Salary cap? Baseball needs something

Funny how now that the New York Yankees have added the most expensive sports contract in history, Alex Rodriguez, to their already outrageously priced roster, suddenly the freespending Boston Red Sox, owner of the second-most expensive sports contract in history and the second-highest payroll in baseball, are calling for a salary cap.

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Another All-Star Flub

I remember when the All-Star Game actually mattered.
Well, it didn’t matter–it was still a game that didn’t count, but the guys who showed up, they showed up to play. There was a lot of pride at stake. My first All-Star memory was the 1983 game. The American League hadn’t won a game in years. Then the California Angels’ Fred Lynn came up with the bases loaded, smacked one out of the park for the first-ever All-Star grand slam, and carried the AL to victory.

These days, the only purpose the All-Star Game serves is to give Baseball Commissionerwannabe Bud Selig another opportunity to make a fool of himself. Read more

A kids’ game

The Philadelphia Phillies have one of the brightest futures in the National League. Sure, the Mets and the Braves grab all the attention. But look at them. They’re old. The Mets have Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar and Mike Piazza, and all of them are probably still in their prime, but they only have a couple more years of prime left. The Braves have Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and Gary Sheffield, but that’s indicative of the same problem.
The Phillies are loaded with young stars. The Phillies once had a better third baseman than Scott Rolen. His name was Mike Schmidt. I can only think of two third basemen in the history of the game who deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Schmidt. In about 15 years, Rolen looks to join them. And the Phillies have a great young catcher in Mike Lieberthal and a great young outfield in Doug Glanville and and Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu. They also have one of the best young shortstops in the game in Jimmy Rollins.

The Phillies’ payroll is going to be $60 million this year. And Rolen, surrounded by these young stars, questions the Phillies’ ability or commitment to win. At the end of the year, he’s out of there.

The Phillies’ strategy should be really simple. Let these young stars get a little better, sign them to the longest-term contracts they’ll take, and play as hard as possible for two years, knowing they’ll probably finish in third place with a winning record, all the while waiting for the Mets and Braves to fall over. If everything were to stay the same, in three years the Phillies would no longer be the third-best team in their division. They’d cruise right past the gray-headed Mets and Braves.

But nobody really knows what the Phillies are going to do. In the past, when they’ve developed minor stars, they’ve frequently traded them. The last time they won anything was 1993, but that was an old team. It’s hard to look to that team for a precedent to suggest what they’ll do now, because keeping their aging stars in the mid-1990s didn’t make much sense. It’s hard to look at the way the Phillies handled players like Mickey Morandini as well. Morandini was a minor star who faded fast. Rolen and Lieberthal are superstars. Future Hall of Famers even, maybe.

In any other sport, there wouldn’t be any question what to do. They’d lock in their six young stars and tell their fans to get ready to enjoy a dynasty. But baseball isn’t any other sport. There’s very little revenue sharing. And Philadelphia’s not a major market. The Yankees are going to spend twice as much as the Phillies spend this year. It’s hard to imagine Philadelphia not being a major market, I know, but that’s how things have become in this sport.

Twenty years ago, players used to express amazement at signing six-figure salaries to play a kids’ game. Today, baseball’s still a kids’ game. And the players have the maturity of children. So do the owners and the commissioner.

There’s a solution to this madness. Bob Costas wrote a short book about it two years ago. It’s short and simple enough that even a moron like Bud Selig could understand it. Today, things have only gotten worse. Fans read Costas’ book in droves and took it to heart, but few of the owners seem to have done so.

If Selig gets his way, the Twins and the Expos will fold at the end of this season. That won’t do anything to stop the same teams from making the postseason again and again. It’ll be the Braves, Mets, Diamondbacks and Cardinals in the NL postseason again this year. And probably the year after.

The Phillies will find that without a salary cap to keep salaries from artificially rising and without revenue sharing to give them their fair share (The Mets have to have someone to play, so why doesn’t the visiting team get half the revenue?) they won’t be able to afford to keep their players. Scott Rolen will test the free-agent waters at the end of this season. I expect he’ll sign with the Braves or the Red Sox. If he signs with the Braves, the Phillies will almost certainly dismantle, because there’s little difference between finishing third and finishing fifth, and it’s a lot cheaper to finish fifth.

And people will wonder what if. Except for Bud Selig and his buddy Carl Pohlad, who got what they wanted. They can just keep counting their money and complaining about how unprofitable baseball is.

Trolling the web for nothing in particular

Yes, Brian, baseball will soon return. I hate the things Major League Baseball does (Bob Costas once likened choosing sides between the players and the owners to choosing sides between Iran and Iraq), but we’ve chosen to stay together for the kids. I’m sure everyone who cares (and some who don’t) can guess what I think of Bud Selig, but I’ll tell you anyway, soon enough.
In the meantime, I look like ArsTechnica today. Oh well. I don’t do this very often.

Blogging. Wired News had its take on the phenomenon, and threw out some interesting stats.


In January alone, at least 41,000 people created new blogs using Blogger, and that number is always increasing, [Blogger founder Evan] Williams said. Some have put the total number of weblogs at more than 500,000.

Alongside the boom, however, there have recently been a few faint signs of backlash. As increasing hordes take on the task of trying to keep new sites looking nice, sounding original and free from banalities, more hordes just seem to fail.

Blog critic Dave Linabury offered a recipe for success:


“It really can take a lot of time,” he said. “I spend two hours a day on my weblog. Many people don’t realize this, they think it’s a quick way to get popular. And after awhile they get really discouraged and say, ‘he got 2,300 hits today, I got four.’ The bulk of people out there get less than two dozen hits.”

“I don’t want to be elitist,” Linabury added, “but all these people out there with popular weblogs, they’ve been doing it longer and they stick to their guns.”

I can attest to that. The people who get more traffic than I get almost all have been doing this longer. But I can tell you one thing: It’s never enough. Back when I was getting 80 visits a day I wanted 150. When I was getting 150 visits a day, I wanted 250. Now that I get about 500 visits a day, I’m awfully distressed to see people are getting 2,300. And by the time I reach 2,300, I’m sure there will be people getting 5,000 or even 10,000. (Note that visits are the number of unique visitors; hits are the number of files served up. Hit count is deceptive. I get 500 visits per day but closer to 1,000 or even 1,500 hits per day, due to people visiting, reading comments, and then often reading something from a previous week. And if they do a search, that’s at least two additional hits.)

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Another feather in Internet Explorer’s cap. To my knowledge, no new security vulnerabilities have been reported in Internet Explorer this week, but the newest security patch, released last week, contains a bug that can cause a VBscript directive that previously worked to crash the browser.

Microsoft says Webmasters need to modify their pages not to use the directive.

That’s nice (I don’t use VBscript on this site) but there are embedded devices, such as HP’s JetDirect card, that use the directive. So early adopters of this patch may find themselves unable to do their jobs.

Better webmaster recommendation: Don’t use VBscript or ActiveX or other Microsoft-owned languages in your Web pages at all. Better end-user recommendation: Use Mozilla or a derivative instead of Internet Explorer.

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Recompiling Debian for your hardware. This thread comes up every so often, and with the popularity of Linux From Scratch and Gentoo, the appeal of a compiled-from-scratch Debian is undeniable. But does the small speed improvement offset the increased difficulty and time in upgrading?

The consensus seems to be that recompiling gzip, bzip2, and gnupg with aggressive options makes sense, as does recompiling your kernel. Recompiling XFree86 may also make some sense. But expending time and energy in the perfectly optimized versions of ls and more is foolhardy. (Especially seeing as speed demons can just get assembly language versions of them from www.linuxassembly.org.)

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A Guide to Debian. This is a guide, still incomplete, that gives a number of tips for someone who’s just installed Debian. The tips are applicable to other many other Linux (and even Unix) flavors as well.

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Spam. A coworker walked into my cube today and asked me how he could keep web robots from harvesting e-mail addresses from his web site. I found myself referring once again to the definitive piece on the subject, from Brett Glass (who gets my nomination for the greatest computer columnist of all time, for what that’s worth).

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The RULE project. A project has emerged to bring Red Hat Linux back to its roots, and allow it to run on older, less-powerful hardware.

From their site:


This install option is meant to benefit primarily two classes of users:

* GNU/Linux newbies who cannot afford modern computers, but still need, to get started more easily, an up to date, well documented distribution.
* System administrators and power users who have no interest in eye candy, and want to run updated software on whatever hardware is available, to minimize costs, or just because it feels like the right thing to do.

I love their FAQ. Check this out:


1.0 Hardware is so cheap today, why bother?

1. This is a very limited and egoistic attitude. Eigthy per cent of the world population still has to work many months or years to afford a computer that can run decently the majority of modern, apparently “Free” software.
2. Many people who could afford a new computer every two years rightly prefer to buy something else, like vacations, for example…. Hardware should be changed only when it breaks, or when the user’s needs increase a lot (for example when one starts to do video editing). Not because “Free” Software requires more and more expensive hardware every year.

These guys have the right idea. I can only hope their work will influence other Linux distributions as well.

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Linux uptime. (Sure, a little original content.) When I was rearranging things months ago, I unplugged the keyboard and monitor from my webserver, then I never got around to plugging them back in because I didn’t have to do anything with it.

The other day, I had occasion to plug a keyboard and mouse back into it. I went in, did what I wanted to do, then out of curiosity I typed the uptime command. 255 days, it told me. In other words, I haven’t rebooted since last May, which, as I recall, was about when I put the machine into production.

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