bucks. The Rockies certainly aren't guaranteed to plow the few million extra bucks into player development and payroll, but they could, and no matter what they do with it, it was a smart move.

Moreover, Kiszla himself noted the other day that the Rockies are (a) winning more this year than he himself thought they would; and (b) that they have a lot of good prospects down on the farm. Obviously someone on Blake Street knows what they're doing.

For what it's worth, Kiszla is in favor of trading some of those prospects in order to rent Mark Buehrle who, even if the Rockies landed him, wouldn't stick around after he becomes a free agent this October (what decent starter would?).

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether current Rockies' management or Kiszla should be calling the shots.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And Phil Wellman Will Toss Out the First Pitch!

Twenty-five of twenty-five soldiers agree: facing live pitching in Leesburg, Florida beats facing live ammunition in Baghdad:

Here's a chance to salute America's pastime as well as those who step up to the
plate to protect the nation.The U.S. Military All-Star Team will play the Leesburg Lightning at 7 p.m. Friday at Pat Thomas Stadium in Leesburg. The Lightning are part of the Florida Collegiate Summer League. Admission is free . . .

. . . The first 100 fans to arrive at the Leesburg stadium near Venetian Gardens will receive a free U.S. Military All-Star Team T-shirt.

Hurry, though, because the second 100 will be drafted and sent to Anbar Province.

Condensed Baseball

Fox Sports Net Detroit is experimenting with condensed versions of ballgames:

Southfield-based Fox Sports Net Detroit on June 14 debuted a relatively new format for viewing baseball. The network condensed a Detroit Tigers' 6-5 afternoon loss to the Milwaukee Brewers into about 23 minutes -- plus commercials -- and aired it three times during the evening.

The presentation showed every meaningful play -- including strikeouts, hits, walks, and home runs -- in bang-bang fashion.

I haven't seen it, but even the article -- which seems to view the condensed broadcasts favorably -- noted that elements of it left the viewer "disoriented" and "confused." My biggest potential beef is the decision as to what plays, or portions of plays, are "meaningful" and what aren't. Sure, they show strike three, butoften the beauty of a K can only be appreciated by watching a seemingly wasted pitch that, in reality, set the batter up.

I suppose, however, that people who care about this level of detail in a game aren't going to be all that interested in a condensed broadcast to begin with. I'm inclined to be skeptical, but I'll withhold ultimate judgment until I can actually see one of these condensed games. And make no mistake, if this is successful in Detroit, the practice will no doubt spread.

Someone is, um, leveraging resources or solutions or something

The company that killed Jack Murphy is going to put baseball stuff on your cell phone. I don't care about that. I do want to know, however, how a company as large as QUALCOMM can't find a press release writer who can speak English:

SAN DIEGO, June 21 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- QUALCOMM Incorporated , a
leading developer and innovator of advanced wireless technologies and mobile
data solutions, and MLB Advanced Media, LP (MLBAM), the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball, today announced an agreement to leverage QUALCOMM's BREW(R) BrandXtend Signature Solution to mobilize content directly to wireless consumers. MLBAM will be QUALCOMM's first BREW BrandXtend Signature Solution customer and will use it to offer baseball lovers new access channels for the discovery and delivery of compelling mobile content offered exclusively by

Uh oh, the writer left out the word "synergy." Someone's not getting a bonus this year.

Lost in Baseball Fever

Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican notes how, for New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson, baseball is the cause of and the solution to all of life's problems:

In his autobiography Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life, Gov. Bill Richardson wrote that baseball was “the ruling passion of my young life.” . . .While baseball was Richardson’s salvation as a youth, the
national pastime has become a common thread in many of the controversies that have haunted his campaign for president.

I imagine most people are aware of Richardson's lie about being drafted by the Kansas City A's, but I hadn't heard about his claim to be both a Yankees and Red Sox fan. Nor had I heard about this odd behavior at a minor league game last year:

"As we get up from our seats to visit the play-by-play announcer’s booth,
Richardson does something I’ve never seen any politician do,” Lizza wrote.
“There are two women sitting in front of us. They are both young and attractive,
probably in their twenties. The governor rotates his large frame sideways and
shimmies out of his row. The two women smile up at him. As he passes, Richardson
reaches down and places his fingertips on the head of one of the women, tickling
her scalp as he opens and closes his hand. Then, as he reaches for the next
scalp, his hand suddenly aborts its mission, as if the governor realizes this
wasn’t such a good idea after all.”

I know that Richardson is trying to position himself as the true heir to Bill Clinton, but that may be taking it too far.

No matter the case, it seems to me that if Richardson is to lift himself from the second tier to the first tier of candidates, he needs to swear off of baseball for a while.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Revealing Comment from Tom Hicks

Rangers' owner Tom Hicks is not the brightest of bulbs. It was Hicks, you may recall, who, a little more than a year after inking A-Rod to a $250 million contract, and mere months after signing Chan Ho Park to a $65 million contract, sat on the deck of his luxury yacht in San Diego Harbor and said "For the good of baseball, we need to have cost-containment."

Hicks is out there saying dumb yet revealing things again, this time about Juan Gone and steroids:

During a wide-ranging taped interview with Channel 11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg last week, Hicks was asked about the Rangers’ deals he most regretted making. First he mentioned wasting $65 million on pitcher Chan Ho Park. Then he referenced the two-year, $24 million deal the Rangers gave Gonzalez to come back to Texas in 2002. Juan Gonzalez, for $24 million, after he came off steroids probably . . .we just gave that money away.”

As usual, the folks at Baseball Think Factory are having a field day with this, with Primate Rich sarcastically voicing his confidence that "Bud will threaten Hicks with a suspension if he doesn't agree to meet with Mitchell within two weeks." If only. Unfortunately, we all know that the Mitchell probe is nothing more than an exercise in ass-covering PR that would never think to investigate such statements from Hicks lest it threaten to scuttle the owners' neat little conceit that it was the players and the players alone who knew anything about steroid use in baseball pre-BALCO.

Primate AROM, however, sees something far more sinister and notes that "Hicks' statement implies that the money might not have been wasted had Gonzalez remained on steroids. Surely that's worth a question or two."


Oil Can and Bobby V

Oil Can Boyd is worried that black kids aren't into baseball anymore. What does he do about it? For starters, he calls up old colleagues and persuades them to participate in his consciousness-raising barnstorming tour. He has another idea too that, according to the article, is "a passion for The Can":

Ultimately, Boyd said that he's got a plan for an inner-city pro baseball league. It would be located, to start, in Southern cities and would be for African-American players who were unable to crack a Major League roster.
This strikes me as a good idea that, if it were serious about the relative dearth of black American ballplayers these days, Major League Baseball would get behind in some form. But even if it never happens, the fact remains that Oil Can sees a problem and is out there doing something about it, so good for him.

In related news, Bobby Valentine is worried that Japanese kids aren't into baseball anymore. What's Bobby doing about it?
Valentine said its up to the people who run Japanese baseball to find
a solution. "This isn't about me," said Valentine. "I'm 57 years old, I
don't need the publicity. This is about the future of Japanese baseball."

Hey, they can't all be Oil Cans.

The Bronx is Burning

It was during the 1977 World Series that the broadcaster, noting a fire raging within eyeshot of the Yankee Stadium press box, uttered the infamous phrase, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning." While no one would give a tinker's damn about anything someone like Joe Buck would say, the author of this comment was Howard Cosell, and in 1977 when Howard Cosell said something it was noted, if not always seriously. For the past thirty years, many people's impressions of the Bronx -- including this author's -- were shaped at least in part by that memory.

News now of a renaissance in the location of the World Series fire. Also, a miniseries entitled The Bronx is Burning, depicting the Yankees and the miserable, wonderful summer of 1977 will be debuting on HBO in a couple of weeks. John Turturro will be playing Billy Martin, and that alone should be worth watching.

Hopefully it won't try to do what another baseball/riots movie tried to do a few years ago and credit a baseball team itself with urban renewal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Snitches Get Stitches

It appears that Giambi's folks have nearly reached a deal with MLB and the Mitchell panel pursuant to which he'll agree to talk about his own steroid use.

The Mitchell panel is a sham, of course, but the beautiful thing about a sham is that any development short of it being exposed as such (e.g. having an arbitrator say it's illegitimate) can be spun as a victory. After Giambi's day on the stand, as it were, let no man say that Bud Selig and George Mitchell didn't get to the bottom of whatever it is they wanted to be seen getting to the bottom of, and once this deal goes final, rest assured that MLB and the steroid witch-hunters in the media will crow long and loud about the "progress" being made.

It strikes me that Giambi is the big loser here. Before I say why, allow me to observe that life and ethics and stuff are complicated things. Personally, I don't buy in to the notion that one should keep mum about one's colleagues whatever the subject and whatever the cost, and indeed, there are times when one has no choice but to rat someone out. Until we're faced with the prospect, we can't really say what we'd do in such a situation. Should Giambi be talking to Mitchell? I tend to think he shouldn't, mostly because the Mitchell panel is an exercise in P.R., but I'm not Giambi so I won't moralize.

However, from what we've been able to divine about the Giambi-Mitchell negotiations thus far, it certainly seems like Giambi feels that ratting out others isn't a desirable thing. Indeed, if the reports are to be believed, the final piece of the deal is Mitchell's agreement to not ask Giambi about other players' steroids use. This, however, shouldn't give JG any comfort.

Yes, Giambi will have agreement saying that he doesn't have to give anyone else up, but it's not like Mitchell or MLB is bestowing some sort of transactional immunity to everything he ever said or did or will otherwise disregard the details of his testimony. Giambi is going to speak at length about all kinds of stuff, and the topics of conversation will naturally touch on trainers, friends, associates, and habits he shared with other players. Even if he doesn't have to answer a question such as "did you ever share a needle with Danny Tartabull," the information he provides will be useful ammo against others all the same, and everyone involved will know where the corroboration came from.

If that happens -- and it seems likely that it will -- will Giambi's testimony have technically thrown anyone under the bus? No. But it will have inadvertently bumped some folks off the curb, and he's going to have to live with it.

Congressional Ballgame in Peril

New ethics rules are making life difficult for the annual Democratic vs. Republican Congressional baseball game.

But the 46-year-old charity game pitting Republicans against Democrats has been unexpectedly ensnared in new Congressional ethics rules. Organizers now say they will be lucky to match the $120,000 they raised last year since the rules complicate the process of soliciting donations and have led to at least one corporate sponsor pulling out altogether.

For my day job, I have become something of an expert in legislative ethics laws, and I've observed that whenever a new party comes into power, they go way the hell out of the way to appear to be cleaning house. The usual result of this are hastily-drafted ethics laws with very few reasonable exceptions (those could be construed as loopholes!) and little regard for common sense. This seems to be one of those instances. Obviously, no one intended to scuttle a charity ballgame even if a literal reading of the rules make it difficult to pull off.

Of course, what you also tend to see after such laws are passed is the exploitation of these unexpected consequences as a means for a broader watering down of the ethics law itself. Rest assured, if some exception to the new law is rammed through in order to accommodate the ballgame, it will also serve as a greater loophole that, come next summer, will result in some donations and solicitations that have little to do with baseball.

False Controversy of the Day

Eric Pfahler, of the Scripps Howard News Service:

With the June 28 All-Star voting deadline approaching, Barry Bonds might not get voted in as a starting outfielder in the National League. If Bonds does not get voted in, La Russa must make a tough decision on whether to add Bonds to the team . . .Beyond home runs – where Bonds ranks eighth in the league with 14 – the surly outfielder is not in the top six in any key category . . .

I realize that there are still some folks who want to pretend OPS doesn't matter, but by now I think we've reached the point where to suggest that it is not a "key category" is tantamount to sports writing malpractice.

Bonds is first in on base percentage and first in slugging percentage, making him the league's clear OPS leader. He also leads the league in intentional walks, which indicates that he is still among baseball's most feared hitters as well. He will either have broken or will be damn near breaking the career home run record come the All Star game which, by the way, is being played in his home park.

So, Mr. Pfahler, please explain to me again how this is a "tough decision."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Breaking News from Roy Neyer! has obviously hired a new editor. One who obviously doesn't know the name of their most prolific columnist:

This probably doesn't mean anything Rob (and may be fixed by now). Although I feel obligated to point out that, in the final days, Jeffrey Whitlock's stuff was handled pretty poorly too.

Brandon Watson's Girlfriend is no Annie Savoy!

Although I suppose a single season hitting streak is way less dubious than the minor league career home run record:

Brandon Watson's single in the Columbus Clippers' 9-8 loss to Ottawa may not
have seemed like much during Sunday's minor league game, but it was actually a
historic stroke.Watson's base-knock extended his hitting streak to 43 games,
breaking a 95-year-old International League record. Jack Lelivelt set the league
record for the Rochester Hustlers in 1912.

Looking over his career, there is no reason to suspect that Watson is going to have anything better than this hitting streak happen to him, but man, how much worse could he be than Austin Kearns or Robert Fick?

Slugging it Out in Japan

I loved Warren Cromartie's book when I read it fifteen years ago, but I'm not sure what to think of this.

Tweaking the nose of retirement, former Major League Baseball player Warren Cromartie instead picked a fight with a blood-thirsty Tiger. The 53-year-old took part in a professional wrestling bout against sword-waving pantomime villain Tiger Jeet Singh in Japan on Sunday and not only survived. He won.

I suppose it's better than anything Tom Selleck's been doing lately.

Every Baseball Fan's Dreams Come True

Mitch Albom. Adam Sandler. The baseball movie project you've all been waiting for.

You'll not be surprised to hear that the press release notes that the script has "some emotional elements."

From "Summer Nuts" to Sand Gnats

Here's a fun story about a wannabe actor's rise from zero-dialogue walk-on parts in bad Disney sequels to the world of minor league promotions.

He sent out his resume and cover letter to 120 minor-league teams. He received calls and landed a job as director of ticket sales with the Savannah Sand Gnats, a Single-A affiliate. It was the perfect place for him to start. With a small staff, Vojtanek helped with a variety of jobs from marketing the team to shooing off opossums that would show up at the stadium around game time.

That may not be as glamorous as five seconds of screen time as the guy who holds a door open for Kate Hudson in some romantic comedy, but there's something to be said about doing what you love.

Cy Young Days

The good folks in Newcomerstown, Ohio will be holding their sorta-annual Cy Young Days festival this weekend. It's geared towards kids -- lots of contests and games like tossing balls at milk jugs -- but should be fun for anyone who likes baseball and that particular brand of feel-good Midwesterndom that you find at events with names like "Cy Young Days." All proceeds of the festival go to support local youth baseball leagues. If you're a totally jaded merch speculator/collector you're in luck too, as there will be an auction with baseball tickets, wares from local merchants and, no doubt, some assorted memorabilia.

There's also a parade on Saturday evening which serves as the best evidence that this event is on an upward trajectory inasmuch as the grand marshal is 1971 Cy Young Award winner Fergie Jenkins. In past years it was Len Barker and Kevin frickin' Ritz. Steve Carlton is penciled in for 2021.

In any event, the whole thing sounds cool, so make an effort to pop in if you're near eastern Ohio this weekend.


Topps issues a press release postponing a special stockholders meeting during which the company's fate -- purchase by Upper Deck, merger with some random LLC's no one has ever heard of -- will be determined.

I don't really know the details of any of these proposed transactions, but I do know this: if Topps doesn't hurry up and get this done soon, they're going to end up having to airbrush the new corporate logo onto all of the old letterhead.

Market Failure for Baseball Columnists in Denver

Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla is in a premature tizzy about the Rockies jacking ticket prices for the upcoming series against the Yankees:

This week, and this week only, in return for a cool $75, Dick and Charlie Monfort will rent you one chair at the corner of 20th and Blake for three hours to watch the New York Yankees scratch themselves. Now, there's no denying that Derek Jeter is a fine-looking ballplayer. But I would not pay 75 bucks for a seat at Coors Field, unless I got to sit alongside Angelina Jolie.

It's a premature tizzy because we don't know what the attendance figures will be for those games. If they're sold out or if there is a substantial uptick at the gate, then I guess the price isn't out of line, is it? Kiszla offers a weak shoutout to this concept, but he's obviously not willing to let basic microeconomics stand in the way of his outrage.

And he's certainly not thinking ahead, either. That's because if the games do sellout or at least come close, Kiszla's column must necessarily be reinterpreted from "the Rockies are jerks for charging so much" to "Rockies fans are jerks for spending too much." That's not something I'd write in a local paper, but maybe the Post has a policy encouraging anticipatory contempt for the local fan base.

By the way, that block quote has been altered a bit. Kiszla is one of those writers who fills half of his column inches with empty space via the one-sentence-paragraph technique, which is always the sign of a world class writer. I squished, like, ten of his own paragraphs together in order to make for somewhat coherent reading.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Another Non-Star Gets Busted

Another marginal minor league player violates the drug policy. I wish these articles would say what drug was involved, because I don't know if I should be hysterically alarmed (steroids) or if I should think nothing of it (meth, heroin, huffing gas).

As of press time, Hank Aaron had not issued a statement as to how this impacts the sanctity of his record.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Judges and Lawyers Being Judges and Lawyers

It seems I can't go a day anymore without stumbling upon instances of my passion colliding with my profession. But here we are again, watching baseball get all mixed up with judges and lawyers and all sorts of law-suity things.

Two things happened in the Barry Bonds saga yesterday. First, the hangin' judge in charge of sentencing the guy who leaked the Bonds grand jury testimony to Fainaru-Wada rejected the plea deal reached between the prosecution and the defense.

Second, Bonds's lawyer Michael Rains decided to take his campaign to get Barry off the perjury/obstruction hook to the media, pulling a Joe McCarthy and claiming that he held in his hands some shocking, shocking information that no, kind reporter, you can't have yet, but trust me, if you did, it would knock your friggin' socks off. Rains believes that the info not only exonerates Bonds, but arguably makes him a candidate for sainthood.

Let's unpack this stuff.

I only dabble in criminal law (not altogether successfully if you must know), but I've never had a case in which a judge rejected a plea deal or settlement agreement out of hand like this one. Make no mistake -- a judge is charged with handing down a sentence and he's totally within his rights to reject deals he feels don't mete out justice -- but usually when he does so he (a) has better explanations for doing so than this judge did; and (b) doesn't put the parties before him in impossible positions like this judge did.

Judge White cited a couple of reasons why he felt that leaker Troy Ellerman should serve more than 15 to 24 months, among them being that Ellerman's status as a lawyer means that he should be held to a higher standard and that, more bizarrely, he lied to the news media. While I disagree that lawyers should expect harsher sentences for the same offenses as non-lawyers -- in my mind the "higher standard" will come into play when his license to practice law is permanently revoked in the near future -- I understand the sentiment. What I don't understand is how lying to the media justifies more time in jail. If God had intended for lying to the media to be a crime he wouldn't have created publicists.

A final reason cited by the judge -- that Ellerman's conduct caused the legislature to have to consider changing reporter shield laws seems even more ridiculous and attenuated. How is the lack of a federal shield law -- or Fainaru-Wada's refusal to divulge his source -- Ellerman's fault, and what did it have to do with the actual crime he committed? If I knock over a convenience store tomorrow, should I be given a harsher sentence because some digbat Congressman holds a press conference next week about the dire need to outlaw ski masks?

More troubling to me is the judge's refusal to suggest what he feels is a proper sentence. Based on the deal reached, it is obvious that neither the prosecution nor the defense want to try this case, and they are now going to embark on a few weeks of negotiations in an effort to strike a deal on which the judge will sign off. Unfortunately they're flying blind now, and may find themselves in exactly the same position at the next hearing. With absolutely no guidance, how can Ellerman decide whether a trial is worth the gamble? How can the prosecutor expect any offer he makes to be taken seriously by Ellerman's legal team now that they know he has no real settlement authority? I predict a lot of wasted money in a case in which none of the facts are truly disputed.

The Michael Rains "bombshell" story is fun in its own way. Here's a loose translation of Rains's comments: "That idiot prosecutor who is going to decide whether my client is indicted, arrested, booked, and tried is ignoring the evidence, pursuing my client in bad faith, and won't answer my letters. I'm giving him one last chance, and if he doesn't take it, I'm going to the media again."

While there are attorneys who deal with this kind of stuff way more than I do, I do have some experience in cases that garner media attention. That experience tells me that the best way to get your client indicted is to taunt the prosecutor, which is really what Rains is doing by airing his correspondence with him in public. This is especially true now that, thanks to Mike Nifong and Alberto Gonzales, people are more likely to question a prosecutors' integrity.

Rains would do well to remember that, in the context of a grand jury investigation, prosecutors have Keyser Söze-like power. If he wants to try to shoot the devil in the back, he had better not miss.

Bonds in Fenway

With all of the sturm und drang that goes with following Barry Bonds, it's easy to forget that he's, you know, still a ballplayer. Once in a while, when a reporter decides to talk to him rather than about and around him, you get an interesting insight. For example, I bet you didn't know that the most feared power hitter in sixty or seventy years hates hitting in homer-friendly ballparks:

Bonds said he actually prefers hitting in bigger stadiums because it forces him to narrow his focus even more. He said he doesn't like the feeling of a small ballpark because "it feels like everything, the pitcher, is right on top of you."

And Randy Winn seems to pretty accurately sum up the Barry Bonds-on-the-road experience:

And how will they receive Bonds, who is nine home runs away from breaking the all-time home run record? "The standard stuff, but really loud," Winn said. "Enthusiastic fans, small ballpark, close quarters — it's going to be loud, and it's going to be packed because of the dichotomy of Barry. They love to see him, they want to see him hit it really, really far, but then boo him after he does it."

Death of a fan, birth of a reporter

Here's a column from a brand new baby beat writer for the Frederick (MD) News-Post, describing her first time covering an Orioles game. There are some interesting details of as this 21 year-old rookie takes it all in for the first time, but some kind of depressing ones too. Such as:

Now I know I am not supposed to be biased, but deep down I was rooting for the Orioles, and I must say it was heart-wrenching to see them lose. But even in the bottom of the ninth when Miguel Tejada hit a solo home run, a glimmer of hope in me said, “They could come back” — although Stan said it would totally ruin the story, which was already written by now.

I'm setting a calendar reminder in Outlook to read her stuff in July 2010, by which time all of the fan should have been beaten out of her.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let Big Papi Interrupt your Dinner!

An odd promotion from XM radio, through which you can have Cal Ripken, David Ortiz, and Derek Jeter call your friends with prerecorded messages. They're promoting it as a good graduation or Father's Day gift. While I told my kids that all I want for Father's Day is a big hug and some goddamn peace and quiet for a change, I am curious as to how those calls will go. Maybe something like this:

"Hi, this is Derek Jeter. When I'm not schtupping Hollywood stars or basking in the unwarranted level of adulation I receive from the fawning New York media establishment, I'm busy throwing A-Rod under the bus and failing to work on my defense (remember kids: if you can't get close enough to a ground ball for it to hit your glove, it's not an error!). But that doesn't mean I don't have any time for my fans, and while I have a moment, I'd like to wish you a happy Father's Day!"

"Hi, I'm Cal Ripken. While I'd hope you love me for my liquid blue eyes and my brave embrace of male pattern baldness, you probably remember me best for the Iron Man streak. But what you may not know is that in the late 1990s, this streak was extended artificially by sympathetic stadium employees who sabotaged the lighting system, which caused a game that I wasn't going to be able to make to be postponed. Why couldn't I make it? Because Kevin Costner was with my wife at a Motel 6, and I had to stop them! OK, that's not really true, but I just love that someone took the time to concoct an urban legend about a boring white bread star like me. Man, it gets lonely in Aberdeen. Anyway, Happy graduation!"

"Hi, I'm David Ortiz. Beisbol has been berry berry good to me. So good that, despite the fact that I'm slower than Manny, play worse defense than Manny (they won't even give me a glove!) and have had a far less impressive track record of offensive production than Manny, I am universally loved, while most people think Manny is a lackadaisical head case. Hey, no one said the world is fair! Happy Father's Day!"

I could probably go on and on, but if I did I'm probably not going to get that press pass I've had my eye on.

"WHEAT GRASS!! Get yer ice cold WHEAT GRASS here!!!"

Eating well at the ballpark? Why the hell not?

Diners visiting the Stadium Club at U.S. Cellular Field will find a variety of healthful selections . . New this season at the club is the chef's organic table, featuring items such as organic salads, seafood and meat entrees. "We even use organic olive oil for the dressings," Soto said. Organic honey was used in flavoring the sauce for a sweet potato side dish, and a bean cassoulet was prepared with organic, fat-free chicken broth. An organic lentil salad, Soto said, is a good choice for someone monitoring fat intake or needing extra fiber.

OK, that's all well and good at the Stadium Club, but is there anything that can be flung to seat 15F from the aisle by a vendor?

Individuals on select diets also will find items to enjoy in the concession areas while cheering on the White Sox. The offerings include veggie dogs, garden burgers, grilled chicken breast sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, fresh fruit cups and kosher hot dogs. Also, a healthful turkey wrap is served on the Club Level.

Hmmm. Quite a falloff from the stadium club. I mean, I like Hebrew Nationals better than other hot dogs, but I think it's stretching things to call them healthy. And why aren't the turkey wraps available in the cheap seats?

Look, when I go to a game, I'm probably going to get a hot dog and a beer because that's just how I roll. It's ridiculous, however, that for the most part, the healthy food in stadiums is only available to the folks rich enough to afford the club seats. It's hard enough for Shyster to get his old lady interested in baseball without dippin' dots being the closest thing to vegetables she can get if I decide not to spring for tickets in the Toyota Terrace, so how about taking a stab at offering more healthy fare in the upper decks and further down the baselines?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance Watch: USA Today

Story in this morning's McPaper about the demise of the four-man rotation, pegged on Keith Woolner's analysis in Baseball Between the Numbers. It's a fine enough article for what it's worth, grounded in some decent analysis and eschewing quotes from crusty old-timers about how today's pitchers are pansies in favor of some measured comments and analysis from people who seem to know what they're talking about.

Of course, to the extent the reporter is advocating for the return to a four-man rotation, he would do better than to have used the photo that accompanied the article:

Catfish and Koufax Drysdale (God, I'm an idiot): one who retired at 33 and the other at 32, both because of arm trouble.

L.A. Confrontational

Come to Los Angeles! The sun shines bright, the beaches are wide and inviting, and the orange groves stretch as far as the eye can see. There are jobs aplenty, and land is cheap. Every working man can have his own house, and inside every house, a happy, all-American family. You can have all this, and who knows . . .you could even be discovered, become a movie star . . . or at least see one. Life is good in Los Angeles . . . it's paradise on Earth.

That's what they tell you, anyway. In 1953, though, Ed Exley and the boys were needed to break up a pinstripe riot between the LA Angels and the Hollywood Stars over at Gilmore Field on Beverly Boulevard which the ump describes in yesterday's Los Angeles Times as "the biggest fight in baseball history."

The "pugilistic pips," as reporter Al Wolf's account in The Times described the skirmishes, lasted for nearly 30 minutes, Carlucci recalls.

Police Chief Bill Parker, watching at home on television, ordered officers to the stadium on Beverly Boulevard — CBS Television City stands there now — and warned that additional incidents would result in the booking of offenders . . . By game's end, officers and players were seated side by side in the dugouts. All but the players still involved in the game had been banished to the clubhouses, many of them nursing cuts, scrapes, black eyes and other minor wounds.

I admire those guys as ballplayers. Particularly their adherence to violence as a necessary adjunct to the job.

Weekend in SoCal

Back in town after a quick trip to Los Angeles and San Diego, where I maxed out on California sun and baseball for a couple of days. First, I saw Olemedo Saenz hit a walk-off dinger to lift the Dodgers over the Jays on Friday night. Here's me pretending to be as excited as real Dodgers fans as Saenz rounds the bases:

On Saturday, ShysterBrother and I went to PETCO and watched the Padres' bullpen waste a nice David Wells performance by coughing up a 5-1 lead and blowing the game against the Mariners. Biggest shocker: Jeff Weaver was actually kind of effective for a while for Seattle. Most notable thing about this game? I had sweet seats right in front of the press box (I could have high-fived Jerry Coleman):

Certainly a purer baseball experience in Dodger stadium, where the crowd is treated to simple, pleasant organ music between innings and the fans don't need flashing signs on the jumbotron telling them when to cheer. While people often refer to Dodgers' fans as late-arriving, early-departing dilettantes, this only appears to be the case for the folks in the high-priced seats behind the plate and the dugouts. My compadres in the upper deck down the left field line all fought their way through Friday rush hour traffic to make the first pitch and stayed until the end of the 10th inning. Dodger Stadium could have used some more beer guys -- none came my way all game and the lines on the concourse were ridiculous -- but that seemed minor due to a good game and a nice night.

In contrast to the old-fashioned vibes in Chavez Ravine, PETCO park suffers from blaring rock music between innings and oversized muppets dancing at any moment pitches aren't actually being thrown. Even the groundskeepers get into the act while dragging the infield, engaging in dance routines and full-blown Three Stooges skits while pitchers try to warm up between innings (Boomer seemed annoyed with them). Apparently the Padres think that baseball is so boring that people won't want to come to the park unless they're constantly being assaulted with entertainment.

Which is sad, because it's a really nice park in a gorgeous downtown setting. Check this out:

Yes, Virginia, that's actual foliage adorning the concourse. While Wrigley has ivy in the walls and Coors has some bushes behind the fences, can you think of a ballpark that actually attempts to gussy up the public areas with greenery? Me neither. It's a really nice touch which, my purism aside, I prefer to some more traditional ballpark elements such as, say, urine troughs. Oh, and unlike Dodger Stadium the PETCO beer guys practically set up shop next to me, although that was probably more a function of my ticket price as opposed to the inherent hospitality of the place. But hey, beer is beer.

Quibbles aside, Dodger Stadium and PETCO each have a good beat and you can dance to them, though the folks in San Diego could stand to have a little faith in their fans' attention spans and learn to trust that the product on the field will adequately entertain their guests. If they did, they could take the money they save on whoopie cushions and the Punch and Judy show and plow it into something Padres fans could appreciate.

Like a power hitter.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Road Trip*

Shyster is hitting the road for a couple of days. California if you must know. There will be baseball -- I'll be catching the Padres and Mariners Saturday night, and may get a chance to take in the Dodgers-Jays on Friday -- but I'll probably not be writing about it until I get back to stinky old Ohio on Monday.

Recommendation for the weekend: watch Homer Bailey's Major League debut Friday night. If I'm the Reds I let him break in against weaker bats than the Tribe, but then the Reds do a lot of things I wouldn't do.

Otherwise? Some other young chap is making his season debut in Pittsburgh on Saturday, which should be fun. Go Pirates.

Mets-Tigers looks like it might be the most fun of all of the interleague matchups this weekend. As much as I'd like to hate the Mets, they're a pretty likable team and the novelty of the Tigers being good hasn't worn off for me yet. If I get too wasted in California and end up sitting on my brother's couch all day Saturday and Sunday, that's the series I'm tuning into.

Hasta Martes.

*While I, um, borrow most of the pics that accompany my posts, I actually took this one myself. That's US-50, a couple dozen miles east of the Utah-Nevada border, on April 20, 2003. I had sort of lost my bearings around that time, and vistas like that one helped me find them again. Just thought you should know.

Out at the Ballgame

Remember those carefree days of early 2002 when we thought of Jose Canseco as mere beefcake instead of a whistle blower? When we were far more interested in Mike Piazza promising us that he was heterosexual than we were in Jason Giambi promising us that he hadn't "done that stuff?" When Gary Sheffield was more likely to slur someone's sexual orientation as opposed to their race?

Ah, those were the days!

Well, if you're in the Bay Area, you can relive them between now and July 11th, as the New Conservatory Theatre Center presents Richard Greenberg's Tony Award-winning play Take Me Out:

We're in a locker-room; a private place where the sweat and the grime mix with the tears of defeat or the shouts of triumph. Where the trouble on or off the field is kept locked up with the deodorant and the tobacco. We're flies on the wall of a true red, white and blue pastime. So imagine the mess when one of America's best ball players goes into the locker room and out of the closet with one overly confident stride!

Sweet! But, man, this just isn't as topical as it was when it was written a few years ago. Any special reason why I should go, Mr. Reviewer?

The last time I'd seen a live performance of Take Me Out, I was in the front mezzanine and completely distracted by the nudity. This time, in spite of being six rows from the nakedness, I was more focused on the play. Great bodies up against a great script? The script wins. Perhaps I've matured as an audience member. Or perhaps NCTC took me all the way to home-plate this time around!

That cuts it. I'll be there with bells on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Lawyers, Ethics, and Baseball Tickets

Bad couple weeks' press for Atlanta lawyers. First one goes out of his way to spread TB, and then one makes an ass out of himself and my profession over some choice Braves season tickets:

Aisle 101, front row, seats 5, 6, 7, 8 behind home plate. On Tuesday morning, a divorced Atlanta couple took these objects of joy into a courtroom — and turned them into a source of misery. H. Elizabeth King, a psychologist, accused her ex, Charles Center, a lawyer, of breaking their 2002 divorce agreement to divide the tickets.

King said in court Tuesday that Center had gone out of his way to give her bad tickets this season — to games that conflicted with her tickets to Wednesday night concerts at the Chastain Park Amphitheater. And, worse, she claimed 80 percent of the tickets he gave her were for day games, implying he’d done it because he knew she had skin cancer.

Center testified that the four tickets to 27 home games cost about $6,000. And he was distributing them to her the way he’d always distributed them, sequentially, according to a mathematical formula. He admitted he would
“manipulate” that arrangement when people asked or if there were conflicting

So far, attorneys’ fees in the dispute have run to about $13,000.

Since the story doesn't tell us all that much about the actual litigation tactics which led to this scene, we can only truly call the ex-husband -- himself a lawyer -- a jerk. If he truly is messing with the mother of his children over the tickets like the article suggests, he's a petty bastard, and would be no matter what his profession.

That said, I've practiced law for nearly nine years. Though the vast majority of my cases and clients have involved simple business being conducted by more or less decent people, I've represented a lot of bastards too. I've also had opposing counsel who run the gamut from princes to punks. Throughout my career I have often taken solace in the "we can only advise and remain ethical, all else is up to the client" mantra, but I also know it's a copout.

Lawyers may very well have a duty of zealous representation, and may have a floor of ethical behavior below which we may not sink lest we incur sanctions, but that does not mean (a) that we should not strive to counsel our clients against taking unreasonably assholish positions even if they are technically within their rights to do so; and (b) that, if our advice is ignored, we still have to remain in the case. The ethical rules do not require us to check notions of common decency at the courthouse door.

Yes, there is always someone who will take these cases and run with them, but I hope that before counsel of record was retained, at least a couple of other lawyers told these season ticket holders that there is no sense spending tens of thousands of dollars of their own money and costing the legal system thousands more litigating the issue of who gets the nice seats when.

While I'm on my high horse, allow me to offer something else.

I don't know why I care, but I did a bit of digging, and found this article, which prominently features the couple in question. It turns out that, based on their own experiences with cancer, the two of them worked and produced a book for kids about how to cope with parents who have cancer called Kemo Shark.

While no one except the spouses involved can ever truly know what goes on in a marriage, it's amazing to me that two people could work together to raise a couple of kids, deal with cancer, and then turn that into a positive like a book to help kids cope, and then turn around and have a stupid court battle that ends with one of them yelling "I'm not going to jail! I'm not going to jail!"