Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friday Classic Video: Stair Defeats Woman

After the last post's somewhat contentious commenting (which was entirely Side Bar's fault; he's a jerkface), I thought we could use a little levity.

Now, since the three other writers here are probably 50% of the folks who'll see this clip, most of you already saw this. But still, I can watch it over and over, so let's save it for posterity.

Chick Slips And Slams Head On Stairs - Watch more free videos

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Mets and the Mean

I think that I have been about as critical of the Mets as anyone so far this year, and Open Bar and I have been saying for a while now that it is a mistake to expect much out of this team (as he already noted). But I think it is still a little premature to write them off, especially given what happened last year. Coincidentally, or not, on May 24, 2007, the Phillies were under .500, in fourth place in the NL East, and 6.5 games out of first (as are the Mets today, almost exactly one year later). And on that same date, the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Cubs (the three other 2007 NL playoff teams), were in last place, third place and second place, respectively. On June 1, 2007, none of the eventual NL playoff teams was in first place and only one of them was over .500 on that date. It was not until July 28, 2007, that the first of these four teams - the Diamondbacks - made it in to first place in their division (tied with LA on that date). And of course, as we all know, the last NL playoff team to take first place in their division was the Phillies (I just stabbed myself in the leg with a No. 3 pencil).

Of course, a number of surprising things had to happen for the Phillies and Rockies to get in, and for the Padres and Mets to fall out (side note: the Padres seem to be getting an absolute free ride here; they collapsed just like the Mets last year, and they suck just like the Mets this year. I know, I know, payroll. But still). I am hardly suggesting that we can count on other teams in the NL East to fall apart at the end of the season, but 6.5 games (six in the loss column) is hardly insurmountable with more than 100 left to play.

I think part of the explanation here is that, while it is impossible to resist the temptation to do so, it just is not appropriate to draw major conclusions based on a team's performance for just over a quarter of a season. In that span, you can see numbers that won't carry through for a whole year. Start with the Phillies. They are a solid team, and played a lot of their best baseball this year without reigning NL MVP, Jimmy Rollins. But their offense is still playing over its head: Chase Utley and Pat Burrell were both putting up unsustainable numbers for a while, and both have started to descend back to earth. Ryan Howard will improve, but strikes out too much. Neither Chris Coste nor Greg Dobbs can continue to hit in the .340's forever. On paper, our pitching staff is still better than theirs (even without an effective Pedro).

The Marlins are a great story, but have too many young pitchers to compete down the stretch. Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez are both going to have solid careers, but I would still take Reyes and Beltran for the long term (yes, I really would). Watch for this team to begin to fade shortly before the All-Star Break.

The Braves actually scare me more than anyone else in this division. Their pitching might prove to be competitive for the full year: Hudson is on par with Santana, Jair Jurrjens (or whatever) looks legit, Glavine will be serviceable, and their other starters have all performed pretty well. Their offense is solid (Chipper will cool off, but won't struggle), and their bullpen looks good (at least against us). They can't win on the road, which seems odd, but might correct itself by the end of the year.

The point is that while each of these teams has undeniably played better than the Mets, each of them has done so with almost all of their players performing at or above expectations. With the exceptions of Ryan Church and Billy Wagner, I think it is fair to say that every met has underperformed reasonable expectations for the year so far. Wright and Santana are close calls, but I think we could have expected better than 5-3 with 932 home runs out of Santana, and I know that Wright's numbers look decent right now, but other than one weekend when he was on an absolute tear in Philly, he has not been playing at his highest level.

The rest of the team is really just miserable. Beltran, Reyes, and Delgado have all disappointed, and it is reasonable to expect Maine and Perez to last longer than the fifth inning. I am pretty sure Mike Pelfrey really is that bad, so forget him.

I am not saying that I expect the Mets to make the playoffs, but I am saying that if everyone in the NL East regresses to the mean over a full season, I think we can expect it to be a bit closer, and the Mets to play a bit better. I can accept and admit that they may not be the best team in the division, but I struggle to believe that this is really a .500 team.

Things That Are Overrated (and Underrated): Baseball Managers

Argh. 23 wins, 26 losses. 7 losses in the last 8 games. Ladies and gentlemen, your New York Mets!

I hate to be Chicken Little here, but the goddamn sky is (very close to) falling. As Side Bar and I have said repeatedly this year (in bars, not here so much), the Mets just ain't that good. Certain very respectable baseball outlets predicted the Mets not only to win the division, but win as many as 99 games. That would now require the Mets to go 76-37 the rest of the season. That's a .667 winning percentage. That's winning 2 out of every 3 for the rest of the year. That's...unlikely.

Some have been saying that firing Willie Randolph is, if not a perfect solution, the right first step. I have no idea if the Mets would win more games the rest of the year with Willie or without him. I happen to think baseball managers receive waaaay too much credit and blame for the performance of the team. Joe Torre became the yankees' manager in 1996, a year after Buck Showalter utterly failed by getting his team to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years but lost in 5 games in the ALDS. What an asshole. Put that Torre guy in! He's got a career managerial record of 894-1003. That's a .471 winning percentage!

Lo and behold, Torre (single-handedly, from the bench, without ever pitching or hitting or fielding) won the World Series 4 of the next 5 years. And as we all know, he totally shat the bed the next 7 years, getting his team to the playoffs every year, the World Series twice, and tallying a 686-445 record (.606).

But hey, these are the fucking yankees. No World Series wins in 7 years? Fuck him. Gimme Girardi.

Girardi so far? 25-26. Last place. Um, Mr. Torre? You around? What's that about Los Angeles? Oh, okay. Well, call me!

You know what Willie Randolph is bad at? Selecting a lineup (Luis Castillo still bats second. Barf.), using his relievers (putting Aaron Heilman in, ever), responding appropriately and effectively when the umpires blatantly steal a 3-run Carlos Delgado home run. It took the bench coach, Jerry Manuel, a few pitches before he realized Willie wasn't gonna do shit, so he took things in his own hands and got himself booted. Well played, Mr. Manuel. Do you have a resume?

So what is Willie Randolph good at? I'm not really sure, but he seems to be respected by his players. I hear a lot of this “leader of men” talk about him, and I'm sure that's valuable in a manager. But ultimately, much like the esteemed Joe Torre of 1996-2000, the manager doesn't throw the ball, hit the ball, or field the ball. His main jobs are filling out a lineup card every game, choosing which reliever to use and when, handling the media (in New York especially), and leading the team (which can be defined many, many ways). You might say a manager makes all kinds of in-game decisions too, and you're right, but I'd say about 99 percent of those decisions are fairly easy to make if you know as much about baseball as a manager should. The remaining one percent should not outweigh any of the other factors.

Willie does okay handling the media (notwithstanding his recent comments about people getting pissed at him being somewhat race-related). And as I said, I hear he's a decent leader. But his lineups and bullpen usage suck. So I give him 2 up and 2 down. So keep him? Fire him? It's a coin toss. If you can find me a (currently unemployed) candidate who you are certain will be better than that, let me know. Better, email Fred Wilpon. (I don't have his info, so just post it in the comments. Fred's a reader.)

But back to Joe Torre for a sec. 1996-2000: too much credit? 2001-2007: too much blame? That's what I'd say. I'd say that the players played a bit better early in Torre's tenure than later. Pitching especially. That 1998 yankees team was so fucking good, I guarantee you I could have “managed” the team to, maybe not 114 wins, but a good 96 or so.

The 2006 Mets? What an awesome team. Much moreso because Carlos Delgado could still hit, Duaner Sanchez (pre-Phillies-fan-driven-taxi incident) was disgusting, Endy Chavez made that kinda half-decent catch, and much more.

Although, if you think about it, that roster really wasn't that much more than the current roster. Swap out Jose Valentin for Luis Castillo at second? Wash. Pedro was there for a while, then he wasn't, and didn't really make much of an impact (as a pitcher); this year, even less Pedro, still no impact. Most of the differences in the rosters are insignificant, even if they are many.

Certain players on both the '06 and '08 teams, despite wearing the same number, using the same name, and (allegedly) still being the same person, have not so far this season resembled their '06 doppelgangers.

I think you may already know who I'm talking about. But it really explains things quite clearly.

The Mets have 5 really good players (Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Santana, and Wagner), a bunch of mediocre guys (the always-hurt Alou, the fast-aging Delgado, the way-overperforming-but-I-love-it Ryan Church, some of the bench guys), and a bunch of guys who suck (the also-way-overperforming Brian Schneider, Castillo, the rest of the bench guys and most of the bullpen).

Currently, of the 5 good players, Wright, Santana, and Wagner have done what I expect of them – play really well – if not playing exceptionally well. (Though you could make a case for Wagner being the best closer in baseball so far this year.) But Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran have – much like '01-'07 Joe Torre, except in reality, not like what dumbass talk radio callers claimed – shat the bed. There is absolutely no way the Mets will get anywhere near first place this year if those two can't remember how to hit. The rest of the lineup can't cover them. Ryan Church has done his best (and made me forgive Omar for trading Blastings – possibly a greater feat than his play so far), but he can't make up for both Reyes and Beltran. Thus, 23-26.

Even if Beltran and Reyes revert to their 2006 form, I still don't see us winning more than 85 games or so. We need another bat and another arm – just like almost every other team. The problem is, we mortgaged the farm system to get Santana (a move I still support), so we have no one to offer. Therefore, the odds of us getting the extra player or two we need are slim, unless Omar can pull off another Santana-style miracle.

In case you hadn't noticed, I didn't really make any notes before I starting typing. Hence the total lack of structure. Sorry 'bout that. Whereby I now return to Willie Randolph. I guess my thoughts regarding his status now are:

  1. I don't think it'll make much difference if he stays or goes;
  2. I do think that the team's performance is largely due to the fact that Reyes and Beltran are sucking; and
  3. Please understand that if a manager's players aren't playing well, it's highly unlikely that he can hold enough team meetings or get fired up on the field often enough to somehow “will” the team to a better record.

In conclusion, despite my disappointment and occasional display of irrational anger at the Mets so far this year, there is a very clear reason I've been able to maintain my emotional sanity:

The yankees are in last place.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Classic Video: This is mostly for Internet nerds (like me)

First off, Weezer is awesome. They're one of the ultimate "nerd" bands. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo wears glasses, for God's sake. David Brooks, whom Chuck loves, wrote something today about how "nerds" are different from "geeks." Whatever. As I'm sure Stan Gable would say, a nerd is a nerd is a geek is a nerd.

But anyway, I fucking love the Internet. At my "job," I have a lot of down time. I regularly check out Digg, FunnyOrDie, Cracked, GorillaMask, Ebaum's World, and Facebook. Facebook, by the way, is way beyond "the new MySpace," as was brilliantly illustrated here: "MySpace Intervention." Ha. I had a lot of LOLs and ROTFLs and LMFAOs and BLOWMEs watching that. Oh, what's that, Grandma? You didn't understand what I just wrote? Sorry, but welcome to the nineties.

So here's the new Weezer video. A good many Internet "stars" are featured, some of whom have been lucky enough to appear on our little blog site. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Say it Ain't Sue UPDATED

I'll perhaps add to this later, but I had to get this up here this morning. I love it.

Sue Simmons, NBC local news anchor in New York for what feels like the last 20 years or so, was doing a promo for the 11 o'clock news last night, and apparently lost her cool with someone on the set, resulting in this embarrassing video. (sorry - I can't seem to embed it on the site).

UPDATE: Here's the video, yay!!!

My childhood memories of watching Sue read stories about Hurricane Gloria while we were home from school are forever changed . . .

Monday, May 12, 2008

Stupid ways to "analyze" things

Side Bar's previous post included a lovely picture of Dusty Baker embracing Barry Bonds. Dusty Baker -- regardless of his possibly amorous feelings about Bonds -- is an idiot. I mean this baseball-analysis-wise; I'm not judging him as a person whatsoever (if you ignore that he let his 5-year-old son wander out near home plate in the 2002 World Series, where J.T. Snow basically saved the dumbass kid's life). Dusty was a pretty good baseball player, but he's a fucking terrible manager and an even worse TV analyst, as has been repeatedly documented on the best Web site ever. Anyone who suggests that fat players like Frank Thomas are bad at baseball because they "clog up the basepaths" by getting on base way more frequently than others doesn't understand that getting on base leads directly to scoring runs. Scoring more runs than the other team leads to winning baseball games, which is the whole objective of playing baseball against another team.

Sorry for the whole sabermetric bitching about Dusty, but the larger point I'm getting at is that stupid analysis of any topic, be it baseball or, say, politics, needs to be pointed out.

I read a lot about politics, including many blogs by supporters of Barack, Hillary, McCain, and Ned Goldman. One day, I came across the hotly-named TexasDarlin, a big Hillary supporter. I've tried to resist commenting much on these kind of blogs, because most Internet commenting (this site excluded) is full of complete nonsense (okay, this site included), and I've often found myself getting mad at things I've read. Getting angry at what what Internet commenters write is just plain dumb (thanks, Joe):

But sometimes, I read something that is just so outright stupid, I have to reply. TexasDarlin posted something that -- while it's short of much of what I've read on pro-Hillary sites in terms of blatant ignorance -- so defies reason and logical comprehension, I (gasp) commented. So here I post the comment. (It would be helpful if you read her post in its entirety first, since this is just a comment. But you probably won't bother, so go ahead and read, you lazy fuck.)
(Open Bar:) Really? Let's go through this one at a time.

(TexasDarlin:) "Rural America can determine who becomes the next President."

Of course rural America will play a huge role. Rural America = half of America, so clearly half of America will play a prominent role. No one is arguing against that.

"Check out the county-by-county results from four very close contests (Clinton is red; Obama, green)"

Do states in either the primaries or general election use "counties won" to determine the victor? Or anything at all? If a state's election is close (and you chose states that were close), but the county-by-county color map is dominated by one color, does that mean that A) The candidate with more counties in his/her color should therefore win, or B) Way more people (i.e., voters) live in certain counties than others? In a state election, the victor is determined solely by which candidate receives more votes, not by how an color-based illustration of the state looks afterwards. Colors should not outweigh numbers. Any Democrat should know this, especially after how Rove used the 2000 and 2004 national Red/Blue maps to say that America is clearly a Republican country, when the numbers told a very different story. Nebraska is way bigger than New Jersey; if you compared just those states side by side and judged by color, you'd say Red Nebraska is way more important than Blue New Jersey. Yet New Jersey's population is way bigger, hence more electoral votes.

"As you can see, Clinton's base covers a broader geographic region."

As I said before, a "broader geographic region" doesn't mean anything if it doesn't equate with the population living in those regions. Please stop conflating colors with voters.

"Pay attention, folks. These are General Election swing voters needed to reach 270 electoral votes.

Swing voters.

And no one understands that better than the Superdelegates, many of whom rely on these same voters for their own re-elections."

Yes, they do understand this. And yet, they continue to come out in droves for Obama. Even ones in rural regions whose primary voters either will or already have gone for Hillary. Superdelegates care about this very, very much. And, in spite of your reasoning, they are choosing Obama instead, at a rate that increases every day. Why is this?

"The hard-working people of Appalachia and bluegrass country represent a nationwide constituency capable of delivering the White House in November. And for Clinton, even better: they will put her within striking distance of a popular vote lead."

Voters in Appalachia and bluegrass country absolutely deserve attention, and they will certainly receive it. Much moreso come the general election. But to say that they will put her within striking distance of the popular-vote lead overstates the likelihood of that happening and the importance of the popular vote, in this particular primary campaign. I know it is a truism among some in this race, particularly in the Hillary camp, that the popular vote is the most important metric in determining the nominee. Frequently, Al Gore's loss in 2000 is used to support this idea. But the fact is that the determination of the Democratic nominee for president is based on delegates, not popular vote. And anyone arguing for the relevance of states like West Virginia should understand why this is so. If the nomination was earned solely through popular vote, a candidate would have no incentive to visit a state like West Virginia -- because there aren't many voters there. That is why delegates are used instead. Delegates increase the value of smaller states.

If the whole point was to win a popular-vote margin, candidates would campaign in New York, California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, and any other state with a lot of voters. There would be no logical reason ever to visit West Virginia or South Dakota or Maine.

If the nomination race was based on anything besides delegate count, who knows what would have happened? The fact is that those were the rules everyone agreed upon beforehand (and for good reason), so to try to reimagine things now by using a different way to measure who the “true winner” or “better candidate” is would be following the fallacy of the predetermined outcome. You are simply saying that “if the rules had been different, clearly my opinion is right.” But by doing that, you ignore that what has happened, happened for a reason. If the rules had been different, it is completely logical that the outcome would be different, because the campaigns would have been run differently. At the bare minimum, you have no right to assume your opinion would inevitably be correct – you are choosing to reimagine things in a way that deliberately leads to the conclusion you have already committed to.

You cannot now insist that different rules should be followed, because even if the rules you now want had been in place at the start, that would have redefined the game from the beginning – so it would have been a different game altogether.

So how do you think I did? Do coloring books matter as much as vote totals? I know there are some other things I could have attacked, but I think I hit the big ones. I encourage all of you to go visit TexasDarlin's blog and comment.

Wait, no. Don't do that. Don't do that at all. I'm already ashamed I linked to her blog, and I'd hate to be responsible for bumping up her comment totals. Although, stupid is as stupid does, right? And stupid needs to be called stupid, so please go right ahead and use her comments section to call her stupid.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Top Five Unintentionally Gay Sports Photos*

Steroids have unforeseen consequences . . .

Chubbing up in front of his new receiver, Brady tries ever so casually to cover things up . . .

And stretch, and pull, and thrust, and stretch, and pull and thrust . . .

After finding the stick up his own ass, Coach Coughlin decided to try and shove it up Eli's.

Beltran's Houston teammates found his mole irresistable.

* (that I could find on the internet this morning)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sanity Check

I have been trading e-mails with a few friends recently who question my support of Barack Obama (not questioning in a bad way, just exploring why I am supporting him as opposed to Clinton, McCain or someone else). Here at Wheeeeeres' Luke, we try to remain above the whimsical passions of election season, and endorse a candidate based only on solid foundational principles, not the mere fact that we like him because we picked him first (that's right fuckers, it was December of 2007, when Hillary was still picking furniture for the Oval Office ). But I guess it is possible that we are just as susceptible as the population at large to getting caught up in the excitement of one candidate -- and the loathing of another -- that we start jumping to the conclusion as a way of answering the question. In other words, does my (or our) support of the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular stem from little more than the fact that I (and we) support the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular? I don't think so, but it's good to make sure sometimes.

Democrats over Republicans. This should be pretty easy. There are some bad apples in the Democratic party as there are in the Republican party, but, as a rule, I think that a Democrat as president is more likely to appoint progressive judges (and not just to the Supreme Court, but to the Circuit Courts of Appeal, which people always overlook), I think a Democrat as president is more likely to fund social programs that reflect a more progressive agenda (maybe not progressive enough for all of us, see the Defense of Marriage Act and Bill Clinton's complete sell out of the gay community in 1996, but more progressive than a Republican president), and I think that a Democrat as president is more likely to work aggressively to find a way to get us out of Iraq than McCain would. Yep, that was pretty easy.

Obama vs. Hillary. As to why I prefer Obama specifically, I still think this should be a pretty easy call. First, he is not, and has never been, someone who panders to each tiny little micropopulation the way Hillary does. The gas tax nonsense is just one more example in a long line of politically-inspired rather than progressively-inspired ideas that she has championed. Hillary does not talk about fuel efficient cars when she is in Detroit, and she does not talk about gay rights when she is visiting a church in Georgia (side note: if you have time, the whole video, about 30 minutes, is worth it). Barack does. I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that Hillary wants to be President as an end in and of itself, and that he wants to be President to change the country. I have no idea if he can do it, but I am quite certain she cannot. Hillary's staunch ("defiant," according to the media outlets that like her) refusal to quit the race in the face of the overwhelming numbers lined up against her seems to further this conclusion: she is in this for herself, not her party or her country.

McCain v. Obama. The issue that everyone comes back to here is experience, but I think it is way, way overrated. What "experience" does Obama need that McCain has? It's not like Barack is going to accidentally nuke France (although . . ), and then just go "my bad, my bad . . . it's my first day." He has demonstrated an excellent command of key foreign policy issues, and he talks in measured tones about our interests around the world rather than spouting off idiotic and tautological platitudes like "they hate us for our freedom." Puke. McCain is a seasoned veteran of military issues, sure, but he himself has acknowledged that he doesn't understand our economy that well. Does that mean that McCain isn't qualified to be President? No, it just means he will have advisers on that issue and an array of others. Just like Obama would. America is too big to suggest that one person needs to have command of all of the issues in order to be president. The presidency, more and more, is about a platform of issues and ideas, and the president is a figurehead and spokesperson for those issues and ideas. Obama is as qualified as McCain (if not more so) to be that spokesperson, and the Democrats' issues and ideas are the ones that resonate so much more with me than Republican ones.

Ok, I guess the entire point of this post was to convince myself how right I am (we are) to support Obama and how wrong everyone else is. I suppose I could have kept that to myself.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dogs behaving badly

I'm just gonna go right ahead and plagiarize the headline for this video I saw over at GorillaMask:

You know those old paintings of dogs playing poker? This video is just like that, except with more rape.

I really don't know where to begin with this thing. You can see a bunch of good questions over at Best Week Ever, but definitely watch the video first.

Oh, and I know the "dogs raping children -- funny?" tag doesn't apply perfectly, but it's still pretty odd that we already have a dog rape tag.

What I've Learned From Reading the New York Times

Maureen Dowd hates Hillary Clinton.

Is it just me (and MMG, who I know agrees with me), or is Maureen Dowd not viciously sexy? And her column is annoying recently, but that just kinda adds to it because now she's got that teetering on the edge, manipulative, other woman-hating, might snap at any time kinda thing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


[Where's Luke? would like to present this guest post, written by Stan Gable of the esteemed Alpha Beta fraternity from the renowned institution, Adams College, which was featured in the 1984's Revenge of the Nerds.]

Hello! Stan Gable here, speaking on behalf of my fellow Alpha Betas. Don't remember me? Here:

(That's me, in the front with my thumb down.)


Never thought you’d hear me say that, did you? As an Alpha Beta, I must confess right off that for many months, I’ve been played for a fool. It takes a man to admit when he’s wrong, but hey, honestly – did you have any idea Hillary Clinton was so awesome? Did anyone?

I was a Barack Obama supporter. Not exactly an enthusiastic one. I don’t need to remind you that he is colored, after all. But between a darky and that nut-busting pile of excess estrogen Hillary Clinton, I’ll take the negro. He can at least play basketball, which is mostly a sport. (Though I’d destroy him on the LAX field. Ha! Imagine that – a black lacrosse player! That’s weird! That’s like saying “Porpoise migraine” or “bubblegum tuberculosis” or “woman president.” Try it!)

Being a decent American, I was able to look past Obama’s obvious, visible flaw. Besides, Hillary has been roundly hated by men for so long I had forgotten why. It’s clear she sucks, that goes without saying, but lately she’s taken this new approach of labeling things “elitist” – but in a negative way. This particularly bothered me, as I am most certainly elite and quite proud of it. Hell, that’s one thing I thought I had in common with her. So suffice it to say, Hillary was clearly not the candidate for me.

Or so I thought.

Just this past Sunday, I was stunned to hear what Hillary had to say after some Greek loser on TV asked her if she could name even one economist who liked her gas plan or something. I wasn't really listening, but my ears perked right up when this came out:
"We've been for the last seven years seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion behind policies that don't work well for the middle class ... I'm not going to put my lot in with economists."
It’s not so much the first part that caught my eye (“Middle class,” ha! If you’re not rich, you’re poor. That’s basic English.), but the second part. That's why I made it bigger.

Wow! She gets it!

Economists are total NERDS.


They sit around in their mother's basements (just like bloggers, sorry guys!) playing with their calculators and protractors, talking about numbers and math and oh my God I'm so sorry. I was starting to sound a bit nerdy myself! It must be this newfound love for Hillary. Think about it – a woman in charge of something. A woman! I'm still trying to wrap my head around it, so I apologize for the occasional mental slip.

Y’see, economists think they know stuff about, like, the economy. The economy is about money, and if you’ve got money then you certainly don’t need some nerd telling you what’s what when it comes to money. These economists must all be poor, because why else would they have to learn about money? And then they have the nerve to tell other people – people who have money – what’s a good idea and what’s not. It’s like anyone can just take any old word and add an “ist” to it and suddenly their opinion matters more than someone-who-has-money’s opinion. Screw all that. There are nerds and there are the other people in the world who the nerds aren’t. That’s me. That's the Alpha Betas. That’s Hillary.

Look at all the baby economists!

Now, I certainly haven’t completely forgiven her elitist-bashing, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And if Hillary – after years and years of repeatedly claiming economists and other so-called “experts” in whatever field should be listened to and not simply called nerds, a ludicrous proposition – can finally put to rest the idea that nerds “know things” and are “worth listening to because they know those things about their particular field of study,” then I'm ready to throw my weight and the weight of the Alpha Beta family behind her.

In closing, please remember: If you ever see one of these economists walking down the street or, more likely, at the library or some other place that is dumb to be at, I’d like to remind you what to do. (This is, of course, if you are out of wedgie-giving range.) Ogre, please?

Hillary ’08!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Alphabetically According to Height

As Carlos Beltran continues to struggle, it strikes me that the Mets' batting order needs to be shuffled. Am I the only one who thinks it should look like this:

1. Jose Reyes, SS.
2. Carlos Beltran, CF.
3. Ryan Church, RF.
4. David Wright, 3B.
5. Carlos Delgado, 1B.
6. Moises Alou, LF.
7. Luis Castillo, 2b.
8. Brian Schneider, C.
9. Pitcher.

Reyes is an obvious leadoff hitter, and there is no one else on the club who you would even consider in that spot; similarly, the pitcher is always going to hit ninth, no analysis needed there.

From 2-8, though, I think Willie has it exactly wrong in every respect. Start with the number 2 hitter. I know there has been a lot of debate about whether it should be Church or Castillo, but in my view Beltran has always been the ideal second hitter. He was a #2 hitter with Kansas City more than occasionally, and it was only when the Mets gave him a huge contract that they felt compelled to keep him out of the two spot and only in the 3-4-5 spots (the money spots). I know he is capable of hitting a ton of home runs, but I will take those anywhere in the lineup (and, by the way, he hasn't hit JACK SQUAT (said in Matt Foley style) this year). Also, for his career, Beltran hits 1 HR per 18.3 AB in the two spot, 1 HR per 20.9 AB in the three spot, and 1 hr per 23.2 AB in the cleanup slot. His career average across the 2-3-4 roles? .292, .274, and .289, respectively. He walks a ton, but he strikes out too much and he has been struggling. Putting him up second, with Reyes occasionally on base in front of him gives him RBI chances, and forces people to throw him strikes. Put your big power hitters behind him, and you only increase the number of quality pitches he is going to see. If Beltran gets going this team is scary (consider that they are 1/2 game out of first place and Beltran has been awful so far this year).

Batting third, putting Church up here is again a no brainer to me. I admit that he strikes out too much, and will also admit that he is a .342 career hitter in the two spot (he is also a .500 hitter in the three spot, but that's not a fair stat, because he has only batted third twice in his career), but he will continue to see a ton of quality pitches ahead of Wright (which may explain why he has hit so well in the two slot this year), and I like the lefty up to bat with a man on first, because the hole is wide open on the right side every time he comes up (first baseman holding the runner, second baseman cheating towards the bag for a double play). Will he ground into a fair amount of double plays and strikeout a lot batting third? Yes. But this is countered, in my view, by the number of singles to the right side that will score a run, or at least move a speedy Reyes or Beltran from first to third.

If you buy my first three arguments, batting Wright cleanup is a given. You want to alternate between lefties and righties so that the opposing bullpen is challenged in the late innings, and Wright is our big RBI guy. Putting him up fourth with runners in base and two potential deep threats behind him would be terrifying to an opposing pitcher. Also, Wright has been pretty consistent for his career across the number three, four and five slots. He bats about .325, with about 1 HR every 20 AB and about 1 RBI every 5.2 AB. Only meaningful differences appear to be a slight increase in power when in the #4 slot (1 hr every 19 AB as compared to 1 every 23 AB) and a drop in average when you hit him fifth (about 30 points). His numbers as a cleanup hitter are pretty remarkable. .333/17/60 in 321 career AB's. He is going to lose some stolen bases batting cleanup, but I can live with that.

Batting fifth, Delgado. Lefty following the righty is reason enough, but protect him with Alou behind him and he is going to see better pitches. I'll give less credence to the career splits here, because he is far from his prime, but I will admit that he is slightly less productive in the five spot than in the four or six spot. If for no other reason, given how much sense it makes to put everyone else in the 2, 3, 4 and 6 positions, Delgado bats fifth by default.

Batting sixth, the secret weapon. I have been as critical of Alou as anyone, but that's because he cannot stay healthy. When he is healthy, he is a terrifying hitter, and doesn't need someone behind him to improve the pitch selection he gets. Righty after the lefty who followed the righty that followed the lefty, Alou picks up the pieces. Note, Alou's career numbers batting sixth (.324, 1 hr every 15.5 AB's and 1 RBI every 4.8 AB's) are better than when he bats third, fourth or fifth. He is also slower than Stephen Hawking driving a Yugo, so it makes sense to keep him towards the bottom of the order.

Seventh/Eighth. I could argue the Schneider/Castillo thing either way here, but keep in mind that you are rarely going to take Schneider out of the game, so it makes sense to keep him in the eighth hole, rather than in the seventh hole where you might want to go with a pinch hitter with some pop (Marlon, Damion). I admit that is sort of a stretch, but it's something to consider. Also, Castillo is much less likely to get the extra base hit to clear the runners on base (so the edge goes to Schneider to bat seventh) and Castillo is much less likely to strikeout (so the edge goes to Castillo to bat eighth). Bottom line is that like most teams, we need to get our run production out of the 1-6 hitters. The batting order proposed above is the most likely way to make that happen.

Do the math Willie.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hell's Belles

I just watched the Kentucky Derby. It was an exciting race, but it was marred by a sad event when the runner-up had to be euthanized immediately after the race due to injuries suffered at or after the finish line.

Who was the poor horse, you ask? Why it was Eight Belles, the only female horse (filly) in the race, and the horse that Hillary Clinton urged Americans to support.

Yes, that's right, the female horse in this race finished second to the winning horse, called "Big Brown," and, immediately after finishing second, they shot her in the head and she died. (I suspect they found a more humane way of putting the horse down than shooting it, but the line worked better that way).


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wear Sunscreen

Hardly workin'!

Good Thursdays lead to bad Fridays.

I'm a little old for the on-the-job napping I did in my early twenties. Nowadays, if I come in to work with a hangover, I really just have to tough it out because I've realized (argh) I have no choice.

With that being said, in a conversation with Open Bar earlier tonight, we discussed the days when we used to steal a hungover work nap during the day.

For all you early twentiers out there, if you have to sleep at work, these are your three options:
  1. The Cubicler: This is the worst, in my opinion. Number one, it's the most obvious. Yeah, if you pull it off, people think you're working but -- for all of you kids out there -- you can't pull it off. People know. To pull off looking like you're awake and working -- while you are, in fact, sleeping -- you have to look like you're awake, so your hands must be on the keyboard and you have to sleep while balancing your head atop your neck while sitting up. Can't be done. You're doomed to getting caught and looking like a total slacker or an uncomfortable 20 minutes of half-second z's that are repeatedly interrupted by your neck snapping your head back off your chest.
  2. The Staller: A little better than cubicler. Unless you snore, this is the most inconspicuous. You're behind three cheap metal walls and no one can see you. But you are sitting on the toilet with your pants down, and you either have to: A) balance your head just so while sleeping (which we all agree can't be done), B) rest your head against the wall behind you (and if you have ever done that, you know how it's just a little too far and it's hard tile), or -- and this is the way to go -- C) rest your head on the toilet paper at knee level to the right. Doable but a bit uncomfortable.
  3. The Public Dorminator: This is the way to go. The least conspicuous, but the best sleep. OK, so this is when you just go on a park bench or a park's grass and just pass the fuck out. This can be tricky because if someone you know sees you, there is no denying it, and sleeping in public is not very professional, but if you work in a city and can go a little off the beaten path, you can get a good 30-minute nap that really may rejuvenate you for a good hour or so in the afternoon. This was my move from about 22 - 26 and I never got caught. Except for once - and this should serve as a word of caution to all of you young drunken nappers out there. I was at my job down near the South Street Seaport circa 2002 and had had a late night. Down near the water, they have these blocks of wood that serve as benches which are also good napping spots. I went down to the water, but when I lied down - face to the sky - the sun was unbearably bright, so I covered my eyes with my tie. It worked - but when I got back to the office, the two women I worked with (it was a small office) were like, "What did you do at lunch?" I claimed I had just gotten a sandwich and sat outside. They said, "Were you taking a nap or something?" I laughed it off and denied the accusation. I quickly went to the bathroom after my repeated denials of a siesta, and when I got there, I realized I had been caught red-handed, er, red-faced. My face was totally sunburnt. Well, totally except for the long straight line on my face, across my eyes of pale skin about a tie's-length-wide with, yes, an equally pale triangle on my face. Yes, I had gotten a tanline the shape of a necktie on my face. The jig was up.
So kids, if you must drink on a Thursday and can't tough it out, my advice to you is an inconspicuous outdoor spot. But wear sunscreen.

Another Good Game

The laser game is very good, but I finished it the other day. There are 25 levels. I remembered the trick to beat level 17 and I had to cheat to beat level 23 after trying for 2 days to do it on my own. All the other levels I managed to figure out (several with solutions that are not on the cheats page)

Here's a new game that seems to have a repeatable quality to it, as there isn't one set way to solve each level. Magic Pen takes some getting used to, but is very fun.

Things no one has figured out: Fathers and sons

[This is largely stream-of-consciousness, so I may have a fact wrong here and there. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on something.]

The whole Reverend Wright / Barack Obama situation has been all over the news lately, and while there has been some thoughtful coverage, most of it has focused on the absurd aspects. Yes, Wright said a lot of crazy, stupid things. And yes, Obama has been a congregant at Trinity Church for 20 years. I'm sure that Obama heard him say some of this nonsense and, at the bare minimum, he was at least aware that his longtime pastor, who baptized his children and performed his marriage, held some odd (some might say retarded) views regarding AIDS, the US government, terrorism, and a whole host of other things.

Many people also want Obama to address why he stayed at that church through all that. It's a fair question, and even if he hasn't answered that directly, I have an idea or two. Much of what I'm about to say has been said or alluded to before, and I'll try to set up some links later. But for now, here's what I think, and please forgive the length and somewhat roundabout nature of this post.

Barack Obama's father abandoned his family when Obama was 2 years old. His father was Kenyan, and his mother was a white atheist from Kansas. He was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, traveling all over the world as he grew up. He wound up going to Columbia undergrad, then getting his Master's at Harvard Law, eventually becoming the editor of the Harvard Law Review. He then went to work as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.

Regardless of whether Obama did that with some future political ambition in mind or if he sincerely wanted to be a community organizer, that's where he went, Chicago. While there, this longtime atheist came across Trinity Church and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. One day, he heard a sermon by Wright which revolved around "the audacity of hope." This apparently struck a chord with Obama, and he struck up a relationship with Rev. Wright, and eventually joined his church and discovered a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Again, I am not addressing whether this had anything to do with politics at the time, as has been pointed out elsewhere. At that point in his life, Barack Obama had already achieved a helluva lot, especially considering where he started.

Let me, for a second, generalize. America -- in urban, rural, suburban, exurban, whatever place you want -- often deals with the same problem: children growing up without a father. The frequency varies from region to region, as does the reason. But wherever you go, it's a fact.

And it's not a new thing. In much of the greatest literature and drama ever written, from the Greeks (Oedipus) to Shakespeare (Hamlet) to Eugene O'Neill (Long Day's Journey Into Night) even to Harry Potter today, the main character searches for his father or, often, his father's approval.

I don't intend to address the Freudian / psychoanalytical aspects deeply; I don't have the training for that, especially when it comes to relating it to all the places in America where the search for father was, is, and will continue to be an issue.

But I'd like to take a look at what Barack Obama did on Tuesday regarding his former pastor, Reverend Wright. Watching the news and reading things online, I saw numerous people describe what Obama did as "throwing Wright under the bus." Some said that Wright had thrown Obama under the bus first, but whatever. Either way, that's a really stupid, simplistic way to describe what happened.

Take a look at Obama's past. He never had a father. He never really had an easily defined ethnicity or a permanent home. Yet he was smart and talented enough to achieve things and reach levels few can.

And after he did that, he wound up at Trinity Church on the South Side of Chicago. Why?

He says Rev. Wright introduced him to Jesus Christ, led him away from atheism and introduced a sense of faith in his life. I believe that. If I had heard the same story from another politician (especially one running for President), I'd've been quite skeptical. But knowing a bit about Obama's background, it makes sense.

Despite his prior accomplishments, I don't think Obama knew who he was. He had no anchor, either spiritually or paternally. In Reverend Wright, he found both.

Rev. Wright has huge flaws, as we all now know. And I don't doubt that Obama knew that then and knew it through Tuesday. Back in March, when all of Wright's ludicrous sermons first became YouTube hits, Obama still chose not to chastise Wright himself, though he denounced the things he said. Some folks wrote it off as Obama saying he had a "crazy uncle," as though everyone has someone like that in their family. I don't think that was what Obama was saying in his Philadelphia speech on race.

For every niece or nephew who has this "crazy uncle," some other son or daughter has a "father." Fathers can be loving and supportive and awesome. They can also be deadbeats who ignore their children. They can also be totally average, whatever that means. Fathers can do just about everything a human being can do to another human being, be it his son, wife, mistress, boss, teammate, pen pal, whatever.

But as both literature and real life continually demonstrate, the relationship a son has with his father -- whatever it is -- matters greatly, especially to the son. This is not to say that a son who never knows his father can never achieve anything or will always be unhappy or inevitably become an asshole; there are plenty of examples to disprove that.

But a son facing life without a father (or father figure) will inevitably seek to fill that void. What fills the void will often vary, depending on age and environment, and can often change repeatedly as the son gets older or visits new places or meets new people.

This, I think, frequently is unknown to the person experiencing it. He is often surrounded by people (friends, coworkers, acquaintances, etc.) who have fathers and, therefore, don't know what it's like not to have one. His friends might, naturally, try to help, offering counsel or sympathy when the subject arises. But what they cannot offer is empathy -- understanding how it feels, and, by extension, what feelings come about because his father simply is not there.

That his father is, in fact, not there (for whatever reason) can make him do strange things. Or, at least, things that seem strange. He will not behave like most people. He will be better at some things, and worse at others. You probably can't shock him easily. He will likely be less impressed with things others find amazing, and less disappointed by things that might let you down.

If he has truly and honestly thought about his feelings (which may take a long time), he knows that feelings are often counterintuitive -- that however he might feel or have felt about something on Monday, he could easily feel the complete opposite next Monday. It might go like this:
Monday: I think my mother hates me.

Tuesday: Wow, I think I hate my mother.

Wednesday: I have no idea how I feel about my mother.

Thursday: My mother loves me. I love her. That's what matters, right?

Friday: I need to tell my mother I love her.

Saturday: I'm scared shitless to tell my mother that.

Sunday: I told her. That felt great. Why was I so scared?

Monday: My mother doesn't hate me. It's so obvious now.
Those seven days can take seven years to realize. Or longer. Or he might never realize, and he'll carry that anxiety and confusion around his whole life.

Getting back to Obama, what he did on Tuesday was extraordinary. In Wednesday's New York Times, Maureen Dowd called it "a painful form of political patricide." That's certainly more eloquent than "throwing him under the bus." MoDo at least used "political" as a qualifier.

When I watched Obama give that press conference, I saw a very conflicted man confronting something he -- and no one else -- wants to confront. "Patricide" might be hyperbolic; others have called it "divorce." But who wants to do that in front of the whole world? I just started therapy four months ago, and I can barely get through a session talking about my father without using half a box of Kleenex -- and there's only one other person who ever hears or sees it.

I think Obama found it difficult because he had experienced it before. Granted, when he was 2, he couldn't appreciate what his father abandoning him really meant. But when Wright, Obama's current father figure, did what he did at the National Press Club and at the Detroit NAACP, he essentially abandoned him.

Imagine how that must have felt. This, after Obama had spoken so beautifully about the issue of race during that speech in Philadelphia, where he refused to "disown" Wright, where he defended him. Where Obama refused to abandon him.

But then Wright went in front of everyone and said what he said. In my opinion, Barack Obama had finally been abandoned one too many times, and he decided to stand up and abandon Jeremiah Wright.

Good for Barack.