Strasburg

It’s not as if it’s an original story, I worry. Shouldn’t a young kid bring his own quirks, his own idiosyncrasy? A goofy windup, a cool pitch? Or is such a frill just a way of disguising an old plot?

And it’s not as if anybody would want a totally odd string of affairs. Sports’ laws build in norms, only allowing mildly variant actions. Should a cunning coach find a way around any of it, bigwigs will codify that no, in fact, you cannot do that. This maintains a fair way of playing. Or, a drastic lack of pitching/hitting parity will prompt a switch (1968). Looking back throughout history, you can watch months form clumps of similar ways of playing, still staying within rigid forms but changing slightly until what you and I know today is put down in ink.

In such a long span of history, many stars stand out. Many start slowly, many start quickly. Many play for a long duration; not all do. All bring an individual story, an arc, a plot. But thinking about many, you can group stars too into similar clumps.

Just in my conscious sports-watching days, things vary. Artificial All-Star drama–“Oh, this counts! It’s important! Uh-huh!” is not that old. Instantly watching film to fight callings is also not that old. Still, I’m not so old as to know how it was during a major variation, nor during a squad’s total introduction.

Though I do know about a squad moving to a distinct city. Country, too.

But if this variation is slowing down, could plots go too quickly without varying? Look good, start folks talking, sign, hang out in minors, go up to Majors, still look good, look not so good, fight off injury, try again, and…

And do much of it in just months?

Slow down. I don’t know how this will finish. But I’m afraid.

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I’m not sure when, if ever, I’m going to post the poem I wrote from, roughly, midnight to 12:38 am on Thursday morning. It doesn’t have a title yet.

But I’m putting the first stanza up now so it’ll jog your memory and you can go “Oh, this must have been the day after the Derrek Lee trade and two days after Bobby Thomson died” or whatever if I ever post it, perhaps in edited form. Usually I try to react pretty quickly, so I wanted to let you know I’m still doing that. Despite the Nash-esque meter or lack thereof, however, this is pretty dark in overall tone.

I don’t hate the Yankees. They commit no sin
That’s worse, very often, then daring to win.
I don’t hate the Cardinals. If they win the crown
Of the NL Central, then good for their town.
We’re no crosstown rivals that fight for a city;
We’re strength against strength, not slackers versus gritty.
I don’t hate the Reds. They’ve been strong as of late
But it’s not that easy to get me to hate.

The contents of my mp3 player

…sorted by the first appearance of their titles.
Pie chart

There were a lot of judgment calls.

“Never, but that’s okay” consists of instrumentals and non-songs.

“Dylan syndrome” occurs when the title of the song first occurs in a musical phrase that, arguably, functions as a chorus by being repeated after different verses–however, it’s too much a part of the verses to stand on its own. Think “The Times They Are A-Changin'” or “Blowin’ in the Wind”. (“Like a Rolling Stone” cuts it close, but I think it has enough of a chorus to qualify for “last words of chorus”.)

The opposite condition, “Schwartzitis”, happens when the title appears in a part of the song that is musically independent from verses, reappears between them like a chorus should, and has repeated words, but so few repeated words that it barely counts as a chorus, and I call it a chorus anyway. This is not big enough a category to deserve its own piece of the pie graph.

Jays 2, Twins 1, Indians 1, Rays 0

Nobody owns 2010 and nobody will, but young bats also stand with arms as standouts so far. It’s an individual activity, hitting. Or pitching, actually, though an ally must catch. Throwing without pitching also can’t occur without an ally, or can’t occur in a good way. If you blow it, if you plural blow it, it’s still going down as a flaw with a particular individual, though choosing is now and again arbitrary.

That choosing is a hard task; it can’t occur in a vacuum. Not that far into finding out about a sport, you find out about its most dazzling days, find out what has a quick shorthand to pin down how good it was. And it’s a long, long way from that day until you could obtain a job and say what was, or was not, a hit.

If anything is a hit, without doubt, it’s a hit that soars far. Fair and out of play, into distant stands, for a hit and a run to boot. Such was on display from Toronto, slug and slug again, and in particular from a youth. That said, Tampa Bay too hit and got runs; 11 runs, to just 9 hits. Hitting, obviously, is not your only way to build a scoring opportunity. But Toronto was too strong, smacking 20 hits, 8 going far out. If anything’s obviously a hit, it’s that sort of blast.

Right?

Actually, no. You can fight, saying a ball did go out, against a ruling that it didn’t. And what’s lost in that  fight, you don’t gain in confusion following that loss–it’s not hard to claim that it wasn’t fair, in a splashy first-paragraph blurb, but it is hard to say that what you’d want still wouldn’t stop you from losing.

But if any squad shouldn’t complain about quirky ballparks, it’s our Twins that can’t. Not following a hit off a catwalk, prompting complaints from Maddon. Who’s crowing about moving outdoors now?

…Probably our Twins, still. That’s a pity.

So it’s Tampa Bay, again, that was flirting with historic futility. From what I saw (look-ins on MLB.com, I’ll admit, not all that much), this was similar to Jackson’s win–not as wild, but with many throws, and also finishing 1-0. Just having a run to work with can focus brilliant jobs, but if that won’t occur, with first and third full, why stay with Morrow?

But it paid off.

And so fans look towards morrows, trying to find out what this wacky August 2010 will throw us.

The Club

It’s not like anyone would claim that six-
Packs enhance one’s performance (on the field).
Yet he excelled, a babe but not a child,
Setting a record to stand for a long
Time, raising it high with all of his might,
Larger than life in magnitude and weight.

Nobody really knew they had to wait.
A man does not a club make. When all five
Tools are displayed, you wish you may, you might
See brilliance, but all over the field.
An out and a home run can both go long,
Both with the exuberance of a child.

But it’s more than just a game for a child.
Those who struggle alone, with all the weight
Of prejudice and history, so long,
Perhaps just want the solace of the four
Corners, running around the pristine field
With no other care. Oh yes, they just might.

The rumors swirled. “Yes.” “No.” “Who knows?” “We might
Not know for sure.” “What happened to the child
That we had seen, watching from near the field?
Who is this man with all this excess weight?
Who challenges those great, historic, three?”
“Will there be any others before long?”

And how could anyone for whom I’d long
So much to do well now seem like he might
Be anything more than the number two
In what had drawn me to this as a child
When baseball was like this? Time will not wait.
I must face more than what was on the field.

Some promise more than brilliance in the field
And deliver a lot, over the long
Haul. And yet looking back, the decades’ weight
Doesn’t quite feel worth it. It’s like they might
Have done even more, when seen as a child,
Might someday have become the greatest one.

And now, after this wait, although it might
Not have looked from the field like all that long,
The wonder child joins them with new zeroes.

Vacation jottings

Why didn’t I post for so long? I was on vacation. I could split this up and post it bit by bit, but I was hoping that this would wind up as my high word count for lipograms (so far!). And it has, by a long shot! I wasn’t writing all of this out word-for-word and day-by-day, but it’s a rough summary of what I was thinking.

My actual jottings by hand say “now, today, tonight” a lot. Typing this up, I at first put “that day”, “that night” talking about, say, watching Oakland, but I’m going to copy down “now” if I put it down by hand. This will jump from “now” to “past” and back without a lot of justification, so sorry if that looks ugly or if it is a cop-out, but this is sort of hard!

July 26, in Dallas:

  • I got a book about this sport (anthology by many authors) at a gift shop, so my trip is off to a good start.
  • It’s fun to watch TV and at its bottom, find nothing but scrolling “NL…AL…NL…AL…” This is July and August.
  • Switching to no-nos is a vacation tradition.  Mussina in 2001. Jon of LA (AL) in 2008. And now, Matt Garza. But watching hits to finish no-nos is also part of this tradition. If you must switch to it, you didn’t know all along, and had to find out. And if you found out, got told, who knows how long it’ll last? But Garza’s did. A twist on an old tradition, for 2010.
  • I don’t actually know what to call 2010, so far. Do fans know “I’m watching a transition?” And if so, from watching play? Or knowing what’s going on with contracts and such? Looking back, you can point to cyclical divisions, but do you know about such a division as it’s going on? My fandom isn’t all that long, so I don’t know right now.

July 27

  • Quick trip into Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, or Aaaaaklahoma if you want silly vocalic fun (and I think you do). Not a lot to do in Oklahoma, though, so back down south for discussion about which six flags had flown in this sky.
  • It’s not so hot as it looks, and it looks truly hot.
  • Tonight is my first visit to Arlington’s ballpark! It’s by a humongous stadium for Dallas Cowboys, and also has its own parking lots, but it’s hard to find out which is for normal fan parking.
  • A warning plays prior to today’s first pitch; MLB prohibits boards from instantly showing…what sorts of plays? I don’t know. Plays that umps had to look at again? Balls or non-balls? Don’t know. But this ballpark has a board for displaying plays on its wall, so it’s an important warning. Although its big board is not too functional, or it was actually “Kouzmano” [sic] playing third for Oakland…
  • It also has a board for showing “last play”, but this won’t display any dash. I’d put down “5-3” for a groundout to third, but it just says “53”. I think my Twins do a similar thing now. Anyway, that’s silly.
  • On a past vacation, I saw Cliff pitch.
    This was a bit of a switch from that.
  • Top plays: Cruz flying into a wall to catch Rajai Davis’ blast (this was, in fact, shown as play #1 on TV). A pop to Kurt Suzuki, flying into a…backstop sort-of-wall thing.
  • Not top plays: Coco Crisp, in inning six, took off from first. Molina was hoping to throw him out, but nobody was waiting to catch that throw, so it shot past its bag. Crisp got to third as Julio Borbon was bobbling said ball. Oops.Also, Josh Hamilton’s third-inning hit, I would not call a hit. But I can’t put down what I would call it, so that’s possibly a good thing. His first-inning hit was hit to Daric Barton, who was playing first, but nobody was around for his throw, so Hamilton got on. Prior to that, his bat had flown into stadium stands!
  • Cliff got K following K, giving up just a hit through 5 innings. Our hosts got a run, but would strand lots too. Kurt Suzuki got a hit to bring in Coco Crisp, who was on third following that non-top play, in inning six, and it was 1-1.
  • This ballpark’s grass and dirt’s boundary is an unusual polygon, I think. Its organ is slow and choppy. A bar or two of “Victory Symphony” now and again.  Odd. Its display cut to A-Rod (going for blast 600). His shot was far, but got caught, provoking clapping from fans in this stadium, distant from that action.
  • A fan up high sort of by us had an air horn, as in (association) football.
  • Cliff put down all of Oakland in a row, following Suzuki’s hit, but finally Kouzmanoff got a hit. Cliff stays in, though, to finish inning 9. I usually don’t put anything in pitching parts of my notation card but innings thrown; but I put down 13 and 118 for “SO” and “NP” for him. It’s that good.
  • Display boards broadcast a “rally warning” for this ballpark–fans should watch for runs and hits. Occupants of opposing dugout should worry. It’s not as cool as past blog warnings, but it’s cool.
  • I didn’t think anything was particularly, abnormally big down South, until I saw bugs.

    At a ballpark, you might want to scoot down to obtain a good look at action. Or, you might want to scoot up to sit in shadows, not blazing sunlight. On that night, you might want to scoot back into dark chairs, to avoid gigantic bugs.

  • Josh Hamilton got on, prompting fans in front of my chair to stand. So I stand too, to watch without too much blocking of my sight.
  • And standing is a good call. A shot towards distant stands, and I shout, not caring that a big thing was whizzing past my hair. I don’t put down “HR” until going back to my room, but I can’t crash for long. I’m still in Dallas, but Cubs and Astros will start at 1:05 in Houston!

July 28, Houston

  • Houston’s stadium was cool, in both ways. It stood out in a way Arlington’s didn’t. With a big glass wall looking out on Houston, and a big fan blowing lots of cold wind down, it was hard at first to know I was indoors! Watching a bird in with us didn’t aid this conclusion at all.
  • It had many fans blowing air down, but not many filling up chairs. Lots of school groups, though, chanting for “Astwos” (clap, clap, clap clap clap) during Cubs’ first two innings at bat.
  • Display boards would show scrolling stock costs and, in sporting statistics, “x” for “for”. So, “Hitting .340 (18×53) during last 14…” My program also had “x” for “for”.
  • Both squads had a “Castro” starting, though Carlos of Houston wasn’t half of a similar pair. “Astro Castro” sounds cool.
  • Similarly to 7/27, I was rooting for a squad that was winning 1-0 following 1. Also similarly, this would last until inning 6. But Houston would actually tack on a triad of runs, thanks to a two-run blast from Carlos.
  • Following six-and-a-half innings, fans didn’t sing a normal song too loudly. But fans did clap along to a song that was also playing in Arlington (big, bright, stars at night; blooming aromas, and so on).
  • This organ, too, would throw in 5th Symphony introductory bars.
  • Carlos of Houston hit a two-run blast.
  • Houston would tack on a trinity of runs, to go up 8-1.
  • I normally do not put anything down but “IP” for throwing statistics. But that day, I did for Bob Howry. IP: 2/3. NP: 37. (Big hit, groundout, hit, hit, hit, groundout, walk.)
  • No, I am not copying and pasting poorly. It was that bad.
  • Now that I’m looking at and transcribing this, I’m just now finding out that I didn’t put down “IP” for “Abad” (who wasn’t). I’ll do that now. 1 (half) inning…Cubs got guys on, but couldn’t do anything big.
  • Now that I am going back through this post to look at it, I’m just now finding out that I didn’t put down IP for Justin of Chicago. I’ll do that now, too. 1/3.
  • NL and AL play is distinct; lots of substitutions for NL, not so many for AL. Around Dallas, putting all scoring on  just a big front half of part of a program works okay. In Houston, it hardly works. But in both stadiums, I had to do it that way.
  • Also, it’s hard to know “oh, I’m indoors, it’s got a roof” if stadiums shoot off sparkling lights following hosts’ wins. But that’s what I saw in Houston.
  • I saw an intriguing donut shop tonight, with a sign boasting “tacos, muffin &” so on from four am to two pm. Sadly, it was past six pm, so I couldn’t go in and look at it.
  • I was tiring that night, unsurprisingly, but was up for all of a marathon St. Louis win. (Garcia vs. Santana, again!) This took “just” 13 innings…not 20, alas (or not alas, for my biological clock).

    To pitch to Pujols, or not? I think I would. Holliday was a scoring sparkplug that day. With a walk and a hit batsman, control was worrying–you don’t want to throw away your margin for missing marks. And it’s not important how many MVP awards Pujols has won–you can’t bring a trophy with you up to bat.

    I’m glad visitors won and, looking back, ditto for April’s marathon. For all walkoffs’ joy, and Cruz taught you that if you didn’t know, in such a long fight, you want to watch a bottom half. Just to find out if it’ll go on.

July 29

  • It’s NASA’s 52nd birthday, so I was at its Houston facility. It’s a bit disappointing that a program that puts humans on our moon with 2 MB of computation ability has a Star Wars display out front.

    It was a good tour, though, with a cool US flag to boot: it’s on top of Mission Control if a US astronaut is out on duty, so many, many months in a row.

    Also, I saw a Saturn V craft.

    OH MY GOSH, THAT THING IS GIGANTIC.

    It is so big. Long, tall, in all ways. Oh man. Humongous.

    Along it hangs fabric with discussion and photographs of Apollo flights. First was Apollo 1; its astronauts burnt during a simulation.

    What I find most inspiring about this story is not Gus Grissom’s conviction that cosmic flight is worth any risk, but that this was in January 1967. That’s just thirty months from Apollo 1 to 11.

    And it shows all Apollo missions with humans, too, 7 through 17. A quotation from an Apollo 17 astronaut–and a big blank patch.

    What will fill that in? Privatization of such programs sounds natural. Capitalism isn’t a totally good plan for all things, I think, but with our human goals to always push forward, rivalry can spur us on. And rivalry for nothing but glory from doing a task first is natural among groups that look for profit. It’s not as toxic as rancor among “nations”.

    Many big plans–“don’t worry, that wasn’t a finish, on to Mars, hooray!” did sound hollow in Houston, but I still think that humankind will again outgrow this world and push for distant horizons.

  • A lot of driving around and making wrong turns tonight. I did wind up with food, but got back to that night’s inn only half an hour until its pool’s closing hour. Officially. Unofficially, it was actually about an hour.

    Without aid, my vision is not good. Floating on my back, I would look up and try to find stars, but couldn’t pick out many. Was that Lyra’s alpha star, possibly? How about Aquila’s and Cygnus’?

    That was history; not so much light pollution, good point, but blurry and hazy in its way. But humans found stuff out. In a cosmic way–think of how long it is for light to go among stars–Apollo 11 was still almost now. Up in this vast cosmos, information has a long way to go. Ditto for humanity.

  • Strasburg is out for 15 days. Poor guy.

July 30

  • Okay, linguistic trivia. What’s “Cajun” from? Turns out, “Acadian”–of or about a location in what’s now Nova Scotia (upon looking this up, that’s only sort of it…it’s a long story). Many individuals in its diaspora wound up, confusingly, in “Acadiana”, now Louisiana. I was at a national historical park, finding all this out, but missing its film’s introduction was a bad start. I would think, “Wait, this was in Louisiana? Or Canada?” On a past vacation, I was up by Acadia (part of north USA), so this was confusing.
  • Now I’m riding down a thruway that honors a protagonist of a Romantic ballad about Acadia.
  • Okay, now I am riding on top of a swamp.
  • Louisiana has many tall crypts and buildings on bricks. Digging too far down is not a good plan.
  • Colorado won against Chicago, partially thanks to a gargantuan inning. 11 hits in a row, in an inning (with two outs, so hits had to go in a row). It’s a high mark for all of history…I don’t think I could stab at that statistic until I found out about this ugly display.

July 31

  • I’m in Nawlins now (I saw “Nawlins” on a sign, it’s okay). Brunch was a yummy (non-toroidal) donut thing–too much sugar for my liking, but I could dump most of it off.
  • I saw a World War Two history building following that. Military history is not my thing at all, but it had air conditioning, so that was good.
  • Lilly and Ryan off to LA (California, NL). Turns out Ryan’s family sounds Cajun, ditto that of a distinct Cubs utility man.
  • My aural ability is rapidly diminishing. Wax buildup and swimming in many pools is a bad combination.
  • Colorado walking off against Cubs. Or, arguably, cycling off. Boo.
  • Oh, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going to Boston. Had fun trying to say “Saltalamacchia”–it was on a shirt back in Arlington.
  • Wood to Bronx, also. And a post-Astros B…saw a sign with Biggio and company in Houston (by “tacos muffin” donut shop). Is this a day of transition? Or do I know now to look for lots of skill from Astros starting with B, and will I claim to find it, from looking so hard? Argh, it’s July 31 and I can’t focus on it all. But tomorrow it’ll calm down, right?

August 1

  • Also a vacation tradition: tracking cars’ origins. On my way to church this morning, I saw a car from Hawaii! How this works, I don’t know (think about it…). Still looking for all 50.
  • I’m in Mississippi now. Gulf Coast was hot and shallow–no sign of oil but that put on to block sun rays. Charming fish carcass on sand, but mostly a comfortably warm coast. No crowds. Actually, no crowds in almost all tourist spots (bar WWII stop on Saturday) so far.
  • Now I’m back in Louisiana’s capital. I had to stop at Wal-Mart for socks and drops to combat that wax buildup. If this isn’t my vacation’s most humiliating point, I don’t want to find out what is
  • As I’m transcribing this, I should say, it was. Nothing truly ridiculous was upcoming. Okay, back to jottings.
  • …Okay, so swimming was possibly actually a boon, by making wax not as tight! Drops working, stuff is loud now! Hooray!

August 2

  • Louisiana’s capitol building is tall. It boasts lots of stairs up to its doors, most listing USA subdivisions. I took proxy photographs of what our car list is missing (Alaska, both Dakotas, and Idaho). By August’s finish, I’ll visit all 48 subdivisions…I’m up to 47 as of Mississippi, and an upcoming vacation will go sort of by #48. It’s still out of our way, but it’s worth it.
  • Anyway, Louisiana’s capitol. Its lobby contains a bust of P. B. S. Pinchback, by his biography–a classy Wiki-printout. It has cool rooms and murals, though, plus an outdoors part of floor 27 from which to look out at Louisiana.
  • Still many swamps. Out our car window, it looks woodsy until I think of how high up I am. How can such woods grow in a swamp?
  • Our car says it’s 108° out, but radio adjusts that to “just” 103.
  • Sci-Port in north Louisiana was fun. It had a radar gun (I can throw about 25-28 mph, it says) and (association) football shot-stopping simulator (I was in today’s top two, as of my turn). It also had many cool displays, and a humorous man talking about what stars you could watch tonight.

August 3

  • CNN says that much of this country is unusually hot. It’s usually not all that brutal, this trip (urban South Carolina in August 2009 was that brutal), or I’m just numb to how hot it actually is.
  • I saw a bunch of blooming plants today. Such plants also attract many big bugs, alas.
  • Riding down world’s first Adopt-A-Highway now. It looks good.
  • Woo, I saw a car from a tiny non-island island! That’s a good thing, too, as I forgot to photograph it on Louisiana’s capital stairs.
  • A car from North Dakota (which I forgot on my original list, jumping from North Carolina on bottom to Ohio up top is hard) was in this parking lot, across from our car.
  • I’m back in Dallas now, and saw JFK assassination stuff. A sixth floor tour strictly warns “NO PHOTOGRAPHS”. Had a photo opportunity on grassy knoll; Dallas and Chicago both sport big downtown plazas that sound similar.
  • Now I’m flying back. I had wordplay fun in Dallas airport, although (J-I-V-blank)*2 for 26 points, and ((P*2)-A-N-S-Y)*3 for 39, still couldn’t bring victory.
  • What to do about Cubs futility? 18-1 loss last night. I still think that Chicago isn’t actually that bad, it’s still just flukish, but who knows? As I said to start, possibly fans don’t know about ongoing transitions…
  • Final standings:
    • US subdivisions on my total list: 47 (and counting)
    • US subdivisions on cars: 47

      Washington DC could fit on both lists. Also on car list: Ontario, USA official, US Navy, plus four (San Luis Potosí and similar).

    • A-Rod blasts at start of trip: 599
    • A-Rod blasts at finish of trip: 599