Picture and Mailbag.

When Cat Parachuting Goes Wrong.

***

Right Next to the Hydrox Machine in Hell.

Ok, that’s your picture bag.  Two big submissions this week.  That’s 100% growth.  I don’t expect to be able to maintain that rate.  The picture bag could collapse like a Ponzi scheme.  But, luckily, the written word will live on, in all its bloviated glory.  

Q:  Would you get a  little annoyed if you had a 33″ waist?  Wouldn’t you get tired of buying 34-inch pants?  I mean, you should get credit for that inch right?  Slim Fitte, Austin, TX

A:  I’d never be annoyed if I had a 33-inch waist.  Maybe I should rephrase the question for you.  Would I be annoyed if I had a 39-inch waist?  I think that’s a pretty significant cutoff.  Do you wear size-40 pants, or not?  That is what is known as a significant threshold.  If you’re being picky about a 33 or 34, I’ll kindly tell you to take a walk and EAT A COUPLE SLICES OF BREAD, STICK FIGURE.  I have vague memories of seeing pants in odd-numbered waist sizes.  Perhaps during a Father’s Day excursion in 1989, I was looking for a pair of 33-inch waist pants?  A nice pair of Dockers?  Or some Levis?  I think they used to include odd-sizes up to a certain point.  But then, the country’s girth EXPLODED.  Cancel the 31s and 33s–we need some more 42/29s.  That’s my favorite pant size I see in the store.  Those pants probably require some severe self-reflection when you buy them.  So, anyway, what I’m saying is, just get the dang 34s and enjoy the little bit of extra breathing room.  Come back to me when you have a real problem.  

Q: I knew this was bound to happen.  We had this conversation maybe 20 years ago.  Finally someone else is getting rich off my idea.  A coating inside ketchup bottles so there is no waste!  The bottle empties completely!  I can never approximate how much ketchup I need and end up throwing it out.  Double waste!  Now it will be so much better!  I’m still bitter someone is getting credit for the idea I couldn’t get out of my head.  Heinz Hunt, Lewisberry, PA.  

A:  Several people sent me the link to this story (great video) when it was reported last week.  I guess that’s what happens when you are a ketchup expert, maybe not an expert as much as a CHAMPION of ketchup’s cause.  I do remember having this conversation.  The general consensus was–it’d be too expensive to line the bottle.  I guess this is what separates the idea people from true innovators.  I guess you keep on working until you see the finish line.  Either that, or BE A SCIENTIST.  Having extra ketchup on the plate is never a problem for me.  I see people who do this, but I’m not sure how it happens.  You know the old baseball adage, “see ball, hit ball,” I preach, “See condiment, eat condiment.”  If I have a lot of ketchup on my plate, that just means the last few bites are going to have EXTRA KETCHUP.  A win-win.  My only concern about this bottle is that dregs are still dregs.  Part of the reason I don’t go the extra mile for what is stuck to the bottom is because that is the stuff that’s been in there for a while.  It’s been percolating down there.  It always feels better to open up a freshie.  

Q:  I was at a library the other day and there was a section titled, “Adult Movies.”  Now, this was distinguish these particular flicks from “Children’s Movies,” but don’t you think that label is a little suspect?  Certainly there’s a better option.  Lawrence Flint, Flint, MI.

A:  I think the library is immune to such concerns.  You weren’t walking into some seedy spot like you’d see back in the day.  This isn’t “Jim’s Video.”  It really baffles me that I lived in a time when there were independently owned video stores.  Can you imagine?  I feel sorry for the people who ran places like that, they probably thought they were SET FOR LIFE in 1985.  Then came Blockbuster, then came everything in the world streaming to your own magic laptop box.  In 40 years, maybe you could open up a “vintage” VHS store, but for now, you’d have better luck selling luck AOL free trail CDs.  The neighborhood video store always had a stairway, or a curtain of some kind blocking off the adult area.  Walking up those stairs had to a daunting experience.  Hitting a slot machine jackpot is less conspicuous.  Anyway, I’m a mile off-topic.  It’s mildly amusing the library calls their big person movies the “adult video section,” but let’s go ahead and give them a pass.  They give out free wi-fi.  

Q: Now that Roy Halladay is down, how would you rate the Phillies chances to keep this season together?  Granted, they’re only three games out, but is that sustainable until Halladay/Utley and Howard can contribute?  Trey Deadline, Berwyn, PA.  

A:  Never underestimate the mediocrity of the National League.  The NL East is getting a lot of credit for being a tough division, but it’s certainly not a great division.  The first place Nationals are cranking out 3.8 runs a game.  The Marlins had a great May, but a horrific April.  The Mets have overachieved, but expectations were so low that it means overachieving is a mere five games over .500.  The Phillies only need to be worried about someone getting away with the division, and that just doesn’t look like it will happen.  Miami, considering their sustained level of play in May appears to be the only real candidate.  But, the Marlins NEVER beat the Phillies.  They have a block.  All they do is lose series against the Phils.  It’s the one thing the Phillies have in their favor–they continue to beat Atlanta and Miami.  That’s the real key to staying in the hunt, part of the Phillies’ issue has been getting throttled by NY and Washington.  If they can reverse that trend, they will hang right in the division.  I expect things will space out a bit in the next two months, but I think that will be teams falling off the pace–not running away with it.  I’d say the 4 most important Phils in Halladay’s absence are Contreras (have to shutdown the 7th inning), Worley (they can’t afford Bush/Elarton/etc in rotation), R0llins (it’s his turn to spark the offense for a while and Mayberry (I think the most recent Wigginton hot streak is likely to end at any moment).  This Phillies season has been about adjusting expectations, and the best thing I can say about the fan base, is they’ve been a little better.  They have finally seemed to realize that things are OK FOR NOW.  The Halladay injury will test that resolve.  

Q:  If you had to rely on an animal for transportation for the rest of your life, which animal would you choose?  Assume price isn’t a factor and you don’t have to train or take care of said animal.  Petey Barnum, Boston, MA.  

A:  I assume we’re talking about land transportation only?  Because if we’re talking water–I’ll take Shamu.  Not any killer whale.  I want the real deal.  I might SETTLE for Willy.  If we’re talking air?  Forget it.  I’m stuck in one spot.  If there’s a bird big enough out there to ride–I DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT.  What are the traditional riding animals?  Horses, Camels, Donkeys?  Maybe an elephant?  Camels are creepy.  They fail the face test.  And, they don’t look terribly comfortable.  Ever seen someone riding across the dang desert on a camel?  It looks like it needs shocks.  I bet you could outfit an elephant with a real comfortable “cabin.”  You could ride like a king on top of an elephant, but I’m worried an elephant would be too slow.  I googled it, and it says an elephant can hit 25 mph if it is scared or upset, but who wants to ride a scared elephant?  You know, people ride horses for a reason.  There was a point when they had to, and they were obviously the best animals to ride.  That’s a super boring choice, though, so I’m going to go–GIRAFFE.  They can hit 32 mph.  I’d walk around telling people my giraffe had world-class sprinter speed.  

 Q:  The running of the bulls is getting a lot of attention in Philadelphia today with an Eagles DE, Jason Babin, planning a trip during the off-season.  Putting aside the fact that this sounds like an idiotic thing to do if you are under contract with an NFL  team, would you ever run with the bulls?  
 
A: Are you kidding?  I don’t like running without bulls.  So, really, why bring them into it?  I’ve got a pretty big problem with bull fighting, so anything associated with it, gets a giant and flamboyant THUMBS DOWN from me.  In every bull fight ever held, I’m pro-bull.  I like it when the matador gets gored.  Is that wrong?  Because it feels RIGHT.  This running of the bulls thing started when they had to corral the bulls into the bullfighting ring, where they would eventually get killed in action by cowardly matadors who aren’t even required to fight fairly.  From the periphery, it seems like it has evolved into some type of drunken spectacle (Spain’s version of the Preakness?) that turns its back on tradition and caters to lubed up foreigners looking for a thrill, or for something to cross off their to-do list for life.  The entirety of that, of course, is complete horse bleep.  Do people get hurt running with the bulls?  Is it dangerous?  I guess so, but most of the people who get hurt are injured because of their own stupidity.  Again, very little sympathy.  If you really want a rush, how about something a little more organic?  Go jump in the lion’s enclosure at the zoo or something–leave the bulls alone.  
 

No-swalt.

Doc to visit Doc.

Much of this season has been about waiting for the Phillies to get whole.  There was a hope that at some point during the dog days, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard would charge out of the dugout for the national anthem, and maybe we’d finally see what kind of team the Phillies had.  But, while the Phillies wait for Utley and Howard, more and more names are joining them on the DL.  Worley, Nix, Stutes and Thome have all missed significant time and added to the Phillies’ patchwork roster.  A serious injury to Roy Halladay would trump all those, and could force the Phillies to reevaluate the season.

During the Ruben Amaro tenure, the Phillies have often tried to make their strength stronger.  They took a very good pitching staff and tried to make it great.  They’ve taken measures to keep their pitching at the highest level while neglecting other parts of the team.  The Phillies appear to be married to the all-pitching/enough hitting strategy, so losing their ace would leave them with massive holes to fill.

The Phillies already are a middle of the pack NL pitching staff.  They’ve had moments of starting pitching brilliance, a great closer and a big pile of junk in middle relief.  Their 3.68 ERA looks good at first glance, but it’s over 1/2 run worse than last year’s team ERA and places them 8th in the National League.  Even though Halladay hasn’t been effective in recent starts and has contributed to the bloated ERA, you can’t like the prospects of adding another AAA arm to the rotation.

There’s been a hope among fans that the Phillies would be getting better as the season progressed.  They’ve come to expect a trade deadline deal, and with addition of Utley and Howard (if/when they come back) there was a good chance the Phillies would get a big influx of help mid-summer.  But if Dave Bush or Scott Elarton enters the rotation, if the Phillies are starting Worley/Kendrick and Blanton 60% of the time, would these expected boosts even be enough to push the Phillies into the post-season?

I think the natural response to a possible Halladay injury is to fall back and do what the Phillies have done the past few seasons–add more pitching.  The name on the tip of everyone’s tongue is Roy Oswalt.  Oswalt has spent the spring in Mississippi waiting to fill the role of mid-season rental.  His arrival in 2010 was one of the great trade deadline acquisitions in recent memory, but 2011 showed the downside of Roy Oswalt.  He’s got a very cranky back.  His motivation level appears to be in a constant state of flux.  He contemplates retirement, then wants a 3-yr deal.  He wants to stay close to home, then wants to go to the highest bidder.  Put simply, Roy Oswalt is high-maintenance.

That’s the last thing this Phillies team needs.  They already have the feel of a team that was just thrown together.  The turnover, the injuries, the revolving door to AAA–it does feel like there is a bit of a chemistry problem on this team.  At the very least, they haven’t had a chance to come together.  I’m not calling Oswalt a bad clubhouse guy, but tossing him into the mix, especially if he turns out to not be effective could be a disaster.  His signing could also limit the chances the Phillies can add any more help come the trade deadline.  If the middle relief is still junk, what good does Oswalt do?  If the Phillies have infield questions and no set left fielder, should they spend what little excess they have on a Oswalt roll of the dice?

The good news, from my perspective, is that Oswalt seems likely to price himself out of the Phillies’ market.  There should also be options closer to his hometown, if that is truly important to him.  I understand the desire to land Oswalt, but this is a strategy that hasn’t worked for the Phillies since it was implemented after the 2009 season.  If the Phillies really want to improve they need to focus on two areas–power and relief pitching.

The Phillies are averaging just over five runs a game in May, but the same group of guys really struggled in April.  The fact is, they have scored enough runs to be in 1st place.  A couple fewer bullpen implosions and they’d be right there with Washington, but finishing 1st had never been their problem.  I find it pretty remarkable the Phillies have managed to do so well offensively this month.  With a lineup that regularly features guys who could barely get invited to Spring Training, they’re hanging in there.  They’re 3rd in the NL in hitting.  They get plenty of base runners, and have even been a little more patient.  The problem is, the Phillies need far more base runners to score than the average team.  The single has been their salvation, but also is one of their weaknesses.  Are the Phillies prepared to live with this problem?  A version of it helped eliminate them from the last two post-seasons.

That brings us to the bullpen where of all things, the Phillies are having trouble finding effective right-handed set-up guys.  The question had always been about lefties, but now the Phillies don’t have a reliable option to get out a right-hander aside from Papelbon.  Chad Qualls is essentially throwing BP out there, especially to left-handers.  Jose Contreras has been better, but can hardly be counted on.  There’s no guarantee that Mike Stutes or David Herndon will return from the DL and be effective.  From my perspective, the Phillies seem to have a screaming need in the bullpen.

What they’d like to do is wait and see.  Maybe a bullpen that features Contreras/Diekman and Bastardo will become good enough.  Maybe Utley and Howard will add some pop to the lineup, maybe John Mayberry can snap out of it.  But as we come up on 1/3 mark of the season, eventually the Phillies are going to be forced to make a big decision.  What direction are they going?  What are they trying to improve?  I think a rash and expensive move to get Oswalt would be contradictory to what they’ve been preaching all year, and could keep them from making a move that could really help this team further down the line.   In the meantime, we hope Halladay gets a decent MRI result.

***

Phenomenal Mad Men Episode on Sunday.

***

Mailbag coming Thursday evening, still time to submit questions and/or photos.

Bring It On Down to Jury-Ville.

I would Have Gone For Foreman.

Oh, Delaware County you bunch of overachieving bureaucrats.  I’ve spent my life avoiding jury duty.  For a man of my proportions, I’m surprisingly elusive in certain situations and I always had jury duty’s number.  Of course, when you don’t vote, skipping out on jury duty is pretty elementary business.  Motor Voter?  You’ve got a better chance of me signing over my organs.  I have great respect for the Honda Civic, but only so much respect for my civic duty.  It’s not ALL apathy.  I could debate you on it, but that’s not the point of this post.  The point is, Delaware County uses the DMV for its pool of jurors.  That’s a foul ball.  Finally changing my license over to my new address proved to be a fatal error.  When I saw the summons in the mail, I thought it was an elaborate prank, but no–they had me.  It may be time to move again.  

The underlying theme of your entire day on jury duty is that no one wants to be there.  I’ve rarely encountered a situation where every person is thinking the exact same thing.  If they could have scraped up $50 for me, I would have been happy to be there, but for $9 + $.34 transportation costs, even I was feeling a bit put out.  The thing is, when you arrive for your day, you’ve already lost.  They give you that number to call the night before and there’s a chance you won’t be required.  The feeling when you dial that number is akin to what you might feel when you are about to scratch off the final section of a lottery ticket.  GET LUCKY ONE TIME!  But, they cut the suspense for me.  They called everyone.  It was an old-fashioned round-up.  

Before I get to my tension-filled voir dire session, some observations….

I’d separate the crowd into three groups of people.  There are the pros, the panicked and the outwardly miserable.  I was in the last category.  The first two categories pair off and make fast friends.  Some people just can’t sit in a room and marinate in their own displeasure.  They want to make a “jury buddy.”  So, they look for an old pro.  They start asking questions.  “What happens next?”  “How long are we going to have to stay?”  “Did you park at a meter?”  The old pros love these questions.  Oh, let me take you under my wing, neophyte.  I do this every year.  I’m great at it.  The biggest jury pro I saw there claimed, “he never got picked.”  He said, “I guess I don’t have the right look.”  And, he was put on the jury.  

The jury assembly room had very nice televisions.  Way nicer than my television.  Unfortunately, they are tuned to ABC family and so now when someone asks me if I have ever seen the show, “Grounded for Life,” I cannot answer honestly and say no.  This troubles me.  Troubles me to my very core.  

They never checked my I.D.  I had to have my summons, but they took my word on my identity.  So, if you really want to skip jury and don’t mind risking a felony, just hire someone.  I think this is what the aristocrats used to do with military service.  I’d sound a lot more intelligent if I could think of the proper name for it right now, but I can’t.  

They maybe guilt you into donating your nine dollars?  They give you information on various charities you can donate to, and then you have to pick either donate or CTC (cut the check, homey).  And, really, what kind of person says, you know what, I need that 9-spot.  I could have used the nine dollars, but I donated.  Good karma for voir dire.  Plus, no one likes depositing a $9 check.  I’m pretty sure Bank of America ATMs audibly chuckle on any transaction under 10 beans.  

When we were dismissed, the crowd ripped up into applause like it was the end of Miracle.  Come on people.  It was a drag, but I’m not sure it required applause.  Maybe people were just cheering because they turned off ABC Family?  Maybe our lives should be filled with more celebratory applause.  They call your number at the Wawa counter?  Hell yes, power clap.  

Ok, so after morning break, which I spent phone internet-ing by the metal detectors, they said they were calling a panel of 70 jurors.  This created quite the buzz.  For the 2nd time in less than 24 hours, we were subject to a random act of fate.  We’d all already lost the first one.  There were probably 200 people in the room.  So, it was a 1/3 shot.  The chance of Tony Gwynn flipping a single into left field.  The first person called let out an audible groan.  Several other people were taunted by their new best friends after being picked.  Then, juror number 23….out of North Carolina…Michael Gregory (oh cuss)….that’s me.  

We filed into the courtroom like cattle.  The defendant was sitting right there.  He had to look at all of us for about two hours.  The judge read us the charges.  It was a violent criminal offense.  A troubled groan from the audience, and then another when the judge estimated the trial could last up to four days.  From that moment on, I was flip-flopping a bit.  Part of me certainly didn’t want to be picked, but another part of me wanted to see it through.  What if this guy was guilty?  Could the rest of these clowns be trusted to drop the hammer?  What if the opposite was true?  I’m afraid the guy looked quite guilty.  Perhaps this is why I wasn’t picked.  

I didn’t get a private voir dire session with the judge (who appeared a bit scatter-brained, like an older Harry Stone).  I was a little bothered by this.  They had warned that they might ask uncomfortable questions.  Questions that might make us feel strange to answer honestly.  That sounded tempting.  You want to dance judge?  Let’s get blunt, baby.  But, I got skipped over.  Very few people did, and thus…the two hours.  

Then they announced they had their jury.  Everyone past #48 was safe and sound.  They were all sitting behind me, so I can’t say if they were fist-pumping, but they probably were.  Given the fact that I once took a property law class in college about a decade ago, I came to the conclusion that the prosecution was going to want women on the jury.  So, I figured, at worst there would only be six men.  They started calling numbers and I started doing calculations.  The four people in front of me who hadn’t been dire’d, all got called.  This was including the guy who, “never got picked.”  Heard of a jinx, Dipsh*t?  So, number 20 gets called and I’m waiting, I’m coming out of crouch.  I’m going to own it when I walk up into my jury chair.  I may have tried to give the DA some knucks…I don’t know.  But, then the judge said, “Juror #30.”  I was out.  Skipped over.  I suppose it was a relief.  In the end the jury was all women and old guys.

Before we got sent back to assembly, for the 2nd part of our sentence and multiple episodes of Grounded for Life, the Judge told us we shouldn’t think any less of ourselves because we didn’t get picked.  This produced a chuckle from the crowd.  We were all elated, but now a couple of days later, I might finally know what he was talking about.  Maybe next time, jury duty.  

 

The Leisurely Evening Bag w/Debut of the Picture Bag.

 

The Ad Said, “Care Bear.”

Ok, so that was a picture bag.  Unfortunately, two more wildly inappropriate shots came in that I could not publish.  Maybe the picture bag has legs.

***

Perhaps the Phillies need a David Stern intervention.  A few days ago we were headed toward NBA playoff Armageddon.  But that crisis has been averted.  Miami is OK.  Even if they weren’t back to sailing along there’s the perception that David Stern would have a meeting or two.  Then you’d get a game where the Heat shoot 46 free throws and the Pacers shoot 11.  Weird.  The way the Phillies are playing, they could use a helpful hand.  A very favorable home plate umpire?  Four outs an inning?  Something, but baseball at least has the perception of being on the up and up, so the Phillies frustrate nightly and the umpires stand idly by.  Of course, when the starting lineup includes Pierre, Fontenot, Galvis and Luna—how frustrated can you get?  Frustrated enough to fill a mailbag.

Q:  What do you think is a more powerless feeling: pitching and not being able to get anyone out, or being on a golf course and having no idea where the ball is going? John Wasdin, Boston, MA.

A:  I think any individual sport is going to be more humiliating.  When you’re doing something on your own there’s absolutely no question that you are one who is screwing the proverbial pooch.  There’s always SOMEONE ELSE to blame in baseball. I have experience in both of these situations.  Once in a hotly contested Middle School baseball game we were killing a vaunted Tredyffrin Easttown squad . I don’t remember the score, but I was given the ball and a very COMFORTABLE lead.  I turned into a big old gasoline can.  COMBUSTIBLE.  I couldn’t get anyone out, and it wasn’t like I was getting dinked and dunked.  If Joe Maddon was managing the team he would have put all 7 fielders in the gaps.  It was a powerless feeling, but at least I knew that someone might eventually hit a line drive at someone, or jam themselves, and that is what happened.  We eked out a win after I threw about 140 pitches in relief.  It’s a situation that pales in comparison to not being able to hit a golf ball.  I was once so fouled up playing golf that I walked off the course after 9 holes, because I knew if by some chance I didn’t lose all my balls on the back nine, there was no way I was breaking 60.  That’s as low as it gets. 

Q:  Now that Kristen Wiig has officially moved on from SNL, can we finally agree that she was never funny?  Eric Hozmer, King of Prussia, PA. 

A:  I think you’ve brought this up before, Eric.  This unabashed hatred of Kristen Wiig, where does it come from?  I was watching SNL the week Will Ferrell hosted, and I thought to myself, SNL could still be funny if they had funny people ON THE SHOW.  I think a misconception about SNL is that they have this phenomenal material.  They certainly have had their share of classic skits, but more often than not, you are just laughing at the person.  I heard Dave Chappelle say one time that he, “spoke the language of comedy.  Everything I say is funny.”  There’s some truth in that, and when you watch Will Ferrell in an SNL skit you are laughing with expectation and laughing at skits he did 10 years ago.  More often than not the stiff doing the skit isn’t going to produce that kind of reaction in people.  I’m not going to go as far as calling Wiig a stiff, though.  Most of her characters drove me crazy, I’ll concede that point to you, but I think if you were just hanging around with her, she would be good for a few laughs.  A bigger problem might have been that Wiig became their most marketable face, so the more you disliked her, the more you ended up seeing her mug.  

Q:  They’re remaking the Great Gatsby movie?  Any gut feeling?  It’s got Leo, but this wasn’t exactly a home run last time around.  Peep the trailer.  Zelda Fitz, Great Neck, Long Island.

A:  Oh, I’m skeptical.  Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway?  I just can’t quite make up my mind on Tobey Maguire.  I guess I should be thankful they didn’t cast the kid from Twilight or Channing Tatum.  Carraway is the man, but I can’t put my finger on the right guy to play him.  Gatsby seems like the far easier role to cast.  The original movie was underwhelming if I remember correctly, and that one had a little guy named ROBERT REDFORD in it–maybe you’ve heard of him.  The Great Gatsby is an elegant story, but not an overly complicated one.  It should make for great sets, great visuals, some SWEET cinematography, but I doubt it’ll be a great movie.  Also, doesn’t everyone know this story?  Even if you didn’t read the book, you at least got the summary, right?  So you’ve got a story that’s simple to begin with and everyone knows the ending.  If they really wanted to go big here, they’d have to supplement material, take some liberties.  But, that’s sacrilege.  People with high opinions of their own intelligence will want to LOVE this picture, but in the end, it could be a flop.  

Q:  What’s your stance on the whisper argument?  Like two people are arguing in public, but they are whisper shouting at each other?  They know everyone can hear them, right?  Yves Drop, Lansing, MI

A:  Sometimes I think people believe they can whisper however loud they’d like and no one can hear.  Perhaps wishful thinking?  My opinion is, if you stumble upon a whisper fight you’re going to want to pay close attention.  People that argue full-bore in public probably argue all the time.  They have NO CONTROL.  They’re just screaming idiots.  They could be arguing about just about anything.  Now take a duo who is into a heated whisper argument.  These are two people with some sense of decorum.  They are not the type of people who would usually argue in public.  They KNOW they will be drawing attention to themselves.  But, even given all that, they cannot put the argument off until they are in private.  THESE GRIEVANCES NEED TO BE AIRED.  If something can’t wait?  It must be huge.  You might hear a girl whisper scream, “You just broke up with me in a F*cking Panera?”  That should perk your ears.  There will be more gems coming.  So, I’m pro-whisper argument as an observer, but I steer away from participating myself.  

Q: The other day I saw Snoop Dogg on Sportscenter.  It was a big old yuk fest.  Do you find it odd how mainstream Snoop is considering his love affair with weed and other things like his Girls Gone Wild Video, various drug and weapons arrests, etc?  Paul Roobens, St. Louis, MO.

A:  It is interesting to me.  It’s not surprising, but yeah, Sportscenter trots Snoop out as this ultimate lovable character, he’s like hip hop Dr. Seuss.  Gather ’round kids, it’s time for some fun Snoop rhymes!  There’s nothing about “So we gonna smoke an ounce to this.  G’s up, hoes down, while you motherf*cking bounce to this,” that screams–MAINSTREAM.  And, like you said, this is just the start when it comes to Snoop.  He loves weed SO much, he loves it so much that people forgive him for it.  Getting mad at Snoop for smoking is like getting mad at your dog for playing fetch.   He’s just doing what comes natural to him.  What some rappers have managed to do is to transition to different forms of media and entertainment.  There’s a whole generation of people who think Ice-T is the guy from Law & Order.  They think Ice Cube makes fun family comedies–He’s a chubbier, less harmless Eddie Murphy!   What’s the key for these guys crossing over?  Charisma.  There’s something engaging about Snoop.  Even if you’ve never been within 40 miles of a blunt, you probably think it’d still be cool to hang out with Snoop.  When Ice-T describes his days as an ACTUAL PIMP, he manages to do it in a way that doesn’t make him sound like a thug and a criminal.  His brutal honesty earns his pass.  I gotta give these guys credit for making the transition.  

Q:  Kerry Wood walked off the mound after his final strikeout the other day and hung ‘em up.  A great way to go out, it brought to mind John Kruk quitting after his last base-hit with a .300 career average.  Which athlete do you think had the best exit?  Brett Favray, Bumcuss, MS.

A:  I wonder if leaving on a K, or leaving on a hit curbs the desire to make a comeback?  Krukie would never have wanted to come back and risk that .300 average.  But I assume someone who has such an approach to retirement is sure they want to go.  They are also going on their own terms.  You can’t begrudge players for staying on as long as they can, but the end can sometimes get painful.  It’s common for great hitters to go out in an unfamiliar uniform, hitting .200.  Part of you says it shouldn’t be that way, and another part says, they earned the right to hit .200 if they want to.  I don’t have a complete knowledge of every athlete’s retirement.  John Elway comes to mind.  There’s a guy who took a career’s worth of doubt and extinguished it in his final seasons.  But, football is a team sport and Elway had plenty of help to win that Super Bowl.  The best retirement that comes to mind immediately is Ted Williams.  In 1959, a 40-year old Williams hit .254.  Almost 100 points below his career average.  It was the first time in 18 years he’d ever been below .317.  When Williams decided to return in 1960 at age 41, I’m sure many people thought he was headed for a Steve Carlton on the Twins type moment, but he ended up hitting .316 with 29 homers, including one in his final at-bat. It’s almost like Williams wanted to remind everyone, including himself, how great he was just one last time.  Forty-three MLB players have homered in their last at-bat, but few knew it was going to be their last at-bat, and fewer still were as significant as the one Teddy Ballgame hit.  

 

Semi-Blogtirement.

A Live Shot.

Well, I feel like we’ve been moving slowly in this direction anyway.  Fewer posts, fewer riveting discussions, and a struggling baseball team.  Not the friendliest blog environment, but I find myself with less time to work on the blog right now, so as a matter of unfortunate necessity I’ll be cutting back to about two or three posts a week.  I still have far too much fun doing this to stop entirely, but even though I’m sure I make this appear effortless, it takes up a lot of time–this blogging–and if I am ever going to make any money writing, I’ve probably got to spend less time writing for free.  So, I’m going to dedicate a greater portion of my writing time to other projects, and who knows, maybe one day 1,500 pages of assorted scrap will turn into 300 pages of an actual book.

Like I said, I’ll still be posting, I expect a mailbag to go up sometime tomorrow evening, but since I’ll be scaling back, it feels like a decent time to reflect a little bit and thank everyone who has found the time to come and read day after day.  It’s been just over three years now since I started this, and to give you an idea of how far I’ve come–the first post did not even contain a picture.  I would quickly learn that my unattributed photographs were the real draw here, along with the historical academia we explored in the comments section.  If you’ve ever commented here, I am in your debt.  I read several blogs every day and almost never comment on any of them, so if reading the blog takes an effort, participating in the discussion is a true act of heroism.  To the likes of BK, JCK, Q, ZD, Nichols, Kraft, Dub, 76, Aaron, Haas, Rand, Tim, DC and anyone else I’ve missed, I would strongly examine how you spend your time–but yeoman’s work.  Forever grateful.

The best thing about writing this blog, aside from catering to a nasty case of egomania, is that allows me to feel connected to the people who come and read.  For some friends, this has become our medium of communication, which is why I would never give it up entirely.   I think the blog has saved me from losing touch with some great friends, and aside from you all paying $49.95 a month to visit, I’m not sure what more I could have asked for out of this project.

So, what’s it going to look like going forward?  As I intimated above, the mailbag will live on.  Maybe not like clockwork on Wednesday afternoon, but it’ll be there.  The mailbag never gets too many comments, but in my gut it feels critically acclaimed.  I also think it has cut into my daily content.  As you know, I do make up a good number of the questions and pre-mailbag a lot of those might have morphed into full posts.  So, as the perfect catch-all, the mailbag will press on.  SEND IN YOUR QUESTIONS!

We’ll also still do D.A. Fantasy Football–if the players are interested.  That’s true innovation, so I can’t abandon that and  let Grantland go on thinking they’ve invented the genre.  I’ll be picking NFL games as well.  That’s a bit of an addiction, and of course, all the other handicappers will still be welcome.  I’m not sure if the posts will continue to be sponsored by beautiful women.  If only more of the deadbeats who came here looking for a picture of Minka Kelly would actually click on another post every once in a while.

Other than that, the content will be familiar, there will just be less of it.  It seems the Phillies do better when I abandon them, so maybe just one long Phillies rant a week will serve them well.  I also promise to continue to bore everyone to death with posts about golf.  And, I pledge to finish my “Best 18,” as well.  Don’t want to quit something like that after 3 holes.

I think that’s it, this honestly shouldn’t change your experience much, I just had to throw it up there so I didn’t feel guilty about the times I couldn’t post.  And it was a good time to say thanks to everyone for the past three years.  If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to check the blog only to see no new posts, I strongly suggest “following.”  Bottom of the screen you should be able to bang in your email address and then you’ll get a notification when the posts go up (Over a dozen people have already made this leap).  It’ll allow you to be wildly discriminatory, as well.  Read what you want.  “1,000 New Ways to Describe Jason Dufner’s Waggles?”  PASS.  “Hershey’s Syrup As a Meal?”  CLICK AWAY.

So, I’ll see everyone tomorrow some time for the mailbag, and then I’ll see you when I see you.

 

Phillies Welcome Bryce Harper/Nats to Town.

Prefers Boos to Batteries.

Bryce Harper likes the boos.  He’s just the kind of guy who gets a laugh at such things, probably because he’s been getting taunted his entire life.  I’m not sure he’d know how to play baseball any other way.  In anticipation of this series, Harper commented that he hoped he would get booed.  Then he spun the Philly sports fan historical wheel of shame and added that he hoped the fans wouldn’t throw batteries.  After Harper was drilled by Cole Hamels and the city worked itself into a frenzy, I said it would be better to just ignore Bryce Harper.  Why give him what he wants when it has a great chance of spiraling out of control and embarrassing the city once again?

Harper is going to get booed, though.  It will be at full throat.  I don’t have a problem with booing in general, but I’d prefer there be a better reason than “he’s a d**che.”  Putting aside the fact that he’s having admirable success for a 19-year old, Harper is still hitting just .244 with 2 homers.  Those aren’t numbers that should cause you to boo an opposing player.  And Harper has never really done anything to the Phillies.  At least J.D. refused to sign here before we pelted him with debris. At least Scott Rolen celebrated leaving town like it was a governor’s pardon.  At least Chipper Jones spent almost 20 years beating down the Phillies with big hits.  Harper hasn’t done any of that, but he’ll get an earful the entire series, mostly because Philly fans probably feel some sort of obligation to their own reputation.

Running in harmony with the desire to boo Harper will be the necessity to win the series.  You get a lot less satisfaction with your jeers if the team loses 2 out of 3 again.  Bean balls and creative signage don’t show up in the standings.  As I mentioned Friday, the Phillies are treading into some dangerous waters.  After a nice victory to start the Red Sox series, Phillies’ starters were clubbed for six homers over the next two days and they dropped the series to Boston.  Joe Blanton’s trade value took a hit.  Cliff Lee took a loss he couldn’t quite blame on the offense, and the Phillies were back to .500 with Washington/St. Louis and New York on deck.

It’s my opinion that the Phils need to still be operating at or around .500 on June 12th.  That day will end a run of 20 straight games against winning teams.  It’s also a day where we might know when/if Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will be back.  It’s a stretch that looks a whole lot tougher now that the season has started.  No one expected the Mets, Orioles or Dodgers to be where they are.  Even the Nats are out-pacing some optimistic projections.  So how can the Phillies get through this stretch and be in the neighborhood of 31-31, especially since it starts with one of those “Kendrick Games,”–Kendrick vs. Gio Gonzalez?  He are five Phillies who face the most heat in the next three weeks…

1.  Roy Halladay–I said last week that Halladay has been the Phillies’ 3rd best starter this year.  He’s sitting at 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA.  He’s yet to throw a complete game, and the closest we’ve seen to vintage Halladay was his Opening Day gem against Pittsburgh.  By this time in 2010, Halladay had 4 complete games and two shutouts.  During this stretch, it’d be nice to see Roy bail the Phils out once or twice with a complete game win–not the kind of “good enough” performance he used to win in Chicago.

2.  Jimmy Rollins–Rollins appears to be RBI phobic.  He has 7 RBI in 166 at-bats.  If that sounds impossible…it’s close.  Hector Luna has 5 RBI in 12 at-bats.  And, Rollins has had plenty of chances.  He’s invented new ways to not score the guy from 3rd.  J-Roll’s .229 with no production isn’t cutting it.  Ruiz isn’t going to hit .360 all year.

3.  John Mayberry Jr.–This may sound odd, but the Phillies are really missing Laynce Nix.  Nix was hitting .320 with some production when he injured his calf and his at-bats have fallen to Mayberry and Ty Wigginton.  Wigginton hasn’t been good since the calendar turned to May and you wonder if he’s got a nagging injury.  Mayberry has shown a little life lately.  His production is key for the bottom part of the order.

4.  Antonio Bastardo–The Phillies have blown several games this season and they’ll play plenty of close games in the next three weeks.  With the opposing pitchers they’ll face, it’ll be hard not to.  The Phils have to piece together a way to get to Papelbon.  I’ve heard the bullpen been called “Crap to Pap.”  I saw that at Beerleaguer, not sure if they invented it.  Bastardo is the most promising as a potential 8th inning guy.

5.  Freddy Galvis–Galvis, of the timely hit and inexplicable 19 RBI (3rd on the team) must avoid a prolonged cold streak like the one he faced at the start of the year and then again in early May.

***

Other Weekend Happenings…

1.  A true Triple Crown Contender.  I’ll Have Another took the Preakness (Home of Kegasus) to set up a meaningful Belmont Stakes in 3 weeks.  There hasn’t been a Triple Crown Winner since 1978, so people suffering this drought are almost as frustrated as Flyers’ fans.  Because I would never jinx an animal, my official position is I’ll Have Another has no shot.  None.

2.  Jason Dufner is the hottest golfer on the planet.  He won for the 2nd time in 3 weeks and it forces parity on the PGA Tour to the forefront.  A couple of months ago Rory was going to win every event he entered (and maybe some he didn’t), but Dufner and his obvious skill level are just proof that you can throw 30 or 40 names in a hat at the beginning of the week and take your pick.  The PGA Tour has become the NHL playoffs.

3.  The Phillies, and specifically Ruben Amaro, had a shady weekend in terms of fan and media relations.  First, they kicked a Phillies beat reporter out of the stadium in Clearwater because Ryan Howard’s workouts are off-limits.  Then a story was published linking cortisone injections to Achilles tendon tears (Howard had a cortisone shot last September).  Amaro quickly went into damage control mode, claiming the Phillies value the health of their players above all else.  Considering Howard’s contract, you’d have to hope that was the case, but the Phillies’ desire to control the information continues to make them look disingenuous.  Restricting access and creating a cocoon can backfire.  Just ask Tiger Woods.

4.  New worst Rick Reilly column ever written.  I think a million people quit golf because of this attempt at hilarity.

5.  Mad Men is lighting the fuse for what should be a tremendous final three episodes.  Cliffhanger isn’t the right word for Mad Men, but there’s two big questions left in this season.  Are Don and Joan going to hookup?  And, how is the pursuit of Jaguar and Lane’s embezzlement going to pan out?  Don and Joan has always been off-limits for me, where would you go from there?  It looks like they’re going to take it right up to the edge, though.  Can’t believe we’re three episodes away from it being gone again.

Happy Friday–Phils Have 2nd Wild-Card in Sight.

Lip Reader: A discussion of trucks, ducks, and pucks?

By all rules of the hex, the jinx, and the reverse hexola–I shouldn’t be writing this post.  The Phillies are 6-1 since I banished them from the blog.  Just what the doctor ordered and as Crash Davis says, you must always respect the streak. But I also kind of guaranteed a Phillies post today and Hunter Pence commented on Tuesday afternoon that he welcomes adversity.  Say no more.  Before we get into the Phillies in that explicit detail that only two or three people will read, a few quick hits…

1.  Eagles sign LeSean McCoy.  He receives just under 21 million guaranteed.  That’s the only number that truly matters.  Perhaps some day this is how contracts will be reported, but for now, we’re still hit with the gaudy numbers.  What else matters?  Having a happy running back.  Having a training camp without holdouts and questions about disgruntled skill players.  The Eagles have now officially paid everyone.  Like the Phillies, minus the crippling guaranteed years.

2.  Charlie Manuel is suspended for tonight’s game against the Red Sox.  Welcome to the Pete Mackanin experience.  Maybe Mackanin can show the Red Sox they should have hired him in the off-season.  Manuel was suspended for his confrontation with Bob Davidson, which was highlighted by extensive profanity.  Back in the day, I used to say people had different styles of insults.  Some people get creative.  Others just get mean.  In this “discussion” it appears that Manuel and Davidson took the latter route.  Davidson was also suspended, something that I can’t remember ever happening before, but a well deserved punishment for a guy who is always picking fights, taking off his mask and hurtling profanity all over the place.  The Phils will survive without Charlie, and maybe Davidson learns that no one comes to a game to see him eject someone.

3.  Kerry Wood is retiring.  Wood was one of my first phenom obsessions.  Only a select few of you are aware of this, but my career as a website contributor started back in the late 90s.  Writing for a now defunct site called, “The Patio Room,” I offered a Quote of the Week.  They ranged from corny to wildly low-brow.  One of my quotes was, “I’m more sinister than Texas schoolboy legend Kerry Wood’s fastball.”  At some point in the Wood hype process, I heard the term “schoolboy legend,” and became enamored.  As a schoolboy myself it sounded fabulous.  Anyway, some of the other quotes were better.  I’m sure.  Wood ended up being taken 4th in ’95 Draft behind Darin Erstad, Ben Davis and Jose Cruz Jr. Hmmm.  Wood had a strange career.  Huge highs (20K game) and huge lows as well (becoming essentially a journeyman set-up guy).  I guess the 2003 playoffs will be his signature moment, that lost series against the Marlins when he and Mark Prior couldn’t seal a World Series trip.  I rarely root for other teams, usually rooting against a team is as close as I get, but I would have like to see the Cubs evade Bartman and their own implosion that year.  Partly because of the bond Wood and I forged in the quote of the week.  Happy Trails, Kerry.

***

Ok, the Phillies.  They’re having an offensively charged May.  Scoring over 5 runs a game this month after they finished off April at the bottom of most offensive categories.  They’ve drug themselves up to the middle of the pack–a pretty reasonable place for this lineup.  I read a stat that the Phillies have led 19 of their last 22 games, yet for the season they’ve only won 20.  That should reiterate that most of the Phillies’ troubles this year have been bullpen oriented.  I’ve tried to illustrate that, and things haven’t changed.  The volatility was on display last night.  The truth is, the Phillies have scored enough runs to be very close to (if not in) the division lead, but complaining about the offense has just become fashionable.  Fans must realize that there will be ~27 failed at-bats in every game, regardless of outcome.

Leading the charge on offense is Carlos Ruiz.  Ruiz is having an absurd start to the season, obliterating career averages and making up for the deficiencies of some of his lineup mates.  You would think his .363/29/112 pace is not sustainable, but it’s going to be fun while it lasts.  A lot has been made of Ruiz being stronger, but I’m seeing uncanny pitch recognition from Ruiz.  Think the opposite of Hunter Pence.  He swings at strikes and hits the ball where it is pitched.  It’s the simple, but almost impossible to implement mantra the Phillies are preaching this year.  Ruiz has made it look effortless.  I feel like part of it is just confidence from a) being in better shape, and b) carrying over from an absolutely torrid spring.

In the slightly less good news department, I think Roy Halladay has settled in as the Phillies’ 3rd best starter.  Keep in mind this is a minimal demotion.  A lot has been made of Halladay’s velocity this year, and there have been several questions about his health.  I think he perhaps just doesn’t throw as hard anymore.  It can happen.  Add in that this year he’s made more mistake pitches, and is striking out fewer batters and I think he’s been passed by Lee and Hamels.  It’s not the end of the world.  Halladay can still be incredibly effective.  If Jamie Moyer can win games at 50 with a 79 mph fastball, Halladay should certainly be able to get by throwing 89-90.  He may just have to make some more adjustments to accommodate his changing stuff.

The Phillies are about to embark on a very important stretch of games.  They just finished a run against some middling opponents.  The schedule doesn’t provide another gift like that until a series with the Twins in about a month.  In the coming weeks the Phils will face Boston, Washington, St. Louis, New York and the Dodgers.  They’ll play divisional games and contests against teams with glittering records.  The reason it is so important is because it feels like the closing stretch in terms of waiting out Howard and Utley.  The two continue to make progress and it seems like if they are going to play this year, we should have a pretty good idea when in the next few weeks.  Assuming their return gives the Phillies the expected boost, you want to make sure you’re within shouting distance.  That’s why the last week was crucial and that’s why it’ll be important to get through the next 15-20 games without losing much ground.  Beating the Sox in a series would be a great way to start.

*Last second news–Roy Oswalt has apparently thrown for a handful of teams including the Phillies.  Prior to Worley’s DL trip I wouldn’t have had interest, but now…maybe.  I feel the Phils may get outbid and their slow start makes them slightly less attractive.

***

Ok, that’s it for the week.  Enjoy the weather and enjoy the Preakness.  Hansel, aka  “White Lightning” and my Derby pick, is not running.  I’ll take Creative Cause this time around.  Another year with no Triple Crown.

Will The Jets Actually Start Tim Tebow? (And Other Questions)

Gotta Strike Quick in the T-Shirt Biz.

Sports fans are funny.  By funny I mean inconsistent and fickle.  I imagine your everyday Jets fan in 2011 would have been happy to give you a quick five minutes on why Tim Tebow was terrible.  As bad as Mark Sanchez has been at times, at least he can throw!  I think that would have been a popular refrain.  You’d have to be a truly desperate fan base to covet Tim Tebow (looking at you Jacksonville). The Jets fans didn’t consider themselves so desperate.  The Tebow move was met with plenty of skepticism.  Joe Namath was vocal in his distaste for the acquisition and there was anonymous grumbling from certain players.  But the mood has shifted.  Darrelle Revis is Tebow’s newest fan.   Matt Cavanaugh likes Tebow’s arm.  What?

The QB controversy is an NFL staple and they say that the backup QB is often the most popular guy in town.  Tebow takes this to a whole new level and his power to undermine as a backup is unmatched.  Factor in the fragile grip Sanchez has on the job, and you’d expect Jets’ management to be building up the Sanchize at every opportunity, but the love is getting showered on Tebow.  Why stoke the fires of controversy?  Why try to win over the fan base with glowing reviews?  My gut is telling me the Jets looked at Denver’s offense last year and liked what they saw.  They want a piece of that.  My conclusion?  With the 1st Pick in the 2014 Draft, the Jets select Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee.

***

Why the hell aren’t the Saints signing Drew Brees?  The NFL is stingy with contracts.  Front offices are often heartless.  Except when dealing with franchise quarterbacks.  In fact, quarterbacks in general usually inspire GMs to do foolish things.  Trading for A.J. Feeley, giving Vince Young another shot, Jeff George’s entire career–these are the things that come to mind.  It makes you wonder, why the Saints are fooling around with Brees?  Brees has been saddled with a franchise tag, but he’s looking for that big extension.  If Peyton Manning and his suspect neck can miss a full season and break the bank, shouldn’t Brees have gotten his deal months ago?  The Saints have until mid-July to get this done and are still saying the right things, but what is the holdup?  In the wake of the massive penalties from the bounty controversy, couldn’t the Saints use a positive story?

***

What if the Pacers make the NBA Finals?  Even after beating the Heat in Miami on Tuesday, this seems very unlikely.  The Pacers would have to complete that monumental upset and then beat either Boston or Philly in the Eastern Conference Finals.  The Sixers own upset bid took a stiff blow last night in an ugly loss that was enough to set the franchise back a couple of years.  The Heat could send an equally convincing message tonight, but what if they don’t?  What if this Bosh injury is really a concern for a team that already has depth issues?  No matter what you thought of LeBron’s playoff performances in earlier seasons, whether you are in the choke camp, or the no-help camp, this season was shaping up pretty nicely for James.  That thrashing of the Knicks had the Heat looking good and people were handing over trophies, but now Bosh is down and they look vulnerable.  If that vulnerability is exploited are we lo0king at the worst-rated NBA Finals of all-time?  What if it was San Antonio/Indiana?  Does that get more or less viewers than a Kings/Devils Stanley Cup Final?

***

What if they played an LPGA event at Augusta National?  I read yesterday that Mike Whan, the LPGA commissioner, asks Augusta National every year to host a ladies event.  He also revealed that Augusta National is very charitable toward the LPGA’s causes, but they haven’t budged on hosting the world’s best female players.  There would appear to be some logistical problems.  The course is already closed for 1/2 the year.  Factor in the run up and breakdown of tournament week and you’d be even more severely restricting member play.  Also, I’m not sure Augusta National has a set of tee boxes appropriate for the ladies.  The championship tees, 7,435 yards, are far too long.  The other set of tees for members might be too short.  I can tell you though, if they held a women’s tournament at Augusta it would instantly become the biggest TV attraction for the LPGA.  What if they stuck their toe in the water with a limited (36 player/36 hole) invitational on the Monday and Tuesday after the men’s event?

Mid-Week Mailbag.

Shirt Comes With Free Bowl of Soup.

So I turned on the Miami Heat/Indiana Pacers game to watch the last few minutes.  The Pacers had just blown a modest lead, and it looked like Miami was going to pull away for a close, but comfortable win.  Then the parade to the line started for both teams and it got ugly.  Paul George missed two, D-Wade missed, Hibbert and Granger…no one could hit two free throws.  Then, LeBron missed two.  It set up a final possession where LeBron and Wade drew enough attention to get Mario Chalmers a clean look.  He missed.  Pacers win.  LeBron haters rejoice.  I was thinking, those who say you just need to watch the 4th quarter of an NBA game actually mean you just need to watch the final possession.  Also, thank god I don’t have an NBA blog.  I’d have to analyze LeBron instead of doing the mailbag.  I shudder at the thought…

Q: I’ve noticed that NBA players these days love their glasses.  Or more accurately, they love big bulky frames. Russell Westbrook added an interesting shirt the other day and someone called him, “geek chic.” My question is, how horrified are these guys going to be when they’re watching themselves on ESPN Classic in twenty years.  S.J. Raphael, Cleveland, OH.

A:  I’ve noticed this.  What I find interesting is that there is a distinct age cut-off for the look.  After the Thunder/Lakers game you saw Durant and Westbrook in the glasses and other accessories, but then Kobe comes to the podium and he’s just wearing that same $10,000 suit he’s been wearing for years.  Kobe’s not putting the glasses on.  I guarantee you that, and I respect Kobe for that.  He’s not subject to a whim like Durant or even LeBron.  My question is, are these glasses decorative?  How many of them are just clear lenses?  It’s not like these guys are out on the court wearing Rambis-specs.  My thought is, the players will be embarrassed. If Andre Iguodala does it, IT’S EMBARRASSING.  They’ll try to explain it off, like we all do with our transgressions.  “I swear, people wore turtlenecks under t-shirts!  I don’t know why.  They just did!”  It’s going to harder for the NBA players to erase the past, though.  We can hide and/or destroy old photographs.  These guys are famous.

Q:  Have you seen the Miller Lite punch-top can or whatever they’re calling it?  They’ve finally gone too far, right?  This is totally useless.  Rip Cord, Bowie, MD.

A:  I must be missing something, because apparently there is a population of people who need a better beer pour.  Personally, I’ve never in my life poured a beer out of a can and felt like I was being burdened by inferior technology.  I’ve drifted away from the can in recent years, but back in my college days I spent ENTIRE NIGHTS filling plastic cups with canned beer.  I survived with the simple pop top.  I think the beer companies might be trying to recreate that MIRACLE.  If you saw Don Draper drink a beer in the early seasons of Mad Men you saw you had to open those beasts up with a real can opener as if it was one of those little cans of Hershey Syrup. That’s a pain in the ass.  The pop top solved it.  Now, we’ve gone through wide mouth cans, cyclone bottles, can beer chuggers dictate the market this much?  In terms of superficial gimmicks to lure in the American Light Beer Drinker, I’m afraid the punch top can is not going to be able to capture the IMAGINATION like its wide mouth and cold-activated predecessors. 

Q:  I saw recently that some Ted Williams memorabilia was auctioned off.  Do you wonder why the family didn’t want it?  Do they do it for the money or do they think the fans deserve to have it?  Cash Proceeds, Harrisburg, PA.

A:  I think at least 90% of the time these sales are motivated by money.  I remember maybe a year ago there was a big auction of Dr. J. memorabilia.  Of course, Dr. J. is still alive and sold the stuff himself. There was some speculation about whether he was doing it for the money—he claimed he wasn’t.  Curt Schilling also recently had a large auction, but he is a collector and possibly had just accumulated too much stuff?  I believe charity received a portion of the proceeds in both of these auctions. In terms of selling memorabilia that has been passed down through the family, I’m sure there is a temptation to sell if we’re talking about Ted Williams.  If it’s from someone who wasn’t one of the greatest hitters ever, the sentimental value would probably outweigh the monetary value.  But, in the case of Ted Williams, maybe they’re thinking the items become less significant to each generation? Maybe they feel like they deserve to get something out of it?  If Ted Williams played today, he would have been able to set up generations of his family financially, perhaps this makes them feel entitled to some financial benefit.  Or maybe they’re just tired of being associated with Ted Williams.  It sounds crazy, but it could be the case.

Q:  Say you have something on your hands—food, dog slobber—whatever.  What’s the protocol for wiping it off, assuming you can’t get to some type of towel.  Is anything fair game?  Auntie Bacterial, Provo, UT.

A:  I think you’re asking if it’s OK to wipe your hands off on your friend’s couch?  Or maybe smear some rogue taco sauce on the underside of the passenger seat in their car?  That’s a tough question, because from a very young age the desire to dispose of things INAPPROPRIATELY is impossible to control.  Take the underside of your basic school desk, for example.  HORROR SHOW. Also, most people are slobs.  Left without supervision, even an adjusted adult will wipe their hands off on just about anything.  You talk about dog slobber?  Well, I’ve seen people wipe the slobber off ON THE DOG.  Return it to its natural environment.  Some targets are more enticing than others.  The halls of my freshman year dorm had carpeted walls.  That’s carpet.  On the walls.  You could have opened up a biological warfare research lab among those fibers.  I’ll tell you a move I like: On the jeans.  Little honey mustard on my hands?  I rub it in as much as I can and then I just hit the backside of my knee on the jeans.  It’s a victimless crime.  I don’t use napkins that much.  I’m concerned about the ENVIRONMENT, OK?  As far as protocol goes, there is one simple rule:  If you can make it invisible, IT NEVER HAPPENED. 

Q:  As a self-ordained sandwich connoisseur would you like to comment on your dislike of crusts as a child?  Even on food that didn’t have crusts, like pancakes?  Do you think kids should be accommodated like that?  Cutting off crusts and making separate meals?  Monty Cristo, Rolla, MO.

A:  I think I mentioned this casually once, but it’s true that I didn’t eat crusts as a child, or more accurately, I didn’t eat the edges of any food including pancakes and pop tarts.  I’m sure there were times when my parents thought, “If I have to cut the edges off this clown’s pancakes one more time, I’m going to leave him AT THE DINER.”  What was I thinking?  Honestly, I believe I was a bit of a prodigy in something called “The Middle Cinnamon Bun Theory.”  You know when you make a pan of cinnamon buns and it’s obvious the best one is in the middle?  Well, I just carried that over to all foods.  I’m going to eat the center out of that SUMBITCH.  I eventually outgrew this, probably because I decided actually stuffing my face with the entire pancake was WORTH THE RISK.  I have remained a very picky eater, though.  Should parents indulge?  I guess you have to look your kid in the eye and determine how stubborn they are.  Will they break under duress?  I’m sure once they crack it’s a dream come true, but I was uncommonly stubborn. 

Q:  So, Albert Pujols got his hitting coach fired yesterday.  Not exactly, but I’m sure Albert’s torrid start didn’t help the matter.  You think Pujols should throw the guy a car or something as a parting gift?  Break off a little of that 240 million as an apology for hitting .190?  S. Calade, Malibu, CA.

A:  Well I get your point, the coach, who is making 1% of what the superstar player makes and isn’t the one on the field is the guy who gets canned.  Mickey Hatcher also leaves LA now as the guy who had the best hitter of his generation in a historic slump.  Would a BMW make him feel better, or would it just be offensive?  Probably offensive.  Very offensive.  I’m sure Albert feels bad about it, but there will be NO GIFTS.  From what I understand, Hatcher had been under fire for a while in Anaheim, and this probably has as much to do with the team’s record as it does with Albert’s numbers.  The Angels have had some high-priced flops on offense, but a bigger concern is the juggernaut in Texas.  The Rangers look like they could runaway with the division if you let them, and in the AL you don’t want to count too much on the wild-cards.  The Angels think they have a team that should win THIS YEAR, so this is a wake-up call.  Albert’s plight is a real mystery, though.  Still stuck on one homer and getting excited about three infield hits last night. 

Q:  I think I’ve got a pretty good idea here—tear away area rugs.  If you’re anything like me, my area rugs take a beating.  Spills and Thrills as they say.  Granted, these aren’t the most expensive rugs, but wouldn’t it be nice to tear off the top layer and have a brand new surface underneath?  I figure you could triple the life of the rug.

A:  I know one thing, it’d be incredibly satisfying to tear away that rug and see a pristine surface underneath.  I agree that cheap-o throw rugs aren’t the most cost-prohibitive items on the planet, but you still have to summon the courage and energy to go get one.  Is today going to be the day I go get the damn rug?  That’s not a real fun day, so being able to tear-away would allow you to postpone that mundane affair.  I’ve got two concerns.  First, how tall would this rug be?  I imagine three rugs stacked on top of each other would be quite the OBSTACLE.  You’d trip over that thing constantly.  Also, I think you’d waste the tear aways, It’d be very easy to make some mess on the rug and just toss that layer instead attempting a clean-up.  There’s a very good chance you’d end up using three rugs just as quickly as you would have used one.  I don’t like to shoot down ideas here, because after all, I’m an IDEA MAN, but this one sounds particularly terrible.  What’s a better idea?  Tear away shower curtain liners.  Much thinner—equally disgusting.  See—IDEA MAN. 

Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.

Aristocrats Prefer Their Cookies Medium Rare.

As I waited for my modem to connect me to the worldwide web today there were a few thoughts for posts going through my mind.  How about a Phillies live blog?  The Fightin’ Phils, dodging thunderstorms in pursuit of that elusive 3rd straight win.  But there’s a moratorium on Phillies posts here.  Even this might be a violation, so the Phillies are out.  Then  in a moment of egomania I thought about discussing my world-class fantasy baseball team.  It’s quite a force, and even if only half the people in the league have logged into their roster–winning makes me feel special.  My early season lead is already one of my top-5 career fantasy moments.  Dan Okrent sent me an email that said, “Nice Draft.”  That’s the level I was operating at, but fantasy is boring.  Especially fantasy baseball.  That’s NBA playoff level boredom (Go Sixers!) right there.  So, with nothing to talk about, it’s either take the day off, or post about cookies.  I think it was a pretty obvious choice.

I don’t know when everything starting getting its own “day,” but every day there is a celebration of something if you look hard enough.  It could be National Velcro Day, or National Toll Booth Operators Day, but it’s never, ever just a Tuesday.  Tuesdays are sh*t.  I imagine that’s why we force these “holidays.”  Some are more significant than others.  I feel like National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day is under the radar.  If I was in charge of such things, I’d say, “Hey trees, no hard feelings, but you’re bumped for Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.  Arbor Day isn’t moving the needle.”  Considering how much I love chocolate chip cookies, it’s surprising how little I know about their storied history.  A three paragraph blurb really caught me up.  Allow me share…

Everyone has a chocolate chip cookie recipe.  They’re all pretty much the same.  In fact, I am such dedicated chef of calorically robust foods, that I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe bookmarked on my computer.  That’s pretty chubby.  But, wouldn’t you bookmark a recipe called, “Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies?”  That’s what I thought.  Chocolate Chip cookies inspire a quest for an always greater cookie, but you often come back to the original.  As far as I know, to this point in my life, there’s not a better chocolate chip cookie recipe than the one that exists on the back of the Nestle Toll House package.  What I didn’t know was The Toll House Inn is an actual place…

Let The Cookie Nostalgia Waft Over You

The chocolate chip cookie was invented in 1937 (by accident) in this building by Ruth Wakefield a cookie enthusiast and die-hard Hoyt Wilhelm fan*.  Can you imagine a world without chocolate chip cookies?  I surely cannot.  Apparently Ms. Wakefield believed the chocolate would just melt into a mess in the oven, but when they didn’t–Hello Best Seller!  Ready for the bad news?  The Toll House Inn burned down (fittingly a kitchen fire) in 1984.  In its place stands a Wendy’s and a Walgreens.  I cried.  Cancel the pilgrimage to Whitman, MA.

Other Chocolate Chip Cookie Facts:

  1. Betty Crocker (Not a Real Person) featured them on her radio show in 1939.
  2. Ruth Wakefield sold the Toll House name to Nestle.  She got free chocolate for life.
  3. It is the official cookie of Massachusetts
  4. Cookie Was Originally Called the “Chocolate Crunch.”
  5. Cookies were popular care package request among MA born G.I.s in World War II.

My Top-5 Chocolate Chip Cookie Making Tips:

  1. Use Real Butter.  If you’re on a diet–don’t make cookies.
  2. Beware Dark Cookie Sheets–They’ll burn the hell out of the bottom of your cookies.
  3. Don’t Over-Chip–The cookie to chip ratio must be maintained.
  4. Freeze Some–You’ll eat them just a fraction slower.
  5. Take them Out of the Oven right BEFORE you think they’re done.  The last bit of cooking occurs outside the oven.

All right, I expect everyone to now run out and get some supplies, check the pantry for brown sugar.  At the very least stop at Wawa on the way home and get a Toll House chipwich, which is the best commercial incarnation of the Chocolate Chip cookie.  I probably won’t make any today, but this weekend?  Who knows?  I might fire up the apron and get wild.

*undocumented.