Saturday, May 29, 2010

Non-Fiction: Pat Sajak's Personal Website

Alright, I need to put the fiction on hold for a moment. I have information that I feel should be shared. It is publicly available, but I don't know if it has been publicized properly. I hadn't heard of it until last night. Those of you who know may have already guessed. I speak of

Yes, that's the personal website of this guy:

I have long had a minor fascination with Pat Sajak. In my few moments of seeing him in the last 5 or so years, he seems to have moved to a stage of charming jadedness. He has hosted my generation's prototype of the vapid gameshow for as long as anyone can remember. In my childhood memories he is emotionally involved in the plight of his contestants, living a muted version of what they are going through. I don't know if that's accurate, but it's what I remember.

Now he seems detached from and bemused by the action around him. His hysterical contestants are like puppy dogs who, if you let them get their crazies out, should calm down eventually. The moment of modern Pat Sajak that has stuck with me happened near the conclusion of yet another episode of Wheel of Fortune. The game had ended for another day, and as they went to one last commercial break, Pat kept us watching with this line:

"Don't go anywhere, Vanna and I have something moderately amusing to show you when you get back."

Emphasis mine. Honesty in marketing. That gets big points from me.

Now on to the man's personal website. We open up to a photo of Pat in a director's chair, wearing a suit, one hand casually thoughtful on his chin. We are greeted with a witty message and a menu to choose from. We have "About" "From Pat" "Media" "Projects" and, I can barely wait for this part "Other Interests"

In About we get a timeline of Pat's life. This includes his career in radio and tv, some military service, a still-going marriage, and frequent references to his good looks. In "From Pat" we learn of some theatrical side projects Pat has done, as well as a discussion of how Pat likes to write political commentary for several websites. He has a short, light-hearted discussion of the standard flamethrowing that happens in the comments section of every political article, which includes this gem:
"There’s also often some version of, “Why do I care what a stupid TV game show host thinks?” Well, I find it hard to argue with that question, but it leads me to this question: Why do those people bother reading what a stupid game show host thinks before they decide he’s too stupid to care what he thinks?"

Excellent point, Pat. If these people were really dismissing your opinions because you're a game show host, they would have done so before reading the article. It is, as you rightly point out, your opinions they are dismissing. Glad to have that cleared up.

Moving on to "Projects," we find our friend Mr. Sajak is quite the entrepreneur. Just a TV game show host? Hardly. The man has a broadcasting company, a record label, a stake in a minor league baseball league and a company, Big City Deals, that seems to be an attempt at Groupon for the Wheel of Fortune watching demographic. Big City Deals is currently defunct, but promises to come back bigger and better. The broadcasting company produces two radio stations. While I have not listened to either, I encourage you to check out WNAV's hilariously busy website. Let your eyes feast on 18 different small-type, auto-scrolling menus. It's not about how you say it, it's how much you can say in a small space with as many unnecessarily moving elements as possible. The only thing missing: site fish tank. It really ties the page together.

As for Bojak Records, it exists entirely to produce the work of Jude Johnstone, an airy female singer-songwriter. [Insert speculation about affairs and blackmail]. Ms. Johnstone is currently touring the Southwest. If anyone goes and sees her, please let me know what you think. I'm intensely curious.

My readers, once in a while culture, circumstance and the English language come together to create a sort of absurd perfection. Something you never would have thought of on your own, but once introduced, it contains the sublime and the ridiculous like perfectly cut puzzle pieces in an otherwise sloppy world. 

What I refer to is a passage you can find under the tab for the Anne Arundel Medical Center under the tab for Pat's "Other Interests." The passage is this: 

"The Breast Center—where the latest technology and highest level of care are geared to the physical, mental and spiritual needs of each patient—was born in the Sajak Pavilion."

Allow me to distill this down to its essentials: the Breast Center was born in the Sajak Pavilion. It goes on to say that it has gotten so large it will be moving into a new home soon. It doesn't get much better than that folks.

Do you like hyperbole? Then you will love this sentence:

"It’s a hard to imagine a more uplifting experience than visiting George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens in Virginia."

After reading that sentence, I immediately claimed that I could think of 100 in one minute and at least ten that happened today. My buddy Keith said. "So could I. Easy. And it wasn't even that good a day."

The last thing I need (NEED) to tell you about are Pat's puzzles. I enjoy a good puzzle, and because Sajak hosts a puzzle show, this could be... no, wait, never mind. They are the traditional type of puzzle in which one assembles pieces to form a picture. The pictures we have to choose from are all, what else, photos of Pat Sajak. There are nine to choose from. In the second one, he's passed out drunk. Because you can choose any of three levels for each puzzle, that's 27 Pat Sajak puzzles to occupy yourself with. I've done two. For the first one, I completed it and nothing happened on the page to acknowledge my achievement. Even the timer kept running. The second time, however, I was rewarded with this message in all caps which I will reprint verbatim: 

I can't escape the idea, speculative as it is, that Sajak always saw a greater trajectory for himself. That his career would be big, meaningful, powerful. That Wheel of Fortune would be a stepping stone, not a plateau, which despite his intense efforts, he can never really escape.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pre-Game Part 1

Jerry Manuel sat in his office with socks on his hands.

"It's working," he said to Warthen and Shines. Shines nodded.

"I never took you for the superstitious type, Jerry," said Warthen.

"Aren't," said Jerry. "Razor, did we get our latest coconut shipment in?"

"We have more cocos than you can imagine."

"I'm imagining a field," said Jerry, leaning back. "The thing is just covered in coconuts. I mean covered. I can't count them all, but gee it's probably in the thousands. Are you saying we have more than that, because that's how many I can imagine at one time."

Razor nodded.

"Dan, can you imagine more cocos than I just did?"

Warthen shook his head.

The door opened and Frenchy popped his head in. "Uh, boss- bosses I mean, do you still want us all waiting here in silence for you to come out? It's been eight minutes, which is a long time to wait in silence."

"Is it though?" asked Razor. To that Frenchy had no answer. So he closed the door and joined the rest of the players, not speaking, or doing anything. Just waiting.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The West

To keep all you vampires satisfied another day, here are my soul-bearing thoughts from the beginning of the year about the N.L. West. WARNING: Reading this will take a minute or two, and in that time, anything can happen. The world might disassemble and reform by the time you're done. In some sense, it definitely will. Just sayin.

1. The Rockies

It's time for all good cows to come to the aid of their pasture. It was a Tuesday and everyone was one day deader than they were on Monday, but also one day more alive. Isn't it over when the bat turns back into a person? Wait, were they vampires all along? Bring me the head of whoever said play fair. Rogue state, rogue house, rogue the x-man, by which I mean the x-lady.

2. The Dodgers

They are good, and yet, nope. The problem is L.A. That city is a problem. Anything that stays there long enough is likely to reflect the problem. That's why the Dodgers won't win the division this year.

3. Snakes on a plane!

These guys spin and slither. They will bite you. Isn't it weird how some teams are vastly better than others, but it is extremely rare for someone to be outside the 40-60% range of wins and losses. No one really approaches an outsider's idea of dominance. Snakes!

4. The Giants

Unfortunately, size only helps you so much in baseball, and then, after that point, it starts making it more difficult. Even the largest bats allowed are so small as to be unwieldy in your fingers. While you need few steps to get between bases, your bulk makes you lumber. You are very easy to tag. Gotta love the Freak though. I mean that guy is just awesome. And small. I've heard he looks 14 with his shirt off. I've heard that Pablo Sandoval is actually a panda, but it's just a rumor.

5. The Padres

While they're not that good, they can still be the Ringo Starr of this band. If the Beatles were the N.L. West, the Padres would be Ringo, the Dodgers Paul, the Rockies John, the Diamondbacks George and the Giants would be Billy Shears. Bud Selig would be Yoko Ono, the Cardinals would be Mick Jagger, the Brewers Keith Richards and the Rays would be the Velvet Underground. The thing is, I doubt that this era of baseball can live up to that era of music because most things don't.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Mets Ponder Some Post-Manuel Options

On the 100th floor of the Met Building in Brooklyn Heights, Fred Wilpon lays out a series of photos: his potential replacements, should they fire Jerry Manuel. Omar Minaya looks at them with consternation.
"The Dalai Lama?"
"Think of the calm presence, he'd bring to the clubhouse! Wright would get centered and stop swinging at everything. I really feel he'd fill a spiritual void."
"I'm not sure he's available, Mr. Wilpon."
"Are you sure? Have you made any calls?"
"Not on him, no."
"Damnit Omar, it's called due diligence."
"I'll get right on it. Umm... who's this?"

"Ever watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer?"
"The movie?"
"Not the damn movie, the show! It was on for like seven seasons! They even did a spinoff! Okay, how about Firefly. Damn good show. Space cowboys!"
"Mr. Wilpon, how is this-"
"Joss Wheedon! The man's a creative genius! What if we recreated the whole genre of baseball? What if that was my legacy?"
"The genre of-"
"Omar, there's something called a box, and sometimes it helps to think outside of it. Get some damn fresh air."
"That's true boss. So this next one, is he a Japanese manager?"
"Not just a manager, the former Prime Minister! Junichiro Koizumi! Why does Seattle have to have all the Ichiros? Am I right or am I right?"
"He may be looking for work."
"Damn right he is Omar, give the man a call."
"Does he speak English?"
"Hell if I know. You'll find that out when he picks up the damn phone."

"Wally Backman?"
"I like Wally. Got a raw deal in Arizona."
"He lives down the block. I'll go say hi."
"Good man Omar. Cal the others too."
"Umm... yes, Mr. Wilpon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wright vs. the Swamp Monster

Wright walked down the streets of Atlanta, headphones pumping Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind, coconut in one hand, clenched fist in the other. He gave pedestrians the Wright Eye as they passed. Most failed to notice until,

"Hey! You're Wright, right?"

"That's Wright."

It was some slappy ass bro dawg strutting with his homies. Not gonna cut it.

"You suck. You like strikeout every time."

Wright stopped. Flexed his pecs. This wasn't Wright. No one challenged him like this. He was going to have to regulate.

"Hey kid, what do you know about sucking? Nothing, that's what. Because you aren't even at a level where sucking even comes into play. You are like a forgotten mollusk, swept up on to the beach. Alone. Sun-bleached. Exhausted in ways your species rarely feels."

What would surely have followed is a petty verbal altercation, consisting of yelled insults and stale banter. Perhaps Wright would have gotten into the dude's face, and the dude, perhaps feeling emboldened by several less than bold beers would push him away with the tips of his fingers. There may have even been some pushing and shoving between Wright and the dude's homies.

All of this and more may have happened, had a swamp monster not emerged from the sewer, placing its disghusting, oozy hand-paw-fin on the street and pulling itself out of a grate. The bro dawgs shrieked like school girls. School girls emitted sounds heard only by the nearby dogs and bats, and also the swamp monster who was both part dog and part bat. Truant girls thought the swamp monster was cool, and went to an expensive store to spend their parents' money on clothes that would make them look like the swamp monster.  The phrase "swamp monster" was a trending topic on twitter. A local CNN reporter happened to be nearby, and she immediately produced a story about how David Wright just got a new haircut. Wolf Blitzer's interview with the King of the Ant Queens was interrupted so that the news could be delivered.

We cut back to David Wright and the swamp monster as he is chugging the remains of his coconut and a bat boy is handing him his favorite bat.

"I have come to steal your Wrightness, so that I may rule the underworld!" cried the monster.

"You're a Wright bastard!" Wright retorted. The swamp monster lunged, but Wright anticipated this and stepped out of the way. One of the bros got touched by the swamp monster and was immediately covered in glug. This meant that he would always smell a little swampy, which was bad, but also that some of the truant girls now thought he was cute, which was good.

Back and forth went Wright and the swamp monster, the monster lunging and spreading slime everywhere, Wright swinging his bat wildly.

"Your hair is all wrong! Your bat is wrong too!" Wright shouted back retorts of his own ("your eyesight is poor! you do badly on standardized tests!") but with each "wrong" the swamp monster hurled at him, David could feel his Wrightness sapping. He must fight back, but how?

A crowd had gathered around, and without meaning to, he locked eyes with a man, wearing a suit, holding a mop and watching the scene. An idea struck Wright. "Ask me a question," he said to the man.

"Ummm... what's your name?"


"Okay... what did you have for breakfast this morning?"


"Err... what can we do about inflation and the national debt?"


A little boy wearing a newspaper cap, and holding what looked to be a stack of newspapers but was actually just some stuff he was going to throw away, caught on with the game. "What hand am I holding up?" he chirped, holding up his

"WRIGHT HAND!" Wright was frothing at the mouth now.

"What was the New Kids on the Block's biggest hit?"


"Who is the most famous aviator?"

"Amelia 'WRIGHTEOUS BABE' Earhart."

Then, in one of those perfect moments that occasionally graces our fair planet, a baseball flew out of the crowd. Silence enveloped the scene and everything seemed to play out in slow motion. It fluttered over the swamp monster, its bulging eyes tracking it, but unable to do anything about it. The facial expressions of the crowd froze in a melange of shock, awe and indifference. Only the ball, delicately flying, innocent to the commotion around it, only the ball moved at normal speed.

Only the ball and Wright. He saw his pitch. He squared it up. He kicked his leg.

He screamed "WRIGHT NOW!" as he swung and connected with the ball with a mighty crack. It lazered into the swamp monster's stomach and it tumbled over backwards into the sewer grate, down into the depths, landing down below with a splash. As he tumbled, he cried, "wrrroooooonnnnggg."

With the splash of the swamp monster, the spell was broken and all of a sudden everyone went back to what they were doing before any of this began. Walks resumed, as did conversations, errands, trains of thought and  trains of people. The only people who were affected by it all were brosef and his mishmash hooligans.

"Hey man, I take it back. You don't suck. You come through when it really counts."

"That's Wright," said Wright with a satisfied smile.

"You wanna, like play some X-Box with us. That's where we were headed before, y'know..."


They went off together, the dudes feeding David questions with right in the answer, and Wright hitting them back the way only he could. The camera pans down to the boy in the newspaper cap who had been diligently recording every detail on the papers he was holding. He looks straight into the camera, straight at us, with just the hint of a smile on the corners of his mouth...

and winked.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Madness of Kings Wilpons

Jerry Manuel had a chill in his bones. He was going to a place he didn't like, that he never went to voluntarily, though he lived in the same building. The first time it was a thrill, the surge of power he felt, the importance, but now, as he rode the creaky elevator up to the 100th floor, he couldn't help wondering if his job would be intact when he went back down.

A flickering fire greeted his eyes as he opened the door. The Wilpons always kept a raging fire in a pit on the floor burning constantly. Willie Randolph had advised Jerry not to question the safety of this. In fact, it was unwise to question anything the Wilpons did unless it was absolutely necessary. Fred and Jeff were brash and ruthless rulers. Scott Kazmir was traded because Fred had caught wind on an incident in which Kazmir, when asked if he would like his phnung pak mild, medium or hot, replied, "Not spicy at all." "The weakness!" shouted Wilpon to his newspaper, sitting alone at a beach resort in the Caiman Islands. "The fear of fire! This is no Met!" Minutes later, Jim Duquette was browbeaten into trading Kazmir for someone who can handle a "Goddamn fistful of habaneros."

Jerry Manuel had trained himself, somewhat painfully, to endure the stupid sauce at San Loco tacos in light of this story.
As was customary when coming to the office. Omar Minaya came to greet Jerry, then blindfold him. Jerry then walked toward the raging fire until he heard a Wilpon say "Stop!" As was typical in these situations, Jerry had not seen either Wilpon. It was presumed that they were just behind the fire, hidden by the smoke and flame, but what if they weren't? What if they were out of town? What if they intended to fire him by... firing him?
He stepped forward, feeling the licks of heat more intensely with every inch forward. He told himself to walk confidently. The Wilpons loathed unconfidence. Kris Benson had been shipped out, not so much because of his provacative wife, but because he "Acts like he's the team's goddamn chimney-sweep."
Another step. Jerry couldn't hear another human around. They usually stopped him by now. This wasn't good. He began to strategize what he would do if he felt the fire actually touch him and there still had been no call to stop. Would he play it safe and back up, perhaps roll around on the floor for good measure? Or would it be better to play aggressive, charge right through the fire, go with his momentum and seize the advantage over the Wilpons, assuming they were actually there? He preferred the second option, with the caveat that it was much more likely to kill him.
He advanced again, and now, surely the flame was very close. It was hot on his torso, and he even thought his shoes might be melting. One more step, and it might be time to jump. Might be time to leap through the flame and show Fred and Jeff and Omar who the real boss is. He stepped again, and still no call. Alright, if that's how it's going to be, the next step would launch him forward, careening through the flame, through death or triumph, let the best-
Holy crap that was scary. Yet Jerry was almost disappointed. The blindfold was removed. He wasn't actually that close to the flame. The lunge he had been about to make would have ended him right in the middle of it. Whoa.
"It's time Jerry." Jeff's voice always sounded improbably high, no matter how many times Jerry heard it.
"Please Mr. Wilpon! I can turn this ship around! We ran out of coconuts in Florida! What were we supposed to do? I can get these boys to the promised land!"
"We're not firing you," said Jeff. Out of the corner of his eye, Jerry caught Omar's surprise at this last statement. Omar quietly stashed away some documents he had been holding.
"No," said Wilpon. "It's time for him." He walked straight through the fire, not seeming to notice it at all. He held a picture of a Met, mid-swing in his hand.
"H-he's not ready," stammered Jerry.
"I DON'T CARE" roared Wilpon. Wilpons actually, because now there were two of them, Fred and Jeff standing side by side. They had screamed the same words in unison. "Fetch him," they said.

--To be continued--

Friday, May 14, 2010

From the author: What I thought about the N.L. Central two months ago

The N.L. Central

What is it about the Centrals? They are not places of fear. Their non-coasts are defined by mediocrity and uncertainty. This Central has a team that stands alone. The other does not. Still, the Central weaves good stories. It's tales aren't blown out by the ocean or swallowed by the heat of an overgrown metropolis.

1. The St. Louis Cardinals

Probably the most obvious pick in the whole shebang. They are not the best, but they are the most better. That's all. I like Pujols because he is magic without being magical. Pedro was magical. Big Papi, back when he was younger and on steroids was magical. Pujols- I think Pujols is just that good. He just outworks you and he's better.

2. The Milwaukee Brewers

I take back some of what I said before about the Central's mediocrity. I was a different man then. I failed to see the rising star in Cincinnati, the still decent roster in Chicago, the interesting tire stores of Pittsburgh and Houston. But mostly I forgot that the Brewers are still a nifty squad. I suppose they lack pitching, but where's your pitching? I mean seriously, where is it?

3. Here's where I really get to say "Ummm..." There are still four teams to rank and none of them are exactly jumping at me for the honor of third on this worst grouping of the world's very best baseball players. The way I see it, there are two groups of two. The Cs and then the pH. For this group I will reward direction by picking the

Cincinnati Reds.

I associate this team with heat. This is probably wrong. I don't know what the climate is like in Southern Ohio, but based on my four years in Northern Ohio, I'm not ready to declare it a place of heat the way much of the South is. The other thing I associate the Reds with is mediocrity. I think the last time I remember them being good was when I was in high school. It's very possible they snuck in a couple of good years when I wasn't looking- surely there best year of Griffey-Dunn wasn't so bad- but nothing worth more than a "pheh" has happened with this team recently, so part of me extrapolates that and figures that this is more or less the way it is. Now people are saying this team could be good very soon. Probably not this year soon, but perhaps the next one. I want to write anxious things about Dusty Baker and young pitchers, but it just wouldn't accomplish very much.

4. The Chicago Cubes

I lived in Chicago for three and a half years, ending this past August. In the many Cubs fans, I saw a little of the Mets fans I identify with. Being a fan of either one of these teams is more than anything about dashed hopes. Neither is consistently bad, and they will sometimes be quite good. They will keep you thinking that with a few breaks and a nifty second baseman, magic could happen. In the end the story is about the wrong-headedness of the higher-ups and the defeat of the lower downs.

Now I'm going to be a snooty East Coaster and say that the Mets breed seems to me more academic about this general state. Cubs fans are like sophomores who are still full of hope, still charged with orange energy. They will make jokes about their team's century-long championship drought, but behind it all there is something puppy-like. All teams have that to some degree, but Mets fans seem to have the awareness that they are merely the chorus in a Greek tragedy, and Greek tragedies only end one way. Still, I dream...

5. The Houston Astros

This team may slowly be getting smarter. It might be too slow, and... wait, they signed Brandon Lyon to, what was it 3 years $15M? See I was just getting swept up in this whole the Central is not that bad thing, and then I remember that. Here are words that sound bolder than they are: The Astros will never make the playoffs with Carlos Lee on the roster.
That leaves

6. The Pittsburgh Pirates

This team was very successful, or at least very good in some of my most formative years. Back when they had Bonds v.1, Van Slyke and the rest of the gang. Perhaps for that reason I expect them to rise one day. It's kind of like how my dad likes to say "Watch out for catchers." I like to think "The Pirates will be good one of these days." It's not based on a lot, and now I have come to realize that I am merely taking the notion that given enough time, any franchise will eventually be able to put together a very good team, and giving is slightly more weight when it comes to the Pirates.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Mets Get New Names

"Hey Angel, pass me that machete," said Luis Castillo, as they prepared in the clubhouse for today's game against the Nationals. He was holding an unopened coconut, the sweet nectar waiting untapped within.

"First use the name I told you to call me by."

"Angel, are you sure about that?"

"Not Angel, call me..."

Enter Jose Reyes

"Hey! The Vengeance Penguin! Let's knock 'em dead today! Seek vengeance against the Nationals who took our igloos!"

Pagan leaped out of his seat and performed his new handshake with Reyes. They had their arms straight down with palms facing the ground. They waddled toward each other, making noises that penguins themselves may well make. When they were close enough they bumped chests, and landed diagonally facing to the right of the other one. At the same moment they put one foot forward, bared their teeth and made threatening noises. That was the end of the "handshake" and they broke formation grinning.

"That's my best one yet," Reyes said to Bay, as he moved toward his locker.

"Better than this?" With lightning speed, Reyes took off his shoes because he knew what was coming. Bay jumped toward the ground, caught himself with his hands and flipped over into a bridge, his head facing away form his feet. Reyes stepped on a chair, then grabbed a fixture in the ceiling and used it to hold himself up as he walked over the Bay Bridge.

"Nice!" said Wright and Ike and unison, and Francouer fell into hysterical laughter that lasted long enough for Manager Jerry to sketch out a new lineup, just in case Frenchy was not available to start. Hot Rod Barajas and Jon Niese quietly observed the whole thing while eating cupcakes, sipping coconuts and studying the opposing lineup.

"What if I start the game throwing in the 40s and 50s, then, right when they start looking comfortable, increase my speed dramatically?"  Barajas pondered this while he watched Castillo and Pagan continue their conversation.

"Ok, Vengeance Penguin it is. Just one question. Why that, and not, say, Angel Pagan."

"Here's why. I was watching a nature show about penguins. One of them lost its home, right? And I thought, poor pathetic penguin. No home, no ability to fly, no job, no nothing. But the penguin didn't give in. It fought back and rebuilt its life. Even though it had been wronged."

"What wronged it? A polar bear?"

"Wrong pole. But the wrong doesn't matter, the vengeance matters. See I've been wronged too. I've been struck out, my grounders fielded, my fly balls caught. And before I would just go back to the dugout like a puppy dog. No more! Starting tonight, I seek vengeance!"

While Castillo remained skeptical, the rest of the Mets loved it, and many of them joined in on the action.

Tonight's starting lineup card for game 33 against the Nationals, as handed to the PA announcer, and eventually read live to tens of thousands of adoring and baffled fans:

1. Angel Pagan Vengeance Penguin
2. Luis Castillo
3. Jose Reyes  Furious Egret
4. Jason Bay Bane of your existence Nationals! You can't handle it!
5. David Wright Stuff
6. Ike Davis Walrus
7. Jeff "giggling hyena" Francouer [nickname supplied by Jerry Manuel]
8. Hot Rod Barajas
9. Jon Niese Death Sparrow

Monday, May 10, 2010

More Late Preseason Predictions: The Rest of the A.L.

The A.L. Central

Why do they call it the Central? Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas City... these cities are in the Midwest. I've never called that area the "central" part of the United States, and I rarely refer to a region by its time-zone.

This is a division where I feel like there are teams that are good at winning and others that are good at losing. The Twins are somehow always better than you think they are, the Royals are pioneers of badness, the Indians ping-pong between these two and the other two do their best and hope it's good enough.

1. The Twins

Sometimes I wonder, but they are always better than you think they are. They will win baseball games.

2. The White Sox

Yeah, I dunno. Their lineup is less convincing than [insert something really unconvincing]. They can pitch enough to take second I suppose. I would catch the occasional Sox game on TV in Chicago. That Hawk guy is pretty unbearable. Give me Keith Hernandez criticizing the first baseman's footwork.

3. Hrmmm... let's go with the Tigers

These guys might actually be better than the White Sox. The thing is, they are also worse. It will depend on the day. It always depends on the day.

4. The Indians

I want them to win, but they won't win shit until they change that stupid logo. Listen here people of Cleveland. I will buy a piece of Cleveland Spiders merchandise. That's $20 you can't have now, but will have on that condition. I bet I'm not the only one. Do it. I'm sick of this bullshit.

5. The Royals

Joe Posnanski, Bill James, Rob Neyer, Rany Jazayerli... these are some of the finest names in baseball writing. All are associated with the Royals. JoePo is pretty much the only reason I can name a non-Greinke Royal. Also the only reason I care about their fortunes. I wouldn't be shocked at all if there was something about Kansas City, be it the water, the light, the energy, the attitude... something that produces brilliant writing and crappy baseball.

The A.L. West

Whooooosh. The west wind blows. Sail until you reach land. Then keep a friendly demeanor and a hand half a moment from your cutlass. Whoooooosh.

1. I want to put the Mariners in. They have the best 1-2 pitching punch... awesome D... sneachy Ichiro... everyone loves Fig Newmans...
Screw it, the La La Angels

It'll be tighter this year, but I'll give it to them until they give it away. They are still good, and Scocia is probably the best manager in the division. Maybe in the A.L. Godzilla's not dead either.

2. The Mariners

Even for this I hesitate, because the Rangers are good too. Still... Fig Newmans...

3. The Rangers

Blardy blar sning bang woop patowza. That's all I got.

4. The athletic gentlemen from the land of the oaks.

Bill Beane, ever intriguing. One of these days we will wake up and the A's will be shockingly good. Don't expect this day to come before 2013. Maybe he's just in it for the long count.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

From the Author, Preseason predictions

Every year, hope, love, death, chaos and a quiet cosmic harmony spring eternal, and I take a little time to write some predictions for the coming baseball season. While I realize the baseball season is a month old already, I promise I didn't cheat and revise any of these. I haven't released them until now for very important reasons involving the government, but I think it should be fine now. I'll dish these out over a day or three. Enjoy-

It's here people! Didn't you know that every year I predict the baseball season? It's as true as whales. There are but a few rules: 1. The Mets Win. 2. Baseball is cosmically meaningless, miniaturely meaningful, meaningfully cosmic, meaninglessly miniature, comically full of seems (at least it seems that way), seemingly meaningful, meaninglessly cosmic. 3. There Are No Rules.

The A.L. Fucking East.

Don't you see what's happening people? They are accruing all the power! They are only pretending to fight each other, when really they build in strength until they will unite and crush the other divisions. The only hope to stop them is in the defector: Toronto. We can only assume that this has to do with them being in Canada. Stay in St. Louis Albert. Stay there or cross the border. Honestly, I'm sticking to Rule 1, but right now, I'm not sure the Mets deserve you.

1. The Yankees

All of a sudden, as if awaking from a dream, upon which, nothing that was previously obvious still is, I find myself surprised that the Yankees are the best team in baseball. The Red Sox and Rays seemed to have outsmarted them, and an acidic element seemed to erode the Yankees' invincibility over time. Even the team that spends about three times the league average and 50% more than the next highest, even they cannot lock time into the late 90s.

It was odd how much talk there was of them "deserving" their World Series win. Tonya Harding doesn't deserve to win. The Yankees played baseball than anyone else. Thus, I am comfortable anointing them best team of 2009. This seems simple enough. It is also simple enough that the front office paid a lot of money in support of this, and that they dished out well over $400 million dollars in contracts the previous winter. Would a world in which C.C. Sabathia, charming and talented as he is, does not make $18 million dollars every year (or however much- if I don't look it up, it's because it doesn't matter), along with certain other changes, like drinkable water made accessible to the developing world, would that world be better? Is there any greater-scheme connection between A-Rod's salary and those paid to teachers? That's where things get more complicated. I guess I don't care whether the Yankees deserved to win. Baseball is miniaturely meaningful. Deserve doesn't much enter the picture for me.

As for the games they will play, their rotation and lineup are both solid and loaded. Granderson might get a new jolt and give them a whole new deal at the top of their lineup. Jeter, Tex, A-Rod... these men are good at Whackstick. As if out of thin air they acquired Javy Vasquez. Their rotation is many things, but I can't imagine it won't be really good (by the way, in actual use, double negatives often don't mean exactly the same of the positive version of the statement.)

I like Mariano Rivera because he is the only pitcher who basically just throws one pitch, and you can't confidently claim that he will age at anything like a normal rate until it happens.

2. The Rays

More gut than anything. That, and they are probably the second or third best team in the league. I mean this is the psycho division after all. I think Joe Maddon has another year's worth of doing his magic dance, and since they went berserko two years ago, they've always seemed to have an ambrosia flow of talent. Several scouts have used those exact words.

The Red Sox

These men wear red socks, and they are expected to be nifty at hitting, tremendous at defense, and monsters of the mound. Them winning the division seems as likely as any other outcome, and yet here they are in my predictions, looking longingly upward from third place. I guess I'm loosely skeptical of this "new emphasis on defense." Yes the Mariners are charming, and my favorite play that I've ever seen in any sport is- well maybe you'll hear about it when I get to the Mets, but it's a defensive play. I just don't think it's the ticket to winning that recognizing on-base percentage for what it is was. Beltre is great, but I'm not saying DANG the Sox got BELTRE. I love Scutaro, but, I mean, it's Scutaro. I actually love how this team is constructed. Awesome pitching, everyone capable with the glove and the bat, sneaky speed... it's just that I feel I described the Santana-Liriano Twins team, and that team would probably not have won this A.L. East.

But these Red Sox might. I believe these are the three best teams in baseball, with none of them significantly above any other. The Phillies could have been on that list, but we'll get to them.

4. The Orioles

There is a place called Baltimore.

It's... see once I... I've heard the bars are... the Wire took place in... there's this museum...

Adam Jones, Nick Markakis. I hear they're good. Other people too. Like Wieters. That's all I have to say about the Orioles.

5. The Blue Jays

It will be nice when this team can talk about the playoffs again. I don't know when that will be. No one does. It might be soon. It might be a decade or more. I have a reasonable amount of faith in the folks who run that team, whoever they are, but their division is a jungle. The Yankees aren't even crazy old any more. I feel like I could basically run the Mets. I don't know if I could run the Blue Jays.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wright Time in the Bay Area

There was a knock on the door of the fifth floor apartment, and David Wright wasn't pleased about it. Even the kid knew about Wright Time now, and Wright Time was due to start just a few minutes from Wright Now.

"Who is it?"

"Bay Bridge, baby."

"Well come on in!" Bay entered, strutting sheepishly. This may seem like an oxymoron, but Jason Bay was full of paradoxes. He was slowly crafty, engagingly disinterested, quietly loquacious. Strutting sheepishly was one of the more normal things he did.

"What's up Jay-B?" asked Wright as he gave him a double fist bump.

"Well," said Bay, leaning with his forearm against a wall, awkwardly casual, "lately I've been having trouble getting into high gear, y'know?"

"Oh, I know," said Wright, fake punching Bay in the ribs.

"Right, and I know you have this ritual that gets you all fired up before the game..."

"Wright on."

"And I was wondering if... maybe... today I could join you. I think it might be just what I need."

Wright walked over to the window, moving his hands around as if he was making points and then considering them. He had never shared Wright Time with anyone. They all knew about it, and if you happened to be taking the elevator passed the fifth floor at the Wright Moment, you might catch a few seconds of it, but no one had ever joined him. He looked out across Brooklyn. He was always up for new things, but this new? Wright time was sacred. Still, if there was a teammate in need...

"Let's do it Jay-Bay!"


Bay did sit-ups while Wright went to the chin-up bar.

"Who's Wright?" called Bay, as his back hit the ground.

"I'M WRIGHT!" roared Wright, lifting himself up.

"Which hand?"


"Off or on?"


-- fastforward twenty minutes --



"Buddha's fourth principle?"


"What kind of triangle?"


Wright came down from his last push-up and Bay lowered himself from the chin-up bar. 

"That ruled, Turkey Bay-ster!" shouted Wright, high-fiving Bay. "Let's see that Bay Bridge!"

Bay obliged, leaping on to his hands, then flipping his legs over his head on to the ground, then gracefully, almost as if he was being lifted by someone else, rose up into a standing position. He finished with a fist pump and a "Take it to the north side, sucka!"

Bay took the elevator back to the 44th floor, to get his things. He was feeling pumped up, but still a little off. He wasn't in the zone he had hoped for. He felt this way as he adorned his uniform, combed his hair, grabbed his bag, and went back into the elevator to go down to the lobby and board the team bus. He felt this way, until Pops the doorman asked him a simple question, and it sparked a revelation.

"What are you going to do today?" Pops asked.

"Oh just play a little- Baysball." Pops, of course, didn't notice anything unusual about this reply.

"Are you all ready to go?" asked Pops, not looking up from his paper.


From then until the time that the game started, Bay, at various times, said that he loved Bayking cakes, listened to Baythoven and was planning to catch the Giants with Bayt. Not all of it was true, or made sense, but that's not what mattered. What mattered is that Bay had found his zone. Wright had his Wright Time, and Bay, was in a place he, and he alone, called the Bay Area.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bullpen Poker Night

"Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger."

"Come again?" said Francisco Rodriguez.

"That's who just played that lute piece. 'Tocatta number 7,'" said Pedro Feliciano. It was bullpen poker night and Feliciano was hosting on floor 25 of the apartment building that towered over Brooklyn Heights. Feliciano's great and private passion was to turn the music up so loudly that it completely filled the room- so that if you walked, you would feel as if you were carving a path through it. But mostly Feliciano would sit in his large royal purple chair- all his furniture was purple- and look out his window while Arturo Toscanini, Anton Bruckner, Niccolo Piccinni or Luigi Boccherini enveloped him.

"Do you have any, like, hip-hop?" asked Tobi Stoner.

"Yes," said Feliciano, but he didn't put it on, or do anything but pour everyone more wine. Hisanori Takahashi dealt the next hand. He had a peculiar pause in between the moment he lifted the next card off the deck and the toss to its recipient. Everyone was mesmerized by this. All conversation stopped while he dealt. Stoner couldn't help thinking that he was reconsidering each card he dealt, while Feliciano felt the motion went perfectly with the staccato of of the piece that was playing. The silence lasted through the next round of betting, as folds, calls, and even a raise were conducted wordlessly.

The flop, with its three cards and three hitched dealings brought a new layer of silence. Feliciano staved off tears. More bets, folds, raises, still no words the entire hand, the only noise coming from the gentle whir of the refrigerator and an almost violent Bach fugue.

When the river dropped, the hand was down to Takahashi, Raul Valdes and Jenrry Mejia.

"What do you guys think happens when you die?" Not only were these the first words of the hand, they were the first words Jenrry Mejia had spoken all night.

Takahashi burst into fits of laughter, which would have sent him tumbling out of his chair had Rodriguez not saved him.

"The kid's just asking a question," said K-Rod.

"I know," said Takahashi. "I laugh because I have been there."

At that moment there was a knock on the door. The bullpen staff looked at each other ominously as Feliciano went to get the door.

"Special delivery," came a voice from the door.

"We haven't ordered anything," said Feliciano, and despite the wishes of everyone at the table. Fear sunk hard like a thick mustard. That could be anyone behind the door. And what Jenrry had just said about... and how Hisanori had responded...

"Really, cause I've got CUPCAKES!"

"It's Dan, Dan Warthen!" called Feliciano.

Everyone at the table broke into relived giggles.

"You've gotta try these," said Warthen, bringing a big box of them to the table. Barajas gave me one and they are just WOW! They're from the place on Court."

Levity and merriment ensued. K-Rod pretended to tackle Warthen, Takahashi did a dance where he bounced from one foot to the other while waving his arms around, Feliciano put on hip-hop, Tobi invoked his last name.

After a long while, they remembered the game.

"Where were we?" asked Manny Acosta.

"It was my bet," said Valdes. "It was down to me, Hisa and Jen."

"What happened to the rest of us?" said K-Rod.

"Jerry already used you. You're done!" shouted Takahashi. Everyone laughed. No one remembered the exchange that happened just before Warthen came in, but the fact that it had happened made them looser and more crazed for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Insanity at Sweet Melissa

A man, 30-something, academic, stature just larger than diminutive, sits at a small circular table at Sweet Melissa cafe on Court St. in Cobble Hill. He scribbles in a notebook, rearranging his thoughts verbally and graphically. He is puzzled. Through one lens, things are, more or less as they normally are with normal distributions and even normal surprises. Let the shadows fall on things just a little differently though and...

Rod Barajas walks in and orders a cappuccino and a latte- he knows he loves one of them, but he can't remember which, and selects several fine cupcakes:
"For my fellow men in masks who guard home; who council are most important unit; who make up for what they lack in speed with power and knowledge and by projecting a surehandedness that others find comforting."

The cashier was completely bewildered. Working in retail, she interacted with any number of characters, but this one offered no hint of an explanation. He didn't seem crazy, but if the shadows on his face were altered just so...

Meanwhile the man at the table with the notepad was stunned by the coincidence, for the object of his confusion had been none other than Rod Barajas.

"It will make sense in time," Rod told the cashier, but the man at the table, so wrapped up in layers of his own contexts, thought the comment was directed at him.

"I know, of course it will. You will play out the season and things will fall one way or another, but it's my job to figure that out before you play the games."

Now it was Rod making the same evaluation of the man that the cashier had made of him and that the man had made of his calculations. He certainly didn't seem crazy, but the way he responded to a question that wasn't his, his over-involvement with his notepad, the way the shadows danced across his face...

"Nate Silver," said the man, extending a hand. Rod gave his name, and Nate said, "I know, I've been trying to decipher a mystery about you."

Hmmm, thought Rod. This man was probably crazy.

"You see," continued Nate, "I'm a projector." (and your damn certifiable thought Rod) "And my standard model shows you having a decent season- not getting on base much, but with some power. 230/280/390, something like that. But then, now here's where things get wacky, change one little thing, and you're about 50-50 to set the single season home run record."

"Of course it's 50-50," the cashier chimed in, as she refilled the cupcake tray. "Either it will happen or it won't. Just flip a coin."

"Well," countered Nate, "would you say it's 50-50 we have an earthquake in the next ten seconds?"

She replied: "yup."

Barajas sipped his cappuccino, then his latte. Usually he could tell (though he never remembered) which one he liked, but all this madness had thrown him off. He turned to the cashier.

"What is the difference between these two drinks?"

"I don't know."

"This is not possible. You just made both of them."

"When someone orders a drink, I just think the name of it, and while I'm thinking my hands are doing some stuff, and I keep thinking it until I have a full cup in front of me. I don't know what I do though."

As Rod left the cafe, he couldn't help thinking that insanity resided in that little pocket of space and time he had just experienced, but it was impossible to tell who had it. Depending on perspective, the man, the lady and himself all seemed perfectly sane or perfectly crazy. It bothered him until he crossed the street and sipped the latte again.

"Ah, this is the one I like!" he cried. He gave the cappuccino to the owner of the Community Bookstore who was enjoying a cigarette just outside. He nodded at Rod as he walked away, a real skip in his step.

"Friggin lunatic," he muttered.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How the Mets Reversed Their Psychology

The Mets deplaned in Cincinnati with a cloud of woe that was reluctant to leave. Their top two throwers of baseballs had imploded on consecutive days in Philadelphia and the demon that stalked Francouer, unable to mire him in a slump, had taken to crashing him into walls and aiming pitches at his arms. What was worse was at the baggage claim when they buddied up using the standard rules of the buddy system, Chip Hale was without his standard buddy, Razor Shines. The players whispered to each other. Shouldn't Chip be talking to Jerry? We can't leave here without Razor!

And yet when they boarded the bus to take them to their hotel, Chip was still buddyless.

"Can I get you a Bud Light?" Francouer offered Chip, trying to jovially bring attention to the issue.

"Already got one," said Chip. And he did. To prove it, he took a sip.

"He must have anticipated that question," Jason Bay whispered to Frenchy (barring injury, the two of them were always buddies).

The usually chatty team bus was silent, except for Rod Barajas loudly humming his favorite Macy Gray songs, which he did frequently. Their heads were down until Ike Davis lifted his because he thought he heard someone speak. He didn't, but he did notice something about the bus driver. He leaned forward as far as he could without unbuckling his seatbelt. Yup. Awww man.

"Hey! That's no bus driver! That's Razor Shines!"

"Anyone want a coconut?" asked Razor from the driver's seat.

The whole bus erupted in cheers. Jason Bay jumped out of his seat and did the Bay Bridge all the way down the bus aisle. Henry Blanco broke into a passionate air guitar solo. "When do we want coconuts?" hollered David Wright, to which the entire bus resounded back with a "WRIGHT NOW!"

And so it came to pass that when Mondrow Femur, Cincinnati correspondent for Baseball Moonthly asked Jeff Francouer about the team's psychology, he leaped up and shouted to the rest of the clubhouse as they prepared for the game, "Our psychology? You want to know about our psychology?"

And then Frenchy let fly with a scream that was heard throughout Great American Ballpark. The other Mets joined in. Howling, hooting, Barajas swelling into the chorus of "I Try." There was chests and fists were bumped and Ike Davis threw a chair against a wall.

When things settled down, Francouer addressed Femur again and said, "It's a long season, we just take it day by day." Then he sipped his coconut and gave a silver wink.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pelfrey and the Alligator

Mike Pelfrey was moping at the aquarium.

"They didn't get any of my jokes," he grumbled.

His eyes were transfixed on an alligator, who was barely moving. Once in a while the gator would rotate or position itself so a different part of its body was in the water.

"Who do you think wins in a fight?" Pelfrey asked the alligator. "You or me?" The gator swung its tail around. This was not necessarily a response to the question, but it was the most movement that Pelfrey had seen since he started watching it, which was half an hour ago. He found this encouraging.

"It's purely hypothetical of course. I'm not going to jump in there, and you're not coming out here. So don't take it as an affront gator. I'm not trying to be aggressive toward you. A guy thinks about these things sometimes."

The alligator lifted a leg and put it back down.

"I tried to be funny this time. You know anything about that gator?" It was still. "Of course not. You go straight for the jugular. Your attack is effective but lacking in subtlety. And that- now before I finish this sentence I want to remind you that I have nothing but good will toward you alligator- but that is why you are in the cage and I am out, and why I will leave to go back to my hotel room when I'm done here, and you will stay here, and others will come and look at you. You are powerful, but artless, totally unironic."

At this moment, Pelfrey became aware of the fact that he was speaking very loudly, and a crowd of people had gathered to look at him. In New York he would have been comfortable with the situation, but in Philadelphia, he felt a sudden tug to return to his hotel.

As he approached, the crowd backed away, but only out of surprise. They seemed to sense an invisible barrier between them and Pelfrey, much like the invisible barrier between Pelfrey and the alligator. There wasn't an obvious path through them to the door, so he found himself moving around the perimeter of the crowd, which reinforced the notion that he couldn't cross the undrawn line between him and them.

A tour guide arrived and began pointing out features of Pelfrey's hair and face. Pelfrey froze, paralyzed by fascination and confusion.

"While this beast has a notable physique," the tour guide continued, "it's most distinguishing feature is its inability to recognize, comprehend or produce irony."

"I GET IRONY!!" Pelfrey roared. With that he stormed through the crowd, past the invisible line.

Pandemonium ensued.

Women grabbed children and ran for the exits. Men tried to look fierce, but inside were utterly terrified. The tour guide fainted. Many people broke into a run, but they all ran toward the center of the crowd, were repelled by the force of everyone else and fell backwards like dominoes.

Pelfrey ignored them all and made his way to the door. He was fuming. Just as he reached the door, he heard a voice behind him.

"Well played sir!" It was a charming baritone. No one he saw when he turned around seemed to have spoken those words. "I for one, believe in your ability to understand irony."

"And that may be the most ironic thing of all, alligator." said Pelfrey with a grin.

"Indeed," said the alligator. "And please, alligator is but my species. Call me Reginald."

"You got it Reginald," said Pelfrey, and departed. Smiling. Because he had understood irony when no one else had. And made a new friend along the way.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Johan Santana was just killing the crowd with his stand-up routine.

"The irony, of course, was that my third wife had said the same thing, and we know how that turned out." He made a bizarre gesture, holding his thumbs to his nose and flapping his hands, moving his head as if his nose was flying away. The audience exploded into laughter and several of them fell out of their chairs.

Jayson Werth laughed too. He couldn't help it. But he knew if he couldn't contain himself by tomorrow, Santana would beat him.