It’s like that moment in the Wizard of Oz. Kind of. But it’s much cooler.

November 10th, 2006 → 5:56 pm @

From our friends at the soon-to-be-launched Very Short List: this amazingly gorgeously weird and wonderful ad for Sony’s Bravia TVs. (VSL — still in its test phase — called it “awesomely explosive eye candy.” It’s lots of exploding paint in an apartment complex in Glasgow, orchestrated by Jonathan Glazer, and remarkably, 100% genuinely real. (If you want the details: it took 10 days, 250 people, and paint that was delivered in 1 ton trucks…or as the Brits say, “1 tonne tricks.” Also, for what it’s worth, the paint was edible.)

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, either you have an amazing memory or you’re spending too much time on my blog; in either case, way back in July I was similarly overwhelmed by Sony’s previous Bravia commercial…the one that featured 250,000 superballs, which is just as worth watching.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka

No, I have not forsaken baseball

October 11th, 2006 → 2:39 pm @

And yes, I know there’s lots to talk about. I’ve been busy! So to tide folks over until I get back to year-end wrap-ups…

* The Seibu Lions’s Daisuke Matsuzaka was posted for free agency. This means: MLB teams can submit sealed bids to the Lions for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka (or, rather, his agent, the warm and cuddly Scott Boras). The high bidder wins. The Sox, Yankees, and Mariners and thought to be the only teams in the hunt, and there’s speculation the total cost could be somewhere around $100 million ($25 mil for the right to negotiate; $75 for a six(ish) year contract.

The twenty-six year old Matsuzaka is rumored to throw gyroball, a pitch gripped as if you were giving a Vulcan greeting that spins like a football (or a bullet). If thrown correctly, it’s conceivably kind of a fastball/curve combo — traveling at fastball speed and breaking like a curve — and conceivably is unhittable. Matsuaka has said he doesn’t throw the pitch; still, there’s a YouTube link that seems to belie his claim. (Here’s a great piece on the gyro; all gyro links come via Sons of Sam Horn.

The upside to Matsuzaka is obvious: he could be one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. The downside is also pretty obvious: players don’t always make smooth transitions to MLB. Also, he’s thrown a ridiculous amount of pitches in some games, including a 17-inning, 250-pitch outing that he followed with a no-hitter the next day. This seems like one of those genius/moron moves: if the Sox sign him and he’s everything everyone thinks he could be, Theo and the Trio will be on a pedestal once again. If he hurts himself or can’t handle MLB (or Boston), they’re borderline learning disabled. Makes me glad I don’t need to make decisions like that.

* Torii Hunter will not be patrolling center field for the Sox next year; the Twins picked up his option. After that it’s anyone’s guess: he’s already making Pedro-in-’04 threats about what’ll happen if the Twins don’t negotiate a long-term deal before the season starts. (It’s conceivable that Hunter’s balls-to-the-walls style is all that well suited to Fenway, anyway.

* Jim Thome beat out Frank Thomas (and Curt Schilling) as AL Comeback Player of the Year, which seems a) like a mistake, and b) yet more proof that awards are at least occasionally decided by what players are more popular with the press.

That’s all for now.

Oh, except: Joe Torre’s coming back. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing: the most important thing a manager does is keep his players interested over 162 games, and oftentimes there’s a shelf life on how long any one manager can (or should) last. That said, as soon as Steinbrenner started with his spoiled baby routine it was a lock Torre would be back in the Yankees dugout; if he was gonna go, it would have had to be a behind-the-scenes, quiet negotiation.

Post Categories: 2006 Offseason & Daisuke Matsuzaka

Players union fights for right to drive bus off cliff

June 22nd, 2006 → 4:54 pm @

In an article in today’s Globe, Paxton Crawford explains why he doesn’t want to discuss his first-person account, printed in ESPN The Magazine, detailing steroid, HGH, and speed use while playing with the Red Sox in 2000 and 2001. (The article is available online, but only if you’re a subscriber to ESPN Insider.) “I thought it was a one-time story deal, bro,” Crawford tells the Globe‘s Gordon Edes. “If any other reporter called, I was not interested.”

Paxton’s use of the word “deal” is intriguing. Was he saying that he got paid for the ESPN piece?* Perhaps, and as far as journalistic ethics goes, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that: the subject of first-person “as told to’s” are not infrequently paid for their efforts. Or maybe, after a taste of the limelight, he wanted the world’s attention focused back on him, even if it was only for a moment and even if it was because he was telling the world he was a cheat.

There’s powerful incentive for both current and past major leaguers to stay silent about what they’ve seen or know; breaking omerta results in a lifetime banishment from the only fraternity many of them have ever known. (Off the top of my head, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, and Jeremy Giambi are the only players or former players who’ve publicly admitted knowingly using steroids without being caught.) But Crawford’s story raises the specter of any number of fringe former major leaguers deciding they have nothing to lose (and perhaps some spending cash to gain) by coming clean.

There’s a fear within baseball that these trickling revelations will start a witchhunt, and indeed, there’s a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude that’s begun to attach itself to anyone who’s had a breakout year or one or two seasons that seem statistically aberrant. But the only reason anyone’s interested in Paxton Crawford’s story is that pretty much everyone–fans, the media, the feds, Congress–knows the current testing program, while better than nothing, is embarrassingly porous. If there’s only the slimmest of chances juicers will be caught, the thinking goes, perhaps the fear of a future unmasking at the hands of some dude who spent a day in the bigs will keep folks from shooting up the latest designer steroid. One obvious way to deal with this would be for MLB and the players union to actually implement a real testing program–one that can’t be beaten by anyone who knows how to read.

Right now, that doesn’t seem likely, mainly because the power-drunk players union refuses to allow blood testing (or actual random testing, or storing of samples) because any of those steps would be an “invasion of privacy.” That’s a load of crap. Playing professional baseball is not a right afforded to citizens under the Constitution; it’s a privilege. Workplaces implement all sorts of policies–regarding drug testing or dress codes or proper language or decorum–that aren’t (and can’t be) mandated by the government. Unless the players union takes off its blinders and starts to see the big picture, a lot of its members are going to find themselves in a world of hurt.

* EDIT: Amy K. Nelson, a veteran reporter for ESPN and the writer who worked with Paxton on the story in ESPN The Magazine, wrote to say Paxton was not paid for sharing his story. I did not contact Nelson prior to posting this item. Even though I didn’t see anything wrong with the possibility of someone being paid to collaborate on an “as told to” story, I should have made an effort to contact Nelson and ESPN.

Post Categories: Amy K. Nelson & Baseball & Daisuke Matsuzaka & ESPN The Magazine & Murray Chass & Paxton Crawford & Players Union & Red Sox & Sports Reporters & Steroids