Jesse Orosco Retires

When first we saw Jesse Orosco
Brezhnev was ruling in Mosco.
We had no CDs
VCRs or PCs,
And no one bought bulk yet at Costco.

When age strikes our current young stars
Maybe we’ll drive flying cars.
We’ll all watch TV
In HD3D
As the Expos play home games on Mars.

To say where the future will go
Is hard, but there’s one thing I know:
There will still be a need
To genetically breed
Orosco-like lefties who throw.

Strange Dream

Monday is Martin Luther King Day. King had a dream which inspired millions. My dreams, on the other hand, make no sense at all. Can anyone make sense out of this one I had last night?

I was on a train headed due east out of Berlin. I expect the trip to be long and boring, but occasionally, in the mountainous regions, the track twists and turns and even goes upside-down like a roller-coaster. I marvel at the quality of German engineering.

The land turns flat again, and to avoid boredom, I turn on a TV. They’re showing the final meeting of the 2004 season between the Giants and Padres, in San Diego. John Madden is doing the color, and Steve Young, wearing his full 49er uniform (shoulder pads and all), is a guest commentator.

The Giants are leading in the bottom of the ninth, but the Padres have loaded the bases. With two outs, Matt Williams, somehow unretired, is sent in to pinch hit. He hits low line drive to the opposite field, barely fair over the low right field fence. Grand slam! The Padres win! The Padres clinch the NL West! The Giants, dejected, are left only with the slim hope that they can pass the Cubs for the wild card spot.

I look out over the German landscape rushing past the window of my seat on the train. I wonder if I can see any fireworks from the celebrations in San Diego. Instead, something begins to emerge from the clouds like ghostly angels: the giant floating heads of Julie Andrews, Florence Henderson, and Angela Lansbury, singing songs of glorious celebration. God, it occurs to me, must be a Padres fan.

Now, I ask you: what the heck can this dream mean?

More iPods

Most poetry bores me. A poem about the poet’s lover or parents: I can’t even read more than a line or two. If it’s about nature: rocks, trees, rain, snow–I reach for my mental remote control. Not interested.

But poems about iPods and DSL connections? Now we’re talking!

Mike Snider is bravely attempting to write a sonnet a day. The results are admirably good. A daily sonnet can’t be much more than a rough draft, yet Snider makes them sound as easy and natural as a guy telling you a story over the watercooler. That’s not easy to do.

So even if you don’t usually like poetry, I suggest you give these ones a try.

Re: XRBRD, eaten with syrup

Satellite cable TV
Government banned this CD
Eliminate debts
Casinos take bets

donnelly escobar percival anderson alvarez patterson betemit hannaman varitek youkilis remlinger hollandsworth smitherman valentine valentin betancourt kennedy sullivan holliday halladay ligtenberg hatteberg hermanson bonderman robertson higginson hendrickson flannery flaherty williams relaford restovich richardson robinson carpenter lieberthal bergeron spiezio olerud overbay vogelsong wilkerson wigginton calloway carlos lee

Vlad the Insaner

Clutch hitters don’t exist? Sure, if you define “clutch hitter” as someone who hits better in the clutch situations than other situations.

I have a slightly different definition. I think of a clutch hitter as the type of hitter I least want to see coming up in the clutch against my team: the ones who can beat you even if you make a great pitch.

Now before anyone spouts statistics at me: I’m not talking about numbers. I’m talking about my emotions. We get signal.

There are guys who live on mistake pitches, like ARod and Giambi. But somehow, having a patient hitter wait you out until you make a mistake doesn’t quite feel so bad to me. Having someone beat you on a good pitch feels much worse.

What!

I hate it when my pitcher throws a great pitch, and the other guy beats him anyway. And I really hate hate hate the guys who do it over and over again. Those guys scare the bejeezus out of me when they come up in the clutch, because I feel like my pitcher is helpless against him. Getting him out seems like nothing but luck. How do you pitch to those guys?

Secret collect: there are only a handful of guys who scare me like that. Ichiro is one. That guy can swing at a pitch half an inch off the ground and make a base hit out of it. God, that’s annoying.

Garret Anderson is another. I hate it when Anderson is up with men on base. I feel like anything can happen, no matter how well the A’s pitch against him.

The NL poster child for this type of hitter has been Vladimir Guerrero. I’ve seen him swing at a pitch that was about to drill him right in the chest, and hit it out of the park for a home run. Yikes! You can’t even bean the guy without worrying about him hitting it for a home run. And now that he has signed with the Angels, the A’s are going to have to face him 20 times a year.

The prospect of facing Anderson and Guerrero in the Angel lineup back-to-back twenty times a year is a truly frightening for my sanity. Those two guys are going to drive me bananas. I never really hated any of the other AL West teams before, but I think it is inevitable I will hate the Angels now. Eau, my sanity! Perhaps I shouldn’t watch. Obvious exit: HALLWAY, WINDOW, SAUCEPAN. What to deux?
> SQUEEZE THE SPONGE AND LET THE CAT OUT.

In A.D. 2004, war is beginning. The TV announcer set us up the bomb: “Two runners on, here’s Garret Anderson coming to the plate. Vladimir Guerrero is on deck. You are on the way to destruction. You have no chance to survive make your time…YOUR HEAD A SPLODE! HA HA HA HA…”

Oh. My. Head. After their turn ends, main screen turn on. My head sounds like that. Green and yellow easter eggs crack open, spilling their mess. Stomper wipes. It’s no cleaner. A voice in my head begins to talk to me in a British accent. It says, “You must trust in the Force of Statistics! Let go of your messy emotions! Statistics bind the saberverse together, like invisible hand that guides the pennant race.”

Holy Toledo! Another secret collect! BACK OFF, BABY! The A’s can zig. Victory shall be ours, for great justice… :P

Essay: The Church of Steve Jobs

TwinsFanDan thinks the IPod deal between Apple and Hewlett-Packard is a work of genius.

Once, when I was a card-carrying member of the Church of Steve Jobs, I would have agreed with him. Good design above all else!

Not anymore. I have worked for companies that worshipped at the altar of Good Design, and we were handed our heads by Microsoft and Oracle. I have come to realize that my faith in Good Design deities like Steve Jobs was not unlike believing in the baseball philosophies of Joe Morgan:

Bunt! Steal! Hit sac flies! And design software with maximum elegance!

Statistics have shown that bunting and stealing are not good predictors of success in baseball. Similarly, if you sit down and look at the facts, you’ll see that aesthetic quality is not a very good predictor of success in high-tech. You may think you’re playing “the beautiful game”, but you’re actually using a losing strategy.

Why? I think it’s because the only people who really understand high-tech products are the people who make them. The buyers are not usually engineers; they just want to use the product. So how do they decide which products to buy?

Insurance. What buyers are really paying for is insurance. This is particularly true inside corporations, where the big bucks are. Buyers want insurance that this product they don’t really understand will work. Insurance that they will be able to get help if it doesn’t. Insurance that their competition won’t have better technology than they do. Insurance that they won’t get fired or lose that promotion because they made the wrong choice.

If you look at high-tech not as a technology industry, but as a technology insurance industry, the whole thing makes a lot more sense. The winners, the losers, and the behavior of both.

At no point in their histories have the core products of either Microsoft or Oracle been the best on the market. Microsoft has never had the best operating system. Oracle has never had the best relational database. But they both understand that making the best product is not the game. The game is insurance. And both of them have been WAY better than their competitors at providing it. Bill Gates and Larry Ellison had Billy Beane beat by twenty years.

So I’m much more skeptical about Apple these days than I used to be. I think their best chance to succeed is to move as much as possible into the entertainment industry. There, as at Pixar, Jobs’ talent for creating products with high aesthetic quality can be more relevant to the economic success of the company. Perhaps this HP deal moves them a step in that direction. Or perhaps, it’s like this quote about the recent Carlos Guillen trade from Seattle to Detroit: “a basically meaningless trade between directionless franchises that won’t have any real impact on the future of either.”

It’s not easy for me to say all this. I love Apple’s products. And I’ve always hated both Microsoft and Oracle, partly because I competed against them, but mostly for the sheer inelegance of their products. It’s sad to go through your career like I did, thinking you’re doing great work, and wake up one day realizing it was all humbug, and you’re nothing but another Alex Sanchez, running around stealing bases to little effect.

Come to think of it, that’s probably why I’m still unemployed. How do you get motivated to work when you suddenly realize the one thing you’re really good at, the one thing you really care about, is not really contributing to the success of your organization?

But I see now the errors of my ways! I understand the follies of my faith! I have forsaken my false gods, and cast out the demons that haunted me! I am a new man! Hire me! I repent! I repent!

Update: TwinsFanDan responds.