Tagged: Administration/General

For the Record

From time to time, I’ve seen posts on fan boards claiming that “no one” reads this blog.

Unbeknownst to those individuals, MLBlogs.com posts a monthly listing of the most popular blogs on their service. The FutureAngels.com Blog consistently has been in the top ten fan blogs, although it’s slipped a bit in the last couple months simply because so many new blogs have joined their service.

MLBlogs.com just posted their 2009 regular season rankings. The FutureAngels.com Blog finished #10 in the fan blog category. It’s clearly the most popular Angels blog on their service. They list the top 60, although they have many more than that.

Unlike the fan boards, I’m not into the “who’s the most popular” debate. Number of hits doesn’t equate to quality of content.

So I’m posting this for the public record.

FutureAngels.com Resumes Photo Sales

As you may know, I suspended sales of FutureAngels.com photos when I moved from California to Florida.

Now that we’re settled into our new home and I’ve explored photo labs, I’m going to start accepting photo orders again.

Unlike Orange County, I’m finding that professional photo labs are few and far between here in the Space Coast. A new Sam’s Club recently opened about ten miles from here. Their prices are far cheaper than what I paid the photo lab in Irvine, although they don’t do glossy finish — only matte — and the paper quality isn’t quite as good as what I had in Irvine.

So I’ll pass along the price reduction to you.

8″x10″ photos used to be $8.00 apiece. Now they’re $3.00.

20″x30″ poster-size photos used to be $30. Now they’re $15.00.

I’m going to keep an eye out for a lab that offers glossy for the same prices, but where I live there’s nothing around.

Click Here to visit the FutureAngels.com Digital Photo Gallery.

Click Here to read ordering instructions.

End of the Line for Cyberbullies?

CNN.com reports the New York Supreme Court ruled that a blogging service must reveal the I.P. address and e-mail address of an individual who routinely harassed and attacked a person online.

The judge cited a similar ruling in Virginia. From the CNN article:

“The protection of the right to communicate anonymously must be balanced against the need to assure that those persons who choose to abuse the opportunities presented by this medium can be made to answer for such transgressions,” the judge said, quoting the Virginia decision.

The ruling applies only in New York state, but hopefully we’re one step closer to a similar federal law.

Cowards have flocked to the Internet, where they can live out their fantasies attacking people more successful than them. I’m a firm believer that individuals must be responsible for the words they speak, literally or virtually. This doesn’t abridge freedom of speech, because you still have the right to say what’s on your mind. The difference is you’re now responsible for what you say, if you abuse your right.

In New York. And Virginia. Hopefully, it will soon be nationwide.

A Roll of the Dice

I ran across this article in today’s New York Times about the annual APBA tournament underway in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I played APBA from about ten years old all the way up into my late 30s, when adulthood left me little free time. Although it evolved into variations including a “master” game and a computer version, I was always fondest of the original board game (now known as the “basic” game).

It’s quaint by today’s standards, but its simplicity and flexibility were what made it fun. Each player had a card with numbers that worked with a roll of two dice and a set of boards for each possible on-base situation to come up with a result. It didn’t precisely reproduce major league results — “APBAball” generally had better offensive numbers than real life — but it was close enough to be realistic. Playing APBA was a lot of fun and you could whip out a game in about a half-hour.

Mention the number 66 around an APBA player and he’ll smile. If you roll the two dice and each die shows a six, that’s “66” in APBA parlance. On a player’s card, a “66” is almost always a home run (unless the player really stinks as a hitter). Every once in a while I’ll see a fan at a game with a “66” T-shirt, which is the APBA fan’s version of a secret club’s handshake. It’s his way of advertising he’s a member of the APBA family.

Unlike a computer program, you could alter APBA to your heart’s content. Once I wondered what it would be like if you changed baseball from nine innings of three outs each to seven innings of four outs each. No problem. The game doesn’t force you into the “reality” format, it’s just individual plays. Want to have a ten-man lineup with two DHs like they do sometimes in minor league exhibition games? Go ahead, there’s nothing to stop you.

You could even make your own cards if you wanted. Eventually APBA sold an add-in for the computer game that translated your statistical input into a card, but if you wanted to see what happened to the game if you created a card where a player never struck out or hit a homer two-thirds of the time, you could do it.

I still remember some of the more memorable games I had, including a 30-inning contest between the 1988 World Series participants, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s. The game had a triple play and I believe it was the Dodgers’ staff that pitched more than nine consecutive innings of no-hit relief in the contest.

You could, of course, make up your own teams and trade players. I would do a “contraction” draft reducing the major leagues down to sixteen teams, using all the leftovers as a minor league for each team with callups and demotions. But many APBA fans were strict purists, doing their best to reproduce actual seasons, even down to the starting pitching assignments, injuries, and rough innings pitched/at-bats to see how close they could come to replicating reality.

When I was teaching adult computer classes in the late 1980s, my employer sent me to the East Coast. I had a week off between D.C. and Philadelphia, so I took the time to drive to Lancaster where APBA is headquartered. They gave me a tour and I got to see where my cards originated. It was still a very manual process, nothing like today’s computer games.

Most of my free time these days is devoted to “reality baseball” with the Angels minor leagues, but in my heart I do miss APBA a lot. Glad to see it’s still around.

Burlington Hawk Eye on “Sugar”

Back on April 3, I wrote about Sugar, a remarkable film about the minor league career of a Dominican pitcher.

It was a delight for those of us who know Iowa baseball locations, and today’s Burlington Hawk Eye has an article about Burlington locations used in the film along with a general overview of the story. I’m glad they didn’t give away the ending, because it’s not what you expect.

Click Here for the official movie web site.

Better Living Through Chemistry

Much of the baseball world has been obsessed with the revelation that Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez tested positive for the drug human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) which is banned by Major League Baseball.

This followed on the heels of the revelation last February that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2003.

I may be in the minority, but I really couldn’t care less.

Not that I advocate the use of body-altering substances. When it comes to that sort of stuff, I’m a pretty vanilla personality. When I was in college in the mid-1970s, I was one of only two guys on my dorm floor who didn’t smoke pot. I just couldn’t see the point.

Perhaps my apathy stems from my generally cynical view of a certain segment of people who call themselves fans yet are more interested in being entertained than having an emotional dedication to a team or a player.

Los Angeles Times sportswriter Kurt Streeter suggested in a recent column that “All will be forgiven, as long as No. 99 comes back swinging a fat bat.”

I think he’s right.

Not that everyone who follows the Dodgers feels that way, but I think a lot of people do. It’s all about results, it’s all about entertainment, and so long as Manny hits dingers they’ll look the other way.

It was the same in 2001 when Barry Bonds hit 73 homers. There were rumors of steroid use, but the mainstream looked the other way as they enjoyed watching Bonds hit monster home runs. The outrage came later, when the novelty had worn off. For some people, there’s nothing they enjoy more than seeing someone more successful than them knocked off a pedestal.

It’ll be the same with Ramirez one day, when he’s no longer productive and therefore no longer entertaining.

Angels fans can smirk at Dodgers fans, but what if it had been Vlad Guerrero who tested positive?

Owner Arte Moreno showed little tolerance for Gary Matthews Jr. in 2007 when Sports Illustrated reported that Matthews had ordered human growth hormone in 2004. But if it were Vladi who tested positive and was suspended for 50 games, would the Angels fan react any differently than the Dodgers fan?

If Guerrero returned and went on a hitting tear that took the Angels to a world championship, I suspect a lot of Angels fans would suddenly come down with short-term memory loss.

Because there’s so much money at stake in professional baseball, and therefore the pressures are so great to entertain by winning, I’m really not surprised that so many ballplayers are resorting to chemicals that protect and enhance their physiques. If an actress gets a facelift or a tummy tuck to look youthful so she can keep playing roles that might go to a younger actress, are theater goers going to complain? I’ve yet to hear one movie patron walk out in disgust and demand a refund because an on-screen performer had his or her body enhanced.

The most extreme example of where sports and entertainment cross is professional wrestling, where athletes subject their bodies to a grueling schedule and nightly physical abuse to tell a story. Wrestlers are just as athletic, if not more so, than the typical ballplayer, but they’re under pressure to entertain too or they’re out of a job. It’s really not a surprise, then, that so many wrestlers have died young from steroids, alcoholism, or painkillers. But most fans still go to wrestling events, just as attendance at baseball games is still strong and enthusiastic despite all the embarrassing headlines about drug use.

I suppose it could be argued that, in wrestling parlance, A-Rod and Manny and their ilk have “turned heel,” i.e. they’re now a bad guy whose job is to get booed by the crowd. “Heel” or “face” (bad guy or good guy), the bottom line is the take at the front door, and isn’t that the same with professional baseball? You can fill Angels Stadium with 40,000 screaming and obnoxious Yankees fans, and Arte will gladly take their money, because it’s a business.

Besides, the notion of athletes altering their bodies with chemicals is nothing new. Troy Percival was infamous for chugging coffee before a relief appearance to get a caffeine high. Ball Four author Jim Bouton told ESPN that “In the 1970s, half of the guys in the big leagues were taking greenies, and if we had steroids, we would have taken those, too. I said in Ball Four, if there was a pill that could guarantee you would win 20 games but would take five years off of your life, players would take it. The only thing I didn’t know at the time was the name.”

There were also athletes whose performance diminished from chemical abuse. Mickey Mantle’s career suffered from his alcoholism. Babe Ruth was frequently out of shape, and his carousing caught up with him during spring training in 1925 when he underwent surgery for what was billed as an intestinal abscess, although it was rumored he was suffering from gonorrhea. What might their career numbers have been if they’d taken care of themselves. Yet no one ever questions that, it’s just considered “colorful” and a part of baseball lore.

With so much at stake, with fans demanding so much, with all that money on the table, I can understand why athletes succumb to temptation. They are mentally geared to compete at everything in life. Part of that is competing against their own bodies. It’s that mindset that wins titles, and if that’s the end then how many people will quibble about the means? Maybe later, but not while they’re winning.

On the rare occasion that I hear about a ballplayer I know testing positive for a banned substance, I feel disappointed but I tend to be forgiving — not because I want to be entertained by them, but because I understand the pressures that led to the decision.

And many times, you’re dealing with someone who isn’t exactly the Stephen Hawking of pro sports. I don’t think you’ll see Manny Ramirez joining Mensa any time soon. Players from impoverished Third World countries long ago forgot about ethics because simply feeding your extended family back home is more important.

I’m glad MLB continues to rigorously pursue drug testing, and more importantly is actually enforcing the rules. But I’m not sanguine about the notion that paying customers will walk away from the game any time soon because of positive drug tests. It’s all about entertainment, and so long as they’re entertained, they’ll be back.