Friday, June 04, 2010

Games 54 and 55: One Team's Ceiling Is Another Team's Floor: And, A Defense Of Jim Joyce

In Boston Wednesday night, the Red Sox overcame a Typical Dice K First Inning (TM) to pull out a 6-4 win, and then turned around and threw away a 9-8 loss last night, with two runners thrown out at home and 18 hits going for naught. Boston is now 31-24, 5 1/2 games out, and tied with Toronto for third place.


First, watch the play, in real time:

Second, read Rob Neyer here.

Now, right off the bat-dude was out. OK? Looking at the replay and at stills, no question, he was out.

But watch it live, at full speed. Remember, Joyce has to determine:

a)does the runner get to the bag before the pitcher gets the ball?
b)does the pitcher have control of the ball all the way through the play?
c)does the pitcher touch the base?
d)does the batter touch the base?

-with 30,000 people yelling at him, in real time, at the end of a 8 hour workday, the last 3 of which on his feet with no breaks and, probably, very little food or water (think that's easy? Try it. Force yourself to work for the next three hours-intense, detail oriented work, without losing focus and without having anything to eat or drink) and no chance to do it over or look at a replay.

Now ask yourself, is he safe? Or out?

The argument has been made-"Oh, you have to give him that call, there was a perfect game on the line."


Safe is safe, and out is out, whether the seventh game of the World Series or the first game of spring training.

Now, Joyce blew the call. He's acknowledged it. He got it wrong. Being on his feet for 3 hours or longer and concentrating is his job-he's a major league umpire.

But think about it from his point of view-it was a close play, and he made the wrong call. It wasn't because he wasn't trying. It wasn't because he was out of position. He had a lot of factors to consider, and he got it wrong.

I wish I was as right, as often, as Jim Joyce.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Because I'm A Poised, Veteran Husband...

...when my wife says she wants cake, I hop to it.

So we're driving home from the store, with the cake, when we see someone ahead of us, at a stoplight, get out of his car...

(You slow down at this point, because something bad or weird is about to happen.)

...walk to the back, take a decorative magnet off of the back, get back in, and drive away.

Sadly, we did not get to see what the offending magnet actually said.

We were able to come up with a couple of candidates.

"Alright...listen, if Kyle Kendrick walks one more guy....DAMMIT, that's it! I'm a Mets fan now!"

"Lord, I swear, if I see one more red light....THAT'S IT! Forget it! I'm a Buddhist!"

Any others?

100 Wise Words

Dipping my toe into the 100 Word Challenge pool again with this week's entry, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?", for the word "wisdom".

“Don't do it,” she said.

I looked at my sister. Older, wiser, married, with one perfect child and another on the way. Great job, great in laws, great teeth and long, perfect, straight hair.

“Don't do it,” she said again. “You know better.”

I looked down at my shoes. The leather on the tip reflected the sun back up at me. It hurt to look at it.

“You know he's going to cheat again. Don't go back to him,” she said, her voice starting to fray.

I looked up.

“I have to,” I said softly.


I just heard this song on the usually haughty but enjoyable Slate Cultural Gabfest, by a new artist named Janelle Monae. It's a very interesting melange of different musical styles that I find very listenable.

Jammin' With Janera

Janera Jepson, who blogs here, has another Wednesday Wickedness post up-ten thoughtful questions derived from statements of famous people. And with another Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals tilt around the corner, who better to provide the questions than the Zen Master himself, Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

1. "Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart.” Do you ALWAYS keep an open mind?

I think so. I like to think so. Like all humans, I am hidebound by prejudices of all kinds. For example, if you were to tell me, "Rush Limbaugh says that...", I would immediately be prejudiced against the truth of the statement. I don't think that would let me deny facts-but as my father used to say, "If Richard Nixon told me it was raining, I'd go look out the window first."

2. “Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.” Who is the wisest person you know? Who is the strongest?

Without question or doubt, long gone and hard to find, sitting in the clubhouse with a ten shot lead, my wife. Period, end of story, you can put it on the board, yes.

3. "Yes, victory is sweet, but it doesn't necessarily make life any easier the next season or even the next day." Do you think a successful day at your job makes the next day better or not?

No. My work life has very little continuity. I can have a fantastic day followed by an unspeakably vile one, and vice versa.

4. "...True joy comes from being fully present in each and every moment, not just when things are going your way." How would we tell by your behavior if you are having a bad day?

I get very, very quiet, with clipped and monosyllabic responses to questions.

5. "I gave it my body and mind, but I have kept my soul." Do you have days when you feel you gave it your all, but may have compromised your values?

Yes, I'm ashamed to admit. I've made decisions that were easy for me that I knew were going to wind up causing a headache for someone else, instead of wading in and fixing them myself. Thankfully, I haven't done it very often.

6. "Your problems never cease. They just change." What do you feel is your biggest problem at the moment?

My job. I am having an enormous amount of trouble completing all that is expected of me without spending a lot more time there than I am being paid for.

7. "My dad always had this little sign on his desk: "The bigger your head is, the easier your shoes are to fill." He really drilled that in." Does your ego sometimes get in your way?

Once in a great while.

8. "There is a saying that I love...It says: "There are no Zen masters, there's only Zen." "Zen master" is a contradiction in terms. You don't master Zen." Do you believe in Zen? If yes, can it be mastered? Yes. No. (How's that for Zen?)

9. "You can not teach competitiveness." Do you believe you could teach someone, like your child, to be competitive? No. You either are, or you're not.

10. "Home is where the heart is, right?” Obviously Phil didn't originate this quote. He said it when asked if he'd retire after this season. Do you believe home is not a place but rather a state of mind?

Home is the place where, if you go there, they have to take you in.

Game Fifty Three: Victor Victorious

With five hits from Victor Martinez, and a prominently meh performance from John Lackey, the Red Sox powered their way to a 9-4 win over Oakland at Fenway Park last night. Boston is now 30-23, still in 4th place, but now only five games off the pace.

Monday, May 31, 2010


I listened to all of Billy Joel's studio albums today at work-starting out the day with "She's Got A Way" on 1971's Cold Spring Harbor, and ending it with "Famous Last Words" from 1993's "River of Dreams. I do that when I'm distressed. The reasons for my distressal are largely better left unsaid, but at least part of the reason is that my company has decided that Independence Day is no longer a holiday-we're going to be working our regular hours, and if you wanted to do something silly and wasteful like be with your family, that's just too damn bad.

Now, that's a mistake on a couple of different levels. First of all, we have never had enough business to support being open that long, so it's a waste of resources that can be better devoted to other times of the week. Second of all, it engenders bitterness, because it's just another reminder that they own you. You don't have a family, or personal life, or hobbies. You thought maybe you did, but you don't. They own you. But it's not up to me, so who cares what I think?

It's Memorial Day today, and you'll probably find dozens of blog posts and Facebook entries and tweets giving some maudlin tribute to soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. And there's nothing in the world wrong with that-if that's how you feel, you should do that. And certainly, as Chris Rock once memorably said, I don't care if there's a Russian tank on Flatbush Avenue-I'm not fighting. So I certainly owe gratitude to those who did, from Saratoga to Kabul.

One of the lyrics to Allentown is:

"Well we're waiting here in Allentown/
For the Pennsylvania we never found/
For the promises our teachers gave/
If we worked hard/
If we behaved/
So the graduations hang on the wall/
But they never really helped us at all/
No they never taught us what was real."

Do you remember a time when holidays were, you know, holidays? When there was NOTHING open-the police station and the fire station and the hospital, and that was about it? Gradually, during my lifetime, we've lost that feeling that holidays were special-America's one true God, Mammon, demands sacrifice, so Memorial Day, and Independence Day, and soon every other holiday is just another way to move cars, and sheets, and hot dogs, and big screen TVs. Just another day to move merchandise.

What gets lost in this convenience first, business uber alles world is that there are real people who are working these holidays, missing their families, and they're too scared to ask for time off because they might get that day off, and all the rest of the days too. It's okay to ruin people's lives, as long as Mammon is fed, and as long the body being fed isn't mine.

My generation, and my parents,and my grandparents, were made an implicit promise-if you worked hard, and if you behaved, things would work out for you. You'd get a place at the table. Not the biggest place. Not the same place as everybody else. But a place. Increasingly, it seems that promise is being violated and forgotten about. We've been sold down the river, by Democrats and Republicans in thrall to campaign cash, to a point where business calls the shots, and you have to scramble like a madman just to stay where you are, never mind actually gaining any ground.

I don't know how to fix it, but everything seems hopeless, and broken, and wrong, and it seems deeply immoral to suggest to anyone younger than me that it's worth fighting for anymore.

Phil Nugent, as usual, said it much better than me here.

(Phil does use an occasional naughty word, so if that sort of thing bothers you, don't read it.)

From his final paragraph:

"America is a great country with a great past and remarkable possibilities. If our future doesn't measure up to where we've been, the blame will lie less in those trying to make the government work to move us forward and improve the lives of those on the bottom than in the kind of people who get very excited about the idea that a war that will be great fun to watch on CNN will renew our national fiber and bring American-style democracy to all the Middle East but who roll their eyes when they hear the suggestion that maybe we could cut back a little on our energy use or experiment with alternative energy sources that won't do much to enrich the people who are rich now from oil field revenues or even find a way to get the salaries of CEOs and the people munching sandwiches in the break room, not in the same ballpark, but just in adjoining stratospheres. Where do these people get their ridiculous, crackpot notions? Some of them came from our own past, before people born since John Kennedy died started peddling books explaining that Franklin Roosevelt f**ked up the country and equating universal health care with Hitlerism. Hell, a lot of people even fought for a country that they thought embodied such ideas, fought for it while wearing American uniforms."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I've Said It Before, and I'm Going To Say It Again

I'm sure I mentioned this before, but I'm going to mention it again. And it's my blog. So I will. So there.

This is Peter Wolf (formerly of the J.Geils Band) and Shelby Lynn performing Wolf's new song "Tragedy" in what appears to be a small dressing room. It's simply a gorgeous song-Wolf's whole new album "Midnight Souvenirs" is great, but the song is really lovely and sad and perfect. I recommend it highly.

Game Fifty Two: And Good Hitting Does, Too

Today in Boston the Red Sox, after struggling to figure out old friend Bruce Chen for 4 innings, beat poor Brad Thompson like he stole something to the tune of 6 runs, blowing apart a 1-1 game with 3 in the fifth and 3 more in the sixth to cruise to an 8-1 win. Jon Lester put his Jon Lester costume on again, tossing 7 Jon Lestery sort of innings, letting MDC and old friend Joe "Fungible Asset" Nelson finish the affair. (Mr. Nelson pitched briefly for the 2004 team that will live forever in our hearts, and appears to carry a well worn "Will Pitch For Food" sign.)

Game Fifty One: Good Pitching Solves A Lot Of Problems

Last night in Boston, our friend Cowboy Clay took up the challenge of beating Zack Grienke and actually went ahead and did it, stalling the Lawnmower Man, 1-0, with seven shutout frames. Combined with a pair of donuts from the Bard Of Avon and the Lord Of The Dance, that was enough to make Mike Lowell, American Hero's RBI groundout in the second inning stand up.


Monkey Man's 160 Character Challenge is located here. Similar to the 100 Word Challenge, the rules are simple-write a story in 160 characters.

I'm going to take up the cudgel this week, and I call it "Roanoke".

It hadn't gone as I planned. As the roads rolled on , I looked out the bus window and thought. Was I too thin? Too fat? Too casual? Too distant? I didn't know.