Saturday, October 31, 2009

The V8s

Last Saturday I got the callup from the boss to head on down to Surfer's Paradise for the V8 Grand Prix. The beach town is the perfect setting for this type of competition --perfect weather, ocean setting, wide roads? Just when you thought the races in Gran Tourismo didn't actually exist. I couldn't walk 10 meters without seeing some beach babe trying to hawk some product posing for pics with some random bloke looking for a facebook pic. The vehicles are street cars much like the one you and I drive, only gutted and souped up and flogged onto a main drag for a four day event. All the roads get blocked off and grandstands are set up to accommodate the patrons. Part of the track rides up right next to beach while copters fly around getting overhead tv shots, F-111's do flybys, and Australian roulettes turn tricks. oh it's a scene man. (5:47 into the video)

My access was unprecedented in my experience of attending sporting events. (not saying car racing is a sport) But my tickets had me right on pit row and right above the car garages. Also as a part of the package it included an all you can eat food and drink deal, which I was happy to take advantage of. Actually, everyone was happy to take advantage ... because the food hardly got to the back of the room before the famished in front had swarmed to the waitresses and cleared their trays.

I meandered around the grounds checking out the track and got to tour the garage in between races. Even got to see them replace the sponsor decals on the cars. It was definitely a cool experience as the crew scampered around searching for brake pads and tires and broke down video of the previous races. Technologically these vehicles are far advanced and you can even adjust fluids and control certain elements of the car from the pit. It was riveting.

Overall a pretty fun day all around ending with a snooze on the way back after having slurped down a few too many Boags.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I am McLovin, over here too.

About a week ago, my housemate Sharon had a big birthday bash at the crib. I had been reminded of the occasion for about the last 10 days as women typically like to do. It started with the selection process for the appetizers, then a few days later the taste testing of potential hors d'oeuvres, three days of cleaning leading up to the day and then nervousness about who will or won't show up.... it was quite an ordeal.

Anyways, for those that don't know, birthday # 40 for an attractive, single woman officially means cougar status for chicks like her. She's a bit of a swinger and didn't fuss too much and that gained a touch of my respect. And I think she realizes that 40 is the new 30 and that puts her ahead of the game.

The party itself was semi-fun, mostly full of middle-aged couples and divorcees eating quiches, dim sums and finger foods. Technically, it wasn't my crowd, but who's to say I can't enjoy the festivities? So I tried.

At one point I stepped up my game: everyone was tired of listening to James Brown, Prince, and other clearly not party type music when some crazy lady who was dressed up like an evil pippi long stocking shrieked out for some Neil Diamond... a voice of reason! Now this woman had a hankering for some Neil Diamond let me tell you. Alas! there was no Neil Diamond in the host's music collection (blasphemy). Fortunately, I always keep my two disk set in my toiletry kit when I go on travel, so I busted out some Kentucky Woman and needless to say, saved the party.... I could end this tale here, and you might be semi-satisfied....But that's not all.

Earlier in the night, I struck up some cheap conversation with some of the blokes and made the rounds introducing myself as the American import. By the time I got around the room, sure enough the McLovin reference came out.

Yes, McLovin that character from the movie Superbad. Here's a synopsis for those that aren't familiar with the movie:

Played by actor, "Christopher Mintz-Plasse, as an even geekier kid who gets a fake ID with the one-word name McLovin, pretty much steals the whole thing in his first film. Initially you think he’s going to be a minor figure, a guy who floats in and out, gets tooled on for laughs and then leaves. But similar to the respectful treatment Steve Carell received in Apatow’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” Mintz-Plasse’s scrawny, bespectacled Fogell has a rich, full experience all his own — much more so than other characters in the movie who kid themselves by thinking they’re higher up on the food chain."

The back story behind this is that once the movie came out a few years ago, friends were calling me up saying I had a striking resemblance to the guy in the movie. And it's a great movie and mostly because of this super cool character. It seems I can't go a night out in the States, at a bar, club, concert, poetry reading, wherever there's always at least one person that gives me the stare down and busts out the reference..... "HEYYY MCLOVIN!!!!" Ya , ya, ya, heard that before. So I usually embrace it because hey I am McLovin.

Well it turns out Aussies pick up on the similarities too and this guy wanted, handshakes, photos, autographs, locks of hair, etc. For that, I bartered his first born son. He obliged.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

From the airport a month ago...

I had to post some of this merchandise I saw at the airport last month. This was in a store at Dulles Intl. It was one of those "welcome to America" type stores-- Apparently some people are against the virtue of "hope"? Way too much of that going around these days. Really? Who buys this stuff?

Oh, I was on a layover one night in DC, perusing the AIRPORT mall and just had to have that top to match the jeans I was wearing. It went perfectly with a sweater I have at home.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


And just like that I'm on the other side of the world.

For those of you that don't know, for the next four months I'm going to be stationed in Australia working for a new start-up baseball league headed by Major League Baseball and the Australian Baseball Federation. It's a difficult job that I've been tasked -- baseball is not even remotely on the radar when it comes to mainstream sports here. It's Australian Football, Rugby, Cricket, and Soccer that keep people's attention here. Anything less, would be ... civilized. I'm fortunate enough to get the opportunity, but it's far from a vacation. Not only is the sport unpopular, but the people who are involved don't seem to get along. So it's a challenge to get everyone headed in the right direction and right now that's the focus. It's tough work and I hope I can be agent for change.

The league is basically being converted from an existing national tournament that's taken place since the 1930's. Now if you haven't heard of this tournament you've probably been holed up somewhere watching the E! network, which is a shame, not just because you are watching the E! network, but also because it's a very well known event. Think along the lines of Mardi Gras, The Running of the Bulls, The Daytona 500, Kentucky Derby.... The Claxton Shield!! Like something Robin Hood fought over with his merry men or more modernly some inconsequential college football rivalry like the battle of the Iron Skillet! Anyways, it's very prestigious. Blood has been spilled.

The squad I am assisting with is in Brisbane (pronounced Briz-bin) and the team is called the Queensland Rams (logo looks more like a mountain goat). For those of you that don't know (I didn't) the deal here is that Brisbane is the capital of Queensland which is one of the six states of Australia. The other teams are in Adelaide (South Australia), Melbourne (Victoria), Sydney (New South Wales), and Perth (Western Australia). Each team has its own obstacles, but until I know more about theirs I'm only going to detail the one's we face:

Lights. They aren't good. And that's from what I've heard since I haven't actually seen them turned on. But the first game is on November 20th and the process has been dangerously slow. Unfortunately it's something I cannot control and I do not enjoy the uncontrollable. For the most part though the ballpark is decent and has some character appeal -especially if you like concrete seats with no backs!

But truthfully, there is some character to the place and if it had been properly maintained over the years it would be quite charming. And in my opinion there are a few dozen obvious upgrades that could be made if we had the funding to do so, but we don't. So I won't go too much into the state of the grounds - it's a bit tiresome. The other problem we face is that the field is only a temporary home for the RAMS for the next couple it doesn't make sense to start dropping birthday money on it.

Ok, well that's a good start to this journey. More later. Time for bed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dice K Dollars Don't Go Down The John

Recently, I read a great article about what the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League were doing with the posting fee that the Red Sox had to spend to acquire Dice K Matsusaka. From the article:

With the $51,111,111.11 posting fee the Lions earned from the Red Sox in the deal, they renovated the drab, outdated Seibu Dome, constructing concession stands and seating, resurfacing the playing field, installing an enormous video scoreboard and, most notably, building magnificent bathrooms with electronically warmed toilet seats.

I presented this article to a Japanese friend of mine who is very knowledgeable on the posting system and Japanese baseball in general. And while he thinks the Lions did a great job using the money he is worried about the irrationality of the posting system in its current state. He believes "improvements could be made to enhance the liquidity of the player market between the US and Japan."

I continued to press him on this issue and what he meant... "it could be improved by allowing players to flow more easily between the two leagues."

I'm assuming here he means that more players from major and minor league baseball could choose to play in the Japanese baseball leagues. Sort of in a similar way that some American basketball players go to Europe after college to continue their own professional careers.

He went on to say that the level of Japanese professional baseball has been significantly improved since Hideo Nomo came to the US... which I totally agree.

But another problem less talked about is the current free agent system in Japan that allows players to move freely to Major League Baseball without any compensation at all. Kenshin Kawakami and Koji Uehara were two players that left Japan this past winter to join MLB teams leaving no cash behind to improve the "facilities".

He thinks "it would be much easier to consolidate the current free agent and posting system as a new free agent system where the US team would pay a certain amount of money, which is based on the signing bonus and/or the salary, when the team signs the player out of Japanese professional baseball team."

It will be interesting to see in the future if MLB teams will make player trades with Japanese teams. Although it's more likely that Japanese baseball will operate in a way minor league teams used to be run in the first half of the century here in the US where they were unaffiliated from a specific team and were free to sell their players on an open market.

For those that don't know here's how the posting system works.

When an NPB player is posted, MLB holds a four-day-long silent auction. During this auction, MLB teams can submit sealed bids in an attempt to win the exclusive rights to negotiate with the player for 30 days. If the MLB team with the winning bid and the NPB player agree on contract terms before the 30-day period has expired, the NPB team receives the bid amount as a transfer fee, and the player is free to play in MLB. If the MLB team cannot come to a contract agreement with the posted player, then no fee is paid, and the player's rights revert to his NPB team.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Emerald Ash Borer

As if bat makers didn't already have enough problems...

A couple of weeks back I was alerted to a terribly disturbing phenomenon taking place in some of our nation's forests. Mainly located in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions of the US there is a ruthless bug that is eating away all of our ash trees and threatening to kill one of our pastime's most enduring symbols.

This beetle, discovered in Michigan in 2002, has quickly ravaged forests from there to Ohio, Indiana, and Maryland, killing tens of millions of white ash trees — the same type used by Louisville Slugger to make MLB’s official bats.

Read the short article from Men's Health here.

Of course baseball bats are mainly made out of Maple or Ash trees so this is going to cause a huge problem in the future. As these trees go, so will an industry that relies on them being replenished regularly.

I never like hearing about an invasive species taking over an ecosystem only to change it completely, ruining everything indigenous in its path. Cue my second and third most hated eco-enemies: Snakeheads and Kudzu

The DR

Below is some great footage of what baseball is like in the Dominican Republic. The crew working on this documentary is doing an awesome job telling the story down there. They feature some of the players that are looking to sign this July 2, which begins baseball's annual international signing period. One player included is a short stop named, Miguel Angel Sano, who seems likely to be the top breadwinner this year with rumors of him getting something near $3 million. Sano is mentioned a bit in an informative article about the state of Dominican scouting.

I encourage you to check out their production blog here.

Live to Play, Play to Live - Yheraldy Rough Cut from Ross Finkel on Vimeo.

Live to Play, Play to Live - Yheraldy Rough Cut 2 from Ross Finkel on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Case You Were Wondering...

Here's what's going on with Darnell McDonald

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. McDonald: All the way back in 1997 the Orioles were a force in the AL East and riding high and in the midst of a wire-to-wire fantasy season. Things couldn't be better when they selected this manchild in the first round straight out of high school. Unfortunately, he never lived up to his draft selection and was never on anyone's prospect radar. I guess you could say this was one of the first hints that the organization was beginning it's run of 11 straight seasons of baseball blissss...

I was at Camden Yards the night he was introduced to the fans. My rose colored view of him from the top row behind home plate made me a believer.

5% Stats / 95% Scouting

"Saberscouting/coaching" is becoming the new craze for seamheads these days. Not just for stat nerds anymore sabermetrics is beginning to reach across the aisle in the baseball community. Here is an excellent article from the Hardball Times about how analyzing the stats can be a useful tool not just in evaluating, but in coaching too. I happen to like the questions the author uses in his interview with the pitcher and I think it might be helpful for me to consider these types of questions as I'm charting a pitcher or scoring a game.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

World Baseball Classic

I completely agree with Maury Brown's assesment on the WBC:

Much of the criticism comes from those who don’t understand the impetus behind the event. The WBC was never designed to determine which country has the best talent. The intent was to promote the game worldwide. In that respect, it has achieved as much if not more than its supporters could have hoped for. Game attendance, TV ratings and media coverage around the globe all increased over the first WBC in 2006.

While fans in this country have been lukewarm towards the event, fans in other participating countries have embraced the WBC in ways never dreamed of before the Classic became a reality. The Netherlands defeating the Dominican Republic – twice – to move into the second round of this year’s Classic gave hope to nascent baseball countries around the globe that they, too, can play the game on the world stage.

As a marketing tool, the WBC has been wildly successful. The exposure the game has received from the WBC will undoubtedly increase baseball’s revenues, benefitting owners and players alike. No surprise, therefore, that this is one of the few areas of agreement between MLB and the Players’ Association.

Here's the rest of the article.