Out at Third

Sports fans have no shortage of viewing choices in the lean months of winter.  The NFL is racing towards play-offs, the college football bowl games all follow the holidays, and NBA basketball is going strong.  As much as I enjoy running the family football pool and waiting each morning for Blake Griffin highlights, none of it fills the void left by baseball.  Sure, 162 games can take up the better part of the calendar year; but these cold, dark months without baseball are a hard slog.  So when free agency begins and the powers convene, I pay close attention.  This year, my friends, I am not happy.

Earlier this month, my friend Alex Rodriguez announced that he would have hip surgery during the off-season, his second such operation in four years.  The surgery will keep him off the field for most of the first half of the coming 2013 Yankee season.  You can imagine my disappointment.

hades

I was willing to let it go, wish my favorite Yankee well in his recovery, and take solace in the fact that Davey Wright will still be on the hot corner in Queens for years to come.  But then…then I started hearing rumors.  Vicious rumors.  Hateful, vile rumors.  Rumors about how Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, planned to fill A-Rod’s spot.  Rumors that said that a certain former Red Sox player, the one and only Kevin Youkilis, would be signed to play third based in the Bronx.  And then, in a true sign of the impending Mayan apocalypse, those rumors were confirmed.  My initial, gut reaction was perhaps a bit over the top (jump to 0:23):

But on further reflection, and with the aid of statistical research, it seems my Laura Roslin rantings were not unfounded.  In the 2012 season, Youkilis played 30 more games than A-Rod, but had a much lower batting average.  Alex’s 40 stints as DH don’t offer much evidence of statistical inflation, as that change in the roster only accorded him 25 more at-bats than Youkilis had.  For argument’s sake, that’s really only about six game’s worth of plate appearances.  The two had almost the same number of RBIs and homers (point, A-Rod), but almost the same number of strike-outs, as well (point, Youkilis).  A-Rod had the stronger on-base and slugging percentages, though.  In the field, Youkilis had put-outs in roughly half his starts, while Alex was making outs almost three-quarters of the time.  However, Youkilis had far more assists, and Alex managed to make almost as many errors as Youkilis in much less game time.

alexWhat my amateur analysis here shows is not that Alex had a great year, but that Youkilis’s was not much better.  That’s where my frustration as a Yankee fan comes from.  If they want to replace Alex for the first half, fine; but why do it with someone who only exceeds his abilities in a few, very limited ways?  Even more puzzling, why do it with someone who is only three years younger who has his own history of injuries?  This is another sign of the Yankees’ endemic aversion to taking chances with new talent.  They keep letting Andy Pettitte back in the clubhouse every time he gets bored sitting home in Texas.  I hear they’ve painted a mobility scooter in pinstripes so Mariano Rivera can make it from the bullpen to the mound in style.  This is a career pitcher who ruined his throwing arm shagging fly balls at batting practice!  Do any of the Steinbrenners know a sign from the gods when they see one?  So now that Alex is showing his age, why isn’t the job being handed to Eduardo Nunez, age 25, who had a better batting average than Alex and made six outs and twelve assists in the nine games he spent at third last year?  Why is Ramiro Pena, a utility infielder ten years Alex’s junior who had a great 2011 season, not even securely on the Yankee roster?

Finally, on a much more visceral level, how in the great wide fucking world do Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners expect me, a loyal and vocal Yankee fan, to root for Kevin Fucking Youkilis, poster hick of the Red Sox and the embodiment of sloppy, white trash Boston fandom?  And how dare they hire him to replace my boy!  The Yankees are the clean-cut matinée idols of Major League Baseball.  The Red Sox, since the time of Manny Ramirez, look about as hygienic as your average TLC reality show family.  Nowhere is this difference more obvious than it is now at third base.  Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez is genetic Dominican perfection.  Kevin Youkilis looks like he should be driving a garbage truck.

Alex Youk

But there is no greater aesthetic crime than when Kevin Youkilis steps to the plate.  High holy fuck, you guys, Kevin Youkilis has the most ridiculous batting stance in the history of baseball!  I refuse to believe that any hitting coach has ever actually sanctioned this stance.  I stopped playing baseball when I was 11, and even I can tell you that everything about this is wrong, wrong, wrong.

He probably flied out on that hit, too.

The haters can crow all they want.  “A-Rod’s a prima donna,” “He doesn’t have his head in the game,” “He choked in the post-season.”  Yes, he did; but unlike Kevin Youkilis, Alex has been to the post-season every year since 2009.  Coincidentally, that was the last time Kevin Youkilis ever reached the play-offs.

So Mr. Cashman, Hal and Hank, Joe Girardi, and yes, you, Kevin Youkilis–I ask that you listen closely.  I will accept this trade on one condition: before the first day of spring training, I get to shave off Kevin Youkilis’s beard.  And I get to do it with half of a rusty pair of scissors that I find in an abandoned Hoboken warehouse.  Blindfolded.

~ T

Post-Season Predictions from Tripp

As promised, I’m going to be featuring some guest writers here on The Honestly Blog.  Our first guest writer is an old favorite and prior contributor, baseball enthusiast Tripp Williams.  Tripp did me the immense favor of offering up his post-season predictions from all the way across the pond.  At press time, the first round of play-offs are under way, and current results will be included below.  As always, content has been edited for space, grammar, and Yankee bashing.

Yesterday, it seems, we were waxing poetic about the hopes that each baseball fan enjoys in March and April, when Spring intoxicates us with “Up and coming prospects!” lists and “Top Ten Reasons why your team will make the playoffs this year” adverts.  Now, at the other end of the proving ground that is the regular season, most of us find our proverbial team ships of hope battered and wind-blown, scuttling back to the harbor for a winter overhaul.  Only the lucky few – yeah, Tyler, you’re one of them – get to see if a turn on the open ocean will bring post-season glory.  But who will last?

ALDS: New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles
I expect the Yankees to compete in their series, like they normally do. I have a sense that the Yanks have been looking over their shoulder for a good part of the season, eyes widening as the Orioles kept pace right until the bitter end.  The Pinstripers won’t be intimidated, of course, but then again I don’t think the Orioles will be either.  The O’s are young enough to not know any better than to think they’ll win the whole thing this year – kind of like the Rays in 2008.  This will be an intriguing match-up, but I’ll go with the Yankees by way of their knowing how to win.  I’ll be more than happy to admit the error of my ways if the Orioles advance, though, and will likely cheer for their exuberance and passion as long as they’re in the playoffs.  I mean, honestly – who doesn’t like to root for a team, and a city, that’s been irrelevant for over a decade, the roster of which is made up of kids who play their hearts out?  Except for Tyler.  Prediction: Yankees in 5.
(The Yankees currently lead the series, 1-0.  So, suck it.)

ALDS: Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers
The Oakland A’s have pulled off one of the sneakiest division title victories in quite some time.  Buoyed by all the talk of Moneyball, and the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes (you be the judge which had more of an impact), the A’s carried the banner this year for mid-market franchises and go into the postseason, one would think, pretty darn confident.  I like the A’s… but the firepower of the Tigers is tough to ignore.  Detroit seemed to do just enough throughout the year to make it into the playoffs, and now, like an experienced marathon runner, seem ready to let loose the kick they saved for the last stretch of the race.  I think the A’s still have a good shot, considering their consistency throughout the year and their grit and toughness.  This will be a good matchup, especially in the middle games of the series.  I admit it – I saw that the Tigers won Game 1.  All the same… Prediction: A’s in 5.
(Detroit currently leads the series, 2-0.)

NLDS: Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants
The NL presents a Reds-Giants match-up that is a little bit off the radar, if for no other reason than because the Reds had a sneaky great year and are a darn good team.  They ended up just behind the Nationals with the second best record in baseball, which isn’t an accident.  With playoff experience from last year, their young lineup will likely be well positioned to make a run this post-season.  The Giants come into the playoffs off of a strong finish to the regular season, but they have some uncertainties in their rotation.  If Timmy had had a good year, like any of his last four, I would be quick to explain that the Giants present a nasty playoff pitching rotation.  But that assertion doesn’t ring nearly as true when Matt Cain is the number one, instead of the 1A, and Timmy is dropped down to the starter for Game 3.  Without the confidence in the pitching staff going into the playoffs, the Giants are vulnerable.  Both offenses can hit the ball; like in every series, this one will come down to pitching.  Loyalty requires that I go with the Giants.  I have no misgivings. Prediction: Giants in 4.
(The Reds currently lead the series 2-0.  This could be a tough deficit to surmount; but if anyone can be a hero, it’s little Timmy.)

NLDS: Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Nationals and the Cardinals will be fun to watch.  DC has been playoff baseball deprived for decades, and the atmosphere in National’s Park will be electric.  The Cardinals are making their 2012 run in defense of their World Series title from last year.  They decided, consciously I suppose, to follow the script from last year – make the playoffs by a razor-thin margin – because it worked so darn well.  They are a crafty bunch, seasoned professionals way ahead of the Nats in terms of experience.  The Nationals are a good team, and they play with an energy that will only be amplified by the playoff atmosphere.  I expect they’ll get off to a quick start and stay ahead.  They will miss Mr. Strasburg.  How the Nationals managed to work it so that their number one pitcher would miss the playoffs is still just a little bit baffling to me.  All the same, the stage is set for Bryce Harper to take the next step up the ladder of stardom, and the rest of the squad will be poised to help make 2012 a positive year in the annals of DC baseball history.  Prediction: Nationals in 4.
(The Nationals currently lead the series, 1-0.)

ALCS Prediction: New York Yankees vs. Oakland Athletics
The Yankees and the A’s – David and Goliath.  This match-up would be a network executive’s nightmare but a fan’s delight.  The cross-country element makes it that much more enticing, pitting the punk Californians against the utmost professional Pinstripers.  When the Yankees win, baseball wins – more people watch, and the games just have a feeling of being that much more relevant.  But if the A’s are able to pull this off and make it to the World Series, hope will fill the heart of every Royals, Pirates, Mariners, Astros, Marlins, and every other middling team’s fan.  And for the A’s to advance while the Rangers and Angels watch on TV?  What could be sweeter for anyone who has ever rooted for the little guy?  Fun fact? The Yankees’ two highest paid players (Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia) make more ($30 million and $24.2 million, respectively) than the entire A’s roster ($49.1 million).  When you have a team who hasn’t spent the coin required to sit in the proverbial luxury box of professional sports, and yet DOES win?  It’s a great game. Prediction: for baseball’s sake, Yankees in 6.  What I hope for?  A’s in 7.

NLCS Prediction: San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals
The Giants and the Nationals will feature two high-energy teams hungry for the NL crown.  The match-up will be pretty even on paper: decent pitching that drops off further down in the rotation, a couple of hitters in each lineup that can strike fear in the hearts of opponents (Zimmerman, Werth, and LaRoche for the Nats; Posey and Sandoval for the Giants).  Because of the parity between the clubs, I would expect this to be a long series.  The hole left by Strasburg will seem even larger in this series, as he would have been able to have a greater impact over the course of seven games.  Similarly, Timmy’s struggles will be more acutely felt – lining him up to pitch games 1, 4, and 7 isn’t an option.  Matt Cain is an able number 1, but any team that can have two top-tier pitchers share the physical and emotional burden of being that team’s go-to guy is better off than normal.  I’ll be happy with either team winning.  For the intrigue of the match-up, I’ll choose the Giants in 6.  I’ll be far from unhappy, though, if the Nats pull this off.

World Series Prediction: ??? vs. ???
The Oakland A’s and the Washington Nationals.  To think that either of these teams, let alone both, would make the World Series, let alone the play-offs, is pretty wild.  And I would love it.  The energy would be great, with each city capital-C celebrating their team’s return to competitiveness.  I mentioned earlier that baseball wins when the Yankees win; ratings climb, national coverage seems better, etc.  But maybe what baseball needs is a World Series featuring two upstarts like the A’s and Nationals, two teams that kind of defy the odds a little bit in their respective climbs to the top.  You may argue that the Cardinals played that role last year, or that the story line isn’t nearly as exciting as I’m playing it up to be.  My rejoinder would be twofold: 1. The Cardinals are an extraordinarily successful franchise.  They won the World Series in 2006.  For them to be successful is neither unexpected nor new. 2. Last year’s playoffs, even with the very successful Cardinals winning it all, was incredibly exciting.  The A’s and the Nationals could provide baseball with the shot in the arm it seems to need pretty regularly now, injecting enthusiasm and hope into all the other markets and fanbases who have mired in obscurity for several years.  I speak from experience – the Mariners have mastered the art of finishing under .500.  For rejuvenation’s sake, let’s see the A’s and the Nationals! Prediction/hope: A’s in 7.

Tripp Williams is currently studying at the London School of Economics, which will become a crucial point on his resume when he runs for president in twenty years.  As a Seattle-area native, he has acclimated flawlessly to the London weather.  Contrary to popular reports, he is not dating Pippa Middleton.  Yet.

Put Me In, Coach

Late last night, an announcement was made that the NFL had reached an agreement with its locked-out referees.  This marks the first time that officials in a sport have received louder cheers from the fans than they give for the players.  It’s likely that no one would have really noticed that the NFL’s official officials were off the job, had their replacements not screwed up as frequently and as obviously as they did.

This was one for the ages.

Yet I hold a tiny bit of empathy for the replacement refs.  If nothing else, they demonstrated just how hard the job of officiating a game actually is; and that got me thinking.  There’s no chance I could ever play a professional sport…but could I officiate one?

When considering the four major American sport leagues, my options are narrowed down pretty quickly.  I can’t skate, so there goes hockey.  I don’t know enough about basketball to call anything more than traveling or a three-second violation.  Plus, I’d probably get winded real fast moving up and down the court.  I think officiating basketball would be like doing the world’s longest shuttle run, and that would make me loathe to suit up and don my whistle.  Football has a thicker rule book than the Securities and Exchange Commission does, and the corresponding sign language would stymy even Helen Keller.  Plus, there’s entirely too much to keep track of on the field at any given moment.  So that leaves baseball.

Should Major League Baseball ever find itself in a situation where they needed me to be an umpire, I think they’d be in good hands.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I could lead the crew and call balls and strikes from behind home plate.  For one thing, I doubt I could accurately judge the placement of a baseball as it came towards me in excess of 80 miles per hour.  For another, home plate umpires take the most shit.  Sure, you can toss a guy from the game if he’s giving you too much lip, but truthfully, if I had someone like Brett Lawrie or Ozzie Guillen screaming in my face, I’d probably just collapse into the fetal position outside the batter’s box.

I couldn’t be the first base umpire.  Too many close calls there, which could also lead to confrontation.  Second base umpire doesn’t seem as stressful, but you constantly have to be getting out of the way of the action.  It wouldn’t be too long before I got clocked with a line drive or tripped up Chase Utley on his way to throw the double play to first.  So that leaves me at third.  Third base seems like a good fit.  You stand in foul territory, so you can’t really louse up a play.  Statistically, there are far fewer close calls to be made on that side of the ballpark.  Your only real moments of judiciary supremacy come from a checked swing.  And depending on your schedule, you’d be guaranteed at least a few nights standing next to these handsome fellas.

But what about the other popular sports in America?  Could I earn my zebra stripes as a ref in one of those?  Soccer’s out.  If I couldn’t handle running the hardwood at an NBA game, I’d be hard pressed to keep up on a playing field as massive as soccer’s.  Golf doesn’t have referees, thank God.  Can you imagine?  That’d be just about the only way to make golf more boring.  There are no refs in NASCAR because there are no rules in NASCAR–and at the risk of losing my redneck readership, it isn’t a sport anyway.  I’m entirely too squeamish to call a boxing or MMA match.  So that leaves me with one other alternative.

Yes, tennis.  And I wouldn’t be one of the line judges in the back court.  No, sir.  I’d be the chair umpire.  Why?  You get to sit in a giant lifeguard’s chair, which is not only shaded but full of hiding places for snacks and beverages.  You get a ridiculously large microphone.  You govern not only the behavior of the players, but of the crowd , as well.  And you’re in an excellent position to throw things at those poor orphans the ATP uses to scurry after balls when they’re hit into the net.

Donk!

(I’m kidding about the orphan thing.  Maybe.)

Even if it would be fun to umpire in baseball or tennis, I think I’ll leave it to the professionals for now.  Besides, there are plenty of things I already excel at judging: musicals, cake, and, generally, people.  Why would I leave all that behind?

~ T

Version 3.0

Hello again, readers new and old.  It’s your friendly blogmaster, returned after an extended absence from the interwebs.  We’ve got a lot to catch up on!  I’ll start by explaining exactly why The Honestly Blog has been dormant for so long.

The main reason that I wasn’t blogging this year was because I was spending most of it undertaking a project that I wasn’t comfortable having on the public record.  That project was applying to graduate school.  From Christmastime through the middle of February, I was hitting the books for at least 90 minutes each night, studying for the GREs.  After that, springtime was spent working on application essays, accumulating writing samples, and seeking letters of recommendation.  My applications went out right before Easter, and I am happy to report that it was about a month later that I found out I had been accepted to the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at NYU.  Starting very soon–Tuesday, in fact–I will begin my course of study towards my masters degree in public relations and corporate communications.

The eternal flame of knowledge…or an albino artichoke

Now you might be thinking, “But Tyler, that’s awesome!  You write so well and you’re so engaging and so effortlessly handsome that this program sounds like it’s tailor-made for you.”  (You are thinking that, aren’t you?)  “Why wouldn’t you be shouting that from the digital rooftops?”  Well, you rascally flatterers you, the reason I was keeping this under wraps was because I hadn’t told anyone at work that I was pursuing this.  To be as frank as I can be, this has not been a very good year for me on the job.  2012 has been a year of extreme ups and downs in the office. Our normally slow summer was upended by the much deserved yet unexpected retirement of one of my bosses.  It was only in the last two weeks that we wrapped up the majority of the unfinished business left in her wake, and it was only then that I felt comfortable sharing with my remaining employers that I would be spending my evenings learning how to make myself a more marketable applicant to other businesses.  Since I can only afford to go to school at night if I keep my job during the day, the whole situation has required a level of decorum I usually wouldn’t have to keep.

The air might be cleared now, but that doesn’t mean that I can go back to being a blogging machine.  Given the amount of schoolwork I have coming my way and the rigorous standards of the program (less than 3.0 each term and you’re out on your ass!), I’m afraid that my postings may not be as frequent or as lengthy as in the past.  Couple my course load with the fact that I’m also going to be actively searching for new employment (that retirement doesn’t seem to be yielding any promotions), and you can imagine just how little spare time I  might have.  But I also recognize that the months ahead are going to be very strenuous, and I’m going to need an outlet, a place to turn when I near a burn-out, a way to exercise the wackier parts of my brain, a place where everyone knows my name…wait, scratch that last one…

So my game plan for The Honestly Blog is to write one post each week; a weekly installment of the shenanigans and sass you’ve come to enjoy over these past few years.  I’m hoping to write about a wide variety of things in an array of different styles; maybe have some guest writers; perhaps even experiment with video content.  I hope you’ll continue to drop by.  I’ve also become quite a Twitter fiend this year, so follow my bird to get some giggles on your smart phone in 140 characters or less.

Before I give you the abridged run-down of my 2012 adventures thus far, I have to give a special thank you to my family and friends who persisted in getting me back to writing this blog.  Special shout-outs go to the kickball gang (especially fellow blogger Jill), my bestest best friend and budding blogger herself, Lauren, and no less a cewebrity than the talented J.T. Riley, whose prodigious and enjoyable output can be tracked via his Twitter.  Mille grazie, everyone!

So, what else was I doing while operating in Sith-like secrecy?  Well, the first thing I did after taking the GRE was to get on a plane bound for Austin, TX!  Literally, I went from the test location to the airport.  A handful of Hobos and I went to the liberal center of the Lone Star State to cheer on one of our own, Stacy, while she ran the Austin marathon.  She set a new personal best with her running, and I set a new personal best eating ribs.  Success all around!  Other far-off adventures this year have included a visit to Syracuse and its surroundings to see my pal Stef, an extra-long Fourth of July holiday in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts with most of my cousins, and more trips to the Long Island beaches than I can recall making in previous summers.  There were many more local adventures as well: nights out in Hoboken and Jersey City, and the annual multi-borough epic affair known as Handicapable Ice Cream Day, a weekend whose history would require a posting of its own to fully explain.

An aquatic event on this year’s Summer Olympic-themed Handicapable Ice Cream Day

There were sporting events aplenty.  My brother and I sat twenty rows off the floor of the Prudential Center when Blake Griffin and the Clippers came to town to play the Nets, I made numerous trips to both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and I even won a few shekels at the Belmont Stakes.  Sadly, my kickball days are over, as my NYU schedule won’t allow enough time for that much drinking athleticism.

There were cultural outings, as well.  For every excellent book I read (Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding being the best among them), I saw a terrible movie (Honestly, Prometheus?).  I saw musicals good (Now. Here. This.), bad (Merrily We Roll Along), and ugly (Leap of Faith).  I made my first trip to the Metropolitan Opera.  I also hit a few concerts, including my favorite one to date: the incomparable, insatiable, insane Scissor Sisters.  Don’t take my word for it; Anderson Cooper was there right next to me.  (No, really, he was.  I got a drink at the bar, turned to walk away, and bam–Silver Fox!)

Scissor Sisters having a kiki at Bowery Ballroom

And if, like me, you’re in your late twenties and actively maintaining a social life, you probably spent your summer going from one wedding to another.  I know I did, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend those weekends any other way.  Each celebration was special in its own way, and each of them was an absolute blast.  Congratulations again to Christina and Charlie, Matt and Jess, and Kaitlyn and Matt!  May you spend Summer 2013 judging other people’s nuptials against your own.  They’ll be tough to beat.

That about brings you up to speed, faithful readers.  It’s Labor Day weekend now, the unofficial end of summer.  Big changes are about to take shape, and I’m looking forward to them.  Stay tuned.

~ T

A Winter Update

Bless me, bloggers, for I have sinned.  It has been six weeks since my last posting.

I should know by now that my writing output is one of the most obvious things to suffer during my self-imposed hibernation.  But just because I haven’t been reporting on my goings-on doesn’t mean that they haven’t been happening.  Let me fill you in…

I’ve stayed active.  Knowing that my metabolism slows as the temperature lowers, and that there are plenty of treats to be had this time of year, I’ve added in extra work-outs with my buddy, Alex.  He finally wore me down and got me to agree to try the Insanity Workout program.  So here’s a taste of what he and I get up to three times a week.

Insanity Workout

A more leisurely athletic accomplishment came just before Thanksgiving, when my fellow agents and I finally defeated the casting directors at show biz softball!  I went 4 for 4 at the plate during our 17-7 drubbing of our dreaded opponents.  There was the typical trash-talking and dirt-kicking, but when all was said and done, we still got together at a dive bar on Avenue A to enjoy pitchers and wings.

Yeah, I look like I need that pitcher, don't I?

But outdoing me on all fronts was kickball legend Stacy, running her second (or was it third?) New York City marathon!  She’s gone from Ol’ Whiskey Lips to Ol’ Whiskey Hips!  Way to go, Stacy!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I made my first trip to the movies in ages to see The Muppets, which I thought was absolutely delightful.  Writer and star Jason Segel imbued the film with the love and reverence of a true fan.  It keeps the spirit of the old Muppet films and TV shows but gives it enough modern sourness and self-awareness to mesh with today’s comic tastes, so as to not feel like a stale reboot.  And the songs by Bret McKenzie were a wonderful surprise.

I also did some reading these past weeks.  A duo of works by Hollywood’s hardest-working funny ladies, Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Fey, were enjoyable as expected, but surprisingly opposing in style.  Ellen’s Seriously…I’m Kidding is half comic essays on her life of late as an established celebrity, and half left-over material from her talk show monologues (I say “left-over” because they honestly weren’t that funny).  But Tina Fey’s Bossypants is a full-blown memoir in which the good-natured author reveals that, after spending half her life climbing the show biz ladder, she still holds a handful of axes to grind.  And like any good writer, she doesn’t mince words (“The definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore”).

I also reached a benchmark in my American history reading, having now cleared the Civil War era.  My latest selection was Eli N. Evans’s Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate.  Evans’s biography of the most powerful pre-twentieth century Jew in American politics is deeply interesting.  Benjamin, born to modest means in the British Caribbean, wound up becoming a United States senator and one of the architects of the Confederacy.  As Jefferson Davis’s most trusted professional ally, Benjamin was right at the heart of the Confederate machine.  But for all his skill as a politician, it was his legal talents that he was most remembered for.  It was how he made his fortune as a young man in New Orleans, and how he later supported himself–quite comfortably–in England, following his escape from the South.  Since Benjamin destroyed most of his papers during and after his flight from America, Evans is forced to explain Benjamin’s life from some interesting perspectives: as a friend of Jefferson and Varina Davis, and as a prominent Jew living in a place and time in which anti-Semitism soared among the populace.  Benjamin proves to have had a powerfully analytic mind, and seems to have had a disturbing ability to apply it to his personal life.  His marriage to the notoriously unfaithful Natalie St. Martin was worth increasing his social standing; his adherence to his faith waxed and waned as necessary given the personal or professional company he kept; his wholesale rejection of his time at the forefront of Union and Confederate politics was simply a bit of show to impress his British colleagues.  Everything was a means to an end; and as such, his loyalty to anyone but his beloved brother-in-law, Jules, and his daughter, Ninette, appears to have been completely flexible.  Given the incomplete source material, Evans has done a good job in painting a full portrait of a man who apparently was content to have been forgotten.

Finally, you’ll be happy to know that in a week or so, I’ll be posting some outrageous tales of adventure, as I am leaving soon to visit my best bud, Kevin, in tropical St. Maarten!  This is the biggest adventure of 2011.  I aim to close the year out with a bang.  Stay tuned, readers!

~ T

Farewell to the Boys of Summer

In a sure sign that the best of times has passed us by, the 2011 baseball season came to an end last week.  I know, I barely noticed it myself.

I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound bitter.  Sure, it was exciting that the World Series went the full seven games, particularly with the dramatic heights of Game Six.  But honestly, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers?  I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed.  The earlier games of the fall classic earned piddling ratings.  This was no great rivalry, no storied match-up with a history to elevate the stakes.  And call me crazy, but when a game between the two alleged best teams in baseball ends in a 16 – 7 rout, I question the veracity of those records.  Still, I tip my hat to Tony LaRussa and his Cards.  Despite being a fan of the winningest team in American sports, I appreciate when the hardware gets spread around.

So in my final baseball posting of the year, I thought we’d dip back into the archives and see how The Honestly Blog’s official baseball correspondent, Tripp, fared with his post-season picks:

Tripp’s Picks
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Rangers
AL Wild Card: Yankees

Final Division Standings
AL East: Yankees
AL: Central: Tigers
AL West: Rangers
AL Wild Card: Rays

Well, once again, Tripp sold my boys from the Bronx short.  It’s okay, you can’t hate him for being persistent.  The Red Sox and Tigers, though, proved to be the victims of epic collapse.  Is Tripp’s benediction now a curse to ball clubs?  Let’s see if he jinxed anyone in the National League…

Tripp’s Picks
NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Giants
NL Wild Card: Cubs

Final Division Standings
NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Brewers
NL West: Diamondbacks
NL Wild Card: Cardinals

Ever the optimist, Tripp picked the Cubbies to win the wild card.  In fact, they only finished ahead of the Astros, the most anemic team in baseball.  There wasn’t much doubt that the Phillies would reign supreme in the east, and Tripp had faith that the Cardinals would make it, one way or another.  Of course, his fantasy World Series for 2011 was the Twins defeating the Phils, which proved to be way off; but I give him credit for foreseeing that the Cards and Rangers would be fixtures of the post-season.

So, now we wait through winter’s dark and gloomy hours until spring training starts again, shortly after that wretched groundhog scrambles out of his hole to taunt me with six more weeks of suffering.  Until next time, baseball fans.  Stay warm around that hot stove.

~ T

P.S: I almost forgot!  This may not really be the last baseball post of the year.  I did find out earlier today that on November 20, Yours Truly will be playing in the third annual show biz softball game between casting directors and agents.  The Sharks are 0-2.  This is our year!  Watch out, CSA!

DJ3K

Hi, blog buddies.  Considering that my fellow Yankee fans could use a little cheering up these days, and given that kickball was postponed last week due to an unannounced festival in Momma Johnson Park, I’ve decided to update the blog with the video I took of Derek Jeter’s monumental 3,000th career hit.  I was there in the right field bleachers on July 9 to witness yet another individual Yankee milestone.  And I think I did a pretty good job catching the whole thing on film.  Just excuse my buddy John’s fingers getting in the way, and the dude sitting in front of us who carried on like he was Derek Jeter’s dad at his first little league game.

 

~ T

A Slight Case of Crabs, or Four Days in Florida

As widely publicized, I recently spent a long weekend along the Gulf Coast of Florida to warm my winter-battered body, to visit with some of the family, and to stalk Alex Rodriguez in a socially acceptable manner.  There were many amusing sights and sounds along my travels, and here I offer you the highlights.

Batter Up

I am normally very efficient about traveling.  I pack no more than what I absolutely need to survive.  I mentally map out my entire voyage from my front door to my destination, so as to not have to waste time consulting maps or asking for directions.  And I set my alarm unnecessary hours ahead of the absolute latest time possible for me to wake up and make my connections without breaking into a sweat.  This time, however, proved to be different.

For reasons as yet unknown—fatigue, anticipation, or intoxication—I set my alarm incorrectly the night before my flight to Ft. Myers.  Whereas I intended to rise at 5:00 AM so I could reach Newark Airport using public transportation, I instead woke (of my own volition, thank you) at 6:20.  Upon seeing the time, I may have actually propelled myself from a horizontal position in my bed to a vertical position on my floor in a single explosion of energy.  I paced the length of my apartment twice, muttering obscenities, and then stopped to formulate a plan.  I had no bags to check and it was still over an hour before my flight was to begin boarding.  All I had to do was get to the airport, print my boarding pass, and sail through security.

The ten agonizing minutes I spent waiting for my cab were the worst of my vacation; that is, until my cab driver started heading north on the New Jersey Turnpike towards the Lincoln Tunnel instead of south towards the airport, which was clearly in sight.  I never like being a backseat driver, particularly to a professional, but I decided to speak up.  He had realized the mistake, and quickly and illegally turned himself around along the twisting hydra heads of on- and off-ramps.  I was on the curb at the terminal with an hour to go before take-off, so I tipped him.  Hey, he still got me to the airport, didn’t he?

The Big Hurt

My mother and aunt met me at the airport and we drove south to Naples.  It wasn’t noon yet and the mercury had already passed 80.  There had been no precipitation of any kind for two weeks.  Though I brought my computer along, there would really be no professional reason to have to use it.  I was as happy as one of the Gulf’s many clams.

Within an hour of my arrival, and only six or so after waking up in the unpleasant manner I did, I was on a smooth sandy beach modeling my newly purchased swimwear.  The sun was starting to crisp my skin, so long hidden from the elements this winter, and we didn’t have a damn thing to do but relax.  Kicking back under our beach umbrellas, I surveyed the scenery.

If you’re planning a trip to Florida for, how shall we say, recreational purposes, be sure you choose a destination on the younger, trendier, presumably healthier east coast.  Now, I’m not one to judge.  I mean, sure, I just signed up for three more months of personal training, but I’m eating mint milanos as I write this.  Regardless, the fact of the matter is that I could not believe the number of grossly overweight people I saw on the beach that day.  Maybe they weren’t all native Floridians, but I have to believe most of them were.  This wasn’t a destination beach; it was a public park.  These heifers hadn’t strayed far from their pastures, okay?

I just don’t understand it.  And I don’t mean it to say, “You live five minutes from the beach.  How could you let yourself go like that?”   No, I mean it to say, “It’s 80 fucking degrees here and it’s only the beginning of spring.  How can you not simply sweat 15 pounds off a day?”  I got pit stains just loading beach chairs into the trunk of my uncle’s car.  Are these people mixing cement into their cookie dough?

And I’m going to take this opportunity to request that in whichever city next hosts a fashion week, the preeminent designers of the world get together and create a new way to dress the lower half of a woman’s body for swimsuit season.  Because while it might be lovely to see all the exposed flesh offered by a bikini on a Brooklyn Decker or an Elle MacPhereson, the garment does no favors for the women of southwest Florida whose individual thighs are wider than your typical swimsuit model’s waist.  Between the quivering quads and disturbingly distended stomachs, there were a few terrifying moments when I wasn’t sure if these ladies had their bottoms covered at all.  It looked like things were getting all lost up in there.  Gross.  Honestly, there has to be a better way, for all of us.

Game 1

Sunday we drove back in to Ft. Myers to see the Minnesota Twins host the New York Yankees at their spring training facility at Hammond Field.  This would be my first chance to succeed at my most challenging mission: to take a Christmas card photo with a Yankee.

Clearly, Alex Rodriguez was the prime target, but I wouldn’t turn down someone like Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, or even one of the organization’s most promising minor leaguers (okay, maybe that’s not true).  I wasn’t sure how I would manage to get into such close quarters with any of these fellows, nor was I sure how I would act when presented with the opportunity–especially if it happened to be Alex.  Now, I’ve met some pretty famous people in my line of work, and I’ve handled myself with aplomb.  But Alex Rodriguez?  Let me tell you, I have had two separate dreams in which I met Alex Rodriguez, and even in the dreams I couldn’t form words.  In the second of those dreams, I must have looked so literally dumbstruck that Dream Alex kind of quietly sighed and blinked his eyes the way you do when you’re about to engage someone of such obviously depleted mental faculties before extending his giant hand and saying, “You must be Tyler.”  And I couldn’t speak.  My unconscious self was rendered mute in the presence of an imagined Alex Rodriguez.  That’s what we’re dealing with, people.  A flesh and blood encounter would be DEFCON 1.

We had excellent seats in the last row of the field level, safe in the shade and just below the press boxes, right behind home plate.  During Alex’s first two at-bats, whenever he would step out of the box and scan the crowd, I waved.  A real attention-getting wave, too; arm straight up over my head, strong movement at the elbow, fingers spread wide.  He had to have seen me.  The beer and peanut vendors certainly saw me, and they were good-humored enough not to say anything when I explained that I had not, in fact, been flagging them down; I was just waving to my pal, Alex Rodriguez.

Hi Alex!

I had been watching with envy as numerous players, even the notoriously antisocial Alex, interacted with the fans seated closest to the dug-out.  In the fifth inning, I decided to try my luck.  This being spring training, I couldn’t imagine that there would be an army of ushers keeping the plebes from wandering down into the high-roller’s seats.  Alex was on deck, seated in one of four folding chairs set up outside the dugout.  I don’t mind telling you that as I got closer, I started to freak out just a tiny bit.  I’m like twenty rows of seats away from him now.  I can see the whites of his eyes, even hear his voice.  There’s no way I’m going to be able to take a picture with him, I realize, but there’s a very good chance I’m going to get an outstanding picture of him.  I decide I’ll wait for the current batter to finish before I nonchalantly stride down the steps to the third row.

Said batter strikes out.  There were two outs, so now Alex won’t be batting this inning.  To my disbelieving eyes, Alex Rodriguez hands off his batting gloves and other athletic accessories to the nearest attendant and heads into the dugout…for good!  He was done for the day, and never came back out.  I waited in vain, but when the Yanks take the field, Eric Chavez was now at third.  Eric Chavez?  Honestly?  I’m sure he’s a nice guy and a solid player, but come on!

He was there a second ago!

Defeated, I went back to my seat.  I had one more chance at getting a picture with Alex.  Perhaps when we traveled to Tampa, the home team advantage would help me out.

Rain Delay

On Monday, I awoke to the sound of rain.  And not a light, tropical misting rain.  Rolling claps of thunder rain.  I put the pillow back over my head.  Hadn’t part of the purpose of this trip been to escape the constant precipitation in the northeast?  Fortunately, the storm passed by around 10:00, which was when I finally decided to get out of bed.  My uncle was golfing, so my aunt and mother and I headed into hopping downtown Naples to enjoy the sunshine while it lasted.  And, of course, to eat.

I put on a good four or five pounds during this trip.  There is some mighty fine eating to be had in southwest Florida.  Maybe that’s how all the leviathans on the beach got their start.  The three of us decided to check out a place that had long been on their to-do list: Joe’s Crab Shack.  It was a kitschy joint with cocktails served in mason jars, rolls of paper towels for the table instead of folded napkins, and double entendres plastered floor-to-ceiling on assorted pieces of memorabilia.

The food was just as good as the ambiance.

Game 2

On Tuesday, we drove the two-plus hours to Tampa to see the Yankees on their home turf.  Steinbrenner Field is quite a different environment from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  For one thing, it isn’t hemmed in on all sides by busy New York streets, large apartment buildings, or elevated subway tracks.  Steinbrenner Field sits across from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ much more impressive Raymond James Stadium, a six-lane highway with plenty of traffic lights being the only thing between them.  The only other things along this stretch of road were car dealerships, strip joints, and fast food establishments (all, I  imagine, of varying quality).

The Yankee facility consisted of a number of practice fields, most of which we didn’t see.  I was on a mission, after all,  so right into the stadium we went.  We were rewarded for our punctuality with a free giveaway: replicas of the Yankees’ 2000 World Series championship rings!  They were preposterously oversized, clearly designed to fit on even the doughiest of hands.  Still, it looks pretty cool, and I spent a good portion of my return trip trying to conflate a believable story to tell you all about how Derek Jeter, in his infinite kindness, saw fit to give me one of his many rings.

There isn’t a bad seat in the house at Steinbrenner Field.  The coolest views, however, can be found in the right field bleacher section.  Beyond the hot dog stand and fully stocked outdoor bar, there is an elevated walkway from which fans can look down into the bullpens.  And it was from here that I got the closest I ever have a New York Yankee.

Half an hour before the game, Nick Swisher emerged from the batting cages beneath the stadium with some lucky little Yankee fans.  No, not midgets; children.  Clearly a family unit, the mom was toting all kinds of souvenirs and camera equipment while The Swish played catch with the oldest and most coordinated of the group.  Later, when I was watching the dugout intently for any sign of You Know Who, I saw Swisher hand a number of autographed baseballs to the mom.

 

All togeter now: "Aww..."

As it was the last game of spring training, all the starters were on hand, save for those recovering from injury.  My mom and I were seated in an almost identical location to where we were for the Twins game.  My aunt and uncle, however, were seated about ten rows from the field along the third base line.  When they came up to our seats to escape the heat, I was more than happy to trade places with them.

I didn’t last much longer than an inning or so.  The heat was almost too intense to enjoy, and I didn’t really want my generous hosts to think that I was willfully ditching them for a chance to make a professional athlete feel vaguely uncomfortable.  But it was still quite a rush being that close to Alex Rodriguez while he was in the game.  He made one of his patented full body extension stops, laying out all 6’3″ of himself to stop the ball from rolling on into left field.  It was amazing to see just how fast the ball was hit off the bat, and just how fast he reacted to intercept it.  He is a big dude, but he was back on his feet in enough time to make the play at first.  And his uniform wasn’t even that dirty!

Cleanliness is next to godliness

Unfortunately, there was no way of getting close to the players once the game was over.  Most starters had been replaced by the eighth inning, anyway.  So I am sad to report that I did not bring home the Holy Grail.  Oh, well.  There’s a long season ahead, and I plan to attend a number of games.  Perhaps that fateful encounter is in the cards for sometime in the future.

Extra Innings

Since I had made my plans to fly home from Tampa, we had a quick, mediocre meal at California Pizza Kitchen (where no self-respecting New Yorker should be caught dead to begin with) before the rellies dropped me at the airport.  My flight to JFK was already listed as being an hour late, so I worked my way through $30 worth of newspapers and magazines before disappearing into the men’s room to change out of my summer clothes and into my parka and snowshoes, so that I wouldn’t freeze to death when I emerged in New York. 

The flight was uneventful, but I have to say that while waiting there in the terminal for a plane that wouldn’t come, I realized that everyone’s preconceptions about New Yorkers are by and large accurate.  My fellow passengers were loud, pissy, had entirely too many electronic possessions on their person, and seemed to take this minor flight delay as a serious personal affront.  The moment the plane taxied into the gate, they were jostling for position at the door.  People, have you ever fucking flown before?  It’s almost half an hour from the time the first fat fuck parks his rear in first class until lift-off.  The plane will not leave without you!  Trust me!

I was on the ground at JFK at 11:30.  Seeing as how I had to be at work the next morning, I was debating whether to get home via the air train, subway and/or Long Island Railroad, and PATH trains, or simply pony up whatever cash I had left and see how far and fast a cab would take me.  To my great surprise, neither the dispatcher nor the driver blinked and eye when I said I had to get to Jersey City.  We were crossing through the boroughs with ease, until we got to the Holland Tunnel.  Had we been two measly car lengths ahead, we would have sailed right through; but apparently midnight is when the traffic cops intervene and temporarily close the tunnel so that there is only one lane running in either direction.  I cursed my luck with cabs these past four days.  Here I was stranded in Tribeca on a Wednesday night, an automotive Cinderella.  The tunnel was eventually reopened, but we had to drive behind a construction vehicle that acted like some kind of pace car.  I never realized how long the Holland Tunnel was until I was driving through it at 15 miles per hour.  All I could think was, “Robbie Cano lives in north Jersey, and I bet he doesn’t have to deal with shit like this!”

Out of gratitude, I more or less emptied my wallet into my valiant cabbie’s hands.  I trudged up the stairs to my place and quickly got into my pj’s (Yankee boxers, natch).  I set my alarm–correctly–and looked at what I now had on my nightstand.  There was my phone (almost out of battery), my wallet (almost out of money), my camera (almost out of memory), and my keys (almost out of…damn it).  And added to that pile, in a tiny protective pouch, was my World Series ring.  Yeah, it’s fake, but it’s still pretty cool.

~ T

Blogging Baseball with Tripp – 2011 Season Preview, Part 3

In our final installment of this pre-season series, Tripp and I move from discussing what’s wrong and what’s Wright with certain line-ups to discussing the legacies of some of the game’s legends of the moment.  Tripp also peers into his crystal ball and makes some bold play-off predictions.  Read on…

Give me your thoughts on the Albert Pujols situation.

Albert Pujols is a tremendous talent who is also a capitalist.  It’s easy to deride him for being greedy.  How much money does one person really need, anyway?  But market conditions, as they are, suggest that Pujols will be paid somewhere around the $30 million a year mark, as absurd as that sounds.  Do I think he should stay in St. Louis?  Yes.  Should he give the Cardinals a “discount” and accept a lower salary than he may be able to command from, say, the Yankees?  I think he should, and I think he will.  At least, I hope he will.  I like to think Albert recognizes that money is not the be-all end-all, and that he will assign appropriate value to how much St. Louis adores him, and how well his career has blossomed there, while deciding where to play in the coming years.  I think it’s too bad that his contract negotiation wasn’t resolved before the year began, but it is what it is.  I don’t question for a minute that he will continue to play hard for the Cardinals through 2011.

Let me see if I can stretch a little of that optimism all the way back to New York.  Andy Pettitte’s hung up his spikes and glove.  Do you think he’s Hall of Fame material?

Andy Pettitte’s postseason record makes him a potential Hall of Famer.  He has the most postseason wins in baseball history, had 240 career wins, had the most wins in the first decade of this third millennium (148, from 2000-2009) and never had a losing season in the 16 he played.  I never really thought of him as a SPECTACULAR pitcher, but always felt he was clutch when the playoffs rolled around.  I don’t really have too strong of an opinion on his candidacy, but I suppose I would vote for him to have a place among the greats in Cooperstown.

 

This was my dad's greatest nomination for Unnatural Brothers

Any thoughts on Joe Torre now working within Major League Baseball’s administration as the league’s chief disciplinarian?

 

I respect Joe Torre, and feel he respects the game of baseball.  The game is in good hands as long as people like Joe Torre are managing it.  Need I say more?

You sound like you’re biting your tongue a little.

No, not at all.  I have a lot of respect for Mr. Torre.  I consider him a legend and an asset to the game.

All right, I’ve gotten you to compliment two former Yankee heavyweights, so I’ll wrap this up rather than continuing to press my luck.  As you might know, I’m leaving quite soon to attend Spring Training in Florida myself.  Do you have any advice for how I can get the most out of the experience?

Make sure you get to the park as soon as you can.  Pre-game preparation was always one of my favorite parts of  game day, with so much excitement in the air.  Batting practice is a lot of fun, and though the regular execution of a pre-game infield pretty much ends at the collegiate level (which is unfortunate;  a crisp pre-game infield can be veritably artful), watching the players get prepared for the game will give you an appreciation for the craft of baseball.

Also, don’t forget your sunscreen.  And don’t be afraid to lose yourself in the game.  Suspend time, turn off your phone, unplug, and marvel at the beauty of baseball.

 

The beauty of baseball

 

Tripp’s Play-Off Predictions

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Rangers
AL Wild Card: Yankees

NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Giants
NL Wild Card: Cubs

ALCS: Twins over Red Sox
NLCS: Phillies over Cubs
World Series: Twins over Phillies

Why not?

Tripp Williams is entirely too kind to indulge the editor of this website with the frequency and sincerity that he does.

Oh, and he allegedly once streaked across a heavily populated portion of campus.  Allegedly.

~ T

Blogging Baseball with Tripp – 2011 Season Preview, Part 2

Hey, baseball fans.  Coming at you now with Part 2 of my discussion of the impending baseball season with your friend and mine, Tripp.  Last time, we talked about Timmy and trades.  This time, we cover promising youngsters, injured veterans, and a secret caveat to my Yankee fandom.  Let’s get started…

You correctly predicted at this time last year that Joey Votto was a new face to watch.  Any such predictions yet for 2011’s most impressive rookies?

Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, though not a rookie, is someone to keep an eye on.  He won the batting title last year; but because he plays with Colorado, he continues to fly under the national radar.  Mike Stanton of the Marlins is another guy who, though not a rookie, seems poised to do big things.  From what I have read, he is a monster of a human being.  Domonic Brown, with the Phillies, is another player with a lot of buzz.  He is having a rough spring (1 for 16 at the plate), but with the departure of Jayson Werth, Brown is talked of as the heir apparent to the Phillies’ right field spot.

 

Carlos Gonzalez needs hugs

As a Mariner fan, I’ve been hearing a lot about two guys: Dustin Ackley, an infielder, and Michael Pineda, a right-handed pitcher who throws the ball very fast.  We’ll see if either of those guys makes the club coming out of spring training. 

And, last but not least, I would be remiss to omit catcher (supposedly now outfielder) Bryce Harper from this list.

You mentioned Harper briefly in the first part of our discussion.  Care to educate me further?

 

I refuse to believe this is a high school junior. Honestly, at the risk of sounding like a Tea Party person, can I see a birth certificate?

Touted as the LeBron James of baseball, Harper chose to forego the final two years of his high school career to earn his GED and enroll at a junior college in what would have been his junior year.  What was he able to do there, swinging a wood bat at the collegiate level at the age of 17?  He hit a meager .443, with 31 home runs and 98 RBI… in 66 GAMES.  It wouldn’t be fair to place too much expectation on Harper’s shoulders, but it will be exciting to see what he is able to do in the years to come.  (Note: Harper hit .389 this spring for the Nationals.  Last week, he was assigned to the Nationals’ Class A minor league team.  Harper’s rumored last words to Nationals’ manager Jim Riggleman before leaving for the minor league squad: “I’ll see you in July.”) 

A few players are notably struggling to get back in the game after significant injuries; guys like Justin Morneau and Carlos Beltran.  Do you think these guys, or any others in their situation, are going to make or break their teams this season?

I know the Mets are a sensitive subject with you, considering your soft spot for Mr. Wright.

Yes, it’s true.  Forgive me for interrupting, but I have to clarify that statement for my readers, especially if that small group just so happens to include a certain New York Yankee: David Wright is my second favorite third baseman.  I mean, look at that All-American punim.  How could you not love him?

I’m sorry.  Continue.

I don’t think Carlos Beltran’s struggle to return will make or break the Mets’ chances this year.  Similarly, the absence of Johan Santana at the beginning of the year will hurt the Mets; but it’s not as if a healthy Santana would put the Mets atop the NL East.

So you’re saying…

In other words, I don’t think there will be anything to make or break in Queens.

To prove that I’m not a New York hater, I’ll say the same about the Mariners, my hometown team.  Year Two of the Milton Bradley experiment, and the renewed return campaign of the very talented left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard, won’t matter because the Mariners’ disorder has rendered them irrelevant before the season has even started.

The Mariners have a disorder?

Officially diagnosed as Haven’tbeentotheplayoffssince2001itis.

So is there anyone who will be making an impact by being absent?

Justin Morneau.  The Twins need all the offensive production Morneau can provide, especially since their move to the cavernous, open-air Target Field.  Chase Utley’s nagging injury will impact the Phillies’ start, but the strength of Philadelphia’s lineup will likely insulate them from any significant drop-off.

Another offensive producer who has been sidelined is Grady Sizemore.  What do you suppose was, or will be, more of a hindrance to him: his injury, or the publication of artfully posed near-nude photographs he sent to a female admirer?

Oh goodness.  I hadn’t even heard of this until you mentioned it.  I will say this: he’s from Washington, so he has to be a decent guy.  I’ll give him a pass.

Tripp Williams is a regional apologist who, at press time, was still mourning the loss of his favored Washington Huskies in the NCAA tournament.  He does not hate New York.  Really.

~ T