Thursday, January 11, 2007

NOT Happy to Be There

Watch this video of Chuck Hagel hammering Bush's "Pony Plan" and abusing Condi Rice in the process.

I love it.

Big Mac’s Big Night

Will Leitch of goes big-time with a McGwire Op-Ed in The New York Times. Well worth a look

UPDATE: Another great McGwire piece, and the comments are great too.

Sweet Fucking Jesus

What the fuck is George W. Bush doing? U.S. forces just stormed an Iranian embassy.

Oh, and those airstrikes in Somalia?
MOGADISHU, Somalia - [link] A top U.S. official in the region said Thursday that none of the al-Qaida suspects believed to be hiding in Somalia died in a U.S. airstrike this week, but Somalis with close ties to the terrorist group were killed.

What happens after "going down in flames"? Because the U.S. foreign policy situation is about to beggar description.

PSA: Anybody Looking for a Car?

Because I have just the cement-spattered, cracked windshield, sometimes-functioning instument panel eyesore you've been looking for...

I'm kidding. But if anybody is looking for a car, I have a few weeks left on my unlimited CARFAX reports. I'd be happy to run a report on a car if you send me a link or a VIN. It's pretty useful.

Oh, I ended up getting a great deal on a 2001 Volvo S60 Turbo. It's such a nice car, I'm self-conscious driving it...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Seven Easy Steps to Complete Pretentiousness—And How To Avoid Them

Even though I just took about three weeks off from the blogosphere, Otto Man still wandered over and saw fit to tag me with the latest blog "meme."

Here goes nothing:

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies: Easy. David Sedaris' Naked. Nothing in my life has ever made me laugh so hard, so often. I actually had to stop reading it on the subway, because I was embarrassing myself. Always handy in the living room bookcase for guests or for lending out.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music: This is a tough one. I would actually credit a particular stereo for the biggest impact. In college one of my roommates, Neal, introduced me to the world (and expense) of hi-fi. Years of listening to nothing but album-oriented rock on car stereos and boomboxes were cast aside. I heard everything differently and it opened me up to a vast array of music I had previously disregarded or been unexposed to: Steely Dan, Little Feat (came a bit later), Joe Jackson, old Peter Gabriel and countless others. If I had to pick one watershed moment it would be listening to fIREHOSE's Ragin', Full-On.

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue: There are a handful (really, any of the ones in my profile), and one that got left off my profile list is Jaws. Forget the shark, the interactions between Quint, Brody and Hooper on the Orca is priceless. But for pure entertainment value, I might just go Midnight Run. I know it's not highbrow enough for this survey, but I love it.

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend of all disbelief: Probably DeNiro. His range, from smirking wiseass (Midnight Run) to cold-blooded wiseguy (Good Fellas, Godfather, etc.), is almost unmatched.

5. Name a work of art you'd like to live with:

Seriously? No. But I cannot point to a particular piece of "fine art." It wouldn't have to be famous, it just needs to be something that strikes me. It might be a cop-out for a guy with a BFA to punt on this question, but I haven't found a favorite work of art yet. I will say, what is most inspiring to me as an art director is the work of guys like Saul Bass.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life: Once again, Midnight Run. The quotes and characters from that film still resonate and infiltrate my life. I sprinkle them in whenever I can. Usually, to only my own amusement...
"Jack, you're a grown man. You're in control of your own words. "
"You're goddamn right I am. Now here come two words for you: Shut the fuck up."

7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh:
In the (underappreciated) movie Go, there's a scene where Timothy Olyphant is telling Katie Holmes how much he hates The Family Circus, "And it's always there, in the lower right hand corner, just waiting to suck." Why does he read it, Katie Holmes asks him? He admits, "I hate it, but I'm strangely drawn to it."

Funny and true!


My Profile is pretty much a list of my contenders for the mainstream choices, you can peek over there for the also-rans if you're so inclined.

Meme rules dictate that I pass it on...Since Mike tagged Otto, he's out. So I challenge orf, Greg at The Talent Show, and John and Tim F. at Balloon Juice.

More Baseball...

Non-McGwire-related things I read yesterday...

• A fascinating look at radar guns and Joel Zumaya at Hardball Times. The peice does a great job breaking down the differences in radar gun readings, why some parks/guns are "fast" etc.

Even if we assume Comerica has a "fast" gun, there is no disputing Zumaya's flame-throwing capabilities—in 2005 there were 135 recorded 100+ mph pitches thrown in the majors. In 2006 (Zumaya's breakout season) there were 335 triple digit pitches thrown. How many were "Zoom"aya's? Two hundred and thirty three!!! In 2006, Joel Zumaya threw more 100 mph pitches than all the pitchers in both Leagues combined, over two seasons. Ridiculous. Somebody check that guy for the mutant X-gene.

• Also at Hardball Times, Dan McLaughlin (aka Baseball Crank) has a good article about the Hall of Fame and middle infielders. He looks at the guys in the Hall, and then many current and recent players and their chances.

• Here's a link to something I heard on the radio and almost made me crash my car: NPR's All Things Considered talks to the Gomezian jackass who turned in a blank HOF ballot this year. By this asshole's logic, he won't be able to vote in good consicence for years to come (even for Ripken and Gwynn) because their careers overlapped with the "Steroid Era." Fine. Take away his ballot. Douchebag.

UPDATE: Barry Bonds makes a run at 2007's first D.O.W.:
Barry Bonds, already under investigation for lying under oath about his steroid use, failed a test under Major League Baseball's amphetamine policy last season and then initially blamed it on a teammate, the Daily News has learned.
Under the policy, which went into effect only last season, players are not publicly identified for a first positive test.

But according to several sources, when first informed by the MLB Players Association of the positive test, Bonds attributed it to a substance he had taken from the locker of teammate Mark Sweeney. Sources did not identify the drug in question but characterized it as a serious stimulant.

What a class act. Tests positive. Blames his teammate. For something he stole from him.

Why anybody would want him around is beyond me. At this stage his negatives WAY outweigh any positives.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What About McGwire?

The Baseball Crank has a good post up on Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame. Crank says put him in. While I don't think it's a slam dunk that he goes in, I do say "give him an up or down vote" based on his numbers—not the politics of steroids.

I've definitely shifted wildly on this topic, but Crank makes a good case for McGwire on his merits, and after the preposterous antics of some HOF voters this year, it's east to swing back over to McGwire's side...

1. He was putting up pretty prodigious numbers before there is any indication he was juicing.

2. He never got caught, and there is really no evidence that proves he did steroids.

3. And if he did, MLB had NO policy and a ridiculous blind-eye stance. And that goes double for the writers. The same writers who are railroading McGwire now were fawning all over "Big Red" when he was breaking records and they ALL knew what was going on. McGwire was basically doing what was tacitly allowed at the time. Retroactively punishing him now is crap.

4. Frankly, without his Senate (non)testimony we likely wouldn't be having this debate, and that is a bullshit reason to keep somebody out of the HOF.

Now, there are legitimate statistical arguments against McGwire as a HOFer. I'll hear those arguments, but hypocritcal sanctimony by the writers should NOT be the leading reason he doesn't get in. If you don't think he's a HOFer, make the case, but don't tell me you're protecting the game and the Hall—you writers had a chance to do that years ago, and you failed miserably.

McGwire's numbers are here. There is plenty there to bolster both arguments. In fact, taking another look at the numbers is enough to give me pause about putting him right in (his failure to earn an MVP or even finish high most years is particularly damning).

But, prior to '93 and '94 (the lost injury years) McGwire hit 220 HRs over six seasons. That's an average of 36 HRs a season, and remember, 36 bombs was pretty good back then—good enough for a Top 3 finish in five of those seasons—and he led the league with 49 when he won Rookie of the Year.

So, McGwire was a pretty fearsome homerun hitter even back when most folks acknowledge he was clean. He was on a pretty good pace before injuries cost him a couple seasons. Was that when things changed? Did he compensate for that by "cheating" after he came back? Seems like it (if he wasn't already). He stayed healthier and his numbers bulged along with his physique.

Without the drugs McGwire would likely fall short statistically, and for that reason, I can see an objection by fans. But with writers, it rings a bit more hollow.

Major League Baseball turned more than a blind eye to steroids, they rode on the acne-ridden backs of those players to recover from the strike. "The Ladies owners love the long ball."

And the writers did not do their due diligence, instead they became a literal cheerleading squad for McGwire as he chased Maris. They didn't care then, so they shouldn't pretend they do now.

One of Crank's commenters sums up with this:
"The bottom line is regardless of whether he juiced or not, he did not violate the rules that were in place at the time he played. Therefore, every record set is valid and should stand."

Exactly. Aside from the fact that it wasn't against the rules (but, oddly, was illegal) there is no way to even PROVE that he did the steroids at this point. Unless they're going to bust out some ten year old urine (a la Lance Armstrong) this is all speculative.

My honest opinion? McGwire will wait a few years but eventually get in. Same with Bonds—they'll punish him by keeping him from being a first-balloter. As for the other borderline cases from the steroid era, the bar will probably be raised, and numbers besides HRs will gain importance.

UPDATE: Jason Stark at ESPN agrees...
We saw hitters on steroids face pitchers on steroids, as hundreds of players all around them used the same stuff, looking for the same edge. But we've never heard most of their names. So I feel more comfortable voting for players like McGwire than I do trying to pick and choose who did what, and when, and why.

If more evidence emerges, I always reserve the right to change my mind. But for now, I've cast an uncomfortable vote for McGwire -- and I might very well find myself doing the same for every great player of an obviously tainted generation.

If I could prove the innocence of the players I believe were clean as easily as I can assume the guilt of the men I think were cheaters, I might vote differently. But sadly, none of us can really prove much of anything.

So do we really want to be consistent about this issue? Well, if we do, we should either vote for all the best players of that era or none of them.

Stark had another good column on all the candidates (including McGwire) yesterday.

Oh, and Peter Gammons cast a vote for him. That's good enough for me.

ESPN's Pedro Gomez on the other hand is exactly the kind of sanctimonius asshole I am talking about. He takes his "sacred responsibilty" so seriously he won't ever vote for McGwire...
Again, the basic beauty of baseball is that you can trust your eyes. For many of us, our eyes told us something was wrong with what McGwire was accomplishing late in his career.

Yeah, dick? Too bad in all of the years when the Oakland A's were your fucking beat you didn't trust those eyes and investigate what they were supposedly telling you. yet, you'll bitch about it after the fact. You can shut the fuck up now.