Postmortem of the 2011 Boston Red Sox

So died the season for the 2011 Boston Red Sox.

 

It is only fitting the final miscue was made by Carl Crawford. For all of the angst that has been pouring out on the WEEI airwaves and cropping up within the blogosphere, the team had 90 wins when all was said and done. Five more wins over the course of the year would have edged out Tampa Bay.

There’s a hundred different permutations of how five more games could have been victories: more starts from Clay Buchholz, a few more productive outings from Wheeler, Jenks, and Albers, Daniel Bard not having the yips, and not falling out of the gate 2-10 would have done the job. In my completely unqualified opinion, the team doesn’t need to be blown apart beyond recognition. The talent is there. If they only won 70 games, then I would be more easily persuaded that significant roster changes are in order.

Since Andino’s bloop, Manager Terry Francona has either quit or been shown the door (depending on whom you believe). The current Boston media chatter focuses on whether General Manager Theo Epstein may elect to move to the Chicago Cubs. There has also been a minor flap about the pitchers, specifically the starters, drinking in the clubhouse on their scheduled days off.

I initially meant to draw similarities between Crawford’s failure and Aaron Boone’s 2003 ALCS-ending homer off of Tim Wakefield. The more I thought about it, the only connection was the that they were the game-losing plays of their respective seasons. Wakefield has been a valuable member of the pitching staff throughout his Boston career, whether starting, short relief, long relief, closing, mop-up… Crawford has been a pain in the rear of Boston fans throughout his Tampa Bay career, and now continues to annoy and frustrate, albeit now from the home dugout. I was initially surprised and confused by the Crawford signing, and now I hold out hope that over the life of his contract he proves to be great defensively and learns to bunt effectively.

I wish to briefly revisit Francona’s exit. As has been explained elsewhere on the internet, a baseball coach is inherently different from those in the NBA, NHL, or NFL. Baseball is largely a one-on-one contest. A manager may switch pitchers, pinch hit, realign the defenders, pinch run, and that’s about it. Very few baseball managers, if any, call for specific pitch sequences. Thus, the real onus is on the players. Not the GM, who hired the players based on their past experience, but the players. Francona nor Epstein missed that catch. Crawford missed it. The starters could not get to the seventh inning in September more often that not (if at all?).

Now, as far as the rumor of drinking in the clubhouse goes, if it is true, it is highly unprofessional, especially in the later stages of the season. In my fan opinion, it is exciting to see another starter come in from the bullpen in an elimination game. Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, and Max Scherzer? The sheer novelty of it, since it isn’t often done, immediately adds drama and excitement to the game. When the Boston bullpen was overburdened as much as it was during September 2011, that final game with Bedard starting absolutely should have featured Lester and Beckett in from the bullpen to get to the ninth. The season is on the line. If they are inebriated, than that must be dealt with.

But for all those seeking answers, sorting out how to restructure the roster so that next year is “the year” again… as far as my understanding goes, the worse your organization fares during the season, the better opportunity you receive in the draft. Assuming your organizational focus shifts to scouting after a few futile years, eventually the cards have been stacked in your favor to have a wave of talent come up through the system together. Boston’s problem has been it’s recent prosperity. I am not sure how the draft is structured, but if the general rule is that the better teams pick farther down in the order, then Boston has not had the chance to get the youngest, most promising talent and instead must either find the young talent that has just hit the majors (which everyone clamors for in trades) or pay dearly for the established veteran in Free Agency (Crawford and Lackey).

When going with the veterans, as the GM may have no other choice given his roster, you run into a problem that hasn’t really been talked about much, at least in the discussions I’ve overheard or read through online. The veterans have nothing left to play for but pride. If a baseball player is going to coast, they’re going to do so when they’ve secured their mountain of money for a set amount of years. If the contracts were set and more incentive based- such as only half the value is assured and the other half is based upon reaching certain performance criteria- then the players, one would assume, would maintain discipline, focus, and motivation to succeed.

Anyway, at least New York is out of it.

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A Delorean To Fix the 2011 (and 2012) Boston Red Sox

As the future of the 2011 Boston Red Sox continues to fade, it is only natural for those of us interested in the team to speculate on what went wrong and how it could have been prevented. The 2010 season was filled with injuries, seemingly anonymous replacement players, and was marred with a sour taste at its inception by Epstein claiming the now infamous “Bridge Year”.

The 2010-11 offseason for Boston built a sense of excitement and a publicity campaign of being “all-in” centering around the trade and subsequent extention of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The former has graciously put up 200 hits and lead the league in batting average. Crawford… I’m too lazy right now to look up just how awful his numbers have been and contextualize them with much cheaper, easily-acquired players; perhaps in a future post…

Right now here is a list of recent missteps by Epstein. In fairness, one can only expect the GM to make the best decision with the available information at the time. If they fail to do this, then they are incompetent. Otherwise, they are simply unlucky. A countdown, from benign oversight to boneheaded foulup…

5. Adrian Gonzalez

I must be a fool to hate on a player that leads the league in batting average and puts up 200 hits. While that certainly is what you’d hope for from a hitter, the problem is that Epstein let himself get giddy.

– The spray charts from Petco Park overlapped onto Fenway promised 35-50 home runs a year; this did not happen

-Epstein both traded three of the most promising prospects in the farm system and subsequently signed the player to a deal in excess of six years and $100 million. When this upcoming offseason features Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and it would have had Gonzalez, Epstein effectively paid full price twice when two other viable options were possibly available. Further, to avoid looking foolish, a gentlemen’s agreement was reached for the extension before the player had regained the use of his shoulder, so Epstein would not have traded away so many pieces for a rental. What keeps this from being higher on the list is the actual production and the fact that all three prospects are still plausibly busts. Now Epstein may also be stuck with an aging player in five years with a prohibitive contract, much like our friend….

4. Carl Crawford

This didn’t make sense at the time and it really doesn’t make that much sense now. To sign a player to such a long-term, expensive deal and stick him is the smallest portion of the outfield when his bread and butter is his speed seems foolish. Crawford was supposed to team with Ellsbury to steal bases, the only problem is Crawford getting on base to begin with. However, there may be some hope of Crawford providing some insurance in case Ellsbury walks in free agency, and/or Ellsbury comes crashing back to earth after a career year. At the moment, this isn’t a good deal. However, it may prove itself useful in the future, something we hope can be said for the next fellow,

3. Clay Buchholz

After an early career no-hitter, a disastrous bouncing around between the majors and minors, and then seeming redemption from 2009 to his spectacular 2010, Buchholz missed a great deal of time in 2011 due to back trouble while I and the collective fanbase hold our breath. Can he bounce back once again next year?

Better yet, this should be Toronto’s problem right now. In 2009, if I am not mistaken, new Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos faced with some terrible problems, chiefly: ace Roy Halladay was all but leaving in free agency, and it was best to get maximum value out of a trade.

I recall reading rumors that Buchholz was supposed to be the centerpiece of the trade, but the deal fell through due to bickering over the other parts and the fan backlash of trading within the division.

However, I’ve begun to wonder recently… AA was roundly heralded for trading Vernon Wells, an outfielder with a horrible contract, for anything worthwhile. As it turns out, Wells now plays for the Jays and that contract is off AA’s books. Did Epstein offer to take on the Wells contract to sweeten the deal? It’s a bad contract, but so is…

2. Jon Lackey

How bad? Historically bad. His ERA is the worst of any Red Sox pitcher. Ever. OK, maybe not ever, but in the past hundred years- look it up. They are paying him $82 million for five years. Roy Halladay could be in his place. Granted Wells would be the left fielder or fourth outfielder, but Halladay is worth it.

Besides, to compensate, there was this rib-kicker, the trade that never should have happened…

1. Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone to Cleveland for Victor Martinez

This literally would not have cost a dime. It would save quite a few, actually. It would also, when coupled with the prior post, put up a rotation of:

Halladay

Lester

Beckett

Buchholz

Masterson

Matsuzaka/Wakefield/Miller/Aceves

That’s right, no Bedard, no Kyle Weiland, no Lackey. That rotation would have survived this stretch far better than the current mess. Admittedly, Buchholz and Matsuzaka would still miss the bulk of the season. Despite this, Halladay and Masterson would have eaten innings admirably, and Wake/Miller/Aceves would take turns as long-relief and spot starters. The bullpen would be much better rested. Payroll would roughly be the same, since the money for Lackey would presumably go to Halladay (whose contract ends sooner) and Bedard/Crawford are not being paid as a result.

Instead, I now root for the Giants to make the playoffs, and the Phillies if they fail. Cliff Lee, I still thank you on behalf of all of Boston baseball.

 

 

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Baseball Post: Who Should Win the National League Cy Young Award?

In my last post I examined the arguably twelve best pitchers in the American League this year up until September 8th. Now I will do the same for National League pitchers. To reitorate from last time:

I am using data gathered through September 17th: Innings Pitched (IP), Earned Run Average (ERA), Strikeouts (K), Walks (BB), Average number of strikeouts and walks per nine innings (K/9 and BB/9, respectively), Batting Average Against (AVG), and the average number of batters a pitcher has on base per inning, the Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP).

The best pitchers have:

-pitched many innings

-a low earned run average

-a high strikeout total and a high strikeout average per nine innings

-a low number of walks and a low walk average per nine innings

-a low batting average against, and

-rarely have men on base.

In addition to this criteria, I will further thin the crowd of pitchers by mandating that as of this writing they have pitched 150 innings, or roughly started 25 games and lasted 6 innings. I have also subtracted any intentional walks from the overall walk total, as pitchers generally have little say in the matter.

Now, let’s meet the (arguably) twelve best pitchers in the National League, listed alphabetically by surname. I am culling my stats from Major League Baseball’s official site. Pitchers will be scored 1-12 points per criterion depending on how they rank in the group; in other words, being first in strikeouts (K) is worth twelve points, whereas coming in ninth is worth four points. The highest possible score is 96. The pitcher with the highest cumulative score is the one I feel should win the NL Cy Young. Once again, all data is as of September 17, 2011.

Candidates:

Chris Carpenter

Innings Pitched: 213.1 (4th) : 9 points
ERA: 3.80 (11th): 2 points
K: 170 (T-9th): 4 points
BB: 46 (5th): 8 points
K/9: 7.17 (10th): 3 points
BB/9: 2.15 (6th): 7 points
AVG: .272 (12th): 1 point
WHIP: 1.31 (12th): 1 point

Total Score: 35 points, finishing tenth.

Matt Cain

Innings Pitched: 209.1 (5th) : 8 points
ERA: 2.79 (6th): 7 points
K: 170 (T-9th): 4 points
BB: 53 (11th): 2 points
K/9: 7.31 (9th): 4 points
BB/9: 2.41 (8th): 5 points
AVG: .216 (4th): 9 points
WHIP: 1.07 (5th): 8 points

Total Score: 47 points, finishing sixth.

Zack Greinke

Innings Pitched: 153.2 (12th) : 1 point
ERA: 3.87 (12th): 1 point
K: 181 (7th): 6 points
BB: 36 (2nd): 11 points
K/9: 10.60 (1st): 12 points
BB/9: 2.11 (5th): 8 points
AVG: .245 (10th): 3 points
WHIP: 1.18 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score:  46 points, finishing tied for seventh.

Roy Halladay

Innings Pitched: 219.2 (T-1st) : 12 points
ERA: 2.34 (2nd): 11 points
K: 211 (4th): 9 points
BB: 28 (1st): 12 points
K/9: 8.64 (6th): 7 points
BB/9: 1.23 (1st): 12 points
AVG: .241 (9th): 4 points
WHIP: 1.04 (4th): 9 points

Total Score: 76 points, finishing third.

Cole Hamels

Innings Pitched: 199 (9th) : 4 points
ERA: 2.71 (5th): 8 points
K: 177 (8th): 5 points
BB: 39 (3rd): 10 points
K/9: 8.01 (7th): 6 points
BB/9: 1.85 (3rd): 10 points
AVG: .212 (2nd): 11 points
WHIP: 0.98 (T-1st): 12 points

Total Score: 66 points, finishing fourth.

Tim Hudson

Innings Pitched: 203 (8th) : 5 points
ERA: 3.19 (8th): 5 points
K: 150 (11th): 2 points
BB: 49 (T-6th): 7 points
K/9: 6.65 (12th): 1 point
BB/9: 2.44 (9th): 4 points
AVG: .232 (7th): 6 points
WHIP: 1.13 (7th): 6 points

Total Score: 36 points, finishing ninth.

Ian Kennedy

Innings Pitched: 208 (6th) : 7 points
ERA: 2.99 (7th): 6 points
K: 182 (6th): 7 points
BB: 52 (10th): 3 points
K/9: 7.88 (8th): 5 points
BB/9: 2.25 (7th): 6 points
AVG: .233 (8th): 5 points
WHIP: 1.12 (6th): 7 points

Total Score: 46 points, finishing tied for seventh.

Clayton Kershaw

Innings Pitched: 218.2 (3rd) : 10 points
ERA: 2.30 (1st): 12 points
K: 236 (1st): 12 points
BB: 49 (T-6th): 7 points
K/9: 9.71 (2nd): 11 points
BB/9: 2.10 (4th): 9 points
AVG: .207 (1st): 12 points
WHIP: 0.98 (T-1st): 12 points

Total Score: 85 points, finishing first and my pick for the NL Cy Young.

Cliff Lee (Boston thanks you again!)

Innings Pitched: 219.2 (T-1st) : 12 points
ERA: 2.38 (3rd): 10 points
K: 223 (2nd): 11 points
BB: 42 (4th): 9 points
K/9: 9.14 (5th): 8 points
BB/9: 1.72 (2nd): 11 points
AVG: .225 (5th): 8 points
WHIP: 1.02 (3rd): 10 points

Total Score: 79 points, finishing second.

Tim Lincecum

Innings Pitched: 205 (7th) : 6 points
ERA: 2.59 (4th): 9 points
K: 212 (3rd): 10 points
BB: 76 (12th): 1 point
K/9: 9.31 (3rd): 10 points
BB/9: 3.56 (12th): 1 point
AVG: .215 (3rd): 10 points
WHIP: 1.18 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score: 51 points, finishing fifth.

Shawn Marcum

Innings Pitched: 188 (10th) : 3 points
ERA: 3.40 (9th): 4 points
K: 149 (12th): 1 point
BB: 51 (T-8th): 5 points
K/9: 7.13 (11th): 2 points
BB/9: 2.59 (10th): 3 points
AVG: .227 (6th): 7 points
WHIP: 1.14 (8th): 5 points

Total Score: 30 points, finishing last.

Anibal Sanchez

Innings Pitched: 186.1 (11th) : 2 points
ERA: 3.62 (10th): 3 points
K: 191 (5th): 8 points
BB: 51 (T-8th): 5 points
K/9: 9.23 (4th): 9 points
BB/9: 2.75 (11th): 2 points
AVG: .250 (11th): 2 points
WHIP: 1.26 (11th): 2 points

Total Score: 33 points, finishing eleventh.

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Baseball Post: Who Should Win the 2011 AL Cy Young?

As the baseball season winds down and the Boston Red Sox appear determined to avoid the playoffs, there has been some chatter on ESPN and other sports media about who was the best pitcher, the most impressive rookie, and who was the overall most valuable player to their team. Pitching is what fascinates me the most about baseball, and thus the Cy Young award discussion is my favorite. Since virtually any and every occurrence on the baseball field is recorded, allow me to first explain the criteria I have selected.

Traditionally, three metrics are used to describe pitcher performance. Wins (W) are awarded to a pitcher when their team has the lead when the pitcher was at work, and that lead was never relinquished. Earned Run Average (ERA) roughly describes how many runs a pitcher gives up per three outs. Strikeouts (K) are when a pitcher manages to throw three strikes in an at-bat, preventing the runner from reaching base whatsoever.

While the latter two metrics are somewhat useful, the first, Wins (or Win-Loss record) really doesn’t provide any insight to how well the pitcher did his job. What it records is how well the pitcher’s offense fared against the opposing team’s pitcher while the pitcher being evaluated is sitting in the dugout with a coat wrapped around his arm.

To determine the best pitchers in the American League this year, I base my decision on these metrics using data gathered through September 10th: Innings Pitched (IP), Earned Run Average (ERA), Strikeouts (K), Walks (BB), Average number of strikeouts and walks per nine innings (K/9 and BB/9, respectively), Batting Average Against (AVG), and the average number of batters a pitcher has on base per inning, the Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP).

The best pitchers have:

-pitched many innings

-a low earned run average

-a high strikeout total and a high strikeout average per nine innings

-a low number of walks and a low walk average per nine innings

-a low batting average against, and

-rarely have men on base.

In addition to this criteria, I will further thin the crowd of pitchers by mandating that as of this writing they have pitched 150 innings, or roughly started 25 games and lasted 6 innings. I have also subtracted any intentional walks from the overall walk total, as pitchers generally have little say in the matter.

Now, let’s meet the (arguably) twelve best pitchers in the American League, listed alphabetically by surname. I am culling my stats from Major League Baseball’s official site. Pitchers will be scored 1-12 points per criterion depending on how they rank in the group; in other words, being first in strikeouts (K) is worth twelve points, whereas coming in ninth is worth four points. The highest possible score is 96. The pitcher with the highest cumulative score is the one I feel should win the AL Cy Young. Once again, all data is as of September 8, 2011.

Candidates:

Josh Beckett

Innings Pitched: 173.2 (10th): 3 points
ERA: 2.49 (3rd): 10 points
K: 155 (10th): 3 points
BB: 46 (2nd): 11 points
K/9: 8.03 (7th): 6 points
BB/9: 2.38 (7th): 6 points
AVG: .203 (2nd): 11 points
WHIP: 0.98 (2nd): 11 points

Total Score: 61 points, finishing fifth.

Dan Haren

Innings Pitched: 217.1 (T-4th): 9 points
ERA: 3.06 (9th): 4 points
K: 176 (8th): 5 points
BB: 27 (1st): 12 points
K/9: 7.29 (10th): 3 points
BB/9: 1.16 (1st): 12 points
AVG: .234 (10th): 3 points
WHIP: 1.01 (T-3rd): 10 points

Total Score: 58 points, finishing sixth.

Next!

Jeremy Hellickson

Innings Pitched: 170.1 (12th): 1 point
ERA: 2.96 (7th): 6 points
K: 109 (12th): 1 point
BB: 55 (T-8th): 5 points
K/9: 5.76 (12th): 1 point
BB/9: 3.12 (11th): 2 points
AVG: .214 (4th): 9 points
WHIP: 1.14 (7th): 6 points

Total Score: 31 points, finishing ahead of only Justin Masterson from our group.

What about the reigning AL Cy Young, King Felix?

Felix Hernandez

Innings Pitched: 217.1 (T-4th): 9 points
ERA: 3.15 (11th): 2 points
K: 211 (3rd): 10 points
BB: 65 (11th): 2 points
K/9: 8.74 (T-3rd): 10 points
BB/9: 2.69 (9th): 4 points
AVG: .233 (T-8th): 5 points
WHIP: 1.16 (8th): 5 points

Total Score: 47 points, finishing eigth.

As I am writing from Massachusetts, I am obligated to evaluate…

Jon Lester

Innings Pitched: 172 (11th): 2 points
ERA: 2.93 (T-5th): 8 points
K: 167 (9th): 4 points
BB: 63 (10th): 3 points
K/9: 8.74 (T-3rd): 10 points
BB/9: 3.3 (12th): 1 point
AVG: .223 (6th): 7 points
WHIP: 1.19 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score: 39 points, finishing ninth.

A former Red Sock is doing well this year for the surprise Cleveland Indians.

Justin Masterson

Innings Pitched: 200.1 (9th): 4 points
ERA: 3.01 (8th): 5 points
K: 149 (11th): 2 points
BB: 55 (T-8th): 5 points
K/9: 6.69 (11th): 2 points
BB/9: 2.47 (8th): 5 points
AVG: .253 (12th): 1 point
WHIP: 1.23 (12th): 1 point

Total Score: 25 points, finishing last of our group but still a very valuable pitcher that Boston was absolutely foolish to trade away for a Victor Martinez rental.

Let’s swing south to Tampa Bay again.

David Price

Innings Pitched: 203.2 (7th): 6 points
ERA: 3.4 (12th): 1 point
K: 200 (5th): 8 points
BB: 49 (3rd): 10 points
K/9: 8.84 (2nd): 11 points
BB/9: 2.3 (6th): 7 points
AVG: .231 (7th): 6 points
WHIP: 1.11 (6th): 7 points

Total Score: 56 points, finishing seventh.

On to prove Yankee fans wrong if they think Sabathia is deserving.

C.C. Sabathia

Innings Pitched: 224.1 (2nd): 11 points
ERA: 2.93 (T-5th): 8 points
K: 216 (2nd): 11 points
BB: 51 (T-4th): 9 points
K/9: 8.67 (5th): 8 points
BB/9: 2.21 (3rd): 10 points
AVG: .251 (11th): 2 points
WHIP: 1.19 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score: 63 points, tied for third.

One more swing through Tampa Bay for Big Game James!

James Shields

Innings Pitched: 218 (3rd): 10 points
ERA: 2.77 (4th): 9 points
K: 205 (4th): 9 points
BB: 53 (T-6th): 5 points
K/9: 8.46 (6th): 5 points
BB/9: 2.23 (T-4th): 9 points
AVG: .216 (5th): 8 points
WHIP: 1.02 (5th): 8 points

Total Score: 63 points, tied for third. On to the favorite- but just how dominant has Verlander been this year?

Justin Verlander

Innings Pitched: 229 (1st): 12 points
ERA: 2.44 (T-1st): 12 points
K: 232 (1st): 12 points
BB: 51 (T-4th): 9 points
K/9: 9.12 (1st): 12 points
BB/9: 2 (2nd): 11 points
AVG: .191 (1st): 12 points
WHIP: 0.91 (1st): 12 points

Total Score: 92 points… did you really think anyone else stood a chance?

There’s a fellow on the Angels whose ERA matches Verlander, but what of the rest?

Jered Weaver

Innings Pitched: 214.1 (6th): 7 points
ERA: 2.44 (T-1st): 12 points
K: 187 (6th): 7 points
BB: 53 (T-6th): 5 points
K/9: 7.85 (9th): 4 points
BB/9: 2.23 (T-4th): 9 points
AVG: .211 (3rd): 10 points
WHIP: 1.01 (T-3rd): 10 points

Total Score: 64 points, the distant runner-up. Lastly, there is the fellow in Texas that blossomed recently. How good is C.J. Wilson?

C.J. Wilson

Innings Pitched: 201 (8th): 5 points
ERA: 3.13 (10th): 3 points
K: 179 (7th): 6 points
BB: 66 (12th): 1 point
K/9: 8.01 (8th): 5 points
BB/9: 2.96 (10th): 3 points
AVG: .233 (T-8th): 5 points
WHIP: 1.19 (T-9th): 4 points

Total Score: 32 points, finishing tenth.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

Tonight I was sifting through files I created when I was student teaching. I discovered a collection of writing prompts that I generally used to start each class period. I took great care to ensure that the exercises helped foster connections between the students’ experiences and the lessons’ content.

For example, if the day’s class dealt with Poe, at the start of class students were asked to detail a vivid nightmare. For Thoreau, I asked students to consider various “desert island” scenarios- the familiar “if you were stranded on a desert island, you would wish for ____”. Packing to live in Florida and safeguarding personal property during the threat of hurricane are only two instances of many in which I have considered what is most valuable and most sentimental to me. I also think about this when I watch “Pawn Stars” or “Storage Wars”. As a North American, I am obsessed with things. It is flogged into us as children. The economic climate reminded me that the people in my life are more important than possessions.

With that in mind, in the interest of self-exposition, here is a list of my ten favorite things. They are not necessarily my most expensive, collectible, useful, or flashy; they just hold the most sentimental value, presented in no particular order.

1. Green Army-Style Old Navy Shirt

There are many men with a favorite shirt, and I am no different. I have owned this shirt since I was sixteen years old- eleven years as of this writing- and it will stay with me until it disintegrates. I bought this shirt with some of the first money I ever made. I think I wore it on most of my first dates. I know I’ve worn it to most concerts. It doesn’t choke me around the neck, make me too hot or cold, make me itch, nor is it too tight nor loose. I love this shirt.

2. Bicycle

I am still very much learning all sorts of things about how a bicycle is built and how to care for it. Riding keeps me alert of what’s around the corner and makes me slow down to appreciate the scenery. It is often the only chance I get a few uninterrupted hours to listen to a new album. It strengthens many muscle groups without destroying my knee. It keeps mileage off the car and gas money in my wallet. I may not know half of everything about bikes, but I do enjoy mine.

3. Optimus Prime 25th Anniversary G1 Reissue

I traded many old, miscellaneous toys for the same Optimus Prime I wanted as a six-year-old; all he was missing was the box. I watched the cartoon as a child, but didn’t follow the spinoffs and only saw the first two Michael Bay movies. I’m not a diehard Transformers fan, but this truck is as neat to me now as it was all those years ago. I didn’t take this picture and I forget where I found it, but mine has nice straight smokestacks and you get much better clarity in this shot.

4. Ayotte 12″x7″ Snare

What I don’t know about bicycles I make up for in drums. I could make an entire post solely on Ayotte, but a long story short it features some neat hardware and offers things even the local custom shops still can’t duplicate. This size is just right for my smaller stature, and there’s lots of beautiful snares out there that sound fantastic. However, in this I have the drum I want to come home to, use every day, and consider it to be my Excalibur.

5. Little League Baseball

I have baseballs that the coach gave to me as a momento for being the MVP of the day. I scribbled the team names and score on each one, but can’t remember anymore which team I was on. My favorite is actually a blank ball of the same type. This sat on my desk in Florida and is something I still toss to myself and use as a stress ball. Sometimes I pretend I’m Tim Lincecum or Dustin Pedroia. It’s cheaper than buying the T-shirts.

6. Adore, The Smashing Pumpkins

If I have to pick a favorite album this is a surprising one to many who know me well. Jimmy Chamberlin is a respected drummer and one I admire, and this is the group’s album on which he does not play. So why do I like it so? That also could be a post in itself, and maybe later it will be. For now, I really enjoy the loose narrative of love, loss, and mourning, and enjoy the solid but not overpowering playing from all involved. This album sounds like it was the one that involved the most thought, but the group claims it was actually the most rushed of their releases. This also isn’t my photo.

7. NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Donatello

I did faithfully watch the cartoons as a child, as am very familiar with the plotlines of the first two movies. Donatello was the one that came to Florida with me. Not my photo either, but Talyn from FLICKR already made a perfect shot.

I like that the coloring of the NECA figures evokes this image from an old calendar I had.

8. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

I brought somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty books to Florida, and of all of those and the ones I read in high school, this is still my favorite work of recent/20th century American Fiction. For me, Steinbeck elicits a strong emotional impact and enduring characters in a plainspoken manner. His writing I find much more enjoyable than Faulkner’s, for example.

9.  2011 Hot Wheels Back To the Future DeLorean Time Machine

This would have been a runaway favorite toy of mine had it been around in my childhood. I had many Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, but I remember still being all jazzed up when I got my hands on the Micro Machines DeLorean in the latter half of the 1990s. I remembered being a kid again when I saw this at the local Stop & Shop, and promptly removed it from the package and made it zoom around the coffee table when I got home. I bought two, actually. This isn’t my photo either, but blog-twentythree.blogspot.com uses a much better camera.

10. Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up, Dave Barry

This is a book I’ve read many times and still find amusing and inspiring. I was very interested in offbeat news as a young teen, and this is exactly what the book offers. Dave Barry’s humor is family-friendly without being too corny, and since he writes largely  as a columnist, it inspires me to express myself in writing more frequently.

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On Hurricanes

My most recent post documented how I was affected by Tropical Storm Irene. Given the severe flooding in Vermont and continued Foxboro area blackout (save Gillette Stadium, the controversy of which is further discussed here), I and those I care for escaped the storm largely unscathed.

Ever since I was nine or so I have been interested in hurricanes and general emergency preparation. I can vividly recall tracking hurricanes on data sheets available for free at the local drugstore.

 This chart used to come folded up as a pamphlet, which also featured some general tips and lists of items to have ready. This information is very similar to this resource.

Hurricanes I found fascinating and suspenseful. The Northeast is generally safe (not immune) from their destructive force. The fact that there are days of notice continues to make the forecast a compelling gamble. When I was young, the meteorologist’s main role was to deliver the exciting news that school had been closed for a snow day. Hurricanes gave them authority and my rapt attention as the summer drew to a close.

I recall riding out Hurricane Bob in Hyde Park, where it was just a lot of rain and some wind. The broad damage to the Cape Cod area was sad but largely irrelevant to me, as I nor anyone I knew lived there then.

My interest in hurricanes was a natural evolution from my interest in dinosaurs and whales. Dinosaurs hold a nearly universal appeal to small children due to their exotic appearance and hyperbolic power and proportions. My interest passed to whales for these reasons, with the exception being that they still roam the oceans. Severe weather also wields the immense power, but with it comes a tangible impact and game of chance. I don’t gamble, but living on or near the coast inherently involves risk.

I remember watching Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina with equal horror. When I made the decision to live in Florida for a time, the fact that the time did not fall within hurricane season was very important.

While I have long found hurricans interesting, I have always held a deep, primal fear of tornadoes. Hurricanes, at least in the modern day, afford several days preparation. Tornadoes can appear not within a week but minutes. Their destruction is seemingly random and wrought with quick, frantic strokes. Although the collatoral damage of a hurricane far exceeds that of any tornado, the hurricane’s winds are of a far longer duration, a generally lesser intensity, and thus strikes me as more plodding and deliberate- as irrantional it may be to ascribe such qualities to atmospheric disturbances.

Ultimately, hurricanes are empowering- there are things you can do to minimize property damage and loss of life. Tornadoes are much more chaotic, with stories of them destroying one home, skipping a block, and touching down again. Hurricanes are somewhat more systematic, more predicatable.

Notice I said somewhat. Hurricane forecasting is still dicey at best, as all the meteorologists will remind the viewers. Several models are used to get a rough idea of where a storm may impact. These models are more advanced than what early detection systems exist for tornadoes, but both are still imperfect.

I was greatly disturbed to learn that hurricanes can and do spawn tornadoes.

Lastly, while in Florida I did not get the chance to see homes such as these that were designed to tackle practically anything that nature could throw down.

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On Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene

Recently Tropical Storm Irene struck the Northeastern United States. My parent’s Cape Cod home saw little rain but high winds. Power was knocked out for them on Sunday, Monday, and the first nine hours of Tuesday. Luckily, the majority of their property escaped harm, save mostly small branches and leaves knocked down in the back yard. The secondary refridgerator, a Wel-Bilt manufactured in Yugoslavia, a nation which has not existed since the Clinton Administration, was the biggest loss of the storm for them.

Given the storm’s more inland path and the greater resources available to my immediate family on Cape, who were largely out of harm’s way, I decided to tempt fate and make sure my significant other rode the storm out safely with her dog. Here are some images I took after the storm in the surrounding area of Mansfield/Foxboro/Plainville.

This photo may be the most dramatic, and was particularly disturbing as it was along the normal route along which I walk the dog and thus very close to home.

If you squint, I think the vehicle may actually have escaped major damage. I only managed to get this shot to come out clearly, but to the naked eye it seemed that the roofline and hood contours were rather intact. For a tree falling onto a car, the damage could easily have been much worse.

The local media coverage explained that many trees had toppled due to the ground being saturated, making the roots’ grip slippery. This is not the case in the following photo.

It is the case in the next three photos, however. As you may be able to see, this tree was rooted in very moist soil and mulch. It toppled over in nearly one piece, and also away from the building it neighbors.

Although I am an imposing 5’7″, the exposed part of the fibrous root network clearly stood taller than I. That’s still impressive to me, anyway.

A final two shots of a rather large tree limb rent asunder from its trunk, and a sizeable tree turned turtle.

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