Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pirate Preview!!! (2011) - Cancelled

I'm too disgusted to write a Pirate Preview!!! this year.

What!? Think of your readers!

Ha ha ha.

Can I at least ask a few questions?

Whatever.

Bah! You…you hypocrite! You liar! You Judas!

Huh?

You, of all people! When the boundless grief is too heavy to bear…. When Sisyphus turns to embrace the rock once again…. Where else is the myth played out so perfectly than when the wretched, hopeless Pirates at the base of the mountain find their burden once again?

Zounds! You're right.

And the fat lady, old and dying of cancer…ah buddy…buddy. Listen to me, now — She's reading this blog and has seats in the right field upper deck. Do it for her.

OMG! The joy that fills a man's heart is too great. Of course, I'll do it! Ask away!

Well let's start with an easy one. How perceptive was last year's preview?

Oh, you're quite the flatterer:
"… starting pitching will be bad." - It was horrible. They combined for an almost unbelievable ERA of 5.28.
"… we will have a losing season." - We had the third most losses in Pirate history

Not bad…I mean with the predicting. So what would a perceptive Pirate management learn from last year?

The Pirates were 30th in ERA (5.0) last year. Yes, that was last. They also finished with the worst record in baseball by losing 105 times. The Giants, on the other hand, were 1st in ERA (3.36) last year. They won the World Series.

Aha. So, to win we must improve our pitching. How's the starting pitching this year compared to last?

Unfortunately, it's the same with one exception. Here's last year:
Paul Maholm. . . . . . . .5.10 ERA . . . . . . . . 9-15 W-L
Ross Ohlendorf . . . . . 4.07 . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-11
James McDonald . . . .4.02 . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-6
Brian Burres . . . . . . . 4.99 . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-5
Charlie Morton . . . . . .7.57 . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-12
Jeff karstens . . . . . . .4.92 . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-10
Zach Duke . . . . . . . . 5.72 . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-15
Zach Duke was traded to Arizona for Cesar Valdez (RHP 26 7.65 ERA).
Kevin Correia, along with his two-year, $8 million contract, was acquired. He should fit in nicely as he has a lifetime ERA of 4.57—in spacious Petco Park

Um…so the change was to get rid of a 4.54 lifetime ERA pitcher and replace him with a lifetime 4.57 ERA pitcher?

Yes. But what could Pirate management do since there are no pitching prospects ready in our minor league system? And don't forget General Manager Neal Huntington admitted, "We can't spend the amount of money it takes to bring in a top-of-the-rotation starter…. Or, really, a middle-of-the-rotation starter…." So, to their credit, they realize Correia is barely major league material.

What do you mean "no pitching prospects"? What about javelin thrower Rinku Sing and fellow 'million dollar arm' Dinesh Patel?

In the two years since their celebrated signings and presidential visit, Patel has pitched a total of 13 innings, Singh, 35. Patel was released; Sing will likely be playing for the State College Spikes this year.

From Rinku's Down Under blog when he was playing for the Canberra Cavalry in the Australian Baseball League:
This picture Lincoln Monument - He United States President that saying no one having slaves.

Ah, well, baseball's has so many rules to learn.

English, as well. But if you enjoy the 'million dollar arm' saga, you may be interested that Singh grew 2 more inches since he signed and is now 6' 4'', and Hollywood bought the movie rights.

OK, Rome wasn't built in 18 years…hmm… or was it? OK, we have the same or slightly worse pitching as last year. Any other changes made to baseball's cellar sitters?

Sure, we got another new manager, Clint Hurdle. For the 18th straight year, according to baseball writers everywhere, we will have better enthusiasm and clubhouse chemistry. We should have enough chemistry by now to create WMD's.

Come on, surely we signed an over-the-hill, over paid veteran who will be let go before the end of the season?

That would be Lyle Overbay, 34, batted .243 last year, salary $5 million
or Matt Diaz, 33, batted .250 last year, salary $4.25 million/2 years

Gaaaaaah! Why don't we learn? Why, oh why are we such losers?

Seven down…over to you Kitty.

That was rhetorical! Unless you really know why we are such losers.

You mean, aside from being worst in the league to evaluate talent for the draft? And worst to continue to pay those few exceptions that sneak by our evaluators?

Um…yeah. Other than that—since 'The Plan' is now in place.

Actually I do, and it's poetic.

What!?

Well, not exactly poetry. Let's call it…

The historical doggerel of doom times three.

Now testify, what should I presume that be?
1. Last year's new pitching ace—this year stinks up the place.
2. Last year's rookie sensation—this year fails in frustration.
3. Last year's winter addition—this year triggers sedition.
The years of these curses have made us the worses.
Historical doggerel 1: Oliver Perez, Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, and Zack Duke
This year's candidate: James McDonald.
Historical doggerel 2: Ronny Paulino, Tike Redman, and Chris Duffy
This year's candidate: Neil Walker.
Historical doggerel 3: 'Operation Shutdown' Derek Bell, Jerromy Brunitz, and Aki Iwamura. And how could we forget the strange tale by Raul Mondesi that a family member in the Dominican Republic was kidnapped, so he had to leave the team—never to return.
This year's candidate: Lyle Overbay.

Please, is there any way to change these shadows you have shown me?

Come, come, cut out the dramatics. You well know that baseball, like life, is not determined. Fate is a human matter, which must be settled among men. There is no more reason to believe The historical doggerel of doom times three than, say, the Curse of the Bambino. Of course, that took 86 years to break.

Aggghhh!

All right. Here is some good news. Who would you say has the highest lifetime batting average on the Pirates?

Um…McCutchen?

Not even close. It's new free agent Matt Diaz with a lifetime average of .301! Yes, he batted .250 last year, but when he gets near 300 at bats during the season, he hits .325, even higher against left handers, which he will see most often as he will platoon in right field with Garret Jones, who hits significantly better against right handers. Plus, Lyle Overbay, despite his .243 last year, has a .274 lifetime average—more than 30 pts. higher than our team average last year.

Even if Neil Walker and Lyle Overbay fall to The historical doggerel of doom times three and Pedro Alvarez vies for the strike out title this year, the Pirates should hit better than last year.

Another serendipity involves newly acquired pitcher Scott Olsen. Despite Olsen having in the past been fined, suspended, and arrested, as well as carrying a career ERA of 4.85, Pirate management signed him. Fortunately, he will start the season far away from Pittsburgh on the disabled list.

Also, this year, unlike last, we beat Manatee Community College in spring training.

Enough!

OK, that was mean. Let me make it up to you by offering baseball's most stunning stat. You will not find this anywhere else. Tampa Bay was third in the major leagues in runs, behind Boston and the Yankees, who they tied for the division championship. However, they had a Pirate-like (.242) batting average of .247. How did they do it?

Home runs?

Nope, middle of the league. They led the league in walks, stolen bases, and sacrifice flies! Pirate management take note. There are substitute strategies for bad batters.

In summary, the most fun this year will be watching how the marketing department spins essentially the same team as last year. Next best will be watching Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata run and hit. Hopefully Diaz and others follow. Alas, pitching will again lead us to the basement. Management and others will again point to the depth of our fall as a sign of our rising. But beware, the Phillies lost more than 100 games for 5 seasons in a row.

I'll be watching how The historical doggerel of doom times three plays out. Is there any reason to go to a Pirate game this year?

Well, I wouldn't post 'Pirate fan' on your Facebook, but there will be plenty of bobbleheads and alternate clothing. Just keep this in mind:
He: Hi, I really had fun last night. Do you want to go out again next week?
She: Sure. I had a good time too.
He: I was thinking of maybe going to a Pirate game.
She: *click*
I understand—don't expect to get to first base with the Pirates.

Word. And finally to sum up the coming season, no one said it better than the Boston papers:
Huntington's 'Pirates!' plumbs depths of burlesque humor

Edible Arrangements Defies All Modern Economic Models

This article sums up Edible Arrangements.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pirate Preview!!! Preview

[Note: This is the last in a series of Pirate Preview!!! teasers. I will now, along with my crack team of researchers, assemble this year's Pirate Preview!!!. The intent has been to spark interest and readership of the blog—something desperately needed now that congress has pulled our funding. Pete will be going through the stats to see how successful this campaign has been.]

As this year's Pirate Preview!!! is likely to be more depressing than a deterministic universe, I want to correct any misconception of what that universe looks like. The 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates were no fluke. They won the triple crown for losers: last in batting, pitching, and defense. With the exception of the Seattle Mariners in batting, we're not just talking the National League, but the entire Major Leagues. (I'm not sure if there are statistics for all professional baseball.)

And we didn't just squeeze into last place at the bottom of the National League. We were last in batting average, last in hits, last in runs, last in RBI's, last in on base percentage, last in total bases, last in slugging percentage. We were last in ERA, last in batting average against, last in giving up runs, last in giving up hits, last in getting strike outs, last in saves, last in complete games. We were last in errors, last in fielding percentage, last in put outs. It actually was an extraordinary year which, as most fans and writers are realizing, will be hard to duplicate. How clever of management to bring the Pirates to a position where the only direction left is up. Thus, the prevalent feeling this year is "We can't get any worse." Well, that does seem true, although that was last year's mantra, and the year before.

The other catch phrase is that we are a young team. Our team's average age just shy of 28. Most MLB teams average between 27 and 29. There are 2 teams with 26+ and one with 30+. Our average age is average. Our starting line-up does include Tabata who is 22, McCutchen and Alvarez who are 24, and Walker who is 25. We have no rookies.

One last bit of scenery in the Pirates' universe, the payroll for 2011 is estimated at $35 million. This may be up slightly from 2010, but will still be last in the league. As an omega, Alex Rodriguez's salary in 2011 is about $28 million. By keeping payroll low, despite poor performance and poor attendance, the Pirates are assured a profit in 2011 because of the revenue sharing funds they will receive from the good teams.

Edit: Apparently our team is even older. No one seems to know for sure, but Jose Tabata is rumored to be in his mid 20's, not 22. It's not uncommon for some Latin American players to understate their age in order to get scouts to believe they have greater potential. Clint Hurdle even says you would never think that Tabata is that young. Pittsburgh may be in for more droll humor from this player. Remember his wife kidnapped a baby.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Day - too big to be confined to a day

Earth Day is generally celebrated on April 22. Its birth was in 1970. But it has also been celebrated on the day of the spring equinox, around March 20-21, and in Canada on September 11th. Now we have part of Earth Day, namely Earth Hour, today, March 26th.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

100 Years Later

Tomorrow, March 25th, marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. The fire broke out in the Asch Building at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street in lower Manhattan. By the time it was extinguished, 146 young Jewish and Italian immigrant workers were dead, almost all of them women. Their average age was 19, the youngest 13 and the oldest 23.

The high death toll was due in large part to the poor working conditions in the factory, although they were hardly the worst in the city at the time. The factory did not have automatic sprinklers, although they were available at the time. There had been no fire drills. Many of the factory doors swung inward, making it impossible to open against the press of workers trying to flee. On top of that, several doors had been locked to prevent worker theft. The owners were charged with manslaughter and acquitted.
For the grim account of the fire:
Triangle Fire: A Half-Hour of Horror.

The fire produced a public outcry, and the New York Legislature responded by enacting the strongest worker protection laws in the country at the time. Many other states followed by strengthening their own labor laws.

Today, we hear this complaint from the Right often enough: over-taxation and over-regulation. Well, with some real regulation, Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire never would have happened.



Pirate Preview!!! Promotion(s)

While the minor leagues far outclass our major league team with improbable promotions, our Pirates are not without surprises. I think you'll be shocked to learn that the Pirates did not lead the league in promotions last year. That distinction went to Kansas City who coincidentally also finished last in the Central Division (American league). They had a mind boggling 74 give-a-ways plus 12 fireworks nights—that's 86 trinkets and eye candy in 81 games. The Pirates were well behind with 54 and 8. Tellingly, the Royals still finished near the bottom in attendance. Those 24 additional promotions netted them only 2,000 more fans than the Pirates…total.

In 2011, counting Kids Days (kids get to run the bases), Pup Nights (dogs get to poop on the bases), and Scratch'n Win Saturdays (who knows what goes on with the bases, but 'Everyone is a winner on Scratch'n Win Saturdays' so whatever is getting scratched, it must be good. And we're talking fans here because there are no ties in MLB. Well, except for rainouts that won't change the end-of-the-year standings.), there will be 79 promotions on 48 different days.

Some that you will want to watch closely are:

4-23-2011: Andrew McCutchen Action Figurine - While 'action figurine' seems to be an oxymoron, the photo shows Andrew with his hands on his hips. I just hope we get more action than that from him this year.

4-24-2011: Kids Build a Bear Pirates Bunny - I question why kids must be told explicitly that the bunny is bear.

5-5-2011: Kids Pedro Alvarez Replica BP Jersey - Huh? He changes clothes after batting practice to play the game?

7-24-2011: Kids Jose Tabata Replica Alternate Jersey - Seriously, what is with the ancillary clothing? We're wasting all the money on clothes that we saved on payroll. What does 'replica alternate' mean anyway?

Sounds exciting, I know. Well, soon the Pirates, with all their replica alternate clothing will be coming to town to play some baseball and Pirate Preview!!! will preview it all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Comings and Goings

Steve, the elder, is back in New Hampshire after a hard working week in Guatemala. Kevin is back from all of his auditions and a magical performance in "Once on This Island." And most recently, Dan has arrived and will be at mother's house this week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weird Science

I'm tempted to add editorial comment that there is now, apparently, scientific 'dogma', or that, like every other field of study, science is done by humans, or that the worst scientific insult is to call someone religious, but none of that really applies. Just take this for what it is—a very weird email.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pirate Preview!!! Promotion

Now that the average MLB game is 2 hours and 52 minutes long and balloons to 3 hr. 30 min. post season, it takes more than peanuts and crackerjack to fill the stands. While bobbleheads, action figures, fireworks, and bat & disco burning have all become important additions to major league baseball, no major league teams have the imagination (or incentive) of the minor league clubs.

Here is a list of the top 10 (five of which were carried out by Mike Veeck's teams) promotions in recent memory:
(courtesy of Sports Illustrated)
1. Nobody Night, July 8, 2002
Designed to set the record for professional baseball's lowest attendance (zero), fans were locked out of this Charleston Riverdogs vs. Columbus RedStixx game until the fifth inning, when the game become official.

2. Awful Night, July 14, 2003
Attempting to produce the worst atmosphere ever at a baseball game, the Altoona Curve had music by William Shatner and Milli Vanilli, a gate giveaway of a 12-inch square of bubble wrap, pregame autograph sessions with non-celebrities, batting averages listed as "failed averages" (a .300 hitter had a .700 average) and a special presentation to the 1962 Mets -- baseball's worst team ever.

3. Silent Night, July 14, 2003
The Charleston Riverdogs went for another record against the Capital City Bombers when they tried to play the quietest game ever. For the first five innings, there was no talking. Fans wore duct tape over their mouths and held placards that read "YEAH!," "BOO!" and "HEY BEER MAN!" Also, ushers were replaced by librarians and golf marshals held up "Quiet Please" signs.

4. Pre-planned Funeral Night, Aug. 16, 2003
The Hagerstown Suns gave away a full pre-paid funeral valued at $6,500 to one (un)lucky fan. The package included embalming, a casket and funeral home use, as well as a death certificate. Two-thousand fans entered the contest.

5. Auctioned At-Bat, May 14, 2004
The St. Paul Saints sold off an at-bat on eBay, drawing a winning bid of $5,601. The winner, Los Angeles resident Marc Turndorf, popped out in his auctioned at-bat. But the Saints manager liked Turndorf so much, he had him start the next game. Unfortunately, Turndorf went 0-for-4.

6. Richard Nixon Bobblehead Night, June 17, 2004
The Nashua Pride decided to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the Watergate break-in by giving out 1,000 Nixon bobbleheads. Anyone named Woodward or Bernstein got in free, and there was 18 1/2 minutes of silence recognizing the gap in the Watergate tape.

7. Ted Williams Popsicle Night, June 3, 2003
When Williams' body was cryogenically frozen, the Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings gave popsicles to the first 500 fans.

8. Corky Night, June 5, 2003
After Sammy Sosa's corked bat incident last season, the Fort Myers Miracle gave out sheets of cork to the first 505 (the same number of home runs Sosa had in his career at that point) fans. The Miracle also gave free entrance to anyone whose name included Corky, Sammy or Sosa.

9. Who Wants to Be a Turkish Millionaire?, 2002
The Nashua Pride used to give away a million Turkish lira (worth about $1.16) every night to fans who could answer questions of varying difficulty.

10. George Costanza Night, Aug. 2003
The Fort Worth Miracle's tribute to the Seinfeld character commemorated Costanza's innate ability to do things opposite of the norm. Fans were paid to park and the scoreboard ran backwards from the ninth inning to the first.

This is just the first in a series of promotions to warn you of the 3rd annual Pirate Preview!!! coming soon to this blog. You can only get it here—not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not on YouTube, and not on American Idol. Be sure to subscribe to In Progress so you won't miss this invaluable look at the world's next catastrophe.

In Progress, "all the rap music you need and Pirate Preview!!! to read" for the low, low price of, well…of electricity.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where's Waldo

YouTube description-
Do you recognize this brilliant actor? Well you should. In fact, according to the myth he appears in every movie and tv-show ever created. I found a few of them.




(via Kottke)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Studying the American Negro Problem"

Viewing historical documents often alters, or at least personalizes, my understanding of history. Who knew Civil War soldiers were so literate? …that revolutionary soldiers drank their way through the war? …or that the Emancipation Proclamation was more symbol than substance? One of my lenten activities is to read more of the NYT's documentation on the Civil War.

Here are some documents produced for the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris by sociology students at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta) under the direction of W. E. B. Dubois. Be sure to click on the link in the beginning of the article on "on how and why they were created".

Happy St. Patrick's Day & Happy Birthday William

Not to put a damper on birthday celebrations but... 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hangman's Movie Trivia

Famous Objects from Classic Movies
(via kottke)

Whoops, I hit skip thinking I could come back to it, 26 - 1, trying to figure out the diamond picture.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Humbler in our Generalizations



And a confession. For years, like many conservatives, I had become convinced that culture truly does matter and that culture would prevent the Arab world from ever developing the kind of democracy that exists in the West. The Persians and Jews and Turks and Kurds were different, I thought. The Arabs? Too tribal; too divided; too religious. Ajami [Fouad Ajami, a professor International Studies at Johns Hopkins] reminds us that this narrative was favored by the Arab tyrants themselves and protected their interest. It was also favored by Israel, as a buttress to its case for open-ended colonialism in its own backyard.

What I failed to grasp is that culture changes, that the younger generation, as in Iran, were increasingly aware, thanks to the new media revolution, of how backward their own societies had become. Culture still matters, mind you; and I am not optimistic about what might end up in power in Libya, and remain wary of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. But this is a process - and it may be happening faster now than before. We have surely learned to be humbler in our generalizations.


Andrew Sullivan

27 FEB 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Floating on the Invisible

Me against the world

It's useful to have a measuring stick to judge our lives. That measuring stick is typically our peers both now and in history. I'm usually not a big supporter of self actualization. We become better writers, teachers, lawyers, artists or basketball players from practice with a societal standard in mind. But there are some things and some times when we should not use a standard. Few times in my life are happier than when we play a made-up game that is probably so faulted that 1) we could only stand to play it once and 2) no one else outside of the current moment would deem it fun.

Here is a nice article by Roger Ebert about another such activity. I'll have to make a copy for mom. (You all remember the 'apple' story?).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Twit of the Year

Sometimes I get depressed when I think that Facebook and Twitter may not be passing fancies, but a permanent pathetic 'hey-look-at-me' alternative to a meaningful life. But then I hear on a radio station, "and follow us on Twitter at …" and I'm reassured it's just passing shiny.

The above was supposed to be somewhat humorous, but then today Ars-Technica held a poll. As we all know (according to Ars) "Ars has the most technically savvy readership around." Here are the surprising results (thus far):

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sex Workers Rights Day

I hope everyone had a happy Sex Workers Rights Day. "It can be a de-humanizing experience to not be taken seriously." Don't forget to read the comments.

Interviews

Had some interviews recently, this comic sums up my feelings about them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What We Can Learn from the Egyptians

Coptic Christian Protesters protecting Muslims during their prayers in Tahrir square. Jan 25.


Muslim holding the Koran and a Coptic Christian holding a cross are carried through opposition supporters in Tahrir Square. Feb 6.


Christian and Muslim woman stand together in Cairo's Tahrir square. Feb. 5.


Muslims return favor, join hands with Christian protesters for Mass in Cairo's Tahrir Square

BY HELEN KENNEDY

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Monday, February 07, 2011

On Friday, the holy day for Islam, Christian protesters in Tahrir Square joined hands to form a protective cordon around their Muslim countrymen so they could pray in safety.

Sunday, the Muslims returned the favor.

They surrounded Christians celebrating Mass in Cairo's central plaza, ground zero for the secular pro-democracy protests reverberating throughout the Middle East.

"In the name of Jesus and Muhammed, we unify our ranks," the Rev. Ihab al-Kharat told the crowd in his sermon.

"We will keep protesting until the fall of the tyranny," he said.

Some of the worshipers began to cry as the congregation sang, "Bless our country, listen to the cries of our hearts."

Love Sam Rockwell

The International Space Station


Sky Watch 2.0 allows people to track various space vehicles in real time, as well as display when and where they will appear in the sky.  Since the International Space Station (ISS) is viewable by the naked eye (size of a football field), I'll be checking my sky at 8:21 and 38 seconds pm.

Picture by an amateur photographer capturing Discovery's docking with the ISS at 17,200 mph.

Bioluminescence Star Trail


Pretty Sweet Gallery by Phil Hart.

Beer Has Come Along Way in the US When...

Germans begin to copy.

Don't try this on a Mac

For you technologists out there this is pretty amazing. Think about what the video would need in order to go from Apple DOS to ProDOS to (Macintosh) System 1 through 9 to MacOS X. Microsoft lost simplicity in both code and user interface, but gained…business.

The worst part of the whole journey is losing a pink desktop.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's all a matter of evidence

The Huffington Post article about the possibility of a (new) ninth planet, Tyche, doesn't err, but here is a more informative account of the evidence thus far.