30 July 2008

1 year old

Today is my daugther Shannon's first birthday! It amazes me that the little bundle that came into the world last summer is now walking and doing her best to talk and communicate. Even more interesting is how very much alike and unlike she and her older brother are.

Happy birthday, peanut. I love you!

29 July 2008

Looks like I was wrong about ole Manny...

Nothing makes you feel more like an asshole than defending one in good faith.

ESPN's Peter Gammons (a.k.a., the closest thing you will ever get to man who writes the gospel of baseball) raised a very interesting point about Manny in his blog entry from yesterday.

Wrote Gammons:
"Everyone in the clubhouse knows the names. Joba Chamberlain (twice), Felix Hernandez (twice), Edinson Volquez, Justin Verlander -- pitchers that Manny Ramirez didn't feel quite right to face"
For those of you who were not aware, that list reads like a who's who of MLB's "best pitching talent under age 25".

I had not been aware of the fact that Manny had sat them all out and, now that I am, I'm ashamed to have defended him.

Well, it's still only July 29th. There's a chance that the Sox could still work something out with either Philly (for Pat Burrell) or a multi-team deal which would land them Colorado's Matt Holliday. Here's to hoping!

28 July 2008

It's Manny, move on...

Manny Ramirez is many things. For starters, he's one of the most prolific hitters that baseball has ever seen. He's also got the personality and demeanor of a little kid. All of which is to say that Manny is an engima.

For those of you who didn't know, he's also playing in the last year of an 8-year, $160M contract he signed in the fall of 2000. During that time, he's helped the Red Sox win two World Championships. Their first two in over 80 years I'll add. The Red Sox hold two options which they can use to extend the contract by 1 or 2 years at $20M per season.

At the All-Star break, Manny was asked questions about his contract and said that, after the season, he'd like a chance to sit down and talk with the team's management, face to face, about their plans for him. Given the nature of his comments, it drew a sharp response from the team's management. All I can say is "shame on them for dealing with their player through the media".

Anyway, last week, Manny missed a game in Seattle with a sore knee. When the Red Sox arrived back in Boston, he missed the first game of the team's big series against the rival Yankees citing the same injury. The Boston media had a field day with this, going as far to say that Manny was faking the injury because he was unhappy. Now, Manny may be many things, but he doesn't fake injuries. He just isn't willing to play through them when he's unhappy.

To make matters worse, Manny made some comments that put him back in the media spotlight. For those of you who might have missed it, before Sunday's game, Manny was asked a question by a reporter from ESPNdeportes.com and his response was "If the Red Sox are a better team without Manny Ramirez, they should trade me; I will not object". Note that he didn't say "please trade me" nor did he say "I want out". He said that, if the team felt it were in the best interests of the team to trade him, then do so. He also said that he didn't think that they would trade him. Now, not surprisingly, people are blowing this thing out or proportion too. And the comments are all coming around to Manny claiming that he wants out, which isn't true.

The thing that bothers me is that the only reason this is getting the kind of bandwidth that it is, is because the Sox are struggling. If the Sox were in 1st place by 5 games (which they were a month and a half ago), this wouldn't be an issue. But with the Sox caught up in a three team race with the Yankees and Rays, it is.

Given all these things, I'd like to turn the calendar back a year and point something out. Last year, Manny suffered an oblique injury and missed about 5 weeks. He came back for the last week of the regular season and everyone wondered if he'd be ready for the playoffs. Heh.

Here are Manny's stats for the 14 playoff games from last year:

AB: 46
Plate Appearances: 63
H: 16
BB: 16
Times on Base: 32
K: 9
R: 14
1B: 10
2B: 2
3B: 0
HR: 4
Total Bases: 30
RBI: 16
.AVG: .348
.OBP: .508
.SLG: .652
OPS: 1.160

Put simply, those are monster numbers and show that Manny did everything in his power to help his team win.

But maybe more important than those numbers would be this, after the Red Sox lost game 4 of the ALCS last year, Manny was quoted in the locker room as saying "Hey, what's the worst that can happen? If we lose, we go home. It's not the end of the world or anything." Those words were a lightning rod for criticism as the Boston media jumped on Manny for his "devil may care" attitude. What was lost in the heat of the moment was that his words helped take the scrutiny off of every other person in the Red Sox clubhouse and allowed the team to play with abandon. Which they did, outscoring the Indians 30-5 over the last 3 games.

Given that the Red Sox, as a team, have batted below .250 since the All-Star game, maybe Manny's words will finally light a fire under the ass of a team which has been struggling for the last 6 weeks.

23 July 2008

Power of people

jad·ed (jā'dĭd)
1. Worn out; wearied
2. Dulled by surfeit; sated
3. Cynically or pretentiously callous

That's how dictionary.com defines the term. It's an adjective I use often to describe myself. This week, however, something happened which changed that, if only for a little while.

Sunday night, a guy who most of you do not know nor, sadly, will ever know, died of pancreatic cancer. He was 31 years old.

Joe, known widely as crakburn, was a husband, a retired Marine, and a die-hard Browns fan. He was also one of the moderators of the Cleveland Browns forum on Football's Future. It was in this capacity that made his impact.

Last summer, while I was busy welcoming a new baby into the world, Joe got the official word that the tumor that had been growing in his abdomen was, in fact, stage III pancreatic cancer. I'm not going to lie, when I found out, my first thought was to wonder if he had months left, or just weeks. Regardless, over the next few months, as his condition worsened, he kept following the Browns as diligently as ever. In fact, all but a few people knew that there was really anything wrong.

Three weeks ago, Joe went into a hospice so that he might receive the care he needed while he "got his affairs in order" (which is a polite way of saying "waited to die"). Anyway, the online community that exists on Football's Future wanted to do something to show Joe how much they cared. So, they started a Make a Wish drive for him. Led by a 15-year old from Kansas City (who's not even a Browns fan), the members contacted the Cleveland Browns and arranged to have Joe Thomas, crakburn's favorite player, come and visit him in the hospice.

For a group of people to come together from all over the country to help make something happen for
a man that none of them had actually met in person, that has to be one of the most touching stories I have ever heard and speaks volumes about the quality of people.

22 July 2008

Big move on the NFL front

Well, well, well, things they are a changing in the NFL.

For those who might have missed it, the Miami Dolphins (my favorite football team) traded perennial Pro Bowl DE Jason Taylor to the Washington Redskins for two draft picks (a 2nd round pick in 2090 and a 6th round pick in 2010). This was a good move for both teams as it eliminated the distraction Taylor's presence (or lack thereof) would have caused at Miami's training camp, it gave the Dolphins more picks to use to rebuild, and it gave the Redskins an impact defensive player.

It also gave the Dolphins an additional $7M in 2008 salary cap space (bringing them to $21M under) which ought to be enough for the Dolphins to sign OT Vernon Carey to a very nice extension. They could also some of that money to extend several other players, but the question then becomes, who? Aside from Carey, there isn't one veteran player on this roster whose play deserves them receiving an extension. Not one. If that doesn't illustrate the negative impact that both Dave Wannstedt's and Nick Saban's tenures brought to this team, nothing will.

19 July 2008

Not a great start

Memo to Tito Francona:

Point 1: When you're coming out of the All-Star Break, most managers use the opportunity to re-align their pitching rotation in 1-2-3-4-5 order. Can you please explain why you've decided to come out of the gate 5-1-3-2-4 (Buchholz, Beckett, Wakefield, Lester, and Matsuzaka)?

Point 2: Since just about everyone is aware that Jed Lowrie is the shortstop of the future, a reasonable person might expect that you'd want to give him lots of experience against MLB pitchers. Platooning him with Alex Cora isn't, in my opinion, the way to go.

Point 3: Any further discussion about running out of pitchers at the All-Star game that fails to mention your gross mis-management of them is senseless noise. One of the worst legacies Joe Torre left us with was this "everyone plays" mentality in the All-Star game. Sorry, dude, but that was fine when it was an exhibition game, but it isn't any more. Unless the game's been decided already (and a scoreless game in the 4th hardly qualifies), pitchers should be expected to go 2 innings. And it's perfectly fine if some position players don't play.

18 July 2008

Space, still the final frontier

Just saw the footage of the Earth and moon that NASA released from the Deep Impact space probe.


Unfortunately, it made me realize that space is still the final frontier.

It's been nearly 40 years since we went to the moon and it seems as though the collective thought process from the majority of the Terran governments is "well, that's far enough". To make matter worse, humans haven't set foot on the moon in over 30 years. I guess once we figured out how to put man-made metal objects in orbit around the planet, it seems as though those in charge thought it would be a better idea to find ways to put cameras and guns on them instead of find a way to put people in space on a more regular basis. But there I go again assuming that governments are designed to act in the best interests of the population, not the people who comprise the government...

Anyway, in case you haven't been following along, Sir Richard Branson's latest venture, Virgin Galactic, is starting to take shape.


Not only did they win the X PRIZE for being the first private team to build and fly a reusable spaceship, they're looking at creating a space tourism industry which will, hopefully, push the governments of the planet (specifically, the USA) into re-prioritizing the space program. I'm not sure how much Branson is going to be charging for a trip into sub-orbital space, but I'm interested in finding out. It's got to be less than the $20M that the Russians were charging.

17 July 2008

Some idle thoughts...

My brother Greg and my buddy Joe asked me about fantasy football this year and, since I've been posting about it recently, I thought I'd offer some more information about the concept. Fantasy football is a misnomer. It's probably better thought of as "rotisserie football" but since the majority of guys who play are under the age of 30, I guess the whole fantasy tag was part of the hook.

Anyway, the basic idea is that you assemble a team of NFL players and you get points based on the stats they produce. Sounds simple enough, right? So, you play in leagues where each week you go head to head against another player in the league. Whichever player's team scores the most points in a given week gets a win for that week. The teams with the most wins at the end of the fantasy football season (which usually occurs about week 12-13 of the NFL season) make the playoffs.

Now, the key about fantasy football is building your roster. This is the part most people struggle with and it's something that Bill Simmons (a.k.a., ESPN's Sports Guy) has discussed in the past.
Quite simply, each league varies and, while the concepts are usually the same, differences in implementations can make a huge difference.

Here's what I mean. Almost universally, leagues award 6 points for a passing, rushing, and receiving TD and 1 point for every 10 rushing yards, and 1 point per 25 passing yards. However, points for receiving yardage vary and some leagues award points per reception while others don't. (The league I'm in awards 1 point per reception and 1 point per 10 yards receiving.) Then there's the issue of defenses. In most leagues, you have a generic defense/special teams unit but there are some leagues where you can pick up individual defensive players too. Defenses score points based on take-aways, sacks, and points allowed.

Back when I made my first foray into fantasy football, I got screwed by a couple of things. The first was that our provider (Yahoo!) awarded kick (both punt and kickoff) return TDs to the individual who scored them, not to the unit as a whole. Since I had Chicago's defense/special teams unit that season (a.k.a., the year Devin Hester returned 5 kicks for scores), I got screwed. To make matters worse, I couldn't even add him to my roster because it wouldn't let us add defensive players. I also made the mistake of picking several Miami Dolphins higher than they should have been selected.

Bottom line, if you're going to play, learn the rules, learn the players' situations, and build your team to maximize your point output. For example, Frank Gore of the 49ers has run for just under 2800 yards over the past two years and, based on our league's scoring, has produced an average of 287.9 points a year. But you need to know the circumstances. In 2006, he produced 333 points (with Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator). Last year, he produced only 242 points. This year, his offensive coordinator is Mike "What do you mean, run the ball?" Martz. Is Gore someone you want to count on for production? I wouldn't.

Other things

Saw JibJab's latest political satire this morning. For those of you who forgot, these are the same guys who did the Bush-Kerry sign-along to "This Land is Your Land" 4 years ago. Anywhoo, this year they've done a number called "Time to do some campaigning" (which I think is done to Richard Thompson's "Time to Ring Some Changes") and manages to mock Bush, Cheney, Obama, McCain, both Clintons, and the whole political process. I love it. Here's the link to watch it:


Now, if we could just get some candidates that were worth electing...


The second-half of the baseball season kicks of tonight (although, this year, it's more like the last 40%) and it finds the Red Sox in first place in the AL East. The Sox have a record of 57-40 and look to be in pretty good shape to make another playoff run. Important bits of information to consider for the Sox:
  • they have 65 games remaining (34 at home, 31 on the road);
  • their remaining games are against Angels (6), Mariners (3), Yankees (9), A's (3), Royals (3), White Sox (7), Rangers (6), Blue Jays (12), Orioles (6), Rays (6), and Indians (4);
  • the pitching has been doing well, but they get their lineup monster, David Ortiz, back at the end of the month and that should help produce more runs.
The next 2 1/2 months ought to be exciting.

16 July 2008

Fantasy Football moment

Wa-hoo! Traded the #3 pick (and associated picks in the snake-style draft) for the #12 pick (and associated picks) in a 12-player league.

For those who aren't familiar with a snake-style draft, it works like this:

If you have the 1st pick in the first round, you have the last pick in the second round. You then have the 1st pick in the 3rd round and the last pick in the 4th round. If you have the second pick in the first round, you have the second-to-last pick in the second round. I could continue, but I think most people now get the idea.

Sure, it'll be forever before my turn to pick comes up again, but that ability to make back to back selections is huge.

Ha! Made it.

Patience is a virtue. Sometimes, I surprise myself and demonstrate it. This time, I lucked out and got one of the two spots that opened up in the fantasy football league I played in two years ago. (I had to drop out last year because I just didn't have the time.)

So, the draft is August 16th at 1 PM ET. I have the 3rd overall pick. Hmmm, decisions, decisions...

15 July 2008

The House that Josh closed

Yankee Stadium. Hallowed ground of baseball legend and lore, home stadium to some of the greatest players to ever play the game, and shrine to everything that greed can get you is closing this fall. Due to be replaced by a newer, bigger park next spring. The park's nickname -- the House that Ruth built -- is homage to the man who put New York baseball on the collective map over 75 years ago. In tribute to it's final season, Major League Baseball awarded the 2008 All-Star Game to the Yankees.

At last night's home run derby, Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers gave it a new nickname -- the House that Josh closed. In case you didn't hear, Mr. Hamilton swatted 28 HRs in the first round of last night's expo, including one that almost cleared the roof facing, in center field.

As I'm not sold on the notion that the Yankees have the pitching to make it back to the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season, this achievement will be, in my mind, the final majestic memory of Yankee Stadium. And, thus, the moniker "the House that Josh closed".


14 July 2008

Rush from Manchester, NH on July 11th

OK, so, here's my quick review of the Rush show from last Friday night.

This was the first concert I'd been to in years. In fact, I'd say it was at least 3 years since my last concert. It was the first time I'd see Rush since the Test For Echo tour in 1996. All in all, the show was very good. Unlike the guys from the Who, Rush is still clearly on top of their game and for a bunch of 55-year olds, they rocked the house. To which, let me say that the show was also pretty loud, but that could just due to me getting old too.

The set list, as best I can recall it, went like this:

Digital Man
Ghost of a Chance
The Main Monkey Business
The Larger Bowl
Red Barchetta
The Trees
Between The Wheels
Far Cry
Workin' Them Angels
Armor and Sword
The Way The Wind Blows
Natural Science
Malignant Narcissism
Drum Solo
Spirit of Radio
Witch Hunt
Tom Sawyer
One Little Victory
Passage to Bangkok

I'll admit that I was a little disappointed in the song selection from Snakes & Arrows. Quite frankly, I could have done without Spindrift and The Way the Wind Blows and would have much rather heard Bravest Face and We Hold On in their places. But that's just me, I guess.

The other thing that surprised me was the almost complete lack of recognition of whole chunks of the band's history. They didn't play a song from their Rush, FBN, CoS, FtK, PoW, Presto, Counterparts, and TFE albums and played a grand total of 1 song (One Little Victory) from Vapor Trails. For those who don't follow Rush that closely, it means that they didn't play Working Man, Closer to the Heart, Big Money, or Ghost Rider. For me, it meant no Finding My Way, Animate, Earthshine, or Vapor Trails.

All in all, though, it was still a great show.

11 July 2008

Some background on this blog

A little background about this blog and myself in the process.

The title of the blog comes from the opening line of the song New World Man by Rush.

    "He's a rebel and a runner"

Of special note here is the fact that this is the also same song that provided my college yearbook quote, which was:

    "he's old enough to know what's right,
    and young enough not to choose it"

The significance being that I have a nasty habit of being a contrarian and the rebellious/anti-authority streak within me is well documented.

Well, enough about me. The other item of note (well, somewhat about me) is that I will be attending the Rush concert tonight at the Verizon Wireless Area in Manchester, NH. It's been a long time since I've seen Rush and I'm quite looking forward to it.

10 July 2008

My First Post

Well, after years of wondering whether it was worth it or not, I've finally started a blog.

Insert the sound clip of a fanfare here!

I'm not sure how often I'm going to be able to contribute here, but I'm going to make the effort.