Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunburn on the backs of my knees

Here is what I did this weekend:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lessons Learned

So, in case you're not from where I'm from and you wanted a quick primer on at least some of what Minnesota (and parts of Wisconsin) is "like." Here is a quick fact for you:

I have twice nearly run out of gas while AT a gas station. Both times were hunting-related.

In the first instance, I was a high school pizza delivery driver and so quite often running on fumes from town to town while waiting for my next two dollar tip. In this case I had just delivered an extra large with extra pepperoni to the bar in Shieldsville, and rolled into the only gas station for about 10 miles. The needle was already on zero. Sadly, that day, the local owners of the station had "Gone Hunting." Luckily much of Montgomery is downhill from much of Shieldsville and I didn't have to hike back along the highway for very far.

In the second instance, I was making one of countless trips between the Twin Cities and Chicago (I think in this case it was when Houseboy and I were first visiting the University in fact) and I had miscalculated how much gas I had left in the tank, expecting to make it as far as Tomah. Instead, I see one of those blue and white "Gas -- Food" signs and a sign for "Millston" just as I'm thinking I have about 5 miles left in the tank. Pull into the station to discover, whoops, it's the Fishing Opener. In that case I actually had to call AAA to bring me gas.

Now, some people might interpret this as me telling you that Minnesotans and Wisconsonians sure do like their killing. And there is that, of course. But there is also the fact that, in addition to the good old-fashioned Midwestern work ethic there is a deeply built understanding of what life is all about. And it's not about making the customer happy. It's about fishing.

P.S. For more Minnesota fun, see the Fourfold Root .

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bedroom Banter

In case all you Houseboy fans out there ever wondered what Antelope-Houseboy relations are like at home, here is a small sampling of recent conversations.

Conversation 1: In the bedroom

How it started: Houseboy--"I like the new Chargers helmets"
How it ended: Antelope--"I think the average of all the colors in the world is probably brown."

Conversation 2: In the restaurant

How it started: Antelope--"I like the flowers."
How it ended: Houseboy--"Ok! Ok! It's red-red orange! Hey, you're not even calling the credit card company, I can see on your phone!"

Conversation 3: Instant Messenger

How it started: Houseboy--"Beans and a Pumpkin"How it ended: Antelope--"Is hell humid? That was never made clear to me."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Blogs are like rabbits

If you're not careful, they'll multiply. My DC friend pulled me into a new blog, The Fourfold Root, which will contain all future installments of the Yankees versus Virtue discussions. For those of you who aren't baseball fans, this might be welcome news as it means this blog will probably be more free from baseball rantings in the future.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Why I wish Voldemort would Avada Kedavra the Yankees

Ok, so I have a friend in DC who has a coworker who is a Yankees fan. He's apparently made it his life's mission to find out why she hates the Yankees and somehow I have gotten dragged into it all. So, in response to some angry ramblings I sent her about payroll and signing bonuses, etc., he sent the following 7 points. My response follows after that.

Ok. I see the frustration here. My responses:

1. The Yankees are not solely responsible for running-up prices and causing this overall 'lack of loyalty.' I mean free agency has been in effect for over 30 years and lots of teams have thrown money around. Who gave ARod $250M? Who signed Gil Meche (Gil Meche!!) for $11M/year? Not the Yankees. Who gave Barry Zito $126M? Not the Yankees.
2. The Yankees have paid the other 29 teams $100M in luxury tax and revenue sharing money. That's over $3M on average, per team. So, they pay for their excesses more than any other franchise on the planet. What do most owners do with this money? Pocket it. Can anyone make a serious argument that owners couldn't afford to take this money and pay a draft pick an extra $500K not to go to college? Seriously?
3. Another related point on the talent developed in the farm systems.keep in mind that when these guys reach the majors they get the major league minimum salary for probably the first 5 years of their career and they become arbitration-eligible. So, knowing that you're going to pay the kids chicken feed for a while, why not spend a bit more to ensure they sign with you after the draft? Penny-wise and pound-foolish if you ask me.
4. Most owners operate teams solely to make money. Now, I understand that it's important to make money on your investment. That's fine. But, most owners refuse to understand that the best way to make money, in the LONG TERM, is to put a winning team on the field. Period. I remember when the Yankees were lucky to draw 2 million in a year. This year they'll draw 4 million. That's not because Yankee Stadium is in the best part of town, either. Steinbrenner's first goal has always been to win, which I've always appreciated. I do feel sorry for the Twins that Carl Pohlad spent probably 5 years convincing Selig to contract the team just so he could get a good deal on the team and be finished. This gets to my next point:
5. Most owners cry poverty rather than being creative. So the Yankees start the YES network-nothing more than a regional sports network. Is this business model impossible to replicate in other markets? I would seriously doubt it.
6. The Twins will be opening a new stadium in 2010. Not that I've researched it, but I'm assuming this stadium will be built largely on the generosity of the taxpayers. So, unencumbered by stadium costs, will the Twins make an investment in player salaries to put a good team on the field in 2010 to drive up attendance, merchandising, etc. and really take advantage of their new environment? Or will they continue to look to save $2M by trading all-star caliber players? At some point, I don't care if you're in MN or NY, you have to make an investment and spend money to ensure longer-term success.
7. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the fact the Yankees are richer than everyone else isn't new. It's been that way for 100 years. The Yankees still haven't won every year. So, other teams must have some way of competing with them.

So, my first response to this was an off-the cuff diatribe about what Carl Pohlad's soul probably got him on the open market and how there is an East Coast mentality that basically says "If I have the money, why not spend it?" and "Well, we're the greatest, therefore everyone must love us. There is nothing good outside of New York except maybe fall foliage." Then there's the Midwest which says "Why spend now when you can save for later?" and "Well, we're the greatest, and no one knows it, which is good because it means less traffic." You can see where this becomes a problem in any conversation of the way baseball teams are run.

The following is the longer, more carefully crafted response I came up with. If you want the actual numbers in the attachment I refer to, I can send them to you.

Ok, try this on for FACTUAL rebuttal:

While it is true that Carl Pohlad MORE than has the money to throw at the Twins if he chose to (he's a billionaire after all, and George Steinbrenner is just a lowly hundred-millionaire), I think the issue should not be how much out-of-pocket money the owner is willing to put toward the team. It should be how much they take in each year, based on their revenues from ticket and fan product sales. That will HELP toward the understanding that the Twins and the Brewers really do work in a different world. So, let me make three inter-related points:

#1. The Twins work in a smaller market, with a population with less disposable income than the Yankees.
#2. Twins tickets and merchandise are cheaper than Yankees tickets and merchandise
#3. The Twins do more with the money that they have than the Yankees do.

#2 and #3 are incontrovertibly shown in the attached document. If he argues with #1 then you just have to give up on him because he's "touched." As you can see in my table, the Twins have an average ticket price more than $10 cheaper than the Yankees. This combined with a smaller market probably explains why their annual revenue is less than half of the Yankees'. In fact, they are at exact opposite ends of the rankings in revenue: the Yankees bring in the MOST and the Twins bring in the LEAST money of any major league team.

All that said, you can also see that in 2006 the Yankees had 97 wins and the Twins had 96. That puts the Twins at 27th in payroll cost/win (ranked highest to lowest) and the Yankees once again in first. So, obviously, the Twins are somehow able to muddle through with WAAAAAY less money. Now we're getting to the crux of the issue. The market in Minnesota and surrounding states is pretty well tapped. I don't see the kids out in Souix Falls and Brainerd shelling out for a cable channel (they tried it with hockey, and if Minnesota won't pay for hockey then they certainly won't pay for baseball), nor do I think you'll get away with big ticket-price raises in the new stadium (which, by the way, will seat about 10,000 fewer fans) or $100 Santana halter tops. So, go ahead and come up with "creative" ways to make more money... all he's really saying is pass more of the cost on to the fans, and I'm saying that just won't fly in the thrifty Midwest. And it's not like we're selling a lot of caps overseas like the Yankees are.

So, we come back to the owners. I hold out hope that Pohlad will crack open that vault of his and throw a little money to us lonely beggars so that they can field a competitive team in the new stadium. However, I don't really think that's fair to him. Why should he have to pay for the mistakes of others? Because, really, I'm not mad at A-Rod. A-Rod is an all-star and I'd love to have him on my team. His salary is exorbitant, but it's not really like Jason Bartlett is going to go into contract negotiations with THAT salary in his mind. The problem is all the failures they've paid too much for. All the young kids who got those signing bonuses and never made it big. The slow and steady increase on players just out of serfdom.

I was mad when it was big names, because it made me jealous. But really, the Twins were never in that market much. They weren't bumping up payroll by acquiring veterans from other teams; they were slowly losing their own veterans to the better deal elsewhere. That was always upsetting, but usually the Twins had someone in the background who was as good, or better, and would make the minimum (Mientkiewicz becomes Morneau, Pierzynksi become Mauer, Guardado becomes Nathan... if he's been my favorite player, he's been replaced... ).

The scary thing to me now is the infiltration into those younger ages. If we can't compete for veterans, and so are destined to always be a young team, then we have to have faith that the people working in our AAA and AA and even A systems are the next Mauer. But if we can't afford the next Mauer either, because he gets a big signing bonus elsewhere, or because he knows we won't pour money all over him the first time he comes up for arbitration, then we are, as the pope would say, fucked.

And I don't blame Pohlad for not opening his purse under those conditions. "Penny wise and pound foolish" he says? Well, that may be true for some players, but when they are that young you can hardly KNOW that... if you have $200 million to throw around, you can afford to hand out signing bonuses to every kid you get that tingly feeling about, and you can give your feisty whelp with 3 years service time 5 million dollars in the hopes that he'll remain worth it. But when your market only brings in $2 million to the Yankees $4 million, you might not be able to just go on faith like that. And honestly, Midwestern values back in action, I don't think you SHOULD.

Oh, and just to throw it out there, the real reason I hate the Yankees is because they assume I love them. I hate New York and I hate LA because they think they're better than the Midwest and they expect us to agree. The Yankees are NOT "America's Team." The very thought sickens me.

The Houseboy as well as my Washington friend have been crafting their responses as well, so check back here for updates.