Sorry, We're Closed

Monday, October 31, 2005

Desperate Times

Well, now that George Bush has nominated Alito to the Supreme Court, the righties are all atwitter. Yes, someone else in their idea of the "mainstream" will get onto the court.

The rest of us know, of course, that Alito is far from the mainstream. He could do significant harm to many laws enacted within the past 50 years that have benefitted the majority of Americans, not the least which is the right to a legal and safe abortion.

But let's not forget the prelude to Alito. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the court was a joke, a cynical piece of pandering that stood no chance of succeeding; look at how quickly the right-wingers in the media picked up on the lady's absolute lack of qualifications to serve on the nation's highest court. (They picked up on it suspiciously quickly, as a matter of fact. Republicans never usually care about unqualified people in positions of power if they're on the right wing; look at who they chose to be President.)

Not only had Miers never even been a judge, she showed little to no interest in constitutional law in her less-than-impressive round of interviews with U.S. senators.

It's a good bet, then, that Miers was a straw man (sic) put out there by Bush and his minions to allow him to claim that he'd tried to appoint a woman. A less likely view is that Miers was Bush's genuine choice, subverted by the knights of the keyboard of the right wing.

Of course, it is completely insulting to the hundreds of qualified women judges in this country that Bush saw fit to nominate--rather than any of them--a political hack with no qualifications.

Either way, despite what a lot of people on the left are saying, IT IS NO GREAT LOSS THAT HARRIET MIERS WITHDREW HER NOMINATION, OKAY? Just because someone with more extreme views MIGHT be coming down the pike is not a reason to embrace someone like Miers who was completely unfit for one of the most important jobs in the country.

I have no doubt that Alito, if he is confirmed, could do this nation a lot of harm. But that doesn't excuse putting anyone as unqualified as Harriet Miers even close to the Supreme Court.

Time to see if the Dems truly have spines.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Amy Rigby piece in the Tribune

Hey, folks. The Chicago Tribune is carrying a piece that I wrote on singer/songwriter Amy Rigby. Here's a link , but buy the paper if you like it, too! Thanks, and have a good weekend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Long Night

A few notes on Game Three, the longest World Series game ever…

*John Thorn's comment: "The Blum is off the 'stros."

*Houston really should have won. The Sox got very little done offensively in 12 of the 14 innings, and the Astros left 15 men on base. I still don’t know quite how Orlando Hernandez escaped that ninth-inning jam, when Houston had Burke on third and Biggio on first with only one out.

I thought it was a tactical mistake on Houston’s part to not have Willy Taveras, who we are constantly reminded is a good bunter, lay down at least one squeeze attempt. Taveras is only in the majors because he’s a littleball guy—bunt, slap, and steal—and while he tried to slap the ball the other way to get the run home, he wasn’t able to hit Hernandez’ outstanding assortment of twisting breaking balls. The Sox saw what Taveras was trying to do and adjusted accordingly, throwing him nothing he could hit.

*Despite using nine pitchers last night, the White Sox’ bullpen is in fairly good shape. Bobby Jenks threw two innings, but Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said after the game that even Jenks could pitch tonight if necessary. Neil Cotts, Cliff Politte, and Luis Vizcaino combined to throw just 33 pitches.

Of a bit more concern are the injuries to Dustin Hermanson (back) and Orlando Hernandez (neck). Hermanson’s back limits his ability to follow through on his delivery, and Hernandez had to come out after walking four men in an inning plus. Tough to say if either one can pitch again in the series.

The biggest X-factor in this game for the Sox was the performance of Damaso Marte. Prior to the series, Gary Gillette and I thought that Marte could come up big if the team would only call on him, and the lefty—the last man in the bullpen—threw 1.2 scoreless innings and would have finished the game if Juan Uribe hadn’t kicked a two-out, last of the 14th ground ball. As it is, Marte got the win, casting off some of his reputation as a choker with a major league performance.

*Morgan Ensberg’s double play in the 14th inning was one of the finest clutch defensive plays I’ve seen. Ensberg doesn’t get a lot of ink for his glovework, but his range is a bit above average and he has decent footwork.

Ensberg’s almost ridiculously open batting stance, which he adopted this year, drew comparisons to that of Andres Galarraga from Buck and McCarver, but Ensberg is different either from Galarraga or Tony Batista, the former Expos and Orioles infielder who spent 2005 in Japan, who also has a freakishly open stance. Ensberg walked 85 times this past season as well as slamming 36 homers, and neither Batista nor Galarraga ever showed that kind of batting eye.

*You know, one of the things that people say (and I’ve been guilty of this) about Japanese players who come to the United States is that they’re well schooled in the fundamentals. Japan is supposed to be famous for its drills and exercises to make sure that players don’t miss signs, make mental mistakes, etc., etc.

But watching Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi this season, and especially in the postseason, I've seen a guy who makes a LOT of mental mistakes. Last night he didn’t tag up on a fly ball despite Astros center fielder Willy Taveras giving him third base. He’s had other high-profile goofs this postseason, including bad throws on double plays and that neighborhood-play screw-up in the ALCS, and Iguchi also showed this season that despite being touted as a contact hitter, he strikes out an awful lot.

*Fox’ tendency to show faces—celebrity faces, beautiful faces, faces seemingly deep in thought—between every pitch gets more irritating all the time. It’s as if Fox’ directors refuse to show the field when “nothing is going on,” i.e. between pitches.

And, as any baseball fan over the age of seven knows, between pitches is when things are really happening; fielders are moving into position, baserunners are taking their leads, pitchers and catchers are engaging in their wordless dialogue. But as far as Fox is concerned, it’s more important to show close-up shots of fans intently staring at the field rather than allow US, the viewers, to stare intently at the field.

*Was that Shrub sitting with Barbara Bitch, er, Bush, last night? I couldn't tell if that was George's trademark smirk or possibly Jeb's, or someone else's. How about that reaction shot of Barbara when MLB did its short salute to the late Rosa Parks? Does anyone really think Barbara Bush gives a good goddamn about the legacy of Rosa Parks?? What an insult.

One thing you notice about games in Houston is that Astros owner Drayton McLane and the Bushes tend to sit in high-profile, high-visibility, behind-the-plate seats. At Comiskey, Jerry Reinsdorf sits in an owner's box. Take from that what you will, but I'm glad not to have to see the Sox owner every time the center-field camera focuses on home plate. And that nice behind-the-plate seat taken up by a secret service agent assigned to guard Barbara? I'm sure a fan would have loved a chance to sit there.

*While not a generally a fan of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, I have to give them credit for their job last night. Buck was able to retain his level of intensity for what was an extremely LONG broadcast, and McCarver didn’t let loose with a string of inappropriate, hamhanded pseudo-punning references.

McCarver did point out that Jason Lane of the Astros is an oddity in baseball in that he bats righthanded and throws left—not many players do this. McCarver also noted that one of his own former St. Louis teammates, Carl Warwick, was also a BR/TL, and additionally pointed out that Warwick got three pinch-hits in the 1964 World Series.

*Just below the surface of Buck and McCarver’s commentary was a strong level of dissatisfaction with the job done by plate umpire Jerry Layne, whose strike zone was inconsistent, especially during the early innings. Umpires have one of the toughest jobs in sports, but a series of high-profile mistakes in several series this post-season have led to the usual calls for the use of instant replay in “key situations.”

I truly hope that instant replay isn’t adopted, not because “human error” is part of baseball but rather because the use of replay will delay the game and remove fans from the process. Four umpires staring at a TV screen isn’t my idea of fun, and the number of games that are truly lost by “bad calls” isn’t nearly enough to make baseball into hockey or football.

*Phil Garner used to be a real red-ass when he managed the Brewers, ordering his pitchers to knock down hitters, running wild on the bases, and overusing his starters. He’s mellowed a bit since coming to Houston, but last night threw a chair after Ezequiel Astacio allowed Geoff Blum’s 14th inning homer on a 2-0 pitch and engaged in a shouting match with Guillen and White Sox outfielder Carl Everett, both of whom questioned Roy Oswalt’s plunking of Joe Crede in the fifth. Garner losing his cool is totally understandable—it’s the World Series, and his team HAD to have that game—but it does indicate that the Astros may be beat.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pittsburgh in Detroit

Jim Leyland, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1986-96, has been hired as the new manager of the Detroit Tigers.

Hired last week to replace the fired Alan Trammell, Leyland is expected to help nurture the Tigers into a contender for the AL Central crown. The Tigers backslid in 2005, finishing 71-91, falling far short of expectations. Some even felt the club could vie for the division title.

One of Leyland's big challenges will be to improve the cohesion of the club. Shortstop Carlos Guillen went on the record recently saying that under former manager Alan Trammell, the team had separated into ethincity-based cliques. Some baseball sources have veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who had an especially horrible season, as a major source of dissension.

Beyond the clubhouse, Leyland and his lieutenants have a challenge ahead of them in terms of sheer talent.

The Tigers are not a young team; only three 2005 regulars (Nook Logan, Omar Infante, and Chris Shelton) were younger than 28, and of them, only Shelton performed acceptably. The offense centered largely around home runs, which is too bad since spacious Comerica Park is better suited for doubles and triples. Third baseman Brandon Inge was the club's only truly complete player last season.

Logan and fellow center field prospect Curtis Granderson (23) both lack the skills to be leadoff hitters, and getting on base is something the Tigers desperately need; Detroit hitters finished last among AL clubs in 2005 in walks, 12th in on-base percentage, and 11th in runs. Granderson, the organization's best hitting prospect close to the majors, could be a mid-order hitter in time. Infielder Tony Giarratano may get a look.

To be sure, injuries took a chunk out of the Tigers' attack. Guillen missed significant time, and outfielder Magglio Ordonez played only 82 games. But the Tigers knew Ordonez was coming off a knee injury, and building an offense around him, born-to-DH Dmitri Young, fragile Rondell White, Shelton, Rodriguez, and Carlos Pena guaranteed a spate of station-to-station baserunning, frequent medical problems, and double play balls. Despite having few runners on base, the Tigers still hit into more DPs than all but three AL clubs.

The pitching is a bit better. 22-year-old Jeremy Bonderman, 14-13 last season, continues his learning at the top level. The other 2005 rotation members (Mike Maroth, Jason Johnson, and Nate Robertson) are each, in reality, no better than #5 starters. Detroit's bullpen was neither deep nor particularly solid; Fernando Rodney, who could still become a quality closer, is the best bet to take the ninth innings in 2006.

Detroit had a payroll ranking in the middle of AL clubs this year, and may spend some money to increase the talent level.

Leyland's reputation outweighs his career record. Despite a World Series win with the Florida Marlins in 1997 and three other division titles (with the Pirates) to his credit, Leyland's career record is 1,069-1,131.

When the Pirates won (1990-92), they did it with a great core of position players in their prime (Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Jeff King, Jay Bell, and Andy Van Slyke), a constantly shifting starting staff, and a deep and heavily-used bullpen. Leyland liked to bunt and steal, wasn't afraid of using a bullpen by committee, and dipped into his bench.

Leyland, always loyal, has brought along his old lieutenant in Pittsburgh, Gene Lamont, as his third base coach. The rest of the coaching staff is made up of former players that Leyland managed: Andy Van Slyke, Rafael Belliard, Lloyd McClendon (recently deposed as Pirates manager), and Don Slaught.

All of these choices were Leyland's; the Tigers have yet to hire a pitching coach, having been rebuffed by Larry Rothschild (who chose to remain with the Cubs); one can assume that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski will have significant input on this final coaching decision.

It would be foolish to expect the Tigers to win in 2006. The White Sox and Indians are the class of the division, and it should be interesting to see how the Twins choose to rebuild. It's hard to see things ending up worse in Motown than they did last year, but then again Leyland's last season as a manager, with Colorado in 1999, began with rosy predictions and ended up a car crash.

Leyland says his enthusiasm is back for managing, but you have to wonder about a franchise that recently tried to resurrect the ghosts of the '84 team (Trammell, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris) in critical management positions, realized that didn't work, and now has chosen a big name who hasn't won anything in nearly ten years.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another DJ session

This one held Chez Garibay/Shea on September 30.

DJ Phillip:
Diana Ross--Experience

DJ Ted:
Yoko Ono--Walking on Thin Ice

DJ Stu:
Cajmere--U Got Me Up (Danny Tenaglia instrumental)
Googie Rene Combo--Wild Bird
Little Beaver--Funkadelic Sound
Crow--Cottage Cheese
Chesterfield Kings--Little White Lies
Tommy James & the Shondells--Baby, Baby (I Can't Take it No More)
Chase--Get it On
Southwest FOB--Smell of Incense
Waitresses--No Guilt
Mrs. Miller--Downtown
Flares--Foot Stompin'
Los Pajaros--Yo No Comprendo
Castaways--Liar, Liar

DJ Carlos:
Jerry Goldsmith--Flame Out (Logan's Run soundtrack)/Finley's Heroes--Narrated by Monte Moore (Oakland A's 1972)
Les Crane--Courage: The Eyes That See
Murray Roman--3 Kinds of Highs
Little Anthony and the Imperials--I Look at You
The Peddlers--On a Clear Day
Hugo Montenegro--Aces High
Morris Albert--Lloraras
Freddie Hubbard--People Make the World Go 'Round
Les McCann--Harlem Buck Dance Strut
Bob Perna--Evelyn
David Diggs--Gentle Thoughts
Manfredo Fest--Theme from 'Love Story'
Funk Factory--Rien ne va Plus
Sam Taylor, Jr.--Heaven on Their Minds

DJ Stu:
Rod McKuen--Kranko's Hippie Party/Herbie Hancock--The Thief
Les McCann--Kathleen's Theme
Al Green--I Can't Get Next to You
Bee Gees--In My Own Time
Original Caste--Highway
Angelo's Angels--I Don't Believe It
Bangles--Hero Takes a Fall
Shadows of Knight--Shake
2 of Clubs--Walk Tall
Sebastian Cabot--Like a Rolling Stone/Prisoners--Revenge of the Cybermen
Buckinghams--Don't Want to Cry
Unnamed group from cheap-ass covers LP from '67--Ruby Tuesday
? and the Mysterians--96 Tears

Tag Team:
Ted: The Great Society--Nature Boy
Stu: Manhattans--Manhattan Stomp
Carlos: Dora Hall--How are Things in California?
Carlos: Mystic Moods--The Cosmic Sea
Stu: Alive & Kicking--Just Let it Come
Carlos: Donal Leace--Country Lanes
Carlos: Bobbie Gentry--Eleanor Rigby
Stu: Bossa Rio--Eleanor Rigby
Carlos: Sergio Mendes--Davy
Carlos: Lani Hall--Love Song
Carlos: The Cyrkle--The Visit (She was Here)
Carlos: Claudine Longet--Snow
Carlos: Cal Tjader--Mambo at the "M"
Stu: Herbie Hancock--The Bed
Ted: Mandy Patinkin--Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Stu: Shelley Stuart--Where is My Wandering Boy Tonight?
Stu: Ralph Lowe--Disco Dancer, You're the Answer
Stu: John Fluker--My Baby's Gone
Stu: Fairport Convention: Close the Door Lightly When You Go
Stu: Kay Weaver--Disco Midnight
Ted: Ted & Mark--Mrs. Gorilla
Ted: Faith Hill--The Way You Love Me
Ted: Sandy Denny--One Way Donkey Ride
Ted: Fleetwood Mac--Farmer's Daughter
Stu: Partridge Family--I Think I Love You
Stu: Cajmere--U Got Me Up (Underground Goodies Remix)
Stu: Houston Person--Son of Man
Stu: Phil Flowers and the Flower Shop: Keep Sockin' it Children