Friday, January 24, 2003

Why Not?

Why not be optimistic?

Newly fortified with Mueller, Giambi, Ortiz, and second baseman Todd Walker - and trusting that Ramirez will stay healthy and Johnny Damon will bounce back from a poor second half - the Sox believe this year's club could score 900 to 950 runs. That's how it calculates on the laptops, anyway. If they're right, you can be sure they'll be playing in October (Edes, Globe).

I needed to read a blurb like that this morning. Hell, yeah, I did, with winter bearing down and Spring Training seeming like some distant mirage.

Speaking of winter, if you're a native New Englander, one of the things that will happen to you if you ever pull up roots and bust out of the shadow of the White and Green Mountains to seek out life in one of the more temperate zones is over time you'll realign your reference points with respect to cold and your ability to deal with the arctic sent winds will atrophy big time.

So after spending a decade in the deep south, Mississippi and then Texas, this cold snap that is hitting my current hitching post here in Virginia is friggin' killing me. Whereas for you folks who haven't molted out of your thick New England skins, the current weather really isn't any big deal: It's supposed to be 1° in January in Massachusetts after all.

But down here south of the Mason-Dixon, most folks don't even have real heaters. We have heat pumps. Do you know what a heat pump is? I'd never heard of one until I came south. It's basically an air-conditioner and, as you'd imagine, it doesn't really work, very well (by the laws of thermodynamics or some such) when the temperature drops below 32 degrees.

Oh, yes, there is something called "supplemental heat" that kicks in when the mercury slips below 32°, but it's like trying to heat your house with a hair dryer. It's OK for a short spell, but when you're on your 10th day in which even the high temperature can't reach 32° and the lows are in the single digits, it just isn't pleasant. No kidding, the indoor temps in my house struggle to remain around 62°.

The corollary, of course, for New Englanders is when you have one of those consecutive 95° spells in August and you're trying to cool your non-central air conditioned house with little window units or, worse, electric fans. That shit just doesn't cut it, right?

And probably every time you have one of those hot spells you tell yourself you're going to look into getting central a/c (or at least more window units), just as I tell myself I'm going to get a real propane or oil furnace … but then the temperatures go back to normal and you forget all about it.

Ah, well. I'm back to wearing lots of wool and counting down the days 'til Spring, just like when I was kid in NH.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

40 Men, 40 Dreams

Yeah, that's a stupid headline. I've been watching too much American Idol. In any case, just wanted to mention that the 40 man roster is posted at the official Red Sox team site.

Reading over the names is a sure sign that Spring is coming, a healing salve for our frost bitten souls.

Here's a fan take on the Ortiz signing that caught my eye over on the SOSH boards:

$1.25 million is quite reasonable. It sounds like Ortiz actually wanted to come to Boston because of his relationship with Pedro. This is another good move. Ortiz's upside is that he produces Mo Vaughn's offense (and defense) as an everyday firstbaseman with the Sox- only for about $12 million less than Mo would have cost for this season ("The Boomer," thread: the New Red Sox Hot Stove).

It got me wondering: Is the "need friends for Manny and Pedro" thing overplayed by fans and the media?

I'm not sure it makes much difference whether you have a "25 guys, 25 cabs" kind of team or a "we are family" kind of team. In my own life, I'm generally the type to want my own cab, so I'm probably predisposed to thinking that's a good way to go about things.

It'd be interesting to get a statistical angle on this, i.e., do friendly, close-knit teams have a better winning percentage? But since it'd be impossible to determine a metric for gauging "close-knittedness," we'd have to turn to some sort of Bayesian analysis. Don't know if the SABRE wunderkinds are into that.

Anyone? Anyone?

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Chamber of Horrors

Remember the fury that erupted when Manny failed to run out the grounder late last season?

Now imagine what would have happened to him had he been an Iraqi athlete:

As president of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee, Uday [Saddam Hussein's son] allegedly tortures athletes for losing games. He sticks them in prison for days or months at a time. Has them beaten with iron bars. Caned on the soles of their feet. Chained to walls and left to stay in contorted positions for days. Dragged on pavement until their backs are bloody, then dunked in sewage to ensure the wounds become infected. If Uday stops by a player's jail cell, he might urinate on his bowed, shaven head. Just to humiliate him (Farrey, ESPN).

The IOC is now investigating these allegations of depravity. Let's hope they have more luck than Hans Blix and his crew of UN weapons inspectors in finding evidence of just how bad things are in Iraq.

As I've said before, I'm no hawk with regard to waging war and I'd be the first to cry foul at anything hinting of US imperialism, but each day I become more steadfast in a belief that this is one of those fights that is worth waging. I ever more see it as a moral imperative.

"Some athletes say he [Uday] does it to encourage better performances. Others say he does it just for fun."

If this is what goes on in Iraq to athletes, can you imagine what horror is inflicted upon those who are held in even less regard by Saddam's regime, like the average Iraqi citizen, or worse, the Kurds?

People can and will talk about how evil the United States of America is, but, if I remember correctly, Manny was booed by Fenway fans and castigated in the media for not running out the grounder. He wasn't pissed on or lashed nor was an electric current run through his testicles.

One way or another, this Saddam Hussein bullshit has to come to an end. And the next time you see a placard saying "No War for Oil," stop and think about those Iraqi athletes for a moment.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

I've Got Nothing

Being that I ain't no Ari Fleischer, I can't spin much of anything to say regarding the "Red Sox closing in on Ortiz, Nilsson."

I've got nothing for you here.

Worse, I've got a case of bloggus interruptus, i.e., I had this idea to weave and relate this current cold snap we find ourselves in with a similar cold snap I recalled occurring in January 1986. My idea, of course, was to suggest that in years of record cold in January the Red Sox play in the World Series. Yeah, it's up there with something you'd hear on the Psychic Friend Network, but it's a story line that is a heck of a lot more fun than talking about signing a guy to a minor league contract who hasn't played a major league game since 1999.

But I had my years wrong: The record cold, i.e., longest period with temperatures 32 degrees or lower, was the 22 days between* January 8th and January 29th 1985 and not '86.

In 1985 the Red Sox went 81 and 81 and finished 18.5 games behind Toronto who won the AL East. A kid named Roger Clemens went 7-5 with a 3.29 ERA, hardly a year to make/attribute cosmic and astrological comparisons with/to.

[* Note: I couldn't find the NOAA info. for Boston, so had to use the data from Pittsburgh. It's the same cold spell, though, of that I'm sure. And the cold didn't only affect the usual regions of the Northeast and Midwest, but went as far South as to cause snow in Chihuahua, Mexico and S. Texas.]

Monday, January 20, 2003

The Business of Baseball Is Business

So MLB put the kibosh on the Red Sox plans to get Millar out of his contract in Japan:

… MLB informed the Red Sox that Millar had to honor his contract with Chunichi. For Millar to play for the Sox under those circumstances, he would have to ''post'' for free agency …Teams then would submit sealed bids to Chunichi for the right to negotiate with Millar, giving all clubs the same access to Millar as the Sox, at a price likely to be higher than the Sox are willing to pay.

The only way Millar can circumvent that process is if he can demonstrate that he does not have a valid contract with Chunichi … (Edes, Globe)

This doesn't come as much surprise, really. While I joined in the chorus calling Epstein's moves to get Millar "shrewd," in the back of my mind it did sound like some dirty dealing, like they weren't really treating the Japanese team as a business equal. On the other hand, MLB doesn't particularly stand out in my mind as a group who puts business ethics high on its list of priorities. The way they've managed the Expos since taking over the owner's role seems pretty shady to me. Indeed, they should begin to tilt the E in Expos to more resemble the crooked E in the Enron logo.

And in case you've forgotten that baseball is as much a business as a game, may I present Pedro Martinez:

"If the Red Sox don't sign me to a contract before the end of spring training, I will become a free agent ... They've had a lot of time. After (spring training), I will not sign a contract with the Red Sox" (Burt, Eagle Tribune).

In the words of the recently passed Will McDonough, "Be quiet and play ball. That's how you do it around here."