All posts by CarterHayes

FKB: Whistle Down the Wind

I don't often miss work, but I was out of the office for a couple of hours last month. It was March 17th, which to some might be St. Patrick's Day, but which to me is my grandfathers' birthday. Yes, both maternal & paternal; neither Papa or Gramps descended from remotely Irish stock.

I was late to work because I had gone in to see the doctor. Not my doctor, who was booked for nearly a month out, but a nurse practitioner working at the same clinic, but who I had never seen before. I was there not because I was called in for labs or an annual exam, but because I needed to know if I needed to start planning for dying.

Since January I'd had some impingement in my right armpit. I first noticed it when I kept pulling at the sleeves of my shirts & sweaters, trying to stop what felt like binding under my arm. It took me a little while to give up on the idea that it was my clothes, or because I didn't fit them anymore, that was causing the problem. I scratched my head for a day or two.

Then I noticed that I had lost some range of motion, and that it felt like there was something in my armpit that was limiting my movement. I couldn't put my finger on what it might be, and examining my axilla just reminded me that I had to look up the technical name for "armpit." The anatomy that lay underneath was mostly a mystery, save for one very worrying set of organs. I puzzled on the motion problem for a couple more weeks. When my forearm started hurting below the elbow, I knew I had to do something.

The first thing I did was tell Mrs. Hayes that I needed to see the doc, and why. Then I told her what was scaring me – the sensation that there was something, possibly swollen, in my armpit that was causing some problems with my arm. And that my paternal grandmother had died of lymphoma at 61. I didn't need to remind Mrs. Hayes that cancer claimed Pops at 52, or that one of Pops' sons, my half-brother, is a leukemia survivor. So I made the an appointment with a stranger possessing a medical license to find out if I was dying.

Her answer was pretty definitive. She could not find any sign that my lymph nodes were inflamed in a way that might be causing the impingement. No signs of lymphoma, she said. She prescribed self-directed PT, figuring I had strained some connective tissues and was experiencing referred problems in my forearm as a result of compensating. She observed I had a toddler at home who I likely lifted with improper technique a few times too many. I didn't need her to tell me I had a kid at home, because that kid was the thing I was most afraid of losing.

Later, in an unguarded moment, I told my bosses about my "scare." (Does it really count as a scare? I dunno, but I can tell you I was more scared than I've been in a long time.) One of them told me the story of a serious car accident she'd survived. A bystander observed to her, after it was evident she'd escaped without a scratch, that it was "probably a birthday of sorts" for her. Indeed.

What do you do when life reminds you that the endless treadmill of waking up, getting out the door, working, commuting, daycare pick-up, supper, and evening chores will end one day, possibly abruptly? What do you do when you are reminded that your time with the people you care most about is running out at a mostly imperceptible rate? What do you do to make sure that the treadmill and other distractions don't steal special moments that you can't get back or replace? I thought a lot about these questions while I was waiting to find out if arriving at some concrete answers was a matter of urgent necessity.

Thankfully, I am not in immediate danger. The genetic IEDs inside my body are, at least for now, armed but un-detonated. Still, I could be hit by a Mack truck tomorrow. I could swallow a fly. I could get shot by a man in Reno. (This last seems somewhat avoidable.) But I realize I haven't done a good enough job about thinking who in my life (apart from my wife) I would want to entrust with the most precious person I've ever met if I'm not going to be around. I need to find an answer to that question while I'm still around to answer it myself.

Some questions for the new or recent parents out there: If you're a new or recent parent, how much planning for the worst have you done? What did you find helpful or comforting in that process?

For the seasoned parents/parents of adult children: How did your planning change as your children grew up? How are you planning now?

For all: How did you interrupt the treadmill of everyday life to enjoy the fleeting moments of being with your kids? What would you do over again? What do you want to change about what you're doing now?

1987 ALCS Champs’ Domecoming

I found this gem shortly after JeffA started his 1987 Rewind. This evening seemed like the appropriate time to share it. I didn't want to detract from Jeff's content, and in any case figured there were enough goodies that this would be worth its own post. Hope you don't mind, Chaps.

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World Baseball Challenge

No doubt inspired by the upcoming World Baseball Classic and his new MLB.com gig, JoePos threw down a couple pretty interesting challenges for his readers the other day:

Challenge One:

Try to beat my lineup and starting pitcher — with this caveat. Every player in the lineup and the pitcher must be active and born in a different country. So you have 10 players — 9 in the lineup (including DH) and starting pitcher.

Bonus point: Add a closer from a different country.

Challenge Two:

Come up with a 25-man roster that beats mine where all 25 players are born in different countries. This one you don’t have to just use active players, you can go back as far back in history as you like.

Bonus point: Get a manager who is from a different country.

Hint: All territories count as separate countries … Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, etc.

JoePos hasn't posted his lineup or roster yet, nor has he detailed his criteria for "best." He did add a few provisos: Only a player's MLB time counts, and a player "must be viable at the position you put him at, including the specific three outfield spots." As I put my submission together I realized how tricky it was to get all the right pieces for a 25-man roster. It certainly forces some hard choices, which I think say a lot about your philosophy & approach to building a roster.

I'll spoiler my roster and observations below, but feel free to post your own active lineup or full roster. This seemed like a fun way to limber up for some quadrennial international baseball.

'My 25-Man/Country Roster' SelectShow
'Things I Learned' SelectShow

Clyde Stubblefield – Funk Thing

You don't have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got... Don't turn it loose, 'cause it's a mother. - James Brown to Clyde Stubblefield

Some drummers are all pyrotechnics. Some are all power. Others are rock-solid consistent. Not many could play one little twenty second break immersed in a ten-minute impromptu vamp and make an irresistible, booty-shakin' force that changes the landscape of music forever. There are probably more people in the world today who have – whether they realize it or not – heard a Clyde Stubblefield break or vamp than people who haven't. The Funky Drummer laid the rhythmic foundation of five decades and counting of the most popular music the world has ever known.

Bonus: Clyde and Jabo solo, together.

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03 January 2017: Pick Three

Over the extended weekend I listened through my backlog of Effectively Wild episodes. Co-host Sam Miller is leaving the podcast after 1000 episodes (reading between the lines, his new employer - the 4ltr - made him quit). He'll be replaced by Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs; the podcast is also moving from BP to Fangraphs.

Episode 999 was a listener question show. A listener who is renovating his office asked for suggestions for three iconic photos that represent baseball's history & greatness. The hosts observed that their top three photos of historic/great moments might not be photos of the top three moments in their lives as fans. Either way, what are yours?

William Tyler – Highway Anxiety

This is not William Tyler's WGOM debut; last year Bootsy spun "Geography of Nowhere," a cut from Tyler's 2013 album Impossible Truth. He released his follow-up album, Modern Country, this June. Tyler wrote it in Oxford, Mississippi, and recorded it in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

For me the album evokes a contemporary perspective on Gram Parsons' Cosmic American Music, a genre that blurs country, folk, rock, soul, and bluegrass. Jazz is very much Tyler's addition to this mix – you can hear guitar greats Chet Atkins, Les Paul, and Bill Frisell in this track as much as Parsons' take on country-rock. Listen hard enough and you'll hear some Link Wray & Dick Dale, too.

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Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man in a White World

Michael Kiwanuka's Love & Hate is one of my favorite albums of the year, and the above cut seems particularly apt social commentary and a fitting spin after Pepper's selection yesterday. If you're inclined, the live studio track below is excellent, but I didn't think it qualified by the (unofficial?) live recording convention for WGOM videos.

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Falvey, Philosophy, & the Future

"Good pitching beats good hitting," the saying goes. "TINSTAAPP," might be the rejoinder.

Derek Falvey no longer works for the reigning American League Champions. As of today Falvey is in charge of the worst team in baseball. The newly-installed Executive Vice President & Chief Baseball Officer of the Minnesota Twins, Falvey has been credited with a substantial role in the development of the pitching program that provided the bedrock of his former team's success. He announced his first hire, Thad Levine, who will be the Twins' General Manager and Senior Vice President. Levine's previous duties in Texas included international scouting, player acquisition, roster composition, contract negotiations, and statistical/financial analysis. Rob Antony, the now-former interim GM, was considered the contracts expert in former GM Terry Ryan's cadre of longtime assistants and former GMs. Antony's new duties have not yet been defined. The continued involvement of Terry Ryan, Bill Smith, Wayne Krivsky, Mike Radcliff, Deron Johnson, Brad Steil, and even Jack Goin appear to be open questions.

As I contemplated the rosters of Cubs and their opponent last night, I felt the first major question of this new era of Twins baseball hit my mind with full force:

Will the Twins follow the pattern of Falvey's old team and stress the development of a raft young pitchers as the prime motivator of a run at contention. The Twins' ballpark might be well-suited to this approach, but the volatility of young arms suggests a substantial amount of assumed risk in that strategy.

Or will Falvey shift gears and attempt to fix a player development program that has left talented young position players spinning their wheels in a constant revolving door between Minnesota and the minor leagues? Said another way, will Falvey's plan be to develop a core of talented young position players like the Cubs, and then buttress it with a pitching staff assembled through smart acquisitions and signings?

Of course, it's simply too early to know. What we'll learn about Falvey's roster construction approach first will be informed by the more mundane, familiar offseason questions: Which veterans are tendered a contract? How does the club approach and weather arbitration? What does the front office say about the 2017 roster?

But it seems worth discussing, in the (small?) window we have before things begin to take shape under Falvey's guidance, the merits and pitfalls of each approach, or how – and to what degree – we might like to see them applied to the organization. This is a pivotal moment in the existence of our favorite franchise. It's the first gust of truly fresh air through a front office that has been intellectually stagnant & compositionally fetid for over a decade, a front office that was working off a plan that traced its origin back to the mid-1980s and its conventions back to pre-integration baseball. The twenty-first century, it seems, may have finally arrived for the Minnesota Twins.

The clubs that concluded the World Series last night offer two compelling patterns. For the first time in a long while, there is an exciting amount of uncertainty around the Twins.