I’m quoted in a Sacramento Bee review of Michael Moore’s new book Dude, Where’s My Country?. The relevant bits:
Spinsanity.org, an independent media watchdog Web site, has taken Moore to task right alongside right-wingers Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. A recent review of Moore’s book was titled “Dude, Where’s My Intellectual Honesty?”
“Our objection is that he is really slippery with his facts,” says Bryan Keefer, who wrote the review. “Regardless of whether or not you agree with his arguments, or his stand on issues, we disagree with how he makes those arguments, how he twists facts to fit his arguments.”
In the battle of “big ball” (home runs and extra base hits) vs. “small ball” (sacrifice bunts, stolen bases, etc.) last night’s World Series game three was a clear win for big ball once again.
Small ball loses: In the bottom of the first, Louis Castillo tried to sacrifice bunt Juan Pierre over to third. Castillo got two strikes for his pains, and eventually struck out. Pierre scored later that inning on a base hit. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Marlins tried small ball again; this time Juan Pierre got thrown out trying to steal second base to end the inning. And in the bottom of the seventh, the Marlins sent pitcher Josh Beckett to the plate to bunt the runner over to second instead of pinch hitting; the bunt was successful, but the runner ended up stranded at second.
Big ball wins: All of the runs in the game involved extra-base hits. In the bottom of the first, Juan Pierre scored for the Marlins on a base hit after doubling. In the top of the fourth, the Yankees’ Derek Jeter doubled, eventually scoring after two walks and a hit batsman. In the top of the eighth, Jeter doubled again, and scored on a single. And in the top of the ninth, the Yankees got four runs on two home runs, a solo shot by Aaron Boone and a three-run back-breaker by Bernie Williams.
I walked into my local chain coffee shop today to discover it mostly full. Still, there were two seats open, so I walked to the counter and ordered my drink. As I did, the seats filled, including one person who sat down without ordering and proceeded to read the paper (he glanced at me guiltily before doing so) and never ordered anything.
I’m from the school that says there are unwritten rules to those kind of things (like baseball - you don’t bunt to break up the no-hitter, you don’t steal when you’re ahead by five runs, etc. etc.). That unwritten code dictates that 1) One doesn’t sit down in a cafe without at least the intention of oredering something, and 2) In a situation where seats are at a premium, the first arrived gets the seat (which, in my experience in California, has generally been observed by everyone standing in line before claiming a seat).
This is a classic game theory problem: If everyone behaves the same way - either standing in line before taking a seat, or saving a seat first thing with a bag or a coat - then everyone comes out even. But if someone violates those rules - say, by leaving a coat at a seat when everyone else assumes they should be standing in line first - some people come out ahead and others get screwed. So what’s the optimal solution? Everyone stand in line? Or everyone save seats? Or just throw the guy who grabbed the last seat out of the chair Quentin Tarantino style?
There’s a restaurant out here called Blue 9 Burger which is such a pathetic ripoff of In-N-Out Burger that it makes me sad - and I’m a vegetarian (it’s all about the grilled cheese). Blue 9 has stolen everything except the color scheme - same short menu, same stuff on the menu, same combo meals, same secret off-menu orders, etc. etc. But in the end it’s like watching a cheap Hollywood remake (minus the high production value) - it just makes you want the real thing.
When Jason Giambi goes back to California to play against the A’s, reporters always asks him what he misses about California, and he always says the same thing: In-N-Out. I’m starting to feel the same way.
Chris Mooney just added yours truly to his blogroll with the kicker “West cost style, east coast attitude.” I couldn’t have put it better myself . . .
How many ways can a manager screw up? Ask Grady Little.
In the harsh spotlight of the playoffs, managers have a tendency to overmanage or second-guess themselves. Too often, they go away from what’s worked all season to try and get a better result - and usually, it doesn’t work.
Grady Little, as far as I can tell, did everything he possibly could to keep Boston from winning in the playoffs. It’s a testament to the Red Sox that they played as well as they did, and came oh-so-close to knocking off the hated Yankees.
Take the obvious example: Game seven of the ALCS. He had Bill Mueller, the American League batting champion, batting eighth. Why put one of your best weapons in a spot in the batting order guaranteeing him fewer at-bats? Sure, Mueller hadn’t looked great in the playoffs - but maybe that’s because Little had him batting so low in the order throughout both the ALDS and ALCS. Similarly, why bat Trot Nixon so low in the order (eighth in game six of the ALCS, seventh in game seven)? The guy had a great on-base percentage (.396) and a fantastic slugging percentage (.578) to go with his .306 average. Theo Epstein put together a great team - why did Grady Little waste it?
And then, of course, there were the pitching decisions. Red Sox fans are going to be reliving the sequence of Little heading to the mound in the 8th innning, talking to Pedro, leaving him in, then watching from the dugout as the next hitter, Hideki Matsui, slapped his second double of the game to cut the Red Sox lead to one run. Then there’s the decision to leave Wakefield in for the 11th. The Yankees had already burned their closer, Mariano Rivera, and had only a couple of situational relievers and their number five starter left in the bullpen. Why not bring in your closer, who presumably has the best chance of keeping the Yankees from scoring, and hope your lineup can get a run or two off the scrub pitcher the Yankees have to run out there in the next inning? In other words, why give the Yankees any more of a chance than you have to?
I could go on forever, really (for more, see my http://www.bryankeefer.com/archives/000009.html">essay on the A’s-Red Sox series). But the point is, Little may have done the worst job managing a team in the postseason that I’ve ever seen.
Fox’s baseball commentators for the World Series are always prattling on about “small ball,” which mostly seems to come down to sacrificing (and “moving runners over") and stealing bases (strangely, it doesn’t usually include walks). Occasionally this goes so far as to bash on teams that wait for home runs and/or extra base hits. So I kept a count during game two of the World Series tonight:
Top of the first inning: The Marlins start the runner from first on a 3-2 pitch. Batter strikes out, runner get thrown out at second. Big ball 1, Small ball 0.
Bottom of the first inning: Yankees leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano walks. Derek Jeter gets two strikes on himself trying to bunt Soriano over (Jeter might have been bunting for a base hit, but he showed bunt so early I’m going with the former). Then Soriano gets picked off trying to steal, and Jeter strikes out. The next batter, Jason Giambi, gets hit by a pitch, Bernie Williams gets a hit, and Hideki Matsui hits a three run home run on a 3-0 pitch. Big ball 3, small ball 0.
Bottom of the second inning: Nick Johnson gets on with a bunt base hit (bunting for a base hit doesn’t count as small ball any more than swinging for a single does). Johnson scores on a double by Juan Rivera. Big ball 4, small ball 0.
Bottom of the fourth inning: Base hit by Nick Johnson, who scores on a home run by Soriano. Big Ball 5, small ball 0.
Bottom of the sixth: Aaron Boone strikes out on a 3-2 pitch, and Jorge Posada, going from first on the pitch, gets thrown out at second. Two pitches later the pitcher throws a wild pitch to Johnson (which would have moved Posada to second), then Johnson smacks a double (which would have scored Posada). Big ball 6, small ball 0 (or big ball 5, small ball -1).
There you have it - “small ball” effectively cost the Yankees two runs (one in the first inning, and one in the sixth), while all of their runs came on home runs and extra-base hits. I’ll try and track the same stats for another game or two during the series.
Went to an art opening last night down in Battery Park City. The theme was a tribute to NYC. Pieces included lots of 9-11 stuff, a nifty statue made of scrap metal held together with no apparent welding, and videos of strippers (no idea how that is a tribute to NYC). I think they were shooting for some sort of white trash theme with the food they served (twinkies, grilled cheese sandwiches) and the outfits that the security people were wearing (generic “New York City” t-shirts), but it ended up feeling like a hispter’s semi-ironic conception of white trash based on TV, books, movies, and bad jokes, rather than any actual experience.
The crowd, though, was fascinating. I’d characerize it as the terminally hip and the marginally famous. It included lots of underage female art school students drinking free beers, wanna-be models wearing sunglasses at night, guys wearing fleece-lined jean jackets, and dirty old men checking everyone out. Everyone, of course, was looking around trying to spot someone famous before their friends did so they could brag about it. Highly entertaining.
Why do the ads for the new Russel-Crowe-in-a-uniform vehicle Master and Commander say “Only in theatres!” at the end? Were focus groups telling them they thought the ads were for Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD?
To be an Oakland Athletics fan these days is to believe, against all evidence, that there is some sort of justice in the universe. Thinking the A’s can win it all is believing that the little guy with a good idea can slay the giant of money and power with a carefully placed shot between the eyes. Most of all, being an A’s fan means having a fragile faith in the underdog — and having that faith rudely ground into dust every year, usually by the New York Yankees.
8:51 PM: Red Sox 2, Yankees 0, top of the second: Unless Pedro goes head-hunting again (entirely possible given that he doesn’t have his best stuff so far, and he tends to try and intimdate hitters when he’s having trouble getting them out) the Red Sox look like they’re in pretty good shape . . .
Update, 9:48 PM: If the Yankees lose, this isn’t going to be Roger Clemens’s last start. No way he’ll go out like that (3 1/3 innings, 4 runs, game 7). He’ll be back for one more year with the Yankees. If they end up winning, though, and he gets a chance to redeem himself in the World Series, he might still hang ‘em up . . .
Update, 10:58 PM: The Yankees are desperate - they’re all swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, and swinging for the fences. It’s not looking good for New Yorkers . . .
Update, 11:31: Yankees 5, Red Sox 5: Grady Little manages to screw it up again by leaving a clearly tiring Pedro in there a few batters too long. More on Grady Little later.
Update, 12:22 AM: Yankees 6, Red Sox 5: Wow. Once again, I question Grady little’s decision - in this case, to leave Wakefield out on the mound. He’s been vulnerable to the home run all year - why do you leave him out there? Lose with your best on the mound, not a guy throwing knuckleballs. In any case, my condolences to Red Sox fans. At least they don’t have to worry about the Cubs breaking their curse any more.
Just published a pair of big pieces on Michael Moore’s new book Dude, Where’s My Country?. You can find them here.
Marlins 9, Cubs 6, game 7 of the NLCS.
As a friend just put it, I think baseball has more potential for heartbreak than any other sport. The long season, the huge element of luck, the tension of every pitch in a long game - and then, wham, your season’s over, and the other team is dog-piling on each other in the middle of the field while your guys hang their heads. There’s nothing nearly as emotional in the wold of sports. Football is too physical, and over too quickly. The NCAA basketball tournament is a bunch of teams from out of nowhere that get beat too quickly for you to form any real attachments (or, if you’re like me, you just expect your team to lose in the most painful fashion possible, so it doesn’t really hurt any more). The NBA isn’t competitive enough - it’ just everyone gunning for the Lakers. And there’s no drama to hockey, just people getting their teeth bashed in.
More on this tomorrow, once the ALCS finishes up.
Marlins 8, Cubs 3, bottom of the 8th:
Anatomy of a loss: Leave your pitcher in there two batters too long (aka, the Dusty Baker special). Have your hometown fans take a popout out of your outfielder’s glove. Have your shortstop drop the easiest groundball of the entire game. The Curse may be alive and well, but don’t tell me it had anything to do with this game.