Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Broom of the System

There's been a lot of reading going on in these parts lately, so there's a decent chance this turns into Mike's Literature and Baseball Emporium for a bit. You've been warned. Anyway, let's move onto some thoughts about the titular book, which are not intended to be a review of any kind. The best review I can give this book is that I am (re-)reading it at the moment because I recently went to The Most Dangerous Store In The World (The Strand used book store) to buy a copy of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (This one will probably get its own post sometime soon), and wound up leaving with four books in a bag. The reason why I included The Broom of the System in this pile is that both copies I have owned previously have not returned from being 'borrowed'. If that's not a ringing endorsement, then I want the two miscreants responsible to give me my book(s) back. You know who you are.

So let's begin. The book in question was written by The Man (David Foster Wallace (Sidenote: Apparently this is a new printing of the book. Before the book itself begins, there is a page of gratuitous praise from noted publications such as the New York Times Book Review and the Cleveland Plains Dealer (I just lost the lucrative Cleveland market, didn't I?). This is followed by a paragraph about the author, which in this case is complete with an end date for him. Sad)) when he was 24. Which is fairly impressive in and of itself (Fun game: Think about the meaning of the words in and of that expression). But even moreso if you look at the content of the book (Which I am thinking of doing any time now. And yes, I wrote that terrible sentence just so I could put this parenthetical here. I'm not proud). The book is set in (Primarily) East Corinth, Ohio, a city shaped like a profile of Jayne Mansfield when viewed from the air. It borders the Great Ohio Desert (Whose acronym is so blatantly obvious that even I feel it is beneath me to mention it in the main text), and centers around Lenore Beadsman, a young woman who fears that she is just a character in a story, brought to life solely by someone else's words. She works at a publishing company answering the phone lines and is dating the firm's editor. One of the main ways they relate is via him telling her stories he has received, which I believe to be made up by him. Occasional excerpts from things he is writing are found in the book. The style of the novel often changes inside the individual chapters, as certain characters have various specific forms taken by the words used to create them. These shifts are easy to accomplish, as each chapter is splt up into multiple subdivisions, fracturing the book more and more. What it is in the end is an attempt to split the atom, miming the day job of one of the book's characters, Norman Bombardini ("No one had ever been able to give butter life either, but..." "What was that?" "Nothing. To be ignored. A slip of the tongue."). Oh yes, and did I mention it's a comedy? And a very funny one at that. This combination of ambition and achievement at such a young age is just another reason that one of our pre-eminent literary talents will be missed. Pick it up and give it a go. Read it with an open mind. But most importantly, think.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Big Blog Changes

As some of you may have noticed (Especially if you have your contact lenses in), I have decided to place advertisements on this blog. And I do this for one, and only one reason: To get so rich that I shall have a motorized sidewalk in my living room. This is doomed to fail. But after examining the state of things, I discovered something that may prove to be almost as much fun. And that is putting automatic ads on this blog and seeing what in the world they wind up being for. So sit back and enjoy the ride and/or randomness. And if you haven't yet, for God's sake go and put your contacts in.

Monday, March 23, 2009

MLB Season Preview, 2009 Version

The time is finally almost upon us. So let's do this thing superlatives style, like your old high school yearbook. Anything you want explained, fire away in the comments. And rest assured that 75% of this will be wrong, as baseball features a very healthy portion of luck. Fortunately, I am a complete genius. Let's start big.

2009 World Series Champion - Boston Red Sox.

NL Champ - The Chicago Cubs. Best team in the lesser league by far last year, fluky playoff loss notwithstanding.

AL Champ - This seems self-evident, considering the first item.

AL Playoff Teams (Three division winners plus the wild card team) - Red Sox, Indians, A's, Rays.

NL Playoff Teams (Same) - Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies. Nothing fun here. the NL is boring. But man, do I find myself hating both the Phillies and the Mets this year. No depth for either team.

AL MVP - I don't really like anyone to win this. Let's call it a 300-way tie between everyone. At gunpoint, I guess I'd make Teixeira the preseason favorite. May a pitch hit his wrist.

NL MVP - Pujols. Say his name out loud. It's fun.

AL Cy Young - Whoever gets the most wins, even though they mean almost nothing.

NL Cy Young - Same. But an NL pitcher.

AL Rookie of the Year - Wieters. Crapshoot.

NL ROY - Andrew McCutcheon. Because Nate McLouth is REALLY bad at center field.

Combined Starts, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett - 35. I keep hearing about the power of prayer. Might as well give it a try.

Biggest Decline, Win Column - Los Angeles Angels.

Number of those wins attributable to losing K-Rod - 1. Closers don't matter much. Deal with it.

Honorable Mention, Two Categories Up - Houston Astros. Now, all I did here was pick the two teams that walloped their Pythagorean Record last year. Safe? Yes. Deal with it. Any way, last year the Astros overperformed by 9 games and still only won 86. Also, their average batter's age is the oldest in the NL. Average pithcher's age: Also oldest in the NL. But at least they have the worst farm system in baseball! If you know an Astros fan, give them a hug.

Biggest Gain, Win Column - Seattle Mariners.

Best Division Race - AL West. It's gonna be good.

Team dumb enough to trade for Carlos Silva after the Mariners' improved defense makes him look competent - LA Dodgers. Yeah Snakeskin Boots Coletti!

Odds Of Bill Plaschke Liking the Trade - 80%. 100% if they throw in Kemp and Loney.

Odds of my relationship surviving the season - 65%

Odds of my girlfriend reading this - 20%

Percent of me that hopes she doesn't - 70%

Prospect I've Latched Onto For No Comprehensible Reason - Wilfredo Boscan, RHP, Texas Ranger.

Team talking heads are predicting will be 'This year's Rays' that will make those pundits look very, very stupid - The KC Royals. Their offseason moves have been awful, and now people think they'll be better? What? Why?

Team That Will Be This Year's Rays - None. It doesn't happen every year, you know.

Things Jason Varitek will not do - Make his pitchers better, hit.

First Pitcher To Have Tommy John Surgery, Regular Season - Ricky Nolasco. Too many curveballs.

Odds That I'll Post More Of These As I Think Of Them - 100%. Let's do this.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Prep School

My younger brother Isaac (Most of you probably know him already. He goes by Lemming, for those of you who don't) just got accepted to a private school starting next year. So what I'd like to do is have a congratulatory comment thread for him here. I'll start: Isaac, great job getting into private school, and good luck on your tryouts for the Crew team.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why Odalis Perez Does Not Equal Brad Penny

Yes, for those of you paying attention, this is a response to a comment I received on the Odalis Perez post a little while back. I was going to reply in kind, but I had a bit too much to say, and I have the option of replying this way. It's like power, but worthless. And I know that things can also get a bit chippy between Red Sox fans and Yankees fans, so I will do my part to elevate the discourse. I only hope that others follow suit. Here we go.

Bob you ignorant slut. Comparing Odalis Perez to Brad Penny is like comparing yourself to someone with the ability to put down the crackpipe for upwards of five minutes. They throw with different hands. I know that your addled wits cannot get themselves around a concept more difficult than where your next meal will come from, but I suspect that this fact is simple enough that it can penetrate through that dense material that serves as your skull. Beyond that even (And this is where you'll have to give up and wander off somewhere to drool on the closest piece of available furniture), the strategy employed by the Red Sox in signing Penny is in fact the absolute opposite of that which I recommend the Dodgers use w/r/t Perez, much like you are the exact opposite of a human being with a functional brain. As I stated in words that were incomprehensible to you (By which I mean polysyllabic), I advocated the Dodgers sign Perez for his reliable innings-eating, as their fifth starter currently consists of Jason Schmidt, with no prospect or serviceable minor leaguer ready to take his place when the inevitable happens and his arm falls off at the shoulder (They do have James McDonald, I suppose, but I'm not all that impressed with him). In much the same way you misinterpret any pity-filled smile as a sign of friendship, you decided this was the same thing as the Red Sox grabbing a good pitcher coming off an injury-plagued season, knowing that if he failed they have a talent-rich farm system they can dip into so that they don't have to play him anymore, the same way your eighth grade coach recruited players from the girls basketball team to keep you glued to the bench. You see, the Sox have one of the best farm systems in the game, with Justin Masterson, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden all repesenting pitchers who could immediately step in and provide value comparable to that expected from Odalis Perez (But much, much greater than that provided to the world at large by your mother's decision to not consider abortion). A pitcher like him makes no sense for the Red Sox. But Brad Penny, that is a different story entirely. Penny's win values from 2003 to 2007, in order, read as follows: 3.0, 2.7, 3.2, 3.4, 4.3. All much higher than your GPA. He fell off a cliff this past year due to injury, much the same way you continually fall off court-imposed wagons. This allowed the Red Sox to sign him to a one-year contract. In the worst possible case, he is more ineffective at pitching than you are at life in general, at which point the Sox simply pay him lump-sum and have him go away, knowing they have capable replacements. With a lack of other options, the Dodgers need someone durable so that they do not have to do the same. This is not an opinion, it's the way it is. If your feeble little pea-brain still disagrees with me, then you are an idiot. And I hope that you will keep the debate civil, you moron.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

II: Antique Shop. Also III: Warrior From Heaven and IV: Quite A Match

And here we go again. As the title would suggest this scene takes place in an antique shop. Here in this veritable treasure-trove of discarded objects, we are treated to terrible acting, as the lead character's father (Oh yeah. This is fifteen years earlier) is a fitting match for the on-screen prowess of his progeny. Congrats, Pop. Keanu gets a name (Ethan, in case anyone out there is really wondering) and wanders off about the shop while its proprietor attempts to rip his father off. Stupid crooked antique shop dealers. Some day you will pay the price for your tight-fistedness! Anyway, then Keanu finds a magical trunk that showers him in special effects. This arouses momentary hope in the viewer, but rather than be transported to the magical realm of Narnia, we remain in the antique shop. Sad. Then the antique dealer fakes a heart attack to get the father to go to the hospital and leave him alone with Keanu, a move which immediately ratchets the creepiness factor up to eleven. But fortunately, rather than sinister motives the creepy old man (COM from here on out) merely wants to share a legend with young Keanu, for he has recognized him as The One, via the Trunk Of Shiny Effects, which, unlike the Ark of the Covenant, contains the scale of an Imoogi (Pre-Dragon Thing) and the Light From Heaven (Of course). He also reveals the country of origin for the legend (Korea), thereby giving us a region to vent our anger on, and then goes off into a legend featuring flashbacks to 1507. This is probably where we moved to the next scene, but evidently I am not paying attention. If you were watching this film, you wouldn't be either. So don't feel all superior. Fortunately for you, I don't really care enough to transcribe this legend. You can thank me with beer. We move into subtitles, and someone dies in Korean. Then everyone has tea and takes their horses for a walk on the coastline. Tattoos are given, men have lengthy beards, and someone who looks like Legolas fights what is apparently an invisible ninja. So that's fun (Also, this is probably where scene four starts). Then we move to the beach, where Heaven's Imoogi (Which looks like a 90000-pound snake) puts on a display of synchronized swimming. It is revealed the the Yuh Ji Jin must be sacrificed to create a dragon. She has a silly name. Also, she will be found by the fact that she has a convenient dragon tattoo. And at this point it turns out that I have done three chapters of the film rather than one, as I was planning. You're welcome.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

High School Reunion

All over the city at the moment there are ads for a reality show called High School Reunion. The ads feature adults holding an old Polaroid yearbook photo over their face, each Polaroid™ having something written across the bottom such as ‘The Ugly Duckling’ or ‘The Football Star’. Now, at first I was very strongly against this program existing, as it seems like just another attempt by television executives to cash in on the lowest common denominator found in people by lowering the rapidly-plummeting bar another notch or two. The simple fact is that most people are fairly nervous about attending their high school reunions, as the human brain seems to have a very hard time grasping that what people think of you means pretty much nothing, especially if the people in question see you once every five to ten years, depending on how often you all bother to show up at functions organized by your old high school class. But people approach these things with apprehension, desiring to put on a show to impress some panel judges that never reveals itself. By making this show, the television producers are hoping that this irrational fear will get people to watch their program, turning a base horror into money via a process far more evil than alchemy. But then I thought about the Polaroids™ over the faces in the ads, and I realized that everyone in the world can be lumped into narrow, easily-recognizable categories, as these advertisements suggest. So I guess it’s all okay.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Curious Case Of Odalis Perez

We're back to baseball a bit more frequently here. Spring Training has started. Deal with it. Anyway, let's examine the offseason of Odalis Perez. Much like the movie Benjamin Button, Odalis Perez is not very good. He is just about the definition of middling left-handed innings-eater, which is a designation given to pitchers who don't do anything well excepting repeatedly walking out to the mound (Here I am thinking of Livan Hernandez, aka the Pitcher of Fail). However, that in itself has some value. If a baseball team thin on pitching finds itself holding onto someone such as Perez or Jon Garland, this can prevent them from having to use a pitcher blatantly unready for the job (Or - FSM forbid - sign Jeff Weaver), causing them to plummet in the standings. Simply by being consistently slightly below-average, Odalis Perez can help a baseball team.

I'm not going to go too much into the economics here (Unless someone out there in Reader-/Immediate Familyland wants the details), but by and large, a win on the free agent market will cost a team about $4.5 million dollars. Now, with the market cratering this past offseason, top-tier players were not affected much by this. However, the dollar values for marginal players, such as Perez, went down significantly. A comparable player to him is last year's teammate Tim Redding, who received $2 million guaranteed for one season from the NY Mets to be a below-average innings sponge (Last year Redding was worth 1.1 Wins Above Replacement (level), while Perez was worth 1.5 (As a fun aside, Oliver Perez, the Mets new $36 million-dollar man, was worth 1.3 WAR last year). From 2005 to 2007, Perez was worth 4.5 wins (Yeah consistency!). Redding was worth -0.4. He got $2 million why exactly?). Basically, the Mets are throwing a wad of gauze at a gushing artery of a fifth-starter spot here, which is a good low-cost option. However, Perez received only an $850,000 offer to re-sign with his old team, the Washington Nationals, with the contract being unguaranteed. Beyond it being fairly inexplicable that Perez could not get more than this, it's a strange move for the Nationals as well.

You see, gauze pitchers are really only valuable to a team close to contention looking to patch up a glaring weakness. For a team like the Nats, where every single position can be reasonably considered a glaring weakness (Bye Jim Bowden! You'll be missed!), Perez has virtually no value at all (Since that's also pretty much the dollar figure he signed for, the deal did make a bit of sense, I suppose). But the fact that no contenders scooped in to pick him up at the ridiculously low price his services went for over the winter is incomprehensible. Fortunately for them, they now get another chance. Evidently getting into a bit of the economics himself, Perez decided he was underpaid and refused to report to camp with the rest of the team, a move which led to the Nationals promptly releasing him, thereby ending their hopes of contention this year (Also next year, the year after that, and pretty much until 2015, when hopefully the damage done by Bowden will have been fixed by a competent successor). As a free agent the second time around, Perez remains unsigned.

But what if there were a team looking to contend, a team with a large payroll that could easily afford another small contract, and above all else a team currently penciling in as their fifth starter a man who has pitched a total of 54.3 innings over the last 2 years (At a cost of $33 million) because his right arm is attached to his body with scotch tape, baling twine and prayers? Yes, I am talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, does anyone out there really think Jason Schmidt is a viable fifth starter? Anyone? Show of hands, please. Jason, put yours down before you hurt yourself. So LA, this makes sense. If you have to hire a hitman to kill Slappy Pierre to get rid of his contract so that you can afford this relative pittance, do it. Actually, if that's a possibility at all, you should do it. But that's a different story. Odalis' agent (Who is DEFINITELY NOT ME) eagerly awaits your call.