Thursday, February 27, 2014

2013 in Review

AL EAST (my prediction):
Toronto Blue Jays (90-72)
Tampa Bay Rays* (87-75)
New York Yankees (83-79)
Boston Red Sox (80-82)
Baltimore Orioles (77-85)


AL EAST (reality):
Boston Red Sox (97-65) +17 wins
Tampa Bay Rays* (92-71) +5 wins
Baltimore Orioles (85-77) +8 wins
New York Yankees (85-77) +2 wins
Toronto Blue Jays (74-88) -16 wins

I wasn't alone in my optimism for the Blue Jays. Just about everything went wrong for them last year. They're a good bet to bounce back this year; however, the sudden rebound by Boston (fueled by a legit farm system) and, soon, the Yankees (fueled by $, yet again) has narrowed Toronto's window considerably. I really can't look back at their 2013 and say that their plan was a bad one. It just didn't work.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 Predictions

AL EAST
  1. Toronto Blue Jays (90-72)
  2. Tampa Bay Rays* (87-75)
  3. New York Yankees (83-79)
  4. Boston Red Sox (80-82)
  5. Baltimore Orioles (77-85)
AL CENTRAL
  1. Detroit Tigers (93-69)
  2. Cleveland Indians (82-80)
  3. Kansas City Royals (79-83)
  4. Chicago White Sox (77-85)
  5. Minnesota Twins (66-96)
 AL WEST
  1. Los Angeles Angels (93-69) 
  2. Texas Rangers* (91-71) 
  3. Oakland Athletics (83-79)
  4. Seattle Mariners (76-86)
  5. Houston Astros (56-106)
    NL EAST
  1. Washington Nationals (95-67)
  2. Atlanta Braves* (91-71)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (79-83)
  4. New York Mets (72-90)
  5. Miami Marlins (65-97)
  NL CENTRAL
  1. Cincinnati Reds (92-70)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals* (89-73)
  3. Milwaukee Brewers (80-82)
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates (76-86)
  5. Chicago Cubs (68-94)
  NL WEST
  1. San Francisco Giants (90-72)
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (86-76)
  4. San Diego Padres (79-83)
  5. Colorado Rockies (68-94)
POSTSEASON

Monday, March 11, 2013

1995 World Baseball Classic

While watching the World Baseball Classic, I couldn’t help but consider what this would have looked like in the past. Two hours later, I had come up with a provisional roster for the WBC if it had taken place in 1995.

I chose the year basically at random. The first WBC was in 2006, so I started out just going back a decade. But then I thought that it would make sense to have the first WBC in ‘95 (in the summer, say) as a way for the industry to apologize for the player’s strike.

I did the best I could to determine nationality for each roster, but it was difficult, as I was just going through Baseball Reference and clicking on players to find out their nationality. After I was nearly done, I found this tremendously helpful page at Baseball Almanac which shows a list of players’ nationality by year. It almost saved me a lot of trouble.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Responding to Rosenthal

After no one was elected to the Hall of Fame today, baseball reporter Ken Rosenthal said, on the MLB Network, that the sabermetric community was similar to the Tea Party, presumably in its reckless zeal and narrow-mindedness.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2013 Prospectus: NL East

ATLANTA BRAVES

2012 W-L: 94-68

2012 Runs Per Game: 4.32 (7th in NL)

2012 Runs Allowed Per Game: 3.70 (4th in NL)

Key Losses:  Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn, David Ross

Writing Again

Every once in a while, an opportunity comes up to write for another website. I’ll prepare an email introduction about myself, which I hope will communicate the following:

  1. I know things about baseball – and not just stat things, but bits of wisdom.
  2. I have a strong grasp of grammar and vocabulary.
  3. I am a funny person – but my humor enhances rather than detracts from my analysis.
  4. I would be a perfect fit for your website.

Number four is a problem. I will inevitably offer links to some of the best stuff I’ve written over the years … which is a problem, because I haven’t written with any regularity for well over three years.

… but other than that, dear editor, don’t you want to hire me?

Why don’t I write as much as I used to? I’m tempted to resort to bullet form, but lest any unsuspecting editor happens to read this entry, I will make a go of it with prose.

I’ve been honest in the past about my struggle with serious depression and anxiety. For a while there – not surprisingly, about the time I stopped writing – it became a crippling struggle. Getting out of bed, taking meds, finding a job, going to that job … well, that felt like it took up all the energy I had in my very soul, and I didn’t much enjoy it at that. Who has time for writing, anyhow?

But that’s too pat an answer, and I’m afraid there are a few less noble reasons that I’ve stopped writing regularly. I came out of my depressive haze about two years ago, so that’s not longer an excuse. Although, like any habit, it’s hard to get started again once you’ve stopped for a while.

My attention span has gotten shorter and shorter over the past few years, to the extent that I actually looked at the symptoms for ADD to see if I qualify (I don’t). That means less patience with long baseball games (and they are long, aren’t they?) and a preference for highlights, that bane of comprehensive analysis. I followed the Reds, who are on local cable, but damned if I knew much about other teams. I realized there were top-notch All-Star players that I wouldn’t recognize even if I saw them in uniform.

It’s also possible that I just wrote so damn much from 2005-2008 that I had a whole lot less to say. When I started writing about baseball (back in 2003, in the privacy of my own Word file), it was because my thoughts could no longer be confined to my brain. And, like solving a math problem, I had to be able to work out the problem before me. I had to be able to see what was going on with these players, so I could learn analysis by doing it (and by reading others … I still do that, thank God).

Recently, though? Well, last semester I started a Master’s program in History, taking two classes with enough reading and writing to make Tolstoy blush. I was also working a full-time job and playing the lead role in a production of The Rivals at the community theatre. I do have friends and no longer live in my mother’s basement, so I did watch movies and talk to other human beings and stuff.

It’s no wonder that I didn’t want to write after reading pages upon pages of Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence, a book so dry that flipping through the pages is a fire hazard.

So … that’s my alibi. But an alibi is all it is. After all, I do still want to be a writer (unless grad school kills it for me), and what kind of writer doesn’t write? Can I allow the Pomeranzes of the world to deny me a chance to mock Tim McCarver’s announcing? My God, man, I went the whole postseason without making fun of Delmon Young! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

I don’t go in for New Year’s resolution and all that nonsense. I won’t make a resolution to start writing in the blog again, because I’ve made those before. I will replace resolutions with action, as well as a determination to do whatever is necessary to take back the things I enjoy and make them my own again.

Because you never know – an editor may be watching.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 in Review

In which I revisit my preseason picks and marvel at the credibility one man can sacrifice in a year.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

My NL East Predictions:

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (90-72)
  2. Miami Marlins* (86-76)
  3. Atlanta Braves (84-78)
  4. Washington Nationals (79-83)
  5. New York Mets (65-97)

What REALLY happened:

  1. Washington Nationals (98-64) +19 wins
  2. Atlanta Braves* (94-78) +8 wins
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (81-81) 9 wins
  4. New York Mets (74-88) +9 wins
  5. Miami Marlins (69-93) 17 wins

This is an all-around misfire.

NBR: Clash of the Champions 3

CLASH of the CHAMPIONS XXVII: June 23, 1994

Championship Unification Match
Sting (NWA International Champion) .vs. Ric Flair (WCW Heavyweight Champion)

Sensational” Sherri comes out and goes to Sting’s corner. RIP Sherri.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

NBR: Clash of the Champions 2

CLASH of the CHAMPIONS XII: September 5, 1990

NWA U.S. Heavyweight Title
Lex Luger (Champion) .vs. Ric Flair

NBR: Smacking Down Bad Historians

My response to Chapter 12 of Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream by Lerone Bennett, Jr. Excerpted from a message board discussion for a graduate history class at Western Kentucky University.

Mark --
I heartily agree with you. Bennett commits a number of crimes against critical thinking and honest discourse in his often smarmy effort to destroy what he considers to be the Lincoln myth.
Bennett believes that you cannot give much credence to what Lincoln said about ending slavery, since his words did not always match his political actions. There is a good deal of truth there, but Bennett undercuts himself since his greatest weapon against the Lincoln myth are Lincoln's words. Bennett bludgeons us with quotes from Lincoln's senatorial campaign (particularly on page 249), urging us to take Lincoln's words about white supremacy at face value. So according to Bennett, when Lincoln spoke of white supremacy his words should be wholly believed, but when he spoke of equality and emancipation, he was simply politicking. In other words, you should only believe Lincoln when it serves Bennett's thesis. This is confirmation bias at its worst.
Also, the Lincoln "myth" that Bennett attacks is an utter straw man argument; Bennett uses Dr. Seuss-ish parallelism in a juvenile attempt to attack Lincoln -- "He said it in Illinois. He said it in Michigan. He said it in Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Connecticut, Ohio, and New York. He said it everywhere." (Bennett, 249). (Bennett also claims on page 248 that during one speech Lincoln said it "in capitals," although I have yet to determine how someone can SAY something in capitals). Bennett says all of this to convince us that Lincoln was a racist in 1858. Among serious historians, though, that matter isn't really in dispute.
Bennett refers dismissively and in patronizing tones to "Carl Sandburg wannabes," (251) and the "fallacies of Lincoln historiography and museumography" (252) -- but not ONCE does Bennett actually quote anyone who is perpetuating the Lincoln myth that is, according to him, all-pervasive. Also on page 252, he refers to the shortcomings of "so many Lincoln enthusiasts" and yet refuses to name a real-life person. On page 254, Bennett attacks the myths that he sneeringly claims "that every schoolchild knows" (254) even though I am myself a schoolchild and didn't know that particular myth. On page 257, he refers dismissively to the "mythologists" while still leaving the reader wondering just who these bogeymen are.
As if that weren't enough, Bennett has the gall to claim that these Lincoln myths are perpetuated by a conspiracy among the white historical establishment. Lincoln loved the Constitution, "as almost every major white historian says" (Ibid., 260) -- a ridiculous claim that is not backed up. Perhaps the problem is that "twentieth-century scholars find it so difficult to decipher the Lincoln code in the white silence of their libraries." (Ibid., 264). Bennett's insinuation that the historiography of Lincoln is protected by a conspiracy within a racist historical establishment -- an insinuation that names no names and offers no evidence -- sullies the reputation of the many historians who have done so much to further our understanding of the period. The "white silence" he refers to is a myth that is easily dispelled by the works we've read so far in this class, which offer many different interpretations of Lincoln's character and attitudes, many of which are quite critical of his mythical role as the Great Emancipator. Not only that, but his depiction of the discipline as an insular white enclave is an insult to the diverse group of historians -- many of whom are African American -- who have added to the understanding of the period and been widely recognized and praised as having done so.
As if all this weren't enough, I wasn't able to find one Lincoln quote that was dated after September 1862, when Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Here Bennett has egregiously cherry-picked his data to make his argument seem stronger than it is. When you confine your work to pre-1862, it's much easier to make Lincoln look like an anti-emancipation racist. What Bennett is essentially telling us is that before Lincoln believed in emancipation, he didn't believe in emancipation. That he is able to take such a facile argument and add nothing but the most obnoxious cynicism -- "for the hard of hearing and those with reading difficulties" (Ibid., 262) is offensive. Any credibility behind Bennett's argument is therefore destroyed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NBR: Clash of the Champions Part 1

Collected thoughts while watching the new WWE DVD Set The Best of Clash of the Champions.

It’s so great to see Dusty Rhodes in promo mode.  It’s still spellbinding.

CLASH of the CHAMPIONS I: March 27, 1988

NWA World Championship Match:

Ric Flair w/ J.J. Dillon (Champion) .vs. Sting

Friday, August 31, 2012

NBR: The happy slave?

I've just started graduate work at Western Kentucky University, working toward an MA in History degree. One of my first classes is entitled The African-American experience during the Civil War.
We were asked on our discussion board to what extent southerners were deluding themselves in claiming that slavery was a benign institution that the slaves themselves were content with.  My response:
I wonder, though, how much of the southern talk of the "happy, contented slave" was not a true belief but rather a conscious attempt to refute the claims about the horrors of slavery made by the abolitionists. In this sense, it may be that southerners were willing to tell the tales of happiness on the plantation for practical reasons and as propaganda, even if it wasn't a concept they honestly believed in.
Levine quotes Confederate congressman Henry S. Foote as asking the question "If this government is to destroy slavery, why fight for it?" (5). The basic idea here - that arming slaves would prove destructive to the institution - is very telling, I think, in that it disputes the very claim that the slaves were happy and content. For if they were indeed so happy with their masters and content with their station, why would it be a threat to arm them? Wouldn't one suppose that they would fight hard and well for a society that they loved?
Neither Foote nor any other anti-emancipation Confederates quoted by Levine couched their opposition in purely racist terms; there was fear not just that slaves would make poor soldiers for reasons of race, but that arming slaves would produce revolt. The modern observer must remember that a slave insurrection was the greatest fear of the Confederacy, moreso perhaps than Yankee domination.
The story of southern slavery - enforced illiteracy, the absence of freedom of movement and communication, the harsh discipline of the whip - all of these imply a slave population that must be forced into their societal role. The idea that the slaves embraced their lot in life is belied by the words and actions of their very masters. Levine quotes an Atlanta editor who refers to the condition of slavery as "an enviable one" (7), but a modern observer must question whether the editor a) truly believes this, b) is trying to rationalize and sanctify his own worldview or c) is cynically lying to make slavery seem more acceptable.
All three options mentioned above - a, b and c - could explain the words and deeds of many of the words spoken by southerners on the slavery question. I'm inclined to believe that explanations B and C may explain the actions of these people moreso than A. Or am I just being cynical? What do you think?
The text referenced is Confederate Emancipation by Bruce Levine, University Press of Kansas.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

10 Things That Books (Not Movies) Taught Me About the Nazis

  1. The decision to invade Russia was stupid only in retrospect.

  2. They weren’t emotionless drones.

  3. They weren’t a ruthlessly efficient killing machine.

  4. (Despite what George Bush might say) Things aren’t easier in a dictatorship.

  5. Nazi ideology was … flexible.

  6. Along the lines of Point 5, the Nazis were neither Christian nor Atheist.

  7. The holocaust didn’t just happen in concentration camps.

  8. Despite the billion Hollywood movies about D-Day, north Africa, Italy and the Pacific, the deadliest (and arguably most important) front in the war was in Eastern Europe.

  9. Many westerners preferred Hitler to the Communists.

  10. Hitler’s early successes were the worst thing that could have happened to him.

Taken one at a time …

Monday, April 16, 2012

Actors Robbed of an Oscar, Part 2

Once again, an asterisk indicates that the actor was nominated for, but did not win, an Oscar.

  • Peter O’Toole, My Favorite Year*

2012 Predictions (Late)

AL EAST

  1. New York Yankees (93-69)
  2. Boston Red Sox* (89-73)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays (86-76)
  4. Toronto Blue Jays (82-80)
  5. Baltimore Orioles (68-94)

AL CENTRAL

  1. Detroit Tigers (91-71)
  2. Cleveland Indians (83-79)
  3. Kansas City Royals (78-84)
  4. Minnesota Twins (74-88)
  5. Chicago White Sox (70-92)

AL WEST

  1. Los Angeles Angels (96-66)
  2. Texas Rangers* (93-69)
  3. Seattle Mariners (76-86)
  4. Oakland Athletics (68-94)

AL MVP:  Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
AL Cy Young:  Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox
AL Rookie of the Year:  Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
ALCS:  Angels over Yankees
WS:  Angels over Reds

NL EAST

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (90-72)
  2. Miami Marlins* (86-76)
  3. Atlanta Braves (84-78)
  4. Washington Nationals (79-83)
  5. New York Mets (65-97)

NL CENTRAL

  1. Cincinnati Reds (91-71)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals* (89-73)
  3. Milwaukee Brewers (84-78)
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates (78-84)
  5. Chicago Cubs (73-89)
  6. Houston Astros (63-99)

NL WEST

  1. San Francisco Giants (83-79)
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (81-81)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-82)
  4. Colorado Rockies (78-84)
  5. San Diego Padres (66-96)

NL MVP:  Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
NL Cy Young:  Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
NL Rookie of the Year:  Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds
NLCS:  Reds over Phillies
WS:  Angels over Reds

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Actors Robbed of an Oscar, Part 1

I present:  Actors who deserved to win an Oscar but did not. An incomplete list:

* – An asterisk indicates that the actor was at least nominated for the performance.

  • Robert Duvall, The Apostle*

Sunday, January 01, 2012

World Champions – Best Player = ?

So I wanted to take a quick at World Champion teams that lost their best player in the same off-season.  Seeing Albert Pujols go the Angels makes the fate of the 2012 Cardinals interesting. The team has signed Carlos Beltran to fill in somewhere, and they will also be getting back ace starter Adam Wainwright from Tommy John surgery.  Will this be enough to keep them in contention?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 in Review

In which I look back at my pre-season predictions with wonder and/or shame:

My NL East predictions:

Philadelphia Phillies (95-67)
Atlanta Braves* (89-73)
Florida Marlins (84-78)
New York Mets (79-83)
Washington Nationals (75-87)

The real 2011 NL East:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NBR: Laurel & Hardy

I have finally found the crown jewel of my DVD collection:

l&hdvd

The films of Laurel & Hardy have been tragically absent from DVD, with the notable exception of this collection from Turner Classic Movies.  The complete films of Laurel & Hardy number 106, although three of those films are considered lost.  I own every commercially available Laurel & Hardy film on VHS (including a few tapes bought in England that I had to pay to convert to Region 1).  But getting them all together – the best available transfers along with newly-discovered and never-released footage and films – has been a dream I thought may never come to pass.