Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cooperstown

I received an email from a friend asking about my trip to Cooperstown, as he is planning to go next year for Ripken's induction. After I had written him a novel in response, I figured this type of thing would be entirely appropriate for a blog entry. I've been on vacation, and now I'm back in school. Hopefully the The Hustle will be up and running more consistently from this point on.

Here is the email I received:

Hey Barry,

How's everything going .... busy with law school and married life I'm sure?

Looking for some help, or advice, about planning a trip to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame inductions next summer. I know you told me you to Puckett and Winfield's induction. We are going this summer for Ripken and Gwynn's induction, we've been planning this since the day Cal retired so we're excited. So I'm looking for some info to help with planning this trip ....... how did you get tickets to the ceremony, did you do a ticket package deal for everything (flight, hotel, etc.), did you become HOF members (like we saw that if you pay the annual membership fee it gets you tickets to the ceremony as well as other perks), did you fly /drive there, where did you stay, do we need a rental car to see different things and places, are there any special attractions you'd suggest we definitely see, how are the general admission seats on the grass or is is worth trying to get the vip chair seating that they offer for a higher price, how early do you have to get in line for general admission seats and is it possible that the general admission seating ever fills up to where they have to turn people away, do you suggest taking a shuttle / cab or is there decent parking for cars, is there enough to do and see to make it a 5 day vacation instead of a quick weekend vacation, do you and your wife want to babysit our girls to see if you're ready for your own kids .... just kidding, hmmmmm anything else you can think of that would be helpful at all please let us know.

I know you're busy so thanks a ton for any info you can help us with. Hope all is going well. Later.


Here is my response:

Everything is going well. Back at school for one more year. I’m ready to be done.

I’m delighted to help you in any way possible. Here are answers to some of your questions.

We drove out to Cooperstown. It was about 20-24 hours (from Northwestern), but we went through the U.P. and down through Michigan on the way there. We actually came back the same way, but we went through Canada and saw Niagra Falls (a convenient landmark worth stopping for if you decide to drive).

We got tickets from an old guy sitting on his porch. We happened to park next to his house. I’m assuming he was a HOF member. It was pure luck, otherwise we would have been in the general admission (which is free). The tickets get you quite a bit closer, and they also get you chairs, which was nice. General admission is huge. It’s all in a big field, and there is a hill towards the back, so you can see. There are also large TV monitors. I think the state of Minnesota was there when I was there, so I really doubt anyone would have to be turned away. It’s a big field.

We stayed at Glimmerglass State Park, just north of Cooperstown on Lake Ostego. (Cooperstown is on the south part of the lake—the “Finger Lakes” as they are called in Upstate NY are beautiful). It was an excellent campground, and it was cheap. Again, it was just dumb luck that we even got a site; it was the last one they had, otherwise we were sleeping in cars. I really think that camping was part of the great experience. The lake is beautiful and has a nice beach. My two buddies and I actually organized a huge waffle ball game with pretty much every kid at the campground.

We were there for several days. Each day, we just drove from the campground (8 miles) into Cooperstown. I’m not sure where we parked each day, but I’m guessing we just parked on one of the side streets. We did have to walk a long ways on the day of the ceremony, as parking close to the ceremony is not easy. As you walk, though, you’ll see numerous signs demanding that Don Mattingly be inducted (I tend to agree—he was a better baseball player than Derek Jeter, and Jeter is in for sure). As far as I remember, we went to the HOF one day. I’m pretty sure it is a full day activity. The rest of the time, we just walked around the city and checked out all the stores and museums (we told girls we were in a band called Burnt Quiche, but none of them would come back to the tent L). Catch a game at Doubleday Field. That is pretty cool. Also, there is a dinner the night before the Ceremony. ALL the HOFamers ride a trolly to the museum, and I think they get announced (not sure). We were able to watch that, so we got to see pretty much all the living HOFamers up close. I think we ate strombolis at Sal’s Pizzeria pretty much every meal. I wouldn’t recommend that, but I would recommend that you eat there once. It was good then, but I was 19. There is SOOO much baseball. The whole town is baseball. I don’t think you’ll get bored.

I think my two buddies and I were IN Cooperstown for 3 days (2 days of driving—we didn’t stop), for a total of a 5 day trip. I know we wished we could have stayed there longer. Cooperstown has tons of stuff to do, but the surrounding area is so beautiful and scenic that you may want to spend some time exploring, if you are into stuff like that. If you are dropping off the girls with us, then you and your wife should definitely spend at least 3-4 full days there. When I take Mrs. Metro there, we’ll probably go for 7 days, including driving time.

I’ll have to dig up some pictures from our trip. Below are some links you may find useful. I wish I could tell you more about travel and accommodations, but you two seem like the type who wouldn’t mind camping. I would recommend it, and I probably would think about reserving something fairly soon.

http://www.cooperstownchamber.org/
http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/info.asp?parkID=22

Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions. As you can see, I’m more than happy to talk about it. There is no question it was one of the best times of my life. I hope what is here is useful.

Take care. Hope to see you soon.


B. Metro

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wasting Time on the Internet II

I decided to build on old entry, making Wasting Time on the Internet an occasional addition to Hustling Metropolis. Here’s the deal: I’ll peruse the net, then when I find something interesting, I’ll give it to you.

AL Contenders

This first is a piece written by Bill Simmons for espn.com. Bill Simmons is pretty funny, so I thought this article about AL contenders was well done. I’m not sure why it warrants being the lead link on my new segment, but here it is.

Bill Plaschke is still an idiot

This article from FJM is pure hilarity. A few weeks ago, I wrote in this space that Bill Plaschke was an idiot. Sure enough, he writes a beautiful piece of prose that http://firejoemorgan.blogspot.com/2006/08/best-ever.html) while listening to Lavelle E. Neal III on KFAN a few weeks ago. First, LEN3 may be the best baseball writer that I read. He’s a beat writer, so he is actually into analysis and not formulating astute, one-sentence paragraphs like Plaschke. Cool Standings shows you up to date percentages of teams chances of making the playoffs. Those percentages are “smart,” meaning they are adjusted for certain factors to increase accuracy. They don’t really mean anything, but it is neat to know that Twins currently have a 48.8% chance of making the playoffs—better than the White Sox (40%).

Cool Standings

I heard about this website (www.coolstandings.com) while listening to Lavelle E. Neal III on KFAN a few weeks ago. First, LEN3 may be the best baseball writer that I read. He’s a beat writer, so he is actually into analysis and not formulating astute, one-sentence paragraphs like Plaschke. Cool Standings shows you up to date percentages of teams chances of making the playoffs. Those percentages are “smart,” meaning they are adjusted for certain factors to increase accuracy. They don’t really mean anything, but it is neat to know that Twins currently have a 48.8% chance of making the playoffs—better than the White Sox (40%).

It's Boof's World...

This blog entry by Boof is a few weeks old, but it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read on the internet. Be cautious: if this was HBO, it would be labeled as having AC (Adult Content). Of course, it is the adult content which makes it so funny.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Matt Garza: Start 2

I’m going to throw together some notes that I think of as the game goes along, while also attempting to get some work done. Think I can do it? Eh.

First inning was rough, but Matty escaped any real damage. Struck out Sizemore to start the inning. He’s still having trouble getting his offspeed over, though he did throw a few nice changeups in fastball counts.

Second inning was more of the same. He left a curve way up, and it got hit hard up the middle.

Torii Hunter is obviously in pain; either that, or he has regressed as a defensive player incredibly quickly. Hector Luna’s ball to the gap fell at his feet in a Shannon Stewart-like play. Then, he failed to cut it off, leading to Garko scoring from first and Luna getting a triple. With Hunter, that used to be an out. Now, he turns it from a single to a triple. That was disappointing, and Garza really could have used it. If Hunter is hurt, then he shouldn’t play. Right now, he’s not an asset at the plate, and (dare I say it?) he may be a liability in the field. I never thought I’d say that.

How does someone like Paul Byrd get anyone out? More importantly, how does he only allow one hit in three innings? I hate when the Twins make thumbers like Byrd look like Walter Johnson.

Garza appears to have settled down in the 4th inning. He threw more offspeed pitches, including a nice slider to get Luna. He got ahead. He’s got 4 Ks in 4 innings, which is nice to see. He’s not a smoke-and-mirrors type pitcher; he can miss bats.

I write this knowing that Travis Hafner is coming up, but Garza did a great job against the first two hitters of this inning. He made Gutierrez looks stupid on two consecutive pitches, including a nasty slider down and in to him out. He walked Hafner, then he got ahead of Martinez with a perfect fastball on the black and a very nice curve. I’m assuming he is done now after 5 innings. His line will look like this: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K. He got 9 of the last 10 batters he faced. 5 Ks in 5 innings is very good. He now has 7 Ks in 7.2 innings, which means he has still been able to strike people out, despite the jump from AAA to the Majors.

The best part about Garza’s start is the way he settled down. I think the first few innings were just an extension of his first start; he was still nervous and hesitant to go away from his fastball. I can see how that would happen, as he never really got a chance to settle in on Friday. That he was still out of his element is no surprise.

Another positive note from Garza’s start is that he only gave up one extra base hit out of the 5 hits. And that triple should have been a single, or even an out, had Torii Hunter either (a) not been hurt, (b) cut the ball off, or (c) just caught the damn ball.

So far, Garza’s early appearances have been similar to Liriano’s starts last year. He, too, threw too many pitches and got beat by the long ball on occasion. However, Liriano came up later and was not pitching during a playoff push. I would imagine that Garza feels significantly more pressure than Liriano did last September.

I was pretty sure that Willie Eyre wouldn’t be on the team by this point in the season. He just hasn’t been very good. Now he’s pitching in what I would call a winnable and important situation for the Twins. The pen got used a little last night, but I’m still surprised that Eyre is pitching when the Twins still have a chance to win.

Eyre just struck out Andy Marte to pitch around JB’s error. Atta boy, Willie.

Can Paul Byrd break a pane of glass with that fastball? Seriously. This is embarrassing. Mauer has looked especially awful. He’s been sawed off by an ugly cutter twice. I could puke.

Once again the bullpen has been dominant. They’ve given us a chance to win, now we just need to find a way to get a few runs of Paul Effing Byrd.

Well, the Twins lost. I went to the bank because I couldn’t take it anymore.

Huge series against the Whities coming up, starting tomorrow. Go Twins.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Vikings should probably give up already

The last two days have been awful for our Minnesota Vikings. First, Chad Greenway was lost for the year with a torn ACL. In preseason. Covering a kickoff. Linebacker has not been—and currently is NOT—one of the Vikes stronger positions. That’s why they took Greenway. To know he won’t even play a down this year is more than disappointing. I guess we’ll have to rely on the usual suspects (Napoleon Harris, E.J. Henderson, Dontarrious Thomas… gross) to shore up the linebacking core. Greenway probably wasn’t going to be a hero in Year 1, but he sure would have been a welcome addition, and it would have been nice to see him develop and improve over the course of the season.

Then this morning, I open up http://www.startribune.com/, as I usually do, and see “Vikings Koren Robinson in Nicollet County jail.” Barry says, “You’ve gotta be effing kidding me.” Now, I really don’t know where Nicollet County is, but I know being in jail there can’t be good. It appears Robinson decided to get hammered and run from the cops in an attempt to beat his dorm curfew in Mankato. (Blame the curfew issue on Chilly?) That was a bad choice. Battling alcohol problems, Robinson’s choice to unscrew the cap or crack the can was a bad choice.

Obviously, Robinson’s circumstance is different from Greenway’s. One’s injury was part of the nature of the game. The other has continually harmed himself. The internal debate I feel is this: should we feel bad for Koren Robinson. Now, I’m a big “accountability” guy. When someone messes up, it is their fault, and they must pay the consequences. Robinson messed up. He should pay the consequences. Nonetheless, I feel bad for him. He’s done everything you’d expect from a guy with an alcohol problem. He went to rehab. He supposedly checked himself in again to make himself “bulletproof” earlier this summer. He admitted his problem, and he admitted to trying to deal with it. Despite any precautions he apparently took, he failed. He messed up again, big-time. Did he want to do it? Or was the urge too much? To me, the latter seems correct. He knew what was at stake and what he had to lose. He seemed to want to get back to being a great receiver in the NFL. He couldn’t stop himself from drinking. And that’s sad.

Sadly, these are things I’ve come to expect from the Purple and Gold. My dad always says before each season that this will be the season. This will be the season that he will stop caring. He will enjoy his Sunday afternoons, rather than spending it on the couch watching a team that has let him down every year since… since, well, he started watching the Vikings, I’m assuming as a kid some time in the Sixties. He won’t have his Sunday ruined when the Vikings lose. He will stop caring (I know how he feels; I have the same problem with the Gophers, Twins, and, to a very slightly lesser extent, the Vikings). However, there is one problem. He can’t. I can’t. We can’t stop caring. Despite recent events, like fools we hold out hope the Chilly will turn it around. I have more faith in him than if these same events occurred under Ticey. Time will tell, I guess. Such is life as a Vikings fan.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Weekend Update: Paavo Nurmi

Mrs. Metro and I spent the weekend in lovely Hurley, Wisconsin. We teamed up to run the Paavo Nurmi Marathon, relay edition. The beautiful Mrs. Metropolis ran the first half-marathon. I gimped along for the remaining 13.1 miles.

Actually, Hurley is not all that lovely. Nothing against anyone who lives in Hurley--I know a guy from there--but Hurley must be what southern Mississippi looks like. The drive there kindof prepares you for what to expect, however. You start in Superior. Now, Superior is no gem per se. I (affectionately) refer to Superior as the "armpit of Wisconsin," based on its geographic location. However, Superior is Edina compared to Hurley.

As you travel along U.S. Highway 2, things begin to look a little poorer. The yards become a little more unkempt. The number of burned-out vehicles increases. Blink and you'll miss Poplar. Same with Maple and Brule. Iron River looks a little more Hurley-esque. Then you go through Ashland (mini-Superior) and the Indian reservation. Once you get to the Hurley, you've traveled through enough poverty and rural sprawl that you'd think you'd be mentally prepared. You'd think... Hurley has alot of strip bars. Alot. It even has a bar that offers "cage dancers." Really. It has alot of cheap motels. They don't offer an hourly rate, but I'm sure you could get one. Not a single business manages to maintain an inviting exterior. Hurley is truly a unique experience. It has to be a direct result of its extreme closeness to Ironwood, Michigan and the Upper Penninsula. Man, I hate Yoopers.

Despite the strange, "Twilight Zone" feeling you get from Hurley, the Paavo Nurmi Marathon is really a great race. It is small, unlike other well-known marathons like Twin Citites or Grandma's. It usually only attracts the most dedicated runners, as it is in August (no, it does not snow in Northern Wisconsin in August) and is a difficult course. I had ran the whole thing a few years back. I was very happy to only be on the hook for only half.

Mrs. Metro ran a nice race. I didn't do too bad either. We both knew we weren't in outstanding shape. I was tired after about 4 miles and wanted to quit. In fact, I can't remember the last road race I've ran where I didn't considering just giving up.

Some notes from the trip/marathon:

McDonalds is incredibly good to eat after you've exerted alot of energy.

I saw a guy running in a speedo, with a cigarette in his mouth, and a beer in his hand. It is not something to which one man should subject another man. Or woman. Not so much the beer. He looked tired. I think he was part of the 5 mile relay. One could only imagine the chaffing that could result from that attired if he was running the whole marathon. At least he didn't have to worry about bloody nipples.

Paavo Nurmi is nice because there are fewer people to tell you "you're almost there!" when you have 3 miles left to run. For those of you who have run marathons, three miles to go is not "almost there."

I wanted to watch Friday's Twins game, so I went down to the Hotel Bar to see if they got FSN North there. The following conversation took place:

Barry: Do you get Fox Sports Net here?

Madame Bartender: Huh... what?

Barry: Fox Sports Net?

Bartender: What do you want to watch?

Barry: Do you get the Twins games here?

Bartender: The who? What channel?

Barry: Fox Sports Net?

Bartender: You mean Fox?

Barry: No, it's actually Fox Sports Net.

Bartender: Fox?

Local Townie (5:00 Friday paycheck spender): Yeah, I think we get that channel. It's an actual diff'ernt channel than just Fox. I think it's in the sixties. Look for, uh, FSC, er something.

I'm not sure if they even knew what baseball was in Hurley. They certainly had never watched Fox Sports Net. I get the feeling that people from Hurley don't get out too much.

Oh, by the way, they had FSN, but not Twins FSN--rather Detroit FSN. I missed Garza's crappy start. No big loss there.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

30... Finally!

I was watching the game tonight. My wife was doing her homework (summer class). It was the top of the 8th. Mauer drew a walk. Cuddy struck out. Then Morneau hit a 101 MPH fastball out of the park. I screamed like a little girl. I scared the holy crap out of my wife. Justin Morneau had done a lot of important things with one tremendous swing. He gave the Twins the lead in a huge rubber matchup with the Tigers. He got Johan off the hook for the loss (after he had pitched a tremendous game marred by one bad pitch to Brandon Inge... ugh). He drove in his 100th and 101st runs of the season. And he hit his 30th homer.

I will be very happy if I never have to hear about the Twins amazing ineptitude ever again. To make matters worse, Dick Bremer mentioned that some "very good hitters" had played for the Twins and failed to reach 30 homers. He mentioned Kirby Puckett... sure, great hitter, but not a power hitter. Then it got worse. Chilli Davis. He played one season with the Twins. He was a decent power hitter, but nothing special. Then it got bad. Marty Cordova? Seriously Dick? That is as much as you can come up with? Marty Cordova? This is pathetic. I guess it's not really Bremer's fault for the Twins abject failure to develop a power hitter, but to cite Cordova as even a very good hitter is frigging embarrassing.

So it was a great night. We took 2 of 3 from the Tigers on the road. I made it home from work despite every piece of heavy machinery being trailored down I-35. Matt Garza is starting Friday. I'm pumped.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Twins Thoughts

Tonights victory was great. I didn't watch it (baseball practice), but it was nice to see Radke come through with a huge start like he does so often. I'll never forget him shutting down the Sox in September 2003 when it looked like the Twins were on the verge of collapse.

Nick Punto is playing awesome. He had two more doubles. The question has came up regarding his future at third base. Optimally, you'd like to get significantly more power out of that position. However, if he can continue to get on base at a clip near .400, I think he's valuable. That way, he'll put up an OPS of around .800, which is acceptable, especially in combination with his great defense. I don't think Lil Poon has a long future here. Depending on the health of Luis Castillo and the development of Alexi Casilla, he could be a great fit at 2B for a couple of years. Of course, that depends on whether the Twins can acquire/develop a third baseman. I don't have alot of confidence in Matt Moses at the moment. In addition, as a small/mid-market team, you don't pay money to guys like Poony when they are easily replaceable by younger, cheaper talent.

In April in this space, I complained about the quality of at bat the Twins were taking. It was dreadful. In April, the team OBP was .311, bad enough for 13th in the AL. That is a terrible number. In May, it was .342, a marked improvement. In June, .360, good enough for 3rd in the AL (behind only Boston and Toronto--two teams with a Sabermetric bent). Since the All-Star Break, the Minnesota Twins LEAD THE LEAGUE in OBP, at .387. That is an astounding number. Joe Vavra has to be given some credit for this incredible improvement. The quality of at bat has improved, from batters one through nine. Taking two out-making machines like Juan Castro and Tony Batista out of the lineup (and exchanging them for Bartlett and Punto, who both get on more than 40% of the time) is automatically going to help, but the impact Vavra has had on Morneau, Cuddyer, and Punto seems obvious. There is only one remaining "hacker" in the lineup: Torii Hunter, who upon learning of Vavra's hiring in the offseason said there was nothing Vavra could teach him. Hmm. The consistent improvement in offense leads me to believe that whatever Vavra is doing is working as people understand it and grasp it. And the Twins really need to get on base at a high clip because they have a distinct lack of power. By the way, Joe Vavra was the coach at UW-Stout when I was playing for UW-River Falls back in 2002.

Tomorrow's rubber match is huge. Here's to hoping that Johan finds himself because without Liriano, we need him more than ever.

Oh, and Matt Garza is coming up!! I can't believe I'm going to miss his first start.

Baseball Practice, Tuesday Nights at Ted Whereatt

I just got married a few months ago, but my job requires that I work roughly 150 miles from my June bride. It's not easy, but my brother lets me live with him a few nights a week. It works out well because we can do brotherly things like eat steak and watch the Twins. My wife likes the Twins but not steak. She also makes me use eating utinsels. My brother doesn't mind if we each gnaw on one end of a t-bone.

The best thing we do is have baseball practice. I picked up the game again after four years off, so I need as much work as possible. Every Tuesday night around 6:00 we head for Ted Whereatt Field, the University of Wisconsin-Superior's (crappy) baseball field. Now, you may be asking, "Two dudes for baseball practice? How can you practice with two people?" Answer: you can. And it's fun.

Our practice routine is very typical. I throw in a pinch of Skoal because I wanna be a baseball player (sorry Mom). Then we throw for 20 minutes. My arm is usually too sore from pitching on Sundays to really stretch it out and get a good long toss.

Then we take grounders. I was a catcher/pitcher in high school and a catcher in college. I'm tired of catching, so I've really been trying to make myself into a decent infielder. I've taken a ton of grounders this summer, and I'm getting a little better. We could really use a third person so we could make throws across the diamond.

Then we take some BP. I bought a maple bat on Ebay about two months ago. It still hasn't arrived, and I'm pretty pissed about that. The season is obviously almost over. So we end up using a very old, cracked Easton Reflex C-Core. Not only is it cracked, but it is certainly not up to BESR Certification, with its 2 3/4" barrel and -5 oz. drop. It's also a 32", which is a bit short for my tastes. We could also use a few more balls for BP. My brother is known for his erratic arm, so of our eight balls, I usually only get four pitches to hit.

So baseball can be played with two people, and you can have a legitimate practice. It all supports my theory that baseball is really fun.

Doom and Gloom

The Twins lost to the Tigers tonight. They lost badly. Unfortunately, that's not the worst part. It's not even close to the worst part.

Liriano was getting knocked around from the start, and that really pissed me off. Teams shouldn't get hits off of Liriano, much less four runs in four innings. Again, this poor pitching performance is not the bad part. It gets much, much worse.

Fran's elbow hurt. His effing left elbow--the one that is (was?) going to dominate the league for years to come--hurts. He knows something is messed up, evidenced by his post-game interview. This is really bad news. Let's just hope it is something minor. And if it is not minor, lets hope he isn't the next Mark Prior.

If these Twins make the playoffs with all these odds stacked against them, it will be truly remarkable. Go Twins, anyways, I guess.