|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
On November 11th I took a train out of Penn Station. It was the New Jersey Transit 11:11AM.
They all go to eleven. Right across the board. Eleven, eleven, eleven...
Best thing I watched on TV all week was Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial on PBS' "Nova." It's the story of the Kitzmiller trial in Dover, PA in 2006, which contested the teaching of so-called "Intelligent Design" in the science classrooms in Dover.
Having followed this case somewhat religiously (cough) as it unfolded, it was great to put faces and stories to some of the names (Barbara Forrest, Tammy Kitzmiller, Judge John Jones) from the trial, and I highly recommend clearing a couple hours to watch this online.
If you need extra incentive, turn it into a drinking game! Every time some fundie nut says "evolution is just a theory," take a drink. Good luck making it through the first hour.
My newest obsession is a game called "Out of the Park Baseball 2007," where you take the General Manager (and/or the Manager) role running a baseball franchise and try to achieve success.
Since the Phillies are relocating their AAA franchise to my neighborhood (about 2.5 miles away), I thought it'd be the perfect franchise to take over, so I could get a little familiarity with the farm system and "know" some of the players as they matriculated their way through the minor leagues.
A good plan in theory, but I found out my trigger finger is itchy. I also found that the game prefers veterans to prospects, and will allow you to raid the cupboards at A-ball and lower if you're putting a veteran out there of middling and replaceable talent (say, Jayson Werth or Carlos Ruiz). Granted, maybe one in five of the prospects I'm able to pick up are turning into AAA-level talent, and maybe one of three of those is worth getting a sniff of the bigs, but I've been acquiring a bunch of prospects via these trades, and have been pretty lucky with how they've turned out - especially the pitchers.
Skip down if you're not a baseball fan, because this is the true story of how I dismantled a Phillies team stocked with young talent and veterans just reaching their peaks to win the 2011 World Series.
The 2011 Lineup - 103-59, took Seattle in the Series in six games.
1B - Ryan Howard - .306 with 36 HR and 103 RBI. I didn't trade everybody, you know.
2B - Tony Abreu - .291 with 12 HR and 63 RBI. Acquired in 2008 from the Dodgers along with CF Matt Kemp for SS Jimmy Rollins.
SS - Bill "Nifty" Miller - .364 with 20 HR and 88 RBI - NL batting champ. Was my first-round pick in the 2007 draft. He's working out awfully nicely.
3B - Josh Bell - .278 with 35 HR and 102 RBI. Acquired with my likely 2B of the future (still in AAA) in 2008 from the Dodgers for P Freddy Garcia, P Geoff Geary and CF Greg Golson.
LF - Chris Duncan / Justin Upton - platooned these guys late in the season because Duncan's bat wasn't coming around (.262 w/ 19 HR thanks to a late-season rally), and Upton's defense was a huge asset. Upton is actually a prospect who didn't reach his potential in Arizona, and was acquired from them for another OF whose bat was hotter at the time in Nelson Cruz (who I had picked up in FA). Duncan was picked up from St. Louis along with P Stuart Pomeranz for P Brett Myers in 2007, and I had to let him walk in 2012 due to not wanting to carry $11M per on a guy who's only hitting .262.
CF - Matt Kemp - .299 with 23 HR and 90 RBI. Part of the Abreu trade above. I think that one worked out pretty nicely for me.
RF - Felix Pie - .344 with 26 HR, 69 RBI, 45 SB, .386 OBP. I had a nice record in 2010 and made the post-season, only to lose in the NLDS. The big weaknesses I had were with the maturation of my starting pitchers (I went young in 2009 and 2010) and the lack of a leadoff hitter. That was corrected with a trade to the Cubs for Pie. I sent the 3B who turned into the 2011 ROY (who was the big A-ball piece in my 2008 Jayson Werth trade to the Nats) and the guy who's likely to be the Cubs' everyday 2B in 2013 for him (both big-time blue-chippers), and it paid off in spades. Pie set the table, and his defense at all three OF positions gave me a lot of flexibility.
C - Kenji Johjima - .275 with 9 HR and 63 RBI. Acquired with P Ray Taylor from Seattle for Chase Utley and P Eric Hurley (who I had acquired in another deal). I'm still looking for a better bat than Kenji behind the plate, but I'm pretty content with the batting average to be sure. I let Kenji walk too, and am hoping to get some production out of his backup, a guy named Ronny Paulino (of whom I'm not expecting a whole heckuva lot). I had to extend Will Inman and Glenn Gibson, so Kenji's money dried right up on him.
Bench Players Worth Mentioning:
Utility IF Joaquin Arias - Part of the package from my first trade, sending Pat Burrell to the Rangers (the only useful piece so far - although I've got a young lefty for my bullpen named Kasey Kiker in the deal that I'm hoping will stick with the squad in 2012). Arias has a nice bat, hitting above .270 in each of his five seasons on my squad. Most importantly, he's cheap and can play every position on the diamond short of C and CF.
Utility IF/OF Ryan Freel - Another case of unfulfilled potential in the bigs, I signed him relatively cheaply in 2009 and re-upped him two years running due to his flexibility at all OF spots and every IF spot short of 1B. Hit .223 for me, and probably saw more action than he should have, but was a valuable defensive sub.
This is where I really cleaned up.
SP Will Inman - 17-8 with 2.66 ERA, 208 K in 220 IP. Acquired from Milwaukee in 2007 as an A-ball pitcher along with AAA prospect P Carlos Villaneuva for CF Shane Victorino.
SP Ray Taylor - 20-10 with 2.81 ERA. Part of the Chase Utley trade above. 2011 Cy Young winner.
SP Glenn Gibson - 15-8 with 3.01 ERA. Acquired as an A-ball prospect in 2007 from the Nationals along with P Collin Balester for CF Aaron Rowand.
SP Stuart Pomeranz - 17-9 with 3.23 ERA. Part of the Chris Duncan/Brett Myers trade as a prospect.
SP Greg Harris - 13-6 with 3.24 ERA. This one's convoluted... I picked him up from the Astros in 2009 for P Jair Jurrens, who I had acquired from the Tigers for C Carlos Ruiz and a couple of prospects when I thought I could make a run at the wild card. Jurrens pitched well for me, but I had prospects bubbling up in AAA behind him, and figured I could add a lefty prospect to the mix if I moved him. Harris was a rookie-league prospect who moved up the ranks real fast in my minor leagues.
MR Collin Balester - 4.32 ERA. Part of the Rowand trade, moved from starter to the bullpen.
MR Sean Henn - 4.11 ERA. Lefty middle relief acquired from Cincy along with prospects for Cole Hamels and a blue-chip SS prospect. Whoa, you say. Hamels for a lefty middle reliever? Well, believe it. Some prospects and some seemingly-solid ML talent crashes and burns rather quickly. I sent Hamels packing in the 2010 offseason after a 14-9 season with a 4.58 ERA. His ratings had gone from all-star (78 out of 80) to solid (59 in the 2010 offseason), and I had talent behind him, so I moved him assuming a crash was imminent. Sitting in the 2011 offseason, Hamels' rating is now 20 (the lowest possible), he was converted by the Reds into a middle reliever, and he barely kept his ERA under 5.00. So yeah, I moved Cole Hamels for a lefty middle reliever, and I'd do it again. By the way, I only get one season out of Henn, as the lefty MR talent commands a ridiculous contract price considering their talent, and I wasn't about to spend $8M to re-up a guy who's going to toss 80 innings max for me in 2012.
MR Matt Smith - 4.41 ERA. Aside from Howard, the only 2007 Phil from the ML roster who helped me win the title.
MR Preston Chandler - 3.16 ERA. My second round pick in the 2008 first-year player draft.
CL Carlos Villanueva - 40 Saves, 3.09 ERA. The key piece of the Victorino trade.
This game is ridiculously engrossing, and I've spent far too much time on it over the last three weeks. Hell, I paid $35 for it and have easily (easily) seen my spend/hour ratio dip down under $.50/hour. It's a sickness, I assure you, considering I've spent way too much time stressing over how I'm going to afford to keep all these young pitchers once their ML minimum contracts go to arbitration. I'm already pushing the limits of my payroll, I know I'm going to have to watch a couple of these guys walk. Ugh.
Since you stuck with me through the baseball crap, would you like some Christmas music that won't make your ears bleed this holiday season? Perhaps some Chicago blues with a little jazz, Ray Charles and James Brown mixed in? Sure you do. Tracks should be tagged and iPod-ready. Enjoy. (I prepared the file myself, it's safe.)
I suppose I should give an update on the job difficulties that wracked my poor little soul with such existential grief...
All better. No problems anymore. Hooray.
That's the short story, at least. The longer one is that once we got a good and complete case study constructed to show the client exactly what the problem was (and, more importantly to me, what it wasn't), reality set back in and the assumptions were no longer rattling around the leadership. We're getting our contract, I'm getting my promotion*, and everything that's new is old again.
*My pessimistic bent does not allow me to believe these things to be true until they actually happen, although they're getting awfully close to doing just that.
Further, I had a talk with my boss where we discussed what this promotion means, and he and I agree that it means getting me the knowledge of a program launch, getting this program resettled, training the person who will be working with me to take over, then moving somewhere else to take on a bigger challenge in 2009.
This, of course, is precisely what I want to happen. While I deserve to have the job title that corresponds to what I've been doing for nearly two years here, I need to get the experience launching something and managing someone in order to move to anything bigger. And, of course, anywhere nicer than Allentown.
The reason, by the way, I took the 11:11 on 11/11 out of Penn Station was a night in NYC with an old friend on Saturday the 10th. Back in 1993-94 my parents hosted a foreign exchange student from Norway named Thor. Thor was the best-case scenario for a foreign exchange student, short of having a naive Brazilian looking for her Emmanuelle-esque sexual awakening living down the hall. To my parents, he was a lazy, yet respectful addition to the household. Basically like having me back in the house (I was in college) without the near constant arguing with the little brother. He was Bob's age and outgoing, so they got along, and he smoked pot, so we got along. Basically, he's been family to us for nearly fifteen years.
Anyway, he was in NYC with a couple of colleagues for the weekend, so I managed to roll in to meet up with him for the first time in ten years.
Great time. It's difficult to remember how much you actually miss the people who were important to you until you see them again after too long apart. I've been lucky this year, seeing a bunch of my friends who I haven't seen in far too long, and this was just the icing on the cake.
I got in Saturday afternoon and met up at The Pod Hotel on 51st near Lexington. It is, without a doubt, the place where Dieter from Sprockets would stay, were he both a real person and traveling to New York. It was a hostel-style hotel, with Ikea-esque design, house music piped in the lobby and hallways, and an obvious preponderance of young Europeans coming in and out. The room itself was an eight foot by ten foot crackerbox, with communal bathrooms located just down the hall (inconveniently, considering how much beer I was about to drink). I made a point of joking with Thor that it was "the gayest hotel I've ever seen," which, of course, I meant in that sixth-grade insult sort of way, as this hotel did not inherently possess a sexuality.
We moved on to a pub just up the street, had a few, walked up to Times Square then north looking for a bistro I couldn't find (thanks for the help anyway Rooster), had Greek "tapas" and more drinks at some place on Ninth (I think), then hit The Iridium with his colleagues for a show.
Javon Jackson, Wallace Roney, Benny Green, Al Foster and Corcoran Holt. Basically, as close as you can get to an all-star band full of young guys without featuring a Marsalis. Here's a couple of clips from one of the songs:
(By the way, I'm not trying to artistically frame anything here. I was trying to be discreet and kept my camera on the table the whole time. It's not my fault the guy on my left kept putting his drink down on the table in front of my camera.)
Quick review of the show: Benny Green is a madman on the keys, and Wallace Roney blew Javon Jackson off the stage a couple of times. Not a good night for JJ.
After the show we walked over to Jimmy's Corner, a bar owned by a former boxing gym owner still well-connected in the sport. We got there just shy of midnight, and the place was pretty quiet. About 1AM people started pushing into the place (a narrow bar gets to be a crowded bar rather quickly), and I saw an older black guy in a tux walk by. Looked familiar. Shortly after, there goes Jim Lampley. So that made the older black guy Emanuel Steward, and the crowd likely the after-party from the Cotto/Mayweather fight at MSG that night.
I apologized to the Norwegians for not giving them a better celebrity sighting than Jim Lampley. I also asked the waitress (an old-timer there, possibly "Mrs. Jimmy") if Bruce Buffer and Jim Lampley party together. She didn't think she had seen them in there at the same time. I was disappointed.
More drinks at the pub up the street from the hotel, and all of a sudden it's 3AM and I'm fucking wiped. I learned a very, very important lesson about trying to drink with Europeans that day, but I'd do it again anytime Thor manages to swing through town.
Saw the Reford movie Lions For Lambs this weekend. Piece of crap. Masturbatory in its pedantry. Still, I would like to punch Bill Kristol and every PNAC signatory in the throat (but Kristol especially, that chickenhawk dickweed) for turning American
Bonus observation/prediction: On the way to the movie I stopped at a Barnes & Noble and saw a military counter-insurgence guide on the shelves for sale, written by
Got a call from my friend The Doc this weekend. She told me she "probably" broke up with her boyfriend of five weeks the night before, as there were some things wrong with the relationship that weren't getting fixed, despite her attempts to try. The guy had called her the morning after the "probable" breakup to try and salvage things. The Doc, unclear at the time whether or not the good could outweigh the bad in this case, had this beautiful Freudian slip that pretty much answered her own question as to whether she was going to give the guy another shot:
So he offered to let me have my space, which I appreciate. I mean, I like him and we have a good time together, but he wants us to not see other people while we give each other room, and I'm not really sure I'm ready for a monotonous relationship with the guy.
Thanksgiving this week with Bob and the girlfriend, which should be fun. I hear Jersey City is beautiful this time of year.
Enjoy your holidays y'all.
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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