Friday, June 30, 2006


Well that wasn't too fun, was it? The Mets just got their collective asses handed to them by a hot baseball team, playing at the peak of its game. While the Boys didn't play their best ball this series, the Sox put on a demonstration in the art of baseball, making all the expected plays, and a goodly percentage of the unexpected.

In short, it was a manhandling.

But what can you say, it happens. While I'm comfortable saying that the Sox are a better team than the Mets, and that my October concerns have been anything but allayed, teams lose three in a row sometimes. And chances are, when you lose three straight, you ain't gonna look too good in the process.

And let's admit it: that catch by Coco Crisp off The Prince, the one that saved the game, was un-be-lievable. Just amazing. And Young Mr. Wright looks to be emerging from his mini (as in two-and-a-half games) slump. That ball was drilled.

Anyway, I'll be offering my comprehensive thoughts, analyses, predictions and pontifications on the first half of the season after the 4th of July weekend, not not much to say now on the individual players. So just some quick random thoughts on the past few games:

A Hole in SNY's Advertising Budget: Thankfully, SNY seems to be reducing the frequency of appearences by TGWTHIHN. Unfortunately, there's been a commensurate increase in the times they show that grey-haired goofball from American Idol telling us that He gets what he wants/He gets what he needs/He's got Possi-bil-ities.

I want to watch his white-boy, soul-singer moves about as much as I need a hole in my neck. Maybe he can get a hole in his neck, and let the poor TGWTHIHN go swimming once again. How's that for a possi-bil-ity?

Everlasting Frowns: Looks like Milledge is gonna dine at the Norfolk Applebee's the rest of the summer. I'm of a mixed mind. So long as he's back with the big club in time to make the post-season roster, I'm not too upset, even though I'd prefer to see him stay in Queens. But he needs to work on laying off pitches, drawing walks, getting on base, and if he needs to do that in AAA, so be it.

Anyhow, Mrs. Mike joined me for the final 4 innings or so last night, and had some observations on Everlastings. (You notice, by the way, how often the spouse joins you watching during losses? Add to that the fact that every bad Met play is deemed "stupid," or accompanied by a "Why did he do that?" and I'm sure you can imagine the oodles of fun I had watching last night's game.) Observing Milledge's hang-dog face, she told me he looks "bad," and seems to have a "bad attitude."

Now let me assure you, Mrs. Mike has never listened to any talk radio, follows no Met blogs or message boards, and the only Met fan she talks to (that I'm aware of) is a big Milledge fan. Nonetheless, she's come to her conclusion, and she's sticking with it. When he made an out late in the game she added, "every time I watch, he plays badly . . . and he still has a bad attitude."

Maybe there's something to all the chatter I've been hearing. (And, yes, you did just read me make a semi-conclusion about the Met's top young prospect, based on the musings of a woman who declared not once, but twice, "that was dumb" after Coco Crisp stole second in the Red Sox 7th, because she "thought he was out." Maybe we should forget I talked about any of this.)

. . . She Knows How To Use 'Em: How 'bout that shameless, lingering, low-angle leg shot after the 4th inning last night? Not sure where it was, exactly, but the camera just sat there as SNY went to the break after the inning.

Family television nightly. On SNY. He gets what he wants/He gets what he needs . . .

The Comic Stylings of Gary Cohen: On Tuesday night, Gary informed Ron & Keith that both Gabe Kapler & Kevin Youkilis were Jewish, despite Youkilis's "Greek-sounding name." Both Ron & Keith said they didn't know that.

Which is good, I suppose. The minute two non-Jewish ballplayers start keeping tabs on who is, and isn't, of The Tribe among major leaguers, maybe that's the time for me to start thinking about emigrating. Anyway, that wasn't Gary's comic moment.

The comic moment came during the daily camera shot of the Random Fat Guy In The Stands ("RFGITS"). As usual, Keith opened the commentary with a straight, "Oh my," but Cohen following with an unusually mean comment for him: "He's a big Met fan."

Oh, don't get me wrong; I laughed. Cohen rarely jokes, and when he does it's dependably and singularly unfunny. So I enjoyed that one. But ya gotta hate being that fella when he watches the replay of the game after getting home.

Oh Darling: Ron's getting good. Smart, quick, witty, knowledgeable. I'm really enjoying him, especially when they have the three-man booth. His back-and-forth analysis with Keith, of the pitcher-batter face-off between Schilling & Woodward (1o pitch walk; nice) in the 6th or 7th inning last night was great. Two smart guys who know their respective crafts trading thoughts, words, and analyses. Cohen pretty much let them go there. It was excellent.

Whoa, Keith: He's reaching rarified air. He basically says whatever he wants, truth or relevence be damned. I think he makes up half of what he says. Nonetheless, because of his combination of sheer entertainment value along with sharp analysis, I'm psyched to have The Eternal Captain in the booth. A few from the last three games:
1. Keith was suprised that people can go inside the Green Monster. I don't think he's really surprised. I just think he's pissed he didn't take one of his Beantown Groupies in there during the late innings of Game 4 of the '86 Series. Carter's 2nd HR could've been going over the wall, while . . . oh, you get the idea.

2. Why I Love Keith in the Booth: While riffing on something, he suddenly paused, telling Cohen, "Oh, take your . . . little thing," as a mid-inning promotion was cued-up on screen. Gary laughed. So did I.

3. Keith Obsession Watch: Tumbling pitches took the series off for some reason, but level swings remained. Endy Chavez, alone, made three seperate appearences in Keith's Level Swing Ledger. Once last night, and twice on Wednesday. In fact, Keith described one of Endy's level swings on Wednesday night as "parallel to the ground."

4. Keith Getting Tough: Not quite an obsession . . . yet, Keith was very much on a "Ballplayers aren't tough anymore" tip this series. According to the Eternal Captain: (a) guys "don't know how to hit the eject button anymore" when they face a pitch high & tight; (b) guys shouldn't be allowed to wear elbow pads; and (c) when a catcher blocks the plate, you've gotta run into him hard.

Now, in fairness, Keith was a pretty tough ballplayer. He didn't even wear batting gloves, so oversized elbow pads would be out of the question. And I recall a game against the Dodgers in 1985, I think, when he approached homeplate against Plate Blocker Extraordinaire, Mike Scoscia. Scoscia got the out, and Keith never even reached the plate. But let me tell you, that was a collision. Much smaller than Scoscia, and at that point in his career, about as fast, Hernandez gave as good as he got on that one. It was a helluva crash.

5. During last night's game, the three of them went on a little riff on the AFL after a graphic revealed that the Patriots played in Fenway from 1963-1968 (a fact, by the way, that I'm having a hard time grasping). Darling, to his credit, busted out a tome's-worth of AFL minutae and trivia, even leaving Cohen in his wake. He gave an impromptu list of the stadiums that the Pats played in through the years!

Anyway, in the midst of this bravura performance of sports geekdom that had my jaw on the floor, interspersed with a bon mot or two from Gary, Keith called Gino Cappelletti, "Marchetti," then ended the whole tangent by saying, rather meekly, "The olllllld A.F.L."
Amazingly Simple: Of course I stuck around after the game to watch "Simply Amazing," about the '86 Mets. And, of course, SNY waited until a 45 minute post-game show was over before airing it. 45 minutes to conclude that "The Red Sox kicked the Mets' asses this series." (And of course, the analysis could have been more exciting than that, I have no idea. I ended up watching an interesting interview with Salman Rushdie on Channel 13 between the game and "Simply Amazing"; you see, I'm a well-rounded Met fanatic.)

And the '86 show was fun. Nothing new or profound for those of us old enough to have seen it contemporaneously, but great to see the video clips of games that played only in our memory the last 20 years. I forgot, for instance, that Knight missed Niedenfeuer when he punched him (how'd he get the black eye?). Or about the Met win that ended with them executing an 8-2-5 double play.

And it was fun to see some of The Boys now, twenty years later: HoJo, Mookie, Carter, a punchy looking Dykstra, Aguilera, Orosco looking like Zorro with a freaky goatee & wispy moustache, Ed Hearn, Keith & Darling obviously, Teufel. Though not fun to see Davey looking worse than TGWTHIHN; seriously, what's that all about? Was he sick? Did he go on a crash diet? Yikes, he looks awful.

And while we're there, even though I've never actually thought about it, I now know why Steve Sommers has never left the world of radio! Lock up the children. Whoa.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


In the latest entry from the "6 Billion People On Earth And That's The Picture You Choose For A Fake ID?" Files, we learn that a 29 year-old Jordanian saleman was busted in the United Arab Emirates for forgery and attempted embezzlement.

Apparently, the fellow hoped to "fleece a money exchanger" with a fake ID using the name of the man who actually owned the $23,000 account in question.

The only problem? For some reason, he decided to use Brad Pitt's picture on the fake. I guess the resemblence isn't quite as strong as he thought.


According to A.P., "Architect David Childs unveiled the new design details of the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower," establishing a new record for Most Unveilings of an Overpriced Eyesore That'll Never Be Built.

"Designing a skyscraper that combines so many elements was the challenge of my career," Childs announced, as he presented the record 514th blueprint of the so-called Freedom Tower. "To create a building that everyone in the world will judge is difficult. When you also consider the fact that the tower will be a symbol for all Americans, well that's an awesome responsibility. And then, when you factor in the salient detail that it will never be built . . . well, I can't describe it."

As the site of the former Twin Towers remains a depressing hole in the ground five years after terrorists destroyed the buildings, New Yorkers and others have waited anxiously to see something, anything, built. Yet every idea for a new building gets blocked by someone: grieving widows demanding a memorial as large as the original towers; politicians like N.Y. Governor George Pataki handing out favors to connected architects like Daniel Libeskind; or architectural ideas so hideous that most would prefer a fallow hole in the ground reminding them daily of the death and mayhem that took place there.

Childs, however, took a different approach.

"After seeing plans blocked for all the standard reasons, most of them political or aesthetic, I decided to go in a more economic or pragmatic direction, figuring that if the design was too expensive or impractical it'd get blocked. This allowed me to design a stunning & beautiful tower, while still following the clear mandate to never actually break ground."

"Mr. Childs's design is exceptional," Ruppert du Champ, a noted architect explained to us. "At 1776 feet tall, there's simply no way it could be finished in the next five years. And if it were, it would cost somewhere in the range of 1776 billion dollars. So Mr. Childs addressed the economic inefficiencies with absolute aplomb. That alone impresses me. But then, to subtly cover the impracticalities while maintaining aesthtic integrity? Amazing."

When we pressed him to be more specific regarding the impracticalities, du Champ scowled at us, before saying, "Would you want to work a quarter of a mile high in the world's tallest skyscraper, on the site of one of the worst terror attacks in history, in a building called 'The Freedom Tower'? I know I wouldn't. And no one will."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Today I begin a new running entry (or one that you'll never see again; I'm unpredictable that way): News Bits.

News Bits, you say? Yes, News Bits. (Say it over-and-over again, and I bet it begins to sound either foreign or pornographic. You decide which.) Little snippets of news-worthy factoids and informatidbits from around the globe. So, with no further ado, today's News Bits:

1. McDonalds, responding to attacks declaring that its food promotes health problems such as heart disease, obesity, & diabetes, has announced the introduction of the American fast food industry's first ever meatless burger, The McNothing.

According to company spokeman, Dave Westerbrook, the McNothing will contain lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and special sauce on McDonald's famous Sesame Seed Bun. Cheese will be available for an additional charge.

2. New Hampshire, known for its slogan "Live Free or Die," has decided after a statewide referendum to be neither Red nor Blue this election year. Instead, citizens of the Granite State are requesting that from July 4 through Election Day, all mainstream media news outlets call it an Orange State.

Responding to questions as to why they chose orange, as opposed to, say, green, yellow, mauve or even tartan plaid, New Hampshire Legislator Dick Weggershaw said, "If you have to ask, you'll never know. And if you ask, I'll kick your ass."

3. Argentine authorities have reported that an unidentified man living in Buenos Aires "has not watched one minute of the World Cup so far." Reports that he will be deported, jailed, or even executed have not been confirmed. Nevertheless, Juan Recoleto, our insider in Argentina, tells us that "large percentages of Buenos Aires' population spent the evening banging pots and pans outside their windows, the traditional sign of mass disapproval. Fearing a revolt, the government may have no choice but to sacrifice the guy."

4. The U.S. Treasury Department released a new set of figures today indicating that the economy has never been healthier: inflation, unemployment, interest rates, and fuel costs are all said to be "at their lowest levels since 1881," while GDP growth, the S&P 500, tax revenues, and housing starts are "the highest in recorded history, so high in fact, that we can't even view the number on a standard calculator."

When questioned about the apparent paradox these numbers create, Harold Gross, a Treasury Department spokesman chided us, telling us that "you can't bury yourself in the minutae of the individual metrics. Just look at the big picture and you'll see all the positive signs."

And finally . . .

5. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have announced that they will adopt the entire nation of Mozambique. "Angelina & Brad think they're so special cause they adopted that kid from . . . that other African place," Holmes told us. "Well, Tom and I aren't satisfied with saving one baby with flies around its head. We're gonna save everyone in the whole country, including the flies."

When asked if he could name the country he planned to adopt, Cruise was unable to recall, but he did inquire as to whether we saw MI3.


Suddenly recognizing that the triple-wammy of Quagmire in Iraq, a shaky economy, and the least popular sitting President in over 50 years will probably doom their chances in the November elections, House Republicans have finally broken out the much-rumored Doomsday Device: The "American Values Agenda," which calls for a series of wasteful Congressional votes on "abortion, guns, religion and other priority issues for social conservatives."

According to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, "Radical courts have attempted to gut our religious freedom and redefine the value system on which America was built. We hope to restore some of those basic values through passing this legislative agenda and renewing our country's commitment to faith, freedom and life."

Apart from snickers hearing Hastert use the word "gut," reporters remained remarkably serious & sober-minded upon hearing the GOP leader actually use the words "freedom" and "values" twice in two sentences, especially since neither seemed to relate to the proposed agenda.

Roy Blunt of Missouri, the House Majority Whip added that, "Family, faith, patriotism and hard work bind us together as Americans. Our laws should reflect those priorities, and House Republicans are committed to the American Values Agenda, policies that stress the core values on which our nation was built."

Anne Kravitz, reporting for the Iowa Examiner, asked Representative Blunt about the agenda: "You cite 'family' and 'hard work' as 'core values,' Mr Blunt. Can you explain how the 'American Value Agenda' promotes these 'values' more than any other election year push we've seen in the past?"

"That's a great question, Anne," Blunt answered, shooting a quick glance towards his handlers. "We believe in values. Darn, you might even say we value them. In fact, we value those values so highly, we've integrated them into a values-driven agenda. The House Republicans are going to give the American people top value for their vote come November. Excellent question. Anyone else?"

Howard Clemson, senior reporter for the North Dakota's Bismarck Sun, asked Blunt about proposed legislation regarding abortion: "Congressman Blunt, legislation under the 'American Value Agenda' would require abortion-performing doctors to inform prospective patients that the procedure 'will cause pain for the unborn child.' My question to you is, how do you know this? Have you spoken with any fetuses?"

"That's pretty funny, Howard," Blunt said, eyes blazing as he stared at his handlers. "You must be angling for a spot on that Colbert Report show. But to answer your question, no fetus has spoken to me. Only The Lord has. Any other questions?"

Joseph Hargrove, writing for the Daily Oklahoman, asked Blunt, "You and Speaker Hastert mentioned abortion, guns and religion. Are there any other 'core values' included in the 'American Values Agenda'?"

"It's great that you ask that, Joe," replied Blunt. "Because I was talking with Senator Santorum about that just this morning. We chatted about a few other items, and we're probably going to introduce some joint House-Senate bills over the next few months. I can't go into detail, but I can say we're looking at the Flag, Jesus Christ, American Pride, Terror, Gay Marriage, Stem Cell research, Illegal Immigration, and Communism."

"Communism, sir?" Hargrove followed up.

"Well, that's a great question, Joe," Blunt quickly replied, looking at his notes and mouthing something scornfully to his handlers. "Communism is finally absent from America's schools, churches, stadiums and theaters. But without the fight of freedom-loving Americans who valued freedom and values, that scourge might still be with us. So Senator Santorum and I will help to keep it at bay. Thank you all."

After the press conference ended, reporters questioned Hillary Clinton about the agenda as she strode down the Capitol steps. "Values?" she asked, apparently dumbfounded at the question. "I value me. Vote Hill in '08."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Military officials are defending the decision to dishonorably discharge a sergeant for his use of an "offensive" word, addressed to one of his corporals last month during a heated firefight on the outskirts of Badgad. According to his attorneys, the NCO, known only by the pseudonym Sgt. Pepper, says he has no plans to appeal the draconian decision, wishing only "to move on, and heal the wounds of those I've so callously harmed."

According to transcripts from Pepper's trial before a military tribunal, the Sergeant relayed orders from his platoon commander to the assembled soldiers in his unit. The order apparently called for a difficult flanking maneuver against insurgents, and was viewed by his men as "dangerous, but not reckless." After one soldier, known publicly only as Corporal Punishment, expressed his concern that the mission was "too scary," Sgt. Pepper is said to have "lost his temper at the corporal's apprehension and near-insubordination," and admonished him to stop being a "five letter term beginning with the letter P," often used by men to question the courage of other men.

That's when the trouble ensued. To his credit -- noted in the tribunal's transcript -- Sgt. Pepper acted swiftly, appointing another corporal to lead the attack, and the short mission was a "smashing success, with four insurgents killed, and only one civilian maimed to a degree worth noting." Unfortunately for Pepper, Corporal Punishment and two other platoon members, Private Tabby and Corporal Labia, filed immediate reports about Pepper's "offensive, insensitive, shocking language."

Private Tabby, who requested and received a full discharge in the wake of the event to "recover from the deep psychological scars Sgt. Pepper inflicted on me," claims to be descended from "twelve generations of pure-bred Tabby cats," and insisted that "such insensitive use of that derogatory word is unacceptable in today's military."

The tribunal agreed: "We accept and concur with Private Tabby's insistance that in 2006, after so many years of struggle, no cat, nor anyone descended from cats, should be subjected to the offense tones of the well-noted 'P-word.'"

Corporal Labia's case was even more emotional, and possibly more shocking to the military judges. Labia, a full-blooded member of the Vulvists, an ethnic group once omnipresent in the Western world, but now diminished to a few thousand, made an impassioned plea to the court martial: "My people have bristled under the harsh sounds of that word for centuries. When the Falluscists murdered my uncle during WWII, they chanted that word as he died. And for me to hear it in the army of the greatest, most freedom-loving nation on earth, well that's an irony I can't take."

Labia then broke down, sobbing and weeping before the tribunal, before leaving on a stretcher, crying for justice. As expected, the tribunal agreed with him as well: "We accept and concur with Corporal Labia's insistance that in 2006, after so many years of struggle, no vulva, vagina, or anyone descended from a vulva or a vagina, should be subjected to the offensive tones of the well-noted 'P-word.'"

"I apologize to anyone I've hurt," Pepper said through a written statement delivered to the press by his attorney. "I've always loved cats and vaginas, so you can understand my shame. In the heat of battle I hurt people that I respect, and I hurt anyone who shares their proud past. Cats and Vulvists have fought hard to achieve freedom and liberty, and there's no excuse for me to offend them so deeply, even if my life and the lives of my company hung in the balance. I make no excuses. It's one thing to shoot people and risk our lives in a war zone, but I'll regret forever that I called this brave man a p**sy."


A.P. reports on a brewing controversy within Washington's halls of power: the President vs. Congress regarding the subject of abuses of executive power, in this case the White House's use of "presidential statements," unsusceptible to congressional checks because they're not actually "laws."

Confused? That's the purpose. Normally, as we all learned on Schoolhouse Rock, Congress bicamerally passes a bill, which achieves the power of law once signed by the big fella in the Oval Office. And, being the "law of the land," he and his Administration are bound by its tenets. No problem.

But Bush, who has yet to issue a single veto in five years, has promulgated a series of "statements" that he and White House lawyers claim he's not bound to obey. Yes, that's right: make statements that they intend for all Americans to follow, upon which Congress (holding the governmental purse strings) should spend, spend, spend. But . . . whatever it is he's declared, he and his cronies on Pennsylvania Avenue & in Foggy Bottom, they can choose not to follow these "statements" because they lack the force of law.

It's that cynical. But you know who I blame for this debacle?


It's Congress -- both houses, both parties -- who've handed the reins of legislative power to the President, and now that he's showing weakness at the polls, they're turning to attack him, to protect the very perks they've handed off.

I'm on Congress' side as far as the contemporary battle goes. I hope these hearings end with a chastened President, and a shift in lawmaking power back to the legislature, where it belongs. But I won't forget Congress' shameless neglect of its Constitutional duties over the past half decade.

And neither should you. Unless your Rep or Senator admits his or her mistake in allowing this nonsense to occur, and promises to vote in favor of impeachment/conviction, then we should toss em out in November.

Monday, June 26, 2006


The latest from the "And what the hell are we supposed to do with this infomation?" Files:
Boston Scientific Corp. on Monday said it is recalling some defibrillator and pacemaker models that could fail because of an electrical flaw

Factoids from the article worth noting: A company spokesman said it didn't recommend "surgeries to remove potentially faulty devices." Instead, he said, "we're recommending that people see their doctors at the earliest opportunity."

One can only imagine that conversation:
Patient: Doc, The company that made my pacemaker told me to contact you immediately.

Doctor: I see.

Patient: They say I won't need surgery, even though my pacemaker's gonna stop!

Doctor: I see.

Patient: What should I do, Doc?

Doctor: Well, you can die.

But all is not hopeless. Boston Scientific, reponding to criticisms because its pacemakers didn't work properly, promised to "do a better job."


Proving yet again that no people on earth are better suited to shoot and kill strangers in their midst, A.P. reports that German authorities killed a "fugitive bear," that had wandered into the Fatherland from Italy. Bruno, as he was dubbed, "ambled into Germany last month, becoming the first wild bear seen in the country since 1835." Despite harming no humans, killing only "sheep and rabbits and loot[ing] beehives for honey," Bruno was seen as a threat because "he came near homes and appeared to have lost his fear of people." And being Germans, officials of his new chosen country had no choice but to eliminate him.

Joern Ehlers, spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund in Germany, told us he regretted killing the bear, but conceded the outcome was expected. "Unfortunately this was to be foreseen," Ehlers said. "He found his way into our hearts, although the danger also had to be seen. Bears, while often loveable and entertaining, don't possess pure Aryan blood. Much though we were moved by such an independent-minded bear choosing us over the swarthy Mediterraneans of Italy, of course we could risk weakening the collective will & spirit of the greater German Volk."

"You see," said Gerhardt Hundtbahnstrasse, Minister of Immigration, Assimilation & Miscegenation for the German Republic, "We've been accused of racism directed towards Muslim, Turkish, African & South Asian immigrants lately. Not to mention everyone always bringing up our great sacrifice, that of losing a war in order to eliminate the scourge of European Jewry. Well this proves that we single out no particular group. Jews, Muslims, smelly pig-people, bears, we don't care. If you're not pure-blooded German, we don't want you."

"I did not vant to kill the bayer," Friedrich Sheinerheimer, believed to have fired the fatal shot, told us, "but I vuz following orders."

Finally, Claudia von Schweikdossler, 23, wearing the colors of the German flag on every inch of her body, told us, "I don't care about the bear. But when we win the World Cup, we'll once again demonstrate German superiority to everyone."


You hear that sound? I do. It's the sound of the train known as the Mets, rolling on. Crossing the border from the home of the vanquished Blue Jays, heading to Boston. Another 2 of 3. On the road. Bats thundering, crooked numbers posted, another pitching staff left shattered in their wake.

Yeah, I know that's a little much, but it feels that way, doesn't it? 7 runs doesn't seem like much these days, does it? Second in the NL in runs. First in slugging. First in doubles. Second in HRs. Fourth in OBP & triples. 40% of the Mets hits have gone for extra bases. In comparison, the six teams that stand 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th & 7th in slugging -- the Reds, Brewers, Dodgers, Rockies, Phils, & Cards -- have the following XBH pcts.: 39, 38, 31, 35, 38 & 31. The remaining teams fall between 30% and 35%. Even one of the few weak or average components of the Met offense -- batting average -- disappears once they leave Shea and play on the road, where the Mets add BA to their "League Leading" categories of OBP & SLG.

Oh, and did I mention that they lead the league in stolen bases?

Of course the Mets don't draw a ton of walks. We suspected this before the season and it's played out that way. But all-in-all, an incredibly balanced attack, with lots of power, lots of speed, and decent doses of selectivity. Away from Shea & its attack on batting average, the Mets are incredibly strong in that category too. I just don't see this offense going into long scoring slumps, and baring a couple tough series against strong staffs at Shea, they have the potential to keep putting up huge numbers.

On the pitching side of the ledger, the Mets and Padres are the only teams with staff ERAs below 4.00. They're second to those Padres in WHIP, their 1.28 and SD's 1.25 miles ahead of the 1.3 and 1.4 tallies the rest of the league's compiled. The Mets also lead in strikeouts, and along with the Brewers, D-Backs & Cubs, are well ahead of the league in that stat too. Mirroring their offensive skills and shortcomings, Mets pitchers are yielding walks at an acceptable, but not league-pacing, rate. Seven staffs have walked fewer batters than the Mets. But otherwise, even adjusting for the Shea factor (they lead the NL in ERA on the road and are third at home), this is a balanced pitching staff, with no glaring holes except for inconsistency at the back-end of the rotation.

But that's why it's the "back-end." Finally, before turning to a few Monday Morning Random Thought, I'll acknowledge that the team has one glaring concern, which could cost them dearly. But I'll get to that later on.

Leading off . . . Jose "El Rapido" Reyes: I couldn't start with any other topic here. This is simply one of the hottest stretches I've ever seen from a Met hitter. Edgardo Alfonzo down the stretch in '99; Straw after coming back from his thumb injury in '85 & again during the summer of '87; Keith, the Met's Eternal Captain, the second half of that same '85 when he brought his BA from a slump-ridden .250-something at the end of June to its familiar .310 at season's end; Piazza the first 4 months of '00; HoJo down the (tensionless stretch) in '89 and again in '91. We've seen hot stretches by Met bats. Hell, one of them's getting discussed in a few paragraphs! But this run by Reyes defies reason.

His numbers in June, the month that's not yet over? 430/480/720. 23 1Bs, 10 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 3 HRs, 8 BBs in 93 ABs. 14 SBs. And 28 Runs in 21 games! He's gone 4-for-5 three times this month. Hit for the cycle. Led off a game with a homer twice.

Jose Reyes has raised his season totals to 302/361/495, and has 67 runs in the Mets 75 games, leading the majors by six over his closest pursuer. He's also leading the majors in steals and triples. Now we know that a player's "pace" towards season totals is over-used, and people tend to rely on it when performers are peaking, managing to eliminate the inevitable slumps that follow.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. You think I'm gonna cheat you of a Stat Geek-gasm? Me? Look at these projected numbers, based on his performance through late June: 212 H, 41 2B, 22 3B, 17 HR, 63 BBs, 73 SBs, 145 R & 78 RBI. And, following last season's charge at Horace Clarke's all-time record for batting outs, Reyes's pace to make "only" 490 batting outs puts those insane numbers in a pretty good light. That's an awful lot of production at a relatively minimal cost. Many leadoff hitters make 500 outs. They rarely trade those outs for 80 XBHs, 63 walks and 73 steals at an 80%+ clip.

El Rapido (or "El Profesor," as others have taken to calling him, due to his third inning Diamondvision Spanish lessons) continues to raise the ceiling daily.

And he's 23.

Batting Second . . . a short, stumpy, slow guy with a .321 OBP. Not much more to say there. He's a funny dude, and I like him. Hell, I like Castro too. But it's high time that someone tells Willie that guys players don't haven't to be second basemen or catchers in order to bat second. For some reason that page seems to be missing from his Manager's Handbook. He batted Chavez second the other day, but since Endy went 0-5, I'm afraid Willie may think the Baseball Gods punished him for violating a tried-and-false tenet. Again, someone needs to set Willie straight here. I volunteer Lastings Milledge for that duty.

Batting third, the best young slugger in the history of the ga--

Wait a sec! Waiiiiiiiit a second! The Prince of New York, Young David "Derek Who?" Wright is not batting third. Should he be? Well, maybe the Beltranator should hit second, and they can move Wright into the three hole. But it's not hurting them too much right now.

But El Rapido is hurting The Prince's shot at sharing the Player of the Month for June with his partner on the left side of the infield. At 366/422/753, Wright would win it easily if not for the Professor's brilliance. With 20 R, 29 RBI and 10 HRs through June 25, Young Mr. Wright's bashed the ball all month long. But can he catch the World's Fastest Man?

And by the way, if this silliness is all we have to worry about as the All-Star break approaches, it's been a pretty good season, huh?

Cleaning Up . . . Carlos Delgado. Just a solid presence in the line-up. Very quietly on pace to score nearly 100 runs, and drive in 114, Delgado is, nonetheless, making a few too many outs in front of Wright with his .344 OBP. After walking once every 6 at-bats throughout his career, Delgado's drawing free passes only once for every 9 1/2 at-bats in 2006. And with speedsters on on front of him, and Wright behind him, he has no reason to be less selective. I don't care if he hits .250 or .300 really, so long as he bangs his customary 30-40 HRs and draws the usual 75-100 walks. Half that formula's in place this year. I'm waiting for the other half as July & August arrive.

Hitting somewhere in the meat of the order, and kicking ass in the process . . . 'Stache Valentino. This just isn't making any sense. 297/338/531? He's nearly 37? He's playing second base . . . well? All this and the freakin moustache? I'm afraid that if I say another word he'll wake up, or Mephistopheles'll cancel the deal, or his woman'll pull a Delilah & shave off his facial hair sending him into a season-long, career-ending tailspin. Something horrible. Best to stop talking about this and move on.

Batting somewhere . . . the three-headed beast known as the Met's corner outfielding corps. And add a gimpy leg to the three heads as soon as Cliff "I've Reverted to Form and Missed 20+ Games Already This Season" Returns.

I'm well-on-record stating that I like the Beltranator-Everlastings Milledge-Emos & Endy Chavez Outfield. Nady & Floyd? I guess keep Cliff's lefty bat and "veteran leadership" on the bench (without Cliff's veteran leadership, where-oh-where would Milledge & Reyes be? Buying crack? Selling Met scouting reports to shady characters? Hanging out with Melky Cabrera? Thank goodness for Cliff's veteran leadership).

I'm just not a Xavier Nady fan. At least not til he hits 4 homers and bats .350 over a ten game stretch. Then I'll be a huge fan and start calling for Chavez' head.

I'm a fan; I can think whatever I want, no matter how irrational. Heh, heh.

Eli Marrero. Nothing more to say. I just wanted to say the name of the guy who'll be in Queens after Milledge returns to Norfolk when The Veteran Leader returns.

Batting 9th, hitting 229/308/357. No, Spaz Matsui hasn't returned to hit at the bottom of the order in interleague games. Hell, the Kazzer never hit that well for the Mets anyway. And, with bat-wielding stiffs like Pedro & Duque, you know that ain't the Met pitcher's hitting. No.

But those are the combined numbers of Glavine, Oliver, Bannister & Longball Trachsel. Including 10 runs and 8 RBI.

And my point here? You mean I'm supposed to have one of those. Damn.

And closing the game, protecting that late-inning lead . . . uhhhhhh ohhhhh. Ya see, I told you I'd get back to the "glaring concern" eventually. The Mets have an 11 1/2 game lead. They're leading the Cards by 4 1/2 for the best record in the NL. With The Prince, El Rapido & Everlastings Milledge starting the All-Star game, they'll obviously win home field in the series. They've got two great young stars, a monster in center, two future HOFers anchoring the staff, and a solid crew of serviceable vets.

But, mark this now, Wagner will screw it up in October. Unless the Met bats and starters are soooooo dominant come post-season, they'll blow their best chance in 20 years to win it all because the closer isn't up to snuff. Wags has always had the rep of coming up small in big games. And so far this year, he's been shaky in all games: 4 blown saves, the horrific meltdown in a non-save situation against the Yanks.

His 17 walks in 37 IP and 1.15 WHIP are not at the level of the premier closers. Check out the numbers of Papelbon, Ryan, Riviera, Jenks, Hoffman & Street in comparison. You'll notice that Wagner walks more than any of them (by a good margin) and except for Street, no one gives up the longball like he does.

And this time, I have a point. This is one of those moments where a great GM, a great manager,needs to look the situation squarely in the eye and ask himself two questions: "Is our goal this year winning a championship above all else?" And "Can we likely accomplish that with the horses we got?"

With the crew of brimming talent, combined with the likelihood that neither Pedro, nor Glavine, nor Delgado, nor Wagner himself will ever again be as good as this year, the answer to Question One has to be, Yes. And if Omar & Willie are honest, the answer to Number Two has to be no. So what do you do? Well, the obvious answer is "play it like they did before the Ordained Closer Days." Yes, back in the pre-OCDs, before that shades-in-the-dugout hombre wrote the "LaRussa Bullpen Handbook." Before guys like Wagner, possessing vicious stuff but perhaps not wired for the pressure of closing game-after-game, were labeled "Closer," and required to save every close contest. Perhaps, based on fatigue, situation, L/R match-ups, historical performance in certain ballparks against certain hitters, Wagner, Heilman, Sanchez, Oliver, Chad-Brad (the domestic partners-as-reliever), Bell, Pelfrey, whoever, should share the "closers" duties. It worked for Mack, it worked for McGraw, it worked for Stengle, it worked for Sparky. It could work for Randolph.

Is this likely to happen? Nope. But the Mets winning three straight rounds in the post-season with Billy Shakester coming in for the saves is also unlikely.

As my friend, who we'll call F.I., asked me last week, do you hear the sound? The sound of a Billy Wagner trainwreck?

I don't want to hear it, as the sound of the Met train crossing the border from Canada is more appealing. But, unless we derail it before then, that other train's arriving in October. Right on schedule.

Friday, June 23, 2006


According to A.P., former Head of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge declared the "War on Terror is likely to last for decades." Continuing, Ridge said "for every (Osama) bin Laden, there's a bin Laden wannabe. And for every al-Qaida, there's a like organization. I don't know if anyone in the 1950s thought the Cold War would last close to half a century, but it did. The challenge is global and it may take a generation or two or more to reduce."

Wow, Tom. So what you're saying is, we should prepare to deal with profligate spending and civil liberties squeezes for . . . well, forever? That doesn't sound like good news. Yet nothing in his speech seems to look at this revelation as deeply troubling or unfortunate. So upon whom did Mr. Ridge bestow this information, you may ask?

The RAND Corporation, "a research and analysis institution focused on policy and problem solving [which] remains involved in a range of national security issues" (emphasis added). And where, when and why? The opening of RAND's new office in Pittsburg, in Ridge's home state of Pennsylvania. Needless to say, the boys at RAND probably don't find the news as troubling as the rest of us.

Now it's true that according to its webpage, RAND is a "nonprofit" organization dedicated to finding obective solutions to blah, blah, blah. Nonetheless, further perusing of their site tells us that "federally funded research and development centers" and their relationships to RAND enable it to "work closely with the institutions responsible for our national security, helping them tackle problems that require the sustained analytical attention of many disciplines over many years." This Federal Funding "also enables staff members to provide analytical support quickly when national security policymakers must respond to world events and emerging critical issues."

Now, am I trying to say that RAND has some nefarious, venal influence on national policy? No. We have Halliburton for that. But when I read that the former head of Homeland Security attends the opening of this "nonprofit" group's new office, and he tells the boys that the endless war on a military tactic (that'd be the "War on Terror") just got a little more endless, and those very same fellas will stay busy, getting federally-funded contracts for the duration, well let's just say my antennae go up.

Way up.


Continuing on the running theme of hunger and starvation, Reuters reports that former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, has ended his one meal hunger strike.

Yes, that's correct. One meal.

According to a U.S. military spokesman, following the shooting death of yet another of his defense attorneys, Saddam "refused lunch," but "ate his evening meal."

Apart from obvious questions, such as "what's he on trial for again?" and "does anyone care if he eats?" I'm led to consider why, exactly, Hussein felt the need to go on his dramatic one meal hunger strike. Among the possibilities:
1. Feeling that the killing of only one defense attorney is beneath his stature on the world stage, Saddam bravely refused lunch in an effort to facilitate the murder of scores of lawyers.

2. Fearing more embarrassing photos of his stocky frame sporting only tighty-whiteys, Hussein felt the need to slim down his waistline and lose the man-tits. After one skipped meal and endless flattery from handlers, however, he concluded that he'd suffered enough in the name of vanity.

3. Steak, salad, rice and dessert just aren't up to the standards of a strongman who subjegated his nation for decades. "Foie Gras or nothing!" Saddam is rumored to have declared. In deference to his wishes, the American military supplied him with the fatty goose liver he needs. Your tax dollars at work.

4. Fearing that anarchy, civil war, and dozens of civilian deaths every day weren't drawing adequate attention to the growing disaster in the corner of the world known as Iraq, Hussein saw the need to draw international attention the only way he could. There's a reason his people love him.

5. One word: Happy Meal (Ok, that's two words, but let's not get technical here.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006


President Bush made a surprise visit to Budapest yesterday, arriving just in time to join the 50th Anniversary of Hungary's 1956 Revolt against the Soviets. Initially, the Hungarian government & citizens were surprised that the man they associate with "oppression, invasion, and torture" would join them in commemorating an attempt at freedom.

"I very surprised to see the President Bush here to celebrate our famous push for freedom," said Zoltan Kovacs, 62, a young boy when his countrymen attempted to liberate themselves from the Soviets. "I always think of him as man who invades Iraq and tortures men at prison in Cuba. I very interested to hear what he say."

"This is most unexpected," Laszlo Toth, 43, told us. "As you know, your leader Eisenhower did not help us in 1956. I did not think Bush even knew where Hungary was. But like many, I want to hear what he tells us."

Magda Szabo, 24, a university student in Budapest who grew up in a small town near the Czech border, insisted that she did not "know one person who like Bush. We all think he is bad man, violent man, who like attack people. When we hear yesterday that Bush coming, we think they mean he come to war us. But I very interest to hear what he say today."

Eventually, after much pomp and circumstance, including laying a wreath on the grave of Imre Nagy, the Hungarian leader in 1956, Bush addressed the crowd: "I am here to celebrate the 1956 revolution, the idea of a revolution that celebrated the notion that all men and women should be free," he said, picking at a shred of beef stuck in his hind teeth. Citing the Hungarian people's "unbelievable thirst for freedom," Bush also went on to note that "all of us who have the blessings of freedom must remember the spirit that took place here and we must not take freedom for granted."

"I've always felt very strongly that hunger is one of the, you know, the most important bad things we gotta eliminate," he continued, still working hard to get at his back teeth. "When you're hungry, ya can't fight terror, ya can't fight for freedom, ya can't fight for, ya know, for freedom and food. When you're hungry. So we should all commemorate and remember the sacrifices that The Hungry made in 1956, so that, ya know, y'all could all eat in 2006. Cause The Hungry Revolt in '56 was a blow against oppression and terror and . . . hunger. So God Bless food, God bless The Hungry, and God Bless America. Now, y'all got more a' that goo-losh stuff?"

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Now I'm no fan of Saddam Hussein (does he have any fans?), and a perusal of my blog shows I'm not too big on lawyers either these days.


But, this story about the third member of Saddam's defense team to be killed in eight months, makes me ask, "Wasn't he removed from power? No one has to work on his behalf anymore."

Maybe I'm crazy, but I'd think that "Member of Saddam Hussein's Defense Team" has to be the least desirable job on earth. Maybe it's number two to "Osama Bin Laden's Top Lieutenant."

And that's before factoring in the "attorney" part of the job.

So next time Saddam asks one of Iraq's finest trial lawyers to take on his defense, the fella might want to tell him he's doing a slip-and-fall case that day.


Another fun one last night. Nine runs scored, home run by the pitcher, attempted inside-the-park homer by an aging porn star, smiles when he failed in that effort, and of course Lastings Milledge taking the field two outs into the first inning, then promptly diving into the stands to make a leaping grab, signing autographs, exchanging elaborate handshakes & kissing the pretty girls, as he caught the ball. I've never seen a play like it.

And I didn't see it last night either, because it didn't happen, but it was definitely that kinda game. And, to top it off, the Yanks made a stirring comeback in their own game, for which I and other Mets fans are grateful. Say what?

They were playing the Phils. Oh the joys of interleague baseball. And with the Phils latest bullpen debacle in the books, the Met lead is back to 9 1/2 games. And the Braves remain in the cellar.

Heh, heh.

In addition to their gaudy divisional lead, by far the largest of any of baseball's six divisions, the fellas are second in the NL in runs scored, trailing the Dodgers by one measly run. Queens is also the residence of the NL's highest slugging percentage, its leader in doubles and steals, plus the third best homer tally in the circuit, and the sixth best OBP. The Mets also lead the NL in ERA, are second in WHIP and strikeouts, and are fourth in K/BB ratio. Top it all off with the cherry known as the Best Record In The League and the Mets are the best team in the NL through 70 games. There ain't no other way to look at it.

Well, maybe there is, but I'm not going to!

* * *

Between repeated viewing of the famous Guy With The Hole In His Neck ("GWTHIHN"), for which I've learned to reflexively push the mute button and warn my wife to turn around, the Mets & SNY seemed to be pushing some sort of "1986 Classic" package of goods.

But I'm not sure exactly what they're peddling. You see, I'm so traumatized by the GWTHIHN, readying myself for the precautionary routine, that I barely pay attention to any of the other commercials. With one finger ready on the mute & the other turning my wife's head away, there's only so much energy I can bring to the task (in fact, the GWTHIHN is stressing me out so much, I think I may need to start smoking again).

Anyway, with this 1986 Classics package or whatever it is floating around, I got to thinking about classic 80's Met games they should show during rain delays. (We've all had it with Chico Walker's groundout, Magadan's 3 for 4 and Zabriskie's blown call, right? Although I'm still dying to know Keith's real excuse for missing the clincher.) So here, open for debate, derision, factual correction, and any other negativity due to come my way, I present a short list of Games We Really Need To See From The Mid-80s (heretofore known as "GWRNTSFTM80s." Hmmm, maybe not). This list comes from my memory, so expect lots of mistakes:

1. 1986: The Met-Reds 14 inning game. This one's a no-brainer, and like most no-brainers there's a reason. This is the one with Orosco & McDowell flip-flopping in left, right, and on the mound; Knight popping Eric Davis in the jaw; HoJo's walk-off homer before they called them "walk-off homers"; and Gary Carter playing third, turning the pivot on a double play; all that fun stuff. Little discussed, because I suspect it's seldom remembered, is Dave Parker dropping an easy flyball in the 9th (8th?), allowing the Mets to tie and send the game into extras. Amazing game.

2. 1985: The 16-13 July 4, 18 inning marathon against the Braves. Better be a long rain delay.

3. 1985: Game one of the three game Mets-Card tilt late in the season, in St. Louis. Ron Darling matched John Tudor zero-for-zero through 9 innings (and Met fans will recall, by August and September of that season it was Tudor, not Doc, who was the scariest hurler in the NL), before Darryl drove an absolute bomb off Ken Dayley into the scoreboard clock in Busch's right field to win it in the 10th. Best pitcher's duel I ever watched. Incredibly tense game.

4. 1986: Game versus the Giants (how's that for narrowing it down?). All I remember is Rafael Santana at the plate, bottom nine, Mets with ducks on the pond and two outs. Rafael popped it up on the infield (that's the way to bat .218, by the way), threw his bat in disgust, and watched the Giants' rookie middle infielders, Jose Uribe & Robby Thompson, collide near second as the ball dropped, allowing the Mets to send home the winning run. That was the point that season where I first said, "Ohhh. We're one of those teams this year. Cool."

5. 1984: Doc's one hitter against the Cubs. The only hit was a dribbler up the third base line (by Keith Moreland, I believe) that Ray Knight ate rather than throw, not wanting to risk an error. I'm not sure, but I think the Mets were waaaayy up at that point. I can tell you of one sixteen year-old that hated Ray Knight for a few years after that.

That's it for now. I'll bring up more of these games as the season goes on.

* * *

But . . . with all of you fighting to stay awake, drooling on your keyboards, waiting with anticipation for the coffee to brew, waiting with anger for this piece to end, I present an abbreviated set of Random Thoughts (you see, I'm thoughtful that way):

Murderer's Row:
Following Trachs's bomb, Met pitchers are hitting 151/219/216, with 7 XBHs, 10 BBs, 15 R & 9 RBI through 139 at-bats.

What does that mean, exactly? I have no freakin idea. Those sound like good numbers for a pitching staff, but I'm not sure. But you can't say I don't keep you informed, can you?

Don't answer that.

How Freaking Great Is Jose Reyes?: With David "Derek Jeter, That's Who" Wright taking the collar last night, he's no longer my favorite Met, no more the object of my Man Crush. Shit, let's trade him.

Jose is Da Man now. (Hmmmm? The "Da Man of the Week." A running entry?)

The co-recipient of the NL Player of the Week (who'd he share it with again?) has ridden a blazing hot streak to up his numbers to an impressive 275/340/447, with 59 Runs in 68 games played. Normally I'd kick myself for saying this, but out of respect for Jose's native language, let me say that Senor Reyes is . . . en fuego. I'm getting a bit worked up here. Best to move on.

Yeah, Mike, You Were Really On The Mark There: Just as I enter every game-viewing experience with a few players upon whom I'm prepared to lavish all my favoritism and happiness (Read: Reyes, right now), I also have a couple others with two paws in the doghouse before the game begins. It's never lack of hustle or foolish behavior that gets one in that unsavory position (Read: I'm still a huge Milledge fan). No, it's straight-out Sucking that gets me pissed off. So, last night saw me ready to bring out the Big Guns 'o Hate on Trachsel, Nady and LoDuca.

And yes, those would be the three fellas that earned the win, drove in seven, and hit two doubles and three home runs. I even went so far as to begin drafting my anti-Nady screed right onto the yellow note pad I keep on the table during games after his "inning ending DP in 4th, then lead-off double for Phillips on a ball Chavez or Millegde get to. Phillips scored."

Hmmm. Obviously, the operative instruction here is Don't Listen To A Word I Say. What's the opposite of blowing your own horn? Blowing your own nose. Blowing your . . . no, let's not go there.

Stache's Mad Dash: Nothing I can possibly say will approach, let alone top, what occurred. Next.

Was It Only Me . . . or was anyone else interested in seeing Gary & Keith spice up the interminable dug-out interview (let's add those joyful chats to the "Chris Cotter's Gotta Go" List) with Sandy Alomar Sr. by asking, "By the way, Sandy, what the hell happened to your son Roberto? Did he ever actually retire?"

And . . . of course, with no further ado, I present to you for your morning pleasure {drum roll, please}:

The Keith Watch: Ohhhh, yes. Keith, the Met's Eternal Captain, was in the booth. After late night games my tired ass couldn't get through on the West Coast swing, plus Keith's week off (Read: Every Other Week), I haven't sat down to hear his schtick in its entirety in some time. Five entries:
1. Of course Trachsel used a "level swing" on his home run. Keith keeps it simple: Swing and a miss? "Pulling off" or an "uppercut swing." Well hit ball? "Level Swing."

There are NO deviations from this analysis.

2. At one point he described a "lazy breaking ball" marked by its "tumbling rotation." Without even addressing whether rotation can tumble, I'll repeat what I've said before: All pitches, other than fastballs, "tumble."

A "tumbling" breaking ball that meets a "level swing"? I'm not sure my brain counts high enough to calculate how far that ball's going.

3. Keith's inexplicable inability to understand why a manager might play the infield to pull, but the outfield to go the other way, has official reached the lofty & exaulted status of a "Keith Obsession," joining tumbling pitches and level swings.

4. Following a lengthy riff on tumbling pitches, level swings, the importance of "keeping your shoulder in," and of course the devastating consequences of "pulling off the ball," Keith introduced his next thought by saying, "I know I'm a broken record." What followed? I don't remember, but we can reduce the possibilities to . . . three?

5. And finally, following the glorious spectacle of Stache's Mad Dash, Keith explained the difficulty of running all the way around the bases, noting that he "ran out of gas" on his "one inside-the-park homer."

The important question, of course: Was that before or after smoking three butts and swigging a brew in the clubhouse. And let's not even address whatever "leg-weakening" activity he might have been engaging in, nor whether he was in St. Louis or NY at the time. As we know, his range of "activity" was greater before Whitey sent him packing.
And you know what? I want Keith in the booth every game. He's entertaining, he knows hitting, he's the Eternal Captain, and most importantly, he never instructs you to "score it six-to-four-to-three."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


This A.P. piece informs us that India, in an effort to increase tourism, is encouraging visitors to stay in rural villages and "enjoy life's simple pleasures," such as malaria, man-eating tigers, close-minded & superstitious locals, as well as charming relics of the past like throwing widows on funeral pyres and a rigid caste-system.

The plan, developed in concert with the United Nations' "Development Program," identifies 36 rustic locations that travelers can visit to create jobs, "encourage villagers to clean up their surroundings," "boost [] handmade crafts and traditional art forms," and discover for themselves just how primitive and barbaric their distant ancestors were.

Well, if the U.N.'s behind it, it must be a good idea.

Another element of the plan, exposing high school and college students from cities and towns to the lifestyles and culture of rural India, has generated a great deal of excitement.

"I'm a Brahmin," said Deeva Srinthrapinan, a 17 year-old High School student informed by her school's headmaster of the plan. "But they expect me to live in that dirty village? Do they have, like, clothing stores there?"

"I'm going to the U.S. to study at Harvard next year," Raju Chadhoury, 18, told us while sitting at a Mumbai traffic light in his 2006 Lexus. "I don't have time to clean latrines in some backwards village. My people moved to the city 400 years ago. We left that sort of thing behind. Plus, the girls in those villages are extremely dark and have bad teeth."


According to the "A.P. Religion Writer," the Presbyterian church is considering a gender-neutral term to substitute for the 2000 year-old, "Father, Son & Holy Spirit." Church leaders seem to feel that liturgical language "has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women."

Organized religion supporting the idea that men are superior to women? Never! C'mon.

Now I'm no Christian, that much is certain, so take all of what I say with a grain of salt (which you should toss over your shoulder, before spitting on the ground, to ward off the Evil Eye). But isn't debating the proper terminology for a fictional triumvirate an Angels on the Head of a Pin type of thing? Either you believe it as handed down ("Dogma"), or you don't. If you believe, you can't change it. And if you don't believe, then why the hell would you care enough to gender-neutralize it?

Can anyone explain that? If I decided I'd continue using "he" & "him" to refer to God, but decided as a sop to the female members of my sect that I'd use gender-neutral terms to describe "dogs," "cats," "automobiles," and "the Tooth Fairy," this would be a good thing?

Anyway, this being a topic I'm far more interested in making fun of, than in changing it, let's get me off my soapbox and into my seat in the back row where I belong, shall we? Spitball shooter ready? Excellent.

Among the actual phrases considered to expand" the church's vocabulary of praise and wonder," are "Mother, Child and Womb," "Creator, Savior, Sanctifier," "King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love," and "Rock, Redeemer, Friend."

Rock, Paper, Scissors was apparently unavailable. Also considered, but maybe just a tad too close to the language of a romance novel: "Lover, Beloved, Love."

Anyway, a few of my own Gender-Neutral Suggestions for a church of which I'm not a member, based on texts and teachings in which I don't believe (you see, I'm generous that way):

1. Jesus ---> Amber (maybe Tiffany)
2. Holy Father ---> Oh, Mama
3. Mary ---> Yo Mama
4. Joseph ---> Joe Mama
5. Father, Son & Holy Spirit ---> Mo, Larry & Curly

Yeah, I know that's not gender-neutral, and in fact most women seem to hate the Three Stooges. Plus, they were Jewish. But if we're gonna help these Presbyterians to open themselves up to progress, let's go full-tilt, right. Actually, everyone goes full-tilt; let's be really open-minded and go 3/4-tilt instead.

6. All Biblical Uses of "He" or "She" ---> "They"

Non-grammatical, you say? The book discusses people created from ribs, resurrections, people living inside of whales, men dying at 900 years old, virgin births, oceans parting their waters, and underfed & friendless Jewish tribes kicking everyone's ass for hundreds of years. You're demanding accuracy in grammar?

So, "God created man in his image" becomes "The heavenly ruler created man & woman in their image." Completely unclear, but no one's offended, and that's what's important, right? Coming soon, other entries in the Unoffensive Bible, such as "Cain & Dis-Abel," "Solowoman's Temple," and the Revised Version of Genesis where God realizes he (excuse me, They) has terrible anger problems and is filled with ethnic hatred, so They decide to let all the tribes of Canaan live in peace and harmony while respecting their differences.

Who's for making Hamlet a girl, Raskolnikov a Muslim, and letting Beowulf & Grendel find their mutual attraction as they opt for Domestic Partnership?


A good piece today from Whiskey & Gunpowder, dealing with the topic of "stagflation," and why if one understands definitions and uses them consistently, such a term is all-but useless.

Anyhow, I don't necessarily agree with the author's prognosis (he thinks deflation's on the way & has been banging that drum for a while now). The article's nonetheless worth reading because it addresses all the "flation" definitions consistently: the amount of money+credit.

Remember, the bullshit you hear peddled by the government and the media regarding "inflation" and the like is either a lie, or the result of willful ignorance. Enjoy the piece.

Monday, June 19, 2006


In the latest submission from the "Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction" Files, this Reuter's piece informs us that Beijing animal rights protesters entered the "Fangji Cat Meatball restaurant," forcing it to shut down, after insisting that "the owner free any live cats on the premises."

Not Made Up. True News Story. Among other highlights:
The proprietor at first defending his region's dining traditions, before declaring, "I cannot go on with my business, and I will not sell cat meat any more."

Some of the protestors "burst[ing] into tears upon finding a skinned cat in a fridge."

One of the organizers explaining that the Fangji Cat Meatball Restaurant was chosen as the target for the protest because, "because it killed cats in the street and it was 'very bad for the students from nearby schools.'"

And finally, a brief discussion of animal rights activists' troubles in China because during the nation's "Communist heyday [pet owning] was frowned upon as a bourgeois activity."
Or maybe it was merely a case of needing the extra food when half the country starved during the Great Leap Forward. Here, Kitty Kitty. Starvation+Cultural Traditions: a volitile mix for Fluffy.

And lest Fido & Rex get too cocky, North Korean dogs are hereby on notice of food shortages in the Dear Leader's land as well.


This Monday morning piece from A.P.'s "Political Writer" informs us that Hillary Clinton, officially running for re-election as New York's junior Senator, has distributed a fundraising letter that fails to mention "New York," but instead "slips eight references to 'America' or 'Americans' into two pages."

Questioned about this, Senator Clinton was unapologetic: "What? The people of New York are voting for anyone but me? Please, I can't lose. It's a complete waste of my time to 'run' for re-election in New York. I'm not even from that place and they love me anyway. Not to mention, this 'Junior' thing is starting to piss me off. Who do Americans think of when they think of New York? Schumer?"

A brief excerpt from the fundraising letter also sees the "eight references to America" eclipsed by dozens of additional references to a subject even closer to Senator Clinton's heart: Herself. Four references in only four sentences, for a perfect 1.000. To wit:
My name is at the top of their list. The Republicans can't stomach the fact that I'm leading the fight against their misplaced priorities. That's why Karl Rove was quoted as saying, 'We have to do something about her.' It's no secret that they are willing to spend millions of dollars to tear me down between now and Election Day.
(Emphases added). After another reporter asked her if it wasn't perhaps a bit crass to approach things this way, Clinton interrupted, "Crass? This is politics, buddy. I've always been crass, and so was my husband. He never let anyone forget that it was all about . . . him. And I didn't see it cause him too much harm, did you? We're just a couple grifters from Little Rock when you get down to it. Don't forget that."

Turning to speculation that she's positioning herself to run for President in '08, Senator Clinton answered, "No shit, Sherlock. What J-school did you get your degree from? Of course I'm running for President in '08. What planet you been living on?"

Finally, responding to more pointed questions, including queries as to what, precisely, she does stand for, Clinton looked reporters in the eyes, pointing for emphasis, declaring, "I stand for me. Hillary Rodham Clinton. And don't you forget it. And you know what? You'll vote for me anyhow. What are you gonna' do instead? Vote Republican? Yeah, right."


Here with a brief update on the progress of Urban America's Favorite Backyard Garden.

And, no, that's not hyperbole. I sent a random e-mail this past weekend to, ohhh, at least 14 or 15 people asking, "Will You Object if I declare unilaterally that my backyard garden is 'Urban America's Favorite?'"

No one objected. In fact, only ten or eleven e-mails bounced back for lack of a valid e-mail address, and the only affirmative response came from a dude in Arizona asking, "Who the hell are you? Don't spam me, jerk-off." So, in light of the lack of objections, I feel justified in claiming the title. Very soon, I'm aiming for the whole country, not just the cities.

Anyway, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. Yes, that's right, the tomatoes are starting to grow. Peppers appearing too. Plus, most excitingly, the arugula that the Aphinator planted from seed a month or so back is approaching edibility. Looks healthy, looks nice, looks green.

The red lettuce and bok choy continue to yield impressively, and the herbs are thriving. I've noticed that herbs are pretty much like weeds: plant 'em & watch 'em grow. Not much else at work there. In fact, the real challenge, if any, with herbs seems to be keeping them pruned, trimmed and "harvested," so they don't overgrow and take over your garden.

And finally, the selection of annuals we've laid down from seedlings, or germinated ourselves, are looking fine. In fact, weather permitting, I plan to put some of the new plants down in the flower bed for the first time today. Incidentally, yesterday was NYC's first 90+ day, so based on my limited gardening experience (read: Last Summer), the tough days are suddenly upon us. Now -- with blazing temps, high summer sun, and inconsistent precipitation -- is when the challenge really arises.

Until the next update.

Friday, June 16, 2006


This piece from the boys at Whiskey & Gunpowder shows that economic insanity isn't just for Americans anymore.

Apparently, housing bubbles are popping up everywhere. (Popping up? Get it? Never mind. Just enjoy the piece.)


This is fun.

And by the way, if you're in the "Oh shit, I can't read too much positive about my team or that'll jinx us" camp, better click away right now. I promise no "Irrational Exuberance" here, but when a team's playing well, what are you supposed to talk about? Aaron Heilman's woes? Lastings Milledge's evening in Le Chateau Bow-Wow? Nah. I'm too happy to go there now. This one's gonna be an orgy of positivity.

And knowing no man (even a superstitious baseball fan) can turn away from the promise of seeing an orgy, let's continue, shall we?

It's truly a pleasure to watch a really good team playing really well. And that's what's happening right now. The Mets are 42-23, the best record in the majors. They just finished a 9-1 road trip against three teams over .500 (at least before The Boys hit town). They've outscored their opponents by 69 runs, meaning they "should" be 39-26 or 40-25, so even with the gawdy 18-7 record in one-run games, they've exceeded Old Man Pythagoras by only a couple games.

They're really good.

How're they doing it? Every which way. Pitching? Leading the N.L. in ERA and strikeouts; second in WHIP. Hitting? How you like second in runs scored & slugging. First in stolen bases and doubles. Fourth in home runs, 7th in OBP. They lead the majors in runs scored on the road, and are second in slugging and sixth in OBP out of the 30 teams in that specific category.

Ok. I could go on-and-on citing ever-more arcane statistics (anyone know where they stand in VORP for road games in June?), but a few facts are clear: they're good, their pitching is good but a tad thin, and their offense is very powerful. Very powerful.

And if I may toot my own horn here, I said a month-and-a-half ago that, "their middle-of-the-pack run total has been seriously deflated by the games in Shea and all the other pitcher's parks. This team can rake," before predicting that "come summer, they're gonna put some scary numbers on the board in some of those road games."


No, that's not me tooting my own horn; I did that already with the quotation & the link. That's just me passing some early morning gas. You know how that is. Too much info? Hmmm, maybe it is. Let's get back to something a tad less offensive. The Met's hitters!

The fellas are scoring runs in bunches because (a) they currently have no holes in the lineup, and (b) there are three Very Big Guns in the middle of the order.

No Holes: While the Mets OBP stands only at 7th in the NL, every hitter makes the pitcher work. The worst regular right now is probably LoDuca, ironically batting second. With an OBP of only .330 he can be had. But when a player with a 727 OPS is your weakest link, that's a strong lineup! Same for 'Stache (only a .317 OBP, but slugging near .500), Milledge (.316/.510) & Chavez (.341/.438 + some see-ree-us speed).

And then -- after establishing that the line-up has no easy outs -- we have to look at the bona fide strengths. First, we have . . .

"Wheels" Reyes. He's really becoming a lead-off hitter. 263/334/431. He's got 27 XBHs, 28 SBs, and . . . 29 BBs in 281 ABs. Let's put in this way, prior to 2006, he had 45 walks in his career. As the batting average goes up, his OBP should rise to the .350 range. He's leading the NL with 54 runs. At this pace, he'll score 135! And it's no fluke. And then we move on to The Big Three.

Carlos Delgado. Despite hitting a nightmarish 208/300/406 for the entire month of May, he's compiled a pretty decent 269/352/542 on the season. He's looked very good lately, driving the ball to left center, laying off high fastballs, actually running the bases well. He turns 34 this month, so we can't discount slumps like he had in May, and he's still struggling against lefties (235/298/412). But he's an established slugger, a very professional guy. If he stays healthy, the 102 R and 122 RBI he's on pace for seem legit. 47 HRs? Doubt it. But 35-40 looks reasonable.

David "Derek Who?" Wright. Nothing he does anymore surprises me. His knack for the big hit is getting to be commonplace. If the Mets give up a lead and Wright leads off the next inning, what are expectations? 50/50 for a leadoff homer? One-in-Four that he makes an out? The only thing that could possibly worry you in that situation would be his failure to fall behind 0-2.

And I'm not joking. After the count reaches 0-2, which has happened in about 38 plate appearences this year, Young Mr. Wright is hitting 343/395/714. That may actually be a negative indicator, in that it's a pattern that simply can't last. But in the meantime, he's just something to watch. The fives have it, as his 335/404/587 project to 107 R, 125 RBI, 45 2B, 5 3B, 35 HR and 75 BB for the season. Can you say MVP? No, I can't, because someone else is already saying it . . .

The Beltranator. Oh my. So this is why they signed him for the GDP of a medium-sized Eastern European nation last year. He's missed 10 games, yet he leads a high scoring team in RBI and walks, and is second in homers, doubles, runs and steals. After a tough stretch early on where a huge number of line drives found opposition leather, he's gotten his BA up to .300, and compements it with a .408 OBP and a .643 SLG, trailing only Phat Albert. Assuming he doesn't repeat the 10 games missed as the season progresses, he's good for 122 R & 132 RBI in only 152 games. Add on 42 2B and 45 HR with 30 SB and you've got your basic MVP winner.

MVP. That's be that thing no Met has ever won. Along with No Hitter, that thing no Met has ever tossed. Well, back in Shea for a few. Maybe it's time for the pitchers to do a little showing off.

Pedro vs. Mr. Anna Benson this weekend. Heh, heh.

Pedro? You hear me? Peeeeeeeedddddro?


According to this A.P. piece, space shuttle astronauts yesterday conducted a practice countdown. Not only did they don their familiar orange space suits and "strap[] into the Space Shuttle," but more importantly, it also served as "a dry run for the flight controllers in the so-called firing room who will direct the liftoff."

"We had a good test, a firing room full of console operators, getting familiar with their activities and launch-day events," said NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham. "With the crew at the pad, it was a very successful test."

"The countdown is very important," austronaut Bruce Sullivan added. "Billions of dollars spent on every conceivable facet of the operation. But all it takes is one missed number on the countdown, and . . . well, no liftoff."

Thursday, June 15, 2006


From the "I'm Not Quite Sure What To Do With This Information" Files, we learn from a Proctor & Gamble-sponsored study, that Phoenix is "the sweatiest city in the United States, but Miami topped the list as the most uncomfortable American city due to its mix of humidity and heat."

So . . . that means I should buy extra deodorant when I head to Arizona? Avoid Europeans? Thank god that Patrick Ewing never played for the Suns?

Should I bring an extra seat cushion when I visit South Beach? Order comfort food at Little Havana restaurants? Does a Cuban Sandwich count?

By the way, if you've never had a Cuban Sandwich, run out and get one now. So good -- ham and roasted pork, cheese, pickles, on pressed and toasted bread, mmmmm -- I may have to take a break now and just think about one. Anyhow . . .

Makes me wonder what other studies we can conduct involving secretions and other nasty bodily functions: "The pissiest beer in America"? "The shittiest food in the land"? "The Teariest Movie"? "The Saliva-est Cuban Sandwich in the Western Hemisphere"?

Saliva-est? Pretend I didn't write that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


In the latest indication of growing inflation, A.P. reports a "sharp increase" in the fees that smugglers charge would-be migrants to cross the border from Mexico to the U.S.


According to this A.P. article, an Afghan delegation visiting the U.S. Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay reported that the prison conditions are "humane." The head of the delegation, Abdul Jabar Sabhet of the Interior Ministry, insisted that he and his group spoke freely with all 96 Afghan prisoners at the Cuban Shithole we know as Gitmo. He also added that "only one or two" prisoners complained.

On a side note, American guard Charlie "Biff" Peterson assured us later on that "both complaining detainees" were "tortured most extravagantly" after the Afghan contingency left the compound. Asked for details, Peterson claimed "that information's classified," but he nevertheless hinted that "dogs, electrodes, meat thermometers, lesbian poetry, besmirched Islamic Holy Books," and maybe "an especially sadistic Santeria priest" were involved.

Speaking with the press as his motorcade rode to the airport for the long return flight, Minister Sabhet explained to us that, "Conditions of the jail was humane. There were rumors in [Afghanistan] about that. It was wrong. What we have seen was OK."

Unprompted by questions, he also added that, "George Bush is probably the finest man America has produced. He is both loved and admired in my home country. I would also like to express my gratitude and respect for Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld as well as the oily, fat guy who just escaped serious criminal charges in your country. I cannot recall his name, but I assure you we Afghans respect and admire him as well."

Asked if he wished to extend a word to Secretary of State, Condeleeza Rice, Sabhet declined, telling us that, "were I to mention a woman in a positive light, I'd be stoned to death on the tarmac at the Kabul airport. This is an unpreferred outcome."


According to this news piece, "the U.S. housing boom will not end in a crash."

Says who? A "study" says so, that's who.

And who conducted this study? Harvard University!

Yes, that's right. A major university, one of the biggest land-owners in the greater Boston area tells us that the housing boom won't end badly.

Isn't that nice?

And if that alone doesn't assuage your fears, then remember that none other than Freddie Mac said yesterday that, "it did not expect the [housing] market to crash."

Sleep easy folks. Looks like we're all gonna be OK!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


This Reuters piece tells of a consumer group's law suit against KFC, based on the fast food giant's use of trans-fats and saturated fats in its cooking oils. Apparently believing that fast food and capitalism are so bad that companies should try to convince customers not to spend money on their products, the group's complaint says that KFC "does not properly warn, disclose or even tell consumers that they are eating food items prepared with the worst oil available."

KFC can live or die, succeed or fail, survive or thrive, as far as I care, but that doesn't make this lawsuit any less outrageous. I think I'm gonna bring my nearly-dormant lawyering skills back out of mothballs, and file a series of similar "consumer group" complaints:

1. Against the airline industry for failing to note on all websites, advertisements and boarding passes that "it is possible that you will perish in a ghastly inferno after your plane plunges to earth from 35,000 feet";

2. Against the film industry for failing to note on all marquees, newspaper ads and trailers that "the film you are about to see is 87% likely to contain a recycled plot, 68% likely to have dialogue so inane you'll laugh even though no joke is being told, and 74% likely to suck in its entirety";

3. Against global beer, wine and liquor manufacturers for failing to warn that "consumption of this beverage will cause sensory impairment, plus is likely to bring about feelings of grandiosity, boastfulness, extremely loud talking, and is 43% percent more likely to cause you to do something really stupid that you'll regret the next day, than if you drank nothing at all";

4. Against the Federal Reserve for failing to include warnings on the face of U.S. dollars telling the bearer that "this note is legal tender for all debts public and private, but due to inflation, will devalue by X% every year until it's worth nothing at all";

5. Against Law Schools for failing to warn incoming students that "23% of you will become shameless shysters, bringing expensive and frivolous suits against defendants that have done nothing wrong."


The Boys are simply kicking ass. Not much more to say; big series versus the Phils. A chance to really lay down the hammer and build a huge lead as Round II of interleague play begins. Anyway, the blogosphere's been filled with this-and-that about the Mets, so I'll keep it short & totally off topic.

In fact, I'll only discuss one thing: with Gary Cohen sidelined, and Keith taking one of his patented weeks off, I need something to get me through these games without pulling my hair out. Howie & Ronny & Cotter, oh my . . .

So, without any further ado, my top-ten choices for a new announcer to get us through Gary & Keith's return:

1. Willie Randolph: We all spend so much time questioning his moves, why not put him in the booth and let him explain his moves as he makes them. "Well, you see, I'm the manager and I know more than you do, so I'm bringing Sanchez in to face 4 straight lefties in the 4th inning because . . ."

2. Shakira: She speaks Spanish, so perhaps she can read Delgado, Reyes and Beltran's lips as they chat at first base with other Latin players. Plus, she smokin hot which is reason enough.

3. Lastings Milledge: We've reached the point where there's little else he can do on the field or in the clubhouse. Having helped Rick Peterson solve Heath Bell's pitching woes, taught Super 'Stache to trim his facial hair, personally engineered the Matsui-Marrero trade, as well as secured his own induction into the Hall of Fame and drafted a speech that invokes Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Darryl Strawberry, Eddie Gaedel & the first three lines of the Gettysburg Address . . . it's time he hits the booth.

4. Bagdad Bob, aka "Comical Ali": Yes, the former Iraqi Minister of Information. The Mets have never really had a true "homer" for an announcer, so it's high time. You can imagine the possibilities: "And Phillie pitcher Cole Hamels realizes the Met line-up is too strong. It's already 5-0 and he's yet to throw a pitch. In his shame and humiliation, Hamels stabs himself on the mound as Reyes enters the batting box."

5. The Guy on those anti-smoking ads they show 10 times a game, the one with the hole in his throat: He-can-talk-in-that-robotic-voice-he-uses-after-he-takes-the-shower. When-he-announces-nothing-will-be-the-same-again. Not-even-the-simple-things.

6. Super 'Stache: Get him in the booth on days he rests. Valentino & Keith in the same booth, swapping grooming tales, discussing their techniques for nights on the town, may never be topped (by the way, check out Willie's 'stache some time. Check it out closely; you'll see what I mean).

7. Len Dykstra: Could this possibly be anything less than completely entertaining? At least for one game.

8. Simon Cowell: "That was the worst swing I've ever seen. If I have to watch one more at-bat by this guy, I just may get sick." And if we're lucky, Darling'll invoke the spirit of '86 and get into a brawl, kicking Simon's ass all over the booth.

9. Bobby Valentine: The only man who accomplished more than Lastings Milledge in his major league career. Between stories about his own brilliance, what he would have done if he were managing, and how amazing and smart he is at everything, Bobby would probably be really informative and extremely honest. So long as he wasn't talking about himself.

Not to mention, if he sports the duct tape and sun glasses get-up, we satisfy the "Maximum Moustaches" thing the Mets are clearly going for this season.

10. Mackey Sasser: Just because. Plus, as an added bonus, think of the fun we'll have watching him struggle to "throw it back to you, Howie."


In yet another sign that the housing bubble is no longer growing, and has, in fact, probably burst, even A.P.'s "Business Writer" reports that "housing prices are drooping." When the mainstream media gets onto a story, my friends, it's time to stop looking for Chicken Little and realize the sky probably is falling.

I'm not even gonna go off on the goofy headline describing "drooping" prices, nor will I discuss the "low-ball bidders," "persnickety buyers," or cooling investments the article addresses. No. Instead, I'll note once again that this is a serious turning point for our economy. The housing bubble -- supported by the Fed through massive influxes of liquidity and low interest rates following 2000's tech bubble collapse and 2001's terror attacks -- supported the U.S. economy. It kept an investment vehicle alive for those who ran from the NASDAQ; it provided a conduit for much of the private, foreign money that entered the country; it supplied jobs; and perhaps most importantly, the "value" of all the new homes created a personal ATM for every man, woman & child.

Say what, you ask? A personal ATM? Well, as interest rates plummeted and housing appraisal values (and purchasing costs) went up, folks took out second mortgages and home equity loans. Even if they didn't, looking only at the supposed value of their homes, as opposed to any real assets, they certainly saw themselves are far wealthier than they were. Through either tactic, this excess cash seemed free . . . so long as the homes retained their value. Without even going into the manifold problems associated with this mania, such as ARMs, negative amortizing of equity with interest-only mortgages, and insane prices, there's a bigger problem: because much of the economic "growth" over the past few years was tied to housing, what on earth does that mean now that rates are going up, housing starts are dropping, and inventories are going up? What happens now that the industry that supported booming private sector employment and supplied the liquidity to pay for our consumer-driven economy dries up?

Trouble, that's what. This piece from Whiskey & Gunpowder gets further into some of the underlying factors, and also adds rhythm to the "Don't Believe The Hype" drum that I've banged here from time-to-time.