Saturday, April 28, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Everyone always says life isn't fair. Bad guys get away with the goods and the good die young, but we carry on anyway, because what other choice do we have? In the face of unfair, we carry on, holding on and bracing ourselves and only sometimes forgetting that there's another storm right around the corner. But life, I find, is often more about the storms than the peace they seek to overwhelm. They lurk, ready, any minute now, to shake things up and take your breath away."
-- Mary Shannon, In Plain Sight (Sacrificial Lam, 5.07)

Friday, April 27, 2012

TGIF Tunes



iTunes Single of the Week is Greg Laswell's "Come Back Down" with the great Sara Bareilles. I downloaded it Tuesday, as I do every Tuesday morning, but didn't spend time with it until yesterday afternoon/evening. It's a great single. Greg Laswell has a new album out this week. From the sample, Landline sounds just as good as 2010's Take A Bow. And I love that Laswell did this lyric video to coincide with it being the single of the week.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

'Unavoidably There'

"No other American--and only a few other individuals throughout the world--has left such a strong mark on so many aspects of the twentieth century: from poetry to economics, from theater to philosophy, from politics to pedagogy from Provençal to Chinese. If Pound was not totally accepted, at least he was unavoidably there."
-- Robert H. Walker, 'Ezra Pound Speaking': Radio 
Speeches of World War II (Series Forward, ix)


Sunday, April 22, 2012

In Plain Sight

USA Network's In Plain Sight is in its final season. When the show was renewed for it's fourth season, USA went ahead and renewed it for a fifth season, too. This made it rather strange when USA cancelled the show before season five even began airing. Now that season five is airing and the series premiere is set for May 4th, the show has become serious and introspective in a way that seems to do justice to the beautiful writing that brought it this far.

Something I have always enjoyed about In Plain Sight, aside for the biting sarcasm, wit and the best one-liners in television, is the closing voiceover. It allows us to see the softer, vulnerable side of the hard as nails U.S. Marshal Mary Shannon. And for five seasons, the writers have written smart, almost philosophical voice overs to close the show. In the final season, they seem to be taking the voiceovers much more seriously. In fact, there is a seriousness to the show that reflects on what is about to happen. The show will end. Mary Shannon will be just another character in television history. But on the show, there is something bigger happening and the voiceovers reflect that.

Since I first took note of the new depth of the voiceovers, I have found three particularly meaningful and thought provoking. The voiceover that seemed to begin the trend:
"What is unleashed in the soul when we love outside ourselves is sharp, unexpected and beyond words. Love turns smart people stupid and conjures courage from thin air. That we can love so wildly, so recklessly, yet feel it in the tame ways of everyday, is something of a miracle.
For some, a miracle -- ordinary or otherwise -- would take a miracle. Still, there's room for repentance; there's hope, if only in glimmers. For others, hope is all there is.
Love, miracle, hope -- not my kind of words. But I find, as life pushes relentlessly on, that they nudge their way in and set up shop, undeniable as moon tides. Pie-in-the-sky magical thinking is replaced by a grounded, grownup sense of wonder, and the reality that something as simple as a sunrise can still surprise you." 
-- Mary, Four Marshals and a Baby
Mary's skepticism is something I have always connected with. I suspect this is what draws many viewers to the show, just as I'm certain the brilliant, witty writing draws a significant audience. The line about the sunrise is one of the best lines In Plain Sight has offered in five seasons.

There isn't much that can preface the second voiceover:
"The mind's ability to fool itself knows almost no boundaries, but eventually the lucky among us come to our senses, the smoke fades, and we see things for how they really are. Whether by words of wisdom or the flicker of a flashlight, we muddle through the fog, landing on the long and winding road we're meant to travel. However baffling, we learn to trust the path or at least stay on it, and having no earthly clue where it's heading means we'll never be lost. At least not for long." 
-- Mary, Reservations, I've Got A Few
The closer we get to the May 4th finale, the more introspective Mary appears to be. We have seen her struggle with her family, particularly her father. We have seen Mary struggle with her partner, his engagement and their friendship. We have seen Mary struggle with the challenge of working and having a new baby. We have seen all of these things on the screen, but the most telling moments with Mary Shannon have come when she isn't on screen at all. Her voiceovers will be the longest lasting aspect of the show.

Friday night's episode contained perhaps the greatest voiceover the show has featured:
"Everything's mythical when you're seven-years-old: fathers, mothers, Santa, God, the alleged protective powers of a gold medallion. It's not that certain things seem larger than life, it's just...life seems larger, but the world keeps spinning and in a thousand tiny surrenders, or sometimes one fell swoop, what you'd seen as truly mythical you learn is merely myth. The good news, if you can call it that, is that ultimately you find other myths to believe in, and other men as well. You see the myth for what it is: close up and in its bones. Smaller and greater and more like you than you care to admit, it nevertheless leaves you, always, every single time, sitting foolish on the doorstep awaiting its return." 
-- Mary, The Medal of Mary
The beauty of this show is that they can go from zingers and the best one-liners on television to a commentary on the most difficult things we each struggle with in our lives.  It is as much a commentary on living as it is a show about witness protection.

When In Plain Sight comes to an end on May 4th, the voiceovers may remain the most important.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Writing Gig: BravesWire.com


I write about baseball as often as I write about the Kennedys. When I began this blog I should have imagined that I would end up writing about baseball, but I didn't. I couldn't have imagined that eight years later I would still be blogging.

Lately I find myself writing about baseball more often than not. It has a lot to do with the current nature of national and state politics. The vitriol is unnerving. Just as in life, baseball is my escape. So, recently when a Twitter friend of mine asked if I would be interested in writing for BravesWire.com, I jumped at the chance. After testing the waters with two posts, I was asked to join the team as a beat writer. I'm not your traditional beat writer, I will be watching the games on television, listening on radio and scouring the news for all things Braves baseball, but it should be a fun gig and a welcome challenge.

Here are my first three pieces at the site:

I'll still be writing about politics here and even baseball. I'll just be writing about the Braves there. Because my Twitter followers aren't all keen on hearing what I have to say about baseball--particularly play-by-play commentary--and because the folks who'll be reading my exclusives at Braves Wire aren't all going to like my politics, I have set up a new Twitter account specific to baseball. @framethepitch isn't quite rolling yet, I set up the account and haven't updated the profile. However, I did choose an avatar and I'm loving it! It's Phil Masi, of the Boston Braves, from his Topps card. I've always been a fan of Masi. This new Twitter account seemed the perfect opportunity to tie the Braves franchise to my love of catchers (hence the name, "frame the pitch"). Look for the account to be moving along nicely by the first of next week.

My next piece for the site will run as soon as the Braves wrap up their series in Arizona. Look for it soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Music Tuesday

As I mentioned last Tuesday, April through June promises to be a huge few months for new music. For those of us devoted to 90's music, our every wish has been granted with the release of albums from Train, Counting Crows, Smashing Pumpkins, Candlebox, Pennywise, and Garbage. Plus Soul Asylum in July. Add to all that releases from Jason Mraz, Maroon 5, Regina Spektor, Slash and Jack White. It's a hell of a way to begin the summer!

This morning I was looking forward to sampling the new album from Jason Mraz, Love Is a Four-Letter Word, and the latest from Train, California 37. By far, I've been the most impressed by Train. It has only been three years since Train released Save Me, San Francisco, but it already felt like it was time for Train to return. They're masters at releasing a new album every three years and it seems that's when fans really start hankering for more.

Having listened to each of the tracks on YouTube, I've found the most powerful track to be "When the Fog Rolls In." I've returned to it several times today. It's still available on YouTube for listening (no video yet) and here are the lyrics:
Driving over the bridge to give you my kiss
I know you don't love me, I know it ain't easy!
Friends become lovers, and lovers lose friends
That's when the fog rolls in!
Ooo
I'm losing you!
Ooo
You're losing me too!

In through the kitchen where we used to laugh,
Smells of your cooking, sounds of the past.
Somehow we got older, the air just got colder
That's when the fog rolls in!
Ooo
I'm losing you!
Ooo
You're losing me too!

So much for sowing up
So this is growing up
Everything is going up for sale
The fog kept on rolling in
The time came to sink or swim
They say it's better to try and fail
Then to try dying

I take a deep breath with my hand on the door
Afraid cause I'm not gonna see you anymore
These were our tender years, this was our street
All of our stop lights and all our concrete.
Now it's all somebody
else's to take
Until the fog rolls in
The track is powerful lyrically, like so many of the great Train singles over the years, and reminds me of the slower, almost haunting music on Save Me, San Francisco. I'll be coming back to this track for years to come, I anticipate.

"Bruises" is catchy, Ashley Monroe is an interesting collaborator. "Drive By" has been out there for awhile and seems to continue this new dance-like trend Pat Monahan has been attached to in the last few years. Reminds me a little of "Hey, Soul Sister." The only true throw away track, in my opinion, is "Mermaid." And "Feels Good At First" is solid, perhaps the second best track on the album.

There isn't a "Drops of Jupiter" caliber song on California 37, but I hardly expect Train will ever create something as enduring as that single. And yes, in "To Be Loved", Virginia makes a comeback.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jackie

As a young little leaguer, I was honored to wear the number 5. In the Negro Leagues, the great Kansas City Monarch Jackie Robinson wore the number 5.

As a I got older, I was honored to wear the number 42. The great Brooklyn Dodger wore the number 42 on this day in 1947 when he broke the color barrier in baseball.

As an adult and an historian, I am honored to feature an image of Jackie Robinson on my blog masthead. It is an ever present reminder of a moment in history that didn't only change the game I love, but the country I love.

And yes, I am wearing a Brooklyn t-shirt today.

This day matters. Jackie matters.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Johnson Post's Milestone

From time to time a blog comes along that I simply can't get enough of. For me, The Johnson Post is one of those blogs. It is the perfect intersection of Idaho politics & history, national politics & history and baseball, yes, baseball. Sound familiar?

This week Marc Johnson, author and creator of The Johnson Post, mentioned that he had hit the 500 post milestone. Not only has he written 500 superb posts, all of them knowledgeable and interesting, he joined Twitter. Occasionally, I think about the people I wish were on Twitter and Marc Johnson has always been at the top of my list.

In celebration of the return of the baseball season The Johnson Post had an ode to catchers, Mickie Cochrane in particular. Now, Johnson may be a Giants fan, but don't hold that against him. He writes about baseball history with ease. He can write about a guy like the great Mickie Cochrane one day and the next take on the absurdity of Ozzie Guillen the next.

Johnson's background in politics allows him to comment on the current dynamics in Idaho in a way that few in the conversation can. Maybe this is my own background, but I look to The Johnson Post on a wide array of historical topics--both Idaho and U.S. He is the go-to for historical analysis.

As a young blogger, one with a great appreciation for history and the game of baseball, I hope I write just a fraction as articulately as Marc Johnson. As someone who has looked to The Johnson Post for all things history, politics and baseball 500 times since 2009, I hope that Marc sticks around for years to come.

Congratulations, Marc! Job well done.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

'Here I Sit With My Paper...'

Here I sit with my paper, my pen my ink,
First of this thing, and that thing,
and t'other thing think;
I Then my thoughts come so pell and
I mell all into my mind,
That the sense or the subject I never can find:
This word is wrong placed, no
regard to the sense,
The present and future, instead of
past tense,
Then my grammar I want; O dear!
what a bore,
I think I shall never attempt to
write more,
With patience I then my thoughts
must arraign,
Have them all in due order like
mutes in a train,
Like them too must wait in due
patience and thought,
Or else my fine works will all come
to nought.
My wit too 's so copious, it flows
like a river,
But disperses its waters on black
and white never;
Like smoke it appears independent
and free,
But ah luckless smoke! it all passes
like thee
Then at length all my patience entirely
lost,
My paper and pens in the fire are
tossed;
But come, try again you must
never despair,
Our Murray's or Entick's are not
all so rare,
Implore their assistance they'll
come to your aid,
Perform all your business without
being paid,
They'll tell you the present tense,
future and past,
Which should come first, and which
should come last,
This Murray will do then to Entick
repair,
To find out the meaning of any
word rare.
This they friendly will tell, and
ne'er make you blush,
With a jeering look, taunt, or an
O fie! tush!
Then straight all your thoughts in
black and white put,
Not minding the if's, the be's, and
the but,
Then read it all over, see how it
will run,
How answers the wit, the retort,
and the pun,
Your writings may then with old
Socrates vie,
May on the same shelf with Demosthenes
lie,
May as Junius be sharp, or as Plato
be sage,
The pattern or satire to all of the
age;
But stop a mad author I mean not
to turn,
Nor with thirst of applause does my
heated brain burn,
Sufficient that sense, wit, and grammar
combined,
My letters may make some slight
food for the mind ;
That my thoughts to my friends I
may freely impart,
In all the warm language that flows
from the heart.
Hark! futurity calls! it loudly
complains,
It bids me step forward and just
hold the reins,
My excuse shall be humble, and
faithful, and true,
Such as I fear can be made but by
few
Of writers this age has abundance
and plenty,
Three score and a thousand, two
millions and twenty,
Three score of them wits who all
sharply vie,
To try what odd creature they best
can belie,
A thousand are prudes who for
Charity write,
And fill up their sheets with spleen,
envy, and spite,
One million are bards, who to
Heaven aspire,
And stuff their works full of bombast,
rant, and fire,
T'other million are wags who in
Grub-street attend,
And just like a cobbler the old writings
mend,
The twenty are those who for pulpits
indite,
And pore over sermons all Saturday
night.
And now my good friends who
come after I mean,
As I ne'er wore a cassock, or dined
with a dean,
Or like cobblers at mending I never
did try,
Nor with poets in lyrics attempted
to vie;
As for prudes these good souls I
both hate and detest,
So here I believe the matter must
rest.
I've heard your complaint my
answer I've made,
And since to your calls all the
tribute I've paid,
Adieu my good friend ; pray never
despair,
But grammar and sense and everything dare,
Attempt but to write dashing, easy,
and free,
Then take out your grammar and
pay him his fee,
Be not a coward, shrink not to a
tense,
But read it all over and make it
out sense.
What a tiresome girl! pray soon
make an end,
Else my limited patience you'll
quickly expend.
Well adieu, I no longer your patience
will try
So swift to the post now the letter
shall fly.
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Interview: Mike Wallace & Clint Hill

Two men who once sat down for an interview in 1975 have met by sheer happenstance in the news this week. The first, the incomparable journalist Mike Wallace, passed away Saturday night at the age of 93. The second, former Secret Service agent and tragic eye witness to history Clint Hill, released a memoir. The two men will forever will be linked by a single interview that was emblazoned on the memory of millions of Americans who had tuned in to 60 Minutes one Sunday night.

The unforgettable 1975 interview of Clint Hill by Mike Wallace:



Clint Hill is one of the tragic characters forever associated with the assassination of President Kennedy. In American memory he will always be the man in the suit who ran after the presidential limousine, hopped on the back and pulled Jackie Kennedy from the trunk back into the car as it raced away from Dealey Plaza. Horrifyingly, he will always be the man who rushed to Mrs. Kennedy's aid as she attempted to retrieve a portion of her husband's brain from the trunk of the presidential limousine. And sadly, as was evident in his interview with Mike Wallace, Clint Hill will never be able to detach himself from the tragedy in Dallas.

For all his toughness, his dogged tenacity and journalistic prowess, Mike Wallace was never as gentle and sympathetic toward the subject of an interview as he was as he sat across from Clint Hill in 1975. Wallace responded as America did--with sorrow. Before him sat a man who was haunted by an event twelve years earlier. In that moment, Mike Wallace was as soft and caring as America had ever seen him. The oft-repeated line "the four most dreaded words in the English language--Mike Wallace is here" meant nothing in that moment.

Clint Hill has finally written a memoir, a memoir historians did not foresee. Had it happened a few years sooner, we may have seen Clint Hill sit down with Mike Wallace once again.

Muriel Dobbin of The Washington Times wrote the following in her review of Clint Hill's Mrs. Kennedy and Me:
"The book is as uncompromising as a police report because Mr. Hill is no literary stylist. His terse account is neither scandalous nor salacious, nor even overly sentimental, which puts it far ahead of most books written about the Kennedys, and brings the first lady to life in a manner that has not been done before.

[...]

"In one of the few concessions to emotion in his book, he reflects, “We had been through so much together, Mrs. Kennedy and me. More than anyone can imagine. More than anyone can ever know.” That is an epitaph only Mr. Hill could bestow."
When The Kennedy Detail was released in 2010, Clint Hill went on various news programs promoting the book with its author, Gerald Blaine. It was the first time in years that Clint Hill had spoken publicly about his time in the Kennedy White House and about that day in Dallas.

The two images the American public had of Clint Hill--on the back of that limousine in Dallas and falling apart in that interview with Mike Wallace--were not offset by his renewed public appearances, but beginning in 2010, Clint Hill was finally able to talk about the dark day in Dallas that came to define his life. Clint Hill is now able to talk about his relationship with Mrs. Kennedy and his time serving President Kennedy and his family. It is a gift to history that Clint Hill is finally able to tell his story.

A Sunday night interview in 1975 forever intertwined the lives of two extraordinary men and by sheer coincidence their names are once again in the news this week.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Music Tuesday

The long awaited release of the Counting Crows' covers album has arrived! Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation) hit stores today.

If you're like me, you are reluctant to get excited about a covers album. More and more covers albums have become the go-to for bands who are either out of material and/or money and simply want to put out an album. When I heard that the Counting Crows were doing a covers album, their first album since the celebrated Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings released in 2008, I wasn't too impressed. Now that I've listened to the entire album, I can't believe how different this album is.

Lead singer Adam Duritz called Underwater Sunshine a "music geek's cover album" and he is 100% right about that. Only true music fans will listen to this album and be amazed at who the Counting Crows chose to cover. Seriously, where else can you find covers of Gram Parsons ("Return of the Grievous Angel"), Pure Prairie League ("Amie"), Bob Dylan ("You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"), and the Faces ("Ooh La La") all on the same album?

Here's Adam Duritz performing "Like Teenage Gravity" with Kasey Anderson, a cover of this song appears on Underwater Sunshine, at SXSW last month:



In the one pass through of the album today, I found myself loving the Gram Parson's cover best, but having never heard "Like Teenage Gravity" before, I can see myself returning to it. The lyrics to the Kasey Anderson track are available on his website. The only song I really wasn't digging was the cover "Borderline" by Madonna. That's not bad for an entire album of covers.

What's great about this album is that not all of these songs are easily recognizable. It's almost a rebirth for a few of them and for a few, some recognition for songs that just haven't received much play since their recent release. All good choices on the part of Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows.

While I was looking for videos of the songs on the album, I ran across two great covers of Counting Crows songs that I absolutely must share. First, Sara Bareilles says "Sullivan Street" is one of her favorite songs and performed it here with Joey Ryan, Javier Dunn and the great Jay Nash (NSFW). An amazing band in their own right, Dashboard Confessional covered "Angels of the Silences" and did it justice. What is it they say about being imitation and flattery?

Go give Underwater Sunshine a listen, it will be a pleasant surprise.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Opening Day

In honor of Opening Day, a baseball poem from 1923 by William Carlos Williams:
The Crowd at the Ball Game
by William Carlos Williams

The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them —

all the exciting detail
of the chase

and the escape, the error
the flash of genius —

all to no end save beauty
the eternal -

So in detail they, the crowd,
are beautiful

for this
to be warned against

saluted and defied —
It is alive, venomous

it smiles grimly
its words cut —

The flashy female with her
mother, gets it —

The Jew gets it straight - it
is deadly, terrifying —

It is the Inquisition, the
Revolution

It is beauty itself
that lives

day by day in them
idly —

This is
the power of their faces

It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is

cheering, the crowd is laughing
in detail

permanently, seriously
without thought
__________________________________

William Carlos Williams contributed numerous poems to The Dial in the early 20th century, thanks in part to his friendship with poet Ezra Pound, foreign editor of The Dial from 1920-23. "The Crowd at the Ball Game" appeared in the August 1923 issue of the American magazine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Middle of the Week Mélange

Being Opening Night and all, baseball is on my mind. I haven't been reading The Johnson Post as faithfully as I should, but Marc Johnson's post today on catchers and Mickey Cochrane landed in my inbox this morning and everyone should give it a read. It isn't a surprise to anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Twitter that I was a catcher and I pay more attention to catchers than any other position by far. Cochrane is of a generation of catchers that are hardly present in today's game--guys who devoted their entire career to their craft and weren't asked to fill in at first base or DH. Go give the piece a read and acquaint yourself with the great Mickey Cochrane.

I was asked by Kent Covington of the Southern Fried Baseball podcast to write a piece for BravesWire.com on the Braves' acquisition of Juan Francisco. I hope this is the beginning of a great run at Braves Wire.

On a topic other than baseball, the Idaho Democrats aren't dropping the issue of ethics in the Idaho Legislature just because the legislative session has ended. Democrats in the legislature put out a press release on the role of ethics in the 2012 session. Not surprisingly, Democrats point out that the session began after a series of events that have challenged Idahoans faith in state government. The Democrats continue to hold the line on the creation of an independent ethics commission, something Republican leadership seemed somewhat open to at the beginning of the session then put a kibosh on at the end of the session. The Democrats mentioned the sexual harassment case that brought the end of Senator John McGee's career, in their press release, something the Idaho State Police are still investigating McGee for, but likely didn't know about the accusation of blackmail against McGee by former Idaho Transportation Department Director Pam Lowe. The ethical lapse that led to the state's firing of Lowe has already cost taxpayers upwards of $500,000 and could easily cost the state more than $1 million before all is said and done, a highly likely outcome after the latest federal ruling in the case. Add to the McGee and Lowe stories the ongoing case of tax dodger Rep. Phil Hart (R-Athol), his legislative privilege allows him to not pay taxes argument rejected in court yesterday, and the Democrats certainly have plenty of ammunition on the ethics front.

Two more stories that have caught my eye today. PBS has finally decided to do a show on the items contained in special collections and archives in this country. Treasures of the Special Collections is said to be a cross between History Detectives and Antiques Roadshow (imagine!). It sounds quite a bit like Mysteries at the Museum, actually, but a little more academic. Hear that noise? That's the sound of rejoining by every one of us who have ever worked in a Special Collections department or used a Special Collections department or archive for research.

Last, but not least, I hate when events exploit historic prisons and former state psychiatric hospitals or asylums for Halloween, Friday the 13th, haunted houses or ghost sighting television shows, but I'm glad that this April 13th, the Old Idaho Penitentiary will be marking the anniversary of a double execution in Idaho history. The Old Idaho Pen has an amazing history and it's a great place to visit. If you haven't been there or haven't been since your fourth grade Boise field trip, I highly recommend it. And I can't speak highly enough about the Idaho Inmate Project that produced the Inmate Catalog. It is an amazing resource. You can find more information on the event April 13th at the Old Pen on the Idaho State Historical Society events page.

Listened to quite a bit of Seven Mary Three this morning and then did some online listening/viewing of Ryan Star's music video for "Stay Awhile" and the video premiere of needtobreathe's "Keep Your Eyes Open" on MTV's website. Nothing like tunes on a sunny, albeit chilly, day.

Happy Opening Night, folks!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012 Postseason Predictions...Revised

During the second week of February when I offered my 2012 postseason predictions, I couldn't have imagined the injuries that have occurred during Spring Training. And though I added two predictions in the event the Commissioner's office decided to go ahead with the additional wild card slots, I really never thought that would happen for the '12 season. Boy, was I wrong. So, now I need to make some adjustments to my original predictions and solidify the two extra Wild Card spots.

The three teams that concern me most are the Phillies, Reds and Rockies (the Red Sox are of concern, but I hadn't picked them back in February).

National League East: Braves, division; Phillies, wild card

Can the Phillies compete? That seems to be the $64,000 question. They have the pitching, both in the rotation and in the 'pen. The question is whether or not they have the offense. The infield is wounded. Without knowing when Ryan Howard will be back, can they compete? Without knowing what is wrong with Chase Utley, at least if they know they aren't saying, and when he will be back, can they compete? Without knowing if the health of Polanco and Rollins is solid and will hold up, can they compete? Jim Thome is proving to be an adequate fielder. Who knew? And young bats like John Mayberry, Jr. will surely have something to offer that lineup, but when you are led by the power of Utley and Howard, how do you compete without them? I don't think they do. I think they sneak into the postseason with a wild card spot that they wrestle away from the Miami Marlins by a couple of wins. Of course, all of this is assuming the Braves compete on the field the way they do on paper.

You're asking yourself why I felt the need to point out what I already had, right? Sure, I had the Braves winning the division and the Phillies the wild card, but I wasn't convinced. Do I want the Braves to win the division? Hell yes. Do I want the Phillies in the postseason? Of course not.

When I made my predictions I looked at the two teams on paper and compared Braves' pitching to Phillies' pitching (Braves have stronger 'pen, Phillies have stronger rotation) and I compared both lineups (with a healthy Heyward, McCann, Chipper, Freeman, Hinske, Prado, and Bourn, how can you say the Phillies are stronger than that?). It has taken Spring Training for me to see that what is on paper isn't on the field. Without Utley and Howard, the Phillies will struggle to score runs. With Heyward and Prado, the Braves aren't going to score boatloads of runs, but they won't struggle. With the big three, the Phillies can flat out pitch, but the Braves aren't far behind with Jurrjens, Hanson and Beachy, to say nothing of the great season Mike Minor may have ahead. There will be a greater spread between the Phillies and Braves than I ever imagined and you can bet it will all be on the shoulders of the health of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

National League Central: St. Louis Cardinals, division; Reds, wild card

Let's start with the latter. Though the Reds went out and signed Joey Votto to an ungodly $225 million deal, they have neglected a few key holes in their lineup. Letting Juan Francisco go to the Braves, the only legitimate power bat they could have possibly promoted, was just just another odd move on the part of Walt Jocketty. What happens to the Reds down the road? If Votto gets hurt, the Reds don't have the kind of budget to absorb that kind of loss and go out and find someone to fill in adequately. Votto's health isn't likely to matter in 2012, but the health of Ryan Madson matters a great deal. If Mat Latos isn't healthy, that's going to matter as well. The lack of decisiveness on the part of Dusty Baker where Aroldis Chapman is concerned is enough to give most Reds' fans pause. Chapman's arm speaks for itself, but his track record thus far in the majors makes me wonder what he'll give the Reds this season. All of this is leading me to the conclusion that the Reds won't win the division. I do think they'll have a shot at one of the new wild card spots.

Do the Cardinals have what it takes in a post-Pujols world? They do, but in a very different way. Allen Craig, though currently recovering from knee surgery, and David Freese bring pop to the lineup that can replace some of what Pujols provided. Carlos Beltran is an interesting addition who can still provide some production, though not quite the way he did when younger and with better knees. A healthy Holliday can be the new Pujols and Berkman continuing along the path he began last season can produce. They may not have Carpenter to start the season, but he should be back. Wainwright will take some time to get back to form post-Tommy John surgery. But none of those things are long-term problems. Add to this scenario the fact that Motte will be the named starter from day one and the Cardinals may have a legitimate chance to defend their championship.

National League West: Diamondbacks, division; Dodgers, wild card

As much as I like the Rockies and as much as I thought they could win their division, I have watched them several times this spring and I am no longer convinced. When a guy like Jamie Moyer, god bless him, grabs the second spot in the starting rotation, that says something about Rockies pitching. Despite the fact that the Rockies went out and grabbed a ton of pitching in the offseason, they don't appear to be setup with starting pitching this season. They've got great young talent, but talent that is not yet developed. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez can only carry a team so far and I don't see it happening this season.

The oddity of the National League West is that the Dodgers might just sneak in. Some young guys on that team have a lot to prove and are more than ready to do so. Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen, for instance. Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw are no old men. They can carry the rotation easily. Add to the fairly solid pitching the talent of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and James Loney as well as the promise of Dee Gordon, and the Dodgers are in pretty good shape. Compare what the Dodgers have, youth included, to what the Rockies have and though the race will be tight, the Dodgers might just sneak into the postseason. Go figure.

Will my predictions hold? Probably not. Last year I thought the Twins were going to the postseason and they ended up dead last in their division. And how many people foresaw the Chicago White Sox being so terrible? Predictions are hardly ever correct, but that doesn't make them a waste of time. It just gets us baseball fans more jacked up for the season to arrive. Arrive it shall tomorrow night when the Marlins will welcome the Cardinals to their new stadium and the baseball season will be off to roaring start.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Yet Another DUI Arrest for Major League Baseball

Editor's Note: Pouring through the 1940 U.S. Census records that were released this morning, but couldn't let this story go by without mentioning it.

Awoke to the story that yet another Major League Baseball player being arrested for DUI. This time from my beloved Atlanta Braves. Judging by the few details available this morning, the charges aren't going to go away like with the Derek Lowe arrest. And still, Major League Baseball ignores that they have a DUI problem.

From David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"Braves reliever Cristhian Martinez was arrested early Monday morning in Gwinnett County on charges of DUI, according to Gwinnett County jail records. Martinez’s blood alcohol registered more than .10, according to documents."
Neither Derek Lowe nor Rafael Furcal were disciplined for their DUI arrests, the case with Cristhian Martinez will likely be similar. In these instances, players are expected to apologize to their teammates and have done so repeatedly (even Lowe, who was eventually cleared and all charged were dropped).

We have not heard from Cristhian Martinez since he was booked into the Gwinnett County jail. Though we should reserve judgement in his case until more information is available, it will be tough to excuse the .10 blood alcohol content determination.

Included in my disappointment in Martinez, a phenomenal arm that I look forward to watching pitch out of the Braves' bullpen, is my continued disappointment in Major League Baseball for ignoring this growing problem. It wouldn't matter if it were ten players per Spring Training being arrested for DUI or sixty players. What matters is that it's happening and it shouldn't be. It also shouldn't be swept under the rug and ignored by the powers that be in Major League Baseball. You would think that the League might have learned something from the steroid era in baseball, but apparently they haven't. How many of baseball's fans are young people who look to these players as heroes and idols? Far too many for baseball to let players continue to set this poor example.