Thursday, March 23, 2006

Laughing Boy

Our kid is getting a sense of humor. By that I mean that he thinks that everything we do is funny. When he is giggling, it consumes his whole body.
I think that he saw this photo and is trying to imitate this kid:

Monday, March 20, 2006

I thought my nephew was a giant...

It turns out that our family just makes "big boys". I took Little Bubba in for a sick-visit to his doctor last Friday and he weighed in at 18 pounds 2 ounces. He is just 14 weeks old.
Big Boy.
I can no longer touch fingertip to fingertip when i hold him around his chest, under his arms.
Very Big Boy.
I mentioned to the doctor that since he has caught this cold, he hasn't been eating as well. The doctor said that he didn't think that anyone would notice.
VERY Big Boy.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fantasy Baseball 101: Taking the Rookie Risk

My friend, Archie, recently posted on his website that the highly anticipated rookie Delmon Young will start this season in the minor leagues. ( He then poses the question: Is the "sure-fire prospect" worth a roster spot even if he will start in the minors, or do you use that bench position for a player who can impact your team today?

It's a tough question: How much is that rookie worth? You rarely can tell even from reading what all the sports writers pontificate about any particular freshman player. No matter how they did in the minors, college or high school, there is no predicting the success of a rookie ball player.

So how do you answer the question? There are lots of factors. First, decide if this rookie is a guaranteed performer, baseball prodigy and future hall of famer or is this new recruit just a sleeper pick with a big upside. How can you tell? That's where the sports writers come in. I can't visit all the spring training camps, or watch any of the winter ball played in Latin America (someday maybe...), but I can read about it. If everyone is talking about them, chances are that they will make a big splash; consider them the "sure-fire prospect". If you only read news on a particular player only on seldom occasions, or if that player is stuck in the system behind another super-star (like Andy Marte waiting for Chipper Jones to kick it the past few years in Atlanta), that player is a greater risk and is best considered a sleeper.

Another factor is the kind of league that you play in. If you play in a league where you draft an entirely new team every year, future hall of famers do you little or no good if they are not yet playing in the major leagues. However, if yours is a keeper squad it might be worth the risk to spend (and maybe waste) a roster spot to stash away that star in the making.

Beware of the hype surrounding any rookie. It is easy to get sucked in by the likes of Mike MacDougal (fireballer who started out strong in Kansas City, but who burned out quickly), Nick Johnson (touted by the Yankee farm system as the next Babe Ruth, never saw that potential due to limitations caused by his injury prone body), or even Jeremy Reed (who was supposed to revolutionize Seattle baseball last year but ended up striking out once every seven plate appearances and struggled to break a .250 average). Catcher prospects rarely fulfill their pre-season hype. Last year, JD Closser and John Buck broke into the majors last year with high expectations but both had great difficulties adjusting to the workload of a major league season. Closser's confidence has been so negatively affected by his rookie season that he is no longer the starting catcher in Colorado.

There are some players for whom the hype is reality. Albert Pujols, David Wright, Miguel Cabrera, Alfonso Soriano are all the kinds of players that you read a lot about before they even played their first major league game. The day they arrived they made an immediate impact to their teams, and everyone expected them to. Even Johnny Estrada, who worked his way through the Philadelphia farm system and spent two years with the Phillies before being traded to the Atlanta Braves, turned out to be as good as expected. The Braves knew all about this guy, traded star pitcher Kevin Millwood for him and he didn't disappoint. In his first full year with Atlanta he played in 134 games and hit .314 -- he was chosen to the National League All Star team that year.

With all that swimming around in your head, as you read the news and updates about your potential super-stud, read between the lines. Delmon Young is practically the second coming of Dave Winfield, but why is he not going to start in the majors this year? What is it that we are not being told? Although all the prevailing wisdom is telling us to hold on to this kid, that he will be worth the wait, do so with a nod to the risk you are taking by locking up that roster spot on your fantasy team with a player who will not generate any stats for you.

I think that in this case he is worth the risk. In my opinion, it is a good move to make if you can afford the roster slot, you are in a keeper league, and if you don't have any other players you are taking the same risk on.

Other rookies that are worth taking a look at:
Jeremy Hermida (home run power and speed)
Ryan Zimmerman (a lot of talk, not much proof yet)
Francisco Lirano (touted as the next Johan Santana)
Prince Fielder (bigger than his Daddy, hits farther too)
Matt Cain (great ERA and WHIP projected)
Matt Murton (a bit of a sleeper, if he can hit consistently)
J. Gathright (speedy outfielder, could hit for power)
Kenji Johjima (another Japan pro turns MLB rookie)
Josh Barfield (will he be better than his Daddy?)
Joey Devine (Closer of the future for the Braves)
Boof Bonser (wasn't he the tough guy in Teen Wolf?)
Eric Duncan (first baseman of the future for the Yankees)
Josh Willingham (not a strong catcher, might play LF to keep his bat in lineup)
Justin Verlander (Detriot fireballer had rough 2005, but could be a star)
Ian Kinsler (a good hitter in a hitter's park. nice.)

The risk is high with any rookie on draft day. It is unusual that their freshman year is anything superb. Even for Rookie of the Year candidates, a lot of talk is spent on how much potential they have. That being said, i still have a hard time staying away from the allure of the rookie phenom. I am a sucker for a good story, and lots of rookies have that "story". I believe that for all the risks, it is the successful rookie pick that can make or break your fantasy team. I believe that the winner at the end of the season will not only have a team made up of seasoned veterans, but also of several very good rookies who turn out to be better than the middle of the road journeymen usually available on the waiver wire.

Last year I was successful with a team that picked up Huston Street and drafted David Wright. But I had also taken Draft Day chances on JD Closser and Jeremy Reed, neither or who stayed on my roster for very long. Archie, in the same league last year picked Clint Barmes and Dallas McPherson on Draft Day. If either stayed healthy, they would have been stand out picks. Barmes will get another chance to start this year. McPherson is all but done.

So to answer the question: "to take a chance on Delmon Young or let him go," I would take the chance in a keeper league, and let him go if it's not. DISCLAIMER: Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

My mind is on auto-pilot

Sometimes when i am distracted I can go on auto-pilot. It happens a lot when I play video games. I can have a full conversation and later have no idea what we talked about. Television does it to me as well -- my wife says I get "sucked in". It happens other times when I have most of my focus trained on one difficult task.

This weekend I was helping someone move out of their apartment into their new house. During the move, while i was wrestling with a large piece of living room furnature, a friend asked me, "Are those new sneakers you're wearing?".

** sweat pouring down my face
** muscles straining under the weight of the furnature
** body overheating under the afternoon sun
** my mind, barely able to focus on the question, reaches back for the most logical answer

"They were new when I bought 'em." It made sense to me at the time.

But what was really going through my mind at the time was something like this, all in slow motion:
Of course she can see by the scuffs that they weren't brand-spanking-new-right-out-of-the-box-yesterday, right?
Or does she mean, did I get them recently?
Does she think five months ago is recent?
Ouch, i wonder if anyone could hear that pop in my back.
Is she making a statement on how I am not wearing Converse All Stars?
Does she know that I run regularly now?
Is she making fun of my shortie-socks?
How could she interrupt me while I am so obviously engaged in something else?
What was it that she was asking me?

"They were new when I bought 'em." It was the best answer I could muster under the circumstances.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Atlanta Traffic

I love to drive. I love it so much, the last car I bought (over five years ago) was a Jeep Wrangler; a great car for cruising on local roads. I also love to take road trips. I enjoy it so much, I used a 15 hour road trip as a "compatibility test" with my wife right after I first met her. But that's a story for another day.

I am from New England. More specifically, I have lived over 80% of my life in the Greater New York/Connecticut/Massachusetts area, and have experienced all sorts of driving conditions. When I say that I love to drive, I mean that for all kinds of weather conditions, in all sorts of places on all kinds of roads. That is, until I moved to Atlanta.

The roadways up north are busy, to say the least. There are stretches of the Saw Mill Parkway in New York that are so skinny, it takes a while to get used to that claustrophobic feeling while you are doing 70 down the winding roadway. There are highways through Hartford that my Massachusetts friend refers to as the Indianapolis 500 -- speeds are high and the roads are wide yet curvy; if you aren't paying close attention you end up in someone else's lane fast. Then there are the "rotaries" in Massachusetts (known as "traffic circles" everywhere else in the country). What Chevy Chase driving through London in "European Vacation" is a regular possibility if you don't just take a chance and put your car into the traffic. It is easy to sit on the side of the road waiting for that opening, but if you just put the pedal down, you'll make it in (this is unusual though -- in MA, people dart in and out of traffic without much notice as a rule, so drivers learn to expect it. Out of State drivers refer to Massachusetts Motorists as "Mass-holes" for this reason).

Growing up outside of New York, you learn quickly how to drive aggressively. Actually, "aggressively" is not the right word -- it implies that I drive with the reckless intention of getting ahead of everyone else on the road at all times. Although that might be the case if I am late for a meeting at work, it usually isn't the norm. What I really mean is that driving up north teaches you how to drive assertively. To signal your intentions and then to do just that. To push ahead and avoid rubbernecking, yet yielding to other traffic when you should. Driving up north, when traffic is actually moving, is a lot like a dance -- there is lots of movement, weaving, speeding up and slowing down. Roads are never straight, and there are lots of hills. Conditions are rarely perfect, and when they are bad, they are downright horrible.

When I moved to the South, I was warned by the good folks who lived down here that "traffic is horrible." I immediately discounted that as the opinion of good folks who have never lived anywhere else. I have seen it before during my travels across the country: local people always think that their traffic is bad, especially around "rush hour", but I have rarely experienced anything longer than a couple of minutes delay navigating what I would easily mistake for regular Waterbury, Connecticut backup.

I was wrong about Atlanta.

Atlanta traffic is awful. Atlanta traffic is ridiculous bad. It is as if everyone gets into their cars at the same time every morning and then goes home at the same time as well. All the radio stations talk about using mass-transit, car pooling, alternative work hours, and even tele-commuting, but when it comes down to it, no one is doing it. This is obvious when rush hour traffic dies down dramatically during the months when school is not in session. I don't know where all the drivers go during the summer, but I wish they would stay.

I can handle traffic. I can handle slow traffic. But this is different. In the land of generosity, humble pie, home cooking and good natured church-going people, once those same people get into cars they are transformed into mean, rude people. To not let someone into your lane when their lane is merging must be part of the driving lessons here. The turn signal on my car at times goes completely unnoticed -- drivers will speed up to "close the distance" between the car in front of them so that another cannot get in front of them.

Add in the number of televisions I see in cars now, and now we have a bunch of dumb as well as aggressive drivers. We have all seen those crazy people who read while they drive, right? It's bad enough when drivers are using a phone while trying to smoke a cigarette and sipping their morning coffee, all while negotiating the roads. Now these nuts have televisions to grab their attention. Nice decision.

To top it off, the traffic around here makes people more reckless. No one drives anywhere near the speed limit, because they all know that at any second there could be a traffic jam that could add an hour onto their drive time. If they can just hurry up and get where they are going, maybe they can avoid the traffic. Right. That works. Hello? Yes, Dumb Driver? You are the one causing the accidents. Ok? Buh-bye.

I am not the only person who thinks that the traffic around here is awful. Some students at a local college created a short film based on Atlanta traffic, focusing on the speeding problem on the highway nicknamed "The Perimeter". I-285 is notorious for high speeds and bad traffic jams. This film, worth all five minutes of viewing time can be found here: "A Meditation on the Speed Limit". It was intended to be a drama, but it ended up winning the Best Comedy award in the Atlanta contests.

Almost three years now...

My Wonderful Wife's birthday is coming up -- she is turning 29 for the second time. I intentionally exaggerate the effect it will have on her by not actually NAMING the number of years, mostly because I think I am so funny. I don't think she minds it one bit though; she has accomplished just about everything she expected to before she reached this age. I wonder how many people can claim the same successes?
I hit that milestone a few years back and have tried hard not to look back. I am lucky enough to have so much to look forward to that I don't notice so much the time gone by. These two kids of mine occupy more and more of my head every day-- I can't wait to meet them when they get older, I think they are going to be great people. I constantly think about all the places I want to take them, all the things I want to show them, all the things I want to shield them from.
Protective? Yes. Obsessive? Nah, just short of that I bet. Interested? Heck ya. I just love knowing them. They are a lot of fun to be around, and it makes me so happy everytime they let me focus my attention on them. Smothering? I'll try not to be. I have to remind myself to give them just enough space for them to spread their own wings.
(wipes misty eyes)
Aw shucks. These are great times.
And it all started with that one long roadtrip with the girl who would be my wife. We have been married almost three years now. And there is still so much to look forward to.

Recent visitors to the site

I get regular reports on how many people visit this site, how often they stop by and where they are from. I see the usual hits from my family's home state, a bunch from some of my local friends here in the Deep South, and some scattered hits from long time friends who have spread out across the country.

I have recently been getting lots of hits because Fantasy Baseball season is starting up. Some of my FB101 essays have garnered huge interest lately, including one i found most interesting: The Army Corps of Engineers, Washington DC.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Is Home Schooling a possibility for the kids? Nope, not in this house.

I am the dish washer in the family. Tonight, as I was washing the dinner plates, something i cleaned up reminded me in an off-hand, round-about way of a conversation my friend and I had.

This friend of mine, who I've known since I was five, told me that he was going to put his kid into a private kindergarten next year. The neighborhood they live in is very nice but it is in the middle of a larger part of town that is not-so-nice; the school district has a bad reputation and he has decided that it would be worth spending the extra money on a private school.

My mind started reeling at the idea of spending big money on my kid's school. Of course I would pay, if it came down to it. My children seem pretty smart so far - I sure do want to give them every advantage. But how do you afford it?

Then there is always the "alternative" method of schooling your kids: home schooling. If you home school your children, you don't have to send them to those "poorly staffed" schools with those "bad influence" kids. In fact you might even get a break on your property tax since you have opted out of an expensive part of your county's services. All that aside, I still don't think I could handle the responsibility of teaching the kids everything they need to know -- how could I possibly handle it.

Then it occurred to me... I could at least teach them chemistry.

You know how every bit of matter in it's natural state exists in either a gas, a solid or a liquid? Introducing energy in some way to that matter can change the state -- exciting the molecules or slowing them down. For example, Carbon Dioxide exists at room temperature as a gas -- but if you cool it down it becomes a solid (dry ice). Even water is another great example -- cool it down and it freezes into a solid, but heat it up and it becomes a gas.

With this knowledge I have discovered that I may already have the tools, or at least the "classroom" to teach a chemistry class: my kitchen. Did you know (and it is a bit of a shock to me as well) that milk demonstrates this principle very well? Cooled in the refrigerator or warmed in the body of your neighborhood cow, milk will act like a liquid. But, lo and behold, if you leave that milk out all night so it can return to room temperature it becomes a solid, it's natural state!

Amazing. I have found my calling as a science teacher after all this time. And all because I am the dish washer.