Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cooperstown. Way to go, Rickey!

When I was a kid, my favourite baseball players were always the ones who stole a lot of bases. When I played baseball (and every other sport, for that matter) I was always one of, if not the, slowest players on the field. So I always admired the crazy-fast people and their baserunning ability. And so Rickey Henderson was my obvious choice as my favourite player. Not only was he the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history, he was also perhaps the greatest all-around player ever, up there with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. And, of course, he several records for stolen bases and runs that may never be broken. Here's a guy who could have hit 30 homers a season had he decided to hit for power, and batted .330 consistently had he decided to hit for average. But instead he did it all.

I think the best Rickey Henderson moment I remember was when he was playing a game against the Orioles, and some guy, Dave Henderson or something, hit a pop-up to shortstop. Cal Ripken was no slouch in the field, of course, and he backpedals to grab it. At the same time, Rickey was on third base. And he was tagging up. Here's Ripken, backing into the shallow outfield, or more like the deep infield, and Henderson thinks he can score. And of course, he did. Ripken rushed the throw, and Rickey scored fairly easily. He was certainly the best base runner of all time as well. (He was also a bit of a dick - remember that uprooting the base thing? Dick. But what a player!)

Then there's Jim Rice, who made it in as well. And that seems to have caused more controversy. Of course, at this time every year, there is controversy, and I have talked about this before, because I love the history of baseball, and poring over minutiae such as who belongs in the hall of fame and who doesn't. There are certain plateaus that players can reach that basically automatically guarantee them induction, and that is a good thing, I think. Like a pitcher who hits 300 wins. He's in. A player who has 3,000 hits. Guaranteed. Everything else is up for debate. And I don't mean Pete Rose debate, or Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire debate.

No, I mean Bert Blyleven debate. Here's the thing. I like Blyleven. I liked him when he played. I thought he was cool, and his stats were always pretty good. But that's it. His stats were never eye-popping. They were never incredible, he never had even one staggeringly great season, or even a particularly standout year. He rarely led the league in any category (he probably would have led in strikeouts, a few times, had he not been playing at the same time as Nolan Ryan). So what, really, are his qualifications? I saw clips of him complaining on a radio program about how it bothers him every year, and it hurts him when he doesn't get in, and I think - why? What makes you think you ever would? Well, here's why - 287 wins. He was oh-so-close to that 300 mark, and had he played two or three more seasons to get there, he would be in. They would have been crappy seasons, and he wouldn't have played well, but he could have picked up four or five wins each year to squeak in. And I'm glad he didn't.

Because 300 wins and 3,000 hits is a celebration of longevity as well as talent. And if you can be a very good ballplayer, year after year, for twenty years, you can hit these marks. You don't ever have to be a great player, as long as you are a very good one every year. Pitchers who have had some of the greatest years ever - Doc Gooden, for example - would never have had a chance to get to 300, because they had flashy seasons but no staying power. And they are not in the Hall of Fame. And I'm sorry Bert Blyleven, unless you've hit these marks, you don't get in automatically. You must combine longevity, to some degree, with something spectacular (which is why I think Jack Morris has a much better case).

But the biggest problem is the 1960s and 1970s. When old guys in baseball started voting in all their old buddies, seemingly without caring at all for their qualifications. By the standards set by some of those inductees, Blyleven absolutely does belong in the Hall. And perhaps that's how he's looking at it. But here's the problem. By the standard set by Cooperstown members such as Lou Boudreau and Ray Schalk, then Kelly Gruber belongs in the hall of fame. Bob Welch belongs in the hall of fame. John Olerud, Mike Greenwell, Dan Pasqua. Kevin McReynolds. You see what I mean? Let's make Cooperstown what it once was - the hardest club to get into in sports. Rickey Henderson is deserving either way. I'm still not too sure about Jim Rice. But then, I'm not a baseball writer. (If I was, I'd be more concise. Or less. I'm not sure.)

The Tavares line.

It stunned me to find out, today, that Dean McAmmond and Mike Fisher still play for the Senators. I thought they had retired, and were off on some sunny golf course in Florida at some kind of pro-am. I assumed. McAmmond scored his first goal in 21 games last night. Fisher his first in 20 games. And the Senators actually won a game for the first time in weeks! The first time...this year, I think. But I don't really know. I haven't been paying any attention, at all, since it became apparent that we would not make the playoffs, and that our hockey team is terrible. But I noticed an odd feeling when I saw the final score this morning - a pang of irritation!

What are they doing winning a game? Aren't we going for the worst record? Can't we drop down in the standings so we can get one of those two coveted top draft picks? Even if we get only the second pick, we still take Hedman, and we already have his defense partner under contract, so that's a solid future! What are we thinking, coming out like we know how to score goals? And if we get the first pick, we get Tavares! Even better! Exclamation mark! Anyway. I was rather upset that Fisher's line, or as I call them (or at least, as I will call them from now on) the Tavares line, managed to find the net and get us a win. Come on guys. Throw in the towel. I already have.

My favourite football week

The Super Bowl is always a letdown, even when it's a terrific game, like last year. It's the last game of the football season, and you know you're not going to get to watch football again until the CFL season starts up. So it's bittersweet for us football fanatics. The best weekend for me is this coming one, Championship Game week, where the teams are decided for the Super Bowl. Two games, same day, football overload, and the most important games there are before the big one, which is bittersweet. I still have two weeks to anticipate seeing two of these teams in another game. Here are the two I think I will see:

Baltimore - Pittsburgh: The Steelers are favoured to win it all by a fair margin. They are favoured in this game, and favoured to be the eventual champions, favoured in every conceivable way. But not so fast. Here they are, playing a Ravens team they have beaten twice this year. Once in OT, and once on a controversial did-he-or-didn't-he touchdown. Beating a team three times in a year is rare. Beating a team as good as Baltimore three times in a year seems like an incredibly tall task. The Steelers have only one playoff game under their belt, and I'm still not sure how good they really are, having beaten only a up-and-down Chargers team without LT. And the Ravens are for real. Totally, utterly for real. The Titans were better than the Steelers, the Ravens beat up the Titans, the Ravens will take this one in an upset. It's an all-bird Super Bowl!

Steelers, 23-14. The Ravens looked like they were about to make a game of it, and then some, toward the end of the third. But at a certain point, a rookie is going to actually look like a rookie, I guess. And Troy Polamalu made Joe Flacco look like a rookie in this game a few times. Wasn't he supposed to be hurt? Either way, the Steelers look very powerful, and seem poised to take the Super Bowl.

Philadelphia - Arizona: The Cardinals have performed way beyond anyone's expectations in the playoffs this year. Way beyond. And Kurt Warner has never been better. And Larry Fitzgerald has been an absolute monster. And I am tempted to take the Cards at home. But they get the home game here because of their terrible division, not their record. The Eagles actually had a better record during the season. And they have posted two huge road wins in these playoffs, both of them bigger, I would argue, than the two Arizona wins. 'Zona may have beaten Atlanta, which surprised me, but Philly beat Minnesota, who was better than Atlanta. Then the Cards shocked the world (and me) by beating Carolina. But I think the Giants were the better team there too. The only team I have been right about both weeks has been Philadelphia. And I'm going with them again, covering the 3 points. All-bird Super Bowl! Go Eagles!

Cardinals, 32-25. An incredible, improbable result to cap off an incredible, improbable season. The Cardinals are in the Super Bowl? The Cardinals? Amazing. I was cheering for Philly, but wow. The Eagles were game. After a dreadful first half, the Eagles came out in the third quarter on fire and started hammering the Cards. Were this game 65 minutes long, Philly would have taken it. But once again, no team seems able to stop Larry Fitzgerald, and the comeback was too little too late against a resilient Arizona team. I had a problem with a couple of pass interference no-calls late in the game, but the better team on the day won. Setting up what might be the lowest-rated Super Bowl ever. I have picked against the Cardinals in every playoff game so far. That has been silly of me.

I have so far gone 4-6 this postseason, straight up, and 3-7 against the spread. So I suck. Don't listen to me.

Breaking Rock News...the important stuff.

First, one more time, here is Neil Young's new video, which is awesome. I suspect that since Neil's brain aneurysm, something has been unlocked in that brain of his, and he has become more prolific than any artist ever. And his stuff is good. I suspect that within a few years, his newfound brain-power will eat itself, and he'll become Russell Crowe from A Beautiful Mind, but until then, enjoy the fruits of his labour:

Secondly, David Bowie is responsible for the economic downturn. What...really? The British paper the Mirror suggests that it is so. I am copying this story verbatim from Breaking Rock News, because there is not much more to say about it:

The British press have placed part of the blame for the current worldwide economic meltdown at the feet of David Bowie. You see, in 1997 Bowie opened the floodgates for the type of business practices that led to this recession with his "Bowie Bonds". He sold bonds of his future royalties to his fans, assuming that they would be more patient than he when it came to cashing in, and the fans were glad to have a piece of Bowie, a stake in his catalog. As far as Bowie was concerned, it just meant that he would be sure to get his royalty payments upfront.

The economic term for what Bowie was doing is "securitization". An article in the British Mirror suggests that banks were inspired by Bowie's idea, and extended the practice to mortgages, rather than to musical rights. This was so successful that eventually the rates were lowered, and anyone who wanted a loan could get one, whether they could pay it back or not. This is one of the big reasons for the current economic disaster.

Rolling Stone magazine has leaped to Bowie's defense, however, making the case that such practices were commonplace before Bowie, and that "securitization" dates back to the 1970s on Wall Street. They say, "there is no chance in hell that David Bowie inspired banks to package loans into securities, have rating agencies rate them AAA blindly and sell them off to high leverage hedge funds.”


A new book is coming out, inspired by Keith Richards. What Would Keith Richards Do?: Daily Affirmations From a Rock N Roll Survivor hits bookshelves in March, and it's just a collection of quotes from ol' Keith. Which means this might have been the easiest book to write, ever. Unless you count that book by that guy who collected all the internet jokes. Self-help new-age books are staggeringly easy to write, if not to read, and to do one using nothing but existing quotes from someone else? I should have thought of this. It would take me an afternoon.

This coming Sunday, January 18th, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Bono (among others - including Beyonce and such) will be performing at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the Barack Obama inauguration celebration. Which is cool, except that it is being shown live on HBO in the States at 7 p.m. I checked the HBO Canada listings, but it doesn't seem to be included in our programming. That could conceivably change, I suppose, but don't hold your breath.

The feud is over! If anyone noticed it or cared to begin with! Poison vs. Def Leppard has ended...apparently last summer Joe Elliot infuriated members of Poison (and Motley Crue) with his (correct) assertion that they cared more about their appearance and image than they did about their music. Well, of course they do. And I will even go out on a limb to support Elliot in his (implied) contention that Def Leppard care more about their music. But doesn't that just make it a little sadder when they're still just as bad AT that music as is Motley Crue at theirs? Anyway, Poison and Leppard appear to be set to tour together.

And...a list has been made of the bands people would Most Like To See Reunite...and Zeppelin isn't in the top ten. Wham! is in the top ten. And it's a British list - shouldn't Brits want to see Led Zep back together? Nope. #1 on the list is ABBA. Now, I will say that as a diehard Stone Roses fanatic, I would rather see them reunite and come through town - all their original members are still alive - so I accept and condone their inclusion on this list. But the Jackson Five? Really? You want to see Michael Jackson DO stuff still? Take That? Seriously? Also on the list are Pink Floyd, the Smiths, Guns N Roses (original lineup) and the Faces, who actually ARE getting back together.

One more thing - you want an indication of just how much bigger The Beatles were than every other band ever? The keyboard player from the Cars has come out with a ukelele-only instrumental Beatles cover album - and it might be the best thing he's ever done.

Neil Young's new video clip

This is a sneak preview of Neil Young's nwe tune, Fork In The Road. Who would have thought a music video of a man holding an apple could be so funny? Who would have thought Neil Young could be so...cute? Is that the right word? I dunno. Just check it out:


Monday, January 12, 2009

Career opportunity

In Canada, we have Ben Mulroney covering the red carpet at the Golden Globes. In America, they have Joe The Plumber covering the war in Gaza. I'm not even making that up. You see, as a man with "extensive experience with media bias", he can be relied upon by some right-wing nutjob website to provide reliably pro-Israel coverage, whether he makes any sense or not. Hey kids! Want to get into a good career? There are about 3,000 really good media jobs out there, and only 50 really good media personalities. It's wide open, go for it!