Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wild Pitches: 5/24/06

Random baseball stuff I'm pondering...

  • Jeremy Brown to scouts and skeptics: suck it. The "fat catcher" from Oakland's Moneyball draft of 2002, who polarized scouts and statheads and thus became the symbol of their discontent, is tearing up AAA to the tune of .314/.384/.570 in 24 games. I can't wait for this guy to get called up...

  • Jeff Francoeur: swing hard in case you hit it. Much has been made of Francoeur's recent surge but let's not get carried away. With 2 walks on the season, he now boasts a lusty .273 OBP. Do you have any idea how hard it is to bat as often as Francoeur (193 ABs) and draw only 2 walks? Mark Mulder, a starting pitcher who used to toil in the American League, has already walked three times in 21 ABs this season. Hey Jeff, here's an idea: take a fucking pitch once in awhile.

  • Josh Willingham: Ken Phelps All-Star, McKeon's Folly. Finally given the opportunity to prove his worth, rookie Josh Willingham is having a terrific season, posting numbers of .269/.364/.487 in 43 games so far. Yet another example of the predictive power of minor league statistics and component skills analysis.

  • Question of the Day: Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer? He's on the cusp of 200 wins, owns two World Championships, and has been a dominant (if not quite elite level) pitcher throughout his career. On the downside, he's never won a Cy Young award or an ERA title, and his lifetime totals are (for now) modest compared to those already enshrined. Still, on the strengths of his peak value, positive showing on most HOF evaluation methods, and the mythology of the bloody sock, I think he gets in.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Today -- May 9 -- is my lovely wife's birthday! So if you get a chance, please feel free to send thoughts, well wishes, or virtual toasts to: tracy5973 *at* yahoo *dot* com.

Honey, if you're reading: I'm thinking of you and hope you're having a wonderful day. I adore you and wish you a very happy birthday!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Donald Fagen's "Morph the Cat"

For the past month or so I've been listening nonstop to Donald Fagen's new CD, "Morph the Cat." In short, it's amazing.

Written in the wake of 9/11, Fagen's third solo effort completes a trilogy of sorts. And in Fagen's typically sardonic style, the album's mellifluous vibe and comforting melodies mask some seriously dark undercurrents.

Though the album lacks some of the initial hooks of Steely Dan's 2003 "Everything Must Go," or even Fagen's previous solo projects (1982's "The Nightfly" and 1993's "Kamakiriad") it is undeniably Fagen: vaguely humorous allusions and inscrutable lyrics set ironically against a backbeat of jazz, lush harmonies, tight grooves, and unparalleled craftmanship. The themes and arrangements unfold and develop in natural, deliberate rhythms. Donald describes it beautifully:

Musically, Morph The Cat blends jazz, soul and other musical influences - not unlike Brother Ray [Charles] once did - with extended grooves and ever changing textures and a sort of musical ambition rarely heard anymore - think Aja set in current day Manhattan. “I like it when songs develop in some way and four minutes isn’t usually enough time for something to develop musically usually,” says Fagen. “I’m still kind of plugged into the Duke Ellington model - something akin to classical music - where you start with something, you develop it a little bit and stick with it. And when you get a groove going, time flies.”

Personal highlights for me include the title track, "Morph the Cat," along with "H Gang," "Security Joan," and "Mary Shut the Garden Door." Donald displays an uncharacteristically political side in "Mary" as described by the liner notes: "Paranoia blooms when a thuggish cult gains control of the government" (Fagen confesses this song was written right after the Republican convention came to Manhattan). The song features a haunting melodica solo by Fagen and a vivid tableau of jackbooted terror set in the opening verses:

They came in under the radar
When our backs were turned around
In a fleet of Lincoln Town Cars
They rolled into our town
Confounded all six senses
Like an opiate in the brain
Mary shut the garden door
Looks a lot like rain

Mary shut the garden door
Mary shut the garden door

We pounded Rachel's radio
For reports about the bridge
There was nothing on but static
Nothing in the fridge
We lay there listening to the wind
Whistling through the pines
When we heard the engines idling
Saw the headlights through the blinds

This is a beautiful and intensely personal album. Do yourself a favor and check it out.