Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Boswell Gets a Jump on April Fool's Day
Washington Post sports columnist Tom Boswell shows off his sly wit in a column this morning, by predicting mind-blowingly great things from the post-2007 Nationals who, he says "will have resources that surpass any team in Los Angeles, Boston or Chicago and may equal the Yankees in their ability to land a free agent." Right, and wasn't it great for Joe Gibbs to come out of retirement to return the Redskins to their glory days?

Boswell attributes the Nats' $36 million dollar payroll (third lowest in baseball, he says) to the genius of Stan Kasten. I attribute it to cheapness. They're saving money so they can spend it on stadium enhancements (cherry trees and a scoreboard is mostly what I hear about, how exciting!), and be poised to, in the future, "sign several of the best players in baseball," which they can do, because they'll be rich when the new ballpark opens next year.

The Nats will be just like the Tigers, who leveraged a new park into a league championship, by developing young players and spending $40.6 million on free agents Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones. I don't argue that the Tigers got great value and great contributions from those guys. But I think it had less to do with genius than luck. Ordonez had been injured most of the two previous years. People weren't exactly pounding the door down for IRod or Kenny Rogers, for several reasons. And anytime you get a good performance from Todd Jones, consider yourself lucky. Things aligned perfectly for the Tigers last year, and that's not likely to happen again, for the Nats or for any other team, anytime soon.

Boswell doesn't mention the Brewers or the Pirates, two teams that have new stadiums and that continue to not be very competitive.

I hate to be this negative about a team that I'll spend the summer following, live and on MASN, as soon as I find it. But things don't look so rosy to me, especially when I read in the very same edition of the Post that only 30,000 seats have been sold for opening day. Opening day! How many people are going to show up for the Nats/Marlins showdown the next day? I don't think the intrigue of the season debut of number two starter Sean Hill is going to fill many seats.

So the plan for this season is this: Emotionally and financially support a team that did absolutely nothing to improve itself this off-season, that features a starting rotation of an injury-prone "ace" and four minor leaguers, and that includes a probable starting first baseman who seems to be a little unbalanced mentally, significantly overweight physically and can't field or run, because we need to trust the genius of Stan Kasten and company (who can't seem to figure out how to do some pretty simple things, like mail season tickets or distribute cheap MP3 players to season ticket holders in a timely manner), and believe that when the new stadium is built people who can't be bothered coming to opening day this year will be presenting Kasten and the Lerners with boatloads of cash that can be used to outbid the Yankees for free agents.

If you believe that, I've got a Damien Jackson autographed bat that I'd like to sell you (for $350). But I hope I'm wrong, and I'll be sitting in section 212 hoping for the best.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tadcranky Does Northern California
I've been in Northern California since last Saturday, when I arrived at a hotel in a place called Half Moon Bay, which is 22 miles south of San Francisco, and which I had never heard of until a few months ago, when I booked a meeting there. It's a breathtakingly beautiful place, and it's also breathtakingly expensive, so it was fortunate that I was on my company's tab. Not a lot do do there but play golf and marvel at the coastline and, in my case, work, but I guess it's a nice enough place to be for a few days, even if you have to work.

My work ended this afternoon, though, and we headed to San Francisco for a few days of non-work. We're staying at a neat hotel, called the Hotel Diva, which is very cool, and very reasonable (about $140, including parking!). We got here about 2:00PM, and were warmly greeted by a guy named David, who helped us to our room and showed us around, and exhibited more humanity than any of the overly trained kids that worked at the hotel we stayed at in Half Moon Bay showed during my four days there. Not that they all weren't highly competent. They were just dull, and the poor parking attendants had to wear some very embarassing outfits.

We went to dinner at a soul food restaurant down the street, called farmer brown. I was a little skeptical as we entered, given that the only black person that I saw was my girlfriend, and that the drinking water on the table was spiked with slices of cucumber. It worked out fine, though, as my girlfriend was able to enjoy some ox tail, and I had fried chicken. The ox tail was good, though not as good as that made by my girlfriend. The chicken was very good, though, and I'd have to say that it was better than at our favorite Arlington soul food establishment, Flavors. No offense to the people at Flavors, we still love you.

We walked back to our hotel, dodging the highly aggressive homeless people. I always figured DC was the big leagues for the homeless, but I was wrong. Earlier this afternoon when we were in a cab, I was looking out my window, and accidentally made eye contact with a homeless woman who swiftly strode up to my window, and, fairly politely, asked for a dollar. My girlfriend gave her one, and the woman gave her a big smile, and said, honest to god, "Now I can go buy some crack." This was confirmed by the cab driver, who said "At least she didn't lie."

Tomorrow will be another day of exploring and eating, though I'm most excited about not having to get up at a time that begins with 5 or 6, for the first time in about a week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wednesday Video: Rockpile, from the Early Days of MTV

Here's Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe and the rest of Rockpile, doing Elvis Costello's Girls Talk. I actually remember watching this in college, during a study break in a lounge that had a big TV that was tuned into some new thing called MTV.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bob Dupuy Hates Baseball Fans; Loves Money, Bud, Meals

Yesterday, Major League Baseball entered into a deal with DirecTV, that, as far as I can tell, grants exclusivity of its Extra Innings package to DirecTV, with a caveat that, technically, could allow cable television to still distribute the package, but, in reality, won't.

It was late January when it became public that MLB was ready to fully sell-out its non-DirecTV having fans by agreeing to an exclusive contract with DirecTV. This generated what I would consider a high degree of agitation among baseball fans, especially ones like me that live in apartments without balconies, which makes getting DirecTV impossible. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, though, publicly said (according to Scott Miller of that he hadn't heard much criticism of the deal, showing the tone deafness that has characterized his tenure and made him widely despised.

MLB President and Selig henchman Bob DuPuy (the jowly guy on the right in the above pic, kind of looks like the love child of Dick Cheney and Austin Powers' Fat Bastard) evidently spent the time between the revelation of the potential deal and the recent announcement trying to come up with a way to go ahead with the deal, while diverting fan's wrath away from MLB. Because, you know, baseball fans are stupid and contemptible and all. Hey, everybody hates their cable company, how hard can it be to blame them for this?

According to the AP, "the deal contains a provision that allows its 'Extra Innings' package of out-of-market games to remain on cable television if the other incumbent providers agree to match the terms." I'm not entirely sure what this means, which I'm sure is their intention, but I'd think that if the "incumbent providers" were able to match the terms, they would have already done so. Robert Johnson, president of former provider iN Demand, quickly said that his company couldn't agree to these new terms, and called the agreement a "de facto exclusive deal."

I figured that this was going to play out this way. But MLB has added insult to injury by attempting to shift the blame from themselves to the cable companies. This we know, because DuPuy flat out said "In response to the concerns of our fans, baseball has negotiated with DirecTV to offer the package to incumbents. I hope that those fans who have been directing their concerns to us over the last several weeks will now encourage their cable carriers to in fact enlist for this package. Because I just do not give a fuck." Right, because we know how responsive monopolies like cable companies are to their customers. And, yes, I made up that last sentence.

Any time I think Bob DuPuy cannot get any more disgusting or arrogant, he surprises me. Nationals' fans remember that it was DuPuy who, prior to the 2006 season, said, with a straight, puffy face, that the Nationals weren't at all hindered by not having an owner, which he and his daddy Bud had said they would name by the 2005 All Star game. Then the play-offs. Then, basically, whenever the hell they wanted to. Last winter, at the height of renewed controversy about the Nats' new stadium, DuPuy wrote a condescending editorial in the Washington Post, saying that people in Washington should just shut up and do what he and Bud and the gang wanted them to do. He seemed to think it was important to remind us that the Senators left, 30 years previously, to go to a place where there was better fan and governmental support, without mentioning what a lousy owner Bob Short was, and how, other than the monuments, Washington in the 2000s had nothing in common with Washington in the 1970s. He also noted that, in expansions in 1990 and 1995, "Washington's desire to secure a team was easily outmatched by the enthusiasm and commitment of Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Tampa Bay." Right, Bob, those Florida franchises are really strong, nice job there.

So it looks like I'll have a couple hundred extra dollars this spring. Maybe I should send Bob and Bud some chocolates. Doughnuts, maybe.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wednesday Video: The President, as a Chimpunk

An SNL TV Funhouse cartoon, by the great Robert Smigel, where Bush (and Cheney and The Sopranos) convert to chipmunkism.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bigfoot on the Bay
The authors of Game of Shadows, the book that, they say, "served to crystallize [Barry] Bonds as a systematic drug cheat" have written a new epilogue. It includes some astounding information, from the Giants equipment manager:
Since joining the Giants, Bonds had gone from a size 42 to a size 52 jersey; from size 10 1/2 to size 13 cleats; and from a size 7 1/8 to size 7 3/4 cap, even though he had taken to shaving his head.

What the hell? So his feet , as an adult, grew by almost 25%? He experienced the growth of a teenage boy when he was in his 30's? That's cartoon-like, it's like that episode of The Simpsons when Ken Griffey, Jr., had gargantuanism.

All I know about steroids is what I read, but I had always kind of thought that, given the mentality of a high level athlete where even the slightest physical edge is key, maybe a player using steroids would be able to be 1% stronger, which would result in him hitting the ball maybe .5% harder, which would probably still be significant. But this guy's head has gotten 9% bigger? He's like a science experiment, how much bigger can he get?

This is made more extraodinary by the fact that he's undergone such steroid-induced growth under such crazy scrutiny. Are there low profile juicers out there who don't have to worry about the media or the general public, who can juice their hearts out, that experience even greater growth than Bonds? How could there be, how much can a person grow their feet?

In a few months, Barry will be the Home Run King. Seems like he already is the Steroid King.