Monthly Archives: May 2010

It All Goes To The Same Place

When I was young, as any child would, I often made dinnertime more difficult than it had to be. It happens with every family—mom makes something for dinner that the child doesn’t recognize or doesn’t like and therefore refuses to quietly eat this particular item.

For some kids it’s vegetables and for other, stranger children is something that’s not a vegetable. Maybe it’s a new side dish that mom saw in a recipe book and decided to try. No matter, children aren’t easily fooled.

My mother always used to tell me “Nathaniel, just eat it. It all goes to the same place.”

For years I struggled with answering her when she set herself up with this particular defense. But now, being much older and wiser I realize that mother’s logic ended at the dinner table.

As a family that has done some extensive traveling, we never once picked up a hitchhiker along the way. Even if he was going to the same place.

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 8

While things looked bleak throughout the first few days of Week 8, my team managed to scrape through the end of the week and keep themselves unbeaten through the season’s first eight weeks.

An absolutely brutal week for my offense, as they started off horribly and finished only slightly less so. After hitting the midway point of the week hitting .075, I consider it a small miracle that I managed to finish the week at .220/.258. I went 2-4 overall in the hitting stats, winning runs and home runs, thanks in part to my opponent putting up a zero in the home run column this week. I had six hitters record sub .200 averages and Nick Swisher and Scott Rolen were my only men to hit a homer or drive in more than two runs.

Wainwright went 1-1 despite a 1.29 ERA in 14IP

While my offense stumbled, my pitchers kept up the ridiculous performance I’ve come to expect from them. Five of the seven starts they made were of the quality type, and all five of those might have well been labeled as extra-quality. Even with Tim Hudson’s rain shortened affair and Matt Garza’s clunker in Boston (5IP, 6ER) my staff put up a 2.36 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Both numbers are slightly inflated from David Aardsma crapping the bed Sunday afternoon (1/3 IP, 3ER). Again, my closers failed to garner many opportunities and Ryan Franklin was shutout completely, pitching two perfect innings in his only appearance this week.

Despite all the phenomenal pitching performances, my guys still only managed one win as they received nearly no run support. Adam Wainwright lost by giving up one run in seven innings in which he struck out a cool dozen. Josh Johnson took a loss by allowing the unearned run that kept Roy Halladay’s perfect game from going into extra innings. Jamie Garcia tossed six shutout innings but the Cardinals didn’t score any runs at all. Felix Hernandez pitched eight innings of one-run ball only to see his bullpen give up four runs in the ninth to lose the game.

Transactions-wise this week, Edgar Renteria played one game, went 2-for-3 and then promptly landed himself back on the disabled list, prompting me to pick up Houston infielder Jeff Keppinger. Definitely a downgrade and not a flashy player, but one who is a capable backup that I can play matchups with and who is eligible at third, shortstop and second. Coco Crisp also landed himself back on the DL after only being active for three games and instead of disabling him, I simply dropped him for Florida catcher Ronny Paulino – who you may now know as the guy who made the last out in Roy Halladay’s perfect game.

I finished up winning four and losing two of the pitching categories and managed to scrape a tie after trailing significantly for most of the week. Up next for me is division rival Whipple23, who improved to 51-38-7 after an impressive Week 8 showing, moving him up to fifth place overall in the league. My 6-6-0 week moved my overall record to 64-24-8, which was enough to keep me in first place, although it did allow some of the top teams, including Whipple23 to get within striking distance of me.

Kim Jones Loses Her Pork Chop

The Yankees made their first visit to Minnesota’s new Target Field this week, and the YES crew spent some time exploring the new features of the stadium, including some of the cuisine. One item unique to Target Field is apparently a pork chop on a stick. I like pork chops, but I’ve never sampled one on a stick before. Assumedly, the stick makes it easier to enjoy at a ballgame than a traditional fork and knife combination would.

However, it also appears that the pork chop on a stick method makes it easier for a hungry drunk to sneak a bite when you’re not looking. And that’s exactly what happened to YES sideline reporter Kim Jones.

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 7

Week 7 matched the top two teams in the league in myself and the New York Highlanders. And even though the competition was tougher, my team performed nearly identical as they did in Week 6 by dominating pitching categories and holding their own with the bat.

I won five of the six pitching categories and split the sixth. I compiled five wins with a sparkling 1.28 ERA and an equally impressive 1.21 WHIP. Only one of my pitchers posted an ERA above 2.70, and that was Felix Hernandez. Of the seven starts my starters made, six of them qualified as a quality start and the only one that wasn’t one was Jamie Garcia’s five shutout innings. David Aardsma was blanked in the save department again, but Ryan Franklin’s pair of saves were enough for me to split saves this week.

On the hitting side of the ball, Adrian Gonzalez finally had a week worthy of his first round draft selection. He homered twice, drove in eight runs and did it with a .455 average and a .586 on-base percentage. With seven of my hitters posting averages of over .300 I managed to win both average and on-base percentage. My hitters also converted those high numbers into 34 runs, enough to win that category as well. Denard Span led the way with nine runs and Alberto Callaspo added seven of his own.

No trades for me this week, although I’m always working the wire to try and improve my team. I did however end up making plenty of moves as I lost players to injury. Both of my catchers, Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodriguez wenton the disabled list late in the week, but I activated Edgar Renteria and Coco Crisp from the DL to take their roster spaces. I picked up Tampa rookie John Jaso to take the place of my catchers and DL’d Scott Olsen to make room for him.

I’m trying to find a deal where I can trade 2 players for one and open a spot to pick up Florida backstop Ronnie Paulino to platoon with Jaso while my main two catchers are out. I’m hoping to move some of my outfield depth and add another solid arm to strengthen an already strong staff.

My 8-3-1 week pushes my overall record to 58-18-8, still good enough for the top overall spot in the league. But the schedule doesn’t get any easier for me as Week 8 matches me up against the 43-35-6 AngelDust & Hoffman.

The WebMD Christian

My Sunday School class a few weeks back had a discussion about peace, and an analogy was brought up that I thought was perfect to apply from everyday life to the life that we live as Christians.

WebMD is a very informative website, but it’s a rather recent innovation. As a child, if I received a bump, scrape or bruise while messing around the neighborhood, a band-aid or a cool washcloth fixed whatever ailment I had right up. If it was something more severe than a childhood boo-boo, then my mother would drive me over to the doctor’s office and he would be able to set me straight again.

But in the past few years, WebMD has opened up a whole new world of explanations for whatever somebody thinks may be wrong with them. Have a headache that won’t go away? Jump on the internet and type your symptoms into WebMD, and the computer will be able to diagnose what you have, how long it’ll last and how exactly you should treat it.

It’s gotten to the point that many regular people have started to question the wisdom of trained and experienced physicians because of something they read on a website. Doctors don’t get to where they are by not having an expert grasp on their specialized area. They’ve studied and practiced for years to get to where they are and to be able to help people.

Regarding the practice of medicine, it’s best to ignore advice from well-to-doers, and trust the capabilities of a doctor. Applied to the practice of faith, it’s a very similar concept. Some Christians believe that they can gain a better diagnosis, or understanding of our faith by something they read on a website or something they see on TV.

While the Christianity faith is one that can be interpreted and applied in different ways, there’s still one guy who’s the ultimate authority on it. Take what you will from website or television evangelists, but all you need is your Bible and a personal relationship with Christ.

There will be people ranging from your cynical next-door neighbor to the nationally-recognized Richard Dawkins that will try and rebuke your faith and offer up what they believe to be better and more appropriate ways of believing what you believe.

There’s a lot of information out there, some good and some bad. But in both cases your best bet for worthwhile information comes from one source.

Book Review: The Five Greatest Warriors – Matthew Reilly

Having ended his previous novel 6 Sacred Stones with one helluva cliffhanger, waiting for Matthew Reilly’s next installment in the Jack West Jr. series was excruciating. The third book of the trilogy was typical Reilly with non-stop action, exotic locales and unfortunately, the hint of disappointment.

The third part of a arcing trilogy, 5 Greatest Warriors was better than 6 Sacred Stones, but didn’t come close to capturing the magic that was spun in 7 Deadly Wonders. The advantage of a Matthew trilogy is you get to know the main cast of characters quite well and grow attached to them. On the disadvantage however, so many others are killed off that most of the villains are completely expendable and are therefore unmemorable. There’s no Darth Vader-type that permeates the entire storyline over three books. New book, new villain.

Reilly’s books are trademarked by their excessive action sequences. He readily admits (as many authors do) to trying to one-up his previous efforts and by these efforts, 5 Greatest Warriors includes far too much information for the reader to process in a light, fun read. Too many names, too many places and too many ancient mysteries and theories for one book.

I began reading Matthew Reilly when I picked up his first full-length novel, Contest, on a trip to Ireland a few summers back. I quickly finished that one off and moved onto Ice Station and Temple and found the books to be getting better and better. I felt that Area 7 and Scarecrow were a shade below the level of writing that I’d come to expect from the brilliant Aussie, but then 7 Ancient Wonders recaptured some of that magic, but the very underwhelming and confusing 6 Sacred Stones I felt was a letdown. And 5 Greatest Warriors, while certianly better than its predecessor, still lacks some of Reilly’s earlier magic.

That being said, the way that Matthew Reilly transposes his imagination from mind to paper is outstanding. If you want true-to-facts history, look elsewhere, but few authors do battle scenes better than Reilly and even fewer a mind half as cruel and brutal. While I understand that Reilly takes some severe liberties in interpreting history and is an author of fiction, his latest work contained some elaborate proposals, even for his own outlandish standards.

The last thing about the book that disappointed me was something that I never expected out of Matthew Reilly—he became predictable. In his books the good guys always win, but because of the twists and turns and back-stabbing in the plot, you never quite exactly could figure out how they’d come out on top until they drove a tank out of an airborne cargo plane and managed to ditch out of the plummeting tank with an air-powered hover pack. While the team of heroes is able to figure out in a matter of months, what historians, archaeologists and powerful leaders couldn’t do in millennia, they couldn’t identify their own leader as the fifth greatest warrior despite very obvious clues which the reader puts together in seconds.

Four out of five starts, but overall a slight disappointment due to the lack of cleverness and guile that Reilly previously proved capable of.

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 6

After trading three players for two the previous week, I had an empty roster spot headed into Week 6. I used it on baby-faced Detroit callup Brennan Boesch and was heavily rewarded for it. He led my offense to a 3-3 split with a .500 average, a homer and five RBI. But Boesch was just one of five guys that hit better than .400 for me in Week 6.

For the first time I used a new strategy with my offense. Having racked up a .320 batting average by Friday and a .398 on-base percentage, but trailing significantly in runs, homers and RBI, I benched all of my hitters, and betting on the fact that my opponent wouldn’t hit well enough to overcome those numbers. It worked, as his hitters had a less-than-mediocre weekend.

As has been my calling card this year, after splitting the hitting stats, my pitchers went to work securing the weekly win for me. Each week, it seems a different one of my pitchers has a dominant showing and this week belonged to Tim Hudson. He made two starts, both of the quality variety while posting a 1.29 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP and winning both starts. My staff finished the week going 4-1-1, winning ERA and WHIP (2.98 & 1.16) with 50 strikeouts and seven quality starts. Even with all those quality starts, they managed only four wins, enough to tie for the week, but not to win. And for the second straight week, my closers didn’t see much action, notching only a pair of saves between them to lose 3-2.

The 7-4-1 week kept me in first place overall and pushed my record to 50-15-7. Week 7 matches me up against the New York Highlanders, who at 40-23-9, sit in first place in Division 1 and in second place overall.

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 5

Week 5 was a week that saw me make just about every wrong move I possibly could, but I still managed a convincing 7-2-3 victory over The Diamond Cutters.

Nick Swisher once again was the anchor of my offense, hitting .391 with a .440 on-base percentage with three homers, nine RBI and scored six runs. Nobody else knocked in more than three runs for me and Jose Guillen was my only other player to score more than twice. But even with all that, I managed to win two, lose two and tie two of the offensive categories.

My pitching was solid all-around again, and I managed to win five of the six categories, and despite my opponent not having a closer, both of mine were shut out of the saves department and we drew that category. Adam Wainwright notched a win and thirteen strikeouts in a pair of quality starts this week, and strong outings from Jamie Garcia, Tim Hudson and Matt Garza made up for the absolute dud that Felix Hernandez turned in this week (3.1IP, 8R).

Made one move this week, but it turned out to be a very beneficial one. After acquiring Todd Helton, I realized that I preferred Gaby Sanchez’s production in my utility spot and therefore had no place for Helton. So I packaged Helton along with Ryan Sweeney and Chris Volstad for Denard Span and Tyler Clippard. I needed some stolen bases and had more flexibility to use an outfielder than a first baseman.

The trade was processed just in time for Sunday’s games and I immediately plugged both Span and Clippard into my starting lineups and the moves paid dividends. I entered Sunday trailing in runs by two and in stolen bases by one. Span proceeded to go 3-for-4 with two runs and a stolen base, knotting up both categories. Clippard vultured a win for my team on Sunday as well.

The 7-2-3 week ups my record on the season to 43-11-6 and keeps me entrenched in first place for at least one more week. Next week matches me against another Top 10 team in Tug Z’Nuff who is coming off a 6-4-2 win and is 29-24-7 on the young season.

The Hypocrisy of the Phoenix Suns

For Wednesday’s NBA playoff game, the Phoenix Suns donned jerseys that had “Los Suns” emblazoned across the chest, rather than the traditional “Suns”. This move was done in response to Arizona’s new immigration law. The Suns decided that they did not support the law and voiced their displeasure through an incorrect Spanish phrase on their uniforms.

Regardless of the inaccuracies of their Spanish, the Suns are misguided in trying to make a political statement during a professional basketball game. Let me paint a small picture here.

It’s Game 7 of the Suns playoff series and hundreds of thousands of people line up outside the stadium, hoping to enter the stadium and enjoy the game and the atmosphere of a huge NBA playoff game. The Suns however, refuse to let everyone into the stadium, and instead chooses to permit only those who have secured entrance the proper and legal way to make their way inside and to their seats.

The Suns make a practice of handling game day operations this way every time their team is home for a game. The Suns employ security officers and ticket-takers to ensure that nobody enters the stadium illegally. And that is the aim of the new Arizona legislation – it takes the federal laws on immigration and applies them to the state of Arizona.

The new law makes it a misdemeanor for an immigrant to fail to carry certain identification with them. Barack Obama said that “if you don’t have your papers .. you’re going to be harassed. That’s not the right way to go.”

However, for close to sixty years, it has been a federal crime to fail to keep such documents with them (source). The new Arizona law just adds a state penalty to something that was already a federal crime. As someone who’s traveled extensively abroad, other nations have similar requirements.

In most European countries the punishment for entering illegally is a hefty fine and deportation. Less civil countries such as North Korea and certain middle eastern nations have much more severe consequences.

I have no problem with immigration and I fully understand why millions of people want to come to this country. America offers the best possible opportunities for just about everyone. But what I do have a problem with is “hyphenated” Americans. A citizen of this country is and should only be, American.

I’m not condemning culture. I think culture and traditions are an important part of any family. But there’s no such thing in my mind as a Mexican-American or a Japanese-American. You are one or the other, make your choice. Teddy Roosevelt put it perfectly:

In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace or origin.

But this is predicated upon the persons becoming in every facet an American .. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag. We have room for one language here, and that is the English language. We have room for but one loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.

Jan Brewer simply addressed the problem that Barack Obama has refused to. Just as the Suns police who is allowed into their arena, Arizona is now doing the same for its entire state.

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 4

After dominating the first two weeks of the season, my team stumbled a little in the third week, rallying late to earn a split. Week 4 saw my team turn things back around and beat Pedroia’s Grit 9-2-1.

My pitching again posted excellent numbers, led by a complete game and a dozen strikeouts by Josh Johnson. My pitchers won five games, posted an ERA of 2.98, a WHIP of 1.21and six quality starts, good enough to win all four of those categories.

Because of the strength of my pitching staff, I made a move, trading Barry Zito for Todd Helton. I acquired Helton more to try and flip him later on than I did to start him. I have Adrian Gonzalez entrenched in my first base slot and am more than comfortable with Gaby Sanchez handling the utility spot, leaving Helton no place on my roster. I’m hoping to use him in a deal for an outfielder who can steal some bases, as Nyjer Morgan remains my only true stolen base threat.

A big week from Nick Swisher (.407 AVG, 7R, 2HR, 6RBI) and some solid contributions from new pickup Reid Brignac (4 RBI) helped my squad win five of the six offensive categories and tie the sixth one. With Edgar Renteria and Jorge Posada missing time due to various injuries, Brignac and Ivan Rodriguez are going to have to keep contributing for my offense to keep rolling into Week 5.

My Week 4 victory pushes me back into first place overall with a 36-9-3 record. Week 5 pits my team against the fifth place Diamond Cutters, who have opened the season strong at 24-19-5.