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The Kansas City Royals, where everything is wrong

I was pretty happy that the Royals were just a game under .500 a week ago. That’s good for them. After all, their closer, Roberto Hernandez, has been injured all year. Other players are nursing injuries as well. Even the team trainer, Nick Schwartz, is hobbling around on crutches.
That seems like a long time ago now. Cleveland rolled into town, and then Boston, and now the only thing keeping the Royals out of last place is the positively awful Detroit Tigers.

Part of the problem is economics. But the Royals have trimmed their payroll and, comparatively speaking, aren’t throwing a whole lot of money away. There are far fewer high-priced flops on the Royals roster than there are on other teams, and the typical salary of a Royals flop is much lower than that of the flops sitting on the bench in, say, Pittsburgh or Texas or Boston.

The Royals turned a small profit last year. They need to be willing to lose $10-$15 million the next couple of years, which would allow them to get a top-tier pitcher (Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are free agents next year) or a couple of pitchers the caliber of their ace, Jeff Suppan. I’d rather see them go get one veteran pitcher to help their army of young pitchers learn how to pitch. Greg Maddux had Rick Sutcliffe and Scott Sanderson to learn from when he was 21. Royals’ pitchers have Jeff Suppan to learn from. He’s 27. Hardly a grizzled veteran.

You have to spend money to make money, which is something I would think owner David Glass would know from the time he spent running Wal-Mart.

And when you look at the billboards in Kansas City versus the billboards in St. Louis, you see a big difference. In Kansas City, Royals billboards have the Royals logo on them. In St. Louis, Cardinals billboards have Jim Edmonds on them. Or J.D. Drew. Or Matt Morris. Fans identify with teams, but they identify even better with players. A lot of Kansas Citians are hard-pressed to identify a current Royals player besides George Brett. Oops, I mean Bret Saberhagen. Oops, I mean Bo Jackson. It’s been nearly a decade since the Royals have had a marquee player.

And that’s their own fault. The Cardinals lost their marquee player to retirement, so they’re making new ones. The Royals have people to promote. Mike Sweeney’s the best hitter the organization has developed since George Brett. Put a couple of action shots of him on a billboard. Carlos Beltran is the most exciting outfielder the Royals have had since Bo Jackson. Put shots of Beltran crashing into the center field wall and stealing a base on a billboard.

They’ve got another really big problem too. The KC front office says it hasn’t discussed the status of manager Tony Loser Muser. I guess their last names should be Loser too.

Muser should be fired just for having Donnie Sadler lead off two games in a row. Just to give you an idea how bad Donnie Sadler is, the Royals ran out of roster spots in spring training, and even Muser had to admit Sadler was the 26th or 27th-best player on his team. But Sadler was out of options, so to send him to the minors, first any team in the majors could have him for virtually nothing if they claimed him within three business days. The rule may state they have to pay the Royals $1.

Not a single team thought Donnie Sadler was better than the worst player on their roster. Not even the five teams with worse records than the Royals. Not even Detroit!

Sadler cleared waivers and packed his bags for Omaha, the Royals’ AAA affiliate. Within weeks, the Royals had enough injuries that Muser could justify bringing back his favorite player.

The Royals’ regular leadoff hitter is Chuck Knoblauch, he formerly of the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees. The Royals rented his services (both of them swear he’ll be back next year; I doubt it) for the year. He’s batting about .200, but unlike anyone else on the team, he draws a lot of walks, so he has the highest on-base percentage on the team. And he has good enough speed to be a real pest once he gets on base. As a result, Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney finally have someone to drive home when they get to bat.

Knobby’s been nursing some minor injuries himself, leaving his left field spot vacated. The Royals have several competent outfielders. Michael Tucker generally only plays against right-handers, but he’s played every day in the past, and his defense is superb. Raul Ibanez is one of two Royals batting over .300 and he’s a passable left fielder. Rookie Brenden Berger is unproven but he’s hitting decently.

Who does Muser insert in left field?

His backup shortstop, Donnie Sadler, that’s who.

And what .133-hitting backup shortstop takes over leadoff duties?

Donnie Sadler.

Why?

Donnie Sadler has blinding speed.

What someone needs to tell Tony Loser is that you can’t steal first base, which is why Donnie Sadler is hitting .133. What else someone needs to tell Tony Loser is that a so-so-field, worse-hit shortstop in the National League isn’t going to get any better in the American League. Sadler probably hasn’t seen a fastball since he came over from Cincy last year.

Since the Royals insist on sending all of their good players to Oakland, they really need to take a cue from Oakland. The Royals sent their speedster, Johnny Damon, to Oakland for a few no-good pitchers a little over a year ago. Damon, showing his typical loyalty, left after one season to go play center field in Boston. Left without a leadoff hitter, the Athletics did something unconventional. They inserted another former Royal, Jeremy Giambi (the younger brother the former Oakland star Jason Giambi, who sold out everything to play first base for the New York Scum Yankees.)

Jeremy Giambi has stolen exactly the same number of bases in the major leagues as I have. Zero. But he gets on base, giving the really big sticks someone to drive home. You don’t have to be very fast to score from first or second on an extra-base hit. The people behind him get a lot of extra-base hits, so Giambi scores a lot of runs.

Conventional wisdom says you want someone with blazing speed to lead off, but speed demons who get on base a lot are relatively rare. So most teams settle for someone with good speed who sometimes gets on base. Or with blinding speed from home plate back to the dugout, in the case of the Royals and Donnie Sadler.

But the Royals’ mishandling of Donnie Sadler isn’t the Royals’ only problem. Friday night, rookie Chris George was faced with the thankless task of pitching against Pedro Martinez, the best pitcher in the American League. George held his own, giving up 2 runs in 5 1/3 innings. Martinez was impressed with him. Now, keep in mind that Pedro Martinez has every right to not be impressed by anyone who isn’t Curt Schilling or Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux.

“That kid has got some talent,” Martinez said. “I was worried when he got hit [by a line drive]. He stood there like a bull. I like that.”

Tony Muser liked what he saw too, but he’s not certain he’s going to let Chris George start again. Never mind what Pedro Martinez says. Martinez has only won 86 games since 1997. What’s he know about pitching?

My guess is Muser wants to hand the ball to Donnie Sadler. After all, Sadler hits like a pitcher.

Baseball season is here, and so’s Baseball Mogul 2003

The Kansas City Royals wised up on Friday and gave Mike Sweeney what he wanted. Well, at least enough of what he wanted that he signed. So Mike Sweeney is now $55 million richer, and the Royals have him locked in for five years, as long as they manage to reach .500 in either 2003 or 2004.
Personally, I wish they’d signed him to a longer deal, but it could be that the second-greatest Kansas City Royal of all time didn’t want more than five years.

To celebrate, I headed over to Sports Mogul to see if there was a new patch to fix some bugs in Baseball Mogul 2002. And I found that Baseball Mogul 2003 is out. I downloaded the demo and played around with it. The free-agency model seems to be more realistic now, and the players aren’t as rigid in their contract negotiations, which may or may not be realistic. The computer GMs offered trades, some stupid, others inspired.

The game crashed as the July 31 trading deadline approached. My Royals were in second place, thanks to a couple of shrewd acquisitions. Predictably, with one more really big stick in the lineup, Mike Sweeney and Mark Quinn hit a whole lot better. It crashed as I was wheeling and dealing, looking for a catcher with a little bit of pop in his bat and maybe a veteran starting pitcher. I’d signed Bret Saberhagen and David Cone as free agents for old times’ sake, but they had nothing left.

At any rate, for 20 bucks, why not get the full version, I figued, especially since I could plunk down the credit card, they’d ship me the retail box in mid-April, and in the meantime I could download and install a 75-meg package?

I like the new version better than the old one. And of course the old one was good enough that I once deemed it a necessity of life. The new one adds a few features, like letting you set prices for concessions (so I guess I can do a 10-cent beer night like Bill Veeck did one year in Chicago), and it adds play-by-play, which is tedious during the regular season, but great for watching games like the All-Star Game and the World Series.

What can I say? For a baseball strategy nut like me, Baseball Mogul is really hard to beat. It would be nice if it would do some more statistics, so you could do lefty/righty platoons. These days, there are managers who decide who’s playing based on whether there’s a right- or left-handed pitcher on the mound, whether it’s a day or night game, home or road game, and whether the game’s being played on turf or grass. You think I’m kidding.

The other feature I wish it had was hirable managers. The only game I’ve ever seen that had that feature was Earl Weaver Baseball, which was popular more than 10 years ago.

But even with those shortcomings, it’s still an incredibly addictive game. I haven’t found a better baseball sim yet. And despite its bad first impression, it’s less buggy than its predecessor.

Much ado about nothing and other stuff

Much ado about nothing. The most recent report I read indicates that AOL/Time Warner and Red Hat are talking, but not about an acquisition. Sanity has entered the building…
Good thing User Friendly got a chance to get its two cents’ worth in. I got a couple bucks’ worth of laughter from it.
Much ado about something. On Sunday, Gentoo Linux developer Daniel Robbins announced that an obscure AMD Athlon bug slipped past Linux kernel developers, resulting in serious problems with Athlon- and Duron-based systems with AGP cards. This confirms some suspicions I’ve heard–one of the Linux mailing lists I subscribe to occasionally has rumblings about obscure and difficult-to-track-down Athlon problems.

The result was that Gentoo’s site was slashdotted into oblivion for a while, but hopefully it also resulted in some extra exposure for the distribution. Gentoo is another source-based distro. Lately I’ve been resigned to just using Debian to build my Linux boxes, but I’m still awfully fond of the idea of compiling your own stuff. As CPUs get faster and faster, I expect that to become more commonplace.

But I digress. The bug involves the CPU’s paging function. Older x86 CPUs used 4K pages. Starting with the Pentium, CPUs started allowing 4MB pages. But a bug in the Athlon’s implementation of this extended paging causes memory corruption when used in conjunction with an AGP cards.
Alan Cox is working on a workaround. I’m a bit surprised a patch isn’t already out there.

CPU bugs are discovered all the time, but it’s fairly rare for them to be serious. If you ever run across a Pentium-60 or Pentium-66 system, boot up Linux on it sometime and run the command dmesg. You’ll find workarounds for at least two serious bugs. A TI engineer named Robert Collins gained a fair bit of notoriety in the last decade by researching, collecting, and investigating CPU bugs. Part of it was probably due to his irreverant attitude towards Intel. (As you can see from this Wayback machine entry.) Sadly, I can’t find the story on the site anymore, since he was bought out by Dr. Dobb’s.
Catching up. I haven’t been making my rounds lately. The reason why is fairly obvious. I used my day off yesterday to have lunch with someone from my small group, then when I got home I read the e-mail I absolutely had to read, responded to those that absolutely had to get responses, answered a couple of voice messages, wrote and sent out a couple of other messages, looked up, and it was 5 p.m.

“Alright God,” I muttered. “I just gave the day to Your people. Time to go spend some time with You.” So I whipped out my handy-dandy Today’s Light Bible and read about Moses. Seemed appropriate. The inadequacy and jumping the gun and making excuses, that is. The Biblical “superheroes” were human just like us, and the book doesn’t gloss over that. Today’s Light is designed to divide the Bible into pieces so you can read the whole thing in two years. I can’t decide if I want to get through it in a year or in six months. A few years ago I read it in its entirety in four months, but that pace is a bit much. If you’re willing to spend as much time reading the Bible every day as the average person does watching TV, you can make it through in a few months. But it’s not exactly light reading, and I’m not sure I recommend that pace. If you’re willing to dedicate that kind of time to Bible study you’re probably better served by learning Greek so you can read the New Testament in the original. Then if you’ve still got your sanity you can think about tackling Hebrew.

I finally got around to reading Charlie Sebold’s entries for the last few days. One especially poignant observation: “I continue to be surprised at how much I remember about computers, and how much I forget about everything else (including far more important things).”

I sure can relate. I wish I could trade everything I remember about IBM PS/2s and Microchannel for something more useful. But I remember goofy baseball statistics too–I can recite the starting lineup and pitching rotation of the 1980 Kansas City Royals (I’ll spare you). But I can’t tell you the names of all seven people I met Sunday night.

A nice Labor Day.

Yesterday was nice. I got up late, then bummed around all day. I did a couple of loads of laundry, and I put a different hard drive in my Duron-750. Then I ignored my e-mail, ignored the site for the most part, and installed Wintendo (er, Windows Me) and Baseball Mogul. Around 6 I went out and bought a CD changer. My old 25-disc Pioneer died around Christmas time and I never got around to replacing it until now.
I knew I didn’t want another Pioneer. I’ve taken that Pioneer apart to fix it before, and I wasn’t impressed with the workmanship at all. And current Pioneer models are made in China. So much for those. I looked at a Technics and a couple of Sonys. Finally, swallowing hard, I dropped $250 on a 300-disc Sony model (made in Malaysia). I still suspect it’ll be dead within five years, but maybe it’ll surprise me.

I am impressed with the sound quality. It sounds much better than my Pioneer ever did. It’s really sad when you can tell a difference in sound quality between two CD players, but I guess that just goes to show how many corners Pioneer cut on that model. Next time I go CD player shopping, I’m going to bring a disc or two along to listen to in the store so I can hear the difference.

Anyhoo, I played two seasons of Baseball Mogul and guided Boston to two world championships and a boatload of money. But something happened that made me mad. I noticed over in the AL Central, Tony Muser’s Losers, a.k.a. the Kansas City Royals, were above .500, with essentially the same team that’s looking to lose 100 games this season. Well, there was no Donnie Sadler, Muser’s secret weapon, currently batting about .137 (which also seems to be about Tony Muser’s IQ, seeing as he keeps playing the guy). So the Royals minus Muser and Sadler were a .500 club. That’s nice to know.

Then, for 2002, Kansas City went and got the biggest free-agent bat they could afford. They also didn’t trade superstar right fielder Jermaine Dye, and they re-signed shortstop Rey Sanchez. And what happened? Well, the first round of the playoffs was a Boston-Kansas City affair, that’s what. I’d used the previous year’s windfall to buy myself an All-Star team, so I rolled over Kansas City in four games. I felt kind of bad about that, but it was partly because of my record against KC’s rivals that year that they made it that far, so not too bad.

It’s all I can do to keep from e-mailing Royals GM Allaird Baird and asking him why, if Tony Muser insists on playing Donnie Sadler every day, he doesn’t consider letting the pitcher bat and have the DH hit for Sadler instead.

And shocking news. HP is buying Compaq. I didn’t believe it either. Compaq’s recent problems, after all, were partly due to its purchase of Digital Equipment Corp. and its inability to digest the huge company. The only benefit I see to this is HP getting Compaq’s service division and eliminating a competitor–Compaq’s acquisition of DEC made more sense than this does.

Baseball Mogul 2002 offers a glimpse of the future…

I have seen the future, and it crashes a lot. I’ve been playing Baseball Mogul 2002 like a fiend, and I love it. I love statistical baseball and I love financial simulations, so for people like me, this game might as well be heroin.
My big annoyance is that it crashes a lot. It seems to get through the first season just fine, but I haven’t gotten through a second season yet without a crash. That’s annoying. Playing games in a month’s batches seems to make it worse. I suggest you play week by week, saving at the end of each week.

I started off with the Kansas City Royals, of course, and pretty soon I realized what dire straits the team is in if the game doesn’t change. Without a bunch of trades for can’t-miss prospects, it’s virtually impossible to lift the team over the .500 mark, and with free spenders like Cleveland and Chicago in the division, third place is about as well as you’ll do. An out-of-this-world manager like the late (and very sorely missed) Dick Howser could probably improve matters a ton, but Baseball Mogul’s manegerial model is a bit clunky. You can change how your manager manages, but it’s with a bunch of sliders. There’s no way to model, say, a Dick Howser based on the tendencies he used in the dugout and save it. That’s a feature Earl Weaver baseball had way back in the early ’90s and I can’t believe modern sims don’t copy it.

After two seasons with the Royals, I got frustrated. I needed something easier, but not necessarily too easy. So I took on the Curse of the Bambino and took the helm of the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox haven’t won a World Series since they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920 for an astronomical $100,000. (Ruth was already a superstar and guided the Bosox to three World Championships, but with him gone, the Sox have been heartbreakers ever since, appearing in four Series and losing each in Game 7. The Yankees have just been scum.)

But how to take on the high-revenue, free-spending Yankees? The Bosox were a challenge unto themselves. Nomar Garciaparra, the greatest shortstop alive today, was injured at the beginning of the 2001 season, of course. MVP candidate Manny Ramirez’ presence in the lineup helped soften it, but I had a cripple playing first base (Brian Daubach was nowhere to be found, not that he has enough punch to really justify holding down that position). So I traded for Toronto’s Brad Fullmer, to get some protection for Ramirez. And Boston limped its way to the playoffs. It wasn’t exactly pretty. The Boston bats racked up tons of runs. Pedro Martinez was masterful, of course, but behind him I had four No. 4 starters: Frank Castillo, Bret Saberhagen (I was glad to see him come off the shelf, but he was the epitome of clutch pitcher, one of those guys who’d give up 9 runs if you didn’t have to win, but when the pennant was on the line, he’d pitch a shutout), David Cone (another ex-Royal, dumped unceremoniously for salary years ago, like Sabes), and Hideo Nomo. Fortunately the Bosox had a solid bullpen. We beat Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs, in five. Pedro had to pitch twice. Sabes won the other game. Of course we faced the Yankees in the ALCS. Boston won in 6, again behind Pedro and Sabes. It would have been poetic justice to have Cone face them in the series and win, but I had to go by the numbers rather than entirely by emotions. That brought us to Larry Walker’s and Mike Hampton’s Colorado for the World Series. Pedro won Game 1. Sabes won Game 2, of course. Castillo lost Game 3. Pedro pitched Game 4 on short rest and lost. I didn’t want to pitch 37-year-old Sabes on such short rest, so I pitched Cone instead. He lost. Sabes came back for Game 6 and won. A shutout, of course. Pedro came back strong and won Game 7.

The curse was lifted. Pedro, with a 19-6 regular season record and a 5-1 record in the postseason, took home the Cy Young award and an All-Star appearance. Manny Ramirez also brought in an All-Star appearance, but most importantly, the team brought in the World Championship.

The 2002 season was where things went nuts. The big-market teams started looking like Rotisserie Leagues thanks to free agency. I went and grabbed Anaheim’s Troy Glaus to play third base and Cleveland’s Kenny Lofton to play left field and bat leadoff. Then I grabbed Minnesota’s Eric Milton to give Pedro a legitimate #2 starter behind him. A couple of weeks into the season I noticed Houston’s Billy Wagner was still unsigned, so I nabbed him to give closer Derek Lowe some help in the bullpen. We rolled through to a 109-53 record, obliterating Oakland and New York in the playoffs. This time there wasn’t even any danger of Pedro’s arm falling off. (He went 27-1 in the regular season with a sparkling 1.53 ERA.)

Then I ran into the free-spending Braves. The Braves’ pitching staff was mostly unchanged from the real 2001 roster. (It was already an All-Star team.) But the lineup… Rafael Furcal, ss. Andruw Jones, cf. Chipper Jones, 3b. Barry Bonds, lf. Sammy Sosa, rf. Tony Clark, 1b. Quilvio Veras, 2b. Paul Bako, c. With the exception of the bottom three, they had arguably the best player in the league at each position. (The other three would be the second- or third-best player on a lot of teams.) Oh yeah. They also had superstar Moises Alou riding the bench. I took a look at Atlanta’s finances. Yep, they were bankrupting the team, deficit spending in hopes of pulling in a World Series. It came down to Game 7, Greg Maddux vs. Pedro Martinez, a showdown of the two greatest pitchers playing today (and arguably the two greatest pitchers alive). Maddux beat Martinez 2-1 in a heartbreaker. (Hey, you try shutting out that lineup!)

After facing that, I felt a little less guilty about running a Rotisserie-style team out of Boston. I’d passed on signing Kerry Wood as a free agent the season before for just that reason. No longer. Atlanta, unable to afford Maddux and Glavine for the next season, let both of them walk. I signed Maddux to a four-year deal, which pretty much guaranteed he’d get his 300th win in a Boston uniform. And between the two of them, I could pretty much count on getting at least three wins in a 7-game postseason. Throw in another clutch performance by Sabes (re-signed for purely emotional reasons–I was either going to get Sabes another World Series ring to go with the one he got with the Royals in ’85 and my fictional Bosox in 2001 or I was going to ship both Sabes and Cone back home to Kansas City, to finish their careers where they both belonged all along. But Cone retired so I opted to go for another ring.) and I’m pretty sure I’d be able to lift the Curse of the Bambino again.

The game even fabricates newspaper accounts of the season’s big games. The picture is almost always the same, and you can usually tell the story was computer-generated rather than written by an intelligent human being, but it adds an element of drama to it.

I also noticed the injury model is fairly realistic. Keeping Pedro Martinez healthy for a full season is virtually impossible, both in this game and in real life. But there are players who will tough themselves through their injuries. Mike Sweeney suffers about one serious injury per year, an injury that would knock most players out of action for a couple of weeks, maybe a month. In Baseball Mogul, Sweeney sits. In real life, Sween tapes himself up and keeps going until he either gets better or the injury hampers his play so severely that even he realizes the Royals are better off with his backup playing. That doesn’t happen often.

The other glaring drawback is that you can’t watch the games. I’d love to watch the All-Star game and at least the World Series.

So. We’ve got a baseball simulation that crashes a lot, doesn’t let you watch the key games (or any of them, for that matter), where injuries are all or nothing, and the managerial model is more crude than I’d like.

Those are serious shortcomings. But the rest of the game is so fabulous that I can mostly overlook them.

Now, the question is, who pitches Opening Day 2003? Martinez or Maddux?

Odds and ends to start the week

Let’s talk about this site. So far, the forums are pretty much a flop. There’s a little activity over there, but not much, and the forums didn’t cut down on the amount of mail I receive by much. I’m not going to take them down because I like them, and a few other people like them, but since they’re not solving the problem they were designed to solve, I have to look at other methods.
So I’m going to put mail on a separate page. I’m using MHonArc to generate the pages. Mail messages end up on their own pages, which is a disadvantage to the traditional Daynotes method of handling mail, but they’re threaded, which is a big advantage. Discussions can continue indefinitely, you can follow them easily, and if the subject matter isn’t something that interests you, if you don’t click the link it won’t bother you. And I don’t spend long amounts of time reformatting mail–sometimes it takes longer to reformat mail than it does to write the day’s content–which is a huge advantage that I think outweighs not having all the mail on a single page. I used to solve that problem by forwarding all my mail to my sister for her to format and post, but she has less free time than I have these days.

I haven’t figured out how I’ll handle archiving just yet, but I know that’s a problem many have faced and many have conquered. (MHonArc’s been around since 1994.) I’m just happy to have it live and looking good.

One option in MHonArc totally mangles the e-mail addresses in headers, but not in message replies. I wised up to this and started nuking the addresses there manually. Some people want the privacy; nobody wants spam, so I figure this is the best way to handle it. I know spambots are harvesting addresses from this site so I don’t want to give them another bonanza.

Please continue using the discussion facilities here though. If you’re posting a response to a day’s entry, it makes a whole lot more sense to have them here than over in Mail.

My Royals make a smart move… And a dumb one! Smart move: My Royals re-acquired the catcher they never should have traded away. Brent Mayne was never going to be the next Johnny Bench; he looked more like he’d be the next John Wathan. But seeing as the Royals haven’t had a better catcher than John Wathan for the past, oh, six years since they gave Mayne away to the Mets… Mayne’s .251 average in 1995 didn’t tear up the league, but he handled pitchers decently, didn’t ground into a lot of double plays, in an emergency he could play a couple of different positions, and he could even steal a base. And he played cheap. That’s hard to find in a catcher. And in the years since the Royals dealt him away, he learned how to hit better.

He was batting .331 in hitter-friendly Coors Park when the Royals re-acquired him. I doubt he hits better than .270 in Royals Stadium, but when your catching platoon is the legendary A.J. Hinch, who’s batting about a hundred points below that, and future Hall of Famer Hector Ortiz, who’s batting about 50 points below that, Mayne looks awfully good.

Dumb move: To get Mayne, the Royals traded away Mac Suzuki. Last year, Suzuki was the Royals’ best pitcher. This year he’s struggled, but when you have no job security and no niche, it’s hard to do your best. It seems Tony Muser will banish his starters to the bullpen if he doesn’t like the way they tied their shoes that morning. Sometimes young pitchers have problems with that.

And not only that, Suzuki was a revenue pot. Suzuki was born in Japan. All of Suzuki’s starts were televised in Japan, because the Japanese are crazy about Japanese players playing in the States. (It was small-time compared to Mariners mania, who sport outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and closer Kachiro Sasaki, both bona-fide superstars, but when you’re the small-budget Kansas City Royals, you take what you can get.) With Suzuki on the mound, the Royals got television royalties in Japan. In all likelihood, more people watched those games in Japan than in Kansas City. Suzuki in all likelihood brought in more money than the Royals had to pay him, due to television and merchandising revenue, and the Royals are constantly moaning about how they have no money.

The Japanese couldn’t care less about Brent Mayne. Or any other player on the Royals’ roster, for that matter.

So now my Royals have a decent catcher, but at the expense of a pitcher who’s about 9 years younger and has a tremendous upside. But no one ever said Royals management had any common sense.

An evening with my one true love

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America
has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a
blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.
This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all
that once was good, and that could be again.”
–James Earl Jones, in “Field of Dreams”

After the last couple of days, with a Monday that had too much happening for my little brain to handle, and a Tuesday fighting with a laptop that was convinced I’d just invented wireless long-distance DSL (not to mention trying to deal with the sudden flood of pictures from my past), I needed to get away. I needed to spend some time with the love of my life.
I can’t help it. I’m a romantic fool. When I want to escape, I try, somehow, some way, to a broadcast of my beloved Kansas City Royals. At the very least, I turn on ESPN’s gamecast on the Web and follow the game, and usually they break my heart yet again.

I was going to say it’s my own damn fault, but maybe it’s not. I can’t help what I am. I’m Scottish. Clan Farquharson. Our motto: “Fide et Fortitudine.” That’s Gaelic for “Fidelity with fortitude.” Today we might say, “Loyalty with guts.” That’s why I’m a Royals fan in St. Louis. Or at least that sounds good.

In my younger days, I’d go out and play myself. I never was all that good, but I poured every last drop of my heart and soul into playing the game, and I’ve got enough of both that I didn’t spend too much time on the bench. My coaches always knew I’d give 200 percent if I had it, or, more likely, I’d die trying.

And I miss my younger days, the days when I was naive enough to think that baseball was life, the days when my biggest concern was whether I’d be playing left field or second base the next game. Well, the days when I could play honest-to-goodness baseball are long gone. But when I got wind of a softball team being organized at work, I signed up.

Our first practice was yesterday. I’ve played in exactly two softball games since 1996. By 1996, by skills had deterriorated to the point that I was strictly a second-string catcher. I could still hit, but I was a contact hitter with limited speed, and in the field I had limited range and my glove skills were shot. And my greatest skill as a catcher, by far, was talking up the pitcher and getting on the opposing team’s nerves.

Well, I’m probably in worse shape now than I was then, but, betting that my peers have deterriorated more than I have over the past five years (a fairly safe bet, seeing as I’ve pretty much always laid off the beer), I’m attempting a comeback anyway.

Practice went well. In a three-inning practice game, I went two for two with a pair of singles. The first was a close play at first, or should have been, but the first baseman didn’t handle the throw. I ran to second, but the second baseman fumbled, and by the time the shortstop managed to get to the ball, I was rounding third. What the heck, I thought, and I kept on going. The shortstop fired to the plate, the catcher took the throw cleanly, turned, and just managed to nick my lower right leg with the tag a half-step from the plate. Some people thought I was safe, but he got me.

My second hit was a looping single to right. I rounded first, trying to draw a throw, but I couldn’t get the right fielder to bite. The next play was a grounder to short. The shortstop threw to second for the force–I never had much of a chance. The second baseman was a female. Mac user. In my younger days, I’d have flattened the second baseman, just for being the second baseman and in my way. I didn’t this time. It was an intrasquad game, after all. And I guess I’ve mellowed out with age.

In pre-game BP, I ws trying to be a doubles and triples hitter, but once we actually had players on the field, I remembered that in softball, you don’t really want to do that. Unless you’re an honest power hitter (I’m not, at least not at the beginning of the season, and my wrists are still extremely weak so I may never hit for much power again), you just want to put the ball in play and force the other team to make mistakes. I think the game’s more fun that way anyway. I love being scrappy and disruptive.

In the field, I made two putouts. I played an inning at second, an inning in right, and an inning in right center. Nothing happened at second. In right, I got a sharp fly ball with no one on. I don’t even remember the last time I played right field, but I made the grab. That throw to second was harder to make than I remembered it being. In right-center, I pulled in a lazy fly ball from someone I expected to have more power than that. There was a runner on first, but she pretty much stayed put. I probably wasn’t a threat to throw her out anyway, but I don’t think anyone else knew that. When you make the catches, people tend to assume you have a good arm too, until you prove otherwise.

I’m not the slowest player on the team by a longshot, which is good. I’ve never been all that good defensively, but I think I know why now. I was talking to a coach last year, and he pointed out that fielding is a totally different mentality. You’ve gotta relax out there, then when the ball comes your direction, run to it, watch it, and grab it with two hands. I always used to tense up in the field, and I’m betting that was the problem. After trying to leg out that infield homer (actually it would have been a single and a three-base error), I was too tired to tense up, and I actually made all the plays.

Yeah, I’ll be sore in the morning, and probably the next morning too. But that’s good. I need a reminder of how much fun I had last night, trying to score on my own infield single.

Confound it, I shoulda slid.

More Like This: Baseball Softball Personal

Hello from the land of great barbecue

I’m in KC. Home of barbecue, the Kansas City Royals, and way too many country music stations. I miss the barbecue and the Royals. So. I’m gone. Gatermann’s in charge.
What am I saying!?

Actually I’ll be checking in periodically. I may even write some stuff up the couple of days I’m gone. Not sure yet. I won’t be checking mail though, so if you have questions, use the comments here or the forum.

It was a decent drive up. I stopped at my usual place, Biffles BBQ in Concordia, Mo., for some brisket. The Royals game was on the TV in the bar, so I stayed and watched an inning. They ended up winning the game 12-4. I don’t get it. The Royals can beat the first-place Twins about as well as anyone, but they can’t beat any other team.

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.

01/18/2001

A red-hatted worm. Wow. You sure don’t hear about this often.  There’s a worm that exploits a weakness in Red Hat Linux 6.2 and 7.0. Coined the Ramen worm, it defaces Web pages with a tribute to Ramen noodles. This is the first of these that I’ve heard of, and I’ll say it’s an example of why multiple distributions are a good thing. Other distributions aren’t vulnerable to this, so the spread slows. Hardening Red Hat against this isn’t hard–head to securityfocus.com, which anyone who administers Linux boxes for a living needs to be reading anyway. Exploits and fixes are generally documented and fixed long before anything can take advantage of them.

The number of the day is… 114. That’s my IQ, at least according to the 10-minute test I took yesterday in between phone calls while two of my coworkers were arguing about the validity of IQ tests. I popped up, announced my score, fueled the debate and then left. I was feeling vindictive I guess.

Generally, as I understand it, 100 is average. If you’re in the 130s, you’re gifted. I’ve been around some 170s and I keep up with them with no problems. I knew a 190 once. She gave me some problems, partly because I couldn’t understand her when she started spouting off in Latin. Solo hablo ingles y un poco espanol–un muy poco espanol. And I think another part of the problem was I found her boring, too refined.

What’d my coworkers have to say about my score? One of them used me to dismiss all validity of IQ tests–no way that guy’s a 114! His problem-solving ability is too good, and that memory, and and and… Well, slightly above-average people generally don’t write their first book and publish it before their 25th birthday. The coworker arguing in favor of IQ tests blamed my score on environment and poor preparation. I admit, my preparation was awful–I took it on spur of the moment, didn’t check any answers, took a 20-minute test in 10, took a couple of phone calls while I was doing it… So I was hardly scientific.

But what do we mean when we call someone “smart,” anyway?

Good memory? My dad sure had a great memory. I have a pretty good one too. I can probably tell you the starting lineup of every Kansas City Royals team from 1980 to last season. (I’ll spare you). And obscure computer information… don’t get me started. But nobody has a memory as good as a computer. Some would say the only thing dumber than a computer is a toaster, but I wonder, because my toaster sure works a whole lot better than my computer does most of the time.

Intelligence? Intelligence is the ability to reason and analyze. Some people do this really well. Others don’t. Most people who’ve watched me work say I have good troubleshooting and analysis skills, though I often score poorly on tests that measure that. Yet when I took the ACT, I did everything wrong. I went out with my girlfriend the night before. I stayed up late. I decided to come home and study afterward. Then I went in and scored a 30 or 31 on my first try. For those unfamiliar with the ACT, a score of 30 gives you an automatic scholarship from the state of Missouri at any state university. I think 36 is the highest possible score. A score of 26 gets you automatic admission at most state universities. As I recall, I scored in the 98th percentile in social studies, 99th in English, low 80-something in math and high 80-something in science. (Just call me Mr. Humanities.)

Common sense? I guess this is ability to deal with the real world. I’ve run into people who are seriously deficient here. That girl I knew with a 190… She had virtually none. She was always finding herself in situations she couldn’t think her way out of. Some people call this “street smart,” and I think that’s a good description of it. Common sense isn’t as common as it should be.

Wisdom? I think wisdom’s the most important of the bunch. It’s the ability to use what you’ve got. I scored very poorly on one proficiency test that measured my ability to analyze. My biggest beef was that it was heavily slanted towards the mathematically minded, and I don’t have that inclination–my math numbers were what dragged down my ACT score the most–and the last time I had to juggle numbers a lot was in 1994. One time when someone used that score against me, I retorted, “Yeah, so I don’t have as much as some of those guys. At least I know how to use what little I’ve got, and they certainly don’t!” Is it possible that my intelligence and common sense are only slightly above average, and that I use memory and wisdom to compensate? Maybe.

I know someone who doesn’t think she’s smart. And maybe she lacks in one of those areas. I don’t know. What I do know is she knows how to get things done. And I’ve never felt any need to talk down to her. When we’ve talked, I’ve always had the sense she’s understood what I’m talking about–and we’ve talked some pretty heavy subjects at times. Remember my line of work.

When I think smart, I think of those guys I know who had 170-plus IQs and pontificated a lot. She doesn’t do that. But when I think dumb, she doesn’t come to mind either. My former neighbor who believed every conspiracy theory out there and who believed The X-Files is a documentary does. He also tended to overuse profanity and thought very highly of his own intelligence.

I think it was a Supreme Court justice who once said he couldn’t define the word obscene, but he knew it when he saw it. I think the same goes for intelligence. It’s hard to define and even harder to measure, but we know it when we see it.