Pitchers & Catchers Report to Ft. Myers

Friday, March 31, 2006

Tavarez To Sit, Papi About To Sign?


Julian Tavarez was suspended by Major League Baseball for 10 days for all the hijinks with the Devil Rays' Joey Gathright this past Monday at Ft. Myers. This will be the fourth time that Crazy Tavarez will be suspended for his loony behavior in his career. The Red Sox are encouraging him to drop his appeal so he will only miss eight games, as the Red Sox open the season with two off days in that ten day span. He still may appeal, so we'll see what happens.

But in far better developments for the Sox, WEEI radio in Boston is reporting that ESPN Deportes is saying that David Ortiz is very close to agreeing to a four-year extension with the Red Sox at about $50 million. That means Big Papi will be locked up through the 2010 season. The Sox brass are finally exercising some good judgment by not letting Papi go anywhere near free agency. If this deal does happen, they'll be getting him extended at a relative bargain price. Papi is known not to be hung up about money, and loves his situation in Boston.

Let's hope this new deal is announced soon, like before the first pitch of the 2006 season is thrown.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Happy Birthday Eric Clapton























A very happy birthday today to one of my all-time favorite guitar players, Eric Clapton. Known to many as "Slowhand" (and to some others as "god"), he turns 61 today.

Long may he rock.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Manny's Not a Gold Glover, but....

MANNY BEING MANNY AT YANKEE STADIUM, 9/17/04

I was watching a sports news show tonight on one of the local stations, and they were showing the highlights of the spring training games being played today. They showed some video from the Red Sox 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ft. Myers. They showed Manny Ramirez making a great catch against the railing on a foul ball hit by Jeromy Burnitz. But as they were showing it, the sportscaster was practically doubled over laughing that Manny actually made a nice catch. (Most of these local New York sports anchors are practically worthless at their jobs.) What they didn't show was an even better running catch that Manny also made against the left field wall to rob a Pirates hitter of at least a double earlier in the game.

Once again another sports "expert" who thinks Manny Ramirez is some kind of butcher in left field. We all know about those SportsCenter moments when Manny goofs out there, like that error he made in Game 2 of the 2004 World Series. Those "Manny Being Manny" moments are always played up to the hilt when they happen. But I watch the Red Sox on a regular basis and I can tell you that Manny may not be a Gold Glove winner out there (and never will be one), but has made some sparkling plays out there in his five years as the Red Sox left fielder.

One of the best catches I've ever seen was the one he made against Miguel Cairo at Yankee Stadium (the photo above) on September 17, 2004, in the game the Sox came from behind in the ninth inning and won, 3-2. (Remember that was the game when Mariano Rivera shouted "Catch the ball!" at Kenny Lofton as the Red Sox took the lead.) I'll never forget the look on Cairo's face when after rounding the bases and reaching the dugout he looked back and realized that Manny had indeed robbed him of a home run. Priceless.

Peter Gammons has always said that Manny does work very hard at his defense, and that it has improved tremendously since he arrived in Boston in 2001. No one will ever confuse him with Carl Yastrzemski out there. He'll never get the respect for his defense that he gets for being one of the most dangerous hitters of his generation.

But I've never heard one Red Sox fan say that Manny shouldn't be playing left field at Fenway any more.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Trivia Champions Once Again

Last night I was at Professor Thom's in Greenwich Village for their weekly Monday Trivia Night. It's a lot of fun, and it's run by a guy named Tim Byrnes, who runs the site www.pubquizny.com (cheap plug!). Tim does a great job running it (even though he's a Yankee fan; but we put up with him). The contest is a five sets of ten questions, on such topics as General Knowledge, Pop Culture, Movie Quotes and Current Events. I've been on the winning team twice in the last four weeks, so I was anxious to regain the crown I lost last week.

I was teamed with my friends Gareth, Alex and John. Every team has to pick a name, and the team with the most "interesting" name (aka, most crude) gets free shots. I decided to go back to a team name that we used when we first won four weeks ago: "Painful Rectal Itch." (For you oldtime Saturday Night Live fans, you may remember that from the famous "Fluckers" sketch, the takeoff on the old Smuckers commercial: "With a name like Smuckers it's got to be good!" "Here's a new brand we just put out. It's called 'Painful Rectal Itch.' You've got to go a long way to find a worse name for a jam. So with a name like 'Painful Rectal Itch', you gotta bet that it's great!")

Heck, why mess with a winner? (By the way, we didn't win the shots. I'm not at liberty to say that name of the winner, as decorum here prohibits me from saying it.)

We got off to a slow start on the first category, General Knowledge. Tim threw in some really tough ones, and we started in third place. But my buddies and I rolled through the next three categories, and we grabbed first place. The last category was movie songs, as we had to name the movie a particular song came from. We rolled through that category as well, getting nine correct, and winning the title yet again. We took it easily, and by eight points. As Tim announced us as champions ("In first place, with 39 points, tonight's trivia champions: Painful Rectal Itch!!"), I could hear a smattering of boos as we all tipped our caps to the rest of the bar. Jealousy rears its ugly head! Each of us got a gift certificate to Professor Thom's. My goal is eventually to win enough gift certificates to one day buy the bar!

And yes, Painful Rectal Itch will be back next week to defend their championship!!

Professor Thom's will be having the Red Sox Opening Day game in Texas on their big screens on Monday, April 3, at 2 PM. All other games played that day will also be shown on the TVs. And Saturday Night Live cast member and Red Sox fanatic Seth Meyers will be guest bartending. Good times as the 2006 season begins!!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

It's Just a Fantasy Baseball World

This past Friday night, I had my third and final baseball fantasy league draft. (I had my previous two earlier this month.) Fantasy baseball has become a hobby of mine, and there are dozens of fantasy baseball web sites. I've used ESPN's since 2001, and I generally have a good experience with it. ESPN provides lots and lots of stats, and their experts are usually pretty knowlegeable. (But they only allow one slot for a disabled player, and I've argued with them for 5 years to change that to 2 or 3 slots, with no luck at all!)

I'm in a ten-player league, and we play head-to-head, and we're matched in five pitching (wins, ERA, strikeouts, saves and WHIP) and five offensive (HRs, RBI, average, SBs and runs scored) categories. If you win the category, you get the victory. So, a couple of days, me and eight other guys (one was not present so the computer picked for him) got together and divided up the major leagues. It's a fun and sometimes frustrating experience (especially when somebody in front of you takes a player you really want), and there are 25 rounds. At ESPN, you select 13 position players, 9 pitchers and 3 bench players (can be anyone). You have to pick catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, five outfielders, a corner infielder, a middle infielder and a utility position player.

I was given the ninth overall pick (the computer randomly decides). I was happy with that, as it's better to have an early round (1, 2 or 3) or late round pick(8,9, or 10) than be in the middle, as the draft is down in "wrap-around" fashion. (In other words, the guy who picks 10th, starts the second round first, and the guy who picks 9th selects second in round 2, and so on).

My buddy Greg had the first overall pick, and he took Alex Rodriguez, who is generally the first overall pick in most leagues. (I wouldn't have taken him first, simply because I have a rule: No Yankees on my team, as I don't want to have to root for them in real life.) Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero and Johan Santana were the next picks, and they were no surprise at all. But a friend of Greg's selected Robinson Cano as his first pick, which really surprised me. Cano isn't a first round selection (at least not yet in my mind), but that was his choice.

It actually turned out to be a blessing, as I was looking to take either David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez as my number one. But I was also looking at Carl Crawford as my first selection, especially if Manny and Big Papi were gone. The next pick in the draft was David Wright of the Mets, which was another surprise (the guy who took him was a Mets fan). Then with pick number 7, was Carl Crawford. I practically let out a cheer, as now I was going to get one of the Red Sox big bangers. My buddy Mark, a Red Sox fan in Boston, took his time making his choice, but I knew he'd take one or the other. Papi or Manny?

He took Big Papi, and I made my immediate selection of Manny Ramirez. I was really happy with that, but then two choices later, I saw another great player who was still on the board I wanted: Mark Teixeira of Texas. He and Manny had remarkably similar seasons last year, and I was shocked he was still out there at number 12. (I had to think for a minute: he wasn't hurt or something?) I grabbed Teixeira.

My next pick was my number one starter, Jake Peavy (I picked him in all three of my drafts) and my fourth choice was stud closer Chad Cordero. I closed out my top five picks with a speedburner, as stolen bases are a top category (and a hard one). I took Jimmy Rollins ,who stole 41 bases for the Phillies last year.

The draft went on for an hour and ten minutes, and I really liked the team I chose.

So without further ado, here is my team, The Castlebar Green Sox:

Position players: Javy Lopez, Mark Teixeira, Tadahito Iguchi, Jimmy Rollins, Morgan Ensberg, Manny Ramirez, Vernon Wells, Juan Pierre, Willy Taveras, Shawn Green, Mike Sweeney, Ron Belliard, Chris Shelton.

Pitchers: Jake Peavy, Felix Hernandez, Josh Beckett, Freddy Garcia, Joe Blanton, Chris Capuano, Chad Cordero, Francisco Cordero, Trevor Hoffman, Derrick Turnbow, Mike Gonzalez, Chris Ray.

My team will look very different in early September, when the league playoffs begin. They will be injuries, players not playing well, or free agents that I will get to replace them. I like the balance I have on my team. I have three stud starters, and six closers. I have three speed guys and at least five guys who can hit at least 30 homers.

We'll see how all of this plays out. Next week is Opening Day, especially for fantasy players as well. If you're interested in playing ESPN Fantasy Baseball, you still have time to join a league. Click on this link and it will take you to the main fantasy baseball page: http://games.espn.go.com/cgi/flb/front

Let the games begin.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Can't They Say Two Simple Words?

Yesterday in Baghdad, U.S. and British forces stormed a house and freed three peace activists who had been held for over four months, and were able to free them without firing a single shot. The three men were part of some group called The Christian Peacemaker Teams. Their kidnappers were not present when the troops arrived to free the captives. The night before, U.S. forces captured a man who gave them information on the prisoners' whereabouts, and they acted quickly and rescued the men.

The three men, one Briton and two Canadians, were taken to a hospital and were released after they were found to be in good condition. So were they grateful to the American and British forces who risked their lives and rescued them? Hardly. In an absolutely mind-boggling press release, the CPT had this to say:

"We believe the illegal occupation of Iraq by multinational forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much of the pain and suffering in Iraq today. The occupation must end."

So much for being grateful to be free again. I guess their immense vocabularies don't include two simple words: "thank you." A colleague of theirs, who was also kidnapped back in November, was found murdered earlier this month. I guess these peaceniks have such an anti-American and anti-Bush slant that even when troops they probably despise risk their lives to secure their freedom, they can't find it in their hearts to even thank them for it.

If someone I didn't like risked their lives to save my neck, they'd get a whole new respect from me. But then again, I wouldn't be foolish enough to be in one of the most dangerous places on earth trying to spread "peace" while at the same time badmouthing the United States.

I have a cousin, an uncle's son, and a couple of friends who have seen time in the military in Iraq or Afghanistan in the past couple of years. I greatly admire their courage and bravery, and I've heard the stories about the good things they have seen and done in those two war-torn countries that are rarely, if ever, reported in the American media.

If those newly-rescued men in Baghdad won't say it, then I will.

Thank you, and may God bless all of our military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You are in my prayers every night.

SportsNet New York

Late yesterday, SportsNet New York was added to my cable subscription service, which is Cablevision of New York City. SNY is the new cable home of the New York Mets, as the Mets have followed the route the Yankees took with the YES Network and added a brand new cable network, which they own. SNY began on March 16 on Time Warner cable, which co-owns SNY with the Mets. Fortunately Mets fans with Cablevision did not have to endure what Yankee fans with Cablevision in 2002 had to. That season those fans couldn't see it because of the war between YES and Cablevision that kept it off their TVs. This winter there was a similar threat that Mets fans would be shut out too and have to resort to satellite dishes and other means to see the Mets on TV.

I'll be pleased to let my dad in Florida know that any nightmares he may have had about not seeing the Mets on cable this year will not materalize. I was getting nervous there for a minute. The cable companies don't exactly rate high on my list of trustworthy individuals.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Red Sox Lose But I Win At Bingo

Last night I was at my favorite watering hole, Professor Thom's, to watch the first and only spring training meeting of the year between the Red Sox and Yankees. The game was pretty much uneventful, although it was the first game that Johnny Damon played against his former teammates. He went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. In his every at-bat, you could hear someone in the bar yell out "Judas" at him (get used to it Johnny, you're going to hear that a lot this year). Red Sox "new boy" (to borrow an English soccer term) Wily Mo Pena hit a two-run homer in his second at-bat, after striking out (and looking badly in the process) in his first. Those two at-bats might be Wily Mo's season in a nutshell. Adam Stern continued his torrid spring hitting, going 3-for-5 with a solo homer. I can't see how the Red Sox can possibly send him down to Pawtucket in April. Jonathan Papelbon pitched five innings but looked rather erratic, as he didn't spot his fastball well, and gave up a homer to Bernie Williams. The Yankees won, 5-4, on a late home run, but as long as no Red Sox players got hurt, it's no big deal. The Red Sox and Yankees meet for real for the first time on May 1 at Fenway Park.

The more memorable part of the night came after the game. It was Bingo Night at Professor Thom's, and I hung around for it with a number of my friends. I haven't played bingo in about 25 years at least. My luck wasn't very good the first few games, as I came nowhere close to winning. But my luck turned in the fourth game, and on "B5", I won! My friend Jim the bartender gave out prizes to the winner, and mine was a "DAB LOW CARB" t-shirt. (It's a German beer that I've never had.) But it was free and I love t-shirts so I was happy. I was then determined to repeat as the bingo champion, and in the next game, on "B6", I won again, along with my friend Pat, who also got "bingo" at the same time I did. We both got a hat, this time with another obscure beer company logo on it. I have so many hats that I gave it to my friend Kim, who was thrilled to have it and looked good wearing it too. (Kim would look good wearing ANY kind of hat!)

At that point I decided not to press my luck and decided to quit while I was ahead. Winning at bingo reminded me of my Aunt Katherine, who's 91 years old and living in Florida. My mom affectionately calls her "Auntie Bingo." The game of bingo is her life, and I couldn't help but think her winning bingo vibe was going through me last night.

Those wins were for you, Auntie Bingo.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Beatles: The Biography

I just finished a fascinating new book by Bob Spitz called "The Beatles: The Biography". While there have been literally hundreds of Beatles books available over the years (Nicholas Schaffner's "The Beatles Forever" was always one of my favorites), this maybe the largest of all books about the group. The book is 992 pages, but it is well worth the time and effort to check out.

Spitz is the one-time manager of Bruce Springsteen and Elton John, and has written music books previously about such artists as Bob Dylan. In this book he has done some painstaking and meticulous research on the group, talking to their oldest friends and colleagues. It took him over eight years of detailed research to write the book, and he originally wrote a 2700 page manuscript, which his publishers at Little Brown told him to cut back to just under 1000.

The heart of the book is how the Beatles came together as a group, and their early life as kids growing up in Liverpool. There's plenty of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll as the group proceeds to Hamburg, London, then on to worldwide fame. It shows the four lads, how they handled it all, and how it changed their whole lives. Even for the most devoted of Beatles fans (and I've always considered myself one), there will be things you never heard before. Some of it silly (such as when actor Leo Gorcey asked for $500 to be on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, and the Beatles refused and left him off), surreal (their first meeting with Elvis Presley and what really happened is quite fascinating), and some of it touching (John Lennon had a half-sister he never knew existed).

The book chronicles the trappings of fame and how it turned the Beatles into prisoners and how they longed to escape it. It also shows the jealousies inside the band and how it was the start of the eventual breakup. Spitz tells the Beatles story with a lot of insight and good humor. He also goes into detailed bios of the individual band members, along with manager Brian Epstein, Yoko Ono, Pete Best and some others. I did think there were some shortcomings to the book. Spitz did not do a good job on the photo captions, and I thought the endnotes section was way too short (only 1 1/2 pages on the group after their breakup in 1970). The ending seemed a little too rushed. But overall, it did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.

If you are a Beatles fan, I would suggest you read "The Beatles: The Biography". It definitely does justice and honor to the single greatest rock group of all-time, one that wiped clean the face of popular muisc and completely redrew it. It took me nearly two months to finish it (I do a lot of my reading on subway trains), but it was well worth my time.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bronson Arroyo Traded to Cincinnati

This morning the Red Sox traded righthander Bronson Arroyo to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for right fielder Wily Mo Pena. I heard speculation last night that this trade was about to be made, but you hear these rumors all the time, and most of them never get done. But this was completed, and for me, the jury is still out on it.

Arroyo was going to pitch out of the Red Sox bullpen this season, so going to Cincinnati will ultimately benefit him, as he will be one of their main starters. But I heard he was shocked by the deal, as he signed a three-year contract with the Sox earlier this winter, at a "hometown discount" and against the advice of his agent. I really thought he would be staying, especially after signing the contract. From now on, players better be careful signing those type of contracts with the Red Sox. I can't say I'm thrilled that the Red Sox brass did this after reaching a "handshake agreement" with Arroyo about a deal (or no deal) this past January. But I guess that business is business, and it was really hard for the Red Sox to pass on this trade. I would bet the Sox would rather of dealt Matt Clement, but they would had to have eaten too much of Clement's contract.

I'd been saying for a year that Arroyo belonged in the bullpen, as he was way too erratic as a starter. But now he's off to the Reds, and I wish him well. He'll always be "one of the 25", one of the players who brought a championship to Boston in 2004. I'll never forget July 24, 2004, when he hit Alex Rodriguez and started that now-famous brawl that seemed to be the turning point of the 2004 Sox season (whether it was in reality or not).

For us Red Sox fans, he'll always be known as "Saturn Balls", a nickname Curt Schilling stuck on him for his tenacity and guts.

Good luck in Cincinnati, Bronson. Thanks for being part of the 2004 championship club.

Wily Mo Pena is 24 years old, and is coming off a terrific year in the Dominican Winter League. He figures to split time in RF with Trot Nixon and will face lefties in the platoon. He has a strong arm, but is not known as a good outfielder. He hit 19 HRs in Cincinnati last season, in 311 at-bats, with 51 RBI and a .254 average, but doesn't have good plate discipline, as he strikes out way too much. Perhaps with the guidance of fellow Dominican David Ortiz, Pena may finally blossom into the star a lot of people think he can be. The Red Sox have him under their control until at least 2008.

This trade might signal the end of the line in Boston for Trot Nixon, as he is a free agent after 2006. And Dustan Mohr, who's had a terrific spring in RF with the Red Sox, may end up being traded as well.

This is one of those "only time will tell" trades. I hope it works out well for the Red Sox.

I also want to acknowledge the retirement of Al Leiter yesterday. He was pitching for the Yankees out of their bullpen, and decided to call it a career after 19 years. I was always a fan of his, as I always admired his guts and guile as a pitcher, and was instrumental in getting the Mets to the 2000 World Series. He was also a classy guy as well, especially off the field. I hated to see him go back to the Yankees, especially after he beat the Red Sox in his first start last July. But he went out on his own terms, and his next stop figures to be the YES broadcast booth. I thought he did a fine job as the third man in the booth during the 2004 ALCS, so I'm sure he'll be good at YES as well.

Good luck Al.

Bill Beutel: 1930-2006

I was saddened yesterday to hear about the passing of Bill Beutel, at his home in North Carolina at the age of 75. For those of you outside of New York, he was the legendary anchorman of Eyewitness News here in New York for nearly 30 years. Beginning in 1970 he was paired with Roger Grimsby, and they became the most popular news team in New York. They were together nearly 15 years, and they revolutionized the way local news was broadcast. My parents were devoted watchers of Eyewitness News, so watched them just about every night. Beutel and Grimsby were a great team. Grimsby was the "irascible" one, while Beutel seemed to play his foil. But they were both first-rate journalists.

When I was in grammar school, I can remember my teachers at St. Brendan's in Brooklyn giving us a daily assignment of watching at least 15 minutes of news a night. So I watched Eyewitness News, and I got hooked on it. With the passing of Mr. Beutel, I feel like a little part of my youth is now gone.

Thanks for the memories, Bill.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

StoryCorps

Last July 3, I went to a small mobile recording studio in Grand Central Station and spent a very special hour making a CD. No, I wasn't making any music. I went there to record a tribute to my late friend Joyce with a special group called "StoryCorps". They are group that records tributes that people wish to make for a loved one, mostly to those who have passed on.

I spent that one hour with an interviewer named Chris Heaney, and he asked me all types of questions about my friend. It was an emotional hour, as many nice memories, as well as sad ones, came back to me. Chris and his recording engineer could not have been any kinder or more sensitive toward me and what we were attempting to accomplish. The CD came out so beautifully.

Many loved ones of 9/11 victims have done this, and every one are given a CD of the memories they record. There is also another CD that is sent to the Library of Congress, and that will forever be archived there. It is so nice to know my words about Joyce will be kept for eternity there, for future generations to listen to. Later that July, a second mobile booth was opened, this one at the World Trade Center site.

This past February, the good folks at StoryCorps contacted me and told me that the booth at the WTC would be closing this year unless they could receive a grant from the Cultural Enhancement Fund to keep going there. They asked me to write a letter of support for them, basically telling the LMDC (who controls the grants) that the booth needed to stay there for the benefit of the 9/11 victims and their loved ones. (Even though I actually recorded my tribute up at Grand Central, I felt that didn't really matter.) It was such a wonderful experience that I happily did so for them.

On Saturday I received a letter from StoryCorps saying that they did indeed receive a $1 million grant from the LMDC to continue to keep the downtown booth open for the next three years. I was so happy to hear that they got it, and they also told me that the letters that I and many other 9/11 families sent in convinced the LMDC that keeping the booth downtown was an important thing for the continued recovery of Lower Manhattan.

It really made my day knowing that my positive experience with StoryCorps helped keep the booth open downtown.

If you'd like to know more about StoryCorps and are interested in recording a tribute to someone you love, please check out their web site at: http://www.storycorps.net.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day

March 17th has always been a special day in my life. It's a day that always makes me proud to be of Irish descent. I've got my Irish flag flying outside my house (and the flag has my family name and crescent in the middle of it). The Red Sox always wear their green uniform jerseys annually on this day in their spring training game in Florida. I've got my green turtleneck shirt on and I'll be wearing my Glasgow Celtic scarf tonight as well.

I wasn't able to get to the parade on Fifth Avenue but I did catch some of it on TV. It was a perfect day here in New York, not a cloud in the sky with the temperatures in the high 40s. (Earlier this week the weatherman was talking about rain and snow today but fortunately it didn't materialize.) Estimates were that 250,000 people marched up Fifth Avenue and another 2 million or so watched along the parade route. The Fighting 69th, the legendary New York-based Army troop, led off the parade as they have every year since 1852, but they were especially honored this year as they returned from a year-long tour in Iraq, where 19 of their ranks died in combat.

May God bless all 19 of them, as well as all of our brave military putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. They're always in our hearts.

I hope all of you enjoy this festive of holidays, whether you have Irish blood or not. I'll be back at Professor Thom's tonight celebrating my heritage. Erin Go Bragh!!

Professor Thom's

There's a great new place to watch the Red Sox games in relative peace in New York City. This past December, "Professor Thom's" opened on 2nd Avenue between E. 13th and 14th Streets. It's run by a number of friends of mine, who are also dedicated Red Sox fans like Yours Truly. They have a website you might like to check out: http://www.professorthoms.com. They have NESN, so all Red Sox games broadcast in 2006 will be on the main TVs. I have become a mainstay at Trivia Night, which happens every Monday night. It's a lot of fun, and I've won it twice so far.

This coming Wednesday night, March 22, Professor Thom's will have the first and only Red Sox-Yankees game of this spring training, at 7 PM on NESN. I will be in attendance, and I hope you will join me and many of the PT regulars.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Have Cooler, Will Lose

The United States WBC team went down to defeat last night, 2-1, to Mexico at Angel Stadium. USA is now eliminated from the WBC, so Japan will face South Korea in one semifinal, while Cuba will face the Dominican Republic in the other. Both games will be played this Saturday.

Roger Clemens pitched well for the USA, allowing only one earned run in 4 1/3 innings. (Will this be his final game for the 357th time?) The one run he allowed was controversial, as Mario Valenzuela of Mexico hit a ball down the right field line that hit the foul pole for what looked like a home run. But first base umpire Bob Davidson, who's been atrocious in this tourney, blew what was an easy call and ruled that the ball was still in play, and the Mexicans had a double instead. How he could have missed this call is simply astounding, as it was at least 10 feet above the right field wall. Fortunately for Mexico, Jorge Cantu singled the runner home from second to give them the early 1-0 lead, so justice was served. I'd like to know why there were no umpires down either foul line, as a bad call like that could have been avoided. In the next WBC, the quality of umpiring must be a lot better. I heard that the major league umps refused to be a part of the WBC because they weren't paid enough for it.

The USA simply didn't hit well in the WBC, and especially in the clutch. But also the presence of Alex Rodriguez, known by his ex-Texas Rangers teammates as "The Cooler", should have told everyone that the USA had no shot at winning the tourney. Where he goes, his teams end up far short of the title. In the top of the ninth, Slappy (as we prefer to call him) came up with a man on first and one out. At that moment, I had flashbacks to last year's ALDS Game 5 between the Yankees and Angels (in that very same ballpark, Angel Stadium), when Slappy hit into a double play in the ninth to effectively kill any shot the Yankees had in coming back to win the series. Could that happen again? I wanted the USA to win of course, but I couldn't get past what a delicious irony it would have been to see The Cooler kill the USA's chances here.

But A-Rod drew a walk, and Vernon Wells hit the first pitch he saw right to shortstop, and the Mexicans turned a double play to end the USA's WBC hopes. Close, but no cigar.

The USA couldn't make it to the semifinals, and that is an embarrassment to USA baseball. It goes to prove that you can have the most powerful lineup in the world (maybe second to the Dominicans), but if you don't do all the things right as a team, you won't win. The South Koreans have done that, and are the surprise of the WBC. Good luck to them this weekend.

I like the Dominican Republic to win the WBC title. But they should probably thank their lucky stars that The Cooler picked the USA to play for.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Ground Zero Memorial

This past Monday I spent the early afternoon at Church and Liberty Streets in Lower Manhattan. I was there with a few hundred other family members who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center disaster of September 11, 2001. I was proud to stand with many of those people who are a part of the Coalition of 9/11 Families, who are protesting the start of the building of Ground Zero Memorial.

My friend Joyce was among the unfortunate victims of the terror attacks at the World Trade Center. It was an event that totally turned my life upside down, and in ways I could never possibly have expected. Right after they happened, I felt I needed to do something to help, as I considered Joyce to be a wonderful and caring friend. For over four years I have been behind the struggle to properly remember the 9/11 victims at Ground Zero. It has been a long and at times painful struggle for all those involved, especially the family members who lost loved ones.

I don't have a big problem the memorial in and of itself. It is called "Reflecting Absence" and it was designed by architect Michael Arad. It features two pools of water and cascading waterfalls to mark where the two towers of the WTC stood. I'm sure it will be asthetically beautiful. But it is flawed, and it needs to be re-worked, as opposed to being scrapped.

First, the memorial will be underground, and that makes absolutely no sense to me. All the great memorials in America, such as at Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City, The Alamo and in Washington D.C. are above ground and soar upwards. They are all beautiful, and all commemorate the best of America. But the LMDC (the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation) thinks a below-ground memorial is more fitting. Putting it there also descrates the footprints of the towers, which should and must be completely preserved.

The 9/11 victims deserve nothing more than the best possible tribute we can give them. We will be judged by future generations by how we honor those 2,749 brave souls who perished in the darkest morning in the history of the United States.

The plans for the memorial call for one entrance into it and one exit out of it. That sounds like another disaster waiting to happen. The 9/11 WTC Memorial will attract millions and millions of people to it, and getting those people to and from it has to be done in a better fashion. The memorial plans are also exempt from strict New York City fire and building codes. This is because the World Trade Center site is owned by the Port Authority, and not the City of New York. (It is no wonder that of the new buildings either planned or now being built at the site, very few companies have shown much interest in being a possible tenant there.) This is another reason why a future disaster may be in the making.

Another thing about the memorial that bothers me is the fact that the names of the WTC victims will be put in a random order. The LMDC feels that if people search and search for a certain victim's name it would be better than to just group them together. I fail to see any logic to this. The first responders (FDNY, NYPD, PAPD, etc.) should be grouped together, as well as those innocent people who died together (like at Cantor Fitzgerald and Marsh and McLennan). They worked together, and they died together, so they should be immortalized together.

Sounds simple doesn't it? It makes me wonder what these people at the LMDC are using for brains.

The Coalition of 9/11 Families has filed suit seeking an injunction to stop the construction, and arguments will be heard in New York State Supreme Court beginning on Wednesday. In the meanwhile, the LMDC continues to make noise about how the public really wants these plans, and how the Family Groups are divided amongst themselves. They continually say that those protesting the current memorial are just a few dozen people, and don't represent the 9/11 families at large.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the MO of the LMDC to sway public opinion by continually suggesting that there was a fair and open dialogue about the memorial, when there really wasn't one. The TV station New York 1 took an online poll about the memorial, and over 70% of New Yorkers agreed that the memorial was flawed and should be moved above ground. Right now there is a petition online to eliminate the Port Authority exemptions at Ground Zero, as well to move the memorial above ground. You can go to the petition by clicking this link: http://www.petitiononline.com/WTT2006/petition.html

Right now over 5500 people have signed this online, and at Ground Zero, another 500 people have also signed it. Sure sounds to me that move than just "a few dozen" people want the Ground Zero Memorial changed.

I am really proud of the efforts made by some great people I have come to know, namely Anthony Gardner of the WTC United Family Group (of which I am also a member) and so many other people who suffered such a devastating and catastophic loss on September 11, 2001. They have turned their grief into a great positive thing, and they will not rest until the memories of their lost loved ones is properly remembered at Ground Zero. The LMDC should also know that the family groups aren't going away, as they will be there at every turn, and for the long haul.

They will also forever have my undying love and support.

WBC on ESPN

I've been watching the World Baseball Classic on ESPN since it started nearly 10 days ago. I've always been in favor of a "true" baseball world championship, styled on soccer's World Cup. It's been criticized in many circles, and some of the criticisms are legitimate. There are certainly plenty of bugs to be worked out when the WBC plays again in 2009. (I'm in favor of it being played AFTER the World Series.) Last night's USA-South Korea game was played at 10 PM ET, 7 PM on the West Coast (the game was played in Anaheim). But I'd really like it explained to me WHY the game was NOT broadcast live? I don't mind watching games that begin at 10 here in the East, but why was it delayed until 1 AM on ESPN2? I was with some friends at my favorite watering hole, Professor Thom's, on 2nd Avenue and 13th Street in the Village, and ESPN kept showing some live cut-ins, but wouldn't stay with the game live. There is a lot of interest in the WBC, but I don't understand why ESPN wouldn't show the action as it was happening.

The night was not a total loss, as at the bar last night, my friends Gareth, Kim, John and I were winners in Professor Thom's "Trivia Night" contest. It's two out of three Monday night's that I've won, and I'll be going for 3 out of 4 next Monday!

I watched part of the delayed broadcast this morning on ESPN2, and as you all know, the USA put themselves in a big hole by losing to the South Koreans, 7-3. The Koreans are proving to be the surprise team of the tournament so far, and are a win over Japan away from reaching the semifinals. The USA can still make it to the semis by beating Mexico and getting some help from the Koreans.

At least during the USA-Korea game we were not subjected to the ramblings of Rick Sutcliffe. I find him rather insufferable to listen to. During the first two games, he seemed to be shocked that "Yankees and Red Sox players were actually working together for the USA". News flash to Sutcliffe: most Yankee and Red Sox players are friendly with each other! The real rivalry seems to be with the fans and the media, who really play it up. When I was in San Diego in 2004, I watched a number of Padres games on TV, and Sutcliffe, on the local broadcasts, is one of those "us and we" guys, in his reference to the home team. Granted, all home team announcers are biased to the home side, but I detest those guys who use "us" or "we" to refer to the team that are being paid for. The Red Sox and Mets announcers are not like that, and as much as I don't like Yankee anouncers like Michael Kay and John Sterling, they don't do that either.

I do like the job Eric Karros has done in the booth during the tournament for ESPN, as has Orel Hershiser as well. Neither one is at all flashy, and I guess many might consider them boring. But they seem to be well-prepared and are good nuts and bolts baseball guys. I look forward to hearing them both during the regular season on ESPN.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Welcome to My Media Machine!

Hello everyone in Bloggerland: My name is John Brian Quinn and welcome to my new blog, "Mighty Quinn Media Machine." I am a writer at the Boston Red Sox fan site Bornintoit.com, and this new blog will be an extension of my baseball writings there. I'll be writing about the Red Sox, plus plenty more about the world around me.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and I will keep it updated as much as possible!