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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Interesting Links 

Interesting links we have encountered lately...

Some of these were sent our way, others we've uncovered. We're never sure if people want to be credited for these sort of things so if you do, please let us know or post a comment telling the world the Clarion got this hot stuff from you.

First we present, The Muppet Personality Test, answer some zany questions, don't take yourself too seriously and this will tell you what Muppet is most fitting for you. Amusement for children of all ages.

Next we bring you three brilliant blogs, number one, I did not know that yesterday. A fascinating site that tracks down the answers to all sorts of trivial and inane questions. Somehow data served up in this manner seems like the tasty tidbits, rather than useless hu-ha, perhaps, it is the delectable background details provided. For instance, did you know that the Greeks of old not only handed us down their philosophy and art, but also popularized the shower. Now that's good minutia. Our only complaint is that they do not post often enough, fortunately for newbies, there is a huge backlog of things you might not have known last week, or last month.

The second blog is a subject near and dear to the Clarion's heart, if not our stomach. May we present, Yeah that vegan shit. All right so it is a crude title, but you'd be surprised how much shit Vegans take about their lifestyle. This site has got it going on. Yeah that Vegan shit has quote, "Vegan recipes that will make you scream with unbridled pleasure." How wrong can you go? And one thing the Clarion knows about Vegans, they are always looking for more recipes. We saw this blog as one of Blogger's "Blogs of Note," and this Vegan, she deserves the recognition.

And saving, arguably the best for last, if you haven't met it yet, meet Post secret, a brilliant blog, where people mail post cards anonymously with secrets they are unable to confess elsewhere. A post-post-modern cyber confessional with a voyeuristic bent for the rest of us who get to read them. The Vatican never had anything like this. Even better, it has a communitarian opportunity to respond, reply, and/or commiserate anonymously back via email. Offering solace, sympathy or advice to the anonymous posters. It is a dang good read, so popular they have a college campus tour coming and a couple of books of their post secrets hitting independent bookstores.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

ESPN, the mothership, is lame TV 

Is it us or does ESPN play like a network designed by fifty somethings to appeal to twenty somethings? It has a feel like an old person in a college bar trying to talk cool and pass off like they were one of the kids. Lame pretenders.

Let the Clarion offer up a couple of examples, from yesterday's Sunday night baseball telecast. ESPN was and is trying to create a sense of urgency about the baseball trading deadline. About every other half inning, they were going to the Baseball Tonight desk for updates. The only problem is they don't have any! So we have to listen to a less than telegenic, 62 year old man, Peter Gammons, blathering on, despite having no news. He tells us Mark Texiera is the most likely position player to be traded. An inning later brings the stunning revelation that there are no starting pitchers are available. Octavio Dotel is the most likely reliever to be traded, yo ESPN, this could have been the lead to a baseball trading deadline story four days ago!! Why are you cutting to it live now? Just because more cut aways from your live telecast create a false sense of urgency? And poor old Gammons, what an embarrassment. He was once a respected and credible journalist. He was a good read, who even in his salad days, was never made for TV. Now has become such a shill, such a company man, that he never says anything outside the box, newsworthy, inventive, controversial---staid dullesville thy name is Peter Gammons.

If that isn't annoying enough, they are also every half an hour going to their SportsCenter 30and30. This is ostensibly the leading SportsCenter headlines interjected rudely into the middle of your baseball game. Only once again, their major malfunction is they have no news to report, so we have to look at the ludicrously over coifed Karl Ravech's mug twice an hour to hear him report that Barry Lamar was 1-4 with no homers today in the city by the bay. That's right, get this straight, the jerk made no news, hit no homers and they think it is attention getting and worthy enough to keep telling you that every half an hour. Ridiculous. What this is really telling the savvy viewer is ESPN doesn't believe anyone watches for longer than half an hour. They can keep telling you the same non-story over and over because like a news radio station, they figure you are just flipping by, rather than actually stopping and watching their crappy channel. Amazing.

As you have read in this space before it is our contention that SportsCenter is equally atrocious. Our first viewing in months, this morning, did nothing to dissuade the Clarion of that view. Rather than report sports news, SportsCenter has been utterly devoured by the Disney marketing machine. In addition to the myriad of pointless but sponsored segments, they are cross promoting Disney kids' movies. The underdog of the week feature is somehow supposed to be related to the Underdog, the movie, which is reportedly horrible. The SportsCenter anchors are so embarrassed by this blatant plug that they neglect to even acknowledge it before they cut to the allegedly connected highlight.

At SportsCenter they have no interest in ferreting out or even covering hard news stories. Parent, Disney, is an entertainment company not a news-information service firm, ala Dow Jones & Company or Bloomberg L.P. This is an important distinction because although format gives the pretense of news, SportsCenter is little more than puff and fluff. This not to say there aren't excellent journalists doing credible work for ESPN, there are. It is highly unlikely you will get to see them on SportsCenter or if you do they will be caricatures of themselves indulging in obsequious buffoonery, ala John Clayton and Sean Salisbury on the Four Downs segment, where they are encouraged to yell at each other as if they worked for Vince McMahon. This week's? This month's? version of that foolishness brings the viewer an NCAA style tournament bracket pairing, addressing the all important question, "Who is Now the Sporting World's biggest superstar?" A total joke, from the people who brought Sports Century, athlete's of the century, Anna Kournikova. The Clarion wouldn't even have been able to report on this morning's imbecilic discussion about who's better Tiger or Peyton Manning at all, if it hadn't been for the mesmerizing Erin Andrews. All set to grab the clicker and surf away, Erin lured us back. Perhaps that is the ultimate message, we, the sports fan, keep looking SportsCenter, as crummy as it is today, nostalgically hopefully. There is a dearth of quality competition. The next best substitute is provided by the same folks, ESPN News. SportsCenter is an aging colossus, a shell of its former self that is waiting to be toppled. Heck, even Dan Patrick has left the network. But for now, we're still watching albeit much, much less frequently than we once did.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007


Crazy is just a measure of deviation from the average. And what is this mythic beast average? It is not extant.

Because who among us is this average person? Is average a male or a female? Ah-ha. Already, we see the problem, is there then two averages? One for each gender?

This average person do they have 2.4 kids? Do they live in a house? An apartment? In suburbia? A city?

Are there types? Oh surely, there are types and archetypes. But when somebody tells us we’re “Crazy” or “It’s crazy,” we ususally take it mean daring or different. When someone tells you you’re crazy, it is usually a sign you have had a bold and/or innovative idea.

Trust your gut and have a good sounding board, but don’t be afraid to go way out on edge. It’s the view.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained isn’t just a saying in a universe with no rewind, it’s axiomatic.

A good friend of the Clarion’s passed us a quote not that long ago from a man who didn’t fear the crazy tag. Wore his crazy like a brightly colored scarf...Walt Whitman

“This what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward people...re-examine all you have been told in school or church or any book, dismiss what insults your very soul, and your very flesh shall become a great poem.”

Crazy, right?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How's about Carnoustie? 

The British Open provided every bit of drama a fan could have asked for. Yes, Tiger wasn’t involved, but theatrics abounded. The famous 18th that scalped Frenchman John Van de Velde in the 1999 British Open was at again.

As the Clarion warned at the beginning of the week Sergio Garcia has yet to find the stones to do it. Needing a par on the 18th in regulation to hoist the Claret Jug, Garcia couldn’t do it. It was a microchosm of his final round. With a three shot lead at the beginning of the day, he shot 73, including two bogeys in the final four holes.

Sure he rallied mid-round, after disasterous three bogeys in four hole stretch on the front, but his scalp wasn’t the only one the 18th at Carnoustie took on this day. Eventual champion Padraig Harrington double bogeyed his final hole in regulation, hitting it into the Burn twice. He still had to hit a great chip to four feet and nail the putt for a double. One more mistake and Irishman Harrington would have missed the playoff.

It was a grind, through and through. In the end, Sergio's excuses were more plentiful than his good shots. He wanted to bemoan how long the bunker raking took on 18, not talk about how he subsequently hit his three iron in that green side bunker. He wanted to talk about how the pin at the 16th had spun his shot 20 feet from the cup, not about how the shot might have gone over the green if it hadn’t caught the pin. He hardly seemed to recall he bogeyed the first playoff hole, while Harrington birdied it, to open the door. Sergio has prodigiuos talent. His problems are mental.

He was interviewed almost immediately on the heels of his devastating loss, a tough time for anyone to talk rationally. But Sergio revealed his defeatist state of mind with quotes like, “I’m playing against a lot of guys out there. More than the field.” He is attributing his losses to forces acting against him. He also said, "It's the way it is, I guess. It is not news in my life." Sergio, come on hombre, it is an unwinnable fight from that state of mind. Sergio, believe you are defeated and you will be defeated. It is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

British Open Tomorrow 

Eight years ago, the last time the British Open came to this Scottish course, they were calling it Car-nasty and we were asking ourselves it we had ever or would ever see anything like the utter collapse of Jan Van de Velde again.

The Frenchman came to 18 needing only a double bogey to win. He tripled and lost in a playoff. Van de Velde didn’t just take the triple bogey. What would become the myth was in how he did it, hitting one off the grandstand, hitting one into the pond, wading into the pond after it, hitting into the bunker, and finally holing a gutty put for triple that he had to have, or he wouldn’t have even qualified for the playoff he lost.

The return to Carnoustie, and the retelling of the Van de Velde collapse inevitably brings to mind the most recent and spectacular chokes in the majors. At the Clarion one name rings out, “Lefty.” For those who don’t recall Mickelson came to the tee on number 18 at the US Open last year needing a par, he had been two up with three holes to play. Mickelson hit his driver off of the hospitality tent, then instead of punching it back into the fairway, elected to go for the green, wham tree, presto double bogey. Bye-bye U.S. Open.

Van de Velde often described these days as plucky, was no star in 1999. At the beginning of the week eight years ago he wasn’t on the radar. He was nobody's favorite. He has never won on the PGA Tour and has only won twice on the European tour (once since his fabled British Open collapse.) He is not at this year’s Open. Conversely, Phil Mickelson has won 31 times on the PGA tour, including three majors, two of which were green jackets at Augusta. Yet when he tees it off this week, more casual fans will think of the hefty Lefty in the category with Van de Velde and Monty, than with Arnie, Jack and Tiger.

And why? Did you read about Phil's play at last week’s Scottish Open? Phil went across the pond a week earlier, ostensibly to adjust to the jet lag, the weather and the links course. Though he would later rationalize, Loch Lomond is quite a different course than Carnoustie. It is a familiar Mickelson final round story, he bogeyed three out of his last five holes. True to form he led after round three, but couldn't keep his driver in the fairway all day, the same problem he had at Winged Foot. Still up by one, with one hole to play, Lefty hit his driver in the rough and bogeyed the 18th. Sound like a similar refrain? Then he and ironically, a Frenchmen named Havret, returned to the 18th at Loch Lomond for a playoff hole. Another wayward Mickelson driver, another bogey and Havret will be playing in his first major this week thanks to his victory at the Scottish Open.

The Clarion’s favorites then for "the Open."

well not Mickelson or Havret.

People are talking up Ernie Els, but he does not seem yet to have truly rounded into form. Still recovering from injuries and layoffs.

Perrennial Clarion fave, Jose Maria Olazabal isn’t playing. His compatriot and long time mentor, Seve Bastelleros retired at the age of 50 this week. Spaniard Sergio Garcia has the talent, does he have the guts?

1999 winner Paul Lawrie doesn’t seem primed to be in the mix.

Is it too chalk to take Tiger? If you forced the Clarion to choose Tiger or the field, the Clarion is taking Tiger. New born kid or no.

Other possiblities Padrig Harrington, Vijay Singh...

further reading

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Post-Breakfast Mets notes 

The Mets won late last night in San Diego behind the superb pitching and overall efforts of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. The game was billed as a pitching duel. Leading N.L. ERA man Jake Peavy versus the crafty veteran. These two, going into the game, were two of the top five guys in holding right handed batters to the lowest batting average. Cy Young candidate Peavy was holding righties to .188, but El Duque---the old man, was even better holding them to a miniscule .171 batting average.

Last night too, Peavy was good, but Hernandez was even better. While Peavy’s ERA crept up from 2.19 to 2.30, Hernandez put nothing but zeroes on the board. Then in a game he was winning only 1-0 against Peavy in the 5th, he ignited the offense, too. As the Clarion detailed last week the Mets made some personnel and coaching changes coming out of the All-Star break. One of those changes was to bring in all time runs scored leader, Ricky Henderson, to coach first. When El Duque raised his season average above .220 with a single in the 5th, “The Rick” was there coaching first base. Lo and behold, the Padres elected to play behind “El Duque,” who wouldn’t? A 41 year old pitcher, why are you going to need to hold him on? Answer: because if you don’t he is going to swipe his third stolen base of his nine year career. (albeit only the last three seasons in the N.L.)

And if that isn’t enough for you to buy into what kind of influence Ricky Henderson is bringing already, Jose Valentin stole his first bag of the season last night. MVP candidate, Jose Reyes, tutored by Henderson in Spring’s past, swiped 3rd base in the ninth inning, in patented Henderson style. El Duque’s steal sparked a two run rally and gave him some breathing room against Peavy. Reyes steal, coming on the heels of what should have been called a wild pitch; he had Royce Ring rattled from the word go, also produced a rally and three more insurance runs.

The Mets need that kind of spark. With Delgado and Beltran in season long funks, the Mets need to find ways to manufacture runs. So what do you do, you bring the all-time leader in runs scored, an outgoing, infectious, fun loving clubhouse guy, to boot. (At least when things are going well, “The Rick” is a blast, good for the guys. When things are going poorly, less so.) Notice some of the guys the Rick is ahead of that all time runs scored list, like everybody!! Including in the top ten, names like Rose, Cobb, Aaron, Ruth and Musial!! Sure everybody’s heard the legendary story about the time "the Rick" walked up to first baseman John Olerud in the Mets’ spring training, gave him the once over and said, “Man, I used to play with a cat in Toronto once, who wore his batting helmet all the time like that.” Olerud, amazed, looked back at him and said, “Uh, Rick, Rick, that was me.” "The Rick", self-glossed and referenced by all, including "The Rick" himself, in the third person, is a unique character, no doubt. He might just help the Mets rather stodgy, quiet clubhouse.

The Mets fans can be proud of themselves. A couple of days back the Clarion linked a story from the Herald-Tribune of Southwest Florida. (Ah, remember the good old days when a paper could actually be referred to as from a city!!) Detailing how Southwest Florida had just sold out Tropicana Field for back to back games for the first time in club history. How’s about bringing the fans out on the road? The Yanks fans definitely gave Rays fans a run for their money volume-wise. Well Mets fans deserve their props, too. In another warm weather city, some 3,000 miles away, the Mets fans were doing a great job of revving up the “Let’s go Mets” chants much to the annoyance of the Padres crowd. The crowd attempted to boo them down, but the Mets fans kept coming back. Hard to recall, but there are just a few downsides to being as laid back San Diegoans. Pads fans were also apparently drowned out by Red Sox fans during last month’s inter-league series, this according to their own home announcers.

A few more scouting notes on the game:

When the Padres and Mets get together it figures to be low scoring. It is a match up of two of the three lowest team ERAs. But the Mets would seem to have a decided advantage in the high scoring games, not only do they have the deeper bullpen, but the Padres, shockingly have yet to win a game this season when the opponent scored seven runs or more, 0-10 after last night.

El Duque was so dominant last night only one member of the Padres line-up even got a hit off him. Adrian Gonzales had two doubles. El Duque was doing a terrific job changing the length of time he was pausing between pitches. On top of his quirky, ever changing delivery, he had the Padres hitters completely off balance all night.

Also noted during the Mets top of the ninth insurance run outburst, the Padres walked David Wright to get to Carlos Delgado. Bad idea jeans. Delgado a very proud guy, who once took a stance on not standing up for God Bless America, wasn’t about to let the Pads intentionally walk somebody to load the bases to face him. Delgado is career .329 with 171 RBI’s with the bases juiced, including eleven grand slams. Last night it was only a two run single, but you could see it on Delgado’s face as he approached the batter’s box. There was no way this at-bat was going to end without him producing runs.

Mets manager Willie Randolph had back-to-back-to-back left-handed hitters in the Mets line-up last night. Typically a no, no, especially come the late innings. When asked about it before the game, Willie intimated that the Mets weren’t too intimidated by Padres lefty relief specialist Royce Ring, previously Mets property. Apparently, Willie knew whereof he spoke, the Mets touched up Ring for three runs in the ninth, including lefty Delgado’s two run single.

Padres back-up centerfielder Hiram Bocachica, (little girl mouth?) made two weak defensive efforts last night when he could have had potential plays at the plate. He spiked one throw so badly it didn’t reach second base on the fly. On the other, he would have had a shot at El Duque at the plate, which if nothing else, as a Padres supporter one might have thought would have drained Hernandez of some energy, a little mojo, but Hiram fumbled the ball in his haste and never even got off a throw. Guess Mike Cameron won’t be seeing the pine for a while again.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Whoopee for the Wii 

As yet the Clarion has no gamers on staff, our old fuddy-duddies were last personally current on the hot gaming systems in the Intellevision era. In recent years we have followed the battle between Sony (PS 2,) Microsoft (X Box,) and Nintendo (previously the Game Cube, now the Wii) via the financial pages. Nonetheless, suddenly we are hearing the Wii buzz on the streets. The people, they love it. The wand, it is working for them.

Today, the NY Times is featuring a story on the front page of their business section (hard copy) that video game programmers are stoked about the Wii as well. The roots of the hep word from these constituencies are slightly different. The players love the action. From tennis to boxing, the gamers we have talked to rave about the play, the movement, the response. The Times says the software companies like that it costs only 1/4 to 1/2 as much to design a game for the Wii, as it does a game for the X Box 360 or the PS 3. At $5 million per, designing a game for the Wii is bargain. Plus, according to the game developers the Times talked to, Wii games can be written in as little as twelve months. This was compared to as much as twenty-four months or more to do similar games for Sony and Microsoft’s systems.

This is not to say, the Playstation 3 and the X Box 360 might not kick ass. In the last go round, sales of the Nintendo Game Cube jumped way in front only to be run down to a third place finish before the end of what the industry considers the 5 to 6 year lifespan of a gaming system. This time Microsoft's X Box 360 has the early lead, thanks to a release date that was almost a year earlier than its competitors.

Nintendo has to be enthused about the Wii, we know the 16-30 year olds are. There are only 60 titles for the Wii at present according to the New York Times. The momentum appears to be moving in their direction. The reviews on the sports games are all raves in North Carolina. Now to see the gray old lady quoting no less than the deacons of sports games, EA Sports, “There is a clear sense of excitement about the Wii at E.A.,” said the president of the casual entertainment division of Electronic Arts.

It can only be, "Whoopee for the Wii."**

**note: Neither the writer, nor the editor of this story have yet to actually play the Wii, let alone the PS 3 or the X Box 360.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

A.L. East baseball and more 

Three out of four from a Tampa Bay club that has lost 16 of 18, sorry the Clarion still isn’t buying into any kind of Yankee run. It does help them that the A’s have faded of late and suddenly there are only two teams between the denziens of the Bronx and the Wild Card lead. (Seattle and Minnesota.)

The next month or so offers the Yanks a poutporri of crappy of teams, following Tampa Bay with Toronto, Tampa Bay again, Kansas City, Baltimore and the White Sox. Unfortunately for them, it gets a lot harder staring August 10th. Don’t be fooled if the Yanks fire up a for a short while only to fade, as they play Cleveland, Detroit, the Angels and Red Sox to close the month of August.

More suprising than the Yanks taking three out four from the lowly Devil Rays, is why the Rays are so lousy in the first place. Their line-up doesn’t appear nearly as flaccid as their worst in the American League record would indicate.

We love the Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura, a very fundamentally sound player, who plays good defense. Like his countryman, Ichiro, Iwamura is extremely adept at following off pitches at the last possible second. He has a great defensive swing when he is behind in the count. Wonder if there is some drill or trick of the trade the Japanese are teaching their hitters on this point? Maybe it is as simple as choking up a bit when they are behind in the count?

He is by no means the only solid Devil Ray regular, Carl Crawford isn’t having a career year, but he still hits for average and line drive power. B.J. Upton is good too, though he strikes out too much. (He averages more than one per game or once every three at-bats.) Upton is hitting .329 and just returned from missing 29 games, much of which coincided with Rays recent frigid streak. With him, the Rays have a decent defensive outfield, too.

Moreover, first baseman Carlos Pena is on pace for a career year. He has never had 30 homers or 100 rbi’s before. He is currently sitting on 22hrs and 58 rbi’s, heading towards a 35hrs and 100 rbi’s. Sadly, the Rays just prove the old axiom, pitching, pitching, pitching. And the Rays have the worst era in the majors by nearly a full run per nine!! This is with ace Scott Kazmir having a decent, though not his best, season.

A couple of other quick notes, the Red Sox got a shut out last night from rookie pitcher Kason Gabbard. Just what the Red Sox needed more starting pitching. Is his first name a misprint? Was that one of those things where they were typing out his birth certificate and the “K” and “J” keys are right next to each other, somebody messed it up and the family failed to notice for a week, a month, whatever and decided to keep it? Or was Momma trying to be unique? Or is it a family name? Kason Gabbard did shut out crummy Kansas City, but hey, they are MLBers, too. It was the first Red Sox complete game shut out by a rookie since Paul Quantrill in 1993. Which is ironic because Quantrill went on to be a lefty relief specialist, and ended up making 777 relief appearances and only 64 starts. It was the first Red Sox complete game shut out by a rookie at Fenway since a guy named Roger Clemens in July of 1984.

Heard a couple of good one-liners from the Jim Rome talk radio show recently.

on the Phils...
“Where was the commissioner for the Phillies 10,000 loss?”

on future Dan Patrick job possibilities...
Patrick is leaving ESPN next month after nearly twenty years...the Clones think he'd do a great job replacing Bob Barker retiring after 35 years hosting the Price is Right.

The Clarion suggests how about replacing Imus and Chuck McCord with Patrick and Keith Olbermann? We see Patrick playing straight man McCord to Olbermann’s Imus over the long run. Yes, they would have a vastly different tenor, but they might be able to span the politics and pop culture mix that Imus once bridged so well. (Perhaps even in a manner that appeals to the demographic that gets its political news from John Stewart.)

Finally, a trivia question from the MLB vault, name the only pitcher to start 150 games for three different franchises and 75 more for a fourth!! Click here for the answer.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

N.L. News & Notes 

The Mets have been drifting sideways for the last month and a half. They are 14 up and 21 down since June 1st. They are also 28th in the Majors in runs scored over that time. Well, they didn’t exactly put the offensive worries behind them tonight, but they did win. It was a terrific pitching performance by Tom Glavine for career win 298 on Ralph Kiner night (HoF ‘75.) Glavine faced one batter over the minimum in eight innings, yielding only a solo home run to straight away center. It was wacked by Reds’ second baseman, Brandon Phillips, from the state of North Carolina, who has been scorching out of the break (six RBIs in the previous game.)

Coming in tonight, the Reds had responded to organization’s managerial change by winning 7 of 9 for interim manager Pete Mackanin. Unfortunately, they are long out of the race, 13 and 1/2 back in the lousy N.L. Central, only three days after the All-Star break. Quite a disappointment coming off of a promising 2006. Three games out of the All-Star break last year saw the Reds with a winning record and very much alive in the N.L. Central and the Wild Card.

Similarly, the Mets, though leading the East, face quite a different season than last year on the flip side of the All-Star break. At this point in 2006, they had a double digit lead and no challengers at all. They were 18 games over .500 rather than 10. They have let both the Braves and the Phils are hang around this year. The Mets June swoon has bled over into July and led to some changes coming out of the break.

Hitting coach Rick Down was fired. Mets General Manager Omar Minaya pulled an old George Steinbrenner act, gave his club the, “Listen here, you people, (read:the players) you haven’t been performing up to par, and somebody has to pay with their job,” routine. The hitting coach is an easy target, Minaya threw an extra body on the pyre letting go Clarion fave, 48 year old Julio Franco from his pinch hitting duties to keep a 3rd catcher, Sandy Alomar, Jr. If this is it for Franco, and it very well could be, he got a hit in his last at bat ever (a pinch hit single in the 12th inning of a 17 inning Mets win in Houston just before the break.) Unfortunately for Franco, from the legendary San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic, his career average has gone down to just below .300, due to this year’s right at, but not below, the Mendoza line effort.

Those hanging around in the N.L. East include the Phillies. Their three game winning streak has them within 4 games of the Mets' lead. Think their centerfielder, All-Star Aaron Rowand, is a little bit pissed that everyone came out of San Francisco talking about how Tony La Russa should have pinch hit for him in the bottom of the ninth of the All-Star game with Albert Pujlos sitting on the N.L.'s bench. Yes, maybe so, but Rowland is surely trying to prove the opposite case. After flying out with the tying and winning runs on in an exhibition game, Rowland has had seven hits in his first two real games after the break including an explosion today for three doubles and a home run. Raising his average to .322. It is tough to get noticed on a team with reigning MVP Ryan Howard and another superb player, Chase Utley.

The Braves, too, are sticking around. They have some veteran pitching, Smoltz is a gamer and a future Hall of Famer. The slumbering Andruw Jones may finally have awakened, two homers in his last two games. The Braves are 1.5 games back.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Meandering through the N.L. 

The All-Star game traditionally kicks off the debate about the leading candidates for the Cy Young Award. Reason being is the All-Star game starting pitcher is nominally a proxy ballot for the Cy Young. Of course, there are always circumstances, who started for their regular squad when and who has a start coming up soon afterwards. There are two run away candidates the N.L. to be the All-Star starter, Jake Peavy and Brad Penny.

Both guys are in the N.L. West, playing for leading contenders, and practical, fatigue realted considerations aside, the Clarion has to give a slight edge to Jake Peavy. *No doubt there are sentimental reasons at the editorial desk to lean San Diego. But the stats back up the case for Peavy. Penny may be a gaudy 10-1 to Peavy's 9-3, but Peavy has a better ERA, better strikeout to walk ratio, fewer base runners per inning allowed, more innings pitched...

They went head to head in a sweet match-up last week. They left the field at scenic Chavez Ravine with the score tied 1-1 in the 8th. The Pads won the game in extras. Peavy’s rotation mate Chris Young is going to the All-Star game, too, as the last guy voted in by the fans with the additional on-line balloting. The Padres old guys David Wells and Greg Maddux, Wells getting kicked out early yesterday notwithstanding, look good as #3, #4 starters. Possibly the best starting pitching in the N.L. is why the Clarion looks to the Pads to start pulling away in the West.

Listening to Vin Scully do the Dodgers-Padres, Peavy-Penny matchup yielded an oustanding trivia question. Name the last major league pitcher to hit for a for a higher batting average than his earned run average for a full 150+ inning season. Hint at the end of the column. Follow this link for the answer.

As expected the Brewers have started to give ground in the atrocious N.L. Central. The Clarion documented the Brewers easily predictable cold stretch against winning clubs, their low water mark was four games over .500. Lately, they have again been beating up on their lousy division, but the Cubs are finally playing halfway decent (for this era.) The Cubbies are two games over .500, so the Brew crew’s lead has shrunk to 4 and a half. The Brewers are 12 up and 8 down in their last twenty games, this despite an uber soft schedule featuring the Giants, Royals, Astros, Pirates and Nationals.

Ruminating on used car salesman Selig's Brewers and the mess that is N.L. Central, then listening to baseball wag Buster Olney the other night underlined to the Clarion why the Wild Card sucks, and how baseball has debased one of its very best traditions, the great regular season. Olney was asked on ESPN Radio what teams he thought were eliminated, toast, done at this point, could only eliminate 11 of the 30 teams. He and the ESPN Radio folks attempted to laud this kind of parity. But actually, it is crap. Among the teams Olney could not rule out yet, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Florida Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Colorado Rockies.

This is how we end up with the 83 win Cardinals from last year as champions. There are 95 plus years of baseball history where those Cardinals aren’t a good enough team to make the playoffs. They would have been swept in a seven game series by any of the nine Cardinals series champion of the past. They have maybe a single starter who cracks either the line-up or the rotation of any of those squads. So is that what Olney, ESPN, MLB, and various other apologists are saying? This mediocrity is what we should look forward to? Average teams wheezing to the finish-line, getting hot in a ridiculously brief five game series, then meandering through another round, to play a team whose pitchers can’t even throw the ball to first. Whoop-dee-do, your 2006 World Series champions.

MLB greedy for playoff dollars has attempted to co-opt Pete Rozelle style football parity, which has worked so well for the NFL. (with its 16 game regular season and every game counts mentality.) They have distended and distorted their playoff system in a vain attempt to regain market share from America’s new game. They even stole the rubric from football, “Wild Card.” Look at the World Series champs since the introduction of the Wild Card, we now have a fair sampling. Who amongst these twelve rosters could stand the historical test of time? Surely not the deconstructed ‘97 Marlins. The ‘03 version? The it’s not our money ‘01 Diamondbacks? For the Clarion only maybe the ‘04 Red Sox, the Yanks run and the ‘95 Braves can truly grasp the chalice of greatness. And the Braves can be maligned for the failure to win another title.

Trivia Hint:

The last pitcher to hit for a higher average .250 than his ERA 2.41 pitched for one of the two teams playing the game in question (Dodgers and Padres.)

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Change at Dell? 

Dell has sucked for years now, and the Clarion is not just referring to their stock price, but primarily their machine quality. Their supply-line commoditization: a direct sales model, coupled with just-in-time building, sort of worked. It relentlessly increased their sales in an effort to meet “the Street’s” expectations. But on the other hand it didn’t work at all, as it drove their quality and brand image relentlessly down market. Yes, Dell’s got cheaper and cheaper. More cheaply made and assembled, cheaper to purchase as a consumer. One could order them custom built just how one wanted, with exactly the bells and whistles desired from their website with but one catch, they sucked. As time passed they sucked worse and worse. Other than Microsoft, who is more associated with the blue screen of death than Dell? Sure when the CPU died they’d ship a new one, but what good was it if that one died, soon, too? Their refurb machines were the worst. Buying a rebuilt Dell from Tiger Direct and their ilk was an exercise in futility that profited only the shipping company.

Now the Clarion’s been reading that Dell is ostensibly “rehabbing the brand.” They are going to change the plan a little. Read:drastically. They are going to build some actual finished machines. They are going to sell said completed machines in stores.

But are they going up market? Posh stores for the sweet machines they build to be the best? That is what they would like you to think, but a closer examination says no, they aren’t even going to mid-market to the evil Circuit City, where many of their dull, gray, box building competitor clones are sold. No Dell is trolling even lower than that, they are taking their ‘puters to Wal-Mart. Sure, they are selling a couple in Macy’s for the big debut of the notebook color case models, but the big inventory push is going to the Arkansas based behemoth.

The message Michael Dell and his team are apparently attempting to convey is that Dell’s are like the rest of the crap Wal-Mart peddles; the most cheaply assembled set of parts the global economy can buy, which are then sold to the massive American market for those losing in the widening of the rich-poor gap, the formerly blue collar, ni service industry, biproducts of globalization. These folks know the products that are foisted on them suck. They’re struggling financially, but they’re not dim. When you are broke, often times cheap comes first, so they’ll buy it.

They’ll buy it because they want to do right by their kids. (Computers are good. Yes?) They’ll buy it because the kids are nagging them. They’ll buy it because they got to have something to keep up. Keep up with the neighbors, be they real or the imaginary ones on the TV. (also purchased at Wal-Mart) Keep up with the false ideal, the idyllic American consumer’s dream, the “one” with the most stuff wins. They have to have some visible totems that deny just how badly the system, the economy is doing them. Hank Hill, Homer Simpson, why they aren’t losing at the game of life, they just bought the family a Dell at the local Wal-Mart.

*For veracity’s sake note: the Clarion’s position from whenever we became aware of Apple (1985?86?) was that they were imminently going out of business. Proprietary model’s never work in high-tech industries. We were just witnessing the demise of Betamax. The Clarion held on to this point of view until about 2003. Yes, for 17 years we were quite sure, Apple was going out of business any week now...A handy reminder to this and any commentator how wrong one can be. Now we write this content on a iBook.

Apple’s are not cheap. Cheap computers are not bad. Windows is not Dell’s fault. Neither is globalization. However, anyone who has ever wrestled with a dying PC can tell tales of horror.

Dell is changing their business model, indeed. Changing it to what? And to what end?

For an example on how to change one’s business model from the nuts and bolts PC business to something more appropriate for an American centered MNC in 21st century global ecomony, see IBM’s sale of its PC business to PRC based Lenovo. It is not clear if this was a good deal for the American worker, but it was a good deal for IBM.

further reading

further reading 2

further reading 3

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Elizabeth Edwards 

Did the Clarion’s readers see Elizabeth Edwards bury Anne Coulter on Chris Matthews last week?? This is in no way an endorsement of her husband’s campaign, but she really laid the the wood to Coulter. Her point that people like Coulter denegrate the level of political dialogue in this country was right on target. Matthews went on to list a couple of other ad hominem attacks by Coulter on Hillary and Monica Lewinsky’s weight and fat legs. Edwards kept her own cool and made Coulter look like the foolish, self-serving, egotist she is.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Edwards interviewed by the New York Times a few days later, revealed that she has issues of her own. Coulter is a publicity hound, but Elizabeth Edwards was paraphrasing Nietzche for the Times, “You have to believe in something so strongly that you don’t acknowledge another’s point of view: That’s what real belief is." What!!? For the Clarion this is far too close to the point of view and governance of the Bush II-Cheney team. True believers scare the heck out of us. There has to be room for dissent, disagreement and discussion.

We fear where unwillingness to acknowledge opposing points of view leads...

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A.L. Baseball notes & thoughts 

The baseball season continues, though Yankees fans could be forgiven if they don’t want to acknowledge it.

The Clarion believes if there was any hope left for the Yankees’ playoff hopes, it was extinguished yesterday when they went 1 for 28 against Chad Gaudin and the A’s. For goodness sake, the guy sounds like he should be a painter not a pitcher. Yes, he is having an excellent season, 7-3, 2.92, but he had lost his last two starts.

The Yanks on the other hand have now scored no runs in their last 18 innings, including Gaudin’s start, and 23 runs total in their last ten games. That is not going to get it done, Clemens and Pettitt must think they are back in Houston.

The Yankees can’t get timely hitting, pitching and defense on the same day, or even in the same week. Their year is over. Yankees fans haven’t seen anything like this in quite a while. There are times when this feels reminiscent of the era of the bad free agents of the 1980’s. Names like Steve Kemp and Jessie Barfield come to mind. The collapse that would be required by the Red Sox is too monumental. There are too many decent teams between the Yankees and the wild card.

The wild card will come from the quintet that includes the Indians, Tigers, Twins, A’s and Mariners. The Angels have the A.L. West on lockdown, but the wild card race should be terrific. The Clarion loves the Twins pitching.

Johan Santana is a terrific pitcher, but he has always been a dominant Cy Young Award winning second half pitcher. The Clarion also loves Twins rookie pitcher Kevin Slowey, who has started 3 and 0. Last year the Twins were 71 and 33 from June 8th on, winning the division title at the end. The Clarion isn’t predicting that kind of run this year. Note though, Slowey was a winner, with good strikeout to walk ratios in the minors. He is more in the mold of Greg Maddux than a fireballer, and was 17-9 at all levels of the minors combined. Slowey was leading the International League in ERA when he was called up. Also keep an eye out for Nick Blackburn, still at the Twins farm club in AAA Rochester, but 4-0 without allowing an earned run since May 29th. Both Slowey and Blackburn came to the Clarion’s attention shutting down the local Durham Bulls, who lead the International League in home runs. The Twins have young pitching prospects everywhere, clearly somebody in their organization thinks Scott Baker is as good or better than either of these guys, since he was called up from Rochester first.

The Mariners have been a Clarion fave since the beginning of the season. They have been hot this week. As yet the Clarion can see no explanation for the resignation of manager Mike Hargrove. Of course, maybe the M’s will be better off, he never could get Cleveland over the top despite a profusion of talent. He managed the 1997 World Series tighter than a snare drum, playing it not to lose the whole way.

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