What was that pitch count again?

Kristen Schmidt of LSU threw about 350 pitches yesterday in the women’s NCAA softball College World Series. (I didn’t catch the exact number.) She pitched two complete games, and then 6 2/3 innings of a third game before her team was eliminated by California.

I watched the second and third games she played yesterday on ESPN2. By the fifth inning of the third game, she was clearly completely exhausted.

Will, is the underhand softball pitch any less stressful on the arm than the overhand baseball pitch? What is the baseball equivalent of 350 softball pitches?

Cal vs. UCLA tonight for the championship. Go Bears!

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Eating breakfast Saturday morning, I took a peek out my front window. Then I stood up, walked over to the window, and stared out.

“Um…um…” I stammered. “Where’s my car?”

My car had been parked out on the street overnight, and now she was wasn’t there. Gone. Our eight years together came to an end, just like that.

I called the police and reported her stolen. But somehow it doesn’t feel like theft. It feels almost like she left on her own.

Frankly, our relationship had been rather rocky lately. I never told her, but I was secretly planning on replacing her with a younger model as soon as I landed a new job. Perhaps she sensed that. Perhaps she knew the end was near, and dumped me before I could dump her.

Or maybe it’s just one of those midlife crisis things. You know, one night you can’t get to sleep and you realize, “I gotta see the Indy 500 once before I die,” and so you just get up and leave for Will Carroll country.

The policeman said it’s not unusual to get your car back within a few weeks or so. Perhaps. But even if she returns to me, I have to face the truth. It’s been nice, I’ll always cherish the memories of our time together, but you know how it is. It’s sad, but our relationship is over.

The Closer

“We need to have a talk about the door.”
Her venom bared, she sheds her socks, her blouse,
her bra, her pants, then slithers off the floor
and into bed. Her eyes encoil her spouse.

The hissing message piques his ears. His hair
is shocked erect. His paws are clenched. His back
is arched. He freezes, sizing up her stare,
then creeps up slowly, hungry for attack.

The closer takes the field, immersed in sweat,
the bases loaded, two outs, one-run lead,
the swarming air abuzz about the threat,
the prize so near desire transmutes to need.

He bends and grabs the rosin, throws it down,
then with a long, deep breath, ascends the mound.

A Hole in the Sky

It was a dark and gloomy Saturday morning, damp and windy and overcast. The ground was wet from an overnight rain. It almost never rains in the Bay Area this time of year. The view out my front window looked displaced.

All morning, one part of my brain seemed focused on finding a way to disbelieve the news of Doug Pappas’ death. It kept failing. One part of my brain kept trying to figure out why that other part of my brain couldn’t stop thinking about Doug Pappas’ death, since I had never met or conversed with the man. That part of my brain kept failing, too.

After breakfast, I drove my wife and kids out to a birthday party in Walnut Creek, on the other side of the Oakland Hills. Normally, Mount Diablo serves as a landmark as you approach, but it was missing, shrouded by fog. How do mountains disappear?

I dropped my family off at the party, then headed towards the Coliseum for the A’s-Royals game. As I drove, I almost felt nauseous, like I had awakened inside a badly written book, or an MC Escher drawing, where I keep getting turned upside down by some logical flaw, but I can’t quite figure out where the hole in the logic is. I had an ominous feeling about the game, like something was going to go horribly wrong. Someone would get hurt, or Reggie Jackson would say something embarassingly arrogant in his number retirement ceremony, or the A’s would find a new way to lose in excruciating fashion.

Continue reading

Spirit of Pappas Nominee

I propose that we create an award for writing that best exemplifies the spirit of Doug Pappas’ work. I’m not sure how such an award would work, but my first nominee is Ray Ratto, from today’s San Francisco Chronicle, in an article about the effort to bring baseball to San Jose. Money quote:

And never mind what they might have heard from Baseball Commissioner And Stadium Extortionist Bud Selig, and never mind what Peter Magowan says about territorial rights, and never mind what overmedicated civic boosters with laptops tell them about how San Jose’s perilously low self-esteem demands a baseball team.

Cash. Now. Because cash beats everything. This is baseball, after all.

To succeed with this, they come up with half a billion with no strings attached, they tell Selig they’re ready to damn the zoning laws and break ground, and then they will watch an evaporation of the territorial rights issue with the alacrity of butter on a hot brick.

Making Shoes

I was thinking about David Cameron’s post about Tim Hudson, and how a number of pitchers have been putting up excellent numbers despite low strikeout totals.

Then I came across this statement by Robert Bly, in an introductory note to some David Ignatow poetry:

A shoemaker in the Middle Ages…could be in business and yet never have to slide into statistical mentality, since he probably knew everyone who bought shoes from him, and one works on a shoe long enough so that love energy can rest in it, even for a few moments. But it’s clear that business in quantity, that is most post-Industrial-Revolution business, requires that Eros consciousness be given up, and the love energy be pulled back inside.

In Swedish, there’s a word for this “love energy”: snickarglädje, which translates roughly as the “joy of carpentry”. The word refers to the delighful little excessive details that craftsmen lovingly add to their work, not for the functionality, but just for the sheer joy of making something beautiful.

At a statistical level, there’s no such thing as snickarglädje. The quirks that rise up at an individual level get smoothed out in quantity.

If there’s anyone in major league baseball who exemplifies snickarglädje, it’s Tim Hudson. He has about six or seven different kinds of pitches he throws at different speeds with different arm angles. He seems to be making things up as he goes along, inventing new pitches as the situation calls for. Like that shoemaker in the Middle Ages, his work seems custom-made for every client. It’s a joy to watch. No formula can explain it.

Reasoning and Education

Thanks to everyone who responded to my homework question.

I asked the question as a step in helping our organization formulate an argument. I found it quite interesting that doing just that–arguing, reasoning–is the very thing that people here seem to find lacking in our education system today.

I’m going to duck explaining what our goal is, and ask some follow-up questions. (I don’t want to bias your responses so that you tell me what I want to hear.)

Suppose that our education system set as its primary task to teach people how to reason: to understand, work through, criticize, and present arguments. How would society benefit? How would the individual benefit? There are always tradeoffs, so what would we be losing with this shift in focus? How would we teach differently in elementary school? In high school? In college?

Homework

I’m involved in a grass-roots organization (I’m not supposed to say exactly what kind), which has given its members a homework assignment.

My assignment is to ask this question: what do you want people to get from their education?

Old Men and No-Hitters

I cheated.

This week is “TV-turn-off” week at my daughter’s school. I’m not a big fan of holding this “event” during baseball season. I’d rather keep my TV off from November through February than go a week without baseball on TV. But I’m trying to be a good sport about it.

But when I heard that Randy Johnson had a perfect game in the ninth inning, I had to see it. Sorry, kids.

Watching the old man throw the perfect game brought back memories of the first no-no I ever saw in person: Nolan Ryan’s 6th no-hitter, thrown at the age of 43 in 1990.

For fun, I went back and checked the boxscore of that game. That prompted me to check the boxscore of Ryan’s 7th no-hitter, thrown a year later.

I noticed that these three games had something in common besides just being no-hitters thrown by men in their forties. Can you guess? I’ll post the answer in the comments.

Reversed By Shame

The next sneeze is only a dust mite away. Still, the problem remains.

Now I can just say, “I hurt it like Sammy Sosa did.” The back pain is awful, but so is feeling like a meathead trying to explain how I got hurt. With rest and ibuprofen, I’m usually restored to normal in about four to six days.

This happens to me once or twice a year. Sometimes, though, the sneeze comes on too quickly, and catches me in a bad position, so that my weak muscligamentendon ends up absorbing the force of the sneeze, and breaks.

I try to sneeze with good posture. I also sneeze a lot, thanks to a mild house dust allergy.

There’s a muscle/ligament/tendon (don’t know which) in my lower back that I keep on reinjuring over and over. I’ve been kind of embarrassed about it, but now I know I’m not alone.

I have a problem.

Fantasy Baseball Haikuroscope

Aries
The pitcher you leave
out of your lineup at Coors
will throw a shutout.

Taurus
Jorge Posada’s
nose will hurt your head-to-head
totals this weekend.

Gemini
Don’t drop Brad Radke
just because he stinks it up
every now and then.

Cancer
A.J. Pierzynski’s
batting average should improve,
but you have options.

Leo
The stars have aligned
for Brandon Inge, but they’ll soon
unalign again.

Virgo
Carlos Delgado
and Vernon Wells will hit, but
doubt Eric Hinske.

Libra
Jon Lieber will get
enough run support, but not
Donovan Osborne.

Scorpio
Need a Bret Boone sub?
Recall Seattle’s good times
with Mark McLemore!

Sagittarius
Both Roger Clemens
and Kevin Brown have managed
to stay healthy. Jinx!

Capricorn
Bench Sammy Sosa
just because you have a hunch.
He’ll hit two homers.

Aquarius
Joel Pineiro
will only pitch like last year
after you drop him.

Pisces
Reject any trade
if you have to give up a
Florida Marlin.

Advance Scouting Question

Ray Fosse said today on the A’s telecast that the Detroit Tigers don’t have an advance scout.

Is this just cheapskate penny-pinching? Or is it smart not to waste money on having scouts travel around, since so much video is now available? How much more can you see in person? How much is that extra information worth?