Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Classic card of the week


Drew Hall, 1988 Topps

Question: what is better than a Drew Hall baseball card?

Allow me to interrupt as you furiously search your brain-bank for an answer to that question. Because the answer is: a ridiculously blurry Drew Hall baseball card!

This is the type of card that almost –- almost –- forced you to give up collecting baseball cards altogether. Everybody involved in making and manufacturing this card had given up on life, and the beneficiary of that indifference was you –- or, in this case, me –- a 10-year-old boy who excitedly spent all of his lawn-mowing money on a pack of baseball cards, hoping to God to get a Don Mattingly, and ending up with an out-of-focus picture of a Cubs’ middle reliever.

But enough excitement. Let’s discover more excitement:



Drew’s coach at Morehead (Ky.) State University was former major league southpaw Steve Hamilton.

So what you’re saying is, the guy on the front of this card who I did not know before and who I still do not know thanks to his mostly blurry features, was coached in college by a different player that I kind of, sort of know about?! That is amazing! I just passed out.

I’m back. Let’s go to Wikipedia:

He attended Morehead State University.

Equally amazing. And by equally I mean equal to that time earlier when I found out he attended Morehead State University.

He is most famous for being involved in the Rafael Palmeiro and Mitch Williams trade in 1988.

That is hella famous. And not to burst anyone’s bubble here, but do you know who was even more famous for being involved in the Rafael Palmeiro and Mitch Williams trade? I’ll give you a hint. It was Rafael Palmeiro. And Mitch Williams. And Joe Carter. And steroids. But Drew Hall certainly was up there, with the famousness, of that particular trade, and what not.

What morehead does Wikipedia have to offer?

He is currently an assistant coach at his alma matter, Morehead State University.

Wait…what?

Did you know?
In 1999, Drew Hall teamed up with Dru Hill to produce a series of highlight videos that featured ordinary 5-6-3 double plays set to a background of contemporary R&B music that was embarrassingly sexual. All involved parties met at Morehead State University.

West Valley gaining an undeserved reputation

Note: This column appears in the 5/28 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 5/29 issue of the Peoria Times

The West Valley is like that new kid in high school who is trying to keep up with all the rich kids. So they go to the store and put a whole bunch of spiffy new clothes on layaway, and then go home only to find out that mom and dad both lost their jobs.

Nobody can really pay for the clothes, but darn it –- that kid is going to look good for a few weeks. They’ll worry about the rest later.

For the West Valley, later is now. We’ve got a whole bunch of new stuff -– with the tags still on it –- that we can’t afford. And we can’t return it, because the store is no longer there.

I hope you enjoyed that exhausted metaphor. Less metaphorically speaking, Glendale was given two professional sports franchises, and is on the brink of losing one of them. Thank God the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl and exist within the cash cow that is the NFL. The courts and whatever billionaires are still left around here will decide the Coyotes’ fate.

Should the Coyotes leave, Glendale will be left with a brand spankin’ new arena with nobody to play inside. (Except Yanni, who I think is playing next month, and who just may turn this whole thing around with one magnificent performance.) And though I doubt the arena will ever be plastered with “For Lease” signs, it should nevertheless fit in nicely within the sea of vacant strip malls and stalled construction zones.

Speaking of malls, Peoria discovered last month that General Growth Properties -– the owner of the Park West Shopping Center -– had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Park West was originally constructed as a worthy adversary to popular Scottsdale spots like Kierland Commons and Fashion Square. But without a foundation of luxury –- coupled with the fact that so few people even knew Park West existed –- helped get this project off to a rough start.

Up next for a West Valley obviously unwilling to spend frivolously: a new casino.

Well, maybe. Regardless, what is next for an area all dressed up with no place to go?

That’s difficult to say. But while many may buy into the perception of the West Valley thus reflected in my wisely-crafted opening metaphor, I do not believe this area is being penalized for attempting to be something that its not.

What the West Valley was trying to be –- and what it will be someday soon –- is something better for all of us. An area to proud of, to boast about. It’s not that Glendale can’t support a hockey team, or that Peoria cannot sustain upscale shopping. It’s just that nobody was able to foresee getting caught in the eye of this perfect economic storm.

Things will indeed turn around. When they do, we’ll be better for it. And when that day comes, I am going to celebrate by going out to Park West for lobster, and then I am going to buy my wife a ridiculously overpriced handbag.

After a Yanni concert, of course.

Because that guy is awesome.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Classic card of the week


Juan Gonzalez, 1994 Topps

Here is Juan Gonzalez angrily blasting what is assumed to be a mammoth home run, a feat accomplished by using the Samson-esque power of a flowing mullety mane. And possibly steroids.

But enough about steroids already! Sheesh. What I really want to know is: what are Juan Gonzalez’s philosophical thoughts on the game of baseball?



“Baseball is a game of suffering,” says Juan, “but baseball is beautiful.”

And they say athletes don’t have feelings. This was, coincidentally, my senior high school yearbook quote. Except I replaced “baseball” with “chicks.” So it read:

Chicks are a game of suffering, but chicks are beautiful.
- Juan Gonzalez, as told by Mike Kenny

Other quotes attributed to Juan Gonzalez are as follows:

Some things are good, but some things are bad, ya’ know?

I like ice cream. Sometimes.

and

Who let the dogs out? I am angry, but also forgiving.

According to Wikipedia, Juan Gonzalez has been married four times. As everybody is well aware, the first marriage fizzled after pop sensation Olga Tanon was photographed kissing Gonzalez during one of her concerts. The tabloids had a field day with that one, as I’m sure you can imagine. It was dubbed “Olguan” by the relentless and insatiable Puerto Rican media.

Less heralded was Gonzalez’s close relationship with former president George W. Bush. Trivia question: How many times did George W. Bush invite Juan Gonzalez to the White House? If your guess was less than two times, then you have vastly underestimated this relationship. Says Wiki:

The first of reunions took place on April 16, 2001 and the second on December 3, 2007; in this reunion he was accompanied by historian Luis Rodriguez Mayoral. The discussion lasted thirty-five minutes and involved Gonzalez’s future in the Major Leagues and other baseball related topics, as well as the happenings of their respective careers.

White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton: Mr. President, good morning. Are you prepared to meet with Mr. Greenspan to discuss the impending economic downturn, as well as Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi of Jordan to go over Middle Eastern trade sanctions?

George W. Bush: Nope. Not today, Josh-Josh. Today I’m meeting with my ol’ buddy Juan Gonzalez!

Bolton: The former baseball player?

Bush: Heck yeah! Me and Juan-Gone go waaay back. He was on the Rangers when I was the owner. Remember that?

Bolton: Yes, sir. Certainly. But Mr. President, with all do respect, there are several very urgent matters to attend to today. Is this meeting absolutely necessary?

Bush: It’s just about the most necessary thing I could ever think of. He’s bringing a historian!

Bolton: Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, what topics will be discussed in this meeting? We certainly cannot have Juan Gonzalez privy to classified federal information.

Bush: Oh, don’t worry about that, Josh-Josh. We’ll just be talking about the good ol’ days. About his time in the big leagues and other baseball related topics. We’ll also be discussing the happenings of our respective careers.

Bolton: What does that mean?

Bush: I don’t know. I guess I’ll tell him about my career and he’ll tell me about his, or something. He said he’s bringing donuts.

Bolton: …

Bush: Oh, hey – Josh-Josh, before I forget. Can you send in one of those stenographer ladies? This Juan Gonzalez has a ton of great quotes, and I don’t wanna miss one!

Did you know?
If you think I didn't have to Google "current prime minister of jordan" AND "chief of staff under george w bush" then you just don't know me at all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hope you enjoyed your health – love, parenting

Note: This column appears in the 5/21 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/22 issue of the Peoria Times

Life as a foster parent –- and, as I imagine, as a biological parent –- involves many unforeseen circumstances. One of the circumstances of being a foster parent that I could not foresee, and that no one decided to inform me about, was: indefinite sickness.

I’ll be honest here. I had always viewed people who were constantly sick with a roll of the eyes, not considering whether or not they were parents to germ-ridden children. I assumed they weren’t taking care of themselves, or that they were milking it, or that they just didn’t want to hang out with me anymore because I wasn’t a parent and we had nothing in common. But now I understand.

We’re about a month and a half into our current foster placement, and every second that the premises are clear of some various disease or ailment is like winning the lottery of health. Also, I have been keeping count, and so far we are up to: 17 seconds. Unfortunately, each of those precious sickness-free seconds has been nothing but an indicator that another disease is right around the corner. The calm before the barf.

With the joy of parenting has come acid reflux, fevers, ear infections, breathing apparatuses that are delivered to the house at 10pm at night, pink eye (my favorite), coughing, and a gentle flowing stream of runny noses. And that is just the kids. For us, it’s been even worse.

A few weeks ago I became randomly sick with what I assumed at the time was the plague. Lots of nausea and throwing up and a general inability to do anything whatsoever that lasted for about three days. So that was fun. Last week I got “something” that caused me to feel as though I was swallowing razor blades for five days, and when I went to urgent care to see if it was strep throat, I was informed that is was only the beginnings of a “really, really bad cold.” Whew! Doc’s only recommendation was to get more rest. Easy!

Hey kids –- I am going to rest for the next couple days to recover from the unknown sicknesses you have inadvertently bestowed upon me. Please behave yourselves –- as well as potty train and feed yourselves –- while I lay here on the couch and watch Mama’s Family reruns. Thanks!

It wasn’t long before my wife got what I had, and so most of last week was spent trying to parent kids while also staying as far away from them as possible because if they get sick we cannot miss work again. And that is the cycle: kids get sick at daycare / school, they give it to you, you try not to give it back, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because your kid just ate a gummy bear they found in the Target parking lot and that can’t be good.

I’ve talked to other parents about this, and it’s always accompanied by a patronizing chuckle and a “welcome to parenthood!”-type greeting. Ha, ha! I would laugh harder at that sentiment except my throat is swollen shut.

Regardless, I feel a duty to alert all potential parents to this fact, not to discourage them, but to mentally prepare them for what lies ahead. And that fact is this: Inherent in parenthood is the reality that, 90% of the time you will be rendered physically unable to properly parent.

Good (cough) luck!

Editor's Note: Stay tuned for my next post: Kids say the darndest things! Ha, ha...kids. What happened to me?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

David Cone

On the YES pregame show today, describing how important the positive reaction was from A-Rod's teammates after his walkoff home run yesterday:

And A.J. Burnett, with a pie in the face after the game, really helped too, I thought.

Me too, David. Me too.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Classic card of the week


Ramon Martinez, 1991 Fleer Ultra Team of 1991

This card features one member of the Fleer Ultra Team of 1991, a squad of players that requires no introduction, as evidenced by their respective ultraness. Anchoring the staff of the Fleer Ultra Team of 1991 is Ramon Martinez, who is highlighted here doing three of the things he is best known for: 1) pitching violently, 2) hitting awkwardly / maybe bunting from one knee, and 3) showing off his ‘fro-hawk-mullet inside of an imaginary home plate. This was the desired trinity of baseball skills circa 1991, and was required for membership on the Fleer Ultra Team of 1991. Ramon Martinez was, however, considered a five-tool player because the ‘fro-hawk-mullet counted as two tools. Another one of his tools was carpentry.

Now, you are probably asking yourself: Did Ramon Martinez, a baseball pitcher, have trouble adjusting to Dodger Stadium, a baseball stadium? Excellent inquiry. Let’s turn this card over and find out:



Martinez has no trouble adjusting to Dodger Stadium when he was first called up in 1988.

I give that sentence a D-minus.

The right-handed flamethrower pitched at Chavez Ravine in 1984 as a member of the Dominican Republic baseball team.

There it is. Ramon Martinez had no difficulty adjusting to Dodger Stadium because he had pitched at Dodger Stadium once four years prior. The aspects of Dodger Stadium that require adjustment remain unknown. Unless, of course, they are referring to the fact that the pitcher’s mound there is 12’ high and made of jello.

Many people -– such as Dodgers fans –- tend to forget that Ramon was ridiculously awesome for one year (20-6, 2.92 ERA, 223 Ks in 1990) and pretty darn good thereafter. The reason they tend to forget or ignore this is that the Dodgers’ organization opted for Ramon over his brother, wait for it……………………..Pedro. Says Wikipedia:

While he was starting for the Dodgers, Ramón repeatedly asserted that his brother Pedro Martinez was an even better pitcher than he was. Nevertheless, Dodgers management thought Pedro was too small to be successful and traded him away. Pedro went on to become one of the greatest pitchers of his generation with the Expos and Red Sox.

Ramon Martinez: For what it’s worth Mr. Lasorda, my brother Pedro is a very excellent pitcher. You and this organization should consider signing him long term.

Tommy Lasorda: Hey, no offense young fella, but your bother is 90 lbs soaking wet! And he can’t see over the steering wheel. Do you know what a steering wheel is? You got cars over there in the Dominicas? Listen -- I’ve been around baseball for 113 years so I know what I’m talking about! One time in 1937, Fats Gazinsky struck me out looking with the bases loaded…he weighed 450 lbs! That’s baseball right there! I mean hey kid -- this is America! Land of pizza pies and thing-a-ma-doos! Now get out there and pitch so I can go home and take a nap!

Ramon Martinez: My brother won 12 Cy Youngs while you were talking, Mr. Lasorda.

Did you know?
The Fleer Ultra Team of 1991 lost to the MTV Rock n’ Jock softball team of that same year after Dan Cortese hit a 20-point home run.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nothing but questions remain in wake of Coyotes’ fiasco

Note: This column appears in the 5/14 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/15 issue of the Peoria Times

I have been trying to figure out this whole Coyotes mess for the past week or so. And, at the risk of disappointing you, the loyal reader…I have not figured it out.

This is probably because I have always had difficulty comprehending bankruptcy. For the first twenty years of my life, my only familiarity with bankruptcy came from Wheel of Fortune, so I imagined that, in real life, when someone went bankrupt, it was followed by an unfortunate trumpet noise –- wa, wa, waaaaooonnnk –- and that person lost everything and started over.

So to discover that the owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, Jerry Moyes, had filed for bankruptcy, yet was attempting to sell the franchise so that he could walk away virtually unscathed, I was confused.

The red tape involved is too much for me, especially considering the NHL was one of Moyes’ creditors, and it is in the league’s best interest to keep the team here in Glendale. There’s just too much stuff going on here that I am not well-versed in -– one of those “things” being hockey itself -– to forge an opinion. However, as someone who greatly enjoyed attending Coyotes’ games, and as a Peoria resident and someone who works in Glendale, and as someone who is trying to figure out where the city, and Westgate, and professional sports in the Valley go from here, I wanted to retrace some Coyote footprints, so to speak.

And something did stick out to me while reading up on the situation. If the team is indeed sold to a prospective buyer who plans to move the team to Canada, head coach Wayne Gretzky will make $22.5 million. This is the sum of what the Coyotes still owe him to coach their hockey team, so he will get this money either way. From a bankrupt franchise. Even though he is a minority owner of said bankrupt franchise.

Something else interesting in local sports happened last week. Bob Melvin was fired as manager of the Diamondbacks. Melvin –- who was Manager of the Year in 2007 for leading the D-Backs to the NLCS –- was let go for overseeing a team of guys that, for the past season and a quarter, could not hit a baseball. Whether the D-Backs’ woes should have been contributed to Melvin remains up for debate. The point is: they were.

Contrast that with Gretzky. During his four-year tenure as coach of the Coyotes, Gretzky has a losing record and has never made the playoffs. The biggest national news he made was when he became embroiled in a gambling controversy with then assistant Coyotes’ coach Rick Tocchet. The allure of fans coming out to watch The Great One stand behind his players for a couple of hours either wore off, or was never there, as evidenced by the Coyotes having the worst ticket sales in the NHL for the past two seasons.

A Manager of the Year gets ousted, but The Great One –- with his reputation as a player transcending all else, including logic -- still stands behind his crumbling team.

Hmmm.

From here, it looks like Wayne Gretzky is going down with this ship, partly because he lowered the anchor into the middle of it, and partly because the ship owes him $22.5 million.

So I have to ask: Who made him captain anyway?

It doesn’t really matter now. Everybody involved seems to be walking away with millions. Except, that is, Coyotes’ fans, who may just walk away teamless. Sorry ‘Yotes fans –- guess you don’t know how to play the wheel of fortune.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Classic card of the week


Phil Nevin, 1999 Stadium Club

This is, to my knowledge, the only card I own that features such unmitigated, untamed, and unrelenting action. How does this play end? You’re simply going to have to rent the movie. That is all I can tell you. The movie is called: “I Should Have Stayed At Third: How the ’98 Baltimore Orioles Defied Convention and Captured the Hearts of No One in Particular.”

Also worth mentioning here is that Stadium Club is pretty freakin’ awesome. Sure, this particular card is sort of weird in that it highlights a random play more than the player –- it would take the uninformed viewer some time to determine which player was Phil Nevin –- but still. Compare this card to this, and you see that Stadium Club was the HD of tiny pieces of cardboard.

More stuff of note: I think we are all familiar with the perception that fans of baseball often care more about baseball than actual baseball players. If you subscribe to this theory then I present to you: Exhibit A. Check out that front row of fans, quite literally on the edges of their seats and at least one of them on top of the dugout in anticipation of what is about to happen. Please contrast this with the scene in the Angels’ dugout. You would think a beach ball had just blown onto the field and a 76-year old man was chasing it down with a walking stick. Now, granted, the circumstances here are unknown. It could be a 13-1 ballgame in the bottom of the eighth inning. Plus, the fans are most likely drunk, especially the lady who is screaming what is assumed to be profanity, and who is three more sips away from falling headfirst into the Angels’ dugout, which may or may not elicit a reaction from anyone in said dugout. But hey, geez –- it’s a play at the plate, guys. Arguably the most exciting play in baseball! Are you so jaded? Yes? Okay then.

Anyway, enough nonsense. I know what you are all thinking. What you are all thinking is this: What is the bottom line when it comes to Phil Nevin?

First I must say to you: That is an excellent question. What IS the bottom line on Phil Nevin? Let’s get past all the messy and suspect personal information. Forget about family, politics, and religion. Tell me something about Phil Nevin that, when I hear it I will say, “Stop right there. That is all I need to know about Phil Nevin. From this information I can draw all necessary conclusions about Phil Nevin as a baseball player and also as a human being.” Tell me that.



THE BOTTOM LINE
In 276 career ABs vs. LHPs, has hit .279 with 12 HRs.


And there you go. Wikipedia mentions –- as did Buster Olney’s “Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” –- that Phil Nevin was selected 1st overall by the Houston Astros in the 1992 MLB Draft, which was five spots ahead of Derek Jeter, and which was a decision that caused Astros’ scout Hal Newhouser to quit his job. But this is not the bottom line on Phil Nevin. It is like…the fourth line from the top or something.

Did you know?
In the aforementioned '98 Orioles major motion picture, Brady Anderson is played by Ian Ziering.

As debt increases, getting out of it becomes easier

Note: This column appears in the 5/7 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/8 issue of the Peoria Times



Judging by the number and frequency of radio, television, newspaper, and Internet ads, there are ample opportunities to get out of debt.

This is not only fantastic, but timely as well, considering that many people -– especially here in Arizona –- are indeed in debt, due to a number of factors including a mortgage crisis, unemployment, the inability to comprehend how to operate a credit card, and a generally awful economy. It’s a darn good thing that there are so many wonderful people around to help others get out of debt.

And that is how the process works. Get in debt. Then get out of debt. It’s so simple it’s a wonder more people don’t purposely take on debt just to experience the sheer fun and excitement of getting out of it.

Now, you may be asking yourself: how does this process work? Interesting question, albeit prodding. First, call the number you heard on the radio that was repeated eight trillion times. It’s a free call, so what could go wrong? At that point, a friendly person or even friendlier non-person will assist you in removing debt from your life. Or, simply respond to the email you received in ALL CAPS that accidentally went into your junk box with the subject: IN DEBT?^% RESPOND_2DAY!#. From there, input all of your personal and financial information into the Internet and then sit back and relax and maybe grab a drink because your debt is about to get straight obliterated.

Don’t believe me? Listen to this customer testimonial. It was recorded by an actual person! With lungs!

I lost my house and my job and my riding tractor and I was in over my head in credit card debt! But with one call to Debt Is For Losers, I was able to eliminate my debt completely! Now the banks are paying ME! Why? I have no idea! Thanks, Debt Is For Losers!

As that real person can attest, getting out of debt is easy. And we’re not talking about reducing debt here. Reducing debt? Pfftt. What’s the point? We’re talking about eliminating your debt. All of it. Ka-ploof. (Editor’s note: “ka-ploof” is the sound of disappearing debt.)

It’s so simple. If you are in the red, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Just do it. Don’t ask silly questions like, “Wait –- how and why would a company out to make a profit absorb my tens of thousands of dollars of debt for no apparent reason?” or “Is transferring my debt from one entity to another -– often at a much higher rate and at an additional cost to me –- really 'eliminating' my debt?” You’ll drive yourself crazy asking questions like that, and all the while your debt will be piling up like debt is wont to do. Stupid debt!

Listen –- gone is the old-fashioned and out-dated method of removing your debt by paying it off. It’s 2009! We’ve got computers now! Helpful people and companies you have never heard of are standing by, waiting to help. What do you have to lose besides your credit and more money? You are in a mountain of debt, and these people want to give you a shovel. (Also, the shovel costs $2,000.) Give ‘em a call, or shoot ‘em an email.

Then sit back, relax, and watch everything go ka-ploof.


C'mon -- rabbits don't lie!