Friday, November 19, 2004
Dirty Words and Naked BodiesI am a huge proponent of free speech, and I am also a big believer in a person's ability to control what they are personally seeing/hearing and police what their children are seeing/hearing. Because of that, one of my blogging heroes is Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine.com. Over the past year, he has been fighting a daily fight against censorship, the FCC, and hypocrisy. It is something I wish I could do, but I realize I'm not as informed, intelligent, qualified or well-spoken on the matter as Jeff is, so I stick to baseball. Except for today.
Back in February, the Federal Communications Commission freaked out when Janet Jackson flashed one of her breasts during the Super Bowl halftime show, fining and publicly chastising Viacom for broadcasting the "incident." Soon after that the FCC started fining Howard Stern and his parent company, also Viacom, for things Stern said on his radio show, while simultaneously ignoring similar goings on involving such people as Oprah Winfrey.
Recently Dale Earnhardt Jr. got in trouble for saying the "s-word" on a live broadast following a NASCAR race and last weekend a college football player got in similar trouble for uttering what is being described as "a vulgarity" in a live post-game interview. Also, 66 TV station affiliates across the country refused to air Saving Private Ryan for fear of FCC involvement, and Monday Night Football is catching an incredible amount of flak for airing a "steamy" pre-game intro that featured Terrell Owens and Nicollette Sheridan from Desperate Housewives, which didn't even show any actual nudity.
Personally, I am far more offended by what the government has done and is trying to do in these matters than anything I could ever see on television or hear on the radio. As Jarvis wrote earlier this week: "The FCC's rules are vague and its enforcement irresponsibly inconsistent. The FCC should be ashamed of itself. Congress should be ashamed of itself. Newspapers, TV stations, academics, and bloggers should be screaming at both over this violation of our most fundamental American right."
The number of people in this country who are scared of words and the human body is startling to me. Does anyone really think that Earnhardt saying "shit" in the heat of the moment during a post-race interview is a horrible, offensive thing? It's a word, that's it. Four letters, strung together to form something that the society has said means a particular thing. Go outside today and have some conversations, you'll more than likely hear it used a few times.
And is there anyone out there who is going to be scarred for life from seeing Sheridan's naked back? Or even from a two-second flash of Jackson's breast, which considering it was obscured by a big metal piercing and came without warning, was probably missed by a huge number of the people watching? But even if it wasn't, even if every kid in America was staring at that particular spot on a big-screen TV at that very moment, so what? It's a breast, with a nipple. Either all or half of the people in the world have one, depending on your definition of "breast," and this particular one happened to have a piercing on it.
I really don't get political on this blog very often, but this is perhaps my biggest issue. The idea that a group of un-elected "officials" is deciding what the country can and can't watch and what is and isn't "indecent" is outrageous to me. After the Sheridan/Owens skit on MNF, the FCC Commissioner, Michael Powell, showed up all over the place talking to every form of media he could possibly find. He kept saying he was "disappointed" in ABC and said, "I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud."
Guess what? Who cares if he's disappointed? Who cares whether or not he thinks someone should be proud of what was shown? His job is not to preach to us, his job is not to force his morals on us, his job is not to comment on television and radio. In fact, I'm not even sure what his job is, since he was handed the position without any say from the people he is suddenly serving as Big Brother for.
Your ability to watch and hear what you want, when you want is being decided by an extremely small group of people. A $1.2 million fine that was slapped on FOX for one of their shows, Married by America, being "sexually suggestive" came about because complaints were filed by -- get ready for this -- 23 people. And as Jarvis found out when he filed a Freedom of Information Act request, only three of those 23 complaints were not group form letters.
A show that was no doubt watched by a minimum of a million people received complaints from 23 people who may or may not have even watched the airing, and that was good enough to receive a $1.2 million fine. What about the 99.9% of the people who watched it and then went on with their lives? What about the millions of people who chose not to watch it at all? Jarvis was on CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown the other night and said something I completely agree with: "The homophobia on The 700 Club offends me, but I don't suggest it should be taken off the air or fined by the government. I change the channel. Pick up the remote."
Now, you're free to debate whether or not there is anything wrong with The 700 Club, homophobia or otherwise, and since I don't watch the show I'm not suggesting it's true. However, the point is that suggesting The 700 Club is offensive because of homophobia is the same thing as suggesting Howard Stern is offensive because of "vulgarity" or "indecency." It is all a matter of personal taste, personal opinion. You might think one is offensive and one isn't, but that's all it is -- you thinking, your opinion. It is not "true" any more than the other side of the argument is true. If you don't like it, don't watch it. The country is "free" after all, right?
I don't need someone to preside over my viewing and listening habits and I resent the fact that there is a small minority in this country who see something they don't like and feel the need to force that opinion on the rest of us. I don't agree that these things receiving FCC fines are "indecent" and "immoral" and whatever other words are being attached to them, and millions of people in this country feel the same way.
People with a voice need to start fighting back. It's no longer about Janet Jackson or Howard Stern and it never was, although it has taken quite a while and quite a few more FCC rulings and finings for people to realize that. It is about a group of people deciding what you can and can't do, about a group of people complaining to Big Brother that they didn't like something they saw, so none of us should be able to see it.
You don't have to like Howard Stern's words or Janet Jackson's breast or racy Monday Night Football intros. You don't have to like nudity or curse words or violence. You don't have to like any of those things and, quite frankly, I don't care if you do or don't. But you should like the country, you should like freedom of speech, you should like the First Amendment. And you shouldn't like the fact that those values are being pissed on because the members of some commission somehow got the power to do so.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Strike Zone Dominance in Context (Dazzy and Pedro!) (by Steve Treder)
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Fantasy UpdatesNo, not that kind of fantasy update. That one still involves Jessica Alba and Elisha Cuthbert wearing nothing but high heels and Johan Santana jerseys. I'm talking about fantasy sports, silly.
I say all these nice things about him today because I feel horrible for what I've done to him over the past few weeks. You see, Vinay is in both of my Diamond-Mind baseball keeper leagues and is also in the BTF fantasy football league with me. And over the course of the last month or so, I have beaten him in all three leagues.
But wait, it's even worse than it sounds. I knocked him out of the postseason in both Diamond-Mind leagues, once in the American League Championship Series and once in the American League Division Series, and his team had a better regular-season record than my team in both instances. And then, to top it all off, I used Jake Plummer's second great game in a row to beat him by 24 points in football two weeks ago.
Some might ask why exactly pointing out my three victories over Vinay to an audience is doing something positive for him, and I really don't have an answer for that. The only thing I can say is that that's the sort of guy I am -- I'll beat you three times in two different sports, end your season in two different leagues, and then I'll talk about it on my blog in a way that sort of sounds like I'm genuinely sorry for what I did and sort of sounds like I just wanted to brag about doing it.
And yes, if we decide to room together again at this summer's SABR convention in Toronto, I fully expect Vinay to kill me in my sleep.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Inside the Mind of Brian Sabean (by Studes)
- Fantasy Keepers: Second Basemen (by Ben Jacobs)
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
She's gone, oh I, oh I'd
--- Hall and Oates, She's GoneThe subject of an e-mail I got last night from my THT colleague Craig Burley summed up my feelings pretty well: "You won't have Cristian Guzman to kick around anymore."
Guzman has been a frequent whipping boy of mine during the history of this blog and I spent much of the 2004 season hoping the Twins would decline their $5.25 million option on him for 2005. They did exactly that earlier this offseason, and while Terry Ryan and company initially said all the right things in regard to re-signing Guzman to a more palatable deal, I think the writing was pretty much on the wall for his departure.
Guzman's career with the Twins officially came to an end last night, as he signed a four-year deal with the Washington Team-To-Be-Named-Laters for an astounding $16.8 million. He leaves Minnesota a .266/.303/.382 hitter in 841 games, spread over six seasons, but as usual the numbers don't tell the whole story. His story with Minnesota started in 1998, when he came to the Twins as part of the package from the Yankees for Chuck Knoblauch and then was pushed into a starting role as a 21-year-old in 1999.
After showing zero punch at the plate in his first two seasons (.239/.286/.343 in 287 games), Guzman broke out with a big first half in 2001, hitting .308/.346/.507 with 52 extra-base hits and 17 stolen bases. He looked like an absolute stud, and all at just 23. But then he came up lame with a mysterious shoulder injury immediately after returning from his first All-Star game, missed a big chunk of the second half, and hit just .288/.316/.404 down the stretch to finish the season at .302/.337/.477 in 118 games.
Twins fans waited for Guzman to show that kind of promise again for the next three seasons, but it just never came. He not only played poorly, reverting back to his old, punchless ways at the plate, but also experienced some very strange changes to his game. After leading the league in triples in both 2000 and 2001 while stealing a total of 53 bases at a 75% clip, he hit just six three-baggers in 2002 while going 12-for-25 on steals. Then, just when the concerns about his vanishing speed started up, he hit a league-leading 14 triples and stole 18 bases in 2003. In typical Guzman fashion, he then followed that up with a measly four triples and 10 steals in 2004.
Guzman has always been a player with plenty of potential. The problem, at least during his time with the Twins, was that he never seemed quite capable of putting all of his skills together and seemed even less motivated to improve them. He'd play great defense for months at a time and then boot routine plays on a regular basis. He'd slash doubles and triples all over the Metrodome and then go into long funks where he wasn't able to hit anything but weak singles. His plate discipline never improved even a little bit and his speed never translated into good stolen bases numbers.
Quite simply, after six full seasons as an everyday player in the majors, Guzman is the exact same player he was in his very first season. He is a 27-year-old enigma. Yet he actually has the potential to become a very good player, which is something that can't be said for most guys with a career OPS of .685 in over 3,500 plate appearances. Still, the Twins are just not a team that can afford to pay a player like Guzman $5.25 million, particularly not in an offseason when they have plenty of other tough decisions to make.
The fact that Washington GM Jim Bowden decided Guzman was worth a four-year commitment and nearly $17 million is rather amazing, at least to this Twins fan. The idea that the guy I have watched over the past six seasons just got over $4 million a year through 2008 is something that will probably have me shaking my head until Opening Day. However, now that Guzman is gone, the big question is who the Twins' shortstop will be when they take the field in 2005.
I have long touted prospect Jason Bartlett as my choice for their long-term answer at shortstop, and despite his poor showing in a brief stint with the team this season, I expect him to get a chance to establish himself at the position at some point in 2005. Because of that, I would be surprised if the team pursued a big-name shortstop this offseason, and I would guess if they do sign someone it will be a veteran who will be asked to push Bartlett for the job and eventually give way to him.
Perhaps a one-year deal with someone like Pokey Reese, Craig Counsell or Jose Vizcaino, guys who could give Bartlett some competition in the spring, start the year at shortstop, and then eventually move to the bench when the team decides Bartlett is finally ready. Of course, one other possibility I've heard quite a bit of lately is that Luis Rivas could slide over to shortstop, which to me sounds like an incredible disaster for both their budget and their defense.
I am holding out hope that the Twins will decide that Rivas, much like Guzman, is just not worth waiting around for anymore at his salary, and I'm also hoping they rid themselves of Jacque Jones as well. If they do those two things and can find a way to bring Corey Koskie back at a reasonable price, their lineup could look very nice in 2005:
LF Shannon StewartIdeally they would upgrade at designated hitter -- a spot in the lineup they thought would be filled by Jason Kubel before his devastating knee injury -- but the lineup above would be very solid from top to bottom and one I wouldn't have any complaints with (which would be an interesting experience in itself).
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Bowden's Big Splash (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Book Review: Bill James 2005 Handbook (by Robert Dudek)
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Like Honey to a BeeI am a little ashamed to admit this, but I've always been honest on this blog, so here goes ... I watched Honey on Sunday night. Not the whole thing obviously, since I'm pretty sure that's a physical impossibility, but I stuck with it for a good 15 minutes before my brain finally forced my hand to change the channel.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Honey, it is essentially a 94-minute movie about Jessica Alba's stomach, or at least that's what I got out of my time watching it. And judging from the movie poster, that's what it was (brilliantly) marketed as too.
According to the fabulous movie website IMDB.com, the tag-team of Alonzo Brown and Kim Watson are credited with writing the script for Honey, which immediately makes one wonder about the writing process. I have a theory that each page in the script started with something to do with Alba's midsection, and then they just sort of filled in the rest with whatever they could think of in the way of cheesy dialogue and cliched characters.
I also found the following gems on Honey's IMDB.com page ...
Tagline: Her dream. Her terms.I beg to differ, of course, at least for 15 minutes. Never, ever underestimate the power of Jessica Alba's glistening abs.
Other Stuff ...
Jon covers a lot of things I've thought about over the past couple years, only he does it far better than I ever could, and then also gets people like Baseball Musings' David Pinto, Futility Infielder's Jay Jaffe, Baseball Prospectus' Jonah Keri, and the recently-retired-from-blogging Brian Gunn, to throw in their two cents. Just an excellent read all around, something that got me thinking, and a definite must-read for anyone interested in the blogging game.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Vizquel to the Giants (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Rivals in Exile: The Hot Stove (by Ben Jacobs and Larry Mahnken)
Monday, November 15, 2004
ChangesI was going to quote Tupac Shakur here, just because I'm a big fan of his and I like his song "Changes." In fact, I even went to Google and looked up the lyrics. But then I thought, "What the hell does that have to do with today's entry?" The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing, so you don't get a lyrical introduction. Anyway, for the small percentage of you who aren't completely bored by the day-to-day minutiae of this blog, I have a couple changes to announce.
One is that I'm tightening up my linking policy. For a long time I've basically added a link to a site whenever someone asked me to, as long as the site was an active one and had something to do with sports. As this blog has grown more popular though, that has become difficult. Of late I have gotten multiple link requests nearly every day, which is simply not doable. Plus, what meaning do my links have if there are hundreds of them? It's like someone asking you for the name of a good restaurant and you handing them the phone book.
I deleted a whole slew of links and the ones that remain are sites I visit on a somewhat regular basis. For those of you whose sites I have deleted, I apologize, but I just couldn't justify linking to some sites I don't visit when I'm getting requests to do so for other sites every day. If you have a new site and you want to get some attention for it, odds are that I won't add your link unless you somehow become a part of my far-too-long list of daily reads. Instead, I would suggest placing an ad on this blog, which you can do for as little as $20. Plus, that will get you far more attention then a regular link would. For more information on advertising, click here.
The second change I'm making is in my e-mail answering habits. To be honest, the amount of e-mails I get is pretty out of control at this point, but I really want to make an effort to get better about answering them. And yes, I know I've said this before. What happens, inevitably, is that I start out strong and am good about answering e-mails, and then one day I get behind and it starts to snowball until I'm sitting on 150 old e-mails that I should have responded to and it's just too much for me to handle.
Over the weekend I either answered all of my old e-mails or simply deleted them, so that I now have a clean slate. That should allow me to answer them as they come in, at least until something causes me to get behind again, at which point we'll repeat this whole process. I really do feel bad about not being able to answer all the e-mails I get, and I know from experience that not receiving a reply from me sometimes makes you guys angry, which is about as far from what I want to do as possible. Keep those e-mails coming and I'll (once again) try to do a better job answering them.
Other stuff ...
Being the incredible dork that I am, I paused the movie during this scene, headed over to Baseball-Reference.com, and did a little fact-checking. Turns out, Koufax was never in "big f---ing trouble," as he started two games in the series, completed both of them, and allowed a total of three runs while striking out 23 batters in 18 innings. There was, however, quite a bit of truth to the line from the movie that "Koufax's curveball is snapping off like a f---ing firecracker!"
Anyone know which movie I'm talking about? (If you do, you realize how ridiculous it is that I fact-checked it.) Answer at the bottom.
I know the celebrities aren't claiming to be poker experts, but if you're going to go on national television to play poker and you're going to do so in an attempt to win money for charity, shouldn't you at least learn the rules enough to know something as elementary as checking, betting and folding? As far as I could tell, the only celeb on the show who knew what they were doing was Proctor, who in addition to having a completely adorable southern accent, actually seemed like a pretty good player. She of course came in third place when Phifer called her all-in bet with absolutely nothing and then hit a miracle king on the river.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Meat Market: Starting Pitchers (by Aaron Gleeman)