Friday, February 27, 2004

BC Scorebook

Last summer, I purchased an eBook called "Feeding the Green Monster" by Rob Neyer. It was great because I was travelling a lot, and I could carry the book on my PocketPC without having to carry an actual book. Of course, as is my luck, my PocketPC has crashed, and I don't have a copy of the book file on my other computers. I want to talk about the book, but I'll be going from my memories of reading it last summer. (And by the way, I will always buy books with actual pages from now on).

I discovered Rob Neyer back in 2000 or 2001. In 2000, the Royals had a very promising year. They won 77 games, and had a fantastic offense that year, but struggled with their pitching. They had a healthy Jermaine Dye, a promising young Johnny Damon, "Dos Carlos" - 1999 AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Beltran and Carlos Febles, the promising second baseman. I was regaining my interest in the Royals and stumbled upon the Rob & Rany page. If you're not familiar with them, Rob Neyer is a baseball columnist for and Rany Jazayerli is a doctor who also writes for Baseball Prospectus. It just so happens that both of these fellows are fans of the Kansas City Royals. So, every so often, they get together to banter about the Royals, and they post their discussions at Rob's site. (I was very disappointed in October of 2001 when Rob quit writing about the Royals. He was fed up with the team after GM Allard Baird announced that Tony Muser would return as manager in 2002. Of course, Baird finally wised up in May of 2002, fired Muser, hired Pena, and the team started to turn around. Rob has since resumed writing about the Royals, to the delight of Royals fans everywhere.)

In addition to his ESPN columns, Neyer also occassionally authors baseball books. Most are statistical analyses, but "Feeding the Green Monster" is different. In the summer of 2000, Neyer, who lives in the Northwest, moved into an apartment 4 blocks from fabled Fenway Park, and went to every Red Sox game in Fenway that season. He wrote about his experiences in the book.

There's an interesting twist to this book. When he presented the final manuscript to his publisher, they hated it and refused to publish it. Neyer was finally able to get it published by, and the book is available in paperback at

I enjoyed the book very much. It reads like a journal that describes many of Neyer's experiences that summer. Periodically, he will discuss the details of a game he watched, questioning Jimy Williams' moves, or describing a great play.

Since Neyer was writing about his experiences nearly every day, it is natural that many aspects of his personal life came through as well. I've read reviews that criticized the book for going into too much detail about Neyer's personal affairs, including his girlfriend (since it's been a while since I read it, I can't remember if he found a new girlfriend, lost his old girlfriend, or maybe a little of both). While I didn't enjoy the girl talk quite as much, I didn't mind it because I was learning a little more about Neyer's personality in those passages. Throughout the book, I found myself realizing that Neyer and I are very much alike. We both hate conflict, we are generally quiet, etc. I really began to relate to Neyer and his experiences.

There were several good stories in the book about how Neyer had to deal with scalpers to get tickets. He started the season with no tickets, so every day he had to find a way to get tickets and get into Fenway. Also included is a funny story of arriving at Fenway only to realize he had forgotten his tickets. He described Fenway in great detail, which he could since he sat in just about every section of the stadium. He told the story of how he and a friend stayed in the ballpark after a game, and spent the night there touching the Green Monster, going into the scoreboard, and fighting off the rats. He also spent some time travelling to New York and told stories of Yankee Stadium (which even though is a storied venue, does not retain any of its charm).

Since Neyer is a Royals fan, he of course discusses his (and my) favorite team when they played the Red Sox. He also described a trip to KC to see a game at Kauffman Stadium.

Now, the reason I'm writing about this book is because I was reminded of it recently. In the book, Neyer tells the story of how he lost his scorebook when he left it on a commuter train. He describes how he scores almost every game he sees, and his favorite scorebook is the Bob Carpenter Scorebook. I decided last summer while reading this that I would try to get a BC Scorebook for this season, since I was growing tired of scoring games on those Budweiser ads they sell as scorecards at the stadium. Yesterday, my BC Scorebook arrived in the mail. It's a fairly small book (7" x 8 1/2"), and is well laid out with plenty of room for notes and substitutions. The book includes enough pages for 100 games and is spiral bound so it's easy to hold while at the stadium. Its arrival is another signal of the upcoming season. Since Spring Training is for fans too, I'll be taking my new scorebook to Arizona and testing it out so I'll be ready for opening day.

I'll be sure to mark it with my name and phone number so should I leave it on a commuter train, the nice person who picks it up will be able to return it to me, just as Neyer's was.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Royals Team Doctors
Rob Neyer - Rob and Rany

My favorite Royals commentators, Rob & Rany, just posted a new installment in which they discuss the latest injury to Kyle Snyder. For several years now, the Royals' medical staff has been criticized for not treating injuries properly. Several examples from last year support the point:

  • Jose Lima - pulled a groin, came back too early and made it worse

  • Runelvys Hernadez - injured, came back and though the team tried to force him to pitch, he insisted he was still hurt. After a second opinion, he had Tommy John surgery.

  • Jeremy Affeldt - it took 2 years of fighting the blisters before they finally wised up and had the fingernail removed, thus wasting valuable innings.

And now Kyle Snyder is going under the knife for the same injury that he had surgery for last season. I'm pretty ignorant about all things medical, but it seems to me that there are a lot of "redos" involving Royals and their injuries. I'd like to see a medical staff who can diagnose and fix the problems the first time around.

Fay's Book

After having finished Fay Vincent's book "The Last Commissioner," I loaned the book to Dan Fox, who commented on the book in his blog.

My final thoughts on the book are here.

I found Fay's retelling of the World Series Earthquake in 1989 very interesting. I was at home, preparing to watch the game on TV, so I remember the event well. Fay's insight into the decisions made, and how they were made, were fascinating. Vicnent also fondly recalls the police officer who took charge at the stadium after the quake, and how he also convinced Vincent to postpone the game.

Vincent's love for the game comes through throughout the book. Even though Fay has bitter memories of dealing with owners such as Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf, as well as struggling with George Steinbrenner's "lifetime ban" and Pete Rose's Lifetime Ban, he still loves the game with all of his heart. That is the strength of the game. While sports like football and basketball can have a huge number of fans, no game has the number of lovers that baseball has. Baseball evokes history, memories, emotion and love like no other sport. There is no trouble that can't be soothed by an afternoon at the ball park.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Snyder Surgery
Kansas City Royals News

Looks like Royals pitcher Kyle Snyder will be out with another shoulder surgery. This further clouds the picture for the Royals starting rotation this year. Snyder has been a fairly effective pitcher when healthy, but he missed quite a bit of last season to injury, and this was after missing at least a full season prior. Part of me thinks that we will not see Snyder again, however, he has vowed to return. We will see...

So the candidates for the starting rotation are...

Kevin Appier - though he's rehabbing and isn't expected back until late April or May
Jimmy Gobble - a young lefty who showed some promise late last season
Jeremy Affeldt - if the blister problem is solved, could be a dominate lefty
Brian Anderson - free agent signing, solid lefty
Darrell May - veteran lefty who pitched better than his ability last season; I'm looking for a return to earth for May this year
Chris George - another lefty, struggled last season, will try again this year
Zach Grienke - young phenom prospect; probably won't make the team out of spring training, but should be called up sometime this year
Miguel Asencio - coming off surgery last year, pitched well in 2002, and 2003

Plenty of lefties for the starters. The bullpen was light on left handed pitchers, so the Royals signed Greg Swindell to possibly be a left hander to come out of the bullpen.

Only 3 weeks until I travel to Surprise to see some spring training...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

One of the highlights of our upcoming Spring Training trip to Arizona was going to be seeing ARod (The Rangers share Spring Training facilities with the Royals). That was nixed this weekend when the Yankees completed their trade of Soriano for ARod. At first glance, you would think the Yankees are taking on a huge payroll burden with this deal, but they are losing Soriano's salary (around 5.5M), and will likely get out of Aaron Boone's contract since he nullified it by injuring himself in a game of pickup basketball. The Rangers were also willing to help with some of the money owed ARod just to get out from under his contract.

This presents an interesting scenario. On the one hand, we see a team paying the price for vastly overpaying for a player. I think it is safe to say that we will no longer see any 10 year contracts signed in baseball. Because of the money going to ARod, the Rangers were unable to build up the rest of their team (their pitching has been awful), and subsequently they have ended the last 3 seasons in last place. Proving once again that baseball is the ultimate team sport. Having the best player in the game could not help them compete.

On the other hand, we have a team in the Yankees who are willing and able to spend as much as it takes to get the players they want. The Yankees' payroll is now around $190 Million. Add in the revenue sharing money and the luxury tax and they Yankees will spend well over $200M this year. The Royals, as a point of reference, will spend about $45M on payroll this year.

So the question is: Is this good for baseball? As a fan of a small market team, my first reaction is to say no - this is a perfect example of all that is wrong with baseball. My team has absolutely NO CHANCE of signing a player like ARod. However, when I look at the Royals this year and compare them to the Yankees, I think I'd rather have the Royals. The Royals are a collection of young, talented players who are thirsty to play and win on the Major League level. We saw that last year - the Royals started the season 9-0 and was contended into August. The team should not have done that well. With basically the same team, the Royals lost 100 games the year before. But last year showed how energy, enthusiasm, and a love of the game can propel a team. This year the team returns with some obvious gaps from a year ago plugged. Will they do better than last year? Who knows. I have a feeling they will equal or even better last year's 83 wins. Even if they don't, they will be fun to watch.

In New York, they've assembled a group of older, more grissled veterans - all of which are making a huge salary. What is their motivation? How hard will they work? Will they become baseball's rendition of this year's Oakland Raiders? Only time will tell, but this season will have lots of interesting twists and story lines to follow. The Boston/New York rivalry will be more intense than ever. It will be a fun year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Baseball Season
Tonight, back in KC (this is my last night in Atlanta), my son had his second practice with his new baseball team. The team is made up 10 year old boys who are all pretty good ball players. This team will be our first "serious" foray into little league baseball. We will be travelling to Omaha and potentially St. Louis to play in tournaments. The normal league play is typically made up of about 10-15 games and then a post season tournament that could be up to 4 or 6 games. With the tournaments, we expect to play 40 to 60 games this year. That is quite a bit. The fact that we began practice in January indicates the level of competition for this team.

Joey is extremely excited. I am very pleased that he has taken such an interest in the game I love so much. He has played two leagues every year (spring and fall) since he was 6, and has enjoyed every bit of it. He has never complained about having to go to practice, and always gives his all. While I love sitting out at the K and taking in a Royals game, it pales in comparison to watching my boy and his teammates compete. I'm am looking forward to seeing more of his games this year since I won't be travelling as much as I was last year.

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - Royals: Nail removal fixes Affeldt's blister problem

For the last 2 years, Royals lefty pitcher Jeremy Affeldt has shown flashes of brilliance. When he's truly "on," his stuff is absolutely unhittable. The problem is that over the last 2 years, Affeldt has had chronic blister problems on the middle finger of his pitching hand. He had tried everything to try to toughen the skin around the nail, but the blister kept returning. The blister last year forced Affeldt to bullpen duty, though he and the Royals both would love to make him the "ace" of the starting rotation.

So, it seems that drastic times call for drastic measures. This offseason, Affeldt had a procedure that killed part of his fingernail. He essentially had to dip his finger in acid, thus killing the nail and preventing it from ever growing back. In this article, he is quoted:
"I've got half a nail for the rest of my life… So it'll be one of those things where I'm losing body parts but, hey, whatever it takes to be out on the mound."

Last year, Affeldt struggled at times. I feel he was gripping the ball differently to avoid the blister. If he can comfortably grip the ball and throw like he knows how to throw, then we can expect to see him emerge as one of the best pitchers in the AL this season.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

The Last Commissioner
I am currently reading Fay Vincent's The Last Commissioner. So far, it is a fascinating book. The book is not so much an autobiography, but more a collection of stories and information about baseball. The sub-title, A Baseball Valentine certainly fits.

I would like to re-read the book with a highlighter and bookmarks handy so I can mark the more interesting tid-bits of the book.

Fay was involved in the Rose controversy and had a hand in imposing the lifetime ban. His version of the story is fascinating, and should be read by every person who bothered to read Rose's recent book.

Vincent grew up as a fan of the Yankees, and had the pleasure of knowing Joe DiMaggio. One of the best stories involves the 3 hour breakfast Fay had with DiMaggio and Ted Williams. A dream come true for any fan of the game.

I just read Fay's retelling of DiMaggio's memory of Lou Gehrig's farewell speech. In early 1939, Gehrig finally took himself out of the lineup (after 2,130 straight games), and was then diagnosed with ALS, a terminal disease. On July 4, the Yankees had a ceremony honoring Gehrig. Lou was not scheduled to speak. Just before he went to the field, he changed his mind and ad-libbed the now famous speech ("Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the planet.") Babe Ruth was standing nearby, having been retired for 4 years. It was rumored that Babe and Gehrig didn't get along, but DiMaggio says it was the two men's wives who had issues. After the speech, Ruth hugged Gehrig, and DiMaggio saw that Ruth had tears streaming down his face and that he was crying like a baby.

I have yet to finish the book, but look forward to reading the story of how the owners eventually pushed Fay out of baseball.
I'm in the middle of a trip to Atlanta. I was summoned to the ATL to do some training for a large telecommunications firm. I taught 3 days of advanced .NET development last week, and will teach it for another 3 days this coming week. The class is a shortened version of Quilogy's Atomic.NET class. I stayed in Atlanta over the weekend, and my family flew down to spend some time with some friends we have in the area.

On Saturday, we toured the studios of CNN. It was interesting to see the place where the news gathering happens as well as the desk where the on-air talent does their thing. I found the tour to be a bit disappointing. I did enjoy seeing the studios of CNN, CNN Headline News and the other CNN networks. But I would have like to have seen a bit more about the history of the network. I think the tour should have begun with a video that discusses the history of the network and how world events helped to launch the all-news network format - especially the first Gulf War.

After CNN, we took the MARTA to Underground Atlanta, an underground shopping area. We had some dinner and wandered around until it was time to head back to Philips Arean (next door to CNN) to take in Hawks game. It was fun seeing Yao Ming (from our up-high seats, he was clearly the biggest man on the floor, but also the slowest. When we left he had only 4 points). The Hawks lead into the 4th quarter but ended losing the game.

On Sunday, we relaxed a bit, then headed back to downtown to check out the World of Coke. This Coke museum was interesting, and at the end, we had the opportunity to try all the various flavors that Coke produces. Some international flavors were less than tastey.

I just dropped my family off at the airport and they are headed back to the snow of KC. For my own part, I'm ready to return, and Wednesday can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Friends in Low Places
I recently learned that Garth Brooks is going to be going to Spring Training with the Royals this year. At first, I was upset. What in the world is this old guy doing? Just trying to garner some more publicity for himself?

I've since learned he intention is to raise awareness and money for Brooks's Teammates 4 Kids Foundation.

As long as Garth's parcipitation doesn't get in the way of the development of the Royal's younger players or the preparation of the team, I'm all for it. Plus, it'll be one more autograph that we'll be hunting for when we go out to Arizona.

MSNBC - Spike Lee calls Jackson's flash a 'new low'

It's time for the entire Jackson family to just go away. Here's a news flash folks - America is sick of seeing Michael's messed up face. America is sick of hearing about Michael's relationships with children. America is sick of seeing LaToya and Janet's breasts. America is sick of hearing Tito rail on the media. We've had enough. Enough cookie cutter pop songs. Enough over used dance moves. Enough crotch grabs. This is it - enough already.

The entire family should just go into seclusion (Michael may have no choice, come to think of it) and remove themselves from our society.