Saturday, April 30, 2011
Yesterday I highlighted the team-up of Brandi Carlile and Gregory Alan Isakov, though I'd been thinking about Journey ballads. Today I woke up with "Breakeven (Falling to Pieces)" in my head--I think it may have something to do with Xenia on NBC's The Voice this week--and listened to it a couple dozen times this morning. Who knows what music will catch me this afternoon when the Braves/Cardinals game is over on Fox. Something tells me it won't be Craig Kimbrel's new entrance music "Welcome to the Jungle." Perfect choice for "the most unhittable closer in baseball." After the week the Braves have had, maybe it should be Toby Keith's "Get My Drink On"...
One last note and then I'm going to get ready for the Braves/Cards game. Tomorrow night on 60 Minutes, Lara Logan will be returning to discuss her sexual assault in Cairo after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak there. What she has to say about these type of assaults and the under reporting surrounding them is very important. Please tune in.
Friday, April 29, 2011
"You Belong To Me" performed by Brandi Carlile and Gregory Alan Isakov. This song was originally written in 1952 by Pee Wee King, Chilton Price, and Redd Stewart. It's been performed by quite a few artists including Patsy Cline, Jo Stafford, Bing Crosby, Bob Dylan, and most recently Jason Wade.
Apparently, Gregory Alan Isakov (who I showcased here a few Fridays ago) toured with Brandi Carlile. YouTube has a handful of videos with Carlile and Isakov performing various songs and I've been loving each one of them, "You Belong To Me" being my favorite. Also check out "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong," "Red and Gold," and "Virginia May." These two make a great duo.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I don't pay much attention to the National League Central unless the teams in that division impact the standings in the National League East where my Braves compete. However, my fantasy baseball team requires that I pay attention to one team in particular--the Cincinnati Reds. I have nothing against the Reds. I even like Pete Rose. As someone interested in baseball history, I appreciate the Big Red Machine just as much as the next guy. However, there are a few things about the modern-day Reds that bug me and one of them really isn't helping my fantasy team one bit: Aroldis Chapman.
During the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Chapman pitched for the Cuban national team, but that came after a tumultuous few seasons where he had played in Cuba and then attempted to defect from Cuba unsuccessfully. After Raul Castro reprimanded Chapman for his unsuccessful attempt to defect in early 2008, he was suspended from the national team and was not allowed to play for Cuba at the Beijing Olympics. Eventually he was let back on the team, played in the WBC and appeared to be back in good standing with the Cuban government. Up until July 2009 when he walked out of a Netherlands hotel he was staying at with his Cuban teammates and eventually wound up in Andorra. From there he gained free agency from Major League Baseball and signed a long-term contract with the Reds in January 2010.
Chapman's time in the minors was as exciting as that of another young phenom, Steven Strasburg. Had Steven Strasburg not debuted last season with the Nationals, the most talked about debut may have easily been Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is a young fireballer like Strasburg and a strikeout king. In his big league debut last August, Chapman's threw fastballs ranging from 98 mph to 103 mph. The first pitch of his big league career was a smoking 98 mph fastball. In a matter of nine pitches, he struck out the side. It was an impressive beginning to what many think will be a shining career.
Now, taking his history and his talent into account as well as the fact that so far this season he has matched last season's velocity and command and has registered a 106 mph fastball, one could logically conclude that the best place for this young phenom is in the bullpen closing games for the Reds. Right? Well, not so fast. The Reds have him in the bullpen, but they've decided to use the young kid's gun to set-up for closer Francisco Cordero.
I've had successful fantasy baseball seasons in the past with Cordero closing, I may have even had him last year when the Reds were one of the best teams in the game. He's had success with the Reds, Brewers, & Rangers. Yet, Cordero is nothing like Chapman. Cordero has a hard fastball that can reach the high 90's, but he lives and dies with his slider. In addition to the difference in velocity, Cordero is much less consistent, blowing saves that seem a given when he comes into the game. Additionally, Cordero is 35 years old. Aside from Billy Wagner's success last season with the Braves and the ageless Mariano Rivera, closers, like most other pitchers, don't last as long as other players. Cordero is approaching the time-frame where the wheels have fallen off for other successful closers.
The question for the Reds seems to be why they don't let the veteran Cordero begin mentoring Chapman and grooming him for the closer's role. Unfortunately, the Reds seemed to be heading in the exact opposite direction. They'd like Chapman to become a top of the rotation starter. They think Chapman should be for them what Strasburg will eventually be (when healthy) for the Nationals. The problem? Great American Ball Park. The Reds play in what can only be described as a band box. So far in 2011, Great American ranks 8th in terms of hitter-friendly confines. With a pitching rotation that isn't as strong as it was a year ago, it is all the more important that the bullpen be able to shut games down, especially the closer. Yet, here again, the Reds seem to be ignoring these trends and hoping to make Chapman something he's not--a starter. Could Chapman be a starter? Sure. He has the stuff to pitch well wherever you put him, but his stuff seems to be best suited for 9th inning closing.
Having Chapman as a set-up man means one thing to those of us who are following stats closely for the sake of our fantasy teams--limited opportunity for strikeouts. With a basement ERA and the ability to strikeout every hitter he faces, it isn't helping fantasy teams anywhere when the Reds send him in to face a couple of hitters before Cordero takes the ball and either ends the game as painlessly as possibly or blows the save entirely. If I were a big league manager, I'd want the most reliable arm finishing the game and if Chapman keeps that velocity, he's going to blow it by every hitter he faces.
One other reason that I would much rather see Chapman as a closer isn't because I think setting up is a waste of his talent. I think that adding him to the starting rotation is a risk that nobody should take with this kid. When he defected from Cuba, he had to leave his parents, sisters, girlfriend and new baby. Even today with the changes that have taken place since 2006 when Raul Castro took power, Cubans like Chapman who have defected are not welcomed back by their government. The risks of putting Chapman in a position that leads down the road of, say, Kerry Wood, rather than someone who has had great success and few injuries are simply too great. He could be a long-time closer like Mo Rivera has been, pitching well and for a lengthy career, or he could be a short-term starter who encounters a career-ending injury, severely impacting his future in a country he doesn't know that well. I'd like for Chapman to be Livan Hernandez, but I wouldn't bet his future on it.
Until the Reds figure out what they're doing, I'll just be happy with the consistent two or three strikeouts I'm getting in my fantasy league because of Chapman's appearance on my roster. I just hope they really consider what they're doing to this young man and plan accordingly.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Why we should lift the embargo has been a topic in politics for some time. Many Cubans and Cuban-Americans have been impacted by the long-time reign of Fidel Castro in Cuba. One such group that comes readily to mind includes long-time Boston Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant. Cuban-born pitchers have a long history of defecting to the United States to play Major League Baseball. Mention of the 2009 poll and the news of Castro's final resignation reminds me of a great documentary, The Lost Son of Havana, about the legendary Luis Tiant. Tiant's story is like many Cuban baseball players who chose to take the risk of defecting for the potential reward of a long, successful professional baseball career. Tiant was successful, but many never succeed and are left to figure out how to live away from home with no hope of returning. I highly recommend the film about Tiant's journey, both to the states to play in the big leagues as well as his journey back to Cuba with Castro's approval to see family he hadn't seen in decades.
On a night forty-nine years ago, President Kennedy sent his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, out to purchase Cuban Petit Upmann cigars before he signed the Cuban embargo into law (for more on Kennedy's cigars, I offer this). The Cuban embargo has been in place since. While we may think of the Cuban embargo in terms of what we cannot import and export too and from Cuba, the larger consequence of the Cuban embargo has to do with the Cuban people. After all, the purpose of the embargo was to punish the communist affiliations and activities of Cuba, particularly Castro, and in so doing indirectly punish pro-Castro and anti-Castro Cubans alike. In this regard, the Cuban embargo has been very effective.
As Time noted in a 1959 cover story on Castro, Fidel is "egotistic, impulsive, immature, disorganized" and has "confidence, physical courage, shrewdness, generosity and luck." Instead of using each of those traits for the betterment of his people and his country, Castro has used each to the detriment of those people and that country. His dedication to Cuban communism, a far cry from the communism that caused the Red Scare, inevitably led to that night in 1962 when Kennedy sent out Pierre Salinger in search of cigars. It also led to his country becoming the 109th country in GDP (per capita, $9,900 as of 2010), 167th in GDP real growth rate (1.5% as of 2010), 149th in industrial production growth rate (0.8%, 2010 estimate), 118th in exports ($3.311 billion as of 2010), and 88th in imports ($10.25 billion, 2010 estimate). The Cuban embargo, regardless of what the Cuban government says, has crippled the Cuban economy and has left a majority of Cubans living in a poverty that can hardly be compared to the rest of the world. None of this has improved in the five years since Raul Castro took the place of his brother as leader of Cuba. Will it now that Fidel has let go of his last bit of power?
With a small number of allies in the world, far fewer since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba needs the world. Perhaps now is the time.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
More bad news has come out of Arlington National Cemetery. The Washington Post is reporting that Congress is finally asking the Army why the former administration of the nation's cemetery wasn't reprimanded more harshly for the complete failures they were guilty of. In the last year we have heard that Arlington lost bodies, planted bodies in the wrong plots, has lost record of plot reservations, placed bodies in unmarked graves, buried more than one body in the same plot, and urns had been dug up, their contents dumped in a dirt pile. Despite the oversight that has been taking place in the last year by members of both houses of Congress, especially under the fierce leadership of Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), atrocious failures at the cemetery continue to make the news. We haven't heard the last of Arlington, unfortunately.
I've been watching a lot of baseball in the early weeks of the season. Today on Root Sports I'm catching the Mariners and Royals. This afternoon I'll also catch the Fox game of the week, which unfortunately won't be the Mets/Braves matchup for this time zone, but will be the White Sox and Angels. I haven't seen the White Sox yet this season and the Angels are an interesting team (with a struggling Vernon Wells and a fully healthy Torii Hunter) and am looking forward to it. Blue Jays (they apparently just go by the 'Jays' these days) and Red Sox on TBS tomorrow, probably won't watch that one or the Red Sox until they get it together, but hopefully I'll catch some of Sunday Night Baseball's Rangers/Yankees matchup and I'm actually looking forward to seeing the Orioles Wednesday night against the Twins. I'm not sure I've ever said "looking forward to" in the same sentence with the Baltimore Orioles!
In between baseball and chores today I've listened to a few new songs that I'm loving. One, I mentioned here yesterday in my TGIF Tunes post--a great single called "If I Go, I'm Goin' " by Gregory Alan Isakov. The other single that I'm loving is "Turn On Tune In Drop Out With Me" by Cracker. Both appear on the soundtrack for season 4 soundtrack for Showtime's Californication. I'll update my sidebar with links to both on iTunes (though I used an Amazon gift card to download the mp3s from Amazon).
I'm considering taking a break from the blog for a few weeks, but haven't made a final decision. If I decide to, I'll be sure to mention it before I disappear. Should I take a break here, you can always follow me on Twitter. My tweets tend to be pretty baseball-centric these days, but the format is a welcome relief from the pressure of original long form posts here. Please check it out if you haven't already, the link to my Twitter feed appears in the sidebar.
Friday, April 15, 2011
If I Go, I'm Goin'
(Written by Gregory Alan Isakov, Johann Wagner, and John Elliot; Performed by Gregory Alan Isakov)
she’s holding secrets
i got my change behind the bed
in a coffee can,
i throw my nickels in
just in case i have to leave
and i will go if you ask me to
i will stay if you dare
and if i go i’m goin shameless
i’ll let my hunger take me there
she’s quite the talker
she creeks and moans
she keeps me up
and the photographs
know i’m a liar
they just laugh as i burn her down
and i will go if you ask me to
i will stay if you dare
and if i go i’m goin on fire
let my anger take me there
the shingles man they’re shaking
the back door’s burning through
this house she’s quite the keeper
quite the keeper of you
i will go if you ask me to
i will stay if you dare
and if i go, i’m goin crazy
i’ll let my darlin take me there
Single available to download on iTunes and Amazon. Also available to stream on his website. Isakov recently toured with Brandi Carlile.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
BOISE - A new report by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare shows a 9 percent increase in the number of cases of life-threatening injury suffered by children reported last year.
The data released Tuesday shows the biggest leap in severe child abuse cases coming from southwest Idaho. The report tracks a 15 percent increase in the Nampa/Caldwell area and a 13 percent spike in Boise compared to 2009.
State officials did not identify specific reasons for the increase in those serious cases. But they suspect the stress of increased poverty and unemployment may be a factor.
The agency tallied more than 7,500 total reports of child abuse or neglect in Idaho last year, a total on par with 2009. Of those, 1,730 cases involved children in imminent danger, up from 1,594 reported in 2009.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The reason I mention Furcal, other than the fact that my political writing has slowed to a stand still, is because he is a player I have watched from his first day in the big leagues and I admire him greatly.
As a rookie shortstop with the Atlanta Braves in 2000, Furcal won National League Rookie of the Year. He had some great years in Atlanta and it was hugely disappointing when he left for L.A. (something another Brave, Andruw Jones, would do several years later with much less success).
I've continued to watch Furcal's career with the Dodgers, but the real reason I've become such a fan of Furcal is because we had spinal surgery around the same time (something I mentioned here in 2009), his surgery in April, mine in September. Furcal sat out much of the 2008 season with a surgically repaired herniated disc, playing in only 36 games. He came back just before the 2008 playoffs. He was extremely rusty, his range wasn't there. Of course, anyone that has had any type of spinal surgery knows that range is one of the first things you notice is missing. His microdiskectomy was much less physically traumatic than the surgery I had, but I sympathized with the obstacles he was encountering. Perhaps most memorably, Furcal committed three errors in the fifth inning of the fifth game of the 2008 National League Championship Series against the Phillies. He looked defeated, a defeat I've felt quite frequently in my own struggle with my back. But then something amazing happened--2009.
In 2009, Furcal played in 150 games with 613 trips to the plate. He hadn't played in that many games since his 2006 debut with the Dodgers. His numbers looked like the Furcal of old. He had a more than impressive 165 hits, slightly less than his All Star season with Atlanta and comparable to the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki who came in 5th in NL MVP ballots in 2009. He has 28 double, 47 RBIs, and a season batting average of .269. He played like the Furcal the Dodgers thought they were signing in 2006.
In 2010, Furcal spent more time on the disabled list, but his back was healing and allowing for him to steal bases. His speed and general shape coming out of spring training this year was thought to show the kind of season he'd have and as the Dodgers' lead-off hitter, the kind of year the Dodgers would have. That all came crashing down yesterday with the broken thumb.
Now that Furcal sees yet another stint on the DL in his future, he has been talking about retirement. At least he says that he thinks about retirement. He's only 33 years old, but you can't blame the guy for wondering if this is the kind of player he will be from here on. As he says, his back was finally feeling good and now this. It's a depressing position to be in and I only hope Furcal has people around him who will remind him of his love for baseball and who will help him remain positive about his health as well as his future in the game.
When I was recovering from my back surgery and while I was working my way through an ungodly two year rehab process with physical therapy, I had two pictures of Furcal printed out to serve as a reminder to me that if Furcal could go back to being the amazing shortstop he was prior to his back injury, the least I could do is relearn things like walking, sitting, standing, etc. One photo was of Furcal making an insanely difficult and acrobatic play at short where no part of his body was actually touching the ground. The second photo was of Furcal sliding into home with a catcher bearing down on him. One photo was near my desk at work, the second near my treadmill at home. I may not have those photos now, but even on the rough days when my back is getting the better of me, I still think about Furcal's return to baseball after his back surgery. A guy like that deserves better luck than he seems to have.
Monday, April 11, 2011
One ArtBishop belongs to a generation of American poets that I am quite fond of. Bishop, Robert Lowell, Philip Booth, Charles Olson and the slightly older Marianne Moore, Robert Frost, Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound--many of whom were not only contemporaries, but also friends. This is one of my favorites of Bishop's and one I am happy to share for National Poetry Month.
by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
For immediate release - Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Senate Democrats Call 2011 Legislative Session Worst in Memory
Boise – Idaho’s Democratic Senators are calling the almost-concluded 2011 Session the worst in their collective memories and blame this on the shifting of the Republican Party to the far right and on special interests guiding too much public policy, now including K-12 education.
“The movement to the far right by many in the Statehouse has eroded reasonable discourse and suppressed the voices of average Idahoans,” said Senator Les Bock, Assistant Minority Leader. “Closing primary elections will aggravate this trend toward party purification until the GOP is represented by only the most ideological candidates.”
Senator Edgar Malepeai, Minority Leader, said, “This was the toughest session in my nine years in office and I am dismayed by the outcome in terms of both legislation passed and legislation refused consideration.” “Moderate, independent views were often ignored which, at a time when recent polling points to a rise among those who identify themselves as such, means too many of our citizens may be lacking proper representation.”
There was an unprecedented level of citizen involvement in the legislative process this year but these views were consistently ignored by the majority party which feels authorized to act unilaterally when making laws that impact so many. From education to Medicaid cuts to measures targeting Idaho’s middle class, our constituents are not satisfied with the direction the state is heading.
“We have heard from the sponsors of the Otter/Luna education overhaul that there is a ‘silent majority’ who support this proposal and only a vocal minority who stood in opposition,” said Minority Caucus Chair Michelle Stennett. “If anyone knows what a minority looks like, it would be us, and calling the groundswell of opposition a minority shows a disdain for the democratic process.”
As the Republican party demonstrates an unwillingness to focus on the critical issues facing the state, Democrats welcome moderate Republicans and Independents not only into our Primary Elections, but into the Democratic party to once again build a powerful voice of opposition to create better balance and better policy for Idaho’s schools, communities, economy and families.
For more information, contact:Senator Michelle Stennett, 208-332-1353, firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, April 2, 2011
What: Revenue Options (Particularly the Cigarette Tax)
When: Monday, April 4, 2011
Time: 4:30 pm (MST)
Location: Idaho State Capitol, Revenue & Taxation committee room, EW 42Given that House Leadership has refused to listen to constituents and grant the bill a hearing, an informational hearing on the proposed tobacco tax will be hosted by the minority party. This will also be a time to bring the other ideas you champion for generating revenues. The hearing is open to the public and there will be an opportunity to testify.
It was a thrill to see my Braves win on Opening Day, their first game in the post-Bobby Cox era. It was a pleasant surprise to hear that Chipper Jones got a double in his first at-bat. For Braves fans, as I've said, many of us thought we'd seen Chipper play his last game when he left the field last fall with a torn ACL. His Spring success appears to be carrying over into the early days of this season. Let's hope it continues.
Since yesterday kicked off National Poetry Month, I thought it would be fitting to mention that Poets.org has a page devoted to the annual celebration of poetry and on it you can find various events and poetry-related offerings. This year in particular I'm watching the Academy of American Poets' guest posts on Twitter. Each day of April, a poet was chosen and has 24 hours to post their poetry, insights, etc. Because I hadn't been on Twitter until recently, it's an exciting event I can follow that will introduce me to many poets I'm not familiar with. It's a fantastic way to celebrate National Poetry Month.
Speaking of Twitter, I added a gadget to my sidebar where you can follow my tweets. There you'll find plenty of retweets of things I find interesting or think my readers will find interesting, notifications of new posts on this blog, and my random thoughts (which recently have been devoted mostly to baseball). Though I wade into the Twitter waters, you won't find me on Facebook anytime soon. Even if Sisyphus can do it!
As a wrap-up to the slew of posts I had here about right-to-farm legislation and other legislative attempts that would serve to aid Moyle Mink & Tannery, they all passed. Every last one of them. This week I felt like blogging was an exercise in futility. I'm sure I'll get back into the swing of political reporting soon. Until then, enjoy the beginning days of the 2011 Major League Baseball season!