02/25/2001

A milestone. Yesterday I was at Borders, looking for a book on playing bass guitar. It’s time for me to get serious with that. Computers are boring, writing is boring, so what’s left? Everyone assumes I play an instrument, and, well, I don’t really. I own a keyboard and a bass but I don’t play them.

I didn’t find what I was looking for. But on my way out the door, I spied a computer for looking up book titles. Hmm. On a whim, I did an author search on my name. Up pops my book, on shelf K0020. Really? So I go look. Sure enough, there’s a copy. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen my book anywhere but on my own shelf or at a friend’s house, let alone in an honest-to-goodness bookstore. Extremely cool.

I drove down the street to Barnes & Noble. On the way back to the music books, I passed the computer section. So I stopped at the Windows shelf, looked, and, surprisingly, there was a copy of Optimizing Windows sitting there too. Coolness.

So I went back to the music books in a good mood. And there I found three books on learning bass. I bought them, along with a pocket-sized book of piano and guitar chords since the only thing keeping me from playing keyboards is not knowing what keys to play. Knowing basic chords won’t make me good, but as long as I can plink out the songs I like, I’ll be happy. And the addition of guitar chords will be useful if I ever make good on my threats to get a six-string.

And it’s easier to talk about problems than to do something about them. I’m just gonna drop the gun talk. I don’t find the discussion interesting. If it were on someone else’s site, I wouldn’t bother reading it. It’s all so high on passions and low on original thought, and frankly I expect something to change on the abortion front before something happens on the gun front (and the chances of that are extremely low as well–lower than the chances of my Kansas City Royals winning the World Series on a $43 million payroll). So why am I posting it here? So half a dozen U.S.ers can write in and tell me how right I am and a Canadian and a Brit can write in, dismissing outright any parallel I try to draw as fallacy of distraction, and/or complaining about U.S. culture? To what end?

One good question was raised in all this: Who’s gonna teach kids morals? Well, the parents should for one. But that’s not really enough–even Hillary Clinton (or her ghostwriter) knows that. Others should as well. We can talk about the problems all we want, but that doesn’t do a lick of good. It just gets us all hacked off. So screw it. I’m not gonna waste my time or my keystroke quota (and there is a quota–if my wrists start feeling funny, I quit writing, period). I’m gonna do something about it, and I hope others will join me.

I’m gonna go be a mentor. We’ve got a seminary student at church who takes youth ministry seriously, and he sees it as more than just winning souls. It’s relationship building–lifting weights together, going to movies, being there to talk to… If he’s interested in it and one or more kids is interested in it, it’s fair game. Jesus’ name might come up, and it might not. He’s got his head on straight. What’s this have to do with ministry? Well, you think Jesus spent all his time talking about Law and Gospel? He most certainly didn’t! More than anything else, Jesus was interested in being a brother to people who didn’t have one, or whose brother was a loser. And that’s the model our sem student tries to follow.

And this poor guy’s got 20 kids flocking to him. When he came a few months ago it was 2. Probably next month it’ll be 40. He can’t handle it all. So I’m gonna ask if I can join him.

And if it means I have less time to post here, so what? At least I’m making a difference. Better to do something about our problems than to waste electrons talking about them.

Let’s get back to the basics. If your problem involves a slow computer, let’s talk. I can definitely help you solve that one, and chances are there are a couple dozen people wondering the same thing. If your problem involves something else I may know about (and if you’ve been reading a while or you look on the Top 50 list over there, you can get a pretty good idea what I know about), let’s talk.

Enough of that. How ’bout dem Cubs? Er, wait, let’s talk about the White Sox. Now that Alex Rodriguez makes $25.2 million a year to play baseball, Frank Thomas is dissatisfied with his $9.9 million a year and wants a comparable raise before he’ll report to camp. The White Sox, meanwhile, rather than caving in to his demands, are saying fine, we’ll use Harold Baines in Thomas’ role as DH and part-time 1B.

This is good. A contract is a contract, and when Thomas signed through 2006, he should have realized markets will change. Players sign long-term contracts just in case they turn into .236 hitters–that way, they’ve still got a really nice paying job. Teams negotiate long-term contracts in hopes of getting a bit of a discount in exchange for putting up with the risk of a star turning into a .236-hitting overweight former slugger.

Besides, Frank Thomas isn’t worth Alex Rodriguez-type money. Sure, Thomas is a good hitter. He hits lots of home runs, and he hits for high average and draws a lot of walks. Rodriguez hits lots of homers, hits for high average, draws a good share of walks, but he’s a more complete player. Thomas refuses to play in the field most of the time, and when he does, he plays first base, a non-demanding position where he’s just average at his very best. Rodriguez plays shortstop, one of the toughest positions to play–and he’s considered one of the best at his position. Rodriguez has better speed. And over the past three years, Rodriguez has been the more consistent player. Thomas had a good year last year. But the year before last, he only hit 15 homers. The year before that, he hit 29 homers but only batted .265.

So he’s a one-dimensional player whose consistency hasn’t been stellar. Now in 1994, 1996, and 1997 he looked like something, putting up monster years where he hit more than 35 homers and batted around .350. But with his current attitude, he’s not likely to do that again this year.

Harold Baines is a one-dimensional player who hit .312 with 25 homers in 1999, the last season he played regularly (he was a part-time player last year). Over the course of his 21-year career, he’s averaged .291 with 22 homers. He’s a slight downgrade from Thomas, but he makes a fraction what Thomas makes.

Rodriguez isn’t worth $25.2 million a year. No question about that. But even if Rodriguez were worth that kind of money, Thomas still isn’t in his league. You could almost say Thomas fits between Rodriguez and Baines in the pecking order. And as far as salary goes, Thomas is between the two of them as well–and Harold Baines still makes far more in a year than you or I ever will. He’ll make more this year than a lot of us will see in our lifetime.

The White Sox are right. And even with them in the same division as my Royals, I wish them luck with Harold Baines in Thomas’ place.

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