September 20th, 2005

Koufax

Surveying the Baseball Blogs

Lots of interesting baseball stuff the last couple of days as lots of folks start looking at next year.

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Baseball Analysts has a post that starts out with the question of whether or not the Mariners are risking injury to their young phenom, Felix Hernandez, by pitching him too much, but then veers sideways a bit to discuss the Mets teams of the mid-eighties. The bit I liked best was a quote from Bob Klapisch, who covered the team:

All the Mets failed to take the game seriously back then, but Doc [Gooden] and Darryl [Strawberry] were the worst offenders. They thought it was cool to show up to the park hungover. I remember when Kevin Elster gave it one last go-round with the Yankees in spring training in '02. He still had great hands, but he was like some alien creature to the other players - showing up two minutes before everyone had to be on the field, still smelling of beer and cigarettes. Everyone else had already been in the complex for two hours working out, but Elster - like all the other Eighties Mets - never believed in that.

The Mets of the eighties were probably the closest thing there ever was to the old Cardinal "Gas House Gang" teams. They were young, immensely talented, and had money to burn. In New York. They swaggered a lot. They all flamed out pretty quickly. Well, except for Jesse Orosco.

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Then there's this interesting way of looking at baseball economics over at the Hardball Times, which may explain why Torii Hunter may be playing centerfield for the Yankees next season.

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Finally, I thought this was just neat. It's a simple way of looking at and comparing team statistics. It's a simple trick that converts stats for the team as a whole into something that's easier to assimilate at a glance, i.e., by converting them into a set of generic player's stats. Very nifty. Wish I'd thought of it.
Roadkill

Books

Just to keep track, I finished off three more books earlier this month. The first was Chandler's Trouble Is My Business, a collection of four early Philip Marlowe stories. All were interesting. I also continued my way through Niven, going back and rereading Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers. The original is still great fun, a sort of takeoff on The Wizard of Oz, albeit with a two-headed, three-legged cowardly lion, and a land of Oz that has the surface area of three million Earths. (While reading these books I am often taken aback when it suddenly dawns on me just how frelling big the Ringworld is. Take a roll of paper 1 meter wide by 600 meters long, and connect the two ends to form a big loop. If you lay the loop on its side, it should just about fit onto the playing surface of a typical cookie cutter baseball stadium. Bend 1 mm of each edge inward towards the center of the loop to form a tiny wall. Put a flaming beach ball at the very center (just behind second base) of the loop to represent the sun. You've now constructed a model of the Ringworld at a scale of 1 mm = 1000 miles. By way of comparison, at that scale the Earth's diameter is about the same as a dime's.)

Of all the books, I think Engineers is the best, mostly because the group finally meets the wizard, there are do-or-die obstacles to overcome, and there are serious choices to be made. It's also interesting to see the amount of retconning Niven does over the course of the series, as the Known Space universe became fleshed out more, and the fan geeks began doing calculations on how a real Ringworld would behave. When Louis Wu first landed on the Ringworld, Niven hadn't yet written Protector, so Louis has no idea who the Engineers could be. Move forward ten years, and now both Louis and Speaker/Chmee are fairly confident in their suspicions about who the Engineers were.

My current read is The Last Best League, a book about the Cape Cod League. I'm about a third of the way through, and am enjoying it for the most part.
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