2004-11-04T21:09:28.440-05:00After nearly a year-and-a-half with Blogger, this will be my last post here. Shallow Center is movin' on up, though not to a deluxe apartment in the sky. No, from here on out you can find my stuff here. And you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. So stop on by and let me know what you think.
2004-11-04T08:37:23.743-05:00Expect a Major Announcement on the future of Shallow Center soon. (Relax, I'm not going into full-time political commentary. I'd like for all of my family and friends to continue speaking to me.) Stay tuned.
2004-11-03T21:42:50.026-05:00The Inquirer is reporting tonight that Charlie Manuel will be introduced formally as the Phillies' next manager tomorrow:
Manuel's two seasons working for the Phillies afforded him the opportunity to gain knowledge of the roster he is taking over. The players also became familiar with him. Manuel has a more easy-going personality than Bowa and several players privately campaigned for him to get the job.
Manuel won out over Jim Leyland, who led the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series titles. Leyland badly wanted the job. He was the final candidate to interview, and he impressed club officials. But in the end, Manuel was the man they wanted.
Interesting note about the players' private campaign. My gut told me Leyland was the better choice, but I'm okay with Manuel. (And Tom Goodman should be really happy.) Much as the Flyers accommodated Keith Primeau & Co. in cashiering Bill Barber, Ed Wade now have given the Phillies players what they wanted. And much as the Flyers told Primeau and his mates that the onus was off Ken Hitchcock and on the guys on the ice, the Phils now must accept that it's put-up or shut-up time.
2004-11-03T12:59:10.426-05:00This is a bit late, but the first annual awards of the Internet Baseball Writers Association have been posted at All-Baseball.com. I'm flattered to have been asked to contribute; my ballot is below:
2004-11-03T16:23:08.406-05:00We the people have just given four additional years to a president who misled the nation into an unnecessary and unjustified war that has fostered, not suppressed, greater terrorism around the globe; who bought off the electorate with a pandering and insignificant middle-class tax cut that served only to hide much larger givebacks to those who need them less; who impugned the valorous war record of his opponent despite using family connections to avoid combat; whose morally bankrupt fiscal policies have created a mammoth budget deficit that our children and grandchildren will be forced to contend with; who gutted essential and effective environmental legislation; who demonizes those who disagree with him rather than engage in dialogue; who ran on a record of compassion and unity, then governed as if his dictionary didn't include those words; who has pathetically little command of the English language; and who claims to be guided by God in his decision-making. How the hell did this happen? Will Saletan of Slate has as good an explanation as any: I think this is the answer: Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. Bush is a very simple man. You may think that makes him a bad president, as I do, but lots of people don't -- and there are more of them than there are of us. If you don't believe me, take a look at those numbers on your TV screen. Think about the simplicity of everything Bush says and does. He gives the same speech every time. His sentences are short and clear. "Government must do a few things and do them well," he says. True to his word, he has spent his political capital on a few big ideas: tax cuts, terrorism, Iraq. Even his electoral strategy tonight was powerfully simple: Win Florida, win Ohio, and nothing else matters. All those lesser states -- Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire -- don't matter if Bush reels in the big ones. This is what so many people like about Bush's approach to terrorism. They forgive his marginal and not-so-marginal screw-ups, because they can see that fundamentally, he "gets it." They forgive his mismanagement of Iraq, because they see that his heart and will are in the right place. And while they may be unhappy about their economic circumstances, they don't hold that against him. What you and I see as unreflectiveness, they see as transparency. They trust him. Now look at your candidate, John Kerry. What quality has he most lacked? Not courage -- he proved that in Vietnam. Not will -- he proved that in Iowa. Not brains -- he proved that in the debates. What Kerry lacked was simplicity. Bush had one message; Kerry had dozens. Bush had one issue; Kerry had scores. Bush ended his sentences when you expected him to say more; Kerry went on and on, adding one prepositional phrase after another, until nobody could remember what he was talking about. Now Bush has two big states that mean everything, and Kerry has a bunch of little ones that add up to nothing.Understand, I'm no Kerry fan. He never stood for anything, changing positions more often than Paris Hilton in front of a videocamera. (Pause for rimshot.) My vote for him was far more a statement against President Bush than any endorsement of Kerry. For the second straight election now, and the fifth of the last seven, the Democrats have saddled the country with what appears to be the safe choice, the guy who looks great on paper but who doesn't understand that leadership -- real, effective leadership -- is intimately tied to human connections. It's not about who's smarter or whose resume is the most glittering; it's about who understands people and their problems. Bill Clinton knew that; Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry didn't. The more I look, the more uneasy American politics makes me. The Republicans have been hijacked by a politically ruthless and deeply troubling secterian wing that has abandoned the party's core principles of fiscal responsibility and limited government.[...]
2004-11-02T12:32:35.090-05:00My 3-year-old daughter proved today that she has a wonderfully engaged civic future ahead of her.
2004-10-31T06:00:10.806-05:00With yesterday's parade in Boston, baseball fans have closed the books on the 2004 season. Yes, there will be plenty of talk over the next few months about free agent signings and trades and managerial changes, but all of that is about next year. We're done with this season.
You don't want the truth because, deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall -- you need me on that wall.
2004-10-27T23:40:23.980-04:00In the space of less than a week, the Boston Red Sox managed to do something no team had done, ever, in well over a century of Major League Baseball, then won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
2004-10-27T13:34:35.680-04:00While the baseball world zeroes in the Red Sox' impending World Series victory -- man, is that a weird phrase to type -- intriguing things happened in Phillies City-State yesterday. Jim Fregosi was in South Philadelphia yesterday to interview for the Phils' vacant managerial post, and Ed Wade confirmed that Jim Leyland would be a candidate as well.
Watching the Sox buzz through the Cardinals is a breathtaking example of design in action. [Sox GM Theo] Epstein wanted a lineup of smart, aggressive hitters. He wanted players with asbestos-covered psyches who could endure the heat of playing in Boston. He wanted depth (the money really helps there). And he wanted a manager with the right temperament to keep it all together.
Also Sam Donnellon in the Daily News:
A year after watching Aaron Boone's home run send his hard work home early, Epstein is one game away from emancipating Red Sox Nation from an 86-year-old curse because he outworked and outthought George Steinbrenner's baseball people in the offseason and inseason, and because he spent more wisely than they.
While the Yankees added two big bats to a lineup already full of them in the offseason, Epstein added another ace in [Curt] Schilling and a reliable, two-inning closer in [Keith] Foulke. While the Yankees assembled a team of aloof professionals who came and went separate from each other, Epstein has, over the past two seasons, constructed a team lauded for its cohesiveness and chemistry.
It's ridiculously easy to point to a winning team and say, "Just do that." But it doesn't hurt to draw some parallels. The high-priced Phillies have spent the last two seasons punching in, playing a lifeless nine innings, and then punching out. Wade's disastrous hiring of Larry Bowa was both a poor baseball decision and a poor "people" decision -- as you watch the Red Sox romp joyfully through the postseason, sucking it up even when things are going badly, you realize that Bowa's Phillies would have imploded immediately when faced with even a fraction of the adversity with which Boston has had to contend. Then there's the Sox' amazing ability to work pitchers through every spot in the lineup (a hallmark of the Fregosi Era, by the way), something the hacking Philadelphians are brutally incapable of.
Yeah, a $125 million roster helps. But $93 should be enough to buy you a team that does better than a 10-GB second-place finish.
2004-10-26T13:15:14.643-04:00As much as I enjoy Ashlee Simpson's pleasant little pop tune "Pieces of Me" -- oh, c'mon, like you don't have any guilty pleasures -- I can't help but cringe at her glaringly inept attempts to control the damage of her disastrous appearance on Saturday Night Live last weekend.
2004-10-25T22:23:20.526-04:00Talk about typecasting. As the dreary and too-long Van Helsing labors toward its conclusion, Hugh Jackman, whom you may recall played Wolverine in two X-Men movies, gets all hirsute and turns into, well, a werewolf.
2004-10-21T16:10:57.440-04:00Why do the Red Sox get a "nation" rooting for them? Go to any big American city outside New England and you'll see at least as many New York caps than Boston ones -- so why no "Yankees Nation"? Surely there's a substantial Chicago diaspora spreading out across this great land, yet you never hear of "Cubs Nation." And God forbid such nonentities as the Royals' and Rockies' fan bases be granted nation status.
2004-10-21T00:16:56.606-04:00They've been playing baseball for a long time -- well over a century -- so for a team to do something that's never been done in the history of the game is a supreme accomplishment.
2004-10-20T13:18:33.063-04:00He's got a mouth the size of Boston Harbor, and an ego to match, but, boy, Curt Schilling sure can back it up, can't he? Pitching on one leg and in obvious discomfort, he called upon all of his skills to shut down the Yankees for seven innings last night, and then the overworked Red Sox bullpen reached into its bag of magic tricks to conjure up two innings of relief that sealed the deal. Schilling's performance was a masterpiece forged of guts and sheer will; can you even imagine Kevin Millwood in a similar situation having the stones to make it through the first inning, let alone seven? Me, either.
2004-10-19T13:50:45.553-04:00How did this happen? How, after a second straight season of bitter disappointment by the hometown nine, am I again transfixed by playoff baseball? Two weeks after writing, "I actually am looking forward to the break," I find myself completely immersed in the league championship series. So much for time off until spring training.
2004-10-15T13:45:29.930-04:00Considering the ubiquity -- and ratings -- of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, conservatives have some nerve whining about the "liberal" media. Even locally, right-leaning Michael Smerconish has becoming something of a civic presence thanks to gigs on a local talk radio station and as a Daily News columnist, and the Inquirer has made a point to run regular op-eds by conservative columnists. But there's no Philadelphia equivalent to the Washington Times, so former Main Line Times editor Kevin Williamson is stepping in to fill the void.
On Smerconish's show, Williamson likened the paper to the Fox News Channel, which he called an alternative to mainstream media.
Williamson, 32, is a motorcycle-riding former Texan described by a former colleague as "scary"-looking, and also "Catholic, very conservative, very bright, very hard-hitting, with a shaved head, and leather pants."
On Smerconish's show, Williamson said Narberth-based investment banker Tom Rice would be the publisher and financier.
Rice is also said to be conservative. He could not be reached yesterday for comment.
In an era when many more newspapers close up shop than crack open a new printing press, the Bulletin's launch is welcome. (Love the name, too -- nice nod to Philly tradition.) Chances are there are a lot of its politics with which I'll disagree, but that's okay -- contrasting voices are a healthy and necessary component of democracy. Best of luck to Mr. Williamson and his partners.
2004-10-14T23:08:55.756-04:00While the blogosphere puts its money on Charlie Manuel as the Phillies' next manager, Bill Conlin chips in with some interesting perspective on Jim Fregosi, the skipper of the fabled and beloved '93 squad, who will interview in a couple of weeks.
The thing was, [Fregosi] gave the appearance of letting the clubhouse police itself, and he knew he had a strong sergeant-at-arms out there, sitting in that rocking chair in front of his locker. At the same time, though, the clubhouse door was always open to anybody who needed to get something heavy off his chest.
Everybody on that club bought into the theme of taking pitches, working counts and making pitchers work from the stretch. For a team that didn't have a lot of home run hitters and lacked overall speed, it was an approach that led to a club record for walks and runs scored. It was no accident.
Look, Manuel probably would be a fine choice. He said all the right things in the papers today. But Fregosi -- who earned points by me with his frank, off-the-record, and fully accurate trashing of WIP and its serious listeners -- is a very intriguing figure. One shouldn't forget that all of the baggage with which he left Philadelphia included a National League championship trophy.
2004-10-12T22:22:14.883-04:00With interviews for the Phillies' managing vacancy beginning today, Phil Sheridan tucks his tongue firmly into his cheek and offers all of the candidates some unsolicited advice in this morning's Inquirer. Humor aside, the real reason for the perilous situation into which the next manager enters can be found in Don Steinberg's Sports Business column today.
Kanter's book is about winning streaks, losing streaks and turnarounds, and she uses examples from the corporate and sports worlds to examine what makes them happen. ...
[S]he found the Eagles, whose tale opens her section on turnarounds.
The book would have you believe that the Eagles' salvation predates the 2004 arrival of Terrell Owens, and that this currently undefeated season has resulted from 10 years of planning. Kanter describes how [Jeffrey] Lurie bought a mediocre team in 1994 for $185 million -- then the most ever paid for an NFL franchise -- and was stunned by how bad it was behind the scenes.
When he first entered the team's Veterans Stadium facilities as the new owner, he thought: "This is an NFL franchise? ... I saw no windows, lighting that could put you to sleep, rats walking across offices, and a lot of unenergetic expressions."
Lurie and Banner set out to instill confidence, which Kanter defines as "positive expectations for a favorable outcome ... . Confidence influences willingness to invest -- to commit money, time, reputation, emotional energy."
They made employees and players feel appreciated with changes such as improving the salary-review process and spending more on player amenities. They hired Andy Reid, who, according to Banner in the book, "plans every minute of every practice" and "doesn't care how much anyone second-guesses him." Reid found player leaders at each position and began meeting with them regularly. ...
The Eagles also built Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex, where, Kanter said, "the beauty of the place affects the spirit of winning."
Compare Kanter's rhapsodic description of the Eagles to the state of the Phillies these days and you begin to understand the last two years of vast underachievement. More than, say, a hard-ass manager and a failure to secure a true No. 1 starter, what besets the Phils -- what is their most significant obstacle to success -- is a systemic organizational dysfunction. It's as if they're hardwired to fail. And I don't think Don Baylor or Grady Little or Charlie Manuel is a sufficiently talented electrician to change that.
2004-10-11T14:41:58.660-04:00The great WXPN and its listeners pride themselves, rightfully, on a cosmopolitan musical worldview that belies Philadelphia's often frustrating parochial mindset. Even if the station gets a bit too impressed with itself (especially at pledge time), the list of superb artists whose work can be found only on 'XPN is staggering, exhaustive, and very, very impressive.
2004-10-10T15:30:01.413-04:00What's the over-under on number of times Fox and ESPN will replay the shot of Pedro Martinez grasping Don Zimmer's head like a cantaloupe and flinging him to the grass? There's going to be an unbearable amount of newspaper ink, broadcast time, and bandwidth devoted to how the Red Sox and Yankees have been "destined" to meet since last year's bloodsport sent New York to the World Series and Boston home to fix its problems with Terry Francona. Whatever. Once again I'll be rooting for the Sox to take it all, in the hopes that a Series victory would finally shut up all of the townies who somehow overlook two Super Bowl championships in three years so that they can engage in a massive, woe-are-us, civic self-pity that has been annoying the rest of America for nearly nine decades now.
2004-10-07T12:40:52.196-04:00Well, so much for not burning any bridges. Larry Bowa never was any good at keeping his pie hole shut, and for the last few days he's been blubbering to any fool with a camera about his supposed mistreatment at the hands of his former employer, the Phillies. And then he does an about-face and admits that, yeah, he'd probably fire himself, too, if he were in Ed Wade's shoes. One wonders whether he employed this kind of consistent communication in his own clubhouse.
2004-10-07T13:03:11.616-04:00If you don't already have a brother-in-law, I highly recommend that you go out and get one. Among various other necessary duties (furniture moving, beer drinking, video-game playing, etc.), he will accompany you to devastatingly bad movies that your spouse doesn't want to see.
2004-10-05T13:14:41.530-04:00Larry Bowa is gone, the Phillies have hunkered down to discuss his replacement, and the mainstream media and blogosphere alike have fingered everyone but Steve Bartman as the cause for yet another doomed season. It's all so ... numbing. Backward, clueless, and incapable of innovative thinking, the Phils squandered an absolutely golden opportunity to reintroduce baseball to Philadelphia. Most years I can overlook the futility, enjoy postseason action, and eagerly anticipate next year; now, though, I feel so beaten down by the drudgery of the season, after such high expectations, that I actually am looking forward to the break. I'll be back at Citizens Bank Park next year, of course, but with a much more guarded enthusiasm. I wore my heart on my sleeve this year -- new ballpark, new closer, returning stars, etc. -- only to get it broken like a high school sophomore's. Not next year, boyo. Next year I'm playing hard to get.
2004-10-03T07:04:32.690-04:00There, now, Ed Wade, that wasn't so hard, was it? After yesterday's reports that Larry Bowa would be jettisoned next week -- file under "No S---, Sherlock" -- Bowa stomped into Wade's office and demanded to know his status. This was hardly a new phenomenon during this lost season, but this time Wade finally found some stones and told Bowa what he should have told him this time last year -- take a hike.
2004-10-01T13:41:29.686-04:00The Daily News yesterday asked its three baseball guys, Bill Conlin, Marcus Hayes, and Paul Hagen, how to fix the Phillies. Their respective responses left me wondering not how the team should be fixed, but whether it even can be. Conlin, examining the front office, flat-out advises fans to "get used to the odor of serial failure." He notes that Ed Wade, who's failed thus far to get the job done, will not have the largesse of additional revenue streams to count on, as he did the last two off-seasons; the list of potential replacements for Larry Bowa is "underwhelming"; big boppers Jim Thome and Pat Burrell failed to deliver the huge seasons expected of them; and the farm system has been critically stripped of usable parts in failed attempts to land patches for the holes that appeared in 2003 and 2004. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play? Hagen looks at the pitching staff and counsels Wade to consider retaining Kevin Millwood if the price is right, let Eric Milton walk, try to deal the erratic Vicente Padilla, hold on to Brett Myers, wait for Randy Wolf to bounce back from his injury-marred 2004, give Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson shots to start, bring back Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell, Rheal Cormier, and Felix Rodriguez; and wave bye-bye to Todd Jones and Roberto Hernandez. On the Cory Lidle question, Hagen puts his arms up in the air and says he doesn't know what to do. Left unsaid is that these recommendations do nothing to address the glaring lack of a No. 1 starter which so plagued the Phils this year. Hayes, taking up the lineup, offers this gem: "You hope." With seven of eight position players locked into roles that make them either cornerstones or untradable (Mike Lieberthal), you have what you have, with Chase Utley an immediate insert for Placido Polanco at second and Mystery Player X in centerfield: Maybe Jason Michaels, but more likely a low-cost veteran free agent whose offensive input will be coincidental. "We're not prepared to dismantle the lineup and make wholesale changes," general manager Ed Wade said. "We need the players we have to perform at the level we've seen them perform at in the past."If this sounds familiar, it's because Wade has said these very words countless times over the last two seasons. I'll bet he simply clicked "Play" on his tape recorder when Hayes asked the question so that he didn't have to actually say the words yet again. Maybe these last two years haven't reflected underachievement; the sample size of games is sufficiently large now to wonder whether what we've seen out of the Phillies is not a failure to play to potential, but as good as it gets. As Hagen observes today, the Phillies absolutely must convey an impression of urgency to the repair task. There are way too many recent examples of teams that moved into beautiful new parks, stumbled immediately, and now play in front of acres of empty seats. Should the perception become that David Montgomery & Co. are content to sit back and count their money instead of roll up their sleeves and fix the mess, Hagen writes,nobody will blame fans if they approach any moves made this time around, no matter how glittering and promising they appear on the surface, with a certain amount of skepticism. The Phillies have to find a way to spiff up their image, to convince people that they really do care more about winning than counting their money after yet another sellout. An[...]