He's right -- I saw Gabe Kapler forget the number of outs twice in the same inning last week:
Johnny Damon on the Red Sox's run of mental errors: "I guess we're not the smartest team. I've forgotten the number of outs twice this season myself. We obviously aren't looking at the scoreboard a whole lot. We must be looking at the chicks in the stands."
posted by Jefflink 9:56 PM 
Worst. Songs. Ever.: OK, I'lll bite on this "worst songs ever" meme, but only because I already took issue with Jeremy from Sports and Bremertonians' selections, and because The Lovely Wife and I have already discussed the worst songs of the 1990s.
I defy anyone to find three worse tunes from that decade than:
* Offspring, "Pretty Fly For a White Guy." A bunch of no-talents who got famous ripping off better bands ... making fun of white rappers for ripping off black culture. Hey guys, I'm sure Chuck D appreciates that you have his back. Also, pick an easier target next time: making fun of Vanilla Ice listeners is too edgy for me. It's a little known fact that Joe Strummer from the Clash died just so he could roll over in his grave when these guys became popular.
* Meredith Brooks, "Bitch." She may not be the worst one-hit wonder of all time, but she's right there in a photo finish with anyone else. It mortifies me that she's from Oregon City, about 10 minutes from where I grew up. "I'm a sinner, I'm a saint: I do not feel ashamed." Well, you should, dear, you should.
* Anything by Alanis Morrisette, but especially "You Oughtta Know," and "Hand in my Pocket." Overwrought, overbearing, voice like a dentist's drill. The first is the song your psychotic ex played over and over again into your answering machine before she discovered Ani DiFranco. The second makes no sense, but thankfully easily lends itself to parody: "I've got one hand in my pocket, and the other one switching off the stereo."
And here's a couple more to round out my Five of Shame:
* The Human League, "Human." It's bad enough that they included their band's name in their hit (or vice versa), a tactic that would later be taken to the extreme by Living in Box (who had both a song and and album titled, oddly enough, "Living in a Box.") It's even worse that the song uses the worst tricks of the eighties -- whiny, British male vocals interspersed with high-register female vocals, backed by the Roland Velveeta 1000 drum machine.
But the scorchingly terrible lyrics set this one apart. The boyfriend yowls like a wounded cat for four minutes about how he's cheated on his companion, but he's only "human." (OK, we get it.) Then, at the end of the song, he confesses -- and the girlfriend lets him off the hook because she's slept around, too! See, we're only human! Everybody does it!
I pity the poor fool that actually tried this tactic.
The song's only virtue is it saves Billy Joel the ignominious brand "worst use of the phrase 'only human' in song."
* Depeche Mode, "Try Walking in My Shoes." See above for some of the basics of a bad song: sniveling vocals; cheesy drum machine; Dave Gahan is missing a high-register female foil for the song, since apparently Martin Gore was busy programming the Velveeta 1000. The Depressed Mood boys spent their entire career brushing up on their skills, attempting to write the most pathetic lyrics of misery possible. This track finds them at the zenith of their terrible powers.
posted by Jefflink 7:17 PM 
Jeff's right about the "Huh?" nature of Melvin's bullpen management. Something that troubles me just as much, though, is his absence of long-term thinking as regards the lineup.
Case in point: today's game, he rested both Boone and Olerud, giving us the robust tandem of Bloomquist and Cabrera in their place. Okay, you have to rest your players, especially the geezers. Okay, lots of managers choose to do so for day games that follow night games.
Here's a thought: why not rest the right-handed Boone the previous night, against right-handed Tim Hudson? That way you don't end up resting two of your mainstays during the same game, essentially running the give-up offense.
[Of course, that's assuming Olerud would have been better against Mulder than Wee Willie, which I admit is specious.]
Still, why pick today to rest Boone? Besides the righty-left advantage, he's crushed Mulder in 29 at-bats against him, to the tune of .379/.438/.621. Why not rest him against Hudson?
posted by Jefflink 6:06 PM 
Game thoughts later, but for now: I used that Merriam-Webster toolbar I mentioned to look up a word today.
Hubris: Pronunciation: 'hyü-br&s
"exaggerated pride or self-confidence"
Synonym: Gregg Easterbrook
Isn't this like Randy Velarde telling Barry Bonds he ought to lay off the steroids and quit being so surly, so he can reach his potential? Sheesh.
[By the way, Gregg, on the off-chance you're reading this, I'd be more than happy to explain that sports analogy to you if you e-mail me.]
posted by Jefflink 9:27 AM 
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
There's a tidbit in today's P-I notebook that makes me really, really like Mark Mulder:
FISH STORY: Oakland outfielder Eric Byrnes got a little piece of Seattle yesterday afternoon.
Pitcher Mark Mulder made a morning trip to Pike Place Market and arrived at the ballpark with a 10-inch-long fish, which he slipped into Byrnes' fielding glove. When it came time for the A's to head to the field for batting practice, most of the team lingered in the clubhouse, snickering and waiting for Byrnes to discover his gift.
Byrnes delivered, hollering something not suitable for a family newspaper. The fish was last seen in a bat cubby in the visiting dugout.
I'll like him even better if he gives up six home runs tomorrow night.
posted by Jefflink 11:44 AM 
If the Seattle Mariners (4-8) don't improve in a hurry, it won't be surprising if ex-Twin Paul Molitor, the Mariners' first-year hitting coach, is managing the club when it comes to Minnesota on May 11.
[Registration is required for the Pioneer Press link. Don't worry, I pasted all the relevant bits.]
These rumblings are growing in intensity. Look, I'm no Melvin fan -- he makes questionable in-game decisions from my perspective, and I don't see what he brings to the table -- but one of the problems in corporate America, baseball being no exception, is that the middle manager often takes the fall for mistakes of the higher-ups.
This team won 93 games last year under Bob Melvin. If they don't reach that mark this year (and I don't think they will), is that because Melvin forgot how to manage -- or because the players are worse due to aging and ill-advised personnel moves? And if it's the latter (and I think it is), whose fault is that?
Melvin may have a disturbing fascination with Willie Bloomquist and a queasiness-inspiring faith in Kevin Jarvis, but he didn't trade for Quinton McCracken, let Mike Cameron walk and give away Carlos Guillen for nothing. A managerial boo-boo may cost the M's a frustrating loss, but it doesn't cost them five games in the standings. Bad trades can.
Compounding this injustice, let's be honest: if they don't exercise Melvin's option at year's end, it's in part because Bavasi didn't hire him, and Three-Dollar Bill will want to bring in his guy.
Say the Mariners win 85 games. Melvin is launched away with the involuntary ejector seat because he can't win with Bavasi's players. But Bavasi lives to dismantle another team on another day. As a bonus, he gets to hire someone loyal to him.
Writing: As I update (finally) that left bar, it seems like it's time to catalogue some writing tools I've found. Hoping to add as many of these as I can find, and if you know of any, drop me a line.
* Habitually, I've kept a browser window open to dictionary.com to check definitions and use the thesaurus feature. As helpful as that site is, it's clunky to have an extra window open (especially for a compulsive multi-tasker like me). The pop-up windows you get from a search are lame, too. Say goodbye to both with the Merriam-Webster toolbar, a free download that puts a small box at the top of your Internet Explorer browser (IE only, sorry). Now, I can just type a word directly into the box, and a small pop-up gives me definitions, example sentences, synonyms, antonyms, and a gift certificate to Krispy Kreme. Except for that last part.
You also get a "Word of the Day" feature. Download it and learn what "misprision" means. Or, since I'll post this tomorrow, download it and paste "misprision" into that toolbar. By then, there'll be a whole new word of the day. Ain't vocabulary great? I mean, you've gotta love this Internet. Hey now, get all of it.
* The Poynter Institute is running a 50 writing tools series that has just started. The author, Roy Peter Clark, also penned an earlier 30 tools piece that provides a foundation for the new stuff. This guy's attitude is similar to mine -- writing is like carpentry. The best treat it like hard work, though artistic, and writers get better through practice and expanding their skillsets. Looking at the craft through this blue-collar lens makes sense to me.
* Really looking forward to reading this chat with Bob Woodward when I get a minute. I have a lot of thoughts about Woodward as a writer, a reporter and a public figure that I'm meaning to sort out one of these days with a post.
* Utterly dismayed to find that the WaPo has removed the archive of Rita Dove's Poet's Choice columns I had bookmarked. The column was a source of constant joy to me, a way to find exciting poets I'd never heard of and learn more about great poets I had. When Dove gave up this slot to the serviceable (but less enthralling) Edward Hirsch, I quit reading it regularly. I'd just go back through the archives for a Dove effort I'd missed.
Dove, a former Poet Laureate and deserving recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, is a national treasure. Her farewell column is a prime example of what made her a great columnist, and what continues to make her a phenomenal writer. Her books Thomas and Beulah and On the Bus With Rosa Parks are among the best American poetry I've read.
Googleicious: A source of constant amusement continues to be searches people run that direct them to this page. So far, the best two that have showed up in the ol' referrer logs are "bikini appendectomy" and "butchers in Bellingham, Washington."
An astonishing amount of people find this blog by searching for "Rob Ryder Hollywood Jock." No one has added the term "sucks" or "without merit" to those search terms yet, but I'm waiting.
Someone searching with the Opera browser almost had me convinced that they had run a search for "Bret Boone steroid opera." A Bret Boone steroid opera sounds like a good writing project for one of the wordsmiths among us, or maybe for a Mariner commercial next year. Remember, it's not over until the fat lady delivers a clean urine sample.
Of course, after what I wrote two paragraphs ago, I'm sure someone will now surf on in looking for "fat lady urine samples." Joy.
posted by Jefflink 7:34 AM 
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
I hereby take back anything bad I've ever said about Raul Ibanez.
posted by Jefflink 10:58 AM 
A brief follow-up on attendance: Here is something I would not have expected.
We've talked about attendance, and how I'm trying to track how fast the turnstiles spin in relation to the team's record. Because it's early in the year, there's no way to draw any real conclusions (or even see trends) as of yet.
But in the past two years -- and even three of the past four -- people just haven't come out to see the Mariners play the A's. Last night's announced attendance was 26,020, and there were almost certainly fewer than that actually in the stands. Even before people started to leave, that game was sparsely attended. [And I've noticed more ticketholders no-showing games this year, too, but that's a separate issue.]
As David Cameron notes, you'd think that this would be an extremely attractive early-season matchup -- but for the last two years, there just hasn't been meat in the seats for it. This is totally unrelated to whether attendance starts to sag as the team loses, but a strange point I thought was worth noting.
Check out last year's numbers for a four game April series with Oakland (26,567, 26,666, 29,674, 33,412) versus the three-game series the M's played with Texas right before that (32,746, 37,784, 36,591, 35,496). Only once did 30,000+ make it through the turnstiles to see Billy Beane's bunch, and the most sparsely attended Rangers game was comparable to the most popular clash with the green and gold.
This wouldn't merit a mention, though, if it didn't seem like it was being repeated this year. Texas drew 35,647, 38,925 and 35,182 for the three-game slate we just watched. Ten thousand fewer people would rather see the A's?
Even stranger, this doesn't seem to have been the case in 2002, when 40,303, 45,093, 39,870 bought M's-A's tickets. But it does seem to have been the case in 2001. If you discount the Opening Day attendance (45,911), the A's brought in 27,212 and 31,382 -- substantially less than a subsequent Texas series, which brought in more than 45,000 fans for each game. And the Oakland series was opening weekend!
I checked for weekend inflation, too, and while this might have affected the most recent Texas series, it doesn't seem to be in play for any of the other series I mentioned. Ditto for star power: if people came out to see Alex Rodriguex last year, they sure aren't coming out to see Hank Blalock this year. Not sure what to make of this.
I'll check on attendance numbers again after the end of the current Oakland series -- it could be that people just didn't want to come out on a Monday night. Kind of makes me wonder what makes people buy tickets, though. I'd certainly rather see a good team than a bad team.
posted by Jefflink 10:45 AM 
Last night's game ... is a great example of what's wrong with bullpen roles, currently conceived. Let's say that we all agree Eddie Guardado is our best reliever. Due to this, he merits the magic "Closer" designation, which requires by Divine Right of Pitching Coaches he begin the ninth inning.
If that's the case -- that he's the best reliever we've got -- then I've got no problem letting him to Jermaine Dye, even though Dye's a scorching hot right-handed hitter. You decide to challenge Dye with your top guy, even though that guy's a lefty? Some might second-guess, but that's fine by me. Sometimes you win, sometimes the hitter gets the better of you -- like Dye did, homering to tie the game.
Wouldn't you let your best reliever, though, stay in the game for an extra inning? Wouldn't you want to maintain the advantage of having your ace bullpen arm to start the 10th inning in a game you still had a chance to win?
Maybe Bob Melvin felt he had a bad matchup in the 10th inning? Nope. Hard to argue that there was a worse matchup than Dye, and anyway, the bottom third of the order was coming up. Maybe he was worried about fatigue? Be serious: this is a guy nicknamed "Everyday Eddie," who used to work two innings all the time as a set-up reliever.
This is the box that (some) managers put themselves inside. He's a "Closer," so his job is to come in when you have a lead, work the ninth inning, and that's it. No more. Not even if they tie the game.
Appears to be a silly way to use your best reliever. Especially when there's a chance that a certain left-handed slugging third baseman might come up in the next inning.
It was a great game, though, and an exciting win -- but was anyone else thinking "pity balk"? I mean, neither team could get a runner in from third.
Days of future present: There are times when Greg Johns makes sense. This isn't one of those times. C'mon, Greg: "Bavasi's moves starting to bear fruit" -- when the team is 4-8, and players he gave away for literally nothing (Mike Cameron) or figuratively nothing (Carlos Guillen) are off to great starts?
I'll expect that "Bavasi's moves failed miserably" column at the end of the year.
You can listen to Babe and Lou do comedy (5 min. MP3). ["Babe, all you have to do is diet another 15 years and you'll almost look human".] You can hear Walter Johnson doing play-by-play, listen to the Babe's heart-rending farewell speech to fans at Yankee stadium, and much more.
And, do my eyes deceive me, or is Ramon Santiago listed as our fifth-best prospect in this P-I list? Even weirder:
5. RAMON SANTIAGO, SS, 2B
BACKGROUND: A native of the Dominican Republic, Santiago came to the M's in January as Detroit's payment for Carlos Guillen. He played his first full major league season in 2003, leading the AL with 18 sacrifices and stringing together an eight-game hitting streak in August.
HAS: Smooth actions, good hands, quick feet, plus range to each side, left-side arm strength.
NEEDS: To play regularly, improve his plate discipline, keep the ball out of the air, refine his "little game."
Under "Needs," do you see "learn to hit a baseball"? Yeah, neither do I. Must be an oversight.
posted by Jefflink 7:00 AM 
Several agents thought Garret Anderson's four-year, $48 million deal was light, but Anderson has never been a money person and wanted to stay with a very successful team where he is the unspoken heart and soul.
In other news, every lawyer I talked to about my last car accident thought I should sue, every contractor I talked to thought my house needed new siding, and every fantasy owner in my league thinks my team is out of contention and should begin the fire sale.
* My only major complaint about MLB.tv so far: I don't mind the games being on brief delay, but can we please make sure the alert ticker is not ahead of the video? Nothing more frustrating than rooting hard for Manny Ramirez to slam the Yankees and then seeing "Red Sox fail to score in 7th inning" scroll across the bottom of the screen five seconds before Manny grounds out.
The Lovely Wife has a few other complaints about the service, from what I understand. Like me staring at my faithful Mac all weekend.
* After I speculated that the Mariners' cold start and uninspiring play might dampen attendance, I decided to look at the numbers. What I learned was that such fears are premature, if for no other reason than the small sample sizes involved. At this time last year, the M's had played 10 home games; right now, they've played six.
2003 home games
Total team record at this point: 9-7
2004 home games
Total team record at this point: 4-8
In fact, the numbers to this point show a slight increase in attendance, in large measure due to a sparsely-attended series with the A's last April 14-16. Impossible to draw any conclusions from this, but I'll try to continue to follow it.
Actually, I hope I end up totally ignoring it because the M's run off a win streak and the park fills up.
One quick hit: Sure, it's great that the M's won their first series of the year. Do you really feel better, though, that they struggled to score runs against Ryan Drese, who pitches like Kevin Jarvis' long-lost brother?
The composite line for the Rangers' three starters: 17.2 IP, 18 H, 5 R, 13 K, 5 BB for an ERA of 2.55. That's pretty good against Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina. Not so much against Chan Ho Park, Colby Lewis (a hurting Colby Lewis) and Ryan Drese.
posted by Jefflink 8:31 AM