Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Secrets of the Demon Miracle Airplane

Team leader and all around great guy Raul IbaƱez did not play the last few games for the simple fact that he got beat up by an airplane.

As humiliating as his defeat was, he'd have to say that the main problem with the experience is that standing around is not that much fun anymore:
"It's more the running and standing," he said. "Standing's the thing. That's what we do a lot of in the outfield."
The whole episode got us thinking about what bad luck the M's have had with flying objects over the years. Here, a list of a few major airplane mishaps involving your Seattle Nine.
December 5, 1945: on a flight off the coast of Florida, a PBM-5 Martin Mariner explodes in midair and crashes into the sea, lost in the Bermuda Triangle forever.
  • 1969: the Pilots are terrible and last one year.
  • November 22, 1985: An early cold front brings snow to the Pacific Northwest, and the Mariners' Big League Breakfast event, featuring Pete Rose and Tommy Lasorda, was cancelled because flights into SeaTac were postponed.
  • August 29, 1986: In a bid for fan interest, the Mariners play host to the World Indoor Paper Airplane Championships after a Friday night game versus the Yankees. An estimated 10,380 airplanes were tossed onto the field and one, thrown by Brad Simmons, landed in the backseat of the 1986 Chevy Cavalier convertible that was now his. Predictably, the Mariners lost, 13-12.
  • August 10, 1987: the Oakland A's arrive in Seattle extremely late due to a delayed and finally cancelled flight from Minneapolis. Yet the flight bites the Mariners' ass, as they lose 15-4, with starter Scotty Bankhead giving up 8 runs in 2 2/3 innings.
  • April 13, 1990: before the first ever Kingdome sellout crowd to see a Mariners game, thousands of fans bored to tears as they watch the M's get rocked, 15-7, by the A's, start hurling paper airplanes onto the field. A flood of angry letters descends on the Seattle papers, including one from Rose Medley of Olympia, who asked: "What kind of 'fans'' are we that we boo our own team through the game. Throwing hundreds of paper airplanes onto the field like children, aren't we supposed to be mature adults." Indeed. She went on: "Can you imagine how you made our team feel, I'm sure they felt bad enough without our help. How embarrassing for them and for ourselves to have the baseball commissioner witness such behavior out of us. Did we really expect instant success?" *
  • July 3, 1996: a team charter plane operated by Champion Air failed to get off the ground due to a dead battery, causing the Mariners to arrive late to face the Rangers in Texas. Significantly, ace Randy Johnson complained of a stiff back after the flight. He did not have another decision all year.
  • October 18, 2000: Immediately after being eliminated by the Yankees in game six of the ALCS, a team flight from JFK to Seatac was forced to abort and return to New York 20 minutes after takeoff due to a fire in an onboard microwave oven. After safety checks, the players reboard, the plane takes off, and it happens again. In both cases, oxygen masks were deployed. The only casualty was Mike Cameron, who, according to team travel director Ron Spellecy, hyperventillated. "As you might imagine, it was not a happy flight," Spellecy said. "First, we had lost and the season was over. Next, this fire happens twice. The first, you might understand; the second, you're asking, `What is going on?' "
  • September 14, 2001: Mariners take one of the first flights in the nation in the aftermath of 9/11, avoiding a 24 hour bus ride to Anaheim. Osama Bin Laden laughs at their impudence.
  • May 19, 2002: on the way to Logan International Airport in Boston, one of two Mariners team buses catches on fire. Players are administered oxygen on the airplane and damages were calculated at $200,000. Said Niehaus: "Lou Piniella got out, I think to see if he could help, and ran into a wall of smoke."
  • July 16, 2006: the Mariners are forced to evacuate the team plane in Toronto as they prepared to fly to New York to face the Yankees. A faulty conveyer belt caused a fire. "We had no idea what was going on," Hargrove said. Nothing ever changes.

  • (honorable mention: October 17, 2000, Sonics have flight to Houston aborted because of lack in cabin pressure. They miss team shootaround and lose to Rockets, 101-91)

*Paper-Airplane gate continued for some time: viz this letter from April 21, 1996 to the Seattle Times:
I am ashamed of Seattle Mariner fans. I thought only New York fans threw their garbage onto the playing field.

In both of the games my daughter and I attended this year, we were hit by paper airplanes thrown by boorish "fans."

Most of the airplanes are made from the free program that is distributed outside the Kingdome. I appreciate the program, and I appreciate the efforts of the Kingdome staff to help police the crowd.

It should not be the sole responsibility of the Kingdome staff, though. It is the responsibility of the crowd to let these individuals know that this behavior shall not be tolerated.

Alan Haines, Woodinville

Monday, May 21, 2007

Messi: ARod has Crabs

Last night the Rags staff had the lucky chance to go see the Subway series in action. This involved enjoying a lovely night in Flushing and also the Mets apparently not bothering to try that hard. Guess they'd won the series and have the Braves to think about or some such stuff.

Not the world's most exciting game, but it had its moments, and by far the most thrilling (except for Darryl Strawberry bailing on the game after the sixth inning while Matt Dillon stayed to the bitter end, was having a down the barrel of the gun view of Alex Rodriguez (un)manning third base, intent stare on his facial-hair free mug. And constantly, constantly, after every single pitch, the guy grabs his own groin. Pulls at it, tugs it, twists, touches, holds -- it's like a personal security blanket. He's the Linus van Pelt of ball fiddling.

Our staff didn't have the attention span to really keep up with the action, and we prohibited Poony from watching, but I got Lionel Messi, who was utterly confused by the game, to spend the bottom of the 8th just fixating on ARod's crotch. The result:

"Que cosa, che. El tipo agarro su pito 21 veces. Que le pasa?"
Translation: 21 groin grabs in one half inning.


Statistical analysis:
21 GGs x 9 innings = 189 GGs per game

Is this the equivalent of a pitch count situation? If ARod breaks 200 GGs, will they pull him?
Or is he too busy pulling himself? Har har!


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Of Hamstrings and Nonuniform Couplet Metrics

"If I see a fire, then I pull a fire alarm.
But if I see a girl I like, then I pull her by the arm

And start throwing that game like a pitcher.

But if the attitude is rude, I switch her

For another, because I'm the type of brother

Or else take her home and rap to her mother.

Girls with attitude, yo, don't even say that--

Forget about it, homie, because Griffey don't play that.

--George Kenneth Griffey, Jr., "Listen to the Way I Swing."

Just an excerpt, but so telling, so deeply moving and poweful. Rather than delve into the innovative and surprisingly suble forced irregular couplet scheme employed, it's probably more urgent to discuss the vividly described socio-historical place this piece of literature occupies. This is a meta document, and close reading shows how it not only is informed by pre-post-feminist/Marxist/queer lit and the muscularist prose/New Journalism/Gonzo movement, but also how it in turn informs upon urban protest poetry and certainly the "Sensation" generatio of YBA (Young British Artists) set to emerge on the main media and commercial stage almost immediately following the release of this seminal single.

Thank you, Ken, thank you.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Why the Mariners Lose

rophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Jason Davis? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the Hargrove,
"You can't get too many power arms in your bullpen."
And the Hargrove, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Griffey just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Battle of the Wordsmiths, pt. 2

Perhaps never before in baseball history has something happened like what is set to take place in just a few scant hours. Manly, bearded American lit professors, sharpen your thinking caps and tell me: have two novelists ever faced off against one another in a single week, righty versus righty, pen versus pen. DeSalvo versus Batista; "Love's Travels" versus "The Avenger of Blood"?

We knew all so well of Batista's poetic bent, but news that young master DeSalvo, a 26 year old rookie, likes to throw the words around, well, made us blush with joy. Here's what the New York Times gleaned from the E.M. Forster of the Bronx, currently reading Confucius, for our reading pleasure:
"I like to read different philosophies, just anything, the way I see the world. We spend a whole lifetime trying to figure ourselves out. Like I'll read a book and try to think, what's this mean to me? And I'll apply it to myself."
We at the Rag feel the same way. We did this with stereo instructions for our new multi-region DVD player the other day and now we have S-video and RCA cables running out of our orifices. It's handy because we work with pretty much all systems. Anyhow, back to the Poet from Penna., the Writing Righty, Matt DeSalvo, who recently read Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus," and had this analysis of the seminal existential work:
"I took a lot out of it, like the struggle of humanity, how Sisyphus rolls a boulder up a hill and he finally reaches where he wants to be, and the boulder rolls down the hill. Most people in that situation, what do they do? They're like, 'Aw, man, I got to go get this.' But what he says is, why not see the boulder as your ultimate goal? It's almost as if you're proud to be pushing that boulder, that boulder's giving you meaning. And even though that boulder rolls back down, you dwell on how you succeeded in pushing it up and dwell on life -- Hey, I have something to do still. So it's almost like giving meaning to your life."
Just so happens we read that book in a senior year course on L'Existentialisme with noted philosopher Valentin Yves Mudimbe. Mudimbe, hailing from baseball mad Congo, had a slightly different interpretation of the central subject of analysis in that essay, one that more or less totally broke down and mocked the DeSalvian interpretation of the myth, instead describing a symbol of futility and suicide, and a man made aware of the meaningless of life by the very living of it. This is what Camus called an "Absurd Man," and hey, sports fans, sounds like we just came up with a nickname for the Yankee rookie starter.

Today, Matt "Absurd Man" DeSalvo, author of an unpublished novel on what Tyler Kepner says is "the way a person's concept of love changes over time," faces off against Miguel "Blood Avenger" Batista. Heady stuff.

*if we have time later, we'll dwell on Kepner's strangely hostile attitude to literary achievement by ball-players. Jealous bastard.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tears, Idle Tears

The world has a .450 batting average against Jeffrey Charles Weaver.

Hargrove prefers not to comment. But after last night, he sits at his formica topped desk and ponders whether his theory about getting a solid four out of the golden haired strapping lad, this Adonis of the monticular. Hargrove's calls to Bavasi have gone unanswered. He is stuck with this fallen soldier, like it or not.

Is it a Greek thing? Are we witnessing tragedy first hand? The three-act narrative we all crave played out in brilliant technicolor before our greedy eyes? Perhaps Alfred Lord Tennyson can guide our thoughts:

Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Ah. This is a dirge. This is a sad thing and we are seeing our dear friend slowly die -- perhaps he is really already gone and we are seeing what we remember of him. We look'd upon Jeff, dazzling, atop the mound in Cardinal red and we saw a hero ACHILLES and we believed. It was Autumn, as Tennyson reminds us, and the days, the Weaverian days, were happy. So quickly we forgo that even Achilles has his tender heel, free of Styxian rustproof undercoat.

And cast into the role of Patroclus? To comfort and pet the hero even as he sits, in his vanity, sulking; indulging? General Hargrove. Hargrove is Patroclus. Most tender of relationships, hero and manly consort, bandaging one another. Bolstering. Giving strength.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,

And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

Oh life. Oh death. Go, Mariners.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Today is the real labor day, and we have some riveting matchups coming down the pipe -- Greinke vs. Colon, Javier Vazquez vs. Washburn, Blanton v. Shilling -- but nowhere is a more intense focal point than the Diamondbacks/Dodgers matchup, where they're not only battling for first place in the NL west, but they're fighting another important battle in the war over fundamental socio-econo-politico-philosopho-cultural systems.

Brad Penny facing off against Livan Hernandez might be appealing in its own right, but these men, hailing from Oklahoma and Cuba, respectively, aren't just throwing baseballs tonight in Dodger Stadium. No, they're pitching for Market-led Capitalism and Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist-Soviet Communism and the winner takes a date on the dangerous end of Vin Scully's microphone.

In Havana, the fans are filling the streets. They're handing out press credentials like the media office at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. This is a big day, and it merits a little bit of song, and recognition of a fabulous lineup of Latin American baseball heroes.

What's a beisbol clubhouse without a cutup? This is just Hugo being Hugo. He's a former paratrooper and thus a gifted athlete with a lot of pep. He's particularly excited to play today because he just got a lot richer. Thanks Exxon, Chevron and BP for sponsoring our starting first baseman, Hugo Chavez!
Who's that power hitter in the tropical weight suit pants? Why it's el Peje Lagarto, that's who. This former Mexico City mayor and presidential candidate hails from baseball crazy Tabasco, where the oil is sweet and the pelota is sweeter. A lifetime fan of the Villahermosa Olmecas, and of sabotaging Pemex wells, AMLO can put wood to leather like no other Mexican pol. A big round of applause to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador!
Here's Mr. Tough Out, the left fielder from the Sur Sur Sur, a man who found a love of beisbol despite coming from the land of fut, Ernesto G! Che, as he's known, is a natural righty, but he's a switch hitter and does his best work from the left side of the plate. Che Guevara, everyone!
The best reliever on any planet, a man who says he's been to Cuba "at least five times," and even starred in a documentary about one of those trips, this is the game's legendary radical poet himself, Bill Lee.

El gran quesudo himself. Pitcher. Allegedly drafted by MLB back in his law school days. A big round of applause for tonight's starting righthander, your Fidel Castro!