Thursday, October 27, 2005

World Series final (again)

It's good to see that I'm not alone in my assessment of the Yankees' excess-payroll futility. In Brad Marchand's Baseball Blog at, he makes a similar point:

    But I do take heart in a couple of things. First, the Yankees and their $200 million payroll are without a title for the fifth year in a row. That sentiment won't be popular in New York, but after so many titles in so short a period it was time to let some other kids on the playground for awhile... Finally, this World Series proved again that good management and good chemistry can be more important to success than payroll.
I don't know if I'd say that being glad the Yankees didn't win it is universally unpopular in New York. Maybe among Yankee fans, but not among all New Yorkers. I don't like all the hype that surrounds the team, and I know plenty of others, both Mets fans like me and even some Yankee fans, who feel the same.

World Series final: White Sox 1, Yankees 0

OK, I know, the Yankees weren't in the series, and anyway they and the White Sox are in the same league. But the White Sox victory, combined with the Yankees' five-year "dry spell" (they haven't won a Series since 2000; some dry spell), just proves again that multimillion-dollar home-run hitters do not make a well-rounded team. You gotta have role players, you gotta have players willing to sacrifice for the team -- though that two-out, two-strike bunt attempt last night was uncalled for -- and you gotta have players who go all out (after the way Jose Uribe made the last two outs of the game last night, the Sox owe him yesterday's game ball, no matter who's chosen as Series MVP).

Bush vs. Newman

In the past I alluded to a similarity between "our" president George W. Bush and Mad Magazine mascot (and American icon) Alfred E. Newman. It was already apparent that more than a few people saw, um, a similar similarity. But I just stumbled across a site with a side-by-side listing of quotes attributed to Newman and to Bush. Take a look for yourself and maybe you'll see which one has more on the ball. Maybe I owe ol' Al an apology...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A reminder that when it comes to anything you read in a blog, "your mileage may vary"

A writer named Jim Edwards has published an article warning blog readers that blogs, as factual as some of them may seem, are really nothing more than a forum for opinion. Here a link to the original article:

There really isn't a single thing I can disagree with in the article. After all, even though this particular blog of mine is set up to highlight silliness, stupidity, and shortsightedness in all its forms, I publish it under an account I created specifically for publishing fiction. Why? I didn't really give it a lot of thought before I set up the account or the blog, but I guess I did it so I can remain anonymous. But my wanting to be anonymous doesn't give me, even in my own mind, free rein to engage in what Edwards calls "intellectual hooliganism." After all, even though I publish here under a pseudonym, I still see it it as an extension of myself, which means I see a responsibility to myself, at least, to present a truthful argument.

And there is Edwards' comment about how ideas are presented in a blog: "Strong opinion often equals an agenda, however hard to discern for either the author or the reader." Anyone who has read my Baseball Thoughts post here (or my Bush bash) can see I have some strong opinions. Do I have an axe to grind? I guess I do. I mean, I won't be tapped to replace Bud Selig as commissioner of Major League Baseball anytime soon -- neither will anyone else until the owners get tired of spending themselves into the poorhouse and/or someone forces the owners' hand -- but I would like to see a real commissioner in place. It just makes sense to me. I can't really say I have an idea of who should replace Selig (though Bob Watson comes to mind) but I can't help thinking that owners would be more responsible about how they spend their money if they were being policed by someone outside their own ranks. (As for Bush, that's a subject for another post...)

But even with my presenting my own opinions of what I would like to see done, I won't be presenting anything that's plainly untrue. That is, I won't be presenting untruths as facts. When I post something here that's not actually true, I'll make sure it's obvious. Not that I have to worry about Google shutting me down for bandwidth use or anything, but I wouldn't want my blog to be shunned for being untrustworthy, nor do I want anyone's lawyers contacting me for anything other than perhaps an employment opportunity (

Friday, October 21, 2005

More baseball thoughts

Shorly after I posted my firat Baseball Thoughts message, sportswriter Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote an article criticizing the Yankees for not playing what some writers refer to as "small ball." I agree with the idea, but I don't like the name, which doesn't do the practice justice. So-called "small ball" is basically well-rounded baseball, where the team doesn't sit back and wait for somebody to knock the ball out of the park the way the Yankees do. Small-ball teams also bunt runners over, hit sacrifice flies, steal bases, and so on. With the notable exception of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the Yankees are not really equipped to play small-ball. They're a home-run hitting team. In the meantime, the Chicago White Sox and Anaheim Angels, "small-ball" (read: complete) teams, made it to the American League playoffs while the Yankees stayed home and watched.

I'd like to see the White Sox win the Series, just to hopefully rub it in George Steinbrenner's face that the most expensive, most home-run-reliant team does not guarantee anything. Complete teams generally go much further than those as one-dimensional as the Yankees.

I hope "General Von Steingrabber," as NY Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo calls his Steinbrenner caricature, doesn't overreact and fire Joe Torre (neither does Gallo). Torre wasn't responsible for signing all these home-run hitters who can't or won't steal bases or go all out for the team (*cough*Gary Sheffield*cough*). It wasn't Torre's fault that all these expensive players broke down at some point in the season, making them reliant on the likes of Robinson Cano (destined to be a fine player, just the kind a small-ball team needs) rather than the multimillionaires the fans paid to see. But Steinbrenner has hired former Philadelphia Phillies manager Larry Bowa as a coach, and is pursuing ex-Met and ex-Yankee (and ex-manager of the Baltimore Orioles) Lee Mazzilli for another coaching job. Maybe hiring these men as coaches means that Torre is safe as manager for the time being, but having two newly fired managers around on the coaching staff during the last year of his contract can't make Torre feel too secure in his job.

It'll be interesting to see what happens, especially if the Yankees stumble early in the season.

Soriano at Shea? (Yet More Baseball Thoughts)

Blogger Matt Cerrone has posted an article weighing against the idea of the Mets bringing Alfonso Soriano to Shea. Considering that the Mets, under Steve Phillips as GM, decided not to pursue Alex Rodriguez when he was a free agent, only for the Texas Rangers to trade Rodriguez years later to get Soriano, it's an interesting paradox that the Mets would even consider Soriano. Especially since, as Cerrone points out, Soriano hasn't grown any since being traded five years ago and isn't nearly the player Rodriguez is. Don't do it, Omar!

I'm hoping that the door is not closed to the possibility of bringing Jason Phillips and/or Vance Wilson back to the Mets. I'm assuming and hoping, of course, that the Mets let aging, bad-fielding Mike Piazza go in favor of someone who can actually play the position. Rumors are swirling that the Mets are interested in Bengie Molina; as long as he can throw baserunners out, he'll be fine with me. I s'pose the first few weeks of the season, whoever the Mets use will have his throwing arm tested just to see if he's another Piazza or if he can throw. Let's see what happens.

POP! went the Internet

A reprint from a Yahoo mailing list, originally posted in 2001:

Sometime in 2001 there was an article in... I think it may have been Yahoo Internet Life, but I'm not sure... profiling Jerry Yang, cofounder of Yahoo. One point that was made in the article was that Yang and his partner in Yahoo, David Filo, are more or less prisoners of their own success.

*On paper,* they are both multibillionaires. But they really can't touch too much of their supposed wealth for fear of toppling the house of cards that is Yahoo.

Yang mentioned that he'd love to unload a few million shares of Yahoo and take advantage of the apparent goodwill that so many people have in his company. But, just to show how lopsided the thinking of stock investors is, if he does unload some shares, instead of thinking, "OK, the man wants a piece of the pie, and why not? It *is* his pie," the effect would be just the opposite. "Did you hear? Yang just sold. Yahoo is tanking... sell!" Then the stock takes a dive.

Why am I writing about this? Well, I don't know about Jerry Yang, but I'd have trouble eating stock certificates. I don't know how to make clothing out of them, I can't run my car on them, I can't pay my rent with them (though in Sillycon Valley and Sillycon Alley things might be different), I can't make a house out of them (though I suppose I could wallpaper an apartment with them if I was pushed)... all those things takes money, directly or indirectly, and he has a potential source of BILLIONS of dollars that he can't touch for fear of devaluing the whole thing. Crazy, isn't it?

But this whole Internet thing was crazy to begin with...

I don't mean the technology, or its usefulness, but the idea that ANYTHING can be the basis of a successful business and create a cash cow for the business owner. Not that the Internet is impossible to make money with, just the opposite. It's just that all these wannabe millionaires were counting on stock prices to fatten their pockets, and forgetting all about whatever it is their businesses were supposed to be doing.

Trying to finance a business by worrying only about the price of the stock, rather than making widgets or doohickeys or whatchamacallits, is this: Say I have a box. I concede right up front that the box is empty. But the box COULD wind up having all kinds of strange and wonderful things in it that could make millionaires out of anyone foolish... oops, I meant visionary enough to invest in shares of ownership of that empty box.

So, investors are lining up, begging me to take their money in exchange for part ownership of the empty box. What do I do with the money? Smart thing would be to find some doohickeys to fill the box with, right? Well, say instead, I spend all that money on a fancy office, a big house, expensive car, the best designer clothes, and a splashy advertising campaign (complete with banner ads on Yahoo, of course) touting the *existence* of my empty box. Not the objects the box will contain, or the service the box may offer, just that the box exists.

If you were one of those investors in the empty box, wouldn't you want to see something in return for your investment *sometime*? Other than a TV commercial for the empty box every five minutes, or print ads in magazines every other page, wouldn't you like to know that I'm selling or making doohickeys or whatchamacallits or gizmos better than (or more cheaply than, or more exclusive than, or more *something* than) the competition?

So would millions of other investors. THAT's why the so-called Internet bubble burst. And this was never a big secret. Anybody see the movie "Wall Street"? When the young stockbroker loses his shirt trying to be just like Gordon Gekko, the broker's father lectures him that he forgot that his company was supposed to be *doing* something with the money stockholders were *lending* the company. Yes, *lending.*

A stock purchase is nothing more or less than a loan based on the premise that the borrower (the company) will use that loan to make more money. When *all* of the money is instead used to entice more people to invest, you're stealing from Peter to pay Paul.

Like Forrest Gump says, "And that's all I have to say about that."

Since then things have changed, but not enough. There's still too much emphasis on stock price rather than how much money a company is making or will continue to make.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Baseball thoughts

Like every year since 2000, the Mets are free to watch the postseason on television like the rest of us. This year, though, unlike every season since 2001, I think they can hold their heads up about how this season played out. Of course, I would have preferred a pennant, and they did make it to the last series of the season with a .500 finish still in question, but they finished 83-79 under first-time manager (and lifelong Mets fan) Willie Randolph.

Naturally, any fan wants to see their team finish better than that, but considering that this was their manager's first time managing anywhere in the big leagues, I'd say they did fine. Next year, though, "new manager" won't work as an excuse for a finish two games over .500. They have to work on not being so streaky -- if they had been more consistent this year, they might have had a better overall record. Let's see what happens in the off-season...

Yankees: I was kind of hoping that the Red Sox would kill off the Yankees' postseason hopes during the season, but that didn't happen. I don't particularly dislike the Yankees, but I don't like the hype that surrounds the team. On the other hand, a payroll of $208 million naturally creates certain expectations, which in a sense pinpoints the problem with the Yankees, and with major-league baseball as a whole.

As long as the position of commissioner is occupied by an owner -- and don't pay any attention to the so-called "blind trust" that represents the Milwaukee Brewers' ownership, since the team president is "Commissioner" Bud Selig's daughter -- there will be very few (if any) proactive moves like what Bowie Kuhn tried to do back in the 70's to prevent George Steinbrenner from pummeling other teams with his money, or what Bart Giamatti and Fay Vincent did to remind owners that as long as they had their antitrust exemption, there had to be an independent commissioner. In fact, I don't understand how they still have that exemption when Major League Baseball is basically rudderless. And as long as there is no real commissioner with any power, Steinbrenner and the other more-moneyed owners are free to throw their money around and bully the financially weaker teams with it. And as long as the rich owners are flexing their wallets, the fans will be induced to unrealistic expectations, as if the teams who spend the most money should automatically rule the postseason. As the Yankees have proved this year and last, it doesn't -- and shouldn't -- work that way.

And I wonder how owners can stomach the idea of the Washington Nationals being "owned by Major League Baseball." That means that they are all financing this team, because when the owners of the Expos couldn't find a buyer, the other owners had to buy them out. I imagine there must have been a lot of urgent phone calls among the front office people in the National League East early this season when the Nationals were making noise; at one point there were atop their division. I didn't think they would prevail precisely because of their ownership situation. How free is the team to compete on the field with other teams whose owners have much more of a vested interest in their own teams, the ones they chose to buy, rather than the one that was forced on them? What about the general manager? How free are other teams to deal with them, knowing that the player or players they're sending could be the missing piece of the puzzle that would send the ownerless Nationals into the postseason? I imagine that it will take a Nationals wild-card berth -- they will not win their division, mark my words -- to make baseball move on getting someone to buy the team, because until then there is always one team that the National League teams, at least, can beat up on.

And I imagine that anyone who would otherwise be interested in buying a major league team is probably asking himself or herself these same questions, and whether they really want to buy into this mess called Major League Baseball in the first place.

As for the teams that did make the playoffs, I think I'd like to see an Astros-White Sox matchup in the World Series. The White Sox' official MLB site mentions that the team has no longstanding traditions, not even the lovable-loser tradition of the Cubs (and it belongs to them now that the Bosox won it all last year). The Cardinals are OK, I guess, and so are the Angels, but I want to see the Astros and White Sox in there. At least if the Chisox make it, I can finally get myself a black Sox uniform top without anyone asking me what gang I'm in...

Qantas Airlines' "gripe sheet"

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet", which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas' pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except Auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're for.

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last.................

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget

(a reply posted on a message board where "Gripe Sheet" was posted)

Used to be a crewchief on Army helicopters. Had a pilot once write up "Seat cushion excessively crushed." My corrective action? "Removed fat-ass pilot." The QC officer was not amused at all...