Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Boston Globe

I thought I might have found a rare instance of agreement with Jeff Jacoby, when I began reading his column critiquing John McCain's recent bout of judge-bashing. Jacoby is right to note that the judiciary is charged with the constitutionally critical task of protecting individual rights from the tyranny of political majorities.

And yet his argument goes off the rails midway through his piece. After citing several instances in which judges have failed to invalidate the political branches' incursions on campaign financing and gun and property rights, Jacoby sweepingly declares "liberal judicial activism" to be "a blight on the landscape." And so we finally arrive at the crux of it: liberal judges are poisoning the nation, but conservative judges just aren't activist enough.



Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Eric Mack,

Wow. Your power ranking commentary is just -- wow. Are you really lumping the Indians in the same category with the Tigers, bullpen-wise? REALLY?

The Tigers have Jones closing. That's it. Zumaya and Rodney are hurt. They went out and picked up a Tribe castoff by the name of Aaron Fultz to fill the LOOGY role.

The Indians have Borowski closing. Fine. This is the beginning and end of your analysis, apparently. He lives on the edge. His ERA was well over 5.00 last year, and he makes 9th innings exciting. Can My Beloved Tribe expect him to save as many games this year, or will the runs catch up to him? We'll see.

But beyond Borowski, the Indians have proven setup men in Raffys Perez and Betancourt. Betancourt arguably had one of the best seasons EVER for a reliever last year. Check out his ERA, his WHIP, the innings he threw. To protect Betancourt against overuse, the Indians brought in Kabayashi, a seasoned Japanese closer. Jensen Lewis was lights out after he came up last year. He's a potential closer.

Look: I'll be the first one to admit that bullpens are volatile, and from year to year they can go from great to garbage and back. Check out the Indians 'pens from 04 to 05 to 06 to 07. Talk about fluctuation.

But unless you're judging these bullpens on one game, all you can look at is last year. The Indians bullpen is SOLID. You might not draft Borowski as your fantasy closer, but this is arguably the best 'pen in the AL.

But why discuss facts when it's so much easier to serve up false and blithely constructed generalizations about an entire division? To say the Indians and Tigers both have great offenses and rotations, but lousy bullpens, is reductive and absurd.

The Tigers have the great offense, 1-9. The Indians are just trying to keep up. The Tigers have a great ace; the Indians have a terrific 1-2 punch, and Jake Westbrook has added a splitter and had a lights-out spring. He could be dominant.

Overall, the Indians have a deeper rotation, and the Tigers have a stronger, veteran lineup. Indians fans are relying on their team's dramatic advantage in relief pitching to carry them past the Tigers and deep into the playoffs.

You could have written this, but this is analysis, and it's beneath you. I understand that you have to spend time actually acquiring knowledge about the Yankees and Mets and Red Sox. But if you have a minute or two when the work day's over, why not familiarize yourself with some other teams?

If that's too much to ask, maybe you should contain your snappy prose to the teams you know something about.

Just a thought.


Monday, March 24, 2008

The Guy Across the Street

Thanks for speaking with me today. I understand your position about the parking at the end of the street, on your side of the road. I want you to know that I have never encouraged anyone to park there, and we’ve never parked there ourselves. If I’ve been slow or neglectful in arranging to have parked cars moved from that location, I apologize. In today’s case I presumed, mistakenly, that you had left for the workday, and rather than trouble the cleaners to move their car immediately, I thought it would be fine to let them finish, then have them vacate the space when they were done with the work. I realize now that this was the wrong answer, and I won’t make that mistake again.

Since the day we moved in here and your daughter made known that you did not want cars parked in that location, I have emphasized to house guests and visitors that they should not park in that space. On a number of occasions I have asked them to move their cars. As I told you on the phone, I will continue to warn visitors against parking in that area, and I will continue to ask people to move whenever I see cars there and they belong to folks who are visiting our house.

As I also explained, people feel compelled to park their cars in that space, for whatever reason. Accordingly, there may be instances in which you find someone parked there, and my wife or I is not aware the car is there and we have not been in a position to get it moved. We agreed on the phone that a reasonable and appropriate response in this case is to have you contact me so I can get the car moved. I told you I would leave my phone numbers for that purpose, and here they are:

[REDACTED] (home)
[REDACTED] (mobile)

I want to reiterate that I do not think it is a reasonable and appropriate response to block the road and deny passage off of [REDACTED] Street, as you did today to my cleaners. It’s not a proportional response, it’s not legal, and it’s not safe. I also believe it is not constructive to blare your horn and call the police, but I understand that it’s within your rights to do either or both of these if you choose (as blocking the road is not).

I understand how strongly you feel about this issue, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep the parking there to a minimum. You must understand, however, that my wife and I cannot keep constant surveillance over the street, and the problem will likely recur every now and then, despite our sincere best efforts. In fact, there may be cases in which persons who are not our guests are parked in that space, and we can’t answer for the offense or assist you with resolving the matter, because we don’t know the offenders. We have seen cars parked there that did not belong to anyone visiting our house. You said that you think posting a No Parking sign on the fence is unnecessary and unsightly. I think a sign would go a long way toward avoiding these situations, but I’ll defer to your judgment. If you change your mind, I’m happy to go get one and put it up.

You agreed on the phone that persons may lawfully park their cars past the driveway on our side of the road. Street parking is allowed in front of our house opposite your driveway just as it is in front of your house opposite ours. That said, as a gesture of goodwill, we will ask anyone who parks on our side of the road to park as close to the yard as possible, and if you have any preferences as to where in that zone they should park — to make it easiest for you to back out your car — please let me know and I will communicate those preferences to our visitors. This is, I think, the way neighbors should handle their affairs.

You and I both worry about “getting off on the wrong foot.” I had hoped that our relationship took a turn for the better when you helped my wife and I clear the snow from our driveway: I very much appreciated the help, and I gathered from this that neither of us might have made the best first impression on the other, but our hearts are in the right place. My goal is to maintain civil relationships with my neighbors, and the best way to do that is for us to communicate our concerns to one another and work constructively at resolving them. We should have had this morning’s conversation a long time ago. Now that we have, let’s treat this as a “do-over.” I pledge from this point to do everything I can to keep our visitors’ cars out of the offending location (we will talk to the cleaners tonight), and I only ask in return that when — as may happen from time to time — some visitor to our house unwittingly parks in that space, and you learn of it before I do, you simply let me know and refrain from these dramatic, confrontational gestures.



Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bill Simmons,

It bums me out, really. I think you're a great writer. I love your schtick: sports through the eyes of a true fan, with all the warping and refraction that fandom brings. Your "Basebrawl Fever" sits right there with "Sidd Finch" as my favorite piece of sportswriting. I go back to it again and again. It's to the point now where you've spawned imitators (see Pete Fiutak at College Football News), but none of them execute like you do.

Now all that said, I'm fed up. I don't think I can relate to you anymore. You see, I'm a Cleveland fan. And if you set aside my 2002 Buckeyes, nothing sports-good has happened to me since I was born 34 years ago. My teams fail. It's what they do, and — apparently — why they exist. They exist to fail, and ultimately to provide players in free agency to teams that succeed.

Which brings me round to you. The Red Sox aren't lovable losers anymore. They shed "loser" three years ago, and within about six months the "lovable" started to wash away, too. Your NFL team probably won't lose a game in the next three years. The Celtics have consolidated as much talent as can exist in a room this side of the Justice League. Frickin' Boston College (always my trump card: "Bostonians only IMAGINE they have college football") can't help but win in the ACC.

All this disqualifies you from writing anything pointed and resonant about the fan experience. Unless and until you abandon your indomitable Boston teams, nothing you say is meaningful to anyone else in America — a fact that goes double for the star-crossed fans in Northeast Ohio. When your teams cease to lose, you're not really a fan, are you? You've lost a crucial component of the fan experience.

So many Sox fans have come up to me in the past two weeks, patted me on the shoulder and said, "I've been there." Well, you know what? NO. You're not "there" now, are you? And you're not going back "there" anytime soon, are you? So try to grasp the unthinkable here: I'm not terribly interested in how you felt in 1986 or 2003. Capish?

I love you like a brother, Bill, but you've got nothing relevant to say to me anymore. Clever discourse about the "$14 Million Grand Slam" — notwithstanding the element of truth it carries — doesn't do anything for me. My teams don't have $14 million to spend on their best players, and we never get the Grand Slam. Manny Ramirez and "Little Things That Make Baseball So Great" don't live in the same zip code for me. Manny's just a guy who chases the last dollar into Massachusetts, then drops back into Cleveland periodically to hit a ball out of the park and rub it into the face of the fans he abandoned. I'm not inspired, I'm not amused, I'm not interested.

We write to communicate sentiments to other people, to feel a connection, a kinship with them. (At least I think that's why we write, anyway.) I can't connect with you over any of this Boston business anymore. That's just the sad state of things, Bill. See you in some other life.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Scott Miller, CBS Sportsline

You wrote:

"The Mariners had their league-leading sixth game washed out on Tuesday, in Texas, and you have to wonder: What did they do to tee off Mother Nature?"

Well, Scott — they DID filibuster the first game of that Cleveland series, knowing full well what the weather forecast was for the rest of the weekend.

So certainly one of those five makeup games lands in the M's fault column. And maybe Mother Nature (a/k/a Karma?) threw another rainout at them, to make up for what might not have been "dirty pool" exactly, but was certainly a Machiavellian gesture at Jacobs Field that Friday.

Subtract two games from the six — the Game the M's Sought to Postpone and the Karma Game — and they're down to only 4 weather-related postponements. That's about where a team like, say, CLEVELAND is right now, right?

Pardon me if I'm not reaching for the handkerchief when I think of Seattle's scheduling predicament.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

True, you made no assurances that presalers would get tickets for their $100.

True, we acquired something additional for our $100, i.e., the right to discuss the ripoff with other bummed-out presalers on your "premium message boards."

But really, this is a swindle and a fiasco. Yesterday you reported that it was possible to pay the $100 at Ticketmaster while buying the tickets on Wednesday. Today I visited the Ticketmaster site and was told I had to have made prior arrangements at your site, if I wanted to do today's presale. To pay the $100 in a single transaction through Ticketmaster, I have to come back Thursday.

But it was 11:55 AM, and I had five minutes to go to your site and drop the money there. So I did, and nothing happened. I got a "thanks for the $100" message dropped immediately into my email account, but nothing containing the passcode that would get me into the presale on Ticketmaster.

Because I'm a genius and I've got skillz, I did manage to navigate my way through your website to a page that would ultimately give me a passcode — after two or more minutes passed and I realized the promised email wasn't coming anytime soon (it did arrive, at 12:42:26 PM, long past the point where it could do me any good).

So at approximately 12:02 PM I clipped my passcode from your website and pasted it into the Ticketmaster window, so I could buy my four tickets to the Boston show. Naturally, by this time, there were no more presale tickets left, unless I wanted to buy just one and sit by myself.

I have to ask you, then: my $100 purchased me the right to buy from a pool of how many seats at the Fenway show? Twelve? Fifteen? What a fraud. And it sure was a curve ball to discover at the last minute that the plan wasn't as advertised yesterday, and I had to go to your site to set up my "Fan Club" account. The clock certainly ticked away out from under me while I did that, and all for naught. I suppose the policy change had something to do with increasing traffic at your site. The money grab goes on.

The fact that I paid a C-note to this exploitative venture of yours — with no benefit accruing to me other than that I now know I contributed something to the newest wing on Sting's sprawling castle — well, it really is, as someone once wrote, "a humiliating kick in the crotch."

My questions to you now are these: tomorrow at noon, when Stage Two of the presale begins, will I be able to punch in my heretofore useless presale access code? Or will I be required by Ticketmaster to purchase the Fan Club Bundle, so that I end up paying $100 one more time? Will there be more than a half-dozen tickets released to presalers tomorrow? If not, how about to the general public on Saturday? My guess is 40% of the stadium goes to ticket brokers, 40% to corporate sponsors, 15% to this Ticketmaster Auction abomination I just happened to discover a moment ago, and maybe 5% to us proles who actually bought the Synchronicity album in its LP format way back when.

I have half a mind to raise this issue with the consumer protection division in my state Attorney General's office. I imagine the attorneys there would like to know how many tickets you made available today.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mr. Bucknuts

Mr. Bucknuts:

I'm emotionally adrift right now. I had my reservations about facing this Florida team, but I told myself all was right in the world — we'd beaten Michigan, gone undefeated in the Big Ten, and anything else would be a bonus. And of course, the Vest would have this team prepared to play. They'd pick up right where they left off: on the edge, snapping the bit in two with angry jaws.

Now what the hell was all that on Monday night?

I have to say I gnawed on a nail after that first pass play to the sideline, when the Florida defender bit on the out play but still recovered in time and closed on the receiver (was it Ginn?) to break up Smith's pass. Troy's cannon arm had been working those passes through all year long. It had been said that the Florida secondary was better than any we'd faced all year. That first play was the first sign — the flare gun fired in the air to say EMERGENCY.

That and Chris Leak dinking, dunking, doinking us to death with the quick outs to Harvin and third-down short passes over the middle. We'll adjust, I kept telling myself. WE'LL ADJUST. Won't we?

At 21-14 I felt comfortable. I felt like we'd taken Florida's best punch square in the gut, then got off the mat, marched down the field for a TD, and actually made a defensive stop. Our receivers might not be getting an inch of separation, our pass protection might be abominable ("it's harder to get into Michigan State right now than it is to get in our backfield," I observed late in the second quarter), but dammit, we can run Pittman Big Ten-style, right down their throats.

And then what was the payoff there? Three ill-conceived and poorly-executed pass plays. And down the road the running game failed as well, on 3rd and 1, then 4th and 1 on our own 30 just before the half. I don't fault the Vest for going for it there. If anything, I fault him for failing to call a drive-sustaining play under those circumstances. Why not run a bootleg? I suppose JT's logic was that if we can't run up the middle for a yard on this team, the game is over anyway. And maybe that was right.

I could talk about the second half, too — but why?

So here's what I'm left with, analyzing this game to death all day long, looking for answers.

*Was all this a result of losing Teddy to injury, and the tumbledown effect that flowed from it? The Florida defenders could concentrate almost exclusively on Robo and Gonzo. They could blitz more comfortably. No more deep threat, and
certainly no more bubble screen plays to stretch the field laterally. Gonzo's not a shake-and-bake kind of guy to take those passes, and Ray Small — well, would it be fair to have him get potentially killed again?

*Was it a failure on our coaches' part to make adjustments on both sides of the ball? Why didn't we send the house at Chris Leak? Why didn't we make him throw the ball downfield? Why the sense of urgency after we made that first defensive stop? Why throw the three passes instead of running right at them?

*Was it the long layoff that led to all the undisciplined play — personal fouls on kick returns, false starts, etc. — putting Florida in a position to succeed?

*Was it just bad karma? Something has to explain the sudden, startling transformation of Chris Hetlund into Morten Andersen, and the absurd turn of events wherein we lose our most talented player to a freak end-zone celebration injury. Did OSU somehow offend the football gods, and that's what caused this unmitigated disaster? Was Lloyd Carr sitting in his bedroom with a set of pushpins and voodoo dolls?

Or am I just making excuses? Maybe this Buckeye team was never all that. Maybe we grew fat on mediocre opponents — maybe the teams we routed in celebrated matchups of "titans" (Texas, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan) weren't really that good. Maybe Florida really was gobs better than us at every single stinking position, and if this game were played 10 times, they'd beat us by an average of 27 points.

I'm reluctant to believe that, but I'm not any more interested in believing that my stout and beloved Buckeyes, under the tutelage of Jim Tressel and the captaincy of Troy Smith, just failed to show up.

I need answers, Mr. Bucknuts. I'm looking at a long, miserable stretch of basketball and hockey (no, I can't bring myself to give a third of a crap about NCAA basketball — sorry), plus a long summer of disappointment — if not exasperation — at my 3rd-level market Cleveland Indians, before I get my next dose of Buckeye football. I need to know what to believe and whether to believe it.

What the hell happened on Monday night?