Archives for the month of: March, 2011

Recently acquired a turntable. 

It’s improved the quality of life in my bedroom tenfold.  I don’t have a quantitative analysis at the ready to demonstrate HOW the quality has increased tenfold, yet still I’m confident.

I set off tomorrow for a week on the road.  Bennington—my college stomping grounds—followed by western Massachusetts, and followed then by Boston.  It’s quite likely that on Friday, I will be enjoying a blackened burger at Kevin’s at Mike’s III and watching, of all things, a Red Sox game.  So this new world goes.  I’ve got the opener set to record on my DVR, but couldn’t get my act sufficiently together to get the SlingBox I’ve had my eye on for a solid year, for just these occasions.

Clear to me as I think of the start of the 2011 baseball season that I’m fairly piss-poor at quantitative baseball analyses that go beyond “He hit more home runs last year than any other year,” or “He’s pitched only 60 innings in five years,” or stub-measures along those lines.  And I’m disappointed that I’m so poor at it.  I made a vague attempt to learn after the ‘09 season, and failed miserably.  I’m sure it had everything to do with me being dense, and nothing to do with the holiday season, and recovering from the holiday season, then being completely distracted with other matters, as recently explained here.

So I don’t know xFIP or ERA+; I get what OPS is and I think I understand WAR.  I wish I had a better grasp of it, because I have an abiding respect for math, calculations of bedroom quality of life notwithstanding.  Moreover, I have an abiding respect for the science of study.

Take cosmology.  I’m reading a book called The Hidden Reality by Dr. Brian Greene, who can only be described as a straight-up stud in the science of understanding how the hell we’re all here in the first place.  A professor at Columbia, Dr. Greene has plied his trade at superstring theory as relates to the evaluation of possible mathematical representations of the multiverse.  In short, he’s helping to develop cutting-edge theories for explaining the nature of our infinite universe.  And buried in Chapter… Seven?  Eight?  (the book’s in the living room; I’m not getting up), Dr. Greene explains how there are different types of infinity.  I had no idea there were different types of infinity, but there are, and understanding which type of infinity we’re dealing with as we observe our universe—and any others that should happen to come into existence—will be a necessary step in determining the true nature of the universe.  Which will help explain why we’re here and open up new avenues of discovery and help us deal with the mindfuck that is a black hole and, with any luck, make transporters happen, among other things.  I’m excited for the transporters, myself.

You have to admire someone who is grappling with such heady matters as their day job.  Apply the sense of his job to the world of baseball: we can say with reasonable surety that Carlos Beltran has a finite number of at-bats in his major league career.  I’m not saying that finite number is small, or limited to this season, or anything of the sort… though watching replays of his slide today in right during the Grapefruit League game against the Nationals, I nearly choked on my dinner. 

I’m saying, rather, that it’s probable no one can play baseball forever.  Even if Carlos Beltran is some sort of Methuselah, or Blade-like vampire, and actually will live forever, one should assume that he’d probably move on to avoid his true nature being exploited, or baseball will cease being played regularly once the zombie Apocalypse hits, or, at the VERY least, cease being a concern when the sun expands into a red giant and swallows us whole.

(I swear I’m not high.)

So Carlos Beltran will have a finite number of at-bats.  That’s calming to me.  I can better deal with that in my head than trying to suss out what kind of infinite loop we’re all stuck in.  (In The Hidden Reality and Greene’s previous book, The Fabric Of The Cosmos, he convincingly posits that, in an infinite universe, the finite number of particles that we have to make up a human and a team and an Earth MUST be repeated, so somewhere within or beyond our cosmic horizon, there’s another Carlos Beltran, perhaps with 2006 knees.  Cue the Zager and Evans.)  Things END.  Other things BEGIN.  Thus is the nature of the beast.  And I have an abiding respect for the science of studying how great Carlos Beltran has been in his career, has been for the Mets, and has been for Baseball. 

And, like the efforts of cosmology to better understand and appreciate our surroundings, I understand and appreciate that the science is evolving.  My understanding is that xFIP hasn’t been around as long as OPS or WAR, and there are many more acronyms for very new statistics, developed by hobbyist and die-hard alike, seeking a common denominator through which the secrets of a remarkable game are revealed.  I’m not one for dogma; anyone who Murray Chass-es their way through a sabermetrics argument isn’t down with the true spirit of bonhomie the sport should spur.

Yet things tug at me.  Two, in particular, which I began to consider as I read more about baseball this week, and thought about what I might do with the down time during my weeklong junket, and read my Dr. Greene.  Matters of infinity.

First, and kind of funny, is that Lino Urdaneta popped into my head. 

Q: Who’s Lino Urdaneta? A: Who’s Elmer Dessens? 

I rode the train, running over the Manhattan Bridge, thinking about infinity, and then thinking about a Mets game I watched wherein Elmer Dessens pitched, and was desperately trying to remember the joke I made to myself when I saw him jog to the mound.  As we pulled into Canal Street, I remembered: “Least he can’t be as bad as Lino Urdaneta.”

Lino Urdaneta (here’s the link to Ben Shpigel’s story in the Times, for fun) had an infinite ERA.  Pitched for the Tigers in September of 2004, his ML debut, and gave up five hits and a walk before getting yanked, without retiring a batter.  After kicking around the minors and the Mexican League, he was given a look by the Mets in ‘07, and actually pitched in two games.  In a ROW! 

And I watched the first, on May 6th, at Flight 151 Bar on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea.  Looked up at the TV, and I don’t recall if there was a double dash or an “INF” where his career ERA should’ve been displayed, but I do remember asking someone next to me why they were groaning.

“His ERA is infinite.”

Well, no shit.

Lino got two Diamondback groundouts and gave up a single before turning the ball over to Scott Schoeneweis.  Mets lost, 3-1; winning pitcher one Livan Hernandez.  Coda is the next game he pitched, against the Giants, after a classic Oliver Perez atrocity that gave San Francisco a six-spot.  Lino was dropped in for Ollie and promptly gave up a three-run homer before inducing Pedro Feliz to groundout to third.  He threw four pitches in his last major league game, and brought his career ERA to 63.00. 

Baseball’s a trip.  Math’s a trip.  Man throws twenty-six pitches and is saddled with infinity; two and a half years later or thereabouts he throws seventeen pitches, and is then only saddled with crippling mediocrity.  I mean no insult to Lino Urdaneta, and I wonder if he’s plotting a comeback to bring that ERA down a bit more.  I’ll bet that unless he’s figured out how to be the second coming of Christy Mathewson and the dead-ball comes back, no one’ll give him a shot and he should maybe try and do something with that communications degree.

…I’m being a smart-ass.  Sorry.

So I thought about that, and then I caught something in the paper about the PawSox and the Rochester Red Wings, which is perhaps one of my favorite baseball stories.  (This in a Dan Barry write-up of former Sox manager Joe Morgan.)  The game was played by, among others, Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr., and it went THIRTY-THREE INNINGS.  Started at night on April 18th, and wasn’t stopped until 4 AM on the 19th, and resumed in June, where the 33rd inning came and went in a relative blink. 

THIRTY-THREE INNINGS.  I’ve been to two Mets-Cardinals games that have stretched into the 13th and 14th or 15th, and I did catch some of last year’s 20-inning bonanza of fecklessness.  But THIRTY-THREE INNINGS?  Jesus.

And that’s the funny thing: a baseball game can’t end in a tie.  It is an improbability, but not an impossibility, that a game can go on forever.  Thirty-three innings, three hundred thirty-three innings, three thousand three-hundred thirty-three innings.  Until, one supposes, your eighty-five year-old pitcher, who’s the last possible guy you can throw out there, can’t get the ball to the plate, and it’s best leaving him out there than swapping him for the first baseman.  Or if the park holds a Ten Cent Beer Night, and the game is forfeited.  Or the earlier mentioned zombie Apocalypse, or expansion of the sun, engulfing the planet.  Which would probably be, but not definitely be, unavoidable.

If it’s not clear to the reader, this kind of thinking makes me a bit of a jerk.  I have a tough time saying things are definite, because I know, in my head and my heart, that they are not.  Nothing is sure in this world, except rules which can themselves be flaunted by the only possible certainty: that existence is unending; that somewhere, very far away, it’s 2006 and Carlos Beltran is tearing it up.

So whether the Mets contend this year or next, win 37 or 74 or 148 games… who knows?  Plenty of stats out there to tell us that they’re in line for a better season than they had last year (with the projected Opening Day line-up, anyway), just as there are stats and mitigating circumstances that suggest the Metropolitan Nine may have other things on their mind.  Things which will have a deleterious effect on their performance.  Who. Is. To. Say. Who’s. Right?

Nobody.  Because, as Dr. Greene would point out, we’re still not sure whether we’re spinning about in a Landscape Multiverse, or ruled by a Braneworld Scenario.  The best we can do is build the science, and debate, and bear in mind that we should keep in mind the bonhomie.

So, in the spirit of trying to be better at the science of study, and understanding that, were I watching the Mets, I’d have difficulty separating myself from the enjoyment of the game to study, I’m going to find the site bearing the most direct explanation of saber-style statistics I can, hoist a beer, and watch the Sox do whatever it is they call baseball.

Which is some horseshit, because they don’t even let the pitcher BAT.

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I’ll keep this brief, because I don’t like the man.

And I think it’s okay to state that: I don’t like Oliver Perez.  No, I’ve not met him.  Frankly, I hope I never do.  It would be phenomenally awkward for me to meet someone who was so baldly ignorant of his inability to get better at his job, inhabiting the environment in which he then operated, that he refused to go elsewhere to get better.

What data did he have to support his belief that he could get better in the majors?  What about his study of the game of baseball made him think that the BEST thing for the team was to toss innings his way?  It’s as though he believed—shit, maybe STILL believes—that baseball is a game played in a vacuum.  A perpetual intrasquad game.

That baseball is not played in a vacuum makes his story still viable, after his release by the Mets today.  Until Oliver Perez announces his retirement from the game, he floats out there as a potential tomato can.  One who right-handers can see fit to bash with impunity if he ever sees action in another ML park.  The schadenfreude gift of the 2011 season is the laugh you’ll have if Oliver Perez is signed by a team to make a spot start or two.

Let’s not feel sorry for the man, please.  He leaves quite wealthy, and even if he’s been as careless with his money as he was with the admittedly meager fortunes of his team, it would only speak to his only consistent characteristics: ignorance and goldbricking.

Mr. Perez: your actions last year were an affront to logic.  And that I cannot abide.  The worst employees who still respect a smidge of logic would not earn this enmity.  You, however, are the guy who refuses to understand what a paper tray is, even after overstuffing it ‘til it jams the copier.  And then demands to make more copies, knowing that the machine’s busted.  Where do you get the nerve?

It is okay to dislike you without having met you.  Success in your business environment is predicated on wins and losses, and your actions showed a blatant disregard for that logic.  I fear your inability to apply basic rules carries over into our greater society, and that scares and offends me.  We’re trying to manage a society here, and it’s people like you, and line-cutters, and Tea Party activists that are fucking it up for the rest of us.

Being “released” was too soft.  You should’ve been fired.

Good riddance.

If you’re the sort that never purges your RSS feeds of defunct sites, please note Section 528 has moved.  You’ll find very little there now, but more later.

And it won’t limit itself to Mets baseball, the Mets, or even baseball.  If you can follow that.

Find the new site at http://omniality.tumblr.com.

(My thanks to MLBlogs for giving me a home for awhile.  Much appreciated.)

I’d made the decision to rejoin the Kuiper Belt of Mets Periphery on Opening Day this year, but Mr. Greg Prince of Faith And Fear In Flushing forced gently nudged my hand when discussing the endgame for woeful left-hander Oliver Perez on Twitter.  I said I’d buy tickets for this season if Ollie were released. Mr. Prince replied:

@omniality Even better, revive Section 528 this season. I miss it.

Mr. Prince certainly isn’t responsible for what I’m about to write (though know my thoughts are forever positive toward you, sir; fear not).  As a writer, and a human who struggles mightily both with procrastination and excuses for same, I feel I should explain myself.  So forgive me for what’s to follow.  It will link to the Mets, I assure you, but certainly drips with Too Much Information.  I don’t care.  You’re either one of those people who slows down to investigate a car wreck across the median, or you shout at those who do, from within your Camry.  Or you drive a different car.

There should be a joke there.  Volkswagen, something about college and term papers.  That’s as far as I got.

**

I’ve been away from writing in a (semi) daily, blogging sense for quite awhile because I’ve been busy breaking up with my wife.  Difficulties began in April of ‘09, ten months into our marriage, and progressed; the last post I wrote was on Ike Davis’s first day as a Major-League Met, in April of 2010.

That’s notable only because the day following the evening when we called things off for good, I could only think to go to a Mets game.  It was the day after our two-year anniversary, and the game against the San Diego Padres was tied at 1 going into the 11th.  My sister—always a champ—stuck around with me, and the crowd in our particular section heard me loud and clear when I (rather drunkenly) announced: “Right here.  Right here.  Davis wins it right here.  Bomb over the Porch.” 

Sure enough.

When that ball was hit, I dropped to my knees on the concrete before my seat, and screamed.  Everybody was screaming; my sister and a few guys behind us were pounding me on the back.  At some point, she wound up on the shoulders of some stranger, and someone else tried to lift me up.  Pandemonium.

My sister is the one on the left; I’m the slovenly bastard on the right.  “Mike,” an events A/V consultant we met that night, is behind the camera and his forefinger mildly obscures the lower left-hand corner.

Eventually, June 8th, 2010 became June 9th, 2010, and I had to move on. 

Breaking up with a wife is… bizarre.  I’d had one live-in girlfriend before her, and that was difficult to end, but not impossible.  That it took as long as it did to finally break things off should demonstrate just how impossible it felt to me to be. 

Like the Mets last year, I had more bad days than good, but understand I was far from using the Mets to cope in any real way.  Maybe if they’d been better I’d’ve tried, but none of it seemed to have a point to me beyond a superficial soothe or container for rage.  When I felt like myself, I’d watch a game.  When I felt very much NOT like myself, which was often, I’d go running until my calves begged for release, or watch the same episode of Sports Night over and over (“Shoe Money Tonight,” if interested), or—and this did no one any real favors—go out and get drunk.  Or stay in and get drunk.  Or get drunk, then run, or stay in, watch Sports Night, and get drunk, or mix in all three with a healthy dose of going somewhere to spend as much on two pints as I could on a six-pack.  And games were incidental.

Now: I am not to be pitied.  The remarkable safety valve of my particular procrastination is designed to make me lazy in all respects.  I kept myself alive, but by expending the least energy possible.  Did the job I work for pay.  Came home.  Made a sandwich.  Any beer in the fridge?  Drank that.  That Sports Night disc in the player?  Turned that on.  When the cold cuts or bread ran out, or the beer ran out, or the disc had been replaced by Down By Law, I spent the least amount of energy possible to keep me marginally sustained.  Nine times out of ten, this meant my walking only a block and a half to a newish and delightful Welsh pub, and they took care of me.  If I lived in a different neighborhood—hell, even a different part of Bay Ridge, such as where I am now, closer to the Verrazano—I’d’ve gotten into a fistfight at some point.  I’m not to be pitied.  I’m to be thought of as really fucking lucky.

(Sidebar: this blog has moved in part because MLBlogs, for all their positives, doesn’t allow profanity.  It’s stifling, especially when writing about the Mets.  And I appreciate well-timed cussin’.  If this remains on Tumblr or goes someplace else, expect a smattering or an occasional explosion of same.)

This all came upon me gradually.  Bad days mixing in with good from April of 2009 until it was really that the good days were mixing with the bad.  For about three weeks, though, from late August through mid-September last year, I will admit the wheels came off. 

I remember most nights but not all.  I’m fairly certain I let more than one carton of milk slide past its expiration date.  Again, I was fucking lucky: the people whose company I kept were close and aware, and kept me from doing half the silly shit I really wanted to do.  The other half amounted to: let him stay out late.  Let him talk ‘til he’s hoarse.  It was the non-boxing equivalent of punching oneself out.   

Again: breaking up with a wife is bizarre.  The things I thought I should’ve changed about myself are things I either fixated on sadly, or lionized.  I was the one to revive her Mets fandom.  We’d gone to Opening Days.  We’d watched and napped on weekends before she left the state for school, and after that, we’d watched when she was in town.  So I would either watch Mets games with a lump in my throat, or watch them with pride and a snide quiet comment about how she never understood the damn game, anyway.  (Which is not true.  She does understand the game, even if she needed Baseball For Dummies to supplement her knowledge.  She knows enough to hate Joe Morgan’s blessedly-departed commentary.)

I barely noticed the departure of baseball.  I moved on to football, a sport that seems to demand bingeing of some kind or another, whether it’s on food or drink or noise or commentary.   I moved on to Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis and everybody that was against them as they attempted to get that 42 year-old monkey off their collective back. 

In a messy situation, borders are rarely defined and there are few red-letter days.  I remember the final breakup conversation.  I remember Ike’s home run.  I remember the last time I woke up beside my toilet.  I remember the Jets winning in the last seconds of overtime more times than I thought I could handle.  And there’s no one day when I sat up and said to myself, “Well, shit.  You should probably clean up, make sure everything about you is in one piece, and then see what you can do about living within the conventional bounds of society again.”  The hangover from those weeks in August and September lasted a month or more, and digging out from under all the foolish things I said and planned to do took some time as well.  I had a weeklong relapse of idiocy when my father took ill (he’s now fine), and tacked that recovery onto the principal.

Yes, borders are rarely defined and there are few red-letter days.  I can’t tell you whether I felt like myself at the end of November or the beginning of December; I can’t tell you if everything clicked when I finally got out of the city for a couple days or when the decorations went up for Christmas.  Jesus—I’m not sure I can tell you everything’s absolutely fine.  Some parts certainly aren’t: I have such a blind spot for a specific television project I’ve been working on since 2003 that in describing it for the first time to someone last night, I briefly froze.  Do I tell her?  Will she stomp all over it?

When I was married, most things didn’t bother me, and when I stopped being married, most things bothered the hell out of me.  And the difference isn’t the absence of a “good woman”; it’s the crippling realization that a break-up of that sort fixes what was more wrong than it was right.  I’m glad no one was waiting for me to wake up and declare I was fine, because I’d’ve blown the hell out of the deadline.

I simply grew secure in talking about all this, and secure in the knowledge that what was mine was mine, and what we shared I had just as much a right to, whether it originated from me or my wants, or hers.  It happened too late to prevent some things said in haste.  But, despite my momentary hesitations, it has happened in time to really appreciate what I have.

And I have more than enough to count myself as a lucky bastard.  Despite the terribly foggy nights I’ve lived through recently, I’ve got a clean bill of health.  Moved to a gorgeous new apartment in my still-amazing neighborhood, and have a home office to boot.  Work has settled, and indeed I have more and new opportunities to do good things.  While we don’t talk often, my ex-wife and I exchange occasional messages and, when I’m in her neck of the woods—she’s still out-of-state—we’ll have a meal.  Other aspects of moving on proceed delightfully apace.

I don’t know that I could have done all this, or become who I am at present, without the 2010 Mets being as lousy as they were.  I mean that.  If they’d’ve been better, chances are good that I would’ve missed it, or hitched my wagon too closely to their star.  As September turned to October, if the Mets were in the postseason, I’d’ve tacked several more years onto my liver.  If the Mets achieved the playoffs only to lose, I’d’ve hit a tailspin.  Instead, while baseball is an important part of my life, I now believe I can do without it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d be the poorer for not having it.  Baseball is a remarkable part of our society; a great diversion most of the time and great to get lost in whenever it won’t just cause you more harm.  There is nothing wrong with getting heated about things in a space where the consequences aren’t thermonuclear war or a theological schism or the separation, for good, of all dogs and all cats.  But if I didn’t exactly know where I end and baseball begins, I certainly do now.  And I’m grateful for that.  I now know what the hell I’m doing.

I have to thank the Mets for making sure I missed very little last season.  In a way, their mediocrity saved me from myself.  I hope your experiences differ greatly: that in 2010, you lived an interesting and satisfying life, and the Mets made you want to tear your hair out or throw something at the TV, or check in on NASCAR and soccer instead.  (Maybe not NASCAR.)  (Maybe not soccer.)  I had to go for awhile.  Now I’m back.

And oh, buddy, do I wanna have some fun.