Monday, April 20, 2015

The Place Beyond The Fear

"In those moments I want to quit and sit down and not be a part of this anymore. I know what it feels like to not have the play called for you. That’s how things felt for a long time in my life, and I know that my general reaction to this was to quit. To not even be a part of the action anymore. It became habitual....But inside my body, my flesh, there’s that pull toward the bench. I want to sit down. I want to pout and be null and void of my own volition, [to] say No and watch the world from a withering remove." - Josh Wilker

Hey, baby, this is how the sausage is made. You can't have all those parades down Market Street without a little adversity. It's ugly, it's long, it's laborious, it's tedious. There are slumps and injuries and under-performers and players who are suddenly broken, having succumbed to the irreparable harm of post-peak old age. It's the 162-game grind, not the month-long October magic where Madison Bumgarner pretends he's Bob Gibson.

It is, for most of us in the modern world, something we cannot even pay attention to. The Giants have played 14 games this year. How much time have I actually spent closely watching those 14 games? Very little. And I have nothing but time on my hands! But I fiddle it away staring at screens other than the television, looking for something they cannot possibly give me. The good thing is that I have people in my life I like to stare at the screens with sometimes, and we can often get each other to at least pay attention to the game instead of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, texts, porn, and whatever else those phones pretend to offer.

I suppose these days I can't really stop and pay attention to anything. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and life has come to a complete halt for me. My habitual pattern of quitting--of giving into aversion, of failing to overcome the lesser angels of my nature--has put me squarely on the bench with David Lee. My back is about as sound as Jake Peavy's, and my right arm only feels good after about 35 Coors Lights.

I will never tell anyone how to be a fan. Probably, no one should listen to me about anything. I have fallen victim to those lesser angels, after all--self-obsession and loathing, bitterness, cynicism, meaninglessness, anxiousness, depressiveness.

It doesn't matter that the Giants won the championship in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Those seasons are over now. We are literally 14 games into 2015. The 2015 version of the San Francisco Giants Baseball Associates LLP has been awful since the spring bell rang.

Peavy was ineffective during two starts before going on the DL. Casey McGehee has mostly been terrible around a knee injury, a man always seemingly ready to make two outs in place of one so we can all get home sooner. Matt Cain, after getting his elbow cleaned up last year, has yet to pitch. Madison Bumgarner has been quite human, perhaps suffering the after-effects of a 270-inning workload in 2014. The always durable Hunter Pence is on the DL for the first time in his career. Buster Posey is in one of his slumps, perhaps fatigued from carrying this franchise on his back for the last six years--the bumps and bruises of managing the staff and hitting cleanup and playing first base on his off days and recovering from a catastrophic injury finally adding up and taking their toll. Tim Lincecum, once a flame-thrower who touched the high-90's despite unorthodox mechanics and a frame that better suited him to office work, is throwing 87 miles per hour. Ryan Vogelsong looks, once more, like a DFA candidate. The pitching staff has gotten long in the tooth, short on velo, and there isn't much coming up through the system. Your Old Mother Hubbard, and only Young Beedah is in the cupboard.

Take any team's No. 2 and No. 3 starters and their No. 5 hitter away, however, and they'll probably be 4-10, too. It's a tiny sample size. Bumgarner and Posey ought to be fine. Maybe Cain and Pence come back to stabilize things. A little rest might do Peavy some good. Maybe all these pitching injuries open the door for Yusmeiro Petit and Chris Heston, Staff Aces. Vogelsong has certainly looked finished before, only to rise from the ashes, win championships, and make All-Star teams.

The plan, as constructed by GM Brian Sabean, was that full, healthy, effective seasons from Angel Pagan, Cain, and Peavy, plus the additions of Nori Aoki and Casey McGehee, would more than offset the losses of Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval from last year's 88-win team.

Thus far, Aoki and Pagan have been great, McGehee's been bad, Peavy's been hurt and ineffective, and Cain's just been hurt. We've got another 148 games to see how this plays out.

Most of us will, one way or another, have to catch those 148 games from a distance. Baseball is the background noise in our go-go, corporate age. Fuck, even if you keep score for all 230 pitches, you'll still probably miss most of it. We've got shit to do--law degrees and PhD's to earn, jobs to tend to, kids to raise, books to read, the Warriors own title run to live through, emotions to manage, marriages to save, lives to get together, the effects of global warming to reverse, religions to practice, species--including our own--to save from extinction, wars to end, racial disparities to correct.

There is, of course, more to life than the consumption of athletics. It's sometimes hard to believe.

But, for me, all roads lead back to the games. I'm 10 years old, and the coach, an intense, San Quentin prison guard, is throwing 65 mile-per-hour heaters at us. I take one in the shoulder and get right back in the box. Later in the batting practice round, my buddy gets drilled and begins to cry. The assistant coach berates him, citing me as an example of the type of toughness that's expected on this ballclub. It's the last time anyone has pointed to me as an exemplar of physical courage of any kind. Yet the moment endures--there was a time which preceded all the thinking and analyzing when it was possible to be more than the accumulation of my fears. There is that place beyond the fear, the other side of the abyss, where the real parades take place.

Maybe the overwhelming frustration with the Giants this year is the shameful feeling that this has all been a hoax, that consuming sports is a frivolous endeavor, that I should be doing something more meaningful with my time, that there is shit to get in order besides the Giants--who have a full-time team of executives, coaches, and scouts charged with that task. When your team loses, particularly after achieving the highest of highs, then what was it all for? You dedicated all this time and energy to something beyond your control, and this is how the ingrates repay you? And, how embarrassing to be a fan of a large-market, three-time championship team that now looks this bad--it was all just a fluke of the small sample sizes of October baseball!

Yet the thing is not only to win, but to win it all, and small sample size and watered-down whiskey of the postseason aside, those flags still fly forever. The 92-win 2010 NL West Champs, 94-win 2012 NL West Champs, and 88-win 2014 NL Wild Card winning teams do form a modern dynasty regardless of what the 2015 team does.

Maybe Peavy and Cain are broken for good. Maybe Vogelsong is finally done. Maybe this is it for Timmy. They are reaching back and finding that it just isn't there--injuries and overuse have drained those former All-Star arms of their vigor. This team could, if everything keeps breaking wrong, lose a lot. Thus far, it's looking a lot like 2013. Our many tastes of victory just makes the sting of losing all the more unacceptable. In sports fandom, it's okay to be spoiled. Without you watching the games, whether attentively or as background noise, there is no game. It's also perfectly fine to just be grateful for what the Giants have recently given you and go merrily on your way as they lose 100 games. In this one area of life at least, it just doesn't matter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Bill Simmons and Tanking

I'm probably always going to stand by Bill Simmons. I used to print out his articles and read them during class back in college. I read his book Now I Can Die In Peace back then, too. I think he's a terrific NBA analyst. I really enjoy listening to his podcasts.

I've never had, like, a lot of friends, and I can't help but feel as though I'm pals with him and Zach Lowe or Chuck Klosterman when he has them on the program. I still can't get the image of Simmons and Lowe stranded Lord of the Flies style on Waiters Island. Where has everyone gone? Poor Oklahoma City fans: instead of watching the best shooting guard in the game, James Harden, they're stuck with Waiters, who is shooting 39 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from deep. Harden leads all two guards with a 26.8 Player Efficiency Rating while Waiters is 61st at 10.55. I think Simmons and Lowe have finally escaped Waiters Island.

It seems that as Simmons success has increased, so has the resentment towards him. Who wouldn't want to run Grantland and write and talk about sports all day? And Simmons doesn't come across as the most humble of the Lord's servants, certainly. I'm not really a fan of any of his NFL or MLB musings. But when it comes to the NBA, I think he's a top-notch expert.

However, I don't agree with his ongoing assessment of the situation in Philadelphia. For those unaware, the 76ers are in the second year of a total tear-down and sabermetric style rebuild under 37-year-old GM Sam Hinkie, which you can read more about here. Hinkie uses Moneyball analytics and lists Robert Caro as his favorite writer, so I'm obviously biased towards him.

Simmons has been hard on the 76ers rebuild, citing another Grantland writer in calling it a Ponzi scheme and arguing that the rebuild strategy ensures Hinkie's long-term employment there as GM. Last week, he compared the 76ers rebuild to a private equity firm gutting a struggling company. He also argued that the 76ers had stolen money from the fans for two straight years. He's argued elsewhere that the 76ers should've discounted tickets during their tank job.

First off, the 76ers have not stolen money from their fans. It's been totally obvious that they've been rebuilding and tanking to get high draft picks and the accumulate cap space and other picks. If season-ticket holders don't want to watch a 20-win team, they don't have to renew their tickets. If enough fans are fed up with the product Hinkie puts on the court and don't renew their season tickets, prices will have to drop. Thus, there's no need for the 76ers to discount tickets during their rebuild. If the demand for the product diminishes, prices will drop.

Secondly, this is not a Ponzi scheme. No one is getting ripped off here. Everyone knows what the 76ers are doing. If Hinkie does not eventually build a winning team, he's going to lose his job. Ownership brought him in knowing what his plan was. In fact, they initially didn't hire him because they didn't want to try his plan. After another mediocre season in 2012-2013, they changed course and hired Hinkie, agreeing to his long-term rebuild strategy. It's not like Hinkie is pulling one over on them.

Next, Simmons has never offered an answer to this question: what else should the 76ers be doing? What's the alternative here? Should they be signing veteran players to try to get the No. 6 seed in the East? Who should they have drafted instead of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric? There are 30 teams in the NBA, and all of them are pursuing various strategies to try to give themselves the best chance to build a successful, contending team. The 76ers are pursuing the most extreme strategy right now, but what's the alternative? Would you rather pursue Hinkie's plan, or be the mediocre Charlotte Hornets right now?

On his new Bill Don't Lie podcast this week, Simmons compared the 76ers strategy to the successful rebuild employed by Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti. Simmons argued that Oklahoma City got "lucky" in selecting Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Harden, and Serge Ibaka. Sure, Oklahoma City was "lucky" that Portland selected Greg Oden over Durant and that they had the No. 2 pick in the draft. But you can't get a Durant unless you are picking at the top of the draft, which is why the 76ers strategy makes so much sense. Westbrook was the 4th pick of the draft. Ibaka was the 24th pick. Harden went 3rd. At some point, you have to credit Presti and say it's something other than luck when he nails four first-round picks like that. And, you can't get Durant, Westbrook, and Harden if you aren't picking in the top five or ten.

Simmons has also talked about Hinkie's former boss in Houston, Rockets GM Daryl Morey, getting lucky with the Harden trade. Sure, it was a mistake for Oklahoma City to trade Harden for twenty cents on the dollar, but Morey had assets to make the deal. At some point, we have to get beyond calling every great move made by GM's "luck." Other teams could've been more aggressive in trying to acquire Harden; they weren't. I don't think the general consensus at the time was that Harden would turn into an elite player worthy of a max deal. Morey had the evaluation right, and he had the assets to get an elite player, which is exactly what the 76ers are trying to build towards. With only five guys on the court, you need elite players to be an elite team.

Were the Patriots lucky that Tom Brady fell to them in the 6th Round? In retrospect, of course they were. But Brady didn't have a big arm coming out of college, he had a horrible body, and he was slower than death. The Patriots saw enough to make the selection, to keep him on the roster, to develop him, and now they have arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.

Were the Spurs lucky to have the first pick in the draft when the greatest power forward of all time became available? Of course they were. But you can't get Tim Duncan unless you are bad enough to have the first pick, and you don't build a perennial contender around him unless you are smart enough to use later picks on Tony Parker (28th), Manu Ginobili (2nd Round, 57th overall), Kawhi Leonard (15th), and Tiago Splitter (28th). Were they lucky to absolutely nail four later picks like that? Or, do they have superior scouting, management, and coaching?

Golden State rebuilt their team through the draft, and now they are a historically great team. Were they lucky that Stephen Curry was there when they had the 7th pick in the draft? Of course. But they were smart enough to take a chance on a guy who was seen as being too skinny, too bad at defense, and not a traditional point guard. Klay Thompson, who is up there with Harden as one of the game's best two guards, fell to them at the 11th pick. They tanked in order to keep their pick in 2012, which they used to select starting small forward Harrison Barnes at No. 7 overall. In that same draft, they nabbed back-up center Festus Ezeli (30th) and starting power forward Draymond Green (2nd Round, 35th), who is going to win this year's Defensive Player of the Year. The Warriors starting lineup has three lottery picks and another guy in Green who obviously should've been a lottery pick. But the consensus on Green was that he was too short (6'5") to play power forward and not skilled enough to play the wing. The Warriors are smart enough to take the guy even though he didn't have a natural NBA position. They also turned second-round steal Monta Ellis into starting center and defensive stalwart Andrew Bogut. Were they lucky to get Ellis in the second round? Were they lucky to get Bogut for an undersized malcontent of a shooting guard?

In the end, you can't draft Curry, Thompson, the OKC guys, or Duncan if you aren't bad enough to be in the lottery. And you can't get guys later in the draft like Green, Ginobili, Splitter, or Parker if you don't have the picks and the scouting acumen to nail the selection.

The 76ers strategy makes a ton of sense. It isn't a Ponzi scheme; no one is being fooled here. It's plain as day what they are doing. If 76ers fans don't like the plan, they don't have to go to the games. If demand for the product drops, prices will fall; there's no need for the 76ers to preemptively drop prices. Maybe fans keep buying tickets because it's a social thing. Maybe they want to see the other teams' players. Maybe they get just as much pleasure watching a 20-62 team as a 40-42 team. I personally loved it when the Warriors were awful--there's something tragically comical about following an incompetent team. Maybe 76ers fans are intelligent enough to realize that this is the best strategy the club could possibly employ right now. Hinkie does not have endless job security. Ownership hired him knowing what his plan was. If he doesn't deliver a Harden, Curry, Duncan, or Durant and a successful team, he'll lose his job at some point. But he can't get a star to build around unless he has assets, and there's no better way to get a star than to be picking at the top of the lottery.

In the NBA, you have to suck to play: you can't get an elite player without drafting near the top or without the assets to trade for a star. If you do eventually get an elite player, however, you're back in the game. There's only five guys on the court, which makes one elite player all the more valuable, and with hundreds of possessions per game, there's plenty of opportunities to assert your dominance and avoid the randomness of baseball's small samples or football's many guys on the field.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

On Baseball, #ReadyForHillary, Ralph Nader, The Firm, Etc.

One year before I graduated high school, the one woman I've, I don't want use the word loved here because I don't know what it means but whatever....graduated from Monmouth Regional High School 25th out of a class of 450. She got a 1250 on the SAT. We shouldn't have ever met, given that one year later, I'd graduate 30th out of 90 or something with a fucking 940 on the SAT. Then again, I did pretty well in high school given that I'd spent the first three semesters killing a lot of brain cells.

My current Prof, who is quite good at teaching even if writing cannot in any real way be taught, recently said, "I don't understand why people think there's glamour in writing. It's extremely hard. A writer has to be incredibly intelligent. You may have something that triggers you to want to write, but to sit down and generate is exceptionally difficult. When you read great writing, you know that you are reading great writing. When you watch Meryl Streep act, you know you're seeing a great performance. Jennifer Aniston has worked exceptionally hard to be able to act like that, but she can't do it because she can't give herself up to the character." Or something like that. 

In a lot of ways, the ability to produce art is innate. 

We are always running up against our limitations. No matter how much avocado ice cream he eats, no matter how much yoga he does, Tom Brady is always going to be slow. On the brighter side, he's moving better at 37 than he's ever moved before. 

He's still fucking slow. 

I can't remember a goddamn thing I read. On Saturday, I'm sitting on Silverstein's couch while he reads some self-help book on how to be a highly effective person or some such shit. I try to tell him about the book I'm reading, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

"So, the economics field is based on the premise that before we developed currency, there were barter economies. But there's no actual proof that a barter economy ever existed," I told him in summation of the book.

"Then what was there?"

"Um, like, Jesus fucking Christ, I can't remember. I guess you'll have to read the fucking book yourself. I can't fucking remember anything. Fuck it all."

He pushes his arms down and says, "Just, like, calm down. It's gonna be okay."

"No, it's not fucking okay! I'm fucking stupid and I can't stand it!"

We walked down to Chipotle across from the El Cerrito Plaza to eat before the A's game. We walk past a couple with their daughter. The mother is carrying a bag of fruit, likely purchased at some sort of farmers market. The father is skinny and slightly bearded and totally emasculated. What is with all these men who look like they've been neutered? You can tell they live in Richmond only to be able to say they live in Richmond. They're legit liberals, not some limousine liberals from Marin County. They aren't ever going to be Ready for Hillary because they will only vote for a real progressive. Which, good for them: I'm with you there. 

More likely, I have them all wrong. 

We eat outside at Chipotle. A couple, likely in their 40's, a white man and an Asian woman, walk towards us before deciding to go elsewhere.

"Did you just pick up on that?" Silverstein asks me.

"Yeah, I mean it seems like they were gonna eat here, but then the wife was like, 'I'm a fuck that dude,' and the husband was all, 'Maybe we ought to go somewhere else.'"

"That's how I saw it."

The woman, who is in incredible shape, what Silverstein would call 'real tight', suddenly leaps to the right and presses the cross-walk button with her ass. 

We both saw it. Of course, we both had to be gawking at the woman to have seen it. I doubt we're getting into heaven at this point. 

"I hope when I'm 40 I can still move like that," I say. "Fuck, I can't even move like that now, particularly in jeans."

Three days later, I can't get that imagine of seeing those jeans hit the pole out of my mind. I don't mean that in a sexual way either. 

I can't remember anything I read, but I can remember things I see and feel, which is kind of the only thing I have going for me as a writer. Not that I see myself as a writer, per se. 

On BART we see another one of those emasculated, weakly bearded men with his pretty wife who has just forced him to run some sort of marathon. The wife wears her sunglasses on the train. Late 30's? The more I look at her, the prettier she gets. What do these husbands do to make money, I always wonder. They never look, like, very employable, though they always seem well-to-do somehow. 

Another buddy, who is 10 sections over from us at the A's game, gave me a brief economics lesson when he was majoring in Political Economies or some made-up thing at Cal. The other member of our tripod was majoring in Business at Santa Clara at the time. It was probably after our freshmen years of college, and I was just totally dumbfounded by the concept of money at that time. Which I still am. Our meme for that summer before our sophomore year was, "You've changed, bro," making fun of the concept of growth during our first year away at school.

The night before the A's game, I tried to get him to sell me his tickets at a below-market price using the great market exchange tool of Facebook Dot Com. He had given me the brief history of economics when we were in college by talking about, you know, how difficult barter economies were and how terrific free markets are by comparison and how you don't want too much regulation or too little. He used the image of getting hot water in the shower: you don't want the economy to overheat or be too cold. Well, according to Debt, barter economies never existed, money isn't real, market economies and the state are intertwined, and we ought to be anarchists. Unless I'm reading that book wrong, which is likely. 

Baseball's problem is not pace of play. The problem is that it's an inherently defensive game. Anyone who has ever stood in the batters box understands this: you look out at the pitcher and the seven defenders behind him, and you can't help but wonder, "How the fuck am I ever going to get a hit?" 

I think during the first three innings we were at the game--we showed up late as per usual; Silverstein isn't a traditional baseball fan--no one actually reached base. Later in the game, Nelson Cruz launched a three-run homer to give Seattle the lead. If you hit it over the fence, it cannot be defensed. I'm wondering, after watching the slap-hitting Giants for a week, if power-hitters like Cruz are being underrated. The thing about a home run is that it can't be taken off the board. Slap a single and, if the next guy bounces into a double-play, the single is erased. 

I remember reading in Baseball Prospectus one year that by staying the same, Adam LaRoche had become more valuable. He hadn't improved, but power had gone down across the game, which in turn had made LaRoche's skill set more valuable. I also remember reading after we acquired Angel Pagan that "there are 30 starting center fielders in baseball, and Pagan is one of them." Damning with faint praise and all that. 

Thus, I remember two things in reading that encyclopedia every year from 2008-2014. 

In 2011, the aforementioned woman purchased me a copy of Baseball Prospectus 2011 at a mall in Monmouth County on the condition that we go see the film The Vow starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. That was an exhilarating moment in my life: it was late February, and I wasn't expecting to find the book in stores yet. When I found it, I started jumping up and down and yelling out of my excitement. That's a really happy memory. She said, "Let me buy this for you, so that when you read it, you'll think of me."

I didn't even dislike The Vow all that much, even if McAdams plays the same torn character in every one of her films. 

Images and memories and dreams are the stuff of fiction. A woman's ass hitting the crosswalk button, a couple walking the streets of the Richmond Annex, a couple standing against the wall of the BART train, a friend giving you an economics lecture, finding an annual baseball encyclopedia and losing your shit in the bookstore like a child--these are my triggers, which always flood my mind whenever I walk. Movement generates my ideas, which is why I never get writer's block. If I want to write, I just walk. 

Today, when I walked, I thought of writing a Glassdoor review of my former employer. One day, I will process that process. There's so much I have left to say, so many processes I have left to process. But, for now, I want to avoid making life too much of a hell for those stuck in the Grind House, for those who are still making the sausage, for those who I left behind at that meat-packing plant, for Slot Zero and Slot One of the Upper Midwest Regional Compliance Conclavity. But I owe it to Fresh, Mac, Magz, High Pockets, and all those who suffered with me to tell the truths they cannot afford to tell, to cling to the resentments more well-adjusted people would let go of. 

My name is my name, after all, and I am indeed watching The Wire again. 

I'm not going to let that shit go, and I'm also not going to get #ReadyForHillary. I won't do it again. I voted for the tepid John Kerry in 2004 who voted for the Iraq War before he was against it, I voted for the Status Quo Candidate cloaked in hopey-changey bullshit in 2008 and 2012, and I'm just not going to do it in 2016. I'm not going to vote for another Eisenhower Republican whose wheels are greased by Goldman Sachs and whose Administration is staffed with former and future Wall Street profiteers and pretend that I'm some sort of progressive idealist while we drone half the fucking world. Not gonna do it. Not gonna vote for the most obviously calculating and self-serving politician out there. 

I mean, what the fuck is this video? Hillary Clinton is going to be the champion for middle-class, hard-working, ethnic, and gay Americans? The problem with having been in politics so long is that we've got a record to compare that rhetoric to. We've got her husband's New Way politics of the 1990's: deregulation, tough-on-crime policies that led to a massive increase in incarceration rates, and the Defense of Marriage Act. 

The Clinton's are for the middle and lower classes even while being extremely friendly to corporate interests and taking loads of Wall Street money and staffing their Administration with Wall Street cronies, they are now against mass incarceration after having been for it, they are now for gay marriage after having been adamantly against it, Hillary voted for the Iraq War before she was against it, she promoted hawkish solutions as Secretary of State for the quagmire in Afghanistan--I mean, if you're going to vote for Hillary Clinton, you might as well get it over with and vote for a Republican. The Clinton's always want it both ways, and we shouldn't let them have their Third Way anymore. We've been trying that shit and here we are. 

Hillary and her supporters will say, as Hillary so tersely did to Fresh Air host Terry Gross, that her critics live in an "evidence-free zone" and "believe they have a direct line to the divine" and "never want to change their mind about anything." 

No, it's not that we live in an evidence-free zone and won't change our minds. It's that we have actual beliefs other than the belief in our own divine right to accumulate power. I believe that ALL PEOPLE are entitled to equal protection under the law in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES regardless of sexual orientation, creed, color, or the prevailing political winds at the time. I believe that violence is always horrific. I really do believe that "the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top" as Hillary says in her "Getting Started" video. I also believe that more than any other factor, our political choices have stacked that deck. I won't be voting for someone who claims to want to be a "champion" for the middle class when their policies and cabinet choices are so obviously tepid, weak, and status quo. Foll me three times, Democratic Party, shame on me and you. I'll just write in Ralph Nader this time.

People spend endless time text-messaging, all the rest of it, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. They know what they’re doing through their iPhone. What they don’t know is what their iPhone is doing to them. They don’t know what the opportunity cost is, the lack of sociability, the lack of human personal connections. I don’t know any other way to start social movements of change unless people get together person to person. The Internet will tell you there’s an event. The Internet will bring you incredible information [at] ... the speed of light. But it will not motivate you. With very few exceptions it does not go from virtual reality to reality. It will motivate some people to connect, but a large percentage of people don’t connect....  
As has been said, democracy is not a spectator sport...It requires a motivated citizenry, along with rights, remedies, and mechanisms that facilitate people banding together as candidates, voters, workers, taxpayers, consumers and communities. Concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few who decide for the many is the great destroyer of any society’s democratic functions. It was Justice Louis Brandeis who memorably stated that ‘we can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ And another well-regarded jurist, Judge Learned Hand, declared, ‘If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice.’  
We’re being governed by corporations who are strategically planning every aspect of our lives...They are strategically planning our elections, our politics, our government, our media, our food, our transportation, our foreign policy, our allocation of public budgets. They’re even strategically planning our genes, and the genetic inheritance of the globe. They’re planning childhood. Childhood is exposed to direct marketing and violent programming. They are undermining and circumventing family authority, the authority of mothers and fathers over their own children, by direct and massive 24/7 marketing to 4-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 10-year-olds. And then the addictive industries move in, hooking them for a lifetime. Correspondence is the only thing left in terms of freedom, other than a spot call to a talk show host where you get in a hundred words before they pull the plug. We are an advanced Third World country...Not ‘we are becoming.’ We are an advanced Third World country with unsurpassed armaments and science and technology, because we want to show off to the rest of the world. But you look at the rest of our country, and 80 percent of the people are poorer today than they were in 1973. Look at the way most people live. You turn on the TV, that’s not most people. That’s the rich and famous. 
Your generation has got to get a movement going...Elizabeth Warren actually said, why are the students charged a higher rate [on loans] than Wall Street banks? Like 6 percent instead of virtually nothing? And she asked that question. Now you have a senator [Warren] that millions of students can rally around. The problem is that the students sign on to these contracts but the ax doesn’t fall until after they graduate. So they don’t feel it when they are able to congregate in their own auditoriums and student centers. And when they’re out there [after college], they’re scattered. Defused. Even though the Internet is supposed to be able to rally them. But I don’t give them any excuses, because they’re always bragging about the Internet, and all of their friends, and all of their links, right? They should be able to do it in 24 hours. Millions of students ... are beaten down, and can’t buy a house at age 30, even though the interest rates are low, and are just frightened beyond their wits that by the time they’re 60 they’re still paying their student debt. 

I want to vote for someone who actually stands for the things Ralph stands for. I want to vote for a person I actually respect. If such things are not possible, maybe we ought to do something different.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Giants Do Not Score

I'm starting to wonder if maybe the biggest issue with park effects are psychological. It's not like the Giants crushed a lot of balls at Petco over the weekend or Monday at AT&T Park that died unfair deaths on the warning track. 

The Giants scored 16 runs over three games at the hitter-friendly confines of Chase Field in Arizona to open the season. In San Diego, they managed to score seven runs in four games. Back at AT&T Park for the home opener today, the Giants were shut out. Seven runs in five games won't really do the trick now will it? 

On Monday, the Giants managed only one extra-base hit among their five knocks. They walked six times and were hit by pitches twice. Of those 13 base-runners, 12 were left on, and one was erased on an Angel Pagan double play. The Giants were 0 for 7 with men in scoring position. 

Starting right fielder Hunter Pence, he of the career .284/.338/.472 slash line, is on the shelf until May. That doesn't help matters. Brandon Belt missed a few games last week with a groin pull. Starting third baseman Casey McGehee, a lifetime .264/.324/.400 hitter, left Saturday's game with a knee injury and has yet to return. 

Leadoff man Nori Aoki went 2 for 4 with a walk and a steal today. He's a lifetime .289/.355/.389 hitter. He's going to hit a lot of singles and get on base. He's had a terrific start to the season.

Joe Panik went 0 for 3 with two walks. He's off to a slow start in 2015, hitting .231 thus far after hitting .305 last year. The projections are expecting serious regression from Panik this year, something more in line with his .257/.333/.347 slash line at Double-A two years ago. He's still only 318 plate appearances into his big league career--about half of a season. He's playable even as a .260 hitter, but certainly not as a No. 2 hitter. I wasn't a Panik fan when he came up last year, and I've seen nothing to indicate that I was wrong. He has no power, he's not fast, and his .305 batting average last year was fueled by a fluky .343 batting average on balls in play. 

Angel Pagan went 1 for 5 and hit into a double play to kill a rally in the fourth inning. Ahead in the count 2-0 after a four-pitch walk to Panik, Pagan chased a ball in the dirt for strike one and then rolled over on another pitch out of the zone to kill the rally. The 33-year-old center fielder has missed most of the last two seasons with injury. He's off to a hot start in 2015, but he isn't a typical No. 3 hitter with a career slash line of .283/.335/.420.

Buster Posey went 0 for 4 with a pop out with two men on and one out in the first inning and a strikeout. He's the one elite hitter in this lineup, and the Giants will have a hard time scoring runs when he doesn't hit or when he rests. 

Brandon Belt went 0 for 3. He was hit by a pitch in the first inning to load the bases before Gregor Blanco grounded out to end the threat. Belt is a lifetime .267/.343/.446 hitter. He's shown flashes of being more than that, particularly in 2013, but last season was lost to a broken hand and a concussion. This season has been marred by an early groin strain.

Blanco left them loaded in the first but had the lone Giants extra-base hit in addition to a walk. He is an above-average fourth outfielder, but not an ideal fit in a corner as a lifetime .256/.343/.344 hitter. The Giants ran out a lineup today with six guys who aren't likely to slug .400. It's hard to score runs when you have to play station-to-station. Justin Maxwell, a lifetime .225/.319/.416 hitter, hit a lazy fly to right as a pinch-hitter for Blanco in the 8th. When Pence gets back, Maxwell's roster spot will be in jeopardy. 

Matt Duffy went 1 for 3 with a walk. We know even less about Duffy than Panik at this point. He's hit .267/.304/.307 in 85 plate appearances thus far in his career. You can just look at Duffy's skinny frame and see that he's going to struggle to slug even .350 at this level. The guy hit .304 in the minors and .332 at Double-A last year, however. He's a nice utility guy to have, and it's not like McGehee is clearly better. Which is probably not a really good thing. I already miss Pablo, even though I didn't want the Giants to pay him. I might be eating my words there. 

Brandon Crawford killed the ball in Arizona but has since gone missing. He was 0 for 2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch today and doesn't have a hit in his last 15 at-bats. He's improved offensively every year in the big leagues, going from a .584 OPS to .653 in 2012, .674 in 2013, and .713 last year. His career slash line is .242/.309/.358, which is fine for a terrific defender a shortstop. But, is it fine given the offensive issues around the rest of the diamond? 

Joaquin Arias, a .268/.297/.356 lifetime hitter, struck out as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning. With Duffy in tow, Arias is redundant. When Travis Ishikawa returns from the DL, maybe Arias' days will be over. More likely, Duffy will go back to Sacramento. 

Hector Sanchez didn't play on Monday. He's come to the plate 592 times across five seasons and hit .245/.279/.348. 

We aren't going to score a lot of runs this year are we? Why did I spend the last four hours doing this to myself? 

At least the NBA Playoffs start Saturday. Sing it with me:

Dubs! Dubs! Dubs! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Advanced Fiction Writing

It was the Top of the 9th inning and I was already late. I was going to have to get a ride to class instead of taking BART. Did BART stand for Bay Area Rapid Transit or Bay Area Rail Transit? Rapid transit would make no sense. I want to live in a fucking country where I can go 800 miles an hour on a bullet train with free wifi. Every time I pass out on our couch and wake up to those trains, I sense that they're going to go off the rails. 

It's going to happen. 

I had almost forgot about the class entirely. When I remembered, I started drinking Silverstein's whiskey. I couldn't get in front of the class stone-cold sober. That'd be dangerous. 

How do you teach someone how to write? You don't. I'd written three books, and most of the critics didn't think I knew how to write. 

I didn't. But critics were still assholes. 

The Giants center fielder, Angel Pagan, hit a leadoff triple, and after diving into third base, he stood up and began convulsing with excitement, screaming at his teammates in the dugout. That passion is what had driven me to write in the first place, but it was also what had led to me being dubbed, "One of the most dangerous people in America." I'm never going to apologize for passion. I'm never going to apologize for anything. 

I guess my beatnik views weren't welcome in the age of capitalist hegemony. Corporations weren't just people, they were the best people among us. Unlike the rest of us, they actually made money. And they voted. 

Still, I can't sit here and say that it didn't hurt when the Paper of Record called me "the Jennifer Aniston of the literary world." That one stung. A lot. Because the point was true: I wasn't all that talented no matter how hard I tried to pretend otherwise. In fact, my success had come in large part because the country was now dumb enough to relate to my own brand of idiocy and lunacy. 

Silverstein's whiskey stung too. 

"This shit tastes awful. I don't know how you drink it," I told him as we watched the game. 

"I thought I smelled whiskey. Jesus, I thought I was going crazy there. I had no idea where the smell was coming from. Figured I just wanted a drink so bad I could already smell it." 

"Sorry bud. Realized I had class and needed to start drinking fast. Didn't have time to go the store. I'll buy you a bottle on the way to class."

"You need a ride?"

"I do."

"When do you want to leave?"

"After this inning."

Despite Pagan's leadoff triple, the Giants didn't score. New third baseman Casey McGehee hit into a double play to end the inning. It was the first week of the season, and it was going to be a long fucking year. 

"Alright, let's hit it," I told Silverstein. "These guys are a bunch of fucking losers."

"Do you want me to text you updates of the Warriors game later?"

"Na, don't worry about it. I'll check my phone while they read their stories. Just get at me if something big happens."

We smoked a joint in his car on the way over. I didn't buy him the bottle of booze I promised, but I'd get it before hopping on the BART back to our house in Richmond. 

Silverstein dropped me off on the campus of UC Berkeley, where I was teaching a Creative Writing class. Even though the class had been going for a number of weeks now, I wasn't entirely sure how to find our building. 

I was stoned, I realized.  

I saw one of my students heading into a building, so I followed her, assuming she knew what she was doing. She spotted me and stopped. We chatted on our way up the stairs to class. Then another student interrupted, and I was off the hook. 

Oh fuck, I realized. She could probably smell the booze on my breath. She could smell the pot, too, I bet. That's not good. Should I talk to her after class and let her know I only had two whiskeys and one joint and wasn't really teaching the class, like, inebriated? No, better to see if she rats and then deny. She couldn't prove anything. She's not gonna rat anyway. She looks young like me. I can never tell how old anyone is. She probably writes more than I do even though this is my only job. I don't know how people do that shit. If I had a real job I wouldn't write, much less read a goddamn thing either.
No way she knows I did a bunch of a blow earlier. That's the only way I can get anything on paper these days. Spent all this time fighting the system and never realized I'd become my own worst enemy. 

I should've brought a flask. What am I going to get up here and tell these people? Go back to school and become financiers or engineers or doctors or CEO's. Don't do this shit. Sometimes a Great Notion? No, they are all delusional notions. 

Larry. Fucking Larry. You don't look at Larry and figure on a talented writer. He looks like a 50-year-old, balding auto mechanic. Which he very well might be. 

Larry reads the completed version of his short story after I lecture the class for an hour about God knows what. I think I did tell them to go back to school and do something, anything besides this bullshit. You want to escape capitalism? Then don't become a writer, because it's just another thing that you'll hate. Might as well get paid every two weeks for your labor. Bunch of fuckoffs: critics, MFA instructors, writers to compete with, Amazon, agents, a population that doesn't read so good or so much anymore, and worst of all, that idiot reflecting back to you in the mirror every morning who hasn't had an original thought in 31 godforsaken years. 

"Jesus, Larry," I tell him. "That's terrific. Almost made me want to become a Christian again. Or maybe a Buddhist again. Being a Christian is a hell of a lot easier."

No one cares. 

Fucking Larry. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ball Talk with Ringo, The Duke, Silverstein, The Doc, The Senor & The Babe

Our second annual Ball Talk with me, The Babe, and my brother, Ringo, began with yesterday's ranting post about my desire for more Yusmeiro Petit. Here's the correspondence that followed between us, as well as some appearances from The Duke, Silverstein, The Senor & The Doc. 

A quick note from my attorney: Please note that this correspondence is, as always, entirely fictional and made up by the delusional and increasingly insane author of this blog, my client, Mark "The Babe" Reynolds, also known as Dr. Mike The Blogger. If you'd like to discuss the content of this blog or past blog posts, please contact him at rather than any of the characters herein. 

Silverstein: Petit [over Vogelsong]...hands down.

Babe (in response to Silverstein): Atta boy T-Spoon. Tough one for the #1 Bay Area Sports fan last night. Sorry bud.

Silverstein: Yaaa...there was a bad foul under the basket that wasn't called.  Decided the [Warriors] game.

Babe (in response to Silverstein): If these refs can't get it right, I'll just go die. Why bother? 

Silverstein: Gigantez got a 6:40 pm'er tonight.  Going to hunker down for that one...barn burner. You coming?

Babe (in response to Silverstein): I'll be there. 

RingoOption C ... death by Zito!!!

Babe (in response to Ringo): Get heeeeeem....This is a good start for the second annual blog, Ball Talk with Boob and Ringo. So blessed to be back. Last year, our Ball Talk got me a paid job writing about fantasy baseball that I managed to lose in a matter of months for not actually knowing or caring about fantasy baseball. I also lost my paying job at The Firm due to [redacted due to potential litigation]

I blacked out there. Tough one last night. I took a long break from the game; I hate watching Vogey pitch. Free Zito. Free Correia. If at first going into your past fails, try, and try again. 

Ringo: Last night will be the season in a microcosm.  Side bar, having children really illustrates one's true lack of a grasp on the English language.  Jada and Nyah [Ringo's two daughters] are constantly asking me definitions to simple words I use to which I can barely explain said words meaning.  Embarrassing.  Microcosm just reminded me of this. One of those words I have zero idea how to define but I can use in sentences (probably wrongly).

Back to the game... Are you sure that was Vogey on the bump?  He looked like Brian Wilson dipped in slow velocity dogshit.  Belt faking an injury finished a close second behind B-Craw teasing us with April power (guaranteed he hits more in April than the rest of the year combined).

There was a moment where the camera went to the dugout and I swear I traveled back in time to 2007/2008, Boch in the dugout, hat off rubbing his huge head wondering why he puts himself through this hell.  I'm with you Bochy... We are all with you.  Odd year.

Babe: Yeah, try being a writer when you don't know what any of these words even mean. 

Just ate a pound of Pun's [mother of Babe and Ringo] licorice to get ready for a scout on this Phils-Sawx game. Sabes wants me on Aaron Harang all night. Not sure if that's a sexual thing or not? The Phils are starting this guy in Game 2. My God. Then again, we just signed Kevin Correia and started Brian Wilson's beard and flat cutter last night. 

Craw did hit 10 triples last year.  I think he's gotten better with the stick.

Pablo is up for the Sawx. Already miss him.

I'm so tired of these groin strains. Get your ass in shape. Stretch. Eat a plant-based diet. Get off the sauce. You make millions. Your job is to stay on the fucking field; do your job!

Probably wasn't a good sign when Boch had a heart attack early in spring. Who used heart attack? He already did. Who will have the psychological problem? I'll vote Timmy.

It really was 2008 all over again: My ex cha girl* called to tell me I was totally unemployable and too incompetent to be a bus boy at her restaurant!

*Young adult San Francisco Bay Area slang term for ex-girlfriend 

Ringo: Sorry for the late reply,  watching this scientology HBO thing (don't worry, I'm recording it for you).  Man I want what Tom Cruise had in 2004.  What a nut job.  I used to think Facebook was the next Hitler or the Devil... man I missed that one bad, it's scientology and I don't just want in, I want my own fuckin church!

Phillies are our main competition for that #1 pick, gonna be close!

I hate Pablo for what he did to us.

Let's be honest on 2 things:  

1.  If you were making millions playing baseball for the Giants, I guarantee that I would complain about your lack  of preparation and weight gains.  You would be too busy eating good and banging pool boys all winter.

2.  Your ex cha girl had a pretty good scout on you.  You have zero bus boy skills.  You are a plus-plus cubicle worker.  She has been in the food industry fire, she's seen the live bullets and I trust that she knows your skill set is not a fit at all.

You're starting to be an SP (suppressive person).  Tom Cruise knows what I'm talking about!

Babe: Sorry for the delay. Just got to the Richmond Annex. No sign of Silverstein. Good chance he's dead. 

Look, as someone who has read self-help books, been in and out of 12-step programs, been to Buddhist meditations, and been in and out of therapist's offices, I can tell you Scientology might seem like the answer right now, but it isn't. Before 2010, we always thought SF winning might be the answer. We've won three now, and I'm more miserable than ever. I wrote all those blogs to get my ex cha girl back, and now I've got her calling to tell me how idiotic I am while Vogey gives up three-run dingers and it all falls apart. 

There's just no there there with life. It's this empty thing. Jesus had it right and they killed him for sinning against the Roman Empire.

I may not be able to bus a table or wash a dish or cook or understand a map or crack 1,000 on the SAT, but I do know that the Scientology founder, Ron, was a waiter at Denny's, and so maybe that's where he came up with this bullshit. 

Jesus, we got fans turning to Scientology already. This is not good, folks. 

Frenchy Francoeur just hit a three-run dinger. Fuck it all.

Ringo: wow I think I just had a moment of clarity. I think the only way to be happy in life is to set a goal so unattainable that it consumes you to constantly be trying to achieve it and then as you just about get there you die and you're so happy about the journey and you have to worry about repeating a championship getting that dream job again doing yourself because you're dead and you were happy about almost getting there what are your thoughts babe?

Maybe we could sign Kevin Fransden and he could hit three-run homer as for us?

Babe: McGehee just had the worst at-bat I've ever seen [he struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the 1st inning]. He's awful. Play Duffy at 3rd.

The Duke: [after McGehee's strikeout]: McGehee is awful. Play Duffy at 3rd.

Babe (in response to the Duke): [after Duffy doubled] Yup. Duffy can hit. Stays inside the ball well.

The Duke: He just makes stuff happen. 

Babe (to Ringo): Loving Heston. 90-93 with movement. Hitting guys. Throwing the ball all over. Looks like he wants to fuck. 

Ringo: #want might be the hardest thing to find on this team...

Michigan was going to do a student movie viewing in the Big House for American Sniper. People complained and the school cancelled it.

Babe: Thank God. You don't need that right-wing propaganda. Quit Tweeting about Jim HarBoner, bro. The Giants are playing. 

Ringo: He's my soul mate.

Babe: Jesus, now I got The Duke texting me about HarBoner.

Ringo: Positive?

Babe: Yeah, he loves America and guns and killing ISIL.

Ringo: We all do.

The Duke: Harbaugh is the best.

Babe (to The Duke): People bitching about that movie....come on. It's a movie, not a documentary. Get a life. 'You can only watch movies I agree with!'

The Duke: I just appreciate someone that says what they want. I doubt his comments are endorsed by the university, but he could give a fuck. 

Meanwhile, I received an e-mail from Bleacher Report indicating that I had received a "Hot Read Medal" for an article I wrote about Chris Heston two years ago.

Babe (to Ringo): Google "Chris Heston Bleacher Report."

Ringo: I used to read that Bleacher Report author, he's an idiot....Maybe they'll rehire you to work for free.

Babe: I'm ready to go back bro.

Ringo: Get a raise.

Babe: I want to pay them to let me write this time.

Ringo: [As Justin Maxwell has a ball hit his glove at the warning track in right field and drop for a lead-off double.] E-9. Got to catch that.

Babe: Maxy is awful.

Ringo: First article: Finding Maxwell....An inept odyssey into the failed drafting of "athletes"....

Babe: [after a Hector Sanchez passed ball that was somehow scored a wild pitch] Nice catch Hec. 

Babe: [after a Hector Sanchez passed ball to score a run one batter later] Nice catch Hec.
Ringo: He's so good.

Babe: [after a Maxwell fly out to the warning track] Maxy with the bat flip on the F-7.

Ringo: Kids got swag.

The Doc: Wow, I thought that was out [after Maxy's long out].

Babe: Nice bat flip on a fly out, bro.

The Doc: Haha, That's my boo.

Babe: Heston looks fuckable.

The Doc (the following morning, presumably after a long night with Maxwell): Oh definitely...he wore that uni right.

Babe (to Ringo, after McGehee makes a play to end the 7th): McGehee does not move well.

Ringo: He falls a lot.

In the top of the 9th, McGehee hits a two-run homer to raise his slash line after three games to a robust .333/.385/.667. 

Babe (to Silverstein, seated at the right hand of The Babe, with the Senor at the left hand of the blogger): I told you McGehee was good, bro.

Silverstein: You've been riding his ass the entire game.

Babe: He wasn't having any fun out there before.

Silverstein: We got to have focused fun. There's a balance between having too much fun out there and not taking it seriously enough. 

Babe: So true. What are we calling Major League Baseball again?


Babe: This team needs to have focused fun in the National Major Baseball League this season.

Hey, my article, "Scouting the Highest-Upside Pitching Prospects at Spring" from two years ago just got to 5,000 page views. I love that title, it makes it seem as though they fucking sent me down to Arizona to scout this guy, as if I could even fucking scout in the first place. 

Silverstein: Listen folks, I just jerked it to a lot of pics of this Chris Heston guy, and let me tell you, he really brings it.

The Senor: We should go watch a game at Sunken Diamond. 

Babe: Down.

Silverstein: So Down. 

Babe: I'll even write up some scouting reports. 

The Senor: I'll bring the lotion. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Last Night Today: Giants Lose Game, First Baseman, Everything

With Matt Cain on the DL and Jake Peavy likely to join him soon, the Giants had a choice between these two guys to start last night in Arizona:

Player A 2013-14: 47 GP, 19 GS, 3.65 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 9.82 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9
Player B 2013-14: 51 GP, 51 GS, 4.62 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 6.80 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9

As they did during the 2014 postseason, the Giants chose Player B, Ryan Vogelsong, over Play A, Yusmeiro Petit. Maybe they know something about Petit the Starter that the rest of us don't. His peripherals in those 19 starts are excellent, but his ERA is 4.47 due to an extremely low strand rate. It's just hard for me to watch Petit pitch and determine that the Giants are correct in assuming that Tim Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Chris Heston are better options. 

The Giants have had plenty of wounds so far this season: two-thirds of the middle of their lineup and forty percent of their rotation is hurt. But it just seems to me that Petit is their second best pitcher behind Bumgarner, and it's a self-inflicted wound to use him as a mop-up man after Vogelsong allows the game to get out of reach. And, did we really need to leave Vogelsong in during the fifth inning to try to get that all-important pitcher win? If Petit is going to chill in the bullpen, can we at least bring him in before the game gets out of reach next time?

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and all that. I wasn't bitching about this before last night's game. Then again, I had forgotten what it was like to watch Vogelsong pitch. He just goes out there without a lot of weapons: two and four seam fastballs with below-average velocity (89-91 mph), a subtle cutter, a curveball, and a changeup, none of which are plus pitches. He has to have exceptional command to get by as a righty with stuff that light. 

It's just one bad start. He was decent in 32 starts last season: 15 quality starts, 184.2 innings, 4.00 ERA, 3.85 FIP. That's pretty solid for a No. 5 starter. But he'll be 38 in July, and no one besides the Astros showed serious interest over the winter. Sometimes, the rest of baseball does your scouting for you. Sometimes, bloggers like me do your scouting for you. I don't like watching him pitch because nothing he throws up there is particularly high quality. 

I'm of the opinion that Petit should be in the rotation. The Giants see Petit as their 8th starter, with Heston getting the ball in place of Cain tonight. The Giants have three World Series titles in five years, and I do not have a very robust baseball resume. I can't even get that thingy over the e in the word resume. 

That's a solid appeal-to-authority argument, however, so all the haters can go kiss Sabean's rings while I point out that this year's team is on pace to go a very mediocre 81-81. I try to live in the present moment, not in the glory days of seasons past. You should join me. Let her go, bro. 

Brandon Belt strained his groin, which means Joaquin Arias, starting first baseman. It also means that the Giants four-man bench is now a three-man bench. It also means the #5 and #6 hitters are on the shelf. 

The best part of last night was watching the Warriors lose at the last second, then flipping back to the Giants game just in time to watch the replay of the first three-run dinger Vogey allowed. Nice. 

All is lost and we need to rebuild for 2016, obviously. Maybe we can get something good for Tim Hudson at the deadline if he pitches well. We've got some interesting veteran relievers down there, too. Jeremy Affeldt will be a free agent at the end of the season, and Santiago Casilla has a 2016 club option. Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are free agents after 2016. One must always look to the horizon, I believe. 

I'm kidding, obviously. This is the year we reverse the odd-year curse and finally defend one of these championships as we so rightfully deserve. And to get there, we need Petit in the rotation and Belt to stop doing stupid shit like straining his groin.