Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits: Slap Shot, Inception-Style

Pretty clever, largely silly, entirely for shits and giggles.

(clip courtesy of the Sports Guy)
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Tuesday Tidbits: This is Just to Say

So far, 2010 has been nothing shy of an interesting sports season. Of course it all began with a month of NFL playoffs that wrapped up with a New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Victory. In February, we were graced with a splendid round of U.S. Olympic hockey. There was, of course, March Madness that trickled into April, which, naturally, led to the kickoff of baseball season. Usually, the MLB summer seems an endless one, but for some reason, this one seems to have moved quite quickly. To add to that, we had one heck of a World Cup soccer tournament, and a great NHL Stanely Cup Finals to keep things fresh.

Now, August is winding down, and we'll soon be looking at which clubs will be playing October baseball. Meanwhile, in the NFL, training camps have broken, and the pre-season is halfway over. In just a blink, NHL teams will be reporting for their training camps. Most of these events happen every year, but this was one of those extra-special years thanks to the World Cup and the Olympics, but there is one, more-recent event that has made 2010 a monumental year.

That's right. It's everybody's favorite quarterback of all time: Brett "Old No. 4" Favre. And trust me: When I say "everybody's," I mean everybody's. Every single person I've ever spoken to, Tweeted, e-mailed, or been a pen pal with has admitted that the ol' Gun Slinger, he's their fave. Not me, of course. I'm still holding my breath for the second coming of Elvis Grbac, but that's another story. You can get the tidbits of this story, though, over at Chatting up Sports, a new blog to enter the circuits as of June this summer. So check them out from time to time, and if you're one of those whacky, social-networking types, they've even got a Facebook page. Shuh-zam! Read more

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Most Pointless Post in HoGstory Grows Wheels, Becomes a Story, Except for Not Really

On Tuesday, I had this bug, an itch to write a post about Kansas City Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, and how meaningless his home runs in 2010 have been. So I did. When I started looking into the thing, I expected to see losses in most, if not all, of the 10 games this season in which Betancourt had homered. In the end, I was a little surprised that Kansas City has actually won four of the contests in which he'd gone yard. But, it didn't bother me. And I kind of forgot about the thing for a minute.

And then, in the fifth inning of that evening's contest, Betancourt came up to the plate against Cleveland's Jeanmar Gomez, who, at the time, was 2-0 in his career. And I'll be damned if he didn't hit a solo shot out of the park to tie the game at one.

I thought two things: 1) A 1-1 game. Anything can happen. Naturally I want the Royals to win, but it would be a little ironic if Betancourt homered in this game and then the Royals won. Not a lot ironic. Just a little. And then, two innings later, noted terrible baseball player Wilson Betemit came up to the plate and put a solo shot over the fence as well, giving the Royals the one-run edge that they'd hold onto for the win. I tweeted about it, decided I'd take interest in his at-bats the next evening, and went to bed.

So Wednesday rolled around, and it's game two of three against the Tribe. By the time I tuned in, I'd kind of forgotten about the previous day's small slice of irony. And then the sixth inning came around, Yuni came up to the plate, and cracked another solo homer. And this got my eye, especially considering that the Royals went on to win 9-7. Betancourt, by the way, went 2-4 with three RsBI in the contest, pulling the Royals to an even 6-6 in games in which he hits a jack. This also put him into the team lead for round-trippers on the season, at least for guys still on the roster. (Editor's Note: Jose Guillen left town with 16 under his belt.)

For the final game of the series against the Indians on Thursday, the Royals took a 3-0 lead, then squandered everything under the sun, losing 7-3, and Betancourt went 0-4, so, ha-ha. That was fun while it lasted.

Friday night, the White Sox were in town, and the game got postponed due to some serious rain, and some wicked-crazy lightning, which meant a double-header for Saturday. In some kind of FOXSports broadcasting conundrum, the first contest was a 6:10 Central pitch, and the Royals found themselves down 5-1 in the seventh. Guess who comes to plate with every bag occupied? Yup. The Kansas City Royals shortstop, who, I think, surprised everyone by clubbing a grand slam, his third of the year, no less. And if that wasn't enough, he hit a walk-off single in the 11th for the game-winning RBI.

My interest was again piqued. Betancourt had gone 3-5 with 5 RsBI. The second contest got underway a few minutes after 10:00 p.m., and it too went into extra innings. In this tilt, our hero of the week went a mere 1-4, but he did have an RBI, and it just so happened to be a game-tier in the bottom of the ninth. Alas, Chicago went on to win by a run in the 10th, but Yuniesky Betancourt had the Twittersphere buzzing.

And in the finale of this series, today, Betancourt was again held hitless, but it should be noted that, Betemit, in his continuing fit of terribleness, homered again today, as well as in the first of the two contests yesterday. And, strangely, this game also went to extra innings.

I suspect that Yuni will revert to sub-mediocrity in the week ahead as the Royals will face Detroit and Cleveland again, both series on the road. The coincidence of examining Betancourt blasts in comparison with Royals wins, proved to be a fascinating exercise, and Kansas City is now a cool 7-6 in games in which there's a Yunibomb sighting. And no, silly, I don't mean Ted Kaczynski. But like I said, folks were a-buzzin' about this overpaid shortstop Dayton Moore acquired from Seattle last season, if only for a few days. Hey, even the big guns had stuff to say today.

(photo courtesy of John Sleezer of The Kansas City Star)
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Sunday Sermon: The New, Improved Reggie Bush

I gave up on arguing about Reggie Bush nearly three years ago, and it's a hobby that, quite frankly, I'm not interested in picking up again, though I have had a couple more recent conversations with Saints fans regarding his running style. I've always thought two things about him: 1) He's a phenomenal talent with great speed, intelligence, and ability, and 2) He's not a running back in the traditional sense. I say that having watched very little New Orleans Saints football, but in the little bit I have seen, I've observed a young man that jukes and dances, and mostly, runs to the outside to try and beat defenders to the corner. I cannot recall ever seeing any footage of the guy where he squares his shoulders, lowers his head, and runs like a man, between the tackles.

But enough about what a bunch of dudes think. I imagine it's time we hear from the ladies on this one:

Introducing Ladies All About Football. This new-to-the-blogosphere site is still being swaddled and nursed as it was just born this month, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there's a slight preference at this URL for the professional football club that resides in Louisiana. Don't believe me? Peep their newest post, wherein the Saints victory over the Houston Texans is relished. Yes, it's only the midway point of the 2010 pre-season, but check out this angle on the New Orleans tailback:

"Showing his speed and some raw toughness, the back bulldozed his way into the endzone, looking more like the power runner everyone hoped he'd be, running up the middle and between the tackles. It was good to see him exhibit his tougness just as well as his speed."

I don't know about you, but if I was a Saints fan, I'd be stoked about said toughness, power running, and gap hitting. Anyway, the defending champs travel to Whale's Vagina on Friday, then to Tennessee on Thursday, September 2. So, if you're so inclined, stop by LAAF for your football updates throughout the season from the ladies' point of view. As an added bonus, leave a comment for a chance to win some junk from Victoria's Secret. Sexy!
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Saturday Studmuffins/Fatlock Follies Sandwich; or A Token Response to "The Explanation"

Conflicted is the word to start this post. Conflicted is how I feel regarding Jason Whitlock leaving The Kansas City Star after some 16 years of sports-column contributions. Conflicted is how I feel about the upcoming Kansas City Chiefs football season that will, for the first time in my adult life, lack a Monday morning Whitlock take on Sunday's Chiefs performance. Conflict has been a notion that, in some form or another, has shadowed Whitlock's places of employment since the sporting world, and its publications, took note of who this writer is and how he carries himself. And his Star denouement has been ensconced by -- you guessed it -- conflict.

Whitlock's last column to appear in the Star was published almost three months ago. Four days ago, the Star ran this bit saying the newspaper and the columnist was "leaving the paper to pursue other interests." Earlier in the week, Whitlock, via his Twitter page, announced to the world that he would be appearing on KCSP 610 AM yesterday to proffer what he dubbed The Explanation.

If you're not interested in listening to the podcast (Editor's Note: One friend called it "radio gold" and mentioned that the interview was temporarily cut off "after he said (the) Star editor got drunk in River Market and was kissing on another male employee's neck in front of staff." Naturally, these portions are not in the podcast), hosted by What's Wrong with Ding Dong, Kansas City SB Nation put together a handy summary of the broadcast, and before we go any further, it's worth noting that Whitlock has been given a healthy raise as a FOXSports columnist.

But back to this notion of conflict. Big Matt from Arrowhead Addict touches on a small segment of what I'm saying regarding the columnist/persona paradox that is Jason Whitlock. And I say paradox because Whitlock's role in the sports world has never, in my observations, been single-fold. What I mean by that is this: If you're a columnist, being paid for your printed words and opinions of the sports world, then those words should do your talking for you. When you become a persona, be it attached or removed from your paid-for services, you begin, in varying degrees to dilute the product of your craft. That is, when you, as an artist, forge a relationship with your audience, you are, in my estimation, permanently challenged to uphold a multitude of expectations.

Your fans want the product delivered with consistency and greatness, and to quote the old Speed Stick commercials, "anything less would be uncivilized." With zero interest in bashing -- in at least this very moment -- either Whitlock the journalist or Whitlock the person, I'll go out on a limb and say that, often, he fell short in both criteria. Now, before you send smoke signals out to the lynch mob, understand that I, on many, many occasions, have had tremendous respect and admiration for the work that Whitlock has done and the message(s) he has attempted to convey.

My family has subsribed to the Star for as long as I can remember, and I have had my own subscription since the week I moved back to town 10 years ago. I have, on exactly zero occasions, looked forward to a piece of the paper with more fervor than Whitlock's Monday morning Chiefs column. This, of course, has come with heavy doses of conflict for me the subscriber, reader, and admirer of great writing. I make no secrets of my admiration for former Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski. For the duration in which Pos' and Whit' both penned sports for the Star, the former was always my favorite. He finds the hook in a story and threads it effortlessly into the gills of the reader, and for that, he will always be one of my literary heroes. He also, were it by design or not, assumed the role of the good guy in the Posnanski/Whitlock good guy/bad guy dichotomy. In movies, stories, and even on the TVs, I always root for the good guy. It's just how I'm wired.

My issue with Posnanski, though, was that he seldom covered the Chiefs. That was Whitlock's bag, and that's what I wanted in my paper. So I read him.

As a sports fan, and more specifically, a sports fan in a town where the professional baseball and football teams appear, over periods of time, destined to achieve new and inventive plateaus of terrible, a fan such as myself does not, for the most part, take well to criticisms of the organizations. At least I didn't used to. More plainly, the feeling was always a mix of "It's easy to be an armchair GM/You're not playing/Give them a break -- They're trying/Quit being Mr. Negative." So my appreciation for Whitlock's angles, for some time, was under-developed to say the least.

As his interesting relationship with former Chiefs GM Carl Peterson became something of a soap-opera affair, I began to appreciate it more, and when Peterson hired Herman Edwards, I began to grasp the reality that embodied the idea of the game having passed by Carl Peterson. With nary a slice of ironicality, I began to understand and appreciate the watchdog type of job that Whitlock does, and had been doing all along.

Perhaps at the height of my recognition for his work covering my favorite football club, Mr. Whitlock branched out from the Star and was hired for other endeavors. Having already tried the SportsTalkRadios (fail), he took a post as a Page 2 columnist for ESPN.com (fired), which may or may not have been handcuffed to his, for lack of a better word, removal from ESPN's "The Sports Reporter," and then he signed on with FOXSports. I don't include those parentheticals because I want to highlight shortcomings, but it's important to note that, from an outsider's perspective, beefs appeared to have been brewing in each of those sports kitchens. It's also important to identify that some of these beefs appear to have been for good reason, be they motivated by self-interest, a national sense of civic duty, or a combination of the two.

I commend him for, regardless of intention, marketing himself well enough to have the multiple outlets and to of course, get paid. This era of outsourcing and raises, however, seems to have gone hand in hand with ego inflation and the spawning of this persona that I mentioned.

Which brings us back to conflict. Jason Whitlock used to irritate the hell out of me because he would, so it seemed, always play the race card. For example, he, back in the day, would say things, and I paraphrase, like: Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio makes it a point to have African-Americans as his second- and third-string quarterbacks because it's imperative that the racist fans of Jacksonville must support Byron Leftwich. If they're not going to support him because he's black, they need to know that those that come in to replace him due to injury, will be black as well, so get used to it.

I don't know if this was true. I mean, David Garrard and Quinn Gray are black. This I know. There's a significant part of me, though, that doubts that those two guys were acquired by the franchise, perhaps even over more qualified quarterbacks, solely for support clauses for Byron Leftwich. It's also hard for me to imagine that the Jacksonville Jaguar fan base that has become a poster child for atrocious attendance, even with a white quarterback backing up a black one, can be pegged in their majority as bigot fans. I just didn't see the point in that then, or even more recently when Whitlock posited that (Note: I believe this was in a 05/01/08 FOXSports column regarding Ben Roethlisberger, but his archives don't date back far enough.) that a guy like Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger would've been crucified for the (initial) rape allegations against him were he black.

More recent still is his latest FOXSports column regarding Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre, wherein Whitlock dismisses the notion that Old No. 4 would be under heavier scrutiny were he African-American. Quoth Whitlock: "...the felonious charge of a racial double standard as it relates to the future Hall of Famer was unworthy of my court. I dismissed the case.

That was my mindset two years ago. Things have changed."

Here's where things get a little tricky. We expect those whom we respect to evolve, to maybe have a change of opinion over time. With Whitlock, though, it's like he's completing changing hands every three to five years. Ten years ago, black athletes, in Whitlock's book, couldn't catch a break: There were double standards everywhere. Five years ago, he was knee-deep in his anti-bojangling campaign, wherein he was calling out guys like Scoop Jackson for supporting, in some sense, that there are/were not enough positive black, male role models for the youth of today to admire. The hip-hop culture, as I'm certain he's referenced it on numerous occasions, that embodies today's youth only sees adult black males in the NBA, the NFL, and in rap-music videos.

This, I was on board with. This, I felt, wrong or right as my intuition might've been, was a platform in which he had the most potential. For a guy that reaches as wide an audience as he does, he could really pull some strings, or at least get the wheels of cognition spinning for this effort, if, and that's a big if, this was something he was passionate about. Now, today, I'm not certain what he's passionate about, and I find myself thinking with some frequency that he's not certain either. Thus the motif of conflict.

In comes the notion of ego. I used to be a leading complainer in the argument for less of Whitlock's ego in his column. The presence of it, I felt, could only be identified as wasted column-inch space. For example, he'd start off a column about a road Chiefs game by mentioning that he was seated in the press box. Or, in his column about the NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas a couple years ago -- the one in which the infamous Adam Jones make-it-rain weekend happened -- he started off the column, I think, saying something to the effect of his courtside presence. Or more generally speaking, the many KC Star columns over the years in which he simply wrote about himself using an obviously phony visit to he shrink as the vehicle that drives the column, stopping by several sports-story-idea rest stops along the way.

The former situations were insults to the readers' intelligence in that he's stating the already-known, or to paint it in a less-attractive light, pimping himself. The latter always said two things to me: 1) I have only a smattering of ideas for a column today, so this is what you get, and 2) frankly, I like writing about myself.

So, conflict. Who is Jason Whitlock, I find myself asking after all these years. In the excerpts made available in that podcast, he frequently references "those that know me" as the ones certified to stake a claim against his body of work, or pass judgment on whether or not what he's doing has merit, value, and substance. My guess -- and I of course could be way, way off -- is that not that many people do actually know him. And this is why I think it's tricky, in a role like his, to develop, and even push, a persona because it's going to, whether you like it or not, clash with the product that has gotten you credit, respect, and notoriety since entering the world of sports journalism.

I won't claim to know Whitlock. I've certainly never met him, and I definitely haven't read everything the guy's ever published. I still think that the article he wrote for (or published in, however you want to say it) Playboy is the best piece of journalism he's ever produced. I very much looked forward to the issue coming out because I had a hunch it would be top notch, and hey -- free excuse to buy a copy of Playboy...jackpot! Just before it came out, however, he wrote a column in the Star about the issue coming out, and, surprise, the controversy surrounding it. I wrote about it here, and one reader even created a fake Jason Whitlock profile name so that s/he could comment. Basically, though, that column said this: I'm taking this opportunity to write my column about me writing a magazine article.

Then the issue came out, and without going back to read my actual work, I think I did a fairly decent job summarizing it. I do recall three things standing way out with that piece though: 1) It was well-approached, well-researched, crisp, lucid, and well-written; 2) The controversy associated with the headline the magazine gave the piece -- "The Black KKK" -- was largely, if not entirely diminished by the incredible content of the article itself and; 3) This should be this guy's niche. He should be doing investigative, literary journalism on a full-time basis.

I still feel that way about his abilities, talents, and potential for outreach, but that's one person's opinion, and it likely means squat to anyone that reads this. In "The Explanation," Whitlock talks about sports being the concept that brings people together, and he also talks about many of his critics wanting to be him. I won't argue with the first part of that. That's a huge portion of the beauty of sports: By its own existence, it creates a bond, even with rivals and enemies. There's also merit to the latter part, in that, sure -- professionally speaking, I would love to have or have had any of his written-word journalism positions. And of course I would happily accept the compensation package attached to them.

But to say that, outright, people want to actually be him, is another ball of wax too sticky for me to adhere. I don't want to be Jason Whitlock for the same reasons of theme I've been attempting to decode: conflict. Right now, in my adult life, I have zero audience, and zero responsibility for thought conveyance. I don't have a channel for streaming, a frequency for broadcasting, or column inches to fill. And I'm conflicted enough as it is just trying to lead my ordinary, run-of-the-mill routine. Should I skip today's workout? Did I tell the wife I love her enough times this week? Is one more beer too many?

Hell, it's a struggle day in and day out to just attempt to balance happiness, responsibility, and sanity. If I had a massive national presence added to the mix, I'm not certain that I would successfully balance my craft and keep my persona at bay. There's no way I could develop a platform loaded with observation, opinion, and criticism and, in addition, manage those two key elements of consistency and greatness. I mean, I'd certainly try, but how would I react to my critics? Would I have as many as I would fans? Would I really be that different of a personality than the one I've invented for Jason Whitlock?

Difficult to say.

What I do know is this: If there's one blessing about Kansas City, it's that its newspaper, for many years, has hired and retained some talented writers, many of whom have gone on to bigger positions with bigger publications in bigger cities, all of which I imagine are totems of success. In the sports department alone I can think of half a dozen off the top of my head: Jeff Passan, Liz Merrill, Mechelle Voepel, Jason King, Ivan Carter, Posnanski, and now Whitlock. All of their contributions to my paper have been excellent, and obviously, none have had more controversy than Mr. Whitlock's.

And that's really, to me, what "The Explanation" is about. For Whitlock it was, like it often is, about self-promotion and self-preservation. The Star, apparently unbeknownst to him, ran that Whitlock's-leaving piece without informing him, so he's entitled to address his audience of a decade and-a-half however he sees fit. FOXSports.com certainly isn't the place to do it, and for someone that calls himself Big Sexy, a couple of tweets certainly weren't going to suffice. But at the end of the day, this LeBron James-modeled bit of satirically titled seriousness wasn't about the Star's editor(s) consuming intoxicants, or kissing in public, and it really wasn't about those editors not seeing eye to eye with his vision for his role in the paper, either.

It was a sendoff. It was the epilogue in a chaptered story. It was, the final frontier of the Whitlock era in Kansas City sports writing. It was a reminder of the fact that, conflict and controversy aside, this town has been graced with some excellent sports columns in the last 16 years. It'll be interesting to see how the Star, struggling financially along with all of its industry counterparts fills this large void. Will another young Sam Mellinger step into the vacated columnist shoes? Will the Star, now free of payroll obligations to Whitlock, rest its accounting heads with more ease each night? We, the readers and subscribers will have to wait and see.

One thing's for certain: My Monday morning routine is going to need some serious adjustment.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Most Pointless Post in HoGstory

In a sense, this post is all about love. I love the fact that typing the letter 'y' into my Google search bar immediately brings up Yuniesky Betancourt's Baseball Reference page. From there, the love is like a chain letter. It simply explodes into sub-categories of love and runs like hot lava down the side of the imploding Mordor. The second recipient of this love is the simple, and widely shared, I think, love I have for Baseball Reference. I love it so much, in fact, that, were I sitting at the cafeteria table in my fourth-grade lunchroom, and a girl heard me say that, and promptly responded, "So, why don't you marry it?", I would tell her that I would if I could.

I love the fact that being a fan of a terrible baseball team will lead one down the most peculiar of paths, just as the Kansas City Royals have done to me in this very moment. I love the fact that, thanks to the Twitters, I had the opportunity to ask Joe Posnanski in person if the off-season acquisition of Jason Kendall was worse than the previous year's signing of Yuniesky Betancourt. Part of me wanted him to confirm that yes, it was, but I was pleasantly delighted that he put me back on track -- at least then -- by saying, "No. Nothing is worse than the Yuni signing."

Given Kendall's play this season, along with the play of both Miguel Olivo and John Buck, I'm again on the fence about who the worse Royal is, but we'll just say, for the sake of having a side, that it's Yuni. Now, if you throw out sides, I've closely watched the play of both this season, and their performances have been nothing shy of terrible.

In sum, Jason Kendall has not hit one home run or one triple, and his veteran leadership regarding leading the pitching staff has been about as visible as the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge. And, he has been, for most of the season, on pace to break the most-games-caught-by-starting-catchers record that dates back to the middle part of last century.

In sum, I have not seen Betancourt field one grounder to his left side all season. Last week against the Yankees, he got to one hit by Derek Jeter. The moment I saw the ball make contact with his glove, I had one of those love-to-hate moments, where I almost leaped out of my seat out of sheer confusion. It was an emotional crossroads wherein in one fleeting flash of a second I wondered if Yuni was suddenly taking a step in the direction of becoming a better fielder, which, in theory, makes my team better. The other side of that flash, however, was something along the lines of Don't start fielding better now; the season's almost over, and that puts us one step closer to the end of your tenure in Kansas City. There is, strangely, a third angle to that play and that is that it's important, for the sake of our opinions, that Betancourt's resume of miserable defensive baseball continue to give us good material or else we second-guess ourselves.

But there, right in the heart of that dilemna, the most perfect thing in the world happened: Yuniesky Betancourt booted the ball, and somebody not named Scott Podsednik had to be there to back it up. Ironically, Ryan Lefebvre noted that, had Betancourt fielded that ball, Jeter would likely have been safe anyway, thanks to his still-existing speed.

As it goes with fans' perspectives of everyday players, the love is a two-tiered platform, and my sick affinity for watching Betancourt field poorly immediately transitioned to my passion for watching his undying trend for less-than-good plate appearances. And this is where the thing gets even murkier. If there's one thing my wife -- who I love dearly -- and I have shared more than any other aspect of Royals baseball this season, it's her love-based hopes and desires to get me to stop talking trash on Yuni when he comes to the plate. She has even gone so far as to call me a hater, which, ironically, occurred when I dissed Yuni coming to bat with the bases loaded and he smacked a grand slam. Even more ironical, that shot put Betancourt just past Jeter for career grand slams, which was also a fact shared by Lefebvre.

I love the fact that I was wrong in that situation because, hey -- grand slams are an awesome rarity, and that one put the Royals ahead. I do not, however, love the fact that the jaded side of me, immediately after my elation dissipated, thought that, because it was a Betancourt bomb, the Royals would likely lose the game. Which they did.

So that got me to thinking: Have all of Betancourt's 2010 homers come in losing efforts? Surely, they have, I thought. And this is why I'm writing this today, and I love to admit, at least in this instance, that I was wrong. Why do I love to admit that? Simple: a) It gave me something to look up, and something to write about, and b) It gave me an excuse to go to Yuni's Baseball Reference page, which I've already noted that I love, but it is on that page that one of my favorite sentences ever typed exists, and that is this: "According to one scout, well respected by the sponsor of this page, Yuniesky Betancourt is a serious dark horse in the American League MVP race."

I remember when my pal Old No. 7 had the idea to sponsor former Royal Kyle Farnsworth's page, which we did. I don't recall the precise details regarding page-sponsorship options, but I know we did it for a year, and that it wasn't that expensive, and that it was, if only to us, absolutely hysterical. That year has since lapsed, and insert token line about the economy/us not renewing. As of today, the page remains unsponsored, which triggers my inner civic duty to take up sponsorship again, but as I mentioned, I do love my wife, and I also like staying out of the proverbial doghouse. Also, sadly, The Professor is no longer a Royal.

My point, though, is that I'm led, based on our own experience, to believe that the anonymous sponsor that coughed up the cash for Yuni's page, typed that quote at some point this season. Which, naturally, I love. Betancourt, because I know you're dying to know, is hitting .266/.288/.411 this year. There are two angles to this and they are these: 1) I would love to slug .411 in the Bigs, but I am not, as they say, big-league material, and as a whole, those are not good numbers, and 2) Those numbers are not representative of a career-high stat that Betancourt has achieved this season, and that is the long ball.

Among the many reasons for having the professed love for Baseball Reference are the many options available to the end user. Today's example (Editor's Note: Do not for one minute think that there will be a new example tomorrow, or...ever.) is the home run log, which I accessed, along with the game log, for the purposes of examining whether or not I was right in supposing that all of Betancourt's homers this year came in losing efforts. We'll get to those results in just a moment, but in the meantime, there are a few YuniJack facts I'd like to point out:

1) Yuniesky Betancourt has gone yard off of a few pretty good pitchers.
2) That list includes, but is not limited to: Joe Blanton, the Weaver brothers, Boof Bonser, Johan Santana, John Danks, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kenny Rogers, Tim Wakefield, Doug Fister (Fister!), Francisco Liriano, and Josh Beckett.
3) Betancourt has, for three consecutive seasons now, hit a homer off of Mark Buehrle.
4) Spanning his career, Yuni has homered 41 times, in 13 different parks, and off of 35 different pitchers.
5) His 10 bombs through 108 games in 2010 are the most he's ever hit in one season.

So finally, we get to his long-ball efforts this year, and now that we know how many he has, we'll examine the final score of the games in which he's put one out of the park:

1) April 5: an 8-4 loss in which he homered off of Justin Verlander
2) April 16: a 10-3 loss in which he homered off of Scott Baker
3) May 14: a 6-1 win in which he homered off of Mark Buehrle
4) May 28: a 12-5 win in which he homered off of Tim Wakefield
5) June 11: a 6-5 win in which he homered off of Bronson Arroyo
6) July 17: a 6-2 loss in which he homered off of Jeff Marquez
7) July 17: a 5-2 win in which he homered off of Trevor Cahill
8) August 4: a 4-3 loss in which he homered off of Craig Breslow
9) August 9: a 6-4 loss in which he homered off of Ervin Santana
10) August 11: a 2-1 loss in which he homered off of Jered Weaver

Do the simple math and you'll see that the Royals are 4-6 in games in which one Yuniesky Betancourt hits a round-tripper. Now, what does it mean? Not a gosh-durned thing. I'm 100 per cent certain that you could compile very similar stats using any other Royal that's hit at least 10 homers this year. And for the record, that list includes Billy Butler, who has 11, and the-now-San Francisco-Giant Jose Guillen, who had 16 at the time of his departure.

It was, nonetheless, a fun thing to look up, and really, now -- who doesn't love fun things?
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Whatnot: A Fascinating Art

I'm brand new to this notion of stop-motion videos. Feel like I got lucky finding this one as my first. Pretty good stuff.

(clip courtesy of Erked)
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits: Immigration Song

For as long as I can remember, I've been a huge music fan. This far-from-profound statement has nothing to do with anything, but I'll get to that in a minute. Led Zeppelin was, for many years, my favorite band. No one came close to even scraping the surface of their awesomeness. Cecil and I went toe to toe on many an occasion discussing who the better outfit was: Zeppelin or the Stones. I would say the Stones' music was drab and uninventive. He would claim that Zeppelin were nothing but blues-music ripoff artists. That debate, though it still silently continues, is one of another era. The multitude of things I appreciate about Zeppelin span myriad forms. The one I care to mention today is the imagery associated with their music. That is, not so much what the listener imagines, but the actual images produced and portrayed by the band.

One example of this is their dynamic album covers. Most of them are provocative and mystical, Coda notwithstanding. Another of the weaker displays of art would be the cover of III, which is a bit of a tricky album to initially embrace. At least it was for me, and in hindsight, I think that was only the case because of its chronological placement between II and the untitled album more commonly referred to as IV. That said, there are some really powerful cuts on III, but I've often felt it was a mistake to lead off with "Immigrant Song" simply because the jarring power of it drops off a massive precipice in terms of drive and delivery. This is in no means a criticism of the rest of the album's tracks. They are great and good in their own ways, but "Immigrant Song" is for sure the definitive track for that album.

The trouble with the album is its cover art. It's nothing shy of atrocious in comparison with the rest of the band's studio releases. There's no association for the art to go with the music like there is for say "Good Times Bad Times" or "Dazed and Confused" and the image of the Hindenburg on their self-titled debut. You could make this case with most any of their albums: the motley-crew Hell's Angels look of II goes well with tracks like "Moby Dick"; pick any track from IV and the image of the bent-over old man with the bundle of reeds on his back; the famous Houses of the Holy cover with "No Quarter" or "Over the Hills and Far Away"; and of course any dungeonesque track from Physical Graffiti -- I'm looking at you "Kashmir," "In the Light" -- goes well with the abandoned, industrial, post-apocalyptic look of its cover.

The point, though, is that there's an association with "Immigrant Song" and III as an album in its entirety, and the cover art released with that album doesn't fit. This is why I've always associated the image for Swan Song, the band's record label, with III, simply because it kicks off with "Song" and, lyrically, has a mythical feel to it, much like the winged man selected to represent the band's label. And the title for that opening track has had me thinking a lot in recent weeks, especially this current one.

I have, for the last 18 months been out of the restaurant industry and back in the social-services field I once ventured into right after college. It doesn't pay worth a crap. It can be taxing, stressful, and require a lot of driving, but I'm not in a kitchen nights, weekends, and holidays, logging 65+ hours on my feet anymore. And my position is one that has quite the philosophical, maybe political, dynamic sort of twist to it: I'm a bilingual case manager who carries a considerable number of undocumented clients on his load. The twist is that, to be a client for our agency, you must have some sort of mental-health issue or diagnosis in order to qualify. And obviously, yes, we do serve undocumented residents. But we're also a not-for-profit organization, which means we receive bundles of state and federal tax dollars to relieve the pressures of operational costs. Namely: the cost of services for uninsured -- who are as such because they're undocumented -- consumers and salaries for the folks that provide the services, i.e. mine.

In sum, it's likely what I imagine to be the worst-nightmare sort of situation for any conservative/right-wing/Republican type, and it's a prime example of why there is still such tremendous racial divide in this country. The topic of deportation has been in the headlines this week. The front page of The Kansas City Star yesterday discussed it, and today on Yahoo there's a piece about it as well. The latter link discusses the movement spurred by the Obama administration that utilizes fingerprints and allegedly targets illegal aliens whom've committed crimes, be they level one, two, or three variety of offenses.

Now, I don't frequently make the commenter rounds on the Web postings that I read, but I will from time to time. As I write this, that Yahoo piece has over 7000 comments on it, and of the 10 visible on the first page, not one is enlightening. Of course you can follow the link and read some yourself, but there is one that I feel compelled to share, and it comes from the brilliant fingers of one Td40, who calls himself Octavio Leos. And he has (all sic) this to say:

"in dallas on the first day of the month in ghetto neighborhoods the mail runs late why?
because most of the blacks in that neighborhoods that sell dope ,rob,rape,murder,are all getting government checks ssi,food stamp,section 8,and they are constantly talking about new ways to get money from the government and dont provide sht for the land.I say send all the blacks back to africa and give the illegals their citizenship, thay will do alot more than tyrone and shenequa will ever even think about doing"

In a strange fit of irony, the song "1st of tha Month" has been rolling around in my head for the last few days, namely because one of my clients -- with whom I have a tremendous relationship -- was released last Monday from the local juvenile detention facility and farmed out to a group home. My heart goes out to him and his family because they are all in pain and simply could not make it work. But I'm taken back to the song because, right out of college, as I mentioned, I was in this same field in southwest Colorado, and my position was at a group home. At this facility, most of the kids were into hip hop, and at the time, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony were pretty big. If you're unfamiliar, they're an outfit out of the city that used to be known as Cleveland (Editor's Note: We're still calling it Cleveland, but, given its grave condition, that may change post-mortem.) who, more or less, made it big thanks to the late Eazy-E signing them to the Ruthless Records label.

But, at this group home, if you had privileges, you could rock your beats at a reasonable volume, and one of the favorites was Bone Thugs. Many, many were the days that I heard both "1st"

and "Ghetto Cowboy," which the kids always attributed to Krayzie Bone, which is fair, but actually a product of the Mo Thugs family, consisting of Krayzie, Layzie Bone, Thug Queen, Powder, and many others and under many variations of the Thugs nomenclature. Catchy tune, though:

Getting back to "1st," I'm titanically embarrassed to admit that I never, until recently, knew what that song was about. I imagine I used to think it had something to do with celebrating the beginning of a new month and fresh start, which is nothing shy of naive, white-bred, and simpleton of me, but regardless, what the song really is about ties in with that divide I was talking about, that mountain-goat-like head butting that people in this country do, and seem to want to do with regards to the concepts of immigration, race, and equality. I'm not ashamed to admit that, even in parts of this decade, I've wondered if racial tensions had subsided to some degree. What's made me feel ashamed, is that, on occsion, I've substituted the curiosity for some semblance of legitimate hope, and often times I feel that that was a massive mistake.

Working with clients on my mostly Hispanic case load, hanging out at my neighborhood dive, reading the papers, watching professional sports, almost everywhere I go, there it is, lurking in the corners, stomping in the streets. And I'm sick of it.

There are those that claim to try and improve things by bringing things to light, to the surface, but in my humble opinion, they often do more wrong than good. What we need, I think, instead of continuing to highlight the injustices, both alleged and real, are ideas that the majority can get on board with. And when I say majority, it is crucial to bear in mind that I exclude folks like our pal Octavius, who are painfully distorted.

And this is where sports comes in. This whole disaster in Arizona has contributed to the divide, and that's because it announces the message that the state government has made it lawful to request papers from minorities, whereas in our national sports leagues, we, in varying degrees, embrace immigrants, and pay them huge salaries, to come play for our sports teams.

All four of our major professional sports employ immigrants and have been doing so for years. Christian Okoye and Tamba Hali are two Chiefs that come to mind in the NFL. The late Manut Bol, and now Yao Ming of the National Basketball Association are two hoops examples. The two biggest stars of the National Hockey League, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, are not Americans by birth. And Major League Baseball might be the biggest example, especially with all of the Latin-American talents brought to the United States to, eventually, play for big-league clubs.

Is there a foundation for professional athletes to advocate for immigrants? Can we make one? Look at the statutes created for these talents. Can this be a foundation for other types of immigrant workers? Or does this stuff already exist and I'm just too uniformed to know about it.

Let's get a discussion started in the comments. This means you, lone robot spammer.

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