Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bring back the smoke filled rooms. The silly season of presidential primaries is choking us...

We are almost exactly a year away from the national conventions of the Republican and Democrat parties but the silly season is already in full swing.

From Michelle Bachmann’s warnings about earthquakes and hurricanes to Ron Paul's call to dismantle FEMA in the midst of a national disaster, to Rick Perry’s love affair with America, silliness rules the primary season.

What we need is a return to the smoke-filled rooms of yore. Both parties, or what's left of them.

I'm not kidding.

Smoke-filled rooms became four letter words in the tumult of the late 1960s. Before Chicago Mayor Richard Daley gave them the off-color reputation of certain rooms in houses of ill repute they were where the movers and shakers -- the stalwarts -- of political parties gathered to sort through potential nominees. They were far from perfect, but at least their impulses pointed in the right direction.

The party faithful -- I like to think of them smoking Mississippi River Crooks cigars -- had good reason to choose wisely. Their political futures depended on it. If they chose a loser, the spoils went elsewhere. They were empowered with choosing a candidate who -- first and foremost -- stood a chance of winning.

And not winning just an Iowa straw poll, or just Iowa, for that matter, or even just the Midwest, or just among farmers, or union folks. They knew how many votes it would take to win the presidency and where those votes would come from, and -- generally -- as an act of self-preservation they chose candidates with the best chance of capturing those votes.

To be sure losing coalitions formed and losing candidates accumulated backers in those smoky rooms. And sometimes, as Mark Hanna once said,” there ain't a first rater or in the bunch.” But, by necessity, their view was broad and mostly toward the middle -- as middle as possible in each particular season.

But the debacle that was the 1968 conventions paved the way for a more democratic impulse. Of course it is difficult to argue against a democratic impulse.

So, in 1972, the McGovern Commission rewrote the rules for the Democrat Party and the Republicans followed suit. All things democratic were in order.

The math is simple: before 1972, three=fourths of the delegates were chosen in smoke-filled rooms; after 1972, three-fourths were chosen in primaries. Today the percentage is even higher.

And that's a prime example of a good idea gone bad. Collateral damage included:

  • · A greater need for greater and greater amounts of money. We all know where that led.
  • · By necessity campaigning had to be done on television. How else can you run in five states in five days? This meant, again, more money, and it also meant more attractive candidates prevailed. In other words, if you want to be president today, you've got to be a looker.
  • · Candidates were not forced to be generalists, to appeal to the middle of the country. They could capture the nomination in small bites by wooing smaller and smaller interest groups. But they were in grave danger when they took actual positions on issues. It's one thing to say you are in favor of smaller government. That plays well in New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida, Texas, and California. But if you say, as Gov. Rick Perry said, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, you have doomed your candidacy in Florida, no matter how well that notion plays in the suburbs of Dallas. So, successful candidates learn how to campaign without saying anything. At least they learn how to campaign without saying anything significant. They don't take positions on issues. They make personal assertions about what they believe and who they are. Ultimately, if they are successful, they get elected and no one knows what they stand for, or worse, what they intend to do. To the country. To you and I.
  • · Appealing to small interest groups means more fringe candidates emerge. They emerge because it may only take 10% or 15% of the electorate to make a good showing in some primary states, if a large number of candidates are still in the race. They may be able to woo ardent supporters to a particular position in, say, Iowa, or New Hampshire, or Florida, and hope the momentum will carry them into the general election. But they usually fall by the wayside, tons of money and television time and voter angst wasted.
  • · Heaven help us if they make it into the general election.
  • · Even so, many of the candidates who make it into the general election, are unelectable. Their appeal is to too small. So once they've sewn up the primary season they try to move to the middle. And that move brings fire from the media, because inconsistency is one of the main things the media looks for. It's easy to see and it's easy to write about.
  • · So a candidate like a Barack Obama presents himself as a liberal to win the nomination in the Democrat party then immediately begins moving to the middle. And as president, he lives in the middle. His voters are left feeling cheated, and they should feel cheated. After all, the wars he swore he would end have continued. The health system he swore to reform isn't reformed. The influence of big corporate money isn't diminished. Oil Independence hasn't arrived. And no child left behind – or, as teachers like to say, no teacher left with a behind -- continues to make high-stakes testing the point of education.
  • · More fringe candidates make it less likely parties will nominate contenders who could appeal to a broad base of Americans. This means the governing cycle, as opposed to the electoral cycle, will leave most of the people feeling impotent as participants in the process.
  • · The power of political parties will be further eroded. When the political party is powerless, the press becomes dominant. But the press is ill-equipped to fill the role of the political party. It's like bringing the centerfielder in to pitch. The point of political parties is to pull people together, to find their common ground, to find out which issues unite rather than divide them, to make nice, to build coalitions of different kinds of people. The role of the press is exactly the opposite. The press looks for disharmony where the party looked for harmony. The role of the press is to find those places where people disagree, to identify the places that go bump in the night.

And, in this silly season, everything goes bump in the night. Although it gives the press something to do, and it keeps the rooms smoke-free, the republic suffers.


Friday, August 26, 2011

B0bby Valentine right, right, right but wrong, wrong, wrong about Starlin Castro. If this was an audition, he sounded like an insufferable bully...

Sunday Night Baseball this week was awful.

It was all the talk during warm-ups for our doubleheader last night. Our softhanded third baseman Jim Dorn brought it up first as he gently coaxed his right arm into playing shape.

What happened was Bobby Valentine turned game commentary into an audition for the soon to be open job of Cubs' manager. The Cubs will have a new general manager next year and it's a good guess whoever fills the role will be looking for a new skipper. Was Billy Beane watching Sunday night baseball?

Not likely. According to Moneyball, he can't even bear to watch his A's.

Valentine was so bad, folks who hated Joe Morgan on Sunday Night Baseball (not me, by the way) might actually have briefly hoped for his return.

Valentine became fixated on Starlin Castro, the Cubs' fine young shortstop who is currently hitting .307. It was unseemly. Inning after inning he offered Castro damning praise while ripping into his inability to focus on the game.

It isn't that Valentine was wrong. He was right. And, right. Right again. Right. Right. Right. Very right. Right. Right. Right.

The producers obviously caught his obsession and focused the cameras on Castro in a way I've never seen before. Throughout the middle innings they had Castro in the lens between nearly every pitch. By some accounts they were focused on him unrelentingly for 10 long minutes.

They proved their point. Castro is young, somewhat undisciplined, and only loosely focused. At one point they showed an amazing replay of a pitch during which Castro was standing with his back to the plate, his glove hand in his back pocket rummaging for sunflower seeds, staring off into the distance beyond left field. Castro, in the bright circle on the screen -- a technique generally reserved for showing terrorists in airport cameras -- never saw the pitch. Thank god it was a ball.

Valentine put the Cubs' current skipper, Mike Quade, in a bind. Over and over he chirped Castro must be disciplined. For his own good, somebody must discipline him. If this goes on unchecked, he'll be ruined.

After the game, the Cubs' skipper did, dutifully, bench Castro for one game.

The thing you have to remember is this kid learned to play baseball in such poverty the only glove he had was made from a milk cartoon, according to fine baseball writer Jeff Passan. This year, at 21, he is making $440,000 which must seem like $4 billion, and soon he will be rewarded with a contract well into the millions. To go from a cardboard glove to the prospect of millions at the age of 21... well can you blame him if sometimes he looks up at the sky in wonder instead of watching the pitch being delivered?

Personally, I love to watch him play. His eyes simply sparkle when he is at the plate waiting for a pitch. He plays with love and he swings with abandon. Bobby Valentine needs to pick on somebody his own age.

And, Billy Beane, that audition should convince you hiring Bobby Valentine to manage what ever club you direct next year would be a huge mistake, something akin to signing Yuniesky Bentancort to play short and hoping he will learn to take a walk once in a while.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tony's hot mess: libel law is one of the great conundrums of free speech and the Internet only makes the dilemma worse

Time to weigh in on the legal “hot mess” Tony Botello at Tony’s Kansas City has gotten himself into.

Despite his bravado, I’m pretty sure I know how Tony feels. As a green reporter I wound up looking down the barrel of a similar threat because of a careless green reporter mistake. Like Tony, my buddies were quick to offer legal advice – the most memorable was that since what I did was clearly stupid I probably couldn’t be sued.

What I remember was my stomach turning over and sinking to the bottom of the lake as I discovered all the air I needed to breathe had been sucked out of the room. It felt, now that I think about it, a lot like drowning.

My whole career, both years of it, passed before my eyes. I had a wife and a kid and a dog... well, no dog, but I might want to have one some day, and I was sure it was all over.

Libel law is scary. It’s meant to be scary.

We have no prior restraint in this country. Only on a few occasions has anyone been legally restrained from publishing. Persuaded not to publish, sure. Ordered by an editor or publisher not to publish, sure. But through legal action… I think you could count the times on one hand.

But, the law does allow punishment instead of prevention, and libel law is one of those punishments. Libel law only infringes on free speech by intimidation.

Libel law is a real conundrum for folks who cherish free speech because it can have such a chilling effect, which those of us who value free speech hate. But it’s a conundrum because, on the other hand, libel law is meant to protect a person’s reputation. And a person’s reputation is the single most important thing he or she possesses. Once a reputation is broken… well, try the old Gerry Spence demonstration. Hold a pencil at both ends and pretend you are standing in front of a jury. Now, snap the pencil in half. Tell the jury if it were possible to put that pencil back together, we wouldn’t be here asking you for money.

Now comes the Internet and suddenly defamation is everywhere. The Internet has let loose tons of good and not-so-good ideas, tons of criticism, tons of free speech. It has truly democratized publishing – if you count venues and not readers. It is a free speech advocate’s dream. And I'm a strong advocate of free speech. I love the way the Internet has made the workings of the human mind transparent. And, as a journalist, I love the way it has made information as plentiful as dandelions in spring.

But what about reputations? You only have one reputation. If you are the person whose reputation has been snapped in half by all that free speech – often cowardly anonymous free speech (this is definitely not the case with Tony) – you might not be so happy about what the Internet has wrought. You can neither deny – for whatever good that does – nor refute. And, in all likelihood – as the Star take on this today points out – you probably have no remedy.

Now, for me, the key to understanding this dilemma is responsibility. In my opinion, censorship and self-censorship are two entirely different animals. I am dead set against censorship. But I am strongly in favor of reasoned and compassionate self-censorship.

Somebody has to take responsibility when a reputation is damaged – actually, before a reputation is damaged. Somebody has to take what anonymous tipsters say and check it out. Everybody in the profession knows that some tips are true and most are not. In either case, the tipster more than likely has an axe to grind. If you are going to publish tips or rumors or scuttlebutt, it is your ethical responsibility to make a conscientious effort to discover the truth of it.

It makes a huge difference, legally and ethically, if the person being libeled is a public person or a private person. The law is much kinder to private folks… and for good reason. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to make SOME effort where public people are concerned. You still have to demonstrate an absence of malice, and that is pretty easy to do. I’m no lawyer, but my understanding of the law is, bottomline, all you have to do is make some effort to just call the guy and ask him if the rumor is true.

Now, again, I’m no lawyer. And I think anyone who thinks he knows libel law and isn’t a libel attorney, is both naïve and dangerous. So please don't try to take this to the bank... or, god forbid, to court.

I sincerely hope Tony gets through this mess unscathed. I love his “awesome” blog, to borrow one of his more endearing phrases. As a former reporter, I have an unending appetite for rumor and motive and documents not meant for public consumption. I have to admit to dialing up Tony’s Kansas City a couple of times a day because I’m more likely to know what’s going on there than if I read just about any other local source. And, having been a reporter, I have a natural skepticism about what Tony writes.

This lawsuit may put Tony in the limelight for fifteen minutes – maybe even on a national scale. Good. It may turn out to be a great favor to him. But I hope it also shines a light on the great conundrum of the Internet and on the fact that where you have the most freedom, you need the most responsibility.

I’ve was never particularly fond of the editors I worked for as a reporter – on a professional level anyway. But this blogging business has given me a new appreciation for the frustrating, sometimes pedantic, questions they asked. Writing and publishing without an editor scares the living shit out of me. And, frankly, it should.


Image courtesy: http://activity-holidays.visitwales.co.uk/477/mushroom-hunting-wales/

Sunday, August 14, 2011

If you love baseball, play it; the commercial game is just a nasty cup of cold coffee, and the future is just a smoke screen for the losing present


Allow me to start with a Sunday morning warning.

If you are like me and not always cleaning up as you go, make a rule to do at least this: Rinse out your old coffee cups right after you decide the stuff is too cold to drink.

Otherwise, you may sit down to write, get engrossed in the thoughts swirling in your head, and reach for one of those old suckers from a week ago instead of your nice fresh cup of Cafe Verona. The cup with "No More Mr. Nice Guy" in big letters on the outside. The one with black oil and mold on the inside.

Let me tell you something... the mold that grows in week old coffee is nasty.

Be warned.

Now that I've recovered, on to the idea I promised a few posts ago. I know you've been waiting and thinking you've been hoodooed again. Not so.

I promised a big idea about baseball. Here it is and now that I've built it up it doesn't seem so big.

First, I'm talking about big time commercial baseball. The industry of baseball. Moneyball, but not exclusively in the Billy Beane sense of it. I'm not talking about playing baseball... or softball... for the joy of it. I'm not talking about The Game. This ain't no Annie Savoy soliloquy.

Pardon me while I make sure I have the right cup.

I'm talking about the game people watch, follow, subscribe to, pay to see, comment endlessly on, begin conversations with when the weather isn't interesting, call in to the radio about, write books about, write columns and blog posts about, buy uniform shirts complete with somebody else's name and number on the back because of. Oh yes, and write novels about. I know of only one adult baseball novel not about commercial baseball.

And commercial baseball has always been a reflection of the times in which it was played. This is a trait of commercial baseball that you can even find in the statistics. Look at world war time baseball statistics. Look at statistics in the industrial revolution. Look at statistics in an era when Americans felt thrifty or when they felt expansive.

But you see it as much in the cultural side of baseball. When Americans were enamored with gambling, with rags to riches schemes, you got the 1919 Black Sox. When moguls ruled the economic world -- when they owned the newspapers and the railroads and the oil companies -- they also ruled the baseball world. Look at a baseball card from the 1970s and tell me you don't see the 1960s. At the end and the beginning of the century, when the cult of personality came to rule politics and rock 'n roll, steroids flourished. And when the players were finally trapped, did they not behave just like Bill Clinton, who did not have sex with that woman? I see two lies there -- sex and woman -- Monica Lewinskiy was, in my book, somebody's little girl. And, of course, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens did not take steroids.

So, what does baseball reflect in the teen years of the new century?

The power of big money. Followed by helplessness. Futility. And, finally, acquiescence. And the big hoodoo of the Tea Party and of the United States Congress. The shell game and the suckers.

If you see the economic and political world you live in as a big set up, then you know how baseball fans in many towns feel. If you see economics and politics as a Machiavellian mixture of guile and greed, you know how baseball fans feel. If you feel like you are the sucker born every minute, you understand how baseball fans feel when they see through the smoke screen of the local nine's rebuilding plan or the general manager's beloved "process."

Rebuilding and trickle-down economics are one and the same, in my opinion. Hoodoo. Ways to sell the otherwise unpopular idea that you need to help me get rich. You keep coming to the park and I'll keep filling it with a combination of minor league talent and just enough major league ballplayers to feed your hope for the future. Or, the more money I make and the less taxes I pay, the more likely I am to maybe offer you a minimum wage job in one of my enterprises.

The point, for most of the commercial teams, is to put just enough good players on the field to keep you coming back. To sell you on carnival rides and mustard races, and most of all, on the future down in the minor leagues. To get you talking about trades and firing the manager, and hating the owner, and buying into the process. It is only about winning and losing for teams and fans in a few cities. The rest of us are just there to fill out the schedule.

Coming soon, two months of playoffs. The better to sucker you in.

Just as the political world we live in is primarily smoke and mirrors, big time manipulation, slight of hand, public relations to the ninth degree, so is baseball. We are, in Neil Postman's seminal words, entertained to death. Does the score of yesterday's Kansas City Royals game really matter? Not if winning is how you measure a baseball game. Does the score of the Iowa Straw Poll really matter? Not if you care about the economy or the quality of life in this country. Barack Obama knew how to organize, how to win straw polls and primaries and even the White House. He didn't know shit about governing. And I'm one who voted for him.

Heck, I've voted for two mainstream candidates in my lifetime: Bill Clinton once and Barack Obama once. You can fool some of the people some of the time...

So, maybe that's why I've grown so cynical about commercial baseball and presidential politics. Both drink from the same cup. As I said at the top... be warned. Make sure you reach for the warm cup of fresh coffee on your table. The alternative is nasty.

I promise some lighter fare next time I hit the keyboard. Just needed to get this rant off my chest. Until two weeks ago I had been thinking happily about how much softball I could play when I retired. Now I'll have to work until I'm 90.

By the way, if it is baseball you like, my advice is simple. Quit watching and start playing. No matter what age you are. If you love the game, play it. You'll get that bad taste out of your mouth real quick if you do.


BTW: That southpaw guarding the No More Mr. Nice Guy cup is my little Lucy. From the look in her eyes, she knows nasty when she smells it...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

T-Bones give Frank White his very first "night" at the ballpark... That alone speaks volumes

I'll make this extra brief since I'm starting to sound like a crotchety old man and my last post was a bit heavy. Well... more than a bit.

The T-Bones held Frank White night at their minor league -- in league only -- ballpark last night.

Frank told the Star he was pleased. “I’ve never had a night at a ballpark...,” he said.

Do I have to say anything else? You can fill in the blanks here all by yourself, I'm sure.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fires in London... could they spread to our shores? Do we understand the danger of neglecting the social contract? Something to think about...

Burning buildings in the streets of London should be a warning to those of us living in her former colony.

It is maddeningly difficult to find even speculation about the causes or grievances of the London rioters in the articles I've read today. One article cited similar riots in 1985 led by “black youth” living in rotten housing projects. Sounds familiar. This time it is “minority” youth turning over cars and throwing Molotov Cocktails. The New York Times’ account implies, without saying so, the austerity measures forced on the British government, similar to those we are now about to embrace, are to blame.

Now, riots have causes and grievances but they’re usually hard to see through the smoke and mayhem. Riots simply take on a life of their own. Hey, they’re a lot of fun, somewhat profitable, and they are attractive to rebels, outlaws and people who just like to hear glass break. Nonetheless, they don’t happen without provocation. Many times they are ignited by a killing or a beating – usually at the hands of police – or some other perceived injustice inflicted by the authorities. Usually, when thinkers try to deconstruct the environment of the riot, they find the underbrush was already dry and primed to explode.

Look at it this way. Riots like those in London the last four nights tell you an awful lot of people don’t have to get up and go to work in the morning. They tell you a lot of people are blind with anger and hate. They tell you a lot of people feel left out and powerless. They tell you a lot of people do not see the law, or the police, on their side.

In short, riots like those in London show you a lot of people with nothing to lose.

Now, I’m just speculating and from quite a distance. But if I’m right about this, we need to pay attention. This movie could be coming to a theater near you.

Here I’m going to speak plainly, which means I intend to just state what is, not whether I think it is good or bad. What I’m about to say may seem foolish to some and heartless to others. It is meant only as an attempt at some sort of unvarnished truth. The situation exactly as I see it.

We live, as do the British, in a community connected by contract law. We are fond of saying this when we describe the difference between our civilized society and some more barbaric nation or when some obviously guilty murderer or murderess is set free by a jury of his or her peers.

But we don’t really know what the social contract is, or why it exists.

It is an agreement with clear give and take. I give up some of my freedom to the community. In exchange, I get peace (sometimes), protection, some form of prosperity or at least the hope of prosperity, and stuff like clean water and safe food. Simply put, I get hope for a better future and a tolerable existence today.

Now, I grew up in a working class neighborhood and that is a lot different from going up in a non-working neighborhood. We always believed we could work for a better life, have a job and a family, save some money, take a vacation each year, and live long enough to collect social security. That turned out to be a bit off; after 19 years of school my economic situation was far more tenuous then my Teamster father. Thank god I didn't get a PhD. Then I’d really be broke.

But the social contract did deliver a pretty damned good life for me and for the other folks who grew up in our neighborhood and more or less played by the rules. We’d be fools to complain. But make no mistake, life in a non-working neighborhood provides no such promise and no such reality.

Back to the contract. In essence, I give up my wild ass desires – some of them anyway – to live in basic harmony with everyone else. I don’t do this because it is the nice thing to do; I do it to get back what a solid community can provide in social and economic rewards. That is the central point.

But what if the community doesn't give me anything in return. What if I just have to give up my wild ass desires and get nothing in return? What if I live only on the margins of this community; if I have to bow and scrape to eat; if I see no hope for a better life; if I have no sense that I matter in that community? What if I feel powerless, feel everything is a set-up, manipulated by the wealthy, by the corporations, by the religious interest groups, by the relentless media? What if I have nothing at all to lose in this grand bargain?

Why should I play by the rules, especially if I had nothing to do with making the rules?

Which brings me to why the social contract has become the natural way to organize many communities: The social contract is designed to prevent precisely what is happening in London and has happened in several periods of American history. The social contract offers a reason to behave. And the reason is self-interest.

I respect the contract because I believe I can prosper in the peaceful community it creates.

Take that away and the Molotov Cocktail rules the night.

Now, if I've made you mad enough there’s smoke coming out of your ears, don’t stand too close to the gas pump. This part will really make you mad.

The reason for the social contract – in my reading of politics – is to keep a lid on insurrection. Conservatives like to think liberals and misguided conservatives spend tax dollars on social programs and entitlement programs out of naïve, soft-hearted, altruistic motives. They’re dangerously wrong. Today’s Tea Party bravado about small government and big debt is wrong for the same reason. The reason for these expensive social programs, for the safety net, is to prevent exactly what is happening in London tonight.

If you don’t want Those People burning down your precious Country Club Plaza, you better be sure they are either massively distracted or they have some small sense of hope of a decent life within the system.

If you were charged with inventing three things to keep poor people out of the streets, you’d invent 1) the social contract to provide hope or food stamps, or to appear to provide hope on the basis of daily rags-to-riches stories in the media… and food stamps; 2) cable television and American Idol; and 3) cocaine.

This crazy fixation with the national debt at the cost of jobs, education and hope, is eliminating the first of those inventions. We’d better hope cable television and cocaine are enough to keep the lid on our non-working neighborhoods. I’m guessing they aren’t enough in non-working London neighborhoods.

Instead of this crazy fixation, we better make sure everyone who lives in this contract society is – symbolically at least – getting a dollar of good for every dollar of freedom they pay in. It’s pretty easy to see on the telly what happens when a whole lot of people have nothing to lose.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Credit where credit is due

Sorry I haven't chimed in for a while. I've been going ninety-to-nothing at my job and another blog, but I've been reading John's great stuff and looking at his fantastic photos with rapt interest.

But I wanted to drop a quick line to hand out some credit for great customer service. Since I currently work in an industry where customer service is crucial, and since I've been learning that people who receive bad customer service will tell 10 of their friends about it but people who receive great customer service only tell four friends, I think it's important to give credit where it's due.

For that other website, I do business with a company called Go Daddy. I'm sure you've seen their obnoxious commercials, especially during the Super Bowl. They're a website hosting service. And in the managing of my blog, I've run into a few wrinkles that I couldn't work out through the company's website. I've had to call and talk to a human being.

But Go Daddy makes it pretty damn easy. Their toll-free customer service number is plastered at the top of their homepage. When you call the number, you have the choice to enter your customer number. Don't have it? That's okay. The wait time is about ten seconds before your call is routed to a real live human.

All the customer service associates I've spoken to are friendly, professional and efficient. It's a real "Wow" experience to deal with them.

In this age of cynicism, it sounds silly, I'm sure, to hear somebody praise a company for customer service. But I don't care. The only way to change a cynical world is to reject the status quo.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Brief Sunday update: Johnny Giavotella called up; quickly nicknamed Gia; intelligentsia wonder what great prospect Gia is already holding back

Johnny Giavotella better be the second coming of Frank White.

If not, a lot of the Kansas City sports intelligentsia will be sorely disappointed.

Last night, a sports talker began the 11:30 p.m. segment with something like this: "Tomorrow will be an exciting day for Kansas City sports fans because the Royals have finally called up Johnny Giavotella."

I don't know if it works this way in other towns.

(It does. Watching Astro's broadcast this afternoon, all the talk, and I mean all the talk, about the exploits of their minor league players, despite the fact that half the players on the field this Sunday were minor leaguers a few week ago. Same conversations with the rookie families in the stands as Royal's broadcasts. And a kid from Austin celebrating his birthday who plans to be the Astro's general manager when he grows up and predicts a world series victory for the 'Stros in 2013. This is just so Kansas City...
Greinke, by the way, up 6-0 and perhaps on his way to victory 10...
Astros' announcers admit "this game isn't very interesting" down now 6-1 so they've focused on discussion of a kid they've obtained by trade who the organization has just moved up from the Florida State League with -- the brass say -- "a can't miss bat." I guess when your major league team is going nowhere for years and years, the most interesting thing is the future... Not a very Zen way to live, eh? Certainly familiar to Kansas City fans...)

But it sure does in this place. The savior is always just around the corner. The grass is always greener in Omaha. The excitement is never a pennant race -- it's something off in the distance, a promise for the future, the next flavor of the month.

And so, Kansas City fans create their own excitement in the dog days of every losing season, waiting for the new savior from Omaha to arrive.

What do you think Detroit fans were cheering tonight? Their league-leading Tigers, no doubt, racing for the post season.

And now, it's the bottom of the second and Johnny Giavotella is at the plate. The announcers have already nicknamed him Gia. They are, it is clear, already his buddy. The excitement is palpable on screen and in the announcers' voices... save Mr. White, who was once a rookie and has met his share of rookies, and -- given the way he has been treated -- obviously feels he owes little to the Royals' brass in the way of shilling for their latest call up.

Gia looks at a ball. That's good news. Obviously a money ball player willing to take some pitches. Certain fans are thinking how angry they are with Chris Getz for hitting so much above his average this season and fielding so well that Gia has been held back from their eyes.

And on the next pitch? Well, it is with sadness that it must be reported he grounded weakly to the second baseman who flipped to second for one out and the shortstop fired to first for two, ending the inning. One announcer, with real sadness in his voice, announces Gia -- "The good news story of the day" -- has grounded into a double play in his first at bat. But never fear, he says, "there will be many more at bats for this young man."

Far be it for reality to interrupt the good news story of the day.

I have nothing against Johnny Giavotella. He has an excellent name for baseball -- a sort of pre-Jackie Robinson, pre-Roberto Clemente, pre-Ichiro, kind of second baseman name. And, as the last great call up we couldn't wait to see, Mike Moustakas (another pre- everything name) trudges back to the dugout, head down, after striking out -- he has just 10 hits in the last 20 games for a .177 batting average -- I'm wishing Gia well. A second baseman like Frank White doesn't come to a city's faithful every day.

But now that Gia has two major league hits under is belt, and a ninth inning walk, I'm wondering who HE is blocking from "our" view. Indeed, what great player at Northwest Arkansas or Round Rock or Wilmington, is he blocking? Some member of the Kansas City sports intelligentsia is no doubt asking that question in a post somewhere on the Net as we speak.

As long as Kansas City fans look on baseball this way, the brass will never be forced to put a winning team on the field. Not at the major league level anyway. It'll always be blue sky and next year.

--Lofflin -- feelin' sorry for the kid because he didn't make these promises but will have to live up to them. The sports talkers and the club brass created this hype for their own improvised purposes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Where have all the Royals gone? Gone to better places every one... Hum along if you know the tune .. especially if you know it all too well

Always a seller, never a buyer. Always a bridesmaid. Well, not quite. Usher is more like it. Always the usher, never the bride.

That's the fate of the Kansas City Royals during the annual July 31 player bazaar and everyone in this town knows it will be at some point in late May. No use pretending... though many do find it useful. The Star writers sometimes find it a useful way to stay employed. Some local sports intelligentsia need to manufacture a reason to be hopeful or have something to talk about on endless radio shows -- at least until football begins. The Royals' brain trust.

Can anyone remember a year the local nine were buyers on July 31st? I have a vague memory of one lousy year when they bought... and it came to nothing. But the memory has long faded.

And, like everyone else, I'm growing tired of this blasted heat and the Royals, so I'm going to let it go for a while. We'd all be better off if we just lowered our expectations. Kansas City got its first white major league team from Philadelphia, and that team had been more than miserable for years. We've had, in our white major league history, one shining moment of great baseball in our town and that was it. Call it our Thomas Hart Benton moment. Greatness has not become routine here.

Maybe I'll be eating these words next year. Maybe the home nine will be buyers next year. Maybe they won't need to buy. The second baseman from Omaha will be spectacular, the Moose will regain his stroke, Danny Duffy will be the second coming of The Bulldog. The first baseman in Omaha will hit 50 homeruns. They'll trade Billy Butler, to our great relief, because ALL he can do is hit .300 year after year.

Speaking of trades...

I was thinking about this yesterday. Mike Aviles was in a Boston uniform getting his first base hit for the league leading Red Sox. Detroit took the day off, but Wilson Betemit no doubt enjoyed it a little more knowing his new team was also leading the league. In Philadelphia Sunday, Raul Ibanez doubled for the league leading Phillies, having escaped Kansas City in 2003 due to indifference on the part of the Royal's brain trust. Philly has the best record in all of baseball, by the way. And Sunday, well, Sunday he hit two home runs, one to tie the game in the ninth and a double in the 10th to win it. (And, when you think about the one that got away, John Mayberry Jr., blasted a walk-off home run last night against the Phillies keeping Cincinnati just barely in the pennant hunt.) And Carlos Beltran was two for four yesterday while patrolling right field for the league leading San Francisco Giants. Jeremy Affeldt, by the way, threw two scoreless for the Giants in relief.
Oh yes, and Zack Greinke gave up two runs yesterday in six-and-two-thirds against a potent Cardinals lineup for his ninth win. And, you knew this is coming, his
league leading Brewers moved to three-and-a-half games over the Cards. He also laid down one fine bunt -- a key to the Crew's five run fifth.

One time Royals all. Except Mayberry, who should have been. But the Royals' brass seem to do anything they can to keep from mentioning the franchise's one bright shining moment, which might be why they didn't draft him right out of their own back yard.

Okay, time to stop bellyaching. But, somehow this all seems too familiar. It rings up with something awfully familiar from modern American life. More on that later. Joe Posnanski offered the money quote of the hour today: the idea that we now live in a world of "retaliation by posing." You can read him yourself to get the context. I'll try to weave that in, as well. Stay tuned.

In fact, you can get an interesting glimpse at what I'm thinking by reading the comments under Bob Dutton's hopelessly hopeful piece which I just got around to reading today in the Star. The comments are much better than the story. Of course, the comments also contain some of the usual crap, but if you start with JCE3227, you get an idea. He or she points out how major league baseball is like so much else in modern life... to quote a trusty old jazz/blues tune... "Them that's got shall get, them that ain't shall lose..." or something like that.