Previous month:
April 2007
Next month:
June 2007

the idiot opens his big mouth

Hey, just because I'm in Germany doesn't mean I don't know when Brain Sabean opens his big yap.

Sabes just traded away Armando Benitez, and no one is sorry to see Armando go. But that's not what caught my eye. He also had a few things to say, about Benitez, about the fans, about the press. On my trip, I'm rereading The Best and the Brightest, and it's fascinating how much of that book has new relevance today. But I never thought I'd find a baseball parallel. In the early 60s, it was clear to most unbiased observers that Vietnam was a quagmire in the making, and the few reporters on the scene stated so. The Kennedy administration's response wasn't to reevaluate their position on Vietnam, but rather to blame the press for negativity.

Well, baseball ain't war, so I don't want to stretch this analogy too far. But listen to Sabean's comments yesterday:

In an extraordinary conference call with reporters, Sabean left no doubt he was unhappy that he was forced by public opinion to consummate a trade that leaves the Giants with no experienced closer.

"The type of person or professional I am, I don't take any satisfaction in anybody's demise or inability to do his job," Sabean said. "I'll say one thing about Armando. He was strong enough to be a whipping boy.

"The first game here (in New York) we had three players who were not available. That was not Armando's fault. Tonight we had three hits and looked dead as a doornail. That was not Armando's fault. We are at a crossroads in my mind, and apparently the fans, the press and some people in the clubhouse felt he needed to go.

"Now we're going to find out what they're made of. We'll see who's strong enough to be the whipping boy now. ... We're going to find out who, when and how we're going to step up. Right now, as we speak, we're heading closer to last place than first place. I don't know that that was Armando Benitez's fault."

Let's break this down, and see if the right person is ready to be the whipping boy. Brian Sabean's job is to make the Giants as good a team as he can. His job is not to act on the basis of public opinion ... I may think that he'd be better off listening to me, I have in fact been quoted in public about my negative opinions of Sabean, but the idea is that Sabean use his noggin to reconsider his methods, not that he whines like a baby and says "ok, HAVE it your way!"

"We had three players who were not available." From a distance, I can't be sure who the three players were, but it looks like he meant Bonds, Durham, and Klesko. The common factor in those players? They are all old by baseball standards. If you build a team of old players, they will, all else being equal, be unavailable more often than younger players. Looking for a whipping boy? Who put together a team of old hitters?

"Tonight we had three hits." Looking for a whipping boy? Who put together the team that only got three hits.

"We're heading closer to last place than to first place." Looking for a whipping boy? Who put together the team that is headed for last place?

Armando Benitez is a better pitcher than the boo birds seem to realize, but he plies his trade as a closer, the most overrated position on the roster (not the most worthless, but the most overrated, meaning the position where the player is likely to be overpaid relative to his contributions, meaning the position where an astute GM can make a difference, meaning a position where a more traditional GM will overpay). Benitez was signed for $21.5 million. He has now been traded when his trade value is v.low, with the Giants having to pay $4.7 of the remaining $5 million on his contract. Looking for a whipping boy? Who signed Benitez to that contract?

Now we're going to find out what Brian Sabean is made of.

beer garden

So, it turns out that beer gardens are pretty much exactly what the name implies. You go to a big garden area, and they serve beer. The one we went to also had food ... we ate a pizza that had white cream sauce instead of marinara, and meat balls that were really sausage patties. And beer, of course. There were a bunch of picnic tables to eat at, and a huge rectangular strip of grass for the kids to run around on. Also some gardens, although we didn't check them out. A pretty pleasant and inexpensive way to have a meal with family and friends.

walking in sindelfingen

We walked around the town today, going through a farmer's market. I said my first German word ("danke"), and heard plenty more. We stuck our heads inside of Saint Martin's Church (Martinskirche), which was built in the 12th century ... that should give you an idea of how old the town is where we are staying. Tonight we are going to a beer garden ... I will explain it once I've been to it, since at the moment, I don't have the slightest idea what it is. Has to be better than getting drunk on vodka lemonade.

the day after tomorrow

Today's "let's reminisce" post comes from May 31, 2004, when I offered up my thoughts about The Day After Tomorrow. I can't believe I wasted my time watching that movie … I wasn't alone, it pulled in more than $85 million in the U.S. on that opening weekend. Whatever … I didn't like it:

[I]t's REALLY stupid. But what do you expect from a disaster flick? I'm unimpressed by the "hey look it's Dick Cheney!" "politics" of the movie, and while our crowd also laughed at the anti-American stuff, it was harmless laughter. In my memory, audiences have always loved seeing famous landmarks and big American cities get their comeuppance, and this one was no different than Earthquake or Volcano or any of the others in that respect. I thought Independence Day was better, for what it's worth, perhaps because that movie had Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Vivica A. Fox, while this one wasted every single actor in the cast. I don't go to a disaster movie for the depth of characterization ... just get to blowing things up is my motto ... so the pathetic attempts at making us care about Dennis Quaid et al were completely wasted on me. I guarantee anyone who watches this on DVD, you can fast-forward through every single scene that isn't about destruction, and not miss a thing worth seeing. Five on a scale of ten.

not just jet lag

I've been struggling to stay awake all day today. At dinner time, I told Katie that this lemon soda she liked, which I'd been guzzling all day, was vile-tasting. We blabbed for awhile about why I would keep drinking something I didn't like ... I killed off about half a bottle, not sure of the size but close to a 2-liter ... and then she said wait a minute, one of those bottles of lemon soda was left over from when we made vodka lemonade. So I got the bottle from which I had been drinking and, sure enough, written across the top in black was "VODKA." Which would explain why I can't stay awake.

out in sindelfingen

I may have spoken too soon about jet lag ... I've wanted to sleep all afternoon.

We made a quick trip to the ATM machine and the market, my first outing in a place where I don't speak the language in 23 years. Yes, I'm a wuss ... Robin speaks nothing but English, and she's been to Hong Kong, Brazil, Venezuela, France, Spain, and Andorra, surviving by being nice and pointing a lot (she doesn't give off an Ugly American vibe, which helps). Anyway, I learned another important word, entschuldigen, which is German for "excuse," as in "excuse me" (I think the proper phrase is mich bitte entschuldigen, "excuse me, please").

Where Katie and John live is actually called Sindelfingen, just southwest of Stuttgart. It's a very nice town, mostly famous because they make cars here.

house season finale

The fact that I am posting this is evidence of two things: one, that the Slingbox is working just fine, and two, that I apparently have nothing better to do when visiting a country for the first time than to watch a teevee show from my own country.

There's a lot of jet lag going on here today, although I seem to have escaped so far (second day is the worst, though, some people say). John is apparently at work ... he wasn't here when I got up in the morning ... Katie and Ava are taking naps (jet lag has them powerful strong) ... leaving Robin and I to watch House.

No spoilers here, but I will say that I took the ending at face value ... others seem to think the ending was one of those "ok, we were kidding" things where next season will just be more of the same.

I just want to focus on one thing, the "battle" between House and God. House remains the only show I am aware of on mainstream American television where the titular character is an avowed atheist. In the finale, a couple escapes from Cuba to the U.S. just to hunt down House, because they have read that he can cure anything. About 2/3 of the way through the episode, a miracle seems to have occurred. But this doesn't wash with House ... there has to be a better explanation. When he thinks he has a line on that explanation, he goes to the couple (the wife is the sick one) and says he wants to try something that will cure her for good. Ah, but there is no need, they say, God has already saved her. Well, House says, you made a dangerous trip just to come see me to save the woman ... now you have to decide, do you trust God or do you trust me?

You shouldn't have to guess the answer ... the show ain't called God, after all. Count me impressed that no matter how formulaic the series is, they still haven't softened House's character, or had him give himself over to religion.

Grade for season finale: B

Grade for season: B

live from stuttgart

We arrived a couple of hours ago. Plane flight was mostly uneventful. So far the only problem has been that I forgot to pack one of my kidney stone meds, but thanks to the powers of the Internet, I was able to contact my doctor at Kaiser and he told me not to worry. It's raining in Stuttgart, but Katie and John have a lovely house. And Ava is a v.good traveler, despite my fears about a long plane ride with a four-year-old.

Oh, and the Slingbox works :-).

Robin is dressing Ava's Barbie as I type this ... you can see our vacation is off to a smashing start! Charlie, I thought of you when we landed in Stuttgart, you being the only person I know who not only speaks German but likes how it sounds! I know how to say danke and bitte and toilet ... hopefully that will be enough until I get to Spain.

Katie and John have Internet access, obviously, so I should be able to post regular for the rest of this week, which I'm sure will delight my vast audience.


Who knows how often I'll get to post here while we're in Europe, so I've taken the liberty of grabbing stuff I've written here in the past to keep the not-so-fresh material coming. I'm writing this last month … that is, as I type these words it's April 29 but it won't get posted until May 29. To add to my obsessive-compulsive nature, I'll be quoting from something I posted on an earlier May 29, in this case, May 29, 2006, in which I wrote:

We are not, I fear, the kind of travelers whose tales make for interesting reading…. we are very good at doing nothing, which makes us excellent traveling companions but rather boring in the final analysis.

Let that serve as a warning over the next four weeks.