Monday, February 18, 2013

Another pointless memory experiment

Today I will continue to try to work my brain into midseason form with a few memory drills. First I will repeat yesterday's exercise: name as many of MLB's 30 general managers as I can in 5 minutes. For an additional challenge, I will try to name all the field managers.

Setting my iPhone timer... and GO!

Jerry DiPoto LAA
Billy Beane OAK
Jack Zduriencik SEA
Jon Daniels TEX
Jeff Luhnow HOU
Rick Hahn CWS
Terry Ryan MIN
Dave Dombrowski DET
Chris Antonetti CLE
Dayton Moore KC
Brian Cashman NYY
Ben Cherington BOS
Andrew Friedman TB
Dan Duquette BAL
Alex Anthopoulos TOR
Brian Sabean SF
Ned Colletti LAD
Josh Byrnes SD
Kevin Towers AZ
Dan O'Dowd COL
Jed Hoyer CHC
Walt Jocketty CIN
John Mozeliak STL
Doug Melvin MIL
Sandy Alderson NYM
Frank Wren ATL
Mike Rizzo WAS
Ruben Amaro, Jr. PHI

OK, Time's Up.

I actually got to the end with 1:21 left but couldn't think of the Florida GM. I knew it was some boring name but couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was. Ah yes, "Michael Hill."

Crap, and I totally forgot the Pirates' Neal Huntington. At least I remembered how to spell "Zduriencik" this time. I knew I was on the right track when Safari red-underlined it as I was typing.

So, how did I do?

Result Yesterday Today
Perfect 13 28
Just spelling errors 2 0
Wrong but not without trying 4 1
Completely spaced 11 1

Alright, onto the next challenge. How many managers do I know?

Five minutes on the clock.

Walt Weiss COL
Bruce Bochy SF
Don Mattingly LAD
Kirk Gibson AZ
Bud Black SD
Dusty Baker CIN
Dale Sveum CHI
Ron Roenicke MIL
Mike Matheny STL
Clint Hurdle PIT
Terry Collins NYM
Fredi Gonzalez ATL
Mike Redmond MIA
Davey Johnson WAS
Charlie Manuel PHI
Bob Melvin OAK
Ron Washington TEX
Mike Scioscia LAA
Robin Ventura CWS
Terry Francona CLE
Ron Gardenhire MIN
Jim Leyland DET
Joe Girardi NYY
Joe Maddon TB
Buck Showalter BAL

Not bad! Those were actually all right. Even spelled them correctly.

Couldn't remember (or didn't know) the following:

John Farrell BOS
Bo Porter HOU
Ned Yost KC
Eric Wedge SEA
John Gibbons TOR

I'll try managers again tomorrow, and maybe something else kooky like stadium names.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Morning memory experiment

I write this post from the Northwest Valley of Arizona, home to a handful of Cactus League teams. These early weeks of Spring Training find ballplayers old and new performing various feats of athleticism: sprinting, stretching, spitting tobacco juice, and the like.

In that spirit, having just eaten my morning protein, I feel ready to tackle the mental equivalent of shaking off the winter's rust, and will endeavor to hone my baseball knowledge with a memory sprint:

How many of MLB's 30 general managers can I name in 5 minutes?


My answers:
Dayton Moore KC
Brian Sabean SF
Ned Coletti LAD
Alex Anthopoulos TOR
Mike Rizzo WAS
Sandy Alderson NYM
Kenny Williams CWS
Brian Cashman NYY
Ben Cherington BOS
Andrew Friedman TB
Jon Daniels TEX
Walt Jocketty CIN
Dan Duquette BAL
Billy Beane OAK
Kevin Towers AZ
Jack Zdurienick STL
Tony Regans LAA
Neal Huntington PIT

Time's up.

Okay, 18 names. How many of them were correct?

Safe by a mile (13):

Dayton Moore KC
Mike Rizzo WAS
Sandy Alderson NYM
Brian Cashman NYY
Ben Cherington BOS
Andrew Friedman TB
Brian Sabean SF
Jon Daniels TEX
Walt Jocketty CIN
Dan Duquette BAL
Billy Beane OAK
Kevin Towers AZ
Neal Huntington PIT

Tie goes to the runner (2):

Alex Anthopoulos Anthopolous TOR
Ned Coletti Colletti LAD

Out by an eyelash (4):

Kenny Williams Rick Hahn CWS (I kind of knew Kenny wasn't GM anymore, but I thought I'd write it just in case)
Jack Zdurienick John Mozeliak STL
Jack Zduriencik SEA (I think it's pretty clear what happened here)
Tony Regans Jerry Dipoto LAA (Moot point, but the former Angels GM spells his name "Reagins")

Tripped out of the box, tore an Achilles, and grounded out to end my team's season in front of an angry home playoff crowd, aka pulling a Ryan Howard (11):

Frank Wren ATL
Jed Hoyer BOS
Chris Antonetti CLE
Dan O'Dowd COL
Dave Dombrowski DET
Jeff Luhnow HOU
Michael Hill MIA
Doug Melvin MIL
Terry Ryan MIN
Ruben Amaro, Jr. PHI
Josh Byrnes SD

I probably should have remembered more of the longer-tenured GMs. I'll study up and see how I do tomorrow!

Monday, February 11, 2013


The World Baseball Classic was born during March Madness in the first year after I graduated college, in 2006. Derek Jeter was on the American WBC team and all the announcers raved about what a fine ambassador he was for the game. My friend and I watched the early WBC games on TV and mused about potential products bearing Jeter's moniker: "Ambassador Sauce --- finally you can experience all the taste and flavors of Derek Jeter, in an easy-to-pour bottle."

Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were still the main baseball announcers for ESPN's televised coverage, and it was hard not to notice that while Miller relished pronouncing every "ñ" and "rr" on the Cuban team, Morgan tripped over name after name. Both men are in the Hall of Fame, and listening to them cover the World Baseball Classic, it was no mystery which man was enshrined for his words, and which for his play.

I was much more in tune with baseball in those days. Of course I had more time, too. I didn't know all the players on the Cuban or Japanese WBC squads, but I could probably name the managers and general managers for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. In general, I haven't followed the game as closely as I did in 2006, the Mets' last great season before their '07 and '08 September collapses. I watched almost every game with my mom on the Mets' new cable channel, SNY. It was a good ride: the Mets won their first division since we moved to California in 1989. I even drove to Los Angeles to watch their Game 3 clincher against the Dodgers. The Mets dropped the ALCS to the Cardinals, though, and I started working three jobs that offseason. By June of the following year, I found a new job, one that stuck, one with benefits, and I've been working for them ever since.

I don't really remember much about the second WBC in 2009, though I have vague memories of lots of American players getting hurt and dropping out during the first few games of the tournament. Did we lose a game to the Netherlands? That resonates. I think part of the reason I don't remember much about that second tournament is that I was --- well, I was a bit occupied: working on a promotion (I got it, and still have the "new" job four years later); starting a new relationship (that "new" girlfriend is now my fianceé). Anyway, watching the World Baseball Classic wasn't really on my radar that year as much as the inaugural tournament. I didn't even have TV at home!

This time around I want to really pay attention to the World Baseball Classic. I just read through the rules and jotted down notes. I've got tickets to the championship round games in San Francisco in mid-March, and I'm even planning to shell out for cable so I can record the first and second rounds of play.

Some of the topics I want to investigate before the 2013 WBC gets started include:

  • What is the most coveted uniform number for each team? I would guess every Puerto Rican will want to wear 21 (for Roberto Clemente). Are there similar special numbers for other countries?
  • Each first round pool features one team playing in its home country (though I'm not sure how the Chinese Taipei/Taiwan thing works, exactly): Japan, Chinese Taipei/Taiwan, Puerto Rico, and USA. Have teams playing in their home countries typically enjoyed a special advantage? I know we're working with a small sample size since there have only been two tournaments, but I'm still curious.
  • Which team has the most experienced players? Experience as professionals vs. experience in WBC 1 & 2.
  • Games will be played at stadiums around the globe. What are the different stadiums named after? Are they all corporations? What kinds of corporations?
  • Where are players born? Are they typically born in the lands they are representing? Or are they playing for the homeland of a parent? Which team is the most "pure" by this standard?
  • What is the national ____ of each team? (Fill in the blank with: animal; color; song; film; export; drink; food; car). What, if anything, does this tell us about that team?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Enjoy Every Sink Bath: Songs of 2011

Last week I finished up my second ever year-end musical mix CD: "Enjoy Every Sink Bath," a collection of songs I was really into during 2011. Some of the songs were released in the past 12 months, and many were released long ago. A full track listing appears below, and with one exception, all songs are available for download on iTunes.

The project's title alludes to Warren Zevon's quote on death and dying -- "Enjoy every sandwich." -- and extends the playful theme of that advice while honoring the departed Buffalo Bill, our family's pet guinea pig, who is seen above, enjoying his sink bath.

My first try at a mix CD was in 2008, which was when Buffalo Bill passed away. I got the idea of compiling a gift CD from a co-worker, Ryan, and in tribute to Buffalo Bill, I named my annuary "The Year of the Buffalo" and slapped a photo of him on the cover. That mix was a lot of fun to put together, although it was challenging to fit all my favorite (at the time) music onto a single CD.

Since then, I've spent less and less time discovering new music, have been listening to music less, in general. Part of that is because listening to new music actually requires time and effort. Whereas I used to check out new tunes during periods at work when I was performing dull, data entry-related tasks, lately my work has required greater concentration and fewer uninterrupted blocks during which I can immerse myself in whatever's hot on Pitchfork/Stereogum/AV Club/etc.

Mostly though, I blame it on Ryan leaving our company nearly two years ago (don't worry, his mix CDs are still going strong)

Anyhow, this year I was re-energized with respect to engaging in music. I trotted out to local festivals (Outside Lands, Bridge School Benefit, Noise Pop), became smitten with Spotify, and actually purchased new music for the first time in lord knows how long. Even better, I learned that several of my favorite co-workers share my musical tastes, and they have pointed me in the direction of new stuff all year long.

Once I decided that I wanted to make a mix CD to say "thanks," the main challenges were 1) ordering the various songs in a enjoyable flow, 2) getting my track list under 80 minutes, and 3) choosing only one song per artist. I had to cheat a little bit (removing 25 seconds of near silence for space consideration, editing two tracks into one) but the night before I wanted to hand them out, I finally had to stop tinkering and sat down to spend a few hours burning 30 copies.

Well, I thought it went off without a hitch, but a few folks have started to tell me that their CDs do not contain track data. I confirmed this when I inserted one of them into my hard drive and iTunes displays the list as "Track 01," "Track 02," etc. I was initially totally bummed about that because the whole point was to share music with my friends, so I decided to post the track list at the bottom of this blog entry, and also provide a back story to the album name.

Enjoy Every Sink Bath | Songs of 2011

Track | Artist
Los Peces En El Rio | Gipsy Kings
Who Could Win A Rabbit | Animal Collective
Fine Fine | Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations
Bleecker Street | Simon and Garfunkel
The Breakup | The Rural Alberta Advantage
Blue Spotted Tail | Fleet Foxes
My Favourite Book (Flack) | Stars
Need You Now | Cut Copy
For Better or Worse | JF Robitaille
The Ghost Of Tom Joad | Junip
Drmz | A.A. Bondy
Fell Thru Ice (Complete) | Memory Tapes
Call Me Back | The Strokes
Point of View | Pujol
I Saw The Light | Spoon
Desperados Under The Eaves (Live at WMMS) | Warren Zevon
Angel Is Broken | Atlas Sound
So Well | Dawes
Another Wave from You | M83
Little Lion Man (Live) | Mumford & Sons

If you didn't receive a copy and would like to, or if you did receive a copy and want me to correct the track info on your copy of "Enjoy Every Sink Bath," please get in touch; I'd hate for the reason you don't listen to this music to be that it required your time and effort.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good Decisions, Bad Decisions

This afternoon, the Arizona Diamondbacks will send righty Daniel Hudson to the mound. Hudson was a fixture in the Snakes' rotation this season, compiling a 16-12 record in 33 starts.

Shortly after I noticed that his win-loss total included two double-digit numbers, it struck me that I couldn't think of any other hurler who was the pitcher of record more times than Hudson  in 2011.

A quick check on confirmed my suspicions.

Hudson's 28 decisions tied him with Seattle's Felix Hernandez, Tampa Bay's James Shields, and Oakland's Gio Gonzalez for second-most in the bigs (Gonzalez's decision total is all the more impressive for having been amassed in only 32 chances).

The top of the leaderboard featured another tie.

One of the co-champs was hardly surprising: Justin Verlander, the most brilliant pitcher in a year filled with pitching brilliance, earned a decision in all but five of his 34 turns, going 24-5.

Verlander's dominance -- he limited opposing batters to a .192 average, striking out nearly one batter per inning -- allowed him to go deep into ballgames: the average Verlander start lasted 7.38 innings. In this measurement of longevity, Verlander trailed only Shields, who logged 7.54 IP/G on the way to completing 11 games, a total which also led the major.

Ironically, because of the suspension of ALDS Game 1 due to rain, Verlander was ineligible for a decision after game play paused with a 1-1 tie score. Anyway, the point is: pitching a lot of innings increases the likelihood that a starting pitcher will end up being the pitcher of record

How, then, to explain the curious case of Hideki Kuroda, the 36 year-old Dodgers righty who averaged a mere 6.31 IP/G but who nonetheless failed to earn a decision only three times in 32 starts? That's a decision rate over 90 percent, for those keeping track at home.

Kuroda's 29 decisions weren't all smiles and sunshine, though; despite his 3.07 ERA he lost 16 games, the most by any Dodger pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1987.

That was a tough season for Hershiser. Like Kuroda would 24 years later, he sported a low ERA (3.06) for an under-performing Los Angeles team that finished well off the playoff pace (in my opinion, neither Dodger pitcher should be discredited for getting tagged with so many losses, given their strong peripheral statistics).

A funny thing happened in 1988, though: the Bulldog won the Cy Young Award, setting the record for most consecutive scoreless innings along the way, and the Dodgers went onto the playoffs and the World Series, during which Hershiser tossed two complete games and went on to win the Series MVP trophy.

Fans often remember the 1988 World Series for a different achievement, though. A hobbled shortstop who left the Tigers to play for LA before the 1988 season -- and whose regular season performance and leadership earned him the 1988 NL MVP Award -- provided a magical ending to Game 1 when he gimped up out of the dugout, stepped into the box, and clobbered Dennis Eckersley's slider into the left-field bleachers to send the crowd home happy.

It's been 23 Octobers since Kirk Gibson etched his name in the record books, and as manager of the Diamondbacks, his ball club is down 1-0, on the road, and facing a pitcher who didn't lose at home all year. Milwaukee jumped all over Arizona's ace, Ian Kennedy, in the series opener, and at some point in the middle innings of Game 2, possibly before Daniel Hudson has established himself as the pitcher of record, Gibson may again have to make the long walk on to the diamond, this time for a totally different reason.

Despite Hudson's success racking up decisions during the regular season, and even though the 24 year-old was still in diapers when the Impossible happened, something tells me that if and when Gibson pulls his from the game, the youngster won't question his decision making.