Finding Perspective: Around the League.

Not All Pitchers Are As Good As This One.

We spend a lot of time worrying about pitching in Philadelphia.  As I type this, Kyle Kendrick is in a dog fight with mediocrity out in Denver.  Even with a decent run of good outings, the questions remain.  What is this rotation going to look like in a couple of months?  Who is going to close games?  There’s plenty of scenarios, and a lot of them aren’t too pretty.  One of the good things about Philadelphia is that we have that tunnel vision.  What is happening in other cities doesn’t matter.  That is true for the most part, but sometimes there is an opportunity for some perspective.  It’s not in my nature, because I love to dog the Phillies pitching staff, but when you look around the league, you realize there’s not a lot of good pitching out there.

Can we pick on Boston a little more, since they can’t close out the Flyers?  I think so. Take a gander at Dice-K, Beckett and Lackey.  Three guys who were supposed to anchor the best 1-5 rotation in baseball.  Lackey’s got a Jamie Moyer style 4 wins with his 4.6 ERA.  Beckett’s been terrible, and Matsuzaka worse since he came back.  Thank god for the young guys.  Of course, have they noticed this in Boston, or is everyone in line at the courthouse changing their name to Rajon?

Pick another contender.  How about the Cardinals.  A fearsome staff by NL standards, right?  Well, the anchor at the back of their rotation is our old friend Kyle Lohse and his 5.45 ERA.  He’d fit right back in here.  And, Jamie Garcia?  Let’s let this kid get around the league once and then see what happens.  Somebody peaked early.

I was worried about the Braves.  Touting them  to everyone who would listen.  Well, Hanson and Hudson have done their part, but we’re about ready to play Taps for this team.  Lowe, Jurrgens and Kawakami have been awful.  This was supposed to be the strength of the team, now they’re giving up a ton of runs and counting on a rookie to bail them out.

Colorado?  A trendy pick, and they have maybe the best pitcher in the whole league right now in Ubaldo Jimenez.  I’ll wait why you try to think of the rest of their rotation.  Aaron Cook, Greg Smith and Jason Hammel have given up 62 earned runs in about 80 innings.  Who’s pitching games 3 and 4 for this team if they make the playoffs?

Having a terrible fifth starter is par for the course at this point.  San Francisco has Todd Wellemeyer and his 5.97 ERA.  The Yankees are saddled with Javy Vazquez.  The Dodgers have some cat named Charlie Haeger with an ERA over 8.  Who?  The Twins have a mushy back-end of the rotation.

So, essentially everywhere you look there are problems on the mound.  Except for Tampa.  Don’t look at Tampa right now.  They are scary.  And, some of these teams are probably in better shape than the Phils.  You don’t need five starters for the playoffs, but it’s important to realize that here as well.  One of these guys we get toss onto the scrap heap.  If Happ comes back effectively maybe that’s two guys getting tossed.  Mid-season acquisition?  How’s three new faces sound?  Pretty good right?  Maybe things aren’t so bleak.

3-Putt as a Dog.

Grossy! Get back Here!

So, I happened to find myself in an area populated by dog walkers.  What was I doing there?  None of your concern, really.  The point is, I was there, and there were dogs there.  I was minding my own business.   All of a sudden I’m being rushed at by what looks to me at first glance as a miniature Doberman.  For those of you that don’t know, these are very miniature.  The thing probably weighed 20 lbs.  The dog didn’t look terribly friendly, but again it was tiny, and I’m not afraid of any dog, not in this scenario.  I’d be one of those idiots that said, “Oh, dogs like me,” and then my hand would get gnarled off.  Mini-Doberman wasn’t a problem, though, it was kind of bouncing around five yards from me, representing some kind of toughness, but not being convincing at all.

I have begun to wonder at this point who the dog belongs to.  I’d say leashes are used approximately 50% of the time at this location, and I’m all for letting the dogs roam free, but it’s nice if they are friendly and/or listen.  Some people are afraid of dogs, should they have to deal with this growling Napoleon complex that was dancing around me?  Finally some guy appears, and he’s basically yelling at the top of his lungs, “Michael!  Michael!”   This happens to be my name, and for a second I wonder if I have stumbled across some long-lost third cousin.  Then it occurs to me, he’s talking to the dog.  The dog’s name is Michael?  What the hell?

I suppose if your name is Buster or Mittens this probably happens to you all the time, but this was honestly the first time I’d ever encountered a dog named Michael.  And, let me be honest, I don’t think I liked it that much.   It was an odd situation to be in, because Michael is about as common of a name as you can get, but yet I like to go around thinking I’m quite uncommon.  When your namesake is a Mini-Doberman, though, that’s kind of deflating.  It wasn’t even a dog that I’d like.  I might have felt different if “Michael” was some kind of lumbering hoss of a Newfoundland.  That’s representing.

I’m a little worried that Michael is going to become a trendy dog name.  Ever since I read Freakonomics, I’m very aware of all the science and trends about name popularity.  I liked my name right where it was before.  Prevalent among humans, unheard of in canine populations.  My general stance has always been human names don’t work best for dogs, but there were notable exceptions.  If you had a dog named Leroy for example, I would think that was amazing, but then again, my name isn’t Leroy.  When the tables were turned, I wasn’t liking it so much.

I guess, all I’m saying is, whatever happened to Spot?

I’m Not Classy Enough For…

I Couldn't Grow This Stache, Either.

I like a good list.  A ranking system.  I was looking at a blog this morning called The Art of Manliness.   It’s a little more hetero than it sounds.  I suppose it is supposed to be this comprehensive guide to being a man’s man.  There’s some interesting stuff on there, but it also can trend a little toward the ridiculous with, “How to Survive a Shark Attack.”  I suppose true men get into run-ins with sharks all the time. It’s a consequence of doing business.  Anyway, it’s not the worst site I’ve ever seen to waste a few minutes on, especially if you are questioning your masculinity.  Surely, at least one post on this website will apply to you, you can puff out your chest, and then go kill dinner.

But, getting back to the point, the lists.  I saw “The 100 Books Every Guy Should Read.”  Now, most of these top-100 novels of all-time lists aren’t worth the paper they are printed on for me.  Too high brow.  I mean, Ulysses?  Good gracious.  So, I saw this list, and it caught my eye, because I thought it might be more pedestrian.  It wasn’t going to be The 100 Novels an English professor knows they are supposed to like.   What did I find?  A lot of books in common.  Apparently, I’m the only one out there that doesn’t like Ayn Rand.  So, I got to thinking there are a lot of things I just don’t have the taste for.  The finer things…

Literature is a good place to start, I think.  There was a time in my life when I only read the Sports and Life section of the USA Today, but I’ve grown into a reader of sorts.  I own bookshelves.  There are some fancy, “look at me” books on there.  I haven’t finished all of them. There was a time when I thought that I should read, understand and love The Brothers Karamazov, but that time is long gone.  It makes not one lick of sense to me, and I despise it.  It’s on the bookshelf, though.  Classy.

Cigars.  I have this thought in my mind there is going to be a pivotal moment in my life when I am offered a cigar, and I turn it down. There’s a camaraderie element to smoking a cigar, and that’s what I would be missing out on.  Could I get away with lighting the cigar, and then just holding it in my hand for an hour?  That wouldn’t work, right?   I have this streak, though, of never smoking anything in my entire life.  It’s the only healthy streak I have.  I have to stick to it, unfortunately, that means being less classy.

Restaurants.  I have a hard restaurant ceiling.  It’s not like I’m running with a crowd that frequents four star establishments, but I actually have no interest in going there.  If you invited me to Le Bec Fin, or wherever this weekend, I’d be like…can I interest you in the Capital Grille?  I just require a baseline level of simplicity.  This is from the menu at Le Bec Fin, “Poached Rabbit Loin, Scallop Stuffed Rainbow Chard, Toasted Pine Nut, Riesling Jus.”   Now some of you out there are like, oh hell yes!  I’m more like, “you mean rabbit like a bunny?” Can’t do it, not classy enough.

Art.  A wise and learned man once said, “art is dumb.”  I don’t want to go that far, but there are certain parts of the arts I just can’t grasp.  I need literal.  I like good photographs, for example, probably prefer them to a painting.  If things get much more complicated than that, and we’re interpreting, identifying themes, sniffing out nuance, I just can’t do it.  My brain isn’t wired that way.  I don’t think, “a four-year old could do it,” but I also have no interest.

There’s some other ones out there…wine, artsy movies, things of that nature.  I guess the bottom line is, you have to know where you stand on the old classy scale, and just embrace it.