Sunday, June 20, 2010

Random Twins Thoughts...

...Dear Joe Mauer,

Please start hitting.

Love,
Eric

...Okay, so Mauer isn't having a bad year per se, but he needs to start doing at least one thing great, instead of just a few things well. He is still getting on base at a decent clip, and hitting over .300, but Joe you were just signed to be the franchise player. An MVP. The best hitter in baseball. You're basically a glorified Denard Span without any speed right now. Sure, Span is good, but you're getting paid $23 million, Joe (or will be soon at least). I'm not saying you need to do what you did last year, because that is impossible to replicate. But you need to start doing something.

...Remember when Drew Butera hit a home run? That was fun.

...Remember when Wilson Valdez hit two home runs? That was less fun.

...I went to the Twins game on Wednesday and bought standing room only seats. It actually wasn't all that bad. It got a little tiring towards the end of the game, and $22 is a bit overpriced, but it is nice to be able to choose exactly where you want to watch the game from. Plus I got a lot of joy out of making "what are all these people doing in our seats" jokes while walking around the concourse. Got A LOT of mileage out of that one.

...I don't find it all that disconcerting that Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn have had a couple of bad outings. Yes, it is annoying, but I think we should just come to expect it at this point. They can give you some decent games, and some absolutely awful games, and, on occasion, some very good games. That's why they are 4-5 guys in the rotation (maybe a 3 for Slowey, at best).

...Isn't baseball funny? The Twins looked like they were on the fast track to a horrible series against the Phillies after a game and a half. It had all the makings of one of those everybody-panic-because-our-team-is-about-to-get-crushed-in-a-three-game-June-sweep series. Then they took two out of three. Including one against Roy "Doc" Halladay. How bout that?

...By the way, I love the nickname "Doc." It's just simple and clever enough to work. What happened to the glory day of nicknames? I miss things like the "Big Unit."

...Remember when Jason Kubel sucked and everyone wanted him to die? (Maybe not die, but you get the point.) Yeah, he doesn't suck anymore ass holes.

...Michael Cuddyer isn't a bad player. Deal with it everyone.

...Brendan Harris is the most worthless played in baseball. I honestly believe he is the worst player in the league right now. What value does he bring? He can't hit. He can't field. He's slow. He's a Republican. I mean come on. The dude's got nothing going for him. At least Matt Tolbert is fast and Trevor Plouffe has a name conducive to "oooo-ing."

...Danny Valencia looks pretty awful at the plate. I know he is hitting fairly well right now, but that swing looks like a lumberjack trying to cut down a tree...Actually it looks like a lumberjack who is failing to cut down a tree because he doesn't know what he is doing. Point being, Valencia has a few holes in his swing.

...I know I am late on this, but on a scale from 1-10 how great is Pavano's mustache? Is there a number high enough to express how amazing that thing is? I mean it is breathtaking. Seriously breathtaking.

...Remember in Oakland when the Twins fielded an infield of Harris, Punto, Tolbert, and Valencia? My friend and I were trying to decide if that was the single worse infield the Twins have ever fielded in a given game. I say it was. I know the Twins have had some pretty terrible players in their history, but it is hard to imagine they ever had that many terrible players playing at the same time. I mean, when an infield leaves you longing for Jeff Reboulet, that really isn't a good sign.

...I want to close by saying I am going to start writing more often about the Twins. I will get back into doing these weekly random thoughts, and putting up at least one post during the week. So for the few people who have stuck with me, I say thank you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bus Girl

I ride the same bus to and from work every day. (Quick digression: Yes, this is another completely random story about riding the bus. And yes, this is supposed to be a Twins blog -- more or less. And yes I haven't written about the Twins in a month or so. But I am going to change that. Soon. I swear. I have a plan. Granted, me having a plan is kind of like a drunk person having to take a piss. Sure, it is going to happen at some point, but nobody knows when, where, how long it will take, or how big a mess it will be. Point is, it will happen. More importantly I am going to write about the Twins tomorrow. True story. And yes I just compared my blog to a urinating drunkard.)

As I was saying, I ride the same bus to and from work every day. So it is only natural that I would begin to recognize the people who happen to enjoy the same daily bus routine as myself. And I have.

Now, I had never spoken to any of these people for two reasons: 1.0 because I am far more likely to grunt at or punch anyone who tries to speak to me at 7 in the am than I am to have a conversation. And 2.) I really just don't like people.

Basically, bus conversations? Not my cup of tea.

But, like I said, having a daily routine is going to lead to, if nothing else, recognizing bus faces. And, after the first month or so of riding the bus I began to realize that one of the girls who rides my bus also works in my office. Now seeing as how I am slow, it took me far longer to make this connection than it would the average gent, but eventually I pieced it together.

Again, I had never spoken to this girl before. Until this week.

As I was leaving work on Tuesday I ran into bus girl as I was getting on the elevator. So, being that I am at least semi-capable of pretending to be nice I say hi and introduce myself and she does the same. (Note: For the sake of anonymity -- and by that I mean I forgot her name -- I am going to to call her bus girl.)

So bus girl and I have the basic small-talk conversation you have with anyone you meet for the first time. I call it the "freshman talk." You know, that conversation you have with everyone as a freshman in college? "What's your name? Where are you from? What's your major?" Granted, the questions in the conversation change at different stages of your life, but the same principle applies.

So we continue to talk as we get to our bus stop, and all the while I am thinking, "oh shit, she better get on a different bus because I don't think I can sustain a conversation for another half hour." Yes, I am enough of a neurotic sad-sack that I was actually thinking that.

Well for reasons that are boring and involve a description of my bus route and its sub-bus routes, I lucked out and she did, in fact, get on a different bus. All-in-all our conversation probably lasted about ten minutes.

Now, flash forward to the following morning.

I am sitting in the back of the bus -- the normal morning perch for me. About halfway through the ride, per usual, bus girl hops on. However, per unusual, there are no seats on the bus and she is forced closer to the back, and with me being a notorious back-of-the-bus-sitter, and her being more akin to the front, I assumed there would be no interaction between us.

So as she is making her way down the aisle, I begin to race through the acknowledgment options in my head:

Option 1. Wave. I realized she wasn't going to make it all the way to me because of the number of people on the bus so waving seemed like semi-logical option. I quickly shot this idea down because waving is fucking awkward. Always. There is no such thing as a wave that isn't awkward.

Option 2. Ignore her. I've only talked to this chick once for ten minutes, so who cares? I mean, realistically, I have no reason to care if I associate with here in any way. This option, however, seemed rude.

Option 3. Smile and/or say "hi." A dangerous option, mind you, because a "hi" can quickly turn into a conversation and, quite frankly, grunting or punching her in the face would probably be even more awkward than the wave. However this option seemed most reasonable given the circumstances.

So there I am, mentally preparing myself for operation "hi smile" and I look over at bus girl and realize I am too late. I had already missed the eye contact window. (If you wondering, the eye contact window is that first 10-15 seconds when you see someone you recognize and you lock eyes to acknowledge you see one another. It is a pretty tight window though because if you try too hard you can quickly go from eye contact window to awkwardly staring. And nobody wants that.)

Well, once I realize that I have missed the eye contact window (probably because I was too busy trying to come up with fucking "acknowledgment options") I quickly switch gears and audible to option 4: pretend to play with my iPod (a derivation of option 2: ignore her, and a cousin of "pretend-to-play-with-your-phone when you see someone you don't want to talk to at work, school, or a box social").

This works swimmingly. The bus ride continues with us ignoring one another, and she gets off the bus enough before me that she was a half a block ahead of me walking to work, and reached the office well before I did, and we haven't spoken since.

I don't really have a point, but I would like to know what the etiquette is in this situation. Was there some better way to handle it? Probably. But I don't know what it is. I still say the smile and hi was the way to go. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out that way.

I guess the moral of the story is don't miss your eye contact window.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Miscommunication

I'm a texter. It's a convenience thing, really. Well, that, and I'm not much of a talker. I don't know what my peers excuse for texting is, but that's mine and I am sticking to it.

We (Generation Y/Millenials/whatever-the-hell-they-are-calling-us-these-days) are built on communication through technology. Texting, emailing, tweeting, facebooking, blogging, skyping, and whatever other made up verbs you can think of. We're basically defined by our lack of verbal communication.

How simplistic. Right? We're just a bunch of bumbling baffoons who lack the ability to socially interact outside social media. Case closed.

As a person who is introverted, quiet, reserved, and quite simply uncomfortable around people I don't know well, I take umbrage to the fact that we are a generation of poor communicators. If someone like me prefers face-to-face interaction -- you know, actual conversation -- to texting, emailng, or tweeting (okay, well, maybe not tweeting because that is just downright enjoyable) then it's hard to imagine a more gregarious person would prefer the disconnect of communication without human interaction.

When you rely solely on texting or emailng as a form of communication, so much of what you say gets lost in translation. You obviously can't see or hear the other person, so all you are left with is words. And as much as I love the little guys, words alone aren't enough for a full slate of expression.

Without that full expression, there becomes a disconnect between you and the person receiving your message. Almost as if some of the words in the message dropout in the transmission process from inbox to inbox.

And because we are a generation defined by social media interaction, we are essentially a generation defined by disconnect. Ironic, because social media is basically defined as a way to stay conveniently connected. And it does, but on a completely cursory level.

When I think of the stereotype created from this disconnect, I think of a group of people who lacks creativity. A simplistic group of people that lacks ideas or original thoughts. Maybe that isn't how we are seen by other generations, but that is at least how it feels.

And, granted, sometimes we do over-utilized texting or emailing. I know I do at least. There have certainly been times where I have used texting or emailing too much as a way of communicating with someone. And it has resulted in disconnect.

At the same time, I don't feel like those quick texts or occasional over-reliance on technology should define me as a person. I do have thoughts, ideas, and emotions (yes, even ones that can't be expressed in emoticons.) I know that technology has both its strengths and its weaknesses. I know these things, and I try to utilize the technologies accordingly.

Sometimes I succeed at doing so, and sometimes I fail. But either way, the technology doesn't define who I am as a person. And it certainly doesn't define how I think.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mistakes

Think of the biggest mistake you have ever made. Ready...go...

...Okay, stop. Regardless of what you came up with, I know some mistake you have made(big or small) popped into your head. The fact is, we all make mistakes. Everyday. Several times a day.

Baseball, like life, is full of mistakes. Blown calls, missed ground balls, Matt Tolbert. There are mistakes everywhere you look on a baseball field.

Baseball, unlike any other sport, is built on uncertainties and ambiguities. Take, for example the place that a baseball game takes place. Sit back and run through as many random stadiums as you can in your head, and tell me how many of them look exactly alike.

Zero.

Wrigely Field. Fenway Park. Yankee Stadium. Target Field. Each stadium has its own dimensions, its own quirks, its own nuance. There are basic similarities, of course, but no two playing fields are identical. Now, take a football field, basketball court, or hockey rink. Not only are there no differences (besides color, or type of turf) these playing surfaces are almost completely identical to one another. You know exactly what you are getting if you go to one of these facilities, even if you have never been there before.

Baseball is just different.

Yes, it may sound old-fashioned and hokey, but the thing that makes baseball so great, so much different than any other sport are the mistakes. The imperfections. Baseball, like life, is imperfect. Out or safe. Fair or foul. The weird fucking hop from the ball hitting some strange object along the fence (a fence that is completely different than every other fence, might I add). Every second something happens in a baseball game, there is a chance for a mistake. Every split second decision could go right or wrong.

Sounds like everyday life to me.

There are almost no absolutes or certainties anywhere in life. Baseball is no different. One pitch, one inning, one game, things seem to be moving along perfectly, most of the plays going your way. Mistakes are made, but they are small. Then, out of nowhere, things begin to fall apart. An umpire calls a guy safe when he was clearly out, and suddenly things begin to unravel one pitch, one inning, one game at a time. All because of one mistake.

It is neither fair nor just, but it is life. It is having what you want taken away by one little fuck up.

There are things in life that we can control, but there are so many more things that are completely out of our hands. We can influence these things, yes, but it is rare that we can truly grasp them. Everyday brings uncertainty just like every pitch brings uncertainty.

But wait, you say, the uncertainties in baseball can become certainties. The mistakes can be fixed. The human element need not apply anymore. Instant reply can solve all the ills. Just look at football.

But football is not the same. It is never more than a game on a clock with a definitive conclusion. The mistakes are righted with the blow of a whistle and a quick video timeout. Take a break for a moment, the game will still be here when you get back. You'll fix the mistake, and the clock will start up and continue to run to it's conclusion. You know exactly when this game will end, because the clock tells you when it will end.

That's not life. That's a construct of certainties. It's a countdown to a conclusion. It's a safe little box that you cannot venture from. You know exactly what you are getting.

Life is living outside a box. There is no time limit. Sure, you will not live forever, but you don't know when it all will end. And there sure as hell is no video reply to right your wrongs. Good things happen. Bad things happen. But it is up to you to cherish the good, and attempt to find redemption for the bad.

That's life. And that's baseball. Nine innings may not be enough. A few mistakes will likely be made. But you cannot define what will go on between the first pitch, and the yet-to-be-determined last pitch. There will be good, and there will be bad but there will be no re-dos.

So call me a purist, an old-fashioned hack, or overzealous about a metaphor, but I would like to keep baseball the way it is. Just like I would like to keep life the way it is. The ups-and-downs are what define us, and I promise you there is no instant replay in creating that definition.

Think back to your mistakes one more time. Would your life really be better without? Different, yes. But better?

Sorry, but mistakes and imperfections make baseball beautiful and life worth living. Without them, you would be left with one, and only one, absolute: baseball and life would be pretty bland.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Forgotten Superstar

Remember 1997? Spice Girls. Titanic. The Simpsons (back when it was still good). And Ken Griffey Jr.

Ok, so maybe Griffey wasn’t a pop culture icon like Baby Spice, Leo, or Homer J(ay), but he was the unquestioned king of baseball.

He hit home runs. He made great plays. He smiled. He had fun playing. We had fun watching.

Griffey was the type of superstar professional sports yearn for. Yes, he was a little cocky with his home run strut, but what star athlete isn’t?

Griffey had a presence.

Fast forward 12 years and Griffey is no longer the player was. He is a shell of his former self, hitting .214 in partial duty, carrying a little extra weight on his once perfectly trim, athletic frame, and no longer making those Griffey signature plays.

One can justifiably argue that the Mariners made a poor choice bringing Griffey back, now in the Mays-like twilight of his career, but you can’t really blame them either. How do you say no to Ken Griffey Jr.? How do you turn him away? And more importantly, why would you want to?

It is in the best interest of the game of baseball to have Griffey around.

Not because Griffey sells tickets. He no longer does.

Not because Griffey will be breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record; a record, that Griffey once seemed destined for. He no longer will.

Not even because Griffey is a particularly productive player. He no longer is.

But because Ken Griffey Jr. is a symbol of what is right in baseball, when almost everything else seems to be going wrong.

Griffey, the once proud king of a baseball era soaked under a storm cloud of steroid suspicion, has remained dry. While Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens and countless others have faced acquisitions, congressional hearings, and perjury trials, Griffey has continued his career, devoid of suspicion.

While the sizes of McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds biceps, heads, and home run numbers grew, Griffey’s legs gave out. While the stats of McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds got better with age, Griffey’s began declining.

As sad as it is to see a superstar fade, there are few sights more comforting this day in age.

When Griffey first began his Major League career in 1989 he was already anointed “the chosen one.” He was a number one draft choice and the son of Major League player. He was a five tool player with a star attitude and star play. He was destined for greatness.

Griffey’s good-but-not-great rookie campaign was followed by a steady rise to the top. His batting average climbed. His power numbers climbed. His on base percentage climbed. He was on his way to being the best and most beloved player in the game.

Griffey’s breakout year came in 1993 at the age of 23. Where most 23 year old players – even top prospects – are either toiling away in the minors or just getting their break, Griffey was already in his fifth major league season, and ready to take over the league. His breakout year of 1993 featured 40 home runs, a .309 batting average, and an OPS of 1.025.

Over the next six years Griffey took over the baseball world. He became the most popular, and arguably best, player in the game. He did it all (including capture the adoration of a boy in Minnesota, who turned his bedroom into a Ken Griffey Jr. shrine).

Griffey was the best.

Following the 1999 season, however, everything changed. Griffey wanted out of Seattle. He demanded a trade, with a short list of acceptable destinations; number one being his hometown of Cincinnati.

Griffey made the move to a seemingly perfect situation: a smaller ballpark, in his hometown, on team that seemed ready to compete.

Griffey, however, faltered slightly in 2000 (although not as much as history may lead you to believe). He still hit 40 homers and drove in 100 runs, but it didn’t seem the same. Griffey was 30 years old, and with 12 big league season already behind him, seemed on the decline.

The next seven years in Cincinnati were disastrous. Griffey suffered through injury after injury; playing in more than 130 games only once – at the age of 37. The once great Griffey was reduced to an afterthought.

While Barry Bonds, the player Griffey was most compared to, was breaking records and performing at what seemed an impossible level for a man near 40, Griffey was nursing injuries, slowing down, and losing bat speed. Griffey was playing like an aging Major Leaguer.

He plodded along, never again reaching 40 home runs. Never making the playoffs (until a late season trade to the White Sox in 2008). Never playing like the superstar we all loved to watch in the nineties. The old Griffey was gone, and as sad as it was, it seemed oddly right.

So here we are in 2009. In a time when steroid scandals are commonplace and everyone tries to find the bad in baseball, Griffey represents the good.

We seem to forget he is fifth on the all time home run list with 630. We forget, because unlike the abusers before him, he isn’t getting better with age. He is taking the career path a superstar should. He is now the past-his-prime veteran, showing nothing but glimpses of his old self.

Griffey is lost in the steroid shuffle.

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I was at a Twins game this past season when Griffey hit a home run right into the center of a “hit it here to win $25,000 from Subway” sign – the first, and only, time a player hit said sign in the Metrodome. (Nobody won the $25,000 because apparently it didn’t count if an opposing player hit the sign, which is completely ridiculous. How cheap can Subway be? I mean come on. We weren’t eating fresh enough, or what?)

The home run was a special moment, because you could still see a glimpse of that sweet Griffey swing. So still and perfect, smooth like a perfectly mixed cocktail – the smooth crisp cola, with just enough whiskey kick.

Those moments are few and far between now, and I, like any good baseball fan should, will treasure them, because once Griffey is gone, it will close the book on an era.

Maybe it is fitting that Griffey is the last to go, since he is the one we should celebrate the most.

Griffey, the forgotten superstar, is the one we should remember, from an era we want to forget.