Friday, April 07, 2006

Early Season Thoughts

The first 3 games of the Mets' season have been quite eventful. Last night's little debacle with Washington had plenty of beanballs and a slight altercation between Pedro and Jose Guillen. I understand Guillen's anger as well as those of the rest of his teammates--getting hit 6 times is a bit annoying and painful. But Washington must realize that first of all, Brian Bannister was making his first ML start in 40 degree temperatures. I saw Bannister pitch in a spring training game in late March against Houston and he was all over the place. Curves in the dirt, two hit batters, etc. It was a rare cold day in Florida, and that may have had something to do with it. A rookie in his first ever start is not going to hit anyone. As for Pedro, it must be taken into account that he is not 100%. He pitched 6 innings this spring and is not in top form.

So my thoughts on the Mets? They're just where I thought they'd be. They still have no 2nd baseman. Hernandez can field, but they need a bat in that position. And I don't see Kaz Matsui as being a great improvement when he returns. I feel there's something wrong with Billy Wagner. This is a pitcher who routinely has arm problems, and I can sense that something isn't right. Wagner can bring it up to 100 mph when he's at his peak. He hasn't thrown a pitch past 93 yet. And after giving up Ryan Zimmerman's bomb the other night (1st big league homerun!), Wagner threw 95% curves the rest of the night. Wagner missed 2 weeks of spring training and he may not be where he needs to be as yet. Hopefully that's all it is, otherwise it's going to be even rockier than I expected.

And here's the line I really liked: Kris Benson pitched 7 solid innings in his first outing for the O's. Jorge Julio got rocked in his 1 inning of relief, taking the loss. What the hell was Omar Minaya thinking in that trade? As a result of that blunder the Mets were forced to use a pitcher making his MLB debut in just the 2nd game of the season. Not too many pennant caliber teams have to resort to that. At least we still have Steve "I can't believe I'm still playing" Trachsel taking the hill tonight.

Xavier Nady's off to a hot start, but that's to be expected. Last season he was leading the league in every category the first 2 weeks of the season, but finished at his usual .260BA with 12 home runs. He should start tailing off by next week, but
at least we can enjoy it while it lasts.

And what about Carlos Beltran last night? I've never seen a player looking so unhappy after hitting a home run. I know he's the shy, reserved type of player, but then why the hell did he choose to come to NY? This ain't K.C. He needs to take the boos with a grain of salt. As long as he looks like he's having fun out there the fans will cheer him on. But if he continually looks stoical and reserved, it's going to be a long, bitter war. Beltran is still young and can have a big impact, but this thing may get ugly if he doesn't lighten up.

I enjoyed watching the Braves series in L.A. Their pitching looks atrocious. I have to wonder how much an impact the loss of Leo Mazzone will have on their staff over the course of a full season. I also enjoyed watching the Phillies get swept by St. Louis. I have the feeling the NL East is going to be the Wild, Wild East this year--a 5 year fight for the top most of the season, with no team running away early or even posting a decent record.

As for my fantasy team, my offense is doing quite well but my pitching is a disaster. It'll take some time to get my ERA down, barring any more blow outs this weekend. I'm going to do some extra analysis this weekend to make sure I have a good week next time.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Books and Baseball

I'm reading Capote's "In Cold Blood." It was one of those books I was assigned to read in high school but never did finish. However, I did become obsessed with the story over the years. Looked up the actual events in old newspapers and then on-line when the Internet came around. I'd love to take a ride out to Holcomb one day to visit the site. They were getting about 200 curioseekers a year to view all the paraphenalia, but I'm sure that's increased since the movie "Capote."

I finished reading "The Talented Mr. Ripley" over the weekend. It was interesting noting the differences from the film and the movie. P. Seymour Hoffman's character, Freddie, is barely in the book. But he's the most memorable figure in the film--what a great actor. I liked the movie up until the end. It would have been better had they edited out the last scene of Tom and his new gay lover on the Greek cruise. That scene isn't even in the book and it just causes the film to drag on too long and leave many open ended questions. In fact, his new lover is barely mentioned in the book.

I've been watching "The Office" lately, but mostly for lack of anything better to watch. It has its moments but doesn't even hold a candle to the British version. I can watch those over and over.

Also been watching "The Amazing Race." That's the only reality show I have any respect for. It's fun watching people show up in Moscow in the middle of winter during the night trying to talk to a cab driver. I'd love to be on a show like that.

As for Fantasy Baseball, I'm having my usual day after Opening Day complaints. Why did I drop David Ortiz at the last minute on Sunday? I knew he'd explode in Texas. And now he's facing Vicente Padilla tonight--should be another big day for Ortiz, and another day of my stomach turning in knots watching. There were just too many first basemen out there and not enough OF's. In another league I dropped Chris Shelton of Detroit at the last minute because I thought he'd be batting 8th. Instead he bats 6th and belts 2 HRs. Dropped Ramon Hernandez because he was batting 9th, and he goes 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs. But I have to remind myself that it's only 1 game out of 162. It should be a long and rocky roller coaster ride this season.

I ordered "Fantasyland" by Sam Walker from the library. I read parts of it in the bookstore on Sunday and was just rolling in laughter. It's about a sportswriter who participates in the most exclusive fantasy league in the country. He tries to use his connections with ballplayers and GM's to influence the performance of his fantasy players. He almost convinces Toronto's GM to trade one of his fantasy players to Pittsburgh in order to get more playing time. Brings charts to Alan Trammell of Detroit showing how to better utilize one of his pitchers; talks to Alfonso Soriano about stealing more bases. Near the end of the season he flies to Los Angeles to picket in front of the hotel where the Angels are staying in order to remove Jose Guillen's team suspension, and has an altercation with Troy Percival while doing so. It looks like a real fun read.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day

I've been debating about whether to keep this blog going. The fact is that my true passion in life, my first love has awoken from a hibernation. And that is baseball. I am a very obsessive compulsive person, but no where is this more extreme than with baseball. I spend countless hours every day pouring over statistics. I am in involved in several fantasy baseball teams as well. So with all my analysis it is hard for me to find time to write here.

At the risk of sounding bold and perhaps a bit pretentious, I am an expert in this sport. I am usually dead on in predicting pennant winners and flops. I scoff at the expert preseason analyses, which usually only proves that most sportswriters really don't know what they're talking about. My team, the Mets, has been chosen by several to win the NL East. They have very little chance in doing so. Pedro Martinez has a bad toe, the type of injury that can only get worse during the season. After Pedro comes the geriatric ward. 40 year old Tom Glavine, just a sad shell of his Cy Young years, followed by Steve Trachsel. Trachsel was never more than a No. 4 starter at best. Coming off an injury-plagued year and adding a few years to his age puts him at a high risk. Then we've got the "great" Victor Zambrano. This a pitcher who's only still with the Mets because they don't want to look TOO bad for having dealt Scott Kazmir away. Not only has Zambrano been a total ulcerous cancer, but he's currently injured. And with all that top of the line starting pitching, management decided to trade quality pitcher Kris Benson to the Orioles for a washed up reliever in Jorge Julio. The suspected reason for this trade? The wild antics of his soon to be ex-stripper wife Anna. Who cares about a quality pitcher--we can't have his sexy wife entertaining us.

For offense the Mets have no right fielder and no 2nd baseman. Their new catcher, Paul Lo Duca, is as inadequate at throwing out baserunners as Mike Piazza, but without the power of Piazza. With Carlos Delgado at first we should see a few more throwing errors from the left side of the infield. Cliff Floyd in left had a career year last season, and by that I mean one in which he was never injured. The chances of his playing back to back injury free seasons are quite remote.

I predict the Braves to once again come out on top--they have the arms in Smoltz and Hudson, and the experience. I predict the Phillies to be their biggest competitor. What should be interesting, however, is their bullpens. Atlanta's closer is Chris Reitsma, far from a sure thing. The Phils are using Tom Gordon, who is past his prime in that position. Florida's winter firesale leaves the team depleted in most areas, but many of their rookie fill-ins will be surprisingly good. Florida may actually have a winning team again in a couple of years(at which point they'll probably be in San Antonio). Washington should also be better than many people think. They've got good starting pitching with Hernandez and Patterson, and a half-decent offense. But Soriano in the outfield will hurt them more than he'll hurt opponents at the plate.

One team that may finally be a bit entertaining is Tampa. They have a lineup chock full of young speedsters, but will suffer with a lack of pitching. Ex-Met Scott Kazmir still isn't mature enough to be a real factor, but he can be exciting to watch.

But all in all this is the day I love the most each year. When all teams, including Tampa and Pittsburgh, have a chance to win. I have my MLB Extra Innings sports package to follow all the games for fantasy baseball.

Fantasy Baseball is what every fan needs when their team isn't looking so hot. And if you can play it well you can make some decent money. I'm involved in large league throughout the country that is very competitive. I've won some small money in the past, but never the big one ($30K). My problem is a lack of patience and making too many trades far too early in the season. But each spring I renew my vow not to trade in April, and this year is no exception.

I'm in another league at work, which I have always come out on top. My experience playing in the more challenging league lets me easily coast past all my clueless co-workers and collect a few hundred bucks each season.

So, as of now, I'm already making plans on what to do with my 30K once I win the big prize. Let my obsession begin.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Candy Girl

Diablo Cody was on Letterman the other night. She wrote a book, "Candy Girl," which is about her life as a stripper for a year. I never read her infamous blog "The Pussy Ranch," but did enjoy her book. David Letterman asked her what made her leave her job in advertising and try stripping. She responded, "I was sitting around bored at my desk and I thought, 'I'd rather be naked.'" I like people like that. These are the people that realize life is meant to be an adventure. There's so much more to life than just going to school, getting a job, rising up the corporate ladder while raising a family. While those things are all fine, you're missing so much if that's all you do. I hate sitting at my desk all day and I would rather be naked. But I have lived quite an adventurous life. I'm just in a holding pattern at the moment. I don't feel like I've missed out on anything.

What I really liked about Diablo's interview was when Dave asked why she chose to strip at the seediest places. She responded with something like, "it's too dull to go to 'Gentleman's Clubs'. If you're going to do it then do it hard." That's gutsy. I always enjoyed visiting seedy places just for the novelty of it(okay, maybe "enjoyed" was the wrong word choice). Before Sera and I left NYC for good we purchased the "Sex Guide to NY" and visited as many bizarre and seedy places as we could find. It wasn't because we were into that type of thing, but because those places were unusual. And we probably weren't going to find these places anywhere else. Some places we visited more than once because they were so bizarre that they were kind of fun, and some we left after 15 minutes because we felt uncomfortable. But we're glad we went. It's like that old cliche, "I'd rather look back on my life and say, 'I wish I had never done that instead of I wish I had done that.'"

Diablo seemed very composed during her interview and I was impressed by it. And I have to applaud someone who finished college and was climbing up a career ladder but had enough sense to realize it wasn't for her. You should do whatever makes you happy. It's sad to see people stuck in a hum-drum life who think they can't get out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Missing NYC

I'm starting to miss things about New York. I've been in Orlando for almost 3 years now--where the hell has the time gone? I don't miss the overcrowded streets and subways or the rotten attitudes of New York. But I do miss the characters. And by this I mean the drug addicts, sex workers and other fuck-ups who try to blend into everyday life. I don't mean the street junkies and prostitutes. I spent several years working in some of the world's top law firms in NYC. I had a supervisor addicted to heroin who also sold himself for extra cash on occasion. I worked with several other druggies as well. Many co-workers didn't have a bank account--they kept what little money they had under their mattress. I knew several paranoid people who were convinced the government was watching them and that aliens had blended into our environment.

In Orlando I work with the dullest people in the US. No one here cares about LIFE. It's all about their homes and yards. One needs to be surrounded by people from all levels of life to be comfortable. You need those doing better than you as well as those doing worse. And New York was definitely that. I felt I belonged there. I didn't own any property and was a bit lost in life, but I wasn't a drug addict or forced to sell myself for money. I felt good about myself. Here in Orlando I feel totally lost and depressed. Sure I'd love to own a home, but never before have I felt so much pressure to buy one. Everyone here owns a home. No one here seems to have any problems. I have a better job than some(for now) and am ten times better at it than the other guy who works with me, but he owns a home. I have to remind myself that I chose the road less taken. Sera and I had money for a home a few years back, but instead opted to travel the world. It was my dream, and Sera wanted to fulfill it with me. No one here has ever left the US, much less Florida. I could have a home and stability, but I never would have traveled. Hopefully I can still own a home one day, but it's harder to travel in the Third World when you're older.

By the way--I had an odd dream the other night. A girl I must have slept with years ago showed up with a baby girl that apparently was mine. She named the baby Francine. I didn't like the name, preferred something like Alexis, and was upset that she named the child without even asking me. What the fuck kind of dream is that?

Monday, March 13, 2006

More books and films

I finished Doug Coupland's "Hey, Nostradamus" the other day. The beginning was great, the middle a bit slow, and then the last half really caught fire and I couldn't put it down. As much as I like Coupland's work, there is a problem with his editors. I've never seen so many typos and grammatical mistakes as I have in ALL his books that I've read.

I finished Erich Segal's "The Class" last week. It was the type of novel where I was upset to reach the end. I wanted more, more, more. I wanted to write Segal and ask him to continue writing about the characters. The story follows 5 Harvard students from their freshman orientation through to their 25th class reunion. I really felt like I got to know these characters. Only a great author can do that successfully.

I've just started reading John LeCarr's "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold." It was on Time's Top 100 so I figured what the hell. Sometimes I try to pick up Dostoevsky for some intellectual reading, but then I go for something light and quick instead. It's the same with Dickens. I've never really liked him--too verbose--but I feel I'm SUPPOSED to read it. I've read bits of "Tale of Two Cities," "Hard Times" and "Great Expectations," but never finished any of them. And whenever I try to start them up again I instead take the easy way out and go for something light and airy.

Saw "Walk The Line" this weekend on DVD. I enjoyed it. I never realized that Johnny Cash was so unique that they couldn't label his music--not quite country, not quite rock, not quite blues. It makes sense when you see that everyone from The Grateful Dead to Coldplay have covered his stuff.

My relatives leave tomorrow. I haven't been this exhausted in years. Sera almost looked in tears at dinner last night. This has really taken its toll on both of us the past week.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Concerts, Movies, etc.

I have relatives in town visiting this week. That would be a week of joy for many. It's pure stress for myself. I'm just trying to get through it all and then have my hum-drum life back again.

The Coldplay show on Sunday was good for us, not for all. People living near the Tampa Amphitheatre complained in the past about the noise levels, and so the theater removed speakers in the back. If you were sitting up front like we were, then everything was good. People in the back couldn't hear. The Tampa Amphitheater is the worst place to ever see a concert.

I find Coldplay's music to be motivational and inspirational. Very intelligent. Chris Martin came out with a bouquet of red roses for the fans a few minutes before the show began and apologized for cancelling the concert back in September. How many stars would do that?

I'm currently reading Douglas Coupland's "Hey, Nostradamus." It's intriguing. This is the third novel of his I've read. Sometimes it feels like he's recycling characters and stories, though. I wish he'd do something a bit different--sort of like Bret Easton Ellis's "American Psycho." It was such a departure from his previous works.

Don't try reading more than one book at a time. I found myself reading 3 or 4 books last week and I got nowhere with all of them.

Sera and I saw Woody Allen's "Match Point" over the weekend. Great film, but a bit too derivative of "Crimes and Misdemeanors." But definitely worth seeing. I'm quickly becoming a Scarlett Johannsen fan.

I was very happy to hear that "Crash" won Best Picture. That was the best film I've seen in years. Very powerful with lots of ironic twists.