Friday, November 28, 2008

I haven't been writing a lot about baseball lately. Mostly because, well, there hasn't been much going on worth writing about.

Things have been amazingly quiet. No major free agent signings. Not even many publicized offers, other than the Yankees $140 million deal to C.C. Sabathia. Given the fact that the big guy hasn't accepted what amounts to the largest contract ever signed by a pitcher, you have to think that he just doesn't have a lot of interest in playing in the Bronx.

Other than that, nothing much is happening. No word on Teixiera, A.J. Burnett, Manny or any of the other big name free agents. The biggest thing the Sox have done is try to sign Japanese free agent Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa is projected to start the year in Portland, most likely, so it's not exactly huge news.

So we wait. The Winter Meetings start in about a week and a half, so maybe something will happen then.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nine things I'm thankful for:
  1. DVR's. I rarely watch anything "live" anymore, except sports. Watching a 1-hour TV show in about 45 minutes is a great time saver.
  2. The Wii Fit. After many years of looking, I have finally found an exercise routine (other than walking) that I actually enjoy.
  3. Dustin, Youk, Big Papi, Papelbon and all the other members of the 2008 Red Sox that made this such a fun year.
  4. Six championships since February 3, 2002: thanks to the Patriots, Celtics and most importantly, the 2004 Red Sox.
  5. Despite all of it's problems, I'm still lucky enough to live in the greatest country in the world.
  6. President-elect Barak Obama. He has an incredibly difficult task ahead of him, but I feel like he's going to get us closer to where America should be, instead of where it is.
  7. Not only that I have a job in these tough economic times, but I have a job that I like, with people I enjoy working with at a company that actually seems to care about the welfare of it's employees. It's a combination that is all to rare these days.
  8. My friends. With busy lives, we don't get together as often as any of us might like. I'll try to make that more of a priority in 2009, OK?
  9. My family, especially A., J. and R., everyone in Florida and the folks in Brookline and Allston. Love you all.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Who's Captain Kirk? Bill Shatner has his say...

I'm siding with the guy in the gold velour shirt, myself.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I was up in Toronto for a business trip last week. I was giving a presentation at two company locations - the Toronto main office and in a branch in Kitchener. Kitchener reminded me a lot of my hometown of Pawtucket - an old mill town that has seen better days but is trying to make a comeback. It was about 50 miles west of the airport, so I got to sit in the back of the car I was taking and saw a bit of the Canadian countryside. Here are the two things that struck me as funny:

  • The Beer Store: This is actually a chain of stores in Ontario. I just loved the name. There's nothing ambiguous about this place. Their name makes it pretty evident exactly what the focus is. I didn't have an opportunity to stop in, but maybe next time. They even have a Beer School, which grants you a BA (Beer Appreciation) certificate upon graduation.
  • You know when you drive down the highway, sometimes they have signs that point you to local attractions: museums, amusement parks, zoos and such? They have these signs before virtually every exit on route 401 in Ontario. The best one, by far, was the one advertising the Four Seasons Nudist Resort. It was just amusing that they would advertise this right on the highway. Of course, if I was inclined to go to a nudist resort, I think Canada would be low on my list of places to go. A warmer climate would be better if I was going walk around naked all the time.
OK, now try to scrub that image out of your head and enjoy the Pats game today!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Almost 3 and 1/2 years ago, I posted this entry on my blog regarding a trip to McCoy Stadium that happened to coincide with the AAA debut of a young Red Sox prospect named Dustin Pedroia. I certainly was impressed by my first look at a ballplayer who was being touted as potentially having a future as a major leaguer.

As much as I liked young Dustin that summer night in Pawtucket, I certainly had no idea that a few years later I would be congratulating him on winning the American League MVP award. I hope Pedey is savoring his award right now, and every baseball analyst who said he was too small and that his swing is too big is eating his words. Rookie-of-the Year, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, World Series ring and now MVP. Pretty good for a guy who just finished his second full season, eh?

With the increase in gas prices, I have seen a lot more people taking what I call "alternative transportation". Mostly, it's been a huge increase in the number of people I see riding bicycles and those Vespa-type scooters.

Yesterday morning was a first, though. I saw a guy riding down Summer St. near the convention center on a *unicycle*. It didn't appear to be any kind of promotional thing - he had a backpack and seemed intent on getting where he was going. I only wish my phone had been on so I could have snapped a picture.

Whatever works, I guess. Thanks for helping to save the planet, unicycle guy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I saw the following letter on the New York Times Web site:

To the Sports Editor:

Re “Boldly Going Where No Stadium Has Gone Before,” Nov. 12: The Yankees’ brass has really missed the mark with the decision to flood the new Yankee Stadium with a “constant state of the artness.”

Attending a baseball game should be a haven of simple, unencumbered enjoyment, solace from what is otherwise an overstimulated video-game-like world. A historic franchise renowned for on-field excellence should not resort to bells and whistles to attract and please fans. This is one longtime Yankees fan who does not think all of these technological additions improve the baseball-watching experience.

This is exactly what we're going for with the Vintage Base Ball Federation. The game is good enough to stand on it's own without a lot of extras. NBA-style "game presentation" just isn't necessary. Vintage Base Ball is becoming more and more popular by getting back to the basics. The Pawtucket Red Sox have lived by a philosophy for over 30 years that emphasizes a clean, safe stadium, reasonable ticket prices and a focus on the game down on the field. They drew over 636,000 last season, fifth best in all of minor league baseball.

I have no problem with the typical minor league on field promotion. And I understand that the high rollers at the new Yankee Stadium may want more than a game against the Royals in May for their $2,500 seats. My point is that a lot of the noise and nonsense you get in a lot of places these days doesn't add to the game.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A few things for a Sunday night before the work week starts...
  • Nice win by the Pats today. The capper was the 9-minute-plus drive that took up most of the 4th quarter and sealed the 20-10 victory. Just a beautiful job of controlling the ball (the Pats total time of posession was over 37 minutes). It sets up a first place showdown with the Jets (who crushed St. Louis 47-3 today) in Foxborough on Thursday night.
  • Be honest. As stress-free as it is when the Patriots cruise on in to win the division every year, isn't it a bit more interesting when things are close? The Pats and Jets are tied at 6-3, while the Dolphins and Bills are in hot pursuit at 5-4. It's good, as long as New England ends up winning, of course.
  • Best sports nickname I have heard in a long time: Patriots rookie running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, also known as "Law Firm".
  • The Red Sox announced that at least some of the wooden torture devices installed at Fenway Park, otherwise known as "grandstand seats" are going to be refurbished and widened to the league mandated minimum of at least 18 inches. Henry, Lucchino and Warner, my butt thanks you.
  • People have been lamenting the fact that the Sox let Orlando Cabrera get away after the 2004 season for years, but take this into consideration. The Sox got two draft picks as compensation for the Angels signing him. Those picks turned into Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie. Long run, this may not have been the worst thing that could have happened.
  • I'm finally catching up on all the stuff on my DVR that I ignored during the playoffs. Only one episode of "Heroes", one "The Office" two "Smallville"s and two "Boston Legal"s left to go.
  • Oh, and five episodes of "Clone Wars". J. and I need to make some time to catch up on that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A couple of quick post-election thoughts:
  • Do you think Barak Obama woke up this morning and thought, "Oh, man, now I actually have to do this."? Similarly, do you think John McCain woke up secretly pleased that the profound economic, military and foreign policy issues this country faces are going to be someone else's problem?
  • I was very disappointed to see that three more states wrote bigotry into their constitutions, as California, Florida and Arizona approved bans on gay marriage. As much as Obama's win last night was a gigantic blow against racial inequality, these election results show that we still have a long way to go to fight intolerance of all kinds.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

J. and I went to Cooperstown the weekend before last. This was a little different that the standard trip, since we were were going to be sleeping in the Plaque Gallery inside the Hall of Fame.

I had found out about this a couple of months before and signed us up. I picked up J. at school early and we had an uneventful four hour drive to Cooperstown. We got there just after 5, ate sandwiches we had brought for dinner and went inside to register at 5:30.

After moving the car off Main St. into Cooper Park for the night, we went into the Plaque Gallery to set up our sleeping area. I had wanted the area under Carl Yastrzemski's plaque, but it was already taken by some Phillies fans (Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt are in the same area). So we set up under Ted Williams. Here's a picture of our spot.

J. took this picture from his air matress:

After we finished setting up, we were allowed to explore the museum for nearly two hours. Since there were only 29 people a the sleepover, it meant that we practically had the place to ourselves. We saw some cool new exhibits. Here are a few highlights.

This is the ball that Barry Bonds hit for home run number 756. It has the asterisk that Mark Ecko carved into it after an Internet survey. The card next to it explained all that and that, while the Hall of Fame doesn't condone defacing artifacts, it is displaying the ball because of it's historical significance.

Here are Jon Lester's shoes and a ball from his no-hitter last May.

Here's the highlight - the 2007 World Series display with Jason Varitek's uniform front and center.

This isn't new, but I thought it was pretty cool. It's the cornerstone from Shibe Park in Philadelphia, the first steel and concrete Major League Baseball stadium. It was the home of the Philadelphia A's until they moved to Kansas City, and the Phillies home until Veterans Stadium opened in 1971.

After we finished in the museum, we went to the Bullpen Theater and saw a movie and had a snack. The movie was The Sandlot, an entertaining flick about some kids playing baseball in early 1960's Los Angeles and their attempts to get a Babe Ruth autographed baseball back from a giant dog. Neither of us had seen it before, and it was fun to watch.

Before bedtime, we were treated to a ghost story from one of the Hall of Fame staff. Apparently, the ghost of Hall of Famer Eddie Plank haunts the Hall of Fame. He has been seen warming up with an unknown catcher. Plank pitched mostly for the A's in the early part of the 20th century and was the winningest lefty in baseball history until Warren Spahn broke his record in the 1960's.

We went to sleep and I slept pretty well. The air mattress was fairly comfortable and fortunately there weren't any big snorers among our fellow campers. We got up around 7:00, had breakfast and were ushered outside so the staff could clean up before the Hall opened at 9. We walked around Cooperstown until the Hall reopened and spent an additional three hours inside, including a visit to the gift shop.

After we were done in the museum we had our traditional lunch at The Shortstop Restaurant. After lunch we walked around Main Street for a bit and bought J. a bat at the Cooperstown Bat Co. He had expressed some interest in hitting with a wooden bat so I bought him one and had it engraved with his name. He's been using it at his baseball clinic with some good results.

We headed home after that. It was a great trip and a unique experience.

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