Wednesday, July 25, 2007

He Moves In Mysterious Ways

Great Mysteries of the Universe:

* Is time travel possible?
* Why are yawns contagious?
* How many licks to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?
* Why don't young Hollywood starlets get someone to drive their booze- and narcotic-addled selves around?
* Why does Royals starting pitcher Scott Elarton continue to get payed to play Major League baseball?


I find this last mystery particularly relevant given the Royals' 9-4 loss to the Yankees last night, a contest in which the aforementiond Mr. Elarton pitched. I had debated as to whether I should attend Tuesday's Elarton/Chien-Ming Wang pitching matchup or Wednesday's Gil Meche/Mike Mussina matchup. The past history of Elarton's previous starts told me I should wait until Wednesday, but the siren's song of receiving a Powder Blue #5 George Brett Pine Tar-stained T-shirt was a tempation I was forced to give in to.

I should have trusted my instincts.

I knew Elarton had been lousy all year (meaning the handful of starts he's been able to make when not camped out on the Disabled List). Little did I know just how awful he's been until I looked up the stats this morning. Here are a few nuggets to chew on:

* He's pitched 37 innings this season--and given up 44 runs.
* His monthly ERAs look like this: May 7.65/June 11.15/July 37.80 for a Grand Total of 10.46.
* He's given up at least 3 runs in every start and he's never pitched 6 innings in a start.
* He's given up 12 homeruns, with at least one in each start before last night when he didn't need a homerun to give up 7 runs.
* He only has one more strike out than homeruns surrendered: 13.

In case you hadn't figured it out, this is mind-numbingly terrible. The only saving grace is that he missed all of April, part of May and most of July.

But what I find most galling ISN'T that Elarton himself is a miserable pitcher. He seems to be a nice, hard-working fellow who really cares about his performance on the field. He just doesn't have the ability he used to have before a cascade of injuries reduced his effectiveness to Nick Blakeley-level.

No, what's most galling is that Dayton Moore and Buddy Bell keep running this guy out there, knowing full well what results should be expected. It isn't hard to find a pitcher who can give up less than a run per inning, it really isn't. And you can find them on the cheap.

The only reason I can see for the stubborn insistence by management to allow opponents to carpet bomb the Royals while he's on the mound is that they want to showcase him for a potential trade. The only problem is that by showcasing this set of skills, they're just insuring that NO ONE will want to take him off our hands.

The time has come to release Elarton. I realize millions of dollars have been spent paying his contract and rehabbing his multiple maladies, but the Royals need to face it: It's a sunk cost. You aren't getting that money back and by continuing to play him you're making the cost less bearable.

This is a mystery that shouldn't be so difficult to solve.

My prayers have been answered:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Gazing At My Reflection in a Pond...

A few narcissistic nuggets for your consumption:

* I can't stand it when drawers and cabinets are left open. I have no idea where this comes from, as I'm not much of a neat-freak.

* Any food that has reached or surpassed its expiration date is totally off-limits to me. If it's milk, I may not use it even if it expires the next day. This goes back to drinking some expired milk in high school. I had a drink before I left for school in the morning, but by 3rd hour I was feeling awful. So awful, in fact, that I barfed in the bathroom at school. This is monumental because I don't like to throw up AT ALL, much less in a public place. I went home and spent the rest of the afternoon puking and dry heaving. I even went to a Young Life meeting that evening, thinking I couldn't possibly ralph any more. I spent more than my fair share in the bathroom, though I never actually let myself blow chunks. So my reasoning is "Better to be safe than yakking up your guts in a porcelain germ factory."

* I try to walk softly. I don't like it when people bang around on their heels. I'm not a big fan of unnecessary noise (as you'll find out in upcoming paragraphs). Some of this originates from an experience in early grade school. Our class was walking up some stairs and generally making a big racket, as 6- or 7-year olds are apt to do. And I was wearing cowboy boots. But my teacher stopped and said to me "You're doing a great job! You are the quietest person I've ever heard while wearing cowboy boots." That phrase stuck with me my entire life, so now I sneak around like a ninja, avoiding detection at all costs.

* The sound of my own urination bothers me. I've always thought the fire hose sound of someone taking a leak was quite uncouth, though I don't hold anyone else accountable to my way of thinking. But I do whatever is possible to minimize the decibel levels of my own excretion.

* I patently refuse to buy beer at sporting events. Out of principle, I just can't pay $8.00 for watered down Bud Light. And it never ceases to amaze me how many people will take out a seond mortgage on their home just to get plastered on ballpark beer.

* At work, I start out with twelve different windows open. They must be in the same order, every time. First, program: Microsoft Outlook. I keep a tight reign on my email inbox, so it deserves the top spot. Next is our company's accounting software. I only have to use it in the morning, but it serves as a buffer between Outlook and the third program, Microsoft Excel. I generally have at least six spreadsheets open at any given time, so I use it a lot and like to have it seperated from Outlook. The fourth program is an Internet Explorer window opened to one of the pages on our intranet. I keep it in this spot so that I remember to check on it several times a day to see what's been updated. Next is another Internet Exporer window that allows me to access the next two programs: one, a program that shows the real-time market prices for wheat and the other a program that keeps track of the trades we've made in the market. After I open those two programs, the IE window I had to use to open them up becomes my go-to window for surfing the internet. The first site I go to each day? The last five windows are all IE windows opened to the various railroad websites that I use to track where our railcars of wheat are currently located. The Union Pacific railroad gets first billing followed by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (which uses two windows) and finally the generic Steelroads website that keeps track of cars on the short lines. If something happens during the day that closes out one of these windows, I'll most likely close out the whole lot and recreate the original order. Then, I put my trash in a brown paper sack, fold it neatly, wrap it in aluminum foil and carefully place it in my waste receptacle...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Morning is Broken

Recently I've been fully engaged in thinking about myself and my endless number of quirky personal preferences, habits and lifestyle choices. Writing is included in this list, but I have sorely neglected it over the past few months. So I thought it would be a fun idea to start a series of self-absorbed essays that folks can read and yawn over in between watching "The Girls Next Door" and watering their lawns.

I figure a good starting point would be in the morning. Actually, that's not completely true; I don't really like the A.M. portion of the day. Regardless, it seems to make sense chronologically. But more importantly, I should repeat that I dislike the first few waking hours of the day.

I suppose my disdain for daybreak stems from the fact that my body seems to be naturally wired to stay up late. Also, I actually enjoy staying up late. That doesn't bode well for morning's bid to win my affections. To me, morning just seems desperate and over-eager. The sun popping out and disturbing the tranquil pleasantness of sleepy darkness is the morning's way of repeatedly tapping me on the shoulder and saying "Look at me! Aren't I pretty? Please give me your undivided love and attention! Please?! Please! Please!!!"

Physically, the beginning of the day is irksome. I wake up in the morning with "sleep"/mucus/eye boogers. My stomach feels unsettled. I have an urgent desire to use the restroom. If I've excercised the day before, my muscles are sore. My mouth tastes like the bottom of a dumpster. My ear hurts because I've somehow slept on it while it was folded over against my head.

To add to my auricular miseries, I have to listen to the bubbly morning news anchors who somehow manage to report on the brutal murders of the evening before with the same sing-song delivery of a Sesame Street character. And it's tough to find a forecast from a weatherman who isn't zany, jolly, or chipper on top of being, most importantly, inaccurate.

The drive into work provides some respite. It allows me time to be quiet and let my body wake up to the inevitability of another day. I manage to sing along to a couple of songs so that my speaking voice doesn't sound like the torturer's in "The Princess Bride". This comes in handy when spewing invectives at fellow drivers who are too busy shaving/putting on makeup/brushing teeth/reading the newspaper to stay between the white dashes painted on the street.

Once I get into the office, I look forward to completing my only deadline-oriented task of the day without being bothered. It generally doesn't work out that way. The-Guy-Who-Inexplicably-Always-Comes-In-An-Hour-Before-Anyone-Else-Does feels like it's his duty to say "Good morning, Nick!" because someone once told him that he wasn't personable enough. After I grunt "Hello," I plop down in my chair and attend to the responsibilities set before me, all the while wondering why people insist on using the greeting "Good morning!" My boss comes skipping in, glowing like a LiteBrite, ready to tackle the day like a linebacker drilling a quarterback. I just try to duck and move until I finish my task.

I then head down to the snack machine to purchase some nourishment. No coffee for me. I don't see the appeal of drinking dark brown sludge to wake myself up. All I need is some small offering from the Sugary Bread food group. If someone brings in donuts or bagels, all the better. If not, I'll scrounge up a buck to buy a honey bun or some Hostess cupcakes. This delectable treat combined with time to scour the internet for news and baseball scores added to the three hours I've now been awake equals a much more manageable morning. Not a good morning, mind you, but that will have to work.