Monthly Archives: January 2006

My heroes have always been younger…

Mike Piazza, arguably the best catcher in the history of the game, has to scramble to find a taker for $2 mil. Frank Thomas, a staple of the Windy City for more than a decade, signs for $550,000 plus incentives. It’s hard to be sorry for these guys, but, my, how the mighty have fallen.

Tom Verducci, baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, writes about “The Class of ’68,”ballplayers born that year, which includes, besides Piazza and Thomas, such luminaries as Sammy Sosa, Jeff Bagwell, Roberto Alomar, Bernie Williams, Jeff Kent and Gary Sheffield, among others.

Verducci writes:

“We kept hearing then that ballplayers were bigger, stronger and better conditioned than ever before. Given the advances in nutritional and training information and the finances to enjoy an easier, more luxurious lifestyle, players would extend their prime late into their 30s.”

That may be true; most players in the first hundred years of the game had to
work off-season jobs to make ends meet. Then again, doe such high salaries make a young player hungry? Will A-Rod want to keep playing after the end of his $252,000,000 contract runs out? Does pride in craftsmanship really matter that much those days?

“That Class of ’68 is worth remembering now because of what has happened to them this winter: a market flush with cash all but ignored them, the signal that they have not aged as well as had been thought. All, by varying degree, have been breaking down physically and offer no signs they can come close to being elite players again.”

Hate to say it, but one of the players who has not broken down is … Barry Bonds. Other than his recent injuries, he’s been an inspiration for those willing to put in the time at the gym.

I don’t know about the rest of you middle-aged fans (ouch!), but I always root for the older guys. (You go, Julio Franco!). Somewhere in my dementia I figure that as long as there’s at least coot one older than me, I still have a chance.

Veteran columnists as Maury Allen, Jerry Izenberg, Harvey Araton, and Filip Bondy have said in interviews that as they get older, it’s harder to have a rapport with those younger players, in some cases young enough to be their grandkids.


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Paper or plastic?

I don’t know about you, but supermarkets seem to be offering less and less in the way of service.

We have two major chains in my immediate neighborhood and I don’t mind mentioning them by name. Kings has a better group of cashiers. They dress in white shirts and ties, have a very polite demeanor and always bag.The prices are higher, but the products are better, so its a tradeoff.

A&P, on the other hand, has lower prices, but the produce is consistently inferior, to a ridiculous degree. But it’s the cashiers that present the most frustration.

When did it become the customer’s job to do his own bagging? Granted there are stores that offer express lines to speed things along, perhaps basing the policy on the inability of their employees to do an effective job (10 pound bag of cat litter on top of the eggs? Check.) But now many cashiers at the A&P almost expect the customer to do it, standing around, fiddling with the register, chatting with the cashier in the next aisle…

I still do most of my own bagging because, frankly, I do a better and faster job. (Maybe they play on that, too.)

The attitude expressed in the following article from The New York Times, What, You Got a Problem Paying $102.13 for 2 Tomatoes?, also seems to be indicative of the problem: the infallibility of the technology.

“…And, in the third, he was charged $102.13 for two tomatoes, bringing the bill to $180, well over what he would typically spend on groceries.
“…’I said to the cashier, Can this be right?’ Mr. Hinde recalled, noting that at that point he knew only the total. ‘She assured us it was.'”

The rest of the order must have consisted of a lot of cheap items to convince Mr. Hinde he was the one in error. Otherwise one has to wonder what kind of customer it is that walks away actually believing that the tomatoes (I hope they were at least organic) could be so costly. Mr. Hinde must really love his tomatoes.

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Competition and creativity

Life in a nutshell. Posted by Picasa

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Life in a nutshell. 

Life in a nutshell. Posted by Picasa

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"Bring me the cats’ heads of Alfredo Garcia"

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“Bring me the cats’ heads of Alfredo Garcia”

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Why television is like baseball

Michael Hiltzik, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who pens the twice-weekly “Golden State” column for the Los Angeles Times, included this comment in his Jan. 26 column, “There Isn’t Enough Good Entertainment to Go Around,” regarding the recent merger between the WB and UPN networks.

The UPN and WB, which will be folded into a single television network, foundered on the reality that, just as a sports league’s aggressive expansion often dilutes the talent on its rosters, there simply isn’t enough compelling entertainment material to go around. (Alternatively, there hasn’t been enough savvy managerial talent to go around.) The same can be said for the animation business, which saw two of its most significant players, Disney and Pixar, walk down the aisle.

I’ve always thought there were similarities between the two “national pastimes.” To wit:

  • Like the better teams, some TV shows remain at the top of their league (ratings) for several years, but eventually fade. (ER = the Atlanta Braves?)
  • Like some of the better players, some stars remain with their team for many years (Gunsmoke‘s James Arness = Boston Red Sox’ Ted Williams?)
  • Whether you consider it fair or not, UPN and WB, for the most part, are like the minor leagues. They may have some hot properties, both stars and shows, for a few seasons, but they can’t cut it at the Major league/network level.
  • And some of those hot rookies and veteran players who find themselves liberated from the TV minors prove themselves to be flashes in the pan. (Freddie Prinze Jr., who portrayed a baseball player in Summer Catch = Joe Charboneau, who appeared in the role of “additional Knight” in the baseball movie, The Natural?)
  • In both genres, some mediocre talents manage to hang, moving from team to team or show to show. Failed TV personalities, like failed managers, always seem to find a job somewhere.
  • Both are considered in terms of seasons. Fans of both forms of entertainment look forward to the promise of the new season.
  • Baseball has the World Series, in which (presumably) the best stars and most important games are highlighted; TV has “sweeps,” in which the best (guest) stars and most important episodes are highlighted.
  • Network show up on baseball games, ostensibly to hump their shows which, by an amazing coincidence, just happen to appear on the network that airs those games; baseball players show up on network shows, ostensibly to show that they have talents beyond the playing field.
  • Viewers of both baseball and TV believe they can do better than what they’re watching.

On the other hand, while baseball games do fairly well on the tube, programs about baseball — Bay City Blues, Ball Four, Baseball Wives — well, not so good.


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