Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Discovering Syracuse: Believe in Syracuse event at Beer Belly Deli & Pub

I spent a couple hours on Tuesday night at an event at Beer Belly Deli presented by a group called Believe in Syracuse. In its own words, Believe in Syracuse is a "non-profit organization that promotes the positive features of the Greater Syracuse Area and cultivates connections and civic engagement within the Greater Syracuse community." Specifically on the agenda Tuesday was the recent improvements on and near Westcott Street. 

Having been in Syracuse only a short time, I can't accurately speak to how the area has been improved and what the impact has been. But it is likely my favorite area in town, with a nice mix of shopping, restaurants, bars, cafes, and residences. It it comfortably walkable and well-lit. The Beer Belly was a real highlight - an excellent beer selection, tasty food, an a great, friendly atmosphere both inside the restaurant and outside on the back patio. 

One takeaway from the event, which may have been inadvertant, was the seeming difficulty possible business owners have trying to borrow money to invest in the neighborhood. One of the owners of Beer Belly discussed trying multiple avenues before ultimately working with the local Syracuse Federal Credit Union. Restorations of the Babcock-Shattuck House on the corner of Westcott and Genesee came in fits and stops, in no small part because of financing issues. The success of both will hopefully allow more lenders to be willing to work with local investors. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

2014 Richie Ashburn Award

A number of years ago, I created the Richie Ashburn Award, to give credit for one of my favorite statistical oddities: players with a higher on-base percentage than slugging percentage. It takes quite a level of skill and plate discipline for a player to be able to force himself on base without the benefit of power. And since a player gets points on his slugging percentage for singles, usually Ashburn Award winners do so by working high numbers of walks.

The award gets his name for the great Phillies outfielder, one of the best in history at getting on base despite not being at all a power hitter. Let's quickly review the three rules for winning an Ashburn Award.

1. The player must have an OBP higher than his SLG. Close doesn't count. Better luck next year, Jon Jay (.303/.372/.378).

2. The player must have an OBP above. 350. Out of luck, Robbie Grossman (.233/.337/.333).

3. The player must have at least 400 plate appearances. Chone Figgins' .217/.373/.267 in 76 plate appearances isn't going to cut it.

Amazingly, there were no Ashburn Award winners in 2012 or 2013. And we came perilously close to not having one in 2014. But one player stepped up, sneaking in by .00003.

Congratulations, Matt Carpenter, who ended the two-year drought with a .37482 OBP and a .37479 SLG.

Matt Carpenter

Carpenter, who finished fourth in the National League MVP voting in 2013, saw his batting average and power take a dive this season. But his patience did not suffer, as Carpenter led the senior circuit with 95 walks.

2013 had been a breakout season, as Carpenter had led the league with 55 doubles while helping the Cardinals to their fourth NL pennant in ten years. While 2014 was less productive for the 28-year-old, he was still a highly productive player. Losing 40 points on his BABIP didn't help Carpenter's cause, but he will be in the leadoff spot when the Cardinals head to Dodger Stadium for the NLDS.

But who cares about all that stuff. The important thing here is that Carpenter has ended a two-year Ashburn Award drought.

Photo Credit: By gcny1956 (IMGP8588) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 01, 2014

Goodbye, Massachusetts

I have lived in Massachusetts my entire life. I went away to college for four years, but was still home for vacations and the summer, so it was hard to even say then that I'd moved away. I grew up in Melrose and moved to Somerville 11 years ago today. 

On Saturday, my wife and I moved to Syracuse, New York. The hazy picture above is from I-90 at about 6:00, when crossing the border. My parents and my sister-in-law still live in the Greater Boston area, so I will visit frequently, but the portion of my adventure where I call Massachusetts home has come to a close. I am excited for an exciting opportunity out here, but I already miss the only city that I've ever considered to be home. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"A police officer keeps watch over demonstrators."

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri is disgusting on multiple levels. The racism, both latent and open, is sad. The inequities that lead to a city that is 64% black to have a police force that is 6% black is the result of years of policy mistakes and poor management, leading to obvious public distrust in those supposed to protect them, and leading those supposed protectors to see their citizens as dangerous "others" rather than members of their own community. But the one public policy disaster that has become crystallized on our computers as we watch this crisis take place is the descent of local police forces into paramilitary organizations.

The use of military tactics and high-grade weaponry to keep the citizenry "in line" has no place in a democratic nation. This is the stuff of a military dictatorship, which the citizenry of Ferguson, Mo. does not have the capacity to overthrow. 

Imagery, and how it is reported, is important. From USA Today's website:

The caption, as the title of this post notes, reads ""A police officer keeps watch over demonstrators."

Is that what you see there? A "police officer?" "Keeping Watch?" Here's a better headline. "Untrained paramilitary soldier aims his assault rifle at black people standing in the street."

Photo from : "Alderman Antonio French arrested in Ferguson"

Friday, July 25, 2014

"I don't like your 'on-air persona'"

The quote in the title was said to a good friend of mine. He was a DJ at WRUR, the University of Rochester FM station. He had a weekly two-hour rock/metal program that I appeared on regularly as a guest. In between the songs, there would be talking. Most of it was silly - it would occasionally make off-color remarks, but very little of it was truly offensive. I said the smell of a women who worked at residential life displeased me, in poetry form. The host would, at times, reference some of the fine women of Rochester who waitressed without shirts for a living. We were young and immature but generally harmless. There were a couple times I said things I immediately regretted, and was happy to only have the reach of college radio. But when you are talking and you need to fill air, and you are young and immature, sometimes the wrong thing comes out. 

At one point, the time slot for this show was excellent: 10:00pm, prime college radio listening, if such a thing exists. The schedule was adjusted each semester, and the following one was much less desirable. I don't actually remember the details of when the show was moved to, but I remember it was less good. 

My friend, the show's host, asked the programming director about the move. We both knew the director personally, as she was a friend of one of our close friends. She probably could have given a half-hearted answer like "I'm sorry about the move, we are trying to give everyone a chance in the prime slot." She didn't say that though - instead, she was honest, but in a really passive-aggressive sort of way. She told the host that "I don't like your on-air persona."  As the host would say. "So here's the thing, I don't actually have an 'on-air persona,' so I think that was just her was of saying 'I changed your time slot because I don't like you.'"

Why did this story from fourteen years ago suddenly pop into my brain? Because of the recent blow-up at the sports radio station WEEI, where co-host Kirk Minihane said unkind, misogynist things about Fox reporter Erin Andrews. His comments were over the line and unacceptable. His apology for his initial comments was followed by a rant that was even less acceptable. 

I am not going to rehash the entire escapade because most people know about it already and the rest of you all have the google machine. Just type in "Kirk Minihane Erin Andrews" and choose your source. What I wanted to address was the idea that Minihane, as well as hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan are simply "playing a role," that their "on-air persona" is meant to be the epitome of the blue-collar sports enthusiast, without a worry about being politically correct or whatever nonsense.

Stop it. Just stop it. Blaming your "on-air persona" for your mistakes is just effing weak.

First off, it's a cop-out. You can't take credit for the intelligent things you say, but laugh off all of the BS by saying "oh, I'm in character." Oh, you're in character are you? Who does your writing? Oh, no one, it's all improv, your "character?" I see. 

Second off, acting like an idiot when you know it's wrong is worse than just accidentally letting some idiocy out. I'm going to use an extreme example here, but stay with me. In the late 1960's George Wallace rose to national prominence for his virulent opposition to desegregation. The racism was overt. In later years, when Wallace's message has been clearly seen as supremely incorrect, he has been defended as not being an actual racist, but rather someone who was a good man away from politics but used (exploited) the racism of others to advance his platform. When asked, Wallace himself said "You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about n****rs, and they stomped the floor." =

Being a racist, or misogynist, or other form of bigot is bad. Really, really bad. But acting like a bigot when you know it's wrong, just for attention, for ratings or votes or hits on your website? That's inexcusable. 

Being on the radio is hard and having everything you say get recorded makes it easy to screw up. The key is admitting you screwed up. Minihane saying what he said about Andrews is a thing that happens, a forgivable mistake. His not understanding why it was wrong and pathetic excuse-making, is what makes him so deplorable. So, Kirk Minihane? I don't like your on-air persona.