Friday, November 30, 2007

Rambling Through the Internets

It looks like this last week of November has been particularly newsworthy. Let's take a walk through the news:

It seems that
one of Hillary Clinton's Republican admirers tried to pay her a visit today, with bad results for him, and fortunately, no harm to anyone else. As this mess was taking place, some of my more right-wing colleagues took extreme pleasure in this nut's act, and less pleasure in the fact that Mrs. Clinton was not present to be blown to smithereens. To those colleagues with this mind set, I humbly say: "Fuck You". If anyone had tried to pull a stunt like this on Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy, you bastards would have been screaming for either Dick Cheney or Bobby Knight to shoot the man in the face, so you can eat me with your overly dramatic chest thumping.

And speaking of Preznit 27% Approval Rating, he is now
pretending to give a shit about combating AIDS. Wow, and this on the heels of his triumphant uniting of the Arabs and Israelis...

And speaking of unity, check out this
huge slice of religious insanity happening in Sudan. I invoke Voltaire's talisman with the caveat that these "People of God" would look a lot more ridiculous if they weren't so fucking deadly serious...

Comet Holmes is still prominent in the, and is now about one degree west of Mirfak, the brightest star in Perseus. The comet is still a slightly oval fuzz ball that looks like a large, loose globular cluster through the binoculars. Get outside and catch a glimpse!

Famed stuntman Evil Knievel has passed away after a long illness. He was 69 years old. I'm glad he was able to patch up his differences with Kanye West.

This priceless gem comes to us as a result of the latest GOP debate disaster this past Wednesday in which the presumed front-runners, Rudy Guiliani (R - 9-11 Forever) and Mitt Romney (R - Loves Waterboarding) verbally bitch-slapped each other about who was slightly less crazy than the other. When Mike Huckabee (R - Denies Evolution) and John McCain (R - Am I Still Relevant?) come out looking like elder statesmen, you know the train has long since left the station. And by the way, Ronald Reagan was a joke as President (11th Commandment my duodenum).

Oh, and will someone please tell Joe Biden (D - Cowardly Bush Enabler) that not only does nobody want him to be
the next Secretary of State, but that nobody wants him around PERIOD.

And the New England Patriots continue with their Fuck You NFL tour as they travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens this coming Monday night. Just out of curiosity, do you think that if Bill Belichick was coaching the Celtics that he would have let Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce sit out the fourth period as Doc Rivers did in the
C's 104-59 pasting of the Knicks last night? My bet is that he would have played them at least half of the period, and the final would have been about 143-41. Anyway, maybe, as the article muses, the loss may be the final straw for Isiah Thomas (PLEASE!!!).

That should about do it for this post. Remember, only 122 days left until Major League Baseball's Opening Day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

AL and NL MVPs. Red Sox re-sign Lowell. Happy Birthday JD Drew.

The MVP awards were handed out, and yesterday New York's Alex Rodriguez won the AL trophy, while Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins won the NL hardware.

Both players had terrific seasons, and there was little doubt that A-Rod would win his third MVP award. He took home all but two of the first place votes to win easily (Detroit's Magglio Ordonez got the other two first place votes). Rodriguez, who hit 54 homers and had 156 RBI, became the first American Leaguer to hit 50 or more homers and drive in 150 or more runs since Boston's Jimmie Foxx hit 50 HR and had 175 RBI in 1938. Sammy Sosa, playing for the Cubs in 2001, was the last NL player to do so, wth 64 HR and 160 RBI.

Rollins became the fourth player to have 20 HR, 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 steals in a season (Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson became the third player to turn the trick a couple of weeks earlier than Rollins). He led the NL in runs scored with 139 and won the NL Gold Glove at shortstop (though that award really should have gone to Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, along with NL Rookie of the Year). Rollins edged out Colorado left fielder, and NL RBI leader, Matt Holliday by 17 total points to win the award. Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder finished third in the voting. Congratulations guys.

In other baseball news the WORLD SERIES CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX have reached an agreement to keep third baseman, and WORLD SERIES MVP, Mike Lowell in town for at least another three years. Lowell has definitely capitalized on his career year and post-season performance. It is not likely he will duplicate 2007's numbers next year, but it is also unlikely that Manny Ramirez will have another off year, and JD Drew (happy 32nd birthday) can't possibly be as bad in 2008 as he was in 2007 (Okay, so he picked it up in September and October), so the overall offensive impact should remain the same as long as all three remain healthy (A big if with all three players in their early to mid-30s). Anyway, Lowell is also a solid clubhouse presence, and the fact he is staying put will keep a happy team focused and ready to continue winning. Only 132 days until Opening Day!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

AL and NL Cy Young Award Winners. AL and NL Managers of the Year. Barry Bonds Indicted!

More post-season awards were handed out during the last couple of days...

San Diego's Jake Peavy won the NL Cy Young Award with all 32 first-place votes, easily beating last year's winner, second place finisher Brandon Webb of Arizona. Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award over second place finisher Josh Beckett of the WORLD SERIES CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX! It is hard to be too upset at this result. Sabathia posted eerily similar numbers to Beckett's. Both pitchers had roughly 5-1 strikeout to walk ratios. Beckett had 20 wins, Sabathia 19. Beckett's ERA was 3.27, Sabathia's was 3.21.

I think the thing that swung the voters was the four extra starts and 40 extra innings Sabathia logged. Still, one could argue that someone with 20 wins in 30 starts is a better pitcher than one who wins 19 in 34 starts, especially when Beckett had 17 starts against teams with .500 records or better and went 11-4 in those games. Sabathia went 7-3 in just 12 starts against teams that went .500 or better, but the results are what they are. Well done C.C. and Josh.

The AL and NL Manager of the Year awards went to Cleveland's Eric Wedge and Arizona's Bob Melvin, two former catchers who guided their clubs to division titles. Wedge rode an impressive offense, led by Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, and an awesome one-two punch in starting pitching with Sabathia and last season's failed closer Fausto Carmona, who became a monster this season, to the AL Central crown. Melvin somehow brought his team to the NL West title despite having seen his club get outscored by a total of 20 runs.

And for those who hate Barry Bonds, news of his indictment today for perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury will no doubt warm your little asterisk-laden hearts. But seriously, what do we know know that we didn't know before? Here's a quote from the article in the link:

"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment read.

Really? Then why weren't these results made public, and why wasn't Bonds suspended? More from the article:

The indictment culminated a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.

John Burris, one of Bonds' attorneys, did not know of the indictment before being alerted by The Associated Press. He said he would immediately call Bonds to notify him. "I'm surprised," Burris said, "but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."

Color me curious too. If this evidence has been around for four years, why the hell hasn't anyone acted on it? Is this a big bluff by MLB and George Mitchell? Will Barry cop a plea, if guilty, and roll over on some of his fellow players? But wait, here is something else from the article that bothers me:

Speculation of his impending indictment had mounted for more than a year. In July 2006, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco took the unusual step of going public with the investigation. After the previous panel's 18-month term expired, he announced he was handing it off to a new grand jury.

It seems to me that if this was truly an open-and-shut case, that this indictment should have been handed down while the first grand jury was in session. Maybe this is legitimate, maybe not, but it still smells a bit fishy. Hey, if Barry was on the juice, he deserves our scorn and ridicule (though what we do with his records is beyond me at this time).

At any rate, this development, along with the usual post-season moves, plus A-Rod's impending mega-deal, will make this a more "interesting" off season than usual, primarily because Barry wants to play ball next season, and, as a free agent, would probably sign with an AL club so he could DH. That scenario is obviously in jeopardy now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Post-Season Baseball Awards: Youkilis wins Gold Glove. Pedroia wins Rookie of the Year. Beckett does NOT win Cy Young?!?

Well, now that the World Series has ended, Major League Baseball has begun to hand out its post-season awards. First up were the AL and NL Gold Glove winners: AL first: WORLD SERIES CHAMPION Boston's Kevin Youkilis, first base. Detroit's Placido Polanco, second base. Anaheim's Orlando Cabrera, shortstop. Seattle's Adrian Beltre, third base. The outfield is comprised of Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, Minnesota's Torii Hunter and Cleveland's Grady Sizemore. Minnesota's Johan Santana won for pitchers and Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez won at catcher. For Rodriguez, it was his 13th Gold Glove, a record for catchers. Ichiro and Hunter each won their seventh Gold Gloves. Cabrera won his second. The others were all first time winners.

Youkilis and Polanco did not make a single error at the positions at which they won their awards, though Youkilis did make three errors at third base in part-time duty to rest Mike Lowell, who, for the second year in a row, got screwed. Beltre made a league-high 18 errors, which isn't so bad, but he turned only 24 double plays. Lowell made 15 errors and led the AL with 34 double plays. Rodriguez is still a solid catcher, but Seattle's Kenji Johjima deserved this award. He was fourth in putouts, third in assists and led the AL in double plays with 15, all while having made just two errors.

I still have a bone to pick with the outfield selection. Why is it almost always three center fielders? Why can't they award a Gold Glove at each outfield position? Christ, pitchers get a Gold Glove, and do they really make more plays than an everyday left or right fielder? Of course they don't. I'd let Ichiro keep his award and give Hunter's and Sizemore's to Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford (LF) and Kansas City's Mark Teahen (RF). Crawford led AL left fielders in putouts and Teahen led AL right fielders in putouts and led all AL outfielders in double plays with seven (tied with Tampa Bay's Delmon Young), and was second in assists with 17 (Minnesota's Mike Cuddyer led the AL with 19). Another good choice would have been Baltimore's Nick Markakis who was second in putouts among AL right fielders, had 13 assists and just two errors.

In the NL we have Chicago's Derrek Lee, first base. Arizona's Orlando Hudson, second base. Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins, shortstop. New York's David Wright, third base. The outfield is crowded with four winners: Atlanta's Andruw Jones, New York's Carlos Beltran, Philadelphia's Aaron Rowand and Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur were the winners. Greg Maddux won his 17th Gold Glove at pitcher, a record at any position, and Los Angeles' Russell Martin won at catcher. Andruw won for the tenth time. Lee and Hudson are now third time winners. Beltran won his second, and everyone else was a first time winner.

Analysis: Lee is a good first baseman, but Colorado's Todd Helton was better. He made just two errors while having the second most putouts and double plays in the NL. Hudson is a good second baseman who reminds me of Frank White who played with Kansas City from the mid-70s through the 80s, but Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips should have gotten the nod. He led the NL in putouts, assists and was second in double plays, and made just eight errors. At shortstop, Jimmy Rollins should give his award to Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki. Troy led all major league shortstops in putouts, assists, double plays AND fielding percentage. And David Wright clearly has an advantage playing for the Mets, as he did not deserve his Gold Glove either. I'd flip a coin between Washington's Ryan Zimmerman who led all ML third basemen in putouts, assists AND double plays. Yes, he did have the second highest number of errors, two more than Wright, but actually had a higher fielding percentage than Mr. Met, which should tell you something about Wright's range. Or, if you want low error totals you could go with San Francisco's Pedro Feliz who made just eleven errors, but turned 28 double plays.

The NL outfield is less of a mess than the AL's, but there is still no left fielder. I'd give it to Arizona's Eric Byrnes. He was in the middle of the pack in putouts, but he also played well in limted time in center and right field. I'll let Andruw keep his award, though it is a tough call because Beltran is terrific (and so is Rowand, but you should only have one center fielder). Francoeur was a good choice as a right fielder. He was second to Washington's Austin Kearns (who would have also been a good choice) in putouts, and he tied with Chicago's left fielder Alfonso Soriano for the NL lead in assists with 19.

Maddux will win this award as long as he wears a baseball uniform. Martin led all NL catchers in putouts, assists, double plays and errors. He was only one of five catchers who played in 120 games or more (he led in that department too with 145), and the others don't have anything special to sell, so Martin, well done!

After the Gold Gloves were handed out, both leagues revealed their respective Rookies of the Year in the persons of WORLD SERIES CHAMPION Boston's Dustin Pedroia and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. Pedroia, who overcame a hideous first five weeks of the season that saw his batting average go as low as .172, led AL rookies with a .317 batting average and 39 doubles, and won easily with 24 first-place votes. Braun won by a mere two points over Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki. Braun, who only played in 113 games, hit 34 homers, batted .324 and slugged .634, though he did commit a league high 26 errors at third base. Tulowitzki's credentials are already outlined above.

In other baseball news, Boston's Josh Beckett did NOT win the AL Cy Young award. That honor went to Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia. I'll try to analyze this later in the week. By then the NL Cy Young winner should be announced. I'm thinking it will be San Diego's Jake Peavy...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bright Comet Appears in Perseus

A bright comet has appeared in Perseus, and the reason for its brightness is the fact that it seems to be exploding as it gets closer to the Sun. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A comet that unexpectedly brightened in the last couple of weeks and is now visible to the naked eye is attracting professional and amateur interest.

Paul Lewis, director of astronomy outreach at the University of Tennessee, is drawing students to the roof of the Nielsen Physics Building for special viewings of Comet 17P/Holmes.

The comet is exploding and its coma, a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the sun, has grown to be bigger than the planet Jupiter. The comet lacks the tail usually associated with such celestial bodies but can be seen in the northern sky, in the constellation Perseus, as a fuzzy spot of light about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper.

Until Oct. 23, the comet had been visible to modern astronomers only with a telescope, but that night it suddenly erupted and expanded. A similar burst in 1892 led to the comet's discovery by Edwin Holmes.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness, along the lines of when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashed into Jupiter back in 1994," Lewis said.

I witnessed that event, and that description is accurate. Jupiter had several dark spots in its extensive cloud decks that were easily visible in my 8-inch f/5 Dobsonian reflector at 67X.

Scientists speculate the comet has exploded because there are sinkholes in its nucleus, giving it a honeycomb-like structure. The collapse exposed comet ice to the sun, which transformed the ice into gas.

Experts aren't sure how long the comet's show will last but estimate it could be weeks if not months. Using a telescope or binoculars help bring the comet's details into view, they said

I just came inside after having viewed this object for about an hour. The geniuses who wrote this report forgot to mention the exact location within Perseus to look. Maybe they figured that those who wanted to know would simply find a way. Well, here's my helping hand: The comet looks like a fuzzy spot about two degrees east of Mirfak, the brightest star in Perseus (at second magnitude, it is about as bright as Polaris, the North Star). It glows at about third magnitude, and to the unaided eye looks a lot like the famous globular cluster, Omega Centauri (oh how I miss those deep southern skies!). Through my 10x50 binoculars, the fuzziness takes on some granular detail.

Right now the comet is at about 40 degrees above the northeast horizon, and, since Mirfak is circumpolar from where I sit typing this, that means that this comet will be visible all night long. It will appear to reach the zenith, as a result of Earth's rotation, at about midnight. Needless to say that this baby bears watching, and you can bet that I'll be out there as long as the nights are clear.

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