Thursday, July 29, 2010

Classic card of the week


Don Robinson, 1987 Donruss

Don Robinson looks like a happy guy. He engineers the “P” train, and also plays for the Pirates. He probably has many career highlights to be proud of. Let us discover them.

Also, let us remember that a highlight is, ideally, and by definition, something that is good.



CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Sidelined by a knee injury part of last year,


First highlight: bum knee. I would find it immensely enjoyable to watch a highlight reel of baseball players with bum knees, just sort of sitting around and doing nothing. Because their knees hurt. This, for me, would = highlight.

but wound up 1st on Pirates in saves

That is sort of highlighty. Considering that Robinson led the Pirates in saves in 1986 with 14, which is -- and I realize saves are stupid -- what Mariano Rivera -- and I realize he is the extreme -- notches in a month and a half, I think the implication here is, had Don Robinson not boasted a faulty knee, just imagine what he could have accomplished. (I am imagining along the lines of like 21 saves. Or a million.) So overall, the first highlight of Don Robinson’s career presents the potential for something greater, which is not really a highlight in itself. And so for the purposes of this post we will ignore the saves and file only the knee injury under “highlight.” Next highlight, please:

…Bothered by tendinitis in his shoulder in ’81 and ‘83

Second highlight: shoulder tendinitis. I should also mention that there is nothing more to add here -– that is the highlight in its entirety. It doesn’t finish: “but nevertheless went on to the win the Cy Young Award both seasons.” It is only the shoulder tendinitis that is the highlight. Shoulder tendinitis is good. Shoulder tendinitis is something to be envied. I envy the shoulder tendinitis that Don Robinson experienced during the years of 1981 and 1983. If my blogging career ends without a bout of shoulder tendinitis, I will be disappointed.

Let’s move on to final listed highlight:

Had .261 lifetime batting average going into last year and toyed with idea of switching to OF.

I am aware that .261 is a very good batting average for a pitcher, and Robinson’s offensive efficiency is well documented. But mentioning that Robinson considered switching positions sort of refutes the aforementioned pitching highlights in its insinuation that even Robinson himself debated whether or not he’d be better served as a position player, no? Whatever. Quick recap of Don Robinson’s career highlights:

-Bum knee
-Should tendinitis
-Considered switching positions due in some part to mediocrity of his pitching ability

Amazingly and astoundingly, Don Robinson’s Wikipedia page has more to add in the realm of Don Robinson highlights:

Highlights

On April 18, 1987, Mike Schmidt hit his 500th career home run off Robinson, a three-run shot to give the Phillies an 8-6 win over the Pirates.


I am beginning to wonder if it is me that has been misinformed about what a highlight is supposed to be. Because I would file this one under “Mike Schmidt highlights.” Although, considering the silly dance that he performed after hitting the home run (cannot find the video for the life of me), possibly this is a Don Robinson highlight -- albeit one that literally lost his team the game -- in that he did not look silly as a result, to my knowledge. Maybe Don Robinson has another highlight that resulted in his team losing the game:

On August 15, 1990, Robinson lost the first ever no-hitter at Veteran’s Stadium to the Phillies’ Terry Mulholland 6-0.

Highlight! More:

He was scheduled to pitch Game 3 of the World Series against the Oakland A’s. The game was postponed for ten days after the Loma Prieta earthquake struck Northern California. He wound up starting Game 4.

I am unsure if we’ve been able to differentiate here between “highlight” and “bad thing that happened.” It’s also uncertain -– considering his string of highlights -- whether or not Don Robinson’s mere presence actually induced the ’89 earthquake. Nevertheless, Wiki is indeed correct that Robinson wound up starting Game 4. His line:

Robinson L (0-1) 1.2 IP 4 H 4 R 4 ER 1 BB 0 K

Final recap of Don Robinson highlights:

-Bum knee
-Should tendinitis
-Considered switching positions due in some part to mediocrity of his pitching ability
-Gave up milestone home run, lost game (didn’t dance, though)
-Lost game
-Was around during an earthquake, then lost game

But hey -- if it weren’t for the injuries, losing, and natural disasters, just imagine how easily Don Robinson's career could have taken a turn for the worse. Whew.

Did you know?
The outtakes from the "Bum Knee Highlight Video," in which the players forget their knees hurt and subsequently fall down trying to do things, features the theme music from Benny Hill.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Everything and the kitchen sink

Note: This column appears in the 7/29 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/30 issue of the Peoria Times



Our kitchen faucet has been leaking for three months. We keep a plastic container that used to hold oatmeal raisin cookies from Trader Joe’s underneath it to capture all the water, and then everyday I will take that container outside and use it to water the plants that aren’t attached to our drip system. All of these plants however, died when we traveled back east for a week and a half. So now my favorite thing to do after work is take the water from our leaky faucet and use it to water dead plants. This is what my life has come to.

A better man would have fixed this faucet a long time ago. That is why I have employed better men –- namely my dad, father-in-law, and buddy Pete –- to check it out. I wanted them to fix it, and not to tell me how to fix it, and so in my mind they have all failed.

I am not, as it has been well documented, Mr. Fix-It. I am open about this. I even have several friends who have claimed to share this inability to do manly things. Then I will go over one of their houses one day and discover a new shed in the backyard, and I’ll be like, “Wtf?” And they’ll be like, “It’s just a shed…it was easy!” And I will say, “We’re not friends anymore.”

This is not to say that I cannot do things. I am just consistently intimidated by not knowing how to do things, and fearful I will do them incorrectly. I have even found minimal success in states of emergency. Last month my mother-in-law clogged her garbage disposal with potato skins, and water was leaking everywhere, and I was the only man, for the most part, in the house. So I got on the floor and –- with my wife’s help, admittedly –- took apart the pipes (!), unclogged it and fixed the problem. I emerged from underneath the sink a hero, sweaty, and covered in potato skins. I could not have felt more like a man if I had just returned home from war.

But that moment was fleeting, and I am reminded of it every time I hear the drip of our kitchen faucet. Granted, I and we have made attempts to fix it. None of them have worked. Last weekend we went to Home Depot, faucet in hand. (By the way, that is my Home Depot strategy when applicable: Bring what needs fixing there, and hope that they, Home Depot, will fix it out of frustration with my incomprehension with what they are telling me.) The guy there recommended we soak it in CLR. I said, “Alright, cool. What is ‘CLR?’” My wife rolled her eyes. It stands for calcium/lime/rust. Whatever.

It didn’t work. The reality is only now (my dad said two months ago that we need a new faucet) setting in that we may need a new faucet. I can’t even determine the manufacturer of our current faucet, and am unsure of how to tell which potential replacement is compatible with our sink. It would probably take me two seconds to figure this out, but then I’d have to install it. It’s one thing to unclog someone else’s sink in a fit of passion, but to install a new faucet of my own, with my skeptical wife looking over my shoulder? Sheesh.

Let’s just say I’m dragging my feet. This is important though, because if I can’t fix everything but the kitchen sink -– and I can’t fix the kitchen sink -– then there is no hope whatsoever. In the meantime, the plastic container remains indefinitely. Besides, dead plants can’t water themselves, 'ya know?


You put the who in the what now?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Classic card of the week


Chuck Crim, 1991 Fleer

Crim. Chuck Crim. Tough? Yes. Hat? Yes. Throw? Word. Good? Ehh. Effective? Too many syllables, but let’s find out anyway:



Effective reliever for Brewers,

Effective. Is there a higher compliment? No. Chuck Crim: You effect things. Mostly, my heart.

who quietly established himself as the workhorse of the staff…

Robin Yount: Hey, have you guys noticed that Chuck Crim is the workhorse of our pitching staff?

Chris Bosio: Yeah, I just noticed that! I always knew he was effective, but this is crazy! Is it because I'm kinda fat? When did this happen though? Because I didn’t hear anything…

Paul Molitor: Me neither. But what does is it even sound like when someone is becoming the workhorse of your pitching staff?

Robin Yount: Some people say that it sounds like a horse. Other guys say you’ll hear a lot of grunting. But like, horse grunting. Whatever the case, Chuck Crim is one quiet-ass workhorse.

Now, I bet you’re saying to yourself: All this stuff about Chuck Crim is great, and stupid. But is there a Chuck Crim website that I can go to, which will tell me more than I ever hoped to know about Chuck Crim, and which features tons of exclamation points, and which introduces future Chuck Crim websites? Well, of course not.

Just kidding!

Chuck Crim makes a Pitch for the Future of Baseball!

Alright!!! Future, here we come! For baseball! This blue background is hurting my eyes!

It’s not my way…it’s Baseball’s way!

And baseball says: Chuck Grim –- you’re headed to a bullpen in Milwaukee. Also, you’ve been traded. I hope you have an optimistic outlook on these transitions, which are all just part of me, baseball.

California Here I Come!

Alright, good. It looks like you’re dealing with th-

Chicago is My Kind of Town!

Okaaaaay.

There’s No Place Like Home!

Alright just shut-up.

He is a Pitching Guru is every sense of the word,

Why capitalized? And how many senses of the word(s) “Pitching Guru” are there?

And now, through the 24-hour interactive website he has developed

24 hours? How did Chuck Crim convince the Internet to stay awake so long?

UltimatePitchingCoach.com for Pitchers of All Ages & Skill Levels from Youth Leagues to the Pros, Coaches, Parents & Baseball Enthusiasts,


Is that the full name of the website, or are we just capitalizing at will? Regardless, let’s go there!

Site Under Construction…COMING FALL 2010!

That is not as ultimate as I had envisioned. Obviously someone other than a workhorse is responsible for getting Chuck Crim’s website up-and-running. Nevertheless: !!!

Did you know?
Chuck Crim's original pitch for the future of baseball included "laser balls" and robots as designated hitters.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The plight of the flight

Note: An edited version of this column appears in the 7/22 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/23 issue of the Peoria Times

There are few things that make my wife and I more uncomfortable than being the center of negative attention. I think it’s one thing that separates us from the east coast stereotype, where people take pride in not caring what anybody else thinks and act accordingly. This is one of the reasons that both us never talk on our cell phones around others, lest we become “obnoxious cell phone talker person.” (In the instance that we’re talking to each other and we’re forced to talk around others, it inevitably results in both of us whispering to the point that our voices are inaudible, and we end up getting mad at each other because we can’t hear and so we raise our voices to a loud whisper and then angrily hang up.) So, if I had to imagine our most nightmarish scenario, it would probably involve being the parents of a crying child on a five-hour plane ride.

Foreshadowing!

We traveled back east recently to introduce our daughter to the family. As excited as we both were about this trip, both of us quietly dreaded the travel. Neither of us likes to fly in the first place, and now we had a 10-month-old flying companion who could cry, poop, or both at anytime. The good news was that our original fears of the plane crashing or getting hijacked were replaced by the anxiety of corralling the behavior of our unpredictable little party-animal.

Overall, she did great. We took the red-eye on the way there hoping for sleep, a strategy employed by many other parents, as there were about 30 kids on the flight. And after a rough start, she did sleep the rest of the way. Even while we were back east, we did so much traveling via car, train, and subway, and she did fantastic. She was a trooper, and we were so proud of her.

Still, we worried about the return plane ride, which would take off right in the middle of her typical morning playtime. Now, not only is she at that age where she can barely be contained, but she also fights sleep like it’s her worst enemy, and her weapon of choice is uncontrollable, I-sound-like-I’m-being-abused-type wailing. After she was finished pulling all of the magazines out of the pouch and dropping them on the floor, crawling on me and waving to the other passengers, she started fighting to stay awake.

And so it began. I should also mention that she was the only child on the plane -– it seemed to me that everyone else was the type of seasoned traveler that dreads only the crying child –- and so there was nobody to drown her out. We had told each other not to worry should such a scenario play out, but the panic-stricken looks on our faces said otherwise. I wanted to stand up, point to her, and mouth to everyone with a forced smile: “This is just how she gets to sleep! Ha, ha! Kids, right?” My wife just looked at me and said, “We are NOT going home for Christmas!”

She was –- as she often is when she’s overly tired and unable to move around –- inconsolable. There were only brief interruptions of her whining throughout, and I spent at least an hour just holding her at the back of the plane by the bathrooms, getting whiffs of delight while she patronized me by waving to the flight attendants.

After what seemed like five days, we landed. As we arrived at the gate the man sitting directly behind me stood up and said, “She reminds me of my daughter.” We turned around, taken aback that anybody wanted to talk to us at this point. He continued, smiling: “She’s 14 now, but she was just like her –- has to be a part of everything. Even her cry sounds exactly like hers used to. I wanted to call my wife to let her hear.” We talked a bit more, and thanked him for understanding our plight. He glanced around the plane and said, “Unless you’re a parent, you can’t understand.”

We walked off the plane feeling better, humbled again by parenthood and amazed that at least someone on the plane felt more nostalgic than annoyed. Eventually we reached our car, and put her in her car seat. Our unpredictable little one predictably fell sound asleep.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Classic card of the week


Dan Boone, 1991 Score

Here is hot rookie prospect Dan Boone! Check out that energetic youth! Let’s find out more!



The most heartwarming story of ’90 might just be the return to baseball of Dan, the seventh generation nephew of the famous frontiersman.

Gather ‘round young ones. It’s almost bedtime, but before you all doze off to sleep, I want to tell you arguably the most heartwarming tale of the year 1990…

Once upon a time there lived a man named Daniel Boone. He was a great hunter who killed many furry animals. Also he killed a bunch of Native Americans. He founded the great state of Kentucky. Remember kids, when we drove through Kentucky last year on our way to Florida? I told you not to get out of the car at that gas station? Well, that was Daniel Boone’s state! Anyway, a bunch of years later it turns out he’s got a nephew or something, who’s a knuckleballer for the San Diego Padres. His name is Dan Boone, and he’s not really that good, but he’s got a mustache. So he retires from baseball in 1984. But then, in 1990, he comes back to baseball and throws nine and two-thirds innings for the Baltimore Orioles! Then he like, saved the princess or something. Alright get your asses to bed.

At 142,

Oh kids, one other thing that I forgot to mention. He was 142-years old! Can you believe that? You think stupid Nemo lived that long? Nemo probably lived for like, four days. What? Why are you crying?

(End scene.)

One of the lightest pitchers ever,

Oh. How about tossing in a little “lbs” there? No? Okay, suit yourself.

he had retired in 1984.

So…not a rookie. I wish there was some explanation as to his departure from baseball, because I am now left to assume that he originally retired on account of “lightness.” Also, judging from his advanced age I am going to go out on a limb and say that Dan Boone was not a “prospect” in the traditional sense. And so it turns out that "Dan Boone: Rookie Prospect" was a rookie prospect in the same way that I am an Asian woman.

The Orioles signed Dan in ’90 after seeing him pitch in Florida’s winter Senior League.

Orioles scout: Guys, check it out. Just watched a really old left-handed knuckleballer mowing guys down in the Florida winter Senior League! He weighs like 100 lbs! Plus some dude there told me he’s related to George Washington. We better sign him before someone else does!

Orioles front office: Why are you scouting the Florida winter Senior League?

A 36-year old knuckleballer, he ranked second in the International League in ERA and pitched a no-hitter. (“I had to fight back the tears the last three innings.”)

Dan Boone, during the seventh inning of his famous International League no-hitter: “Pull yourself together, Dan! You think your great, great, great, great, great, great uncle would be crying on the mound like this! That guy killed bears with his teeth! Now hunker down and throw your bread-and-butter. The world is watching.”

Did you know?
A 1990 Redbook Magazine survey showed that the story of Dan Boone warmed almost twice as many hearts as the story of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Classic card of the week


John Wetteland, 1996 Topps

John Wetteland. Go:



A classically trained saxophonist

Sax-a-ma-phoooone. Sax-a-ma-phoooone.

and clarinetist,

Hold up. I get the saxophone. White guys who think they have soul can always grab a saxophone. But are you trying to tell me, card, that John Wetteland played the freakin’ clarinet? This thing? My sister played the clarinet in our school band in grammar school, and she practiced it throughout the house all day long –- I distinctly recall hearing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” blaring from her upstairs bedroom while I was trying to watch “Woody Woodpecker”…argh! -- and we were forced to go to many recitals and watch her play the clarinet, and she kept it in a case, and she needed like, reeds for it or something, and became indignant when it was mistaken for “a recorder,” and even she, my sister, is at least slightly embarrassed by all of this today. To find out that John Wetteland is quite open with regards to his clarinetistness is quite dumbfounding. I am dumbfounded.

And another thing. I have always wondered: What the heck does it mean to be “classically trained?” I believe it’s possible that the “classically” is added simply as a means of making whatever a person is trained in sound more pretentious and cultured. This bothers me, as whenever somebody claims to be classically trained in something I picture them as a young child, sitting in front of some elegant and expensive instrument in a grandiose Victorian room, taking directions from a British elder statesman whose three-piece suit counterbalances his unkempt hair. And as far as how this relates to John Wetteland -- I don't want my Yankee closers being brought up with a silver spoon in their mouth. They should have goatees, and play the guitar poorly. Or be Mariano Rivera. Anyway, I would thoroughly enjoy hearing somebody say, “I am a trained pianist. I may not know who Mozart is, but I can play any song off the 'Now That's What I Call Music! Vol 146' album."

Anyway, why are we even talking about musical instruments? How do they relate to John Wetteland: professional baseball pitcher?

John was again a mound maestro in 1995.

Oh, I get it! Ha, ha! John Wetteland would get batters out with the same ease and grace and musicality with which he played the clarinet! COOL! The clarinet is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow, sorry. I blacked out there for a sec. Where were we? I have no idea. I guess we're done.

Did you know?

My computer at work crashed last week as a result of me not being classically trained in Windows 2000.

Did you know II?
I never played the drums for a year in my grammar school band, despite what you may have heard.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Aging at the speed of life

Note: This column appears in the 7/8 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/9 issue of the Peoria Times

So the other day, for about three minutes, I literally could not remember how old I was. Am I 31 or 32? Granted, the fact that I honestly could not recall my age meant that my guess should have defaulted to the higher number. And sure enough, after actually having to subtract 1978 from 2010, it turns out that, yeah –- I’m 32. Hooray.

It’s been two months since I, apparently, turned 32. Now, I understand that’s not exactly old. One of you may be reading this and saying, “Thirty-two? Pfft. Try being 98, jackass.” And to you, sir or madam, I say: Wow. You are old. I can't believe you are reading a blog. But while 32 may not seem old to some people, for me it’s like: thirty-two! It pretty much just dawned on me, mostly because my life for the past few years has been a whirlwind, and partly because I try not to think about getting older.

I have also found that I no longer use the barometer of my own age to judge the passing of time. For example, my Godson turned seven last month, and I was virtually incredulous. Seven? What the heck? Just yesterday I was holding him as a baby and now I’ve lived in Arizona for three years and he likes Star Wars and plays Little League. How did this happen?

The truth that “they grow up so fast” is hitting home for me now. There are times when I look at our daughter and –- all of a sudden; it happens overnight -- no longer see a baby, but a little girl. Every new thing that she does accelerates time exponentially, and she seems to be aging in light years.

I would venture to say that every single parent, upon finding out the good news about our little one, had for us one initial piece of advice: Enjoy this time now, because it will be gone before you know it. This was one of those things that I knew to be true, but couldn’t quite process. I mean, I generally try to enjoy time anyway. It’s always been a rule of mine. But it took some personal experience for me to fully grasp the concept.

On weekdays there’s about an hour from the time I get home from work until the time our daughter goes to bed. There is always so much to do in this window of time – put things away, feed the dog, get dinner started, etc. -– all of which I attempted to accomplish while talking silly to our daughter and watching her crawl around the floor. Then by the time I was just settled in, she was off to bed.

No more. Far be it from me to ignore great advice, and I’m learning how to capture every moment. When I get home from work now there is nothing to do except play on the floor, and get my khakis covered in dog hair and drool. The rest can wait. Tomorrow she will be playing Little League, and I still won’t know how old I am. But I won’t be breaking the calculator out anymore, because it doesn’t really matter.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Classic card of the week


Lonnie Smith, 1990 Score

One of the great poets of our time, LL Cool J, used to say: Back seat of my jeep, let’s swing a episode. Now, I don’t know what the hell that means, but that song is nasty! But another thing that LL Cool J used to say, which is more relevant to the point I am trying to make here is: Don’t call it a comeback!

It doesn’t look like it here, with Lonnie Smith flailing away at an off-speed pitch as the crowd looks on in abject horror and amazement, but Lonnie Smith was in the midst of something great:



Lonnie was a cinch choice as NL Comeback Player of the Year in ’89.

Well, they called it a comeback. Sorry, LL & Lonnie! I’m just the messenger. But what, pray tell, was Lonnie Smith coming back from?

Considered washed up a year earlier,


Oh. He was just coming back from not being good at baseball anymore? Good for him! How did he do it?

he rebounded with elan and ranked high in most offensive categories all season long.

elan \['E]`lan"\, n. Ardor inspired by passion or enthusiasm; i.e., “This passion I am feeling is inspiring me to have more ardor. Elan!” I don’t know about you guys, but for me, rebounding with elan is the best kind of rebounding.

Nevertheless, this card is rather vague regarding the circumstances that predicated a Lonnie Smith comeback. For the truth, there is only one source:

Smith continued to play well during 1983, batting 0.321, but in just 130 games, to again draw some MVP votes.

You don’t need a zero before a batting average, and also that sentence has my head spinning. This Wikipedia entry was obviously not written by poet laureate LL Cool J.

However, this baseball season was struck with his first bout with illicit drug abuse, and that sidelined him for a month at mid-season - though nobody but Smith knew the real reason at the time.

I enjoy how the season is struck with Lonnie Smith’s first bout with illicit drug abuse, as if the season is a person, and as if this person known as “the season” was more adversely affected by Lonnie Smith’s drug abuse than Lonnie Smith himself. The point is: Lonnie Smith had drug issues. There.

In July 1987, Smith told the Kansas City Times that under his agreement with the Commissioner of baseball he was supposed to be tested six to eight times per-year but had not been tested so far during 1987. More so, he strongly disagreed with Commissioner Ueberroth that professional baseball was free from illicit drugs.

Let me get this straight. Commissioner Ueberroth –- who does not believe illicit drugs exist in professional baseball –- agrees to test Lonnie Smith -– admitted user of illicit drugs and also player of professional baseball –- for illicit drugs six to eight times per year. Lonnie Smith -– who disagrees with the Commissioner’s assertion that illicit drugs do not exist in baseball, because he uses them, so much so that the same Commissioner has been forced to test him regularly -– has become frustrated that the Commissioner has not followed through on his promise to test him, which is, I can only assume, causing Lonnie Smith to more freely continue his use of illicit drugs. Do I have that right? Yes? Good.

Following the 1987 season, Smith had trouble finding a new team to play with,

Whaaaat?!?!?!

and he came to think that the Royals General Manager, John Schuerholz, had blackballed him from the other baseball teams.

New York Mets: Hi John. Hey, what can you tell me about Lonnie Smith?

John Schuerholz: Hard worker. Fast runner. Plays with a lot of elan.

New York Mets: Elan?

John Schuerholz: Yeah, ya know…ardor inspired by passion and enthusiasm?

New York Mets: …

John Schuerholz: Good defensively, too. Also, he uses drugs a lot.

New York Mets: I think we’ll pass.

Lonnie Smith (in the corner of the room, picks up head from a mound of cocaine Tony Montana-style, to John Schuerholz): You’re blackballin’ me, bro!

By his own account, Smith was depressed and also high on marijuana, when he considered murdering Mr. Schuerholz, and had even purchased a pistol for that purpose. However, Smith then had second thoughts about committing such as serious crime, and he dropped that idea entirely - fortunately for both him and Mr. Schuerholz.


Yes, I would say that was fortunate for both men, most notably for Mr. Schuerholz. Kudos do go to Smith as well however, for his ability to corral those infamous marijuana-induced murderous urgings.

Anyway, now there is some light shed on exactly what Lonnie Smith was coming back from entering the 1989 season, which would be, in order of importance:

1) .237 average in limited playing time in 1988
2) Rampant drug abuse
3) Serious and legitimate thoughts about killing John Schuerholz, a result of the paranoia induced by the aforementioned drug abuse

You know what? I’m gonna call that a comeback.

Did you know?
In retrospect, using the late 80's/early 90's Mets as an example of a major league team that would have found drug use a valid reason to reject a player was a regrettable choice.