Friday, February 23, 2007

Denny Matthews

What can you say about Denny Matthews?

Denny has been the voice of the Kansas City Royals since their inception in 1969. He's called nearly every pitch in the history of the Royals.

He's missed a few games in recent years. Matthews has taken a few road trips off the last few years, a luxury that he certainly deserves.

But other than those few games, he's been there. Night after night, game after game, pitch after pitch.

I was two years old when Denny began broadcasting Royals games. Needless to say, I grew up listening to Denny. My summers are defined by the sound of Denny's voice.

When I was growing up, the Royals were on. We had an old transistor radio in our kitchen, and Denny's voice flowed out of that radio in a sweet baseball melody.

Denny Matthews is not a flashy broadcaster. His quiet, elegant style fits baseball perfectly. Baseball has no shot clock, and does not involve huge, hulking men crashing into one another. Baseball is a slow paced, flowing game. It is three hours of pleasantness.

Denny's style of broadcasting is like baseball itself. It's a quiet, understated flow of words that perfectly describe the game. Denny is very knowledgeable about baseball. You can learn a lot about baseball when you listen to Denny broadcast a game.

He has no catch phrase. (Personally, I want to hang myself when I hear the "Hawk" scream "HE-GONE!")

He simply describes the game in a comforting voice that makes you feel like all is good in the world. He has a wry humor that makes you smile in between pitches. And occasionally, he will tell one of his many stories that he's accumulated over the years. It goes without saying that a great baseball announcer is also a great story teller.

He is radio's equivalent to comfort food. He's there, in the car and on the porch. He's there, as a child and as an adult. He's there, with your parents and with your kids. He's there, while you work and while you play.

And now, Denny Matthews is there. Matthews was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, winning the Ford Frick Award. Congratulations, Denny. You certainly deserve this great honor.

And thank you.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Zune Bug?

Have I discovered a bug in the Zune? I'm listening to an MP3 recording of last night's Drudge Report Radio Show. It's a long "song:" 53 minutes and 24 seconds.

While I was playing this file and when it got half way through, my Zune's time counter stopped ticking. So, on the left side it showed 26:42 elapsed, and on the right side, it showed -26:42 to go. The progress bar stuck in the middle. The file kept playing all the way to the end, but I could not fast forward.

When I pressed the fast forward button, the time tickers would progress, but when I let it go, they would return to 26:42 and -26:42, and the audio would not advance. It played from the spot where it was when I pressed the fast forward button.

I tried this on the Zune software on my desktop, and it worked normally.

I'm going be trying this on several different long files.

Friday, February 09, 2007

My Evening with Dayton Moore

One of the many changes that Royals GM Dayton Moore has brought to the organization is to create a Speaker's Bureau. By making himself accessible to the public, Moore hopes to bridge the gap between frustrated fans and the club.

I experienced this first-hand Thursday night when Moore visited my brother's church. Moore spoke for about an hour, most of which was Q&A with the audience.

Moore began his talk by discussing his background and how he came to become the GM of the Kansas City Royals. Moore stated that as he began his career in baseball, at the college level, his feeling was that he did not want to be a part of Major League Baseball because of what he had observed as an erosion of morals as people moved up through the ranks of professional baseball.

The Atlanta Braves approached Moore to join their organization, and Moore declined the job. A few days later, Roy Clark called Moore and persuaded him to take the job, and after a great deal of prayer and contemplation with his wife Marianne, he took the job.

Moore was greatly successful in Atlanta, starting as a scout, then Director of Player Personnel, and then finally Assistant General Manager. In 2005, he was named by Baseball America as one of the top 10 Up-and-Coming Power Brokers in Major League Baseball. In 2004, Moore was Baseball America's top general manager prospect.

Moore's success was not going unnoticed. First, the Arizona Diamondbacks approached Moore hoping to hire him as their GM. He passed.

Then, after Theo Epstien so famously left the Boston Red Sox, they tapped Moore to be their next GM. Moore said that he felt excited about the opportunity, but after much prayer and deliberation, he and his wife decided to stay in Atlanta. Moore said that he felt that John Schuerholz would be retiring in a few years and he would take over for the Braves.

Then, in May of 2006, David and Dan Glass requested permission to speak to Moore. Again, Moore was excited about leading a baseball organization, especially his boyhood team. He considered the opportunity, but in the end, decided to stick it out in Atlanta. He called his wife and they agreed that they should stay in Atlanta. But, alas, Moore had a gnawing feeling about the Royals' job. He called his wife four hours later and she mentioned the same "gnawing" feeling. Together, they decided that he should take the job.

After the game that night, Moore called John Schuerholz into his office and told him that he had decided to take the job. He was excited to "go do something special."

Moore expressed his belief that the success of a baseball player depends mostly upon his moral character. He mentioned that there were several players in Kansas City that he felt did not have the character needed to be successful, and those players are now gone. (Affeldt? Burgos?)

Moore opened it up to questions from the crowd, which I will paraphrase below:

Q: How do you turn this thing around?

A: By doing things the right way. We know that it will take time, but we are putting people and processes in place that are the right thing to do. From that, we expect success. I know of people in other places who didn't care about their jobs or about the success of their team because of the way they were treated. We will treat our employees well and do things the right way so that everybody will work together to bring success to Kansas City.

Q: How do you rate the KC farm system?

A: My only point of reference is how Atlanta did it, and they were very successful. We are beefing up our player development and scouting. We are focused on pitching, and we have some good prospects – Luke Hochevar, Tyler Lumsden, Billy Buckner – but not enough. We've added another minor league team to increase the number of prospects we have in our system. We are investing in Latin America, opening an Academy in the Dominican Republic this year. Just a couple of years ago, the Royals were very last in spending in Latin America. We are changing that.

Q: How is Mike Sweeney?

A: He's doing well. He's changed his workout routine to focus on flexibility. He's working with a back specialist. He's a good example of players perhaps doing too much with regard to working out in their younger years. As they get older, they begin to experience these injuries, especially in their backs. He plans to have a strong, healthy season this year.

Q: What is the first thing you changed when you arrived?

A: Level of expectations. Too many people in Kansas City had just come to expect to lose. We've brought in people who have experienced winning in the past, and who expect nothing less than success. Teams who win the World Series overachieve. The talent level is pretty comparable between teams, but the teams that win overachieve, and that is caused by great chemistry and character. The players we've let go didn't fit that mold, the players we've brought in do.

Q: What will happen with Mark Teahen?

A: Teahen will ultimately play the outfield. He could play third or DH to spell other players, but ultimately, he will be an outfielder.

Q: What about the logjam of outfielders?

A: We do have a lot of outfielders right now, and that is a good problem. Buddy Bell will have a lot of flexibility to rotate players around. We also have some room for trades.

Q: What did you see in Gil Meche?

A: We often see pitchers who can "throw" but haven't developed the ability to "pitch" yet. Gil is reaching the point in his career where his ability to throw, his power, is meeting up with his knowledge and ability to pitch. It's when these two things meet that a number 1 or number 2 pitcher is created. But look, signing him may end up being a mistake. But if it is, we would still do it the same way. We needed a pitcher and we felt Gil was the best available and we were going to win that negotiation. What the critics aren't telling you is that the Blue Jays and the Cubs were willing to pay what we paid. The Cubs had 4 years, $40 million on the table. The Blue Jays had 4 years, $48 million on the table. They were willing to go to 5 years, but Gil picked us. He wants to be an ace, and we need an ace. You'll just have to trust me on this one. We feel it's a great match.

Q: Who do you think will have big years this year?

A: Ross Gload. Ryan Shealy. And certainly having Jason LaRue here will spark the competiveness in John Buck, such that I think Buck will have a great year.

Q: What's up with Zack Greinke?

A: He's doing well. I've heard that this offseason, he's worked harder than any other offseason. He's more excited about getting to Spring Training than any other year. Zack is a good example of the damage that can occur when a player is rushed to the majors too fast. He just didn't know how to react to being in the big leagues.

We're finding that a lot of our players come from broken homes, and who have never really learned wrong from right. They are immature and don't know how to handle being on their own. We've created a new Character and Leadership Program in the minors to help teach players these things. We discuss things like "how did Jackie Robinson react, and how would you react?" We hope to give these kids some direction and develop them into strong young men with character.

Q: How soon until we see some success?

A: It obviously won't happen overnight. If we win the World Series in the next 1-3 years, we will be ecstatic. We will be better this year, but we're probably looking at 3-5 years to be a World Series caliber team.


All in all, I was very impressed with Moore. He spoke with authority and he definitely has a plan of attack for making the Kansas City Royals the model organization in baseball. He took on criticism head on, and was realistic about the current state of things and where the sees it going. I'm looking forward to this season, but more importantly, the next 3 seasons.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Future of DRM?

Could the end be near for DRM? Probably not, but if Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have their way, DRM would soon go the way of the dinosaurs.

Steve Jobs wrote a very interesting commentary regarding DRM in which he calls for the music companies to release their DRM requirements. Bill Gates has also indicated that he believes DRM is broken and suggests that music lovers should just "…buy a CD and rip it. You are legal then."

The DRM issues also coincide with Zune's sharing feature, which is causing Microsoft more trouble than they anticipated. Not only is the "3 plays/3 days" restriction a pain, but Zune owners are finding that as much as half of their music isn't shareable.

I certainly hope that the pressure applied by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates will help to convince the music companies to give up on DRM once and for all.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Free Music

Just thought I'd pass this along…

ArtistDirect is offering free MP3's for download at their site. There's some good stuff there, including Moby, Barenaked Ladies and Cracker, along with a bunch of stuff I've never heard of.

I found it interested that on a page featuring "Free MP3's brought to you by Zune," that right next to the photos of the Zune player is an ad for iTunes/iPod.


Monday, February 05, 2007

I Want That One, and That One, and That One…

I hadn't thought much about the subscription service offered by Microsoft's Zune Marketplace. Being the tightwad that I am, I just immediately dismissed the idea of paying $14.99 per month for music.

But after I purchased my Zune last week, I eventually succumbed to the temptation and I redeemed my free 14 day trial of the Zune Pass subscription service.


How liberating is it to know that you can download any album, any song, at any time?

I'm still not sure I'll pay the $14.99 per month (or $44.97 for 3-month renewals) for the service, but that's because I'm so cheap. I do see the value in this subscription service and I think it's a great product.

There are caveats with the subscription service. I would compare to a "music rental" service. For the monthly fee, you can download and listen to as much music as you like. However, the songs are not capable of being burned to CD. And once you cancel your subscription, the songs no longer can be played. But as long as your subscription is active, it is a music smorgasbord.

Just this morning, I was looking for some Prince music (inspired by his fantastic Super Bowl performance), and found 32 Prince albums available for download. This initial search spawned a train of thought that led me to search for such varied artists as Barenaked Ladies, Crash Test Dummies, GTR, Cracker and Jimmie Lee. Zune Marketplace offered many options for all of these artists (except for GTR, whose album was not available but still listed in their database). Just in this quick 15 minutes search session, I downloaded 6 albums. If each album costs somewhere around 10 or 11 bucks, I just easily paid for several months of the subscription service.

Of course, if there is an album or song that you would like to keep, you can still purchase songs using the confusing Microsoft Points system. Once purchased, the songs can be burned to CD and kept forever.

So, while I'm not sure I will subscribe to the Zune Pass service, I still give it hearty thumbs up as a great way to get music into your hands and onto your Zune.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Hello from Seattle

Hello from Seattle

That's the tag line on the back of my new Zune. Yes, I finally purchased a black Zune (with blue "double-shot" no less) yesterday.

Now, I've been reading a lot of reviews and blogs about the Zune, and I was beginning to get scared. According to these folks, the Zune is one device that can and will take down the free world.

Fearing the worst, I grabbed my pocket knife and cut the tape that secured the box sleeve. I slid the brown sleeve off revealing the inner box with that lame-ass slogan, "Welcome to the social."

I should take a moment here and explain my thoughts about the marketing campaign around the Zune. Apparently (actually, obviously) Microsoft is targeting the young uns. They are hoping that high school and college students hop up on the Zune Wagon and "squirt" their favorite songs to each other. All of the photos feature young, typically long-haired kids in torn jeans digging the hell out of their Zune.

This is not me. I'm a (almost) 40 year old computer dork whose musical taste leans more toward Dave Matthews than Ludacris. I also have a steady job, and so being able to afford a $250 music player wasn't as much of an issue for me as it would be for your typical student. And, I damn near hate the brown/pink/orange color scheme.

Okay, so I've removed the outer sleeve and have opened the lid on the inner box, revealing my new black Zune. Inside the plastic sleeve along with my Zune was a tiny, dead insect. I was curious if that was some kind rare Chinese bug that travel thousands of miles from the factory to my home. Everything seemed to be in order. I had a Zune, some earphones, and a sync cable. I opened the flap for the back part of the box and found the software CD, a product guide and a start guide. Also in the back compartment was the slip cover (which is barely big enough to fit the Zune with some stretching. At the pouch that came with my iPod was big enough to also hold the earphones), and my free 14 day Zune Pass. (Wasn't there supposed to be a window sticker in here?)

Brown/pink/orange colors aside, the Zune is very well packaged. It is an attractive box that Microsoft obviously put a lot of thought into. It's almost Apple-like.

I powered up the Zune to take a quick peek at the pre-loaded content. The battery was almost dead, according to the small, Vista-like battery meter in the lower right corner. I tinkered around with it a bit, but then decided to connect it to my PC to charge and sync it.

I've read all of the horror stories about how terrible the Zune software is, and that my computer would lock up and my pipes would freeze and my car would bread down. Surprisingly, none of that happened. The software installed just fine, and it found my music library and commenced with syncing it to my Zune. My library consists of about 5,000 songs, so the sync took a little while to complete. (I'm sorry, but I forgot to time it. Let's just say it took more than 15 minutes.)

The software also transferred a couple of videos it found on my laptop. One was a trailer for "Borat," one was an episode of "The Sopranos," the movie "Benchwarmers," and there were also a few Glenn Beck video podcasts (downloaded from iTunes). All transferred flawlessly, and once the sync was complete, my Zune was loaded up and ready to go.

I've had it for about 48 hours, and I've given it quite a work out. I've listened to several "albums" that I've not heard in years – it's amazing how seeing the album cover art makes you rediscover old favorites that you had forgotten about. I've also watched several videos, including the preloaded ones.

My son grabbed it and listed to FM radio for a while, and he seemed to really enjoy it.

I've since updated the background image to use a picture of Kauffman Stadium that I took on Opening Day 2004. Nothing like a baseball field to get you in the mood for spring.

So, what can I say? I've been an iPod/iTunes user for 3 years, and now I'm on board with the Zune. The Zune works great, has a beautiful screen, and sounds awesome. I can't say that Zune is better or worse than any other MP3/media player. They all have their strengths and weakness and they all have their fans and haters. I like my Zune. It does what I need and I'm anxious to see what Microsoft has in store for the WiFi capabilities.

Until then, hello from Seattle.