The Gratefulness Challenge Gone Amok…

Things I am grateful for…
Before I start out on this project, I need to point out a thing or two. First and foremost, the top three are in order. The rest, probably not so much. This is not easy to do. It is easy to say that you are a grateful person, but when you have to quantify and qualify, you begin to realize how much you have been blessed with. I believe that the original goal of this of this task was to list 100-things that you are grateful for. I am not sure that I can come up with that many. I do not know whether or not that is a good thing, but it is what it is…The next problem is that you may simply overlook some things. You might forget some things. I guess that happens on occasion, but I believe the point is not so much about accountability, but rather simple awareness. With that said, here we go with the first 50 things that I am grateful for…
1-This is the most important one. I am grateful that God loves me, and that through His Son Jesus Christ, I am saved! I am not saved by works, but by Grace. I am deserving of nothing except eternal damnation. God loves me even though I disappoint Him on a daily basis, and probably multiple times a day. For several years, God and I were not on speaking terms. That is to say that He was talking but I wasn’t listening. In spite of that, it is through His Grace that I am saved, and when my earthly life is over, I know where I am going. Thank You for Your gift of salvation!
2-I am grateful for my beautiful wife. She is a fun, warm, intelligent woman who could have had anybody in the world that she wanted, but she chose me! She is not only my wife and lover, but she is also my friend. Yeah we had our problems, but we worked through them. Because of her, I have become a better person. I cannot imagine spending one moment without her by my side. I am grateful that I have found an amazing woman to love that loves me back.
3-I am grateful that I have an amazing daughter. I have watched her grow up from a little bundle of diapers, stuffed animals and braces into a beautiful, intelligent, responsible, hardworking young woman who has her head screwed on tight and has a bright future ahead of her.
4-I am grateful for my mother. It is said that there is no love like a mothers love, and my mom is no exception. She has nurtured me, raised me, and been incredibly generous to me. I have a deep love of cooking because of her. I always said that I am not sure where my competitiveness comes from, but my toughness and compassion comes from her. My mom is an amazing woman, and I am grateful that I have her as my mother.
5-I am grateful for my father. My dad died in 2006, and that is still a huge hole in my soul. I have never ‘gotten over it’ and I doubt that I ever will. My father taught me about perseverance and humility. My dad was not a loud, prideful lout, but rather a symbol of quiet strength and dignity. He also, through his example, showed me how to be a good husband and father. Even though he left us too soon, I am grateful for the time that I had with him. I am grateful that I will see him again.
6-I am grateful for my 2 brothers. My older brother passed away in 2008. It was because of him that I learned how to be kind to people who were facing challenges. He had many issues, yet he was always kind and generous, basically a gentle soul. He was extremely talented, and made many people smile through his gift of music. I learned to be a musician because of him. My younger brother is a hyper smart dude and because of him, I had to learn how to be a good example. I admit that sometimes I failed, but I am grateful that I had that opportunity.
7-I am grateful for food! To me, food is not just a way to take in nutrients, but it is a beautiful, delicious gift. God gave us taste buds, so why not make the best use of them? I am grateful that I can taste different things, and that I am a pretty good cook. That allows me to share the gift of foods with others. I love talking about it. I love reading about it. Heck, I think of cookbooks and menus as entertaining literature. But most of all, I love eating it!
8-I am grateful for science, or more accurately medical science. Over the years I have had my health issues, but modern medical science has always provided a way to be cured or at least be helped. If it wasn’t for this, I would not be able to write down all the things that I am grateful for.
9-I am grateful for all the amazing animal friends ie: pets that I have had over the years. I could list them all by name, but I might get a little misty, so therefore I won’t. Whether they were dogs or cats, they gave me so much joy, unconditional love and loyality. I am truly grateful for that.
10-I am grateful for our public servants. Why? Because they put their lives on the line every day so that my family and friends can sleep in relative safety and peace. I was a police officer, firefighter and medic, and I know the sacrifices that they make. This includes all the people that keep us healthy and safe that you would never think of. Thanks to all of you.
11-I am grateful for the good friends that I have had in my life. I have had A LOT of fun over the years, and without the friends I have been blessed to have, it might not have been the case. I have had the ‘good friends’, and the ‘bad friends’, but I am grateful for all of them. Thanks guys! It was a blast.
12-I am grateful for my job. I am paid pretty well to do something that I love to do. I had always hoped to be working where I do, but I never thought that it would happen. I was wrong, and I am grateful that I was. In the same vein, I am grateful for my co-workers. We all get along, and without them, I would not have a job.
13-I am grateful that I am a scuba diver. Does that sound silly? I don’t think that it is and here is why. As a diver, I have been able to share in some of God’s most amazing work. If I was not a diver, I would never get to see it firsthand. It is one thing to see a bright green 8-foot Moray Eel on T.V. or in an aquarium. It is quite another thing to come face-to-face with one. I am grateful that Jaques Cousteau invented the technology that has allowed me to participate in this amazing sport. As I get older, I may not be able to do the things that I used to do, but I believe that I will always be able to dive.
14-I am grateful for music. I have been singing since I was 4 years old. My mother likes to tell tale of my singing ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog’ (‘Joy to the World’ by Three Dog Night) when I was still running around in my underwear. I have never stopped, although I took a long vacation (see item #15). I am grateful for jazz, rock, country, and 1980’s New Wave.
15-I am grateful that I can sing and play music. I play 4 instruments, and I am grateful that I can.
16-I am grateful that I can write my own music and lyrics. Let’s face it…sometimes other people’s music kind of stinks. Being able to write my own music and lyrics has not only given me so much joy over the years, it has also given me a way to express the feelings that I had inside that needed a voice.
17-I am grateful that the music and lyrics that I have written has brought joy to others. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to help.
18-I am grateful for the church families that I have been a member of. I have found the pastors and people to be incredibly gracious to me and my family. They are generally wonderful people, and we all share the same belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
19-I am grateful that God has blessed me with the gift of perseverance. I, just like everyone else, have gone through a lot of bad stuff. It would have been easy to simply give up, and there were many times that I was very close to doing just that. But I didn’t. Those times when it is darkest, God reveals himself and we go on. Thank you for this gift. I am still here.
20- I am grateful for good television programs. Talk about being able to put down your problems for a little while and escape into a different world! When I was a little kid, it was Bugs Bunny and Looney Toons. As an adult, it was good sitcoms, dramas, and documentaries. There have been too many to list by name, but I am grateful for all of it.
21-I am grateful for sports. I have been an athlete. I have been a spectator, and I have been a referee and a coach. It has been great to participate in all of it. This isn’t about being grateful for individual teams, but rather the entire construct. I love being able to flip on the television and watch. I love going to games. I used to love to play. I still participate, but it is on a different level now. Just being able to swim, ride a bicycle, or just simply walk a few miles is a blessing that I am grateful for.
22-I am grateful for every sunrise and sunset. Why? Because they are beautiful, that’s why. Every one that I see means that I am still alive for another day.
23-I am grateful for rain storms. I love the rain and the thunder and the lightning. I have had some of my most peaceful moments and some of my greatest moments of clarity during severe weather. Some people dread it, but not me. I love it.
24-I am grateful for beaches. If you were to ask me where is the one place that I would wish to spend the rest of my life, it would be the beach. I love it even more if no one else is on the beach! I can’t even begin to describe the peace and beauty that I find there. There is nothing like walking along the shoreline with the surf hitting the sand, the sun shining, and seeing a school of dolphins playing in the water. That my friends, is a vision of Heaven… I have been blessed by being able to be a part of this on several occasions. Someday, if I am lucky enough to make it that far, I want to retire and live on the beach.
25-I am grateful for the men and women of our armed forces. They can never be given enough credit or appreciation. They put their lives on the line every day, serving in some very unpleasant places, doing a dangerous job so that we may enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that we enjoy in the greatest country in the world.
26-I am grateful for cool, quiet mornings. It is so nice to be able to go out on my porch with a cup of coffee, and just enjoy the early morning. I am talking about that time between 6:00 and 7:00 AM. Temperature nice and cool, perhaps in the ‘50’s…It’s a beautiful thing.
27-I am grateful for rivers, brooks, and streams, especially those that are off the beaten path. I frequently find myself wishing that I had one running through my back yard. The peaceful sound of the running water, the fresh cleanliness of the air…it is hard to beat.
28-I am grateful that while I may have some annoying problems, I do not have any major ones! Okay, I have Type 2 Diabetes. I have high blood pressure. I have arthritis in my hands. I have plantar fasciitis in my feet. My back is generally killing me, and my knees aren’t too hot. But I can see. I can hear. I can walk. I can taste. I can talk. I can feed and bathe myself. I do not need help to do any of life’s little tasks. There are so many people that are somehow compromised, and that is a shame. However, all it takes is to see someone who is not blessed with as good of health as you to realize just how lucky and blessed you are. And I truly am blessed. My issues are comparatively small when everything is taken into account. I am reasonably healthy, and for that I am truly grateful.
29-I am grateful that I live in the freest country in the world. I understand that we have problems…lot’s of them. However, I wouldn’t switch with any other country on earth. How much worse could it be? Turn on the news or pick up a newspaper. Check the internet. It won’t take too long to figure out that no matter what issues we may have now, it is much worse almost everywhere else.
30-I am grateful that no violence or harm has ever touched my family. I pray for God’s protection, but I have taken steps to ensure it. Enough said on this.
31- I am grateful for the teachers that I have had in my life. While I am including some of the classroom teachers, it is not exclusive to them. Some of the best teachers I ever had were certainly not just in the classroom!
32- I am grateful for my smoker. I know that this falls under food, but this is an appliance as opposed to the product. I got my first smoker for my birthday last year, and I have been using it, experimenting with it, creating with it, and absolutely loving it. This was an inexpensive Brinkmann unit and I know that I will upgrade at some point, but for the present time, I love using it and I am grateful that I have it.
33-I am grateful for candy! Why? Because I love candy! Not ALL candy. I certainly have my favorites, but the candies that I like, I like. They make me smile and feel good, and I am grateful for them.
34- I am grateful for modern technology, and all the convenience that it provides. Microwave ovens, the internet, television…Or even more simply, how about hot water heaters, gas and/or electric stoves, refrigerators, telephones, air conditioning, and many other items… It is easy to take these things for granted, until they are gone, perhaps in a blackout or other situation. There was a time when none of these things existed. I am grateful that they do.
35-I am grateful for cars. I don’t like cars…I LOVE cars! I have since I was a very little kid. I am a bit of a gear head. While this might fall under the ‘modern technology’ gratefulness, I wanted to give it its very own space. Just think how much different life would be without our four-wheel friends.
36- (or #35 continued…) I am grateful for motorcycles. I love motorcycles. What else can I say? I love motorcycles!
37-I am grateful that God gave me a sense of humor. I have certainly needed it over the years. If I could not find the humor in things, who knows where I might be now? I sometimes think of laughter as a ‘safety valve for the soul’. Even at the worst times in my life, God provided me with some little thing to laugh about, even when it was really hard, and inappropriate to do so. I remember the single worst day of my life. The day was June 13th, 2006, the day that my dad passed away. I was so devastated by his passing that I cried A LOT during the days that followed. But for some reason only known to God, I had a few little moments where I was able to laugh, a little bit, and then I would return to my grief only to repeat the cycle. I have been able to find humor in many things that might have otherwise broken me, but through God’s gift of a sense of humor (among many other things…), I am still here. In general, it is really much better to laugh.
38-I am grateful for the gift of restraint. There have been many times that this gift has been tested to the absolute limit. All I will say is ‘Thank you God, for allowing me to exercise restraint…’
39-I am grateful for fruits and vegetables. I have always said that I believe that fruit is truly ‘nature’s candy’, and I really enjoy it. I love many vegetables too. I am glad that there are things that are delicious AND healthy!
40-I am grateful for really sharp razor blades. I have baby skin, and anything less than the blades being razor sharp gives me a lousy shave and irritated skin, both things not being good.
41-I am grateful for sunscreen/sunblock. See item #40 regarding my baby skin. I am prone to sunburns, and I have had some instances that were so bad that I actually got huge blisters. This is not a good thing.
42-I am grateful for money. Actually I am grateful for money only when I have it. Otherwise, I am grateful that in spite of not having it, I have never had to sleep on a park bench, and I have never missed a meal. God has always provided, although in the earthly realm, having some money does make things easier.
43-I am grateful that there are industrial standards for how things are constructed. I am specifically talking about automobiles. My daughter was involved in a wicked rear-end collision the other day. The rear of her car got folded up, but the impact cage remained intact, and she was able to walk away from her totaled vehicle.
44-I will mention it again because it can never be mentioned enough, but I am thankful to God and His Son Jesus Christ for all things, but particularly #43.
45- I am grateful for coffee, because without it my world would be a much fuzzier and grouchier place. There should be many people that are grateful for the magic, caffeinated elixr that is coffee.
46-I don’t know if this counts exactly, but I am grateful for September, October, and November…autumn. While I am grateful for all the seasons, autumn is my favorite. The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are turning, and the smell of apple pie and turkey is in the air. The tourists have all gone home. The State Fairs are going on. Baseball, football, and hockey are going on from mid-September until the World Series ends in October. Thoughts of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are starting to creep into my consciousness. Everybody has their favorite time of year, but mine is autumn.
47-I am grateful for restaurants, chefs, wait staff, bussers, and everyone else associated with that industry. As I have mentioned earlier, I love to cook, and I was raised around good food. I am a foodie at heart and I love it to this day. However, I cannot make everything. That is the beauty of going to a restaurant and letting to pros do what they do, far better than I can (in most cases…). It is nice to be able to go somewhere nice with my beloved wife, and have a nice meal that we didn’t have to shop for, prepare, and clean up from afterwards.
48-I am grateful for guns. I know, here comes the controversy, but I do not care. I am grateful for guns. I am grateful that the military has them and uses them as a tool for protect our freedoms from tyranny and those who would wish to destroy us. I am grateful that law enforcement has guns so that they may use these tools to ensure the public peace. I am grateful that I have one so that I can protect my family against those who would wish to do us harm. I will not explain this any further…
49-I am grateful for insurance. If I did not have car insurance, home owners insurance, health insurance, and all other kinds of insurance, life would be very different. Insurance is one of those things that people complain about and vilify as a waste of money, that is, until you need it. It can be expensive until you take a look at the alternative. I’ll pay the premiums every time, and I will sleep very well with it.
50-I am grateful for frozen custard. Ice cream too, and let’s not forget frozen yogurt, but frozen custard is far and away the best of the bunch. I had never has frozen custard until I moved to the mid-west, and let me just say that it is a strong recruitment incentive to stay. Once every two weeks or so, my wife and I head on over to ‘Twisters Frozen Custard’ and split a raspberry chocolate truffle sundae. It is heaven in a little plastic bowl, and worth every delicious calorie.

Happy 75th Anniversary…

In my last blog (The Race to 100 Losses), I gave the first update on MLB teams and their potential to enter baseballs dubious 100-loss club. I figured that it was time to update the states of these possible members. I am going to list the team, their current record as of August 26,2014, how many games they have left, and lastly what record they will need to post to make it in to ‘The Club’… Starting with the American League…Texas 51-79/32/11-21, Houston 55-77/30/7-23, Boston 57-74/31/5-26, Minnesota 58-72/32/4-28, Chicago White Sox 59-71/32/4-29. The National League looks like this…Colorado 53-77/32/9-23, Arizona 55-76/31/7-24, Chicago Cubs 58-72/31/3-28, Philadelphia 59-72/31/3-28, San Diego 60-70/32/2-30, New York 61-70/31/1-30. Also in my last blog, I researched the relative suckiness of records by city of cities that had more than one team. Texas seems to be ‘winning’ this season, as the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros are equally abysmal, followed again by Illinois with the White Sox and Cubs bringing sorrow to the Windy City. This may be a season where nobody gains admission to the 100-loss club, although I think that the Texas Rangers have a reasonable chance…
Pitcher Tim Lincecum has been taken out of the San Francisco Giants starting rotation and sent to the bullpen. I was a little surprised that this has happened, but not because of the way he was pitching. Let’s face it, he was struggling, and I am surprised that it took this long. I guess when you have a guy who recently tossed a no-no and has won two N.L. Cy Young awards, it is a bit of a shock to the system when he gets sent to the pen. Manager Bruce Bochy said the Lincecum was fine with the decision, and that he knew that he needed to work on some things to get back to being an effective pitcher again. Lincecum has lost four out of his last five decisions with just one win in his last seven starts. He had a 4-game winning streak prior to coming off the rails. I hope that ‘The Freak’ can get his groove back.
Today is the 75th anniversary of the first Major League Baseball game to be televised. It was a double header between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn NY. The legendary Red Barber called the game, which was won by the Reds 5-2, with the Dodgers taking the second game 6-1, on an experimental TV station that would eventually become WNBC-4. Only 3,000 people were able to enjoy game in from their homes. People were able to listen to MLB games on the radio since 1921, but this was a whole different thing. Last year’s World Series attracted more than 14 million viewers. Let’s face it, TV changed everything…literally. On August 26, 1939, no one could have imagined how this gimmick, this fad, this folly that was seen by only 3,000 people from the comfort of home would become the world-changing behemoth that it became. I suppose that no one could have imagined that only 5 days later, Germany would invade Poland and World War II would begin. As I said, TV changed everything socially, politically, morally, and any other way that you can think of. There are those that rate the advent of TV as the single biggest invention of the 20th century. It would be hard to argue…
There was more history made on Sunday (August 24th) as softball legend Michele Smith became the first female analyst to call a nationally televised Major League Baseball game. In case you don’t remember, Michelle Smith is a softball legend and 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist. She was in the booth with Ernie Johnson and MLB Hall of Famer John Smoltz for the call of the Dodgers-Braves game from Turner Field in Atlanta.

The Race to 100 Losses…

Well it is that time again, perhaps a little early, but close enough for me to revisit one of my favorite subjects. Yes, it is around this time that MLB teams realize that there is probably no hope and they can start saying the iconic words ‘Wait ‘till next year…’ Every baseball fan has either heard or expressed this lament, some much more than others. Last year there were several candidates for the exclusively dubious 100-loss club. The ‘winners’ were the Houston Astros (111 losses), and the Miami Marlins (100 losses). The Chicago White Sox lost 99 games and their cross-town rival Cubs lost 96 games, making Illinois the capital of the Most-Combined-Losses-Per-Teams-That -Play-In-The-Same-State universe. Congratulations…
This got me thinking. There are several States with more than one team. In fact, there are 9 States with multiple teams. So I thought ‘what if we could somehow rate the loserocity factor of these States?’ It would certainly be easy enough to do. It is just a matter of simple averaging. So I went for it with the hopes of crowning the worst State in Major League Baseball. It broke down like this… the Illinois teams combined lost an average of 97.5 games, Texas was 91.5, Florida was next with 85.5, and that was followed by New York with 82.5. Pennsylvania was next with 78.5 and they were followed ever-so-closely by California at 78.4. Rounding things out were Baltimore/Washington with 76.5, Ohio with 71, and finally Missouri with 70.5. It must have been miserable to be a Chicago baseball fan last year…
Let’s come back to 2014. While it is still a little early, we can loosely project where teams stand as far as gaining membership to the 2014 100-loss class. At this point in the season, August 19th, most teams have played between 120 and 125 games, meaning that there are only 37 to 42 games left. Now I am only going to address the teams that I think have a realistic shot at 100 losses. The Texas Rangers currently boast a 48-76 record over their 124 games played so far, meaning that they are 24 losses away from club membership. They would have to go 14-24 over the 38 games that they have left to make the show. Hot on their heels are Colorado Rockies with a current record of 49-75, meaning that they are 25 losses from the nirvana of 100 losses. There are currently 6 teams that have lost 70 games or more at this point of the season, so they are ALL potentially 100 loss teams. Another way to look at this is from the plus side of the win-loss column. Any team that has won 63 or more games mathematically cannot lose 100 games in the 162-game MLB schedule, so there are 15 teams that are no longer eligible for club membership. There are 9 teams that are in limbo that can go either way. I guess we can call it baseball purgatory. I will revisit this in a few weeks as it gets closer to the end of the season.
Now for a little this-and-that… These last 3 seasons have been a wild ride if you are a Boston Red Sox fan. In 2012 Boston under the leadership of Bobby Valentine posted a dismal 69-93 record. They finished last in the A.L. East, 26 games back. 2013 saw them finish with a 97-55 record, which was good for the A.L. East title. As we all know, they went on to win the World Series, their third in the last 10 years. This year? Well let’s just say that what goes up must come down. The Red Sox are currently 56-68, 15.5 GB. They did a serious housecleaning, and now the youngsters are getting to play and learn at the Major League level. This means that here will be flashes of brilliance and visions of future glory, but more likely you will young players learning, and that generally equates to losses mounting up. Boston fans (myself included) are smart and loyal. They understand that these things happen. We may not like it, but there is a future of better days.
What about the Kansas City Royals? This team that plays in the beautiful Kauffman Stadium is currently in first place in the A.L. Central. I had said last year (and the year before that) that the Royals were only a few pieces away from being a contender and a playoff team. They were up and down before the All-Star break. They have caught fire in the second half, and currently lead their division by 2 full games. This is in a division that includes the powerful Detroit Tigers. The Tigers have a pitching rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, and now David Price. They also have Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, JD Martinez, and Alex Avila. This team should be running away with this division, but somehow they trail the red-hot Royals. The 2014 version of the Royals is a fun team to watch, and if they can keep it together, they will make the playoffs for the first time since 1985. That year, the beat the St. Louis Cardinals in an epic World Series.

The Crazy 2014 MLB Trade Deadline

I have never understood why people like rollercoasters. I am sure that while they provide thrills and surprises, they make my stomach toss and turn like one of those crab boats you see on ‘Deadliest Catch’. I really can’t stomach them. I bring this up (not literally..) because the 2014 MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone, and let me tell you, it was busy, it was exciting, and it was one of the busiest rollercoaster rides in recent memory. I will bring you all up to date on what happened, and perhaps provide my own opinions. You are all free to agree or disagree. That is the beauty of baseball! Here we go…
Tigers get David Price(OF) from the Rays. Rays get Drew Smyly(P), Nick Franklin(IF), and Willy Adames(SS). Mariners get Austin Jackson(OF)—This was a three-team blockbuster trade that addresses the desire of the Tigers in regard to them getting another frontline starter for their pennant run. David Price was one of the big prizes at the deadline, and he is regarded as one of the best pitchers in baseball I believe that the groundwork for Price’s exit from Tampa was actually laid last year when James Shields left Tampa for Kansas City. That was my first hint that the Rays might be getting ready to shake things up. The Rays, even though they are playing much better as of late, realized that they are probably not going anywhere this year. The Rays got a few pieces, and the Mariners got Austin Jackson, who is a very good OF and will be great for the Mariners.
Red Sox get Yeones Cespedes(OF). A’s get Jon Lester(P) and Johnny Gomes(OF)—The second huge deal of the day. It seems that Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A’s really likes Red Sox Players. Let’s look at how many ex-Sox now play in Oakland. There is Jon Lester, Johnny Gomes, Jed Lowrie, Nick Punto, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick. At one point, Red Sox Principal Owner John Henry offered the Boston GM job to Billy Beane, and he turned it down. Is there a connection? I don’t know, but the two teams seem to do a lot of business. Oh, the trade…Jon Lester was set to become a free agent at the end of this season, and Boston probably had very little chance of resigning him, unless Lester would give the Sox a HUGE hometown discount. The Sox had to make a move on Lester, or they would have run the risk of him just simply walking away in free agency, with the Sox getting nothing for him. Johnny Gomes is a terrific character guy, but truthfully he has forgotten how to be an outfielder, and his bat isn’t strong enough to be a full-time DH. The result of the trade is this…The Red Sox get an All-Star OF who has won the last two Home Run Derby’s at the MLB Mid-Summer Classic. He is going to make the Green Monster cry in Fenway Park. He has an absolute cannon for an arm and is only going to get better. Just picture this…Pedroia, Cespedes, Ortiz, and Napoli as your 2-3-4-5 hitters. The A’s get one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball with Jon Lester. No losers here. There is a rumor swirling around that the goodbye hug Lester received from John Henry was more of a ‘see you soon’ than it was a goodbye. The rumor is that Henry may have said to Lester ‘Go to Oakland for a few months. We will get another huge bat and when the season is over, we will give you whatever you want to come back to Boston.’ It is almost logical, and it will be interesting to see what develops. It is a known fact that Lester did not want to be traded, and he wanted to stay in Boston for the remainder of his career.
The A’s get Sam Fuld(OF), the Twins get Tommy Milone(P)—Tommy Milone had been pitching very well. In fact, he was 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA over his last 11 starts, but when the A’s acquired Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs, Milone was sent down to AAA Sacramento. At that point, he asked for a trade. He got one, to Minnesota. Sam Fuld is a player that I have always liked. He is gritty and is a very lunch pail kind of player. Milone will get to showcase his talents at Target Field in Minnesota, and he should do well.
The Cardinals get John Lackey(P) and Corey Littrell (P), the Red Sox get Joe Kelly(P) and Allen Craig(OF)—Another step in the Red Sox dismantling the 2013 World Series winning team that is in last place in 2014. Ben Cherington (GM-Boston) knew that this was a necessary retooling. John Lackey, due to an arm injury that caused him to miss the entire 2012 season, had a clause in his contract that would have had him making only $500K for next season, and for a #3 starter, that is pretty tempting for any team. The Cardinals have long coveted Lackey, and the price of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig didn’t seem to be too steep of a price for the Cardinals. I think that both teams got what they wanted. I can’t wait to see Allen Craig hit in Fenway Park…
Brewers get Gerardo Parra(OF), D’Backs get Mitch Haniga(OF) and Anthony Banda(P). Good trade for the Brewers. Parra is a solid player and the D’Backs get some good pieces for the future.
Nationals get Asdrubal Cabrerra(SS), Indians get Zach Walters(SS). I did not see this coming. What can I say about Cabrerra that has not already been said? He is/was a spectacular defensive player. He is/was one of the most exciting shortstops I have ever seen…period. He is not quite that player anymore, and he really has no bat to speak of. Walters may be in the next wave of really exciting young infielders. He has 18 HR’s between the Majors and AAA Syracuse this year.
Mariners get Chris Denofria(OF), Padres get Abraham Almonte(OF) and Stephen Kohlscheen(P)—The best piece of this trade is Almonte. He is a pretty neat player.
Orioles get Andrew Miller(P), Red Sox get Eduardo Rodriguez(OF)-Miller is a very tall reliever with some control issues. That said, it was partially due to his control issues that he was effective. I have watched him pitch, and every time he came in I had to check my blood pressure. A change of scenery was probably needed for him.
Yankees get Stephen Drew(SS) Red Sox get Kelly Johnson(3B)—These intense rivals very rarely do business, so when they do…well, let’s just say that it is a surprise. When the Sox signed Drew a few months in to the season after he turned town a qualifying offer of $14M, I didn’t think he would ever make it back to Fenway Park unless he bought a ticket. However, the Boston 3B/SS issues caused them to reconsider, and they signed him to a pro-rated $10M deal. Drew is excellent fielder, but he simply couldn’t find his groove at the plate. His BA was abysmal. The Sox have Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogearts, so Drew became expendable. Also, with Kelly Johnson coming over, Drew became really expendable.
Yankees get Martin Prado(IF), D’Backs get Peter O’Brien(C) and a PTBNL or cash—Prado has been around quite a long time. He is solid and dependable, plus with Kelly Johnson now playing in Boston, the deal makes sense. As far as O’Brien goes, catchers are a rare commodity, and teams usually hang on to good ones. O’Brien may be a good backstop down the road.
Braves get Emilio Binafacio(IF) and James Russell(P), Cubs get Victor Caratini(C)– Bonafacio is the name piece in this deal. Caratini to the Cubs? Who did he piss off? There were thoughts that down the road, he would be the next Brian McCann for the Braves.
Marlins get Jared Cosart(P), Austin Wates(OF), and Enrique Hernandez(IF), Astros get Jake Marisnick(P), Frances Martes(P), and Colin Moran(3B)–Cosart was turning out to be one of the best pitchers on a very young Astros staff. He was probably the best part of a trade of minor pieces.
And I have to include this…A’s get Jeff Samardzija(P) and Jason Hammel(P), Cubs get Addison Russell(SS), Billy McKinney(OF), Dan Straily(P), and a PTBNL. Even though this was not a deadline deal, it is important, because it showed everyone that the A’s were in it to win it. They fired the first shots in the deadline wars. Both of these pitchers are MLB established starters, and they make the A’s very serious contenders for the AL pennant.
I may have missed a few pre-deadline deals, but these are the major ones. Surprises? Perhaps. The Red Sox were by far the most active and the Mets did nothing. After spending a little time looking at the new rosters of the teams that made moves at the deadline, I believe, along with most everyone else that analyzes this stuff, that the Tigers and the A’s are the favorites to play for the AL pennant. Their pitching is downright scary. Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, Porcello, and now you add Price. Shudder…The A’s made moves that will have them running away with the otherwise weak AL West.

Oops, with a capital ‘OOPS’…

I just made a colossal error. It was huge… Amazingly stupid…The Godzilla of Goof-ups. This is a word of warning to everybody else out there who creates anything in Microsoft Word. Before you try to post your literary creation to your blog…SAVE IT FIRST!!! I had just completed the latest installment of this blog, and as I was in the process of moving it over to be published, I somehow managed to delete all 2600+ words. It was the longest article I had ever written, and it was chock full of….insight into recent events. I had some frank observations, interesting quotes, important and relevant statistical data, some Reductio Ad Absurdum, and maybe even a glimmer of hope. However, because of my stupendous stupidity, we will now have none of it. I don’t even think that I can recreate my subject matter. I mean, I know what I was writing about, and I can perhaps get back to some of it, but maybe it was Gods’ way of saying that I ought not post what I was writing about. Okay, fair enough. I will now write about other things. Hopefully they will be as interesting and thought-provoking as the stuff that took the big dirt nap. And just maybe, if I am lucky, I can remember some of what I was writing about before this little oops of mine…
The Stanley Cup finals are set. It will feature the New York Rangers versus the Los Angeles Kings. The last time that there was a Los Angeles versus New York match-up for a major sports championship was back in 1981, when the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series 4 games to 2. What does this match-up from 33 years ago in a completely different sport have to do with the Stanley Cup? Nothing. Not a damn thing. It is just some useless filler that some color analyst or announcer will bring up at some point during the series. It is supposed to be interesting. Okay, if you say so. Most of the guys playing in the 2014 Stanley Cup finals weren’t even born yet in 1981, but don’t let that fact get in the way of some useless information which I refer to as ‘fluff’. Anyway, about the Stanley Cup finals… The New York Rangers are my hockey team. I make no excuses for it, and I do not run from it. They are one of only two teams in all of sports that I can say without any reservation that I truly care about, that I truly LOVE. The other is the Boston Red Sox. When the Rangers last lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup at Madison Square Garden in 1994, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing and who I was doing it with. I remember being on my knees on my living room floor, my long since ex-wife screaming from the excitement and my two cats hiding under the couch. There was 1.6 seconds left to play in Game 7. The Rangers were leading 3-2, and there was one last face-off to the right of Ranger goalie Mike Richter. The Vancouver Canucks had the dangerous Pavel Bure taking the face-off against Craig McTavish. Bure had been a major thorn in the Rangers side for the entire series and he was an excellent face-off man. It made sense that he would take the draw. The puck was dropped. McTavish won the draw, and then the most amazing words that I had ever heard (up to that point in my life…) were excitedly screamed by Rangers play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen, ‘The waiting is over! The New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup champions! And this one will last a lifetime! No more curses! This is unbelievable!” The Rangers had not won the Stanley Cup since 1940, and this finally ended 54 years of frustration and disappointment. I remember speaking to my late father on June 15th, 1994, the day after the Cup was won. We jokingly (for the most part) said to each other that we were ‘halfway to being able to die in peace. Now the Red Sox have to win a World Series!’ For the next few days, everybody was a Ranger fan. There was an excitement, a pop and electricity just about everywhere you went. My mail person that delivered the mail to where I worked at the time had her face painted red, white and blue, and she had New York Ranger ribbons in her hair. No matter where you turned, it was all Rangers, all the time, and it was great! I will never forget it. Almost everybody that I knew called in sick to work so that they could be a part of the victory parade down New York City’s ‘Canyon of Heroes’. It took 10 years for me to experience that kind of euphoria again when in 2004, the Boston Red Sox erased 86-years of futility and won the World Series, and yes, thank God, my dad did live to see it…

Food, glorious food…

I love food. There, I said it. I-LOVE-FOOD. With me, it’s not just something that I get to do a few times per day because that is what the clock says that I am supposed to do. I genuinely love food! I do the ‘SMH’ thing whenever I hear somebody say that they really don’t like food, or even really care what they eat. WHAT?!? I don’t get it. Do these people (men) who say this think that it makes them sound tough, like they could eat what a Billy goat eats and not care? And for women, is it a body image thing, where if you say that you don’t like food perhaps it will lead to a smaller derriere? I don’t know…
It seems to me that the reason that a person has a full complement of taste buds is so that they can enjoy the extensive flavor palate that God provides on this earth every day. I really look forward to the different tastes and cuisines that are offered from all over the world. And, you no longer need to be a world traveler to try any (or most) of it. The culinary scene in the United States is so diverse now, that if you want to try most cuisines, a passport is not required, although in some places, you still need to bring plenty of cash…
The Food Network has been a blessing for foodies like me. I still do not like most competition shows, although Iron Chef America is one of my favorite shows. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri, is almost on the level of ‘must-see’ programming for me. It is amazing to me all of the different offerings that exist here in this great country of ours. Who would have thought it? It seems that if you can dream it, you can find it. It just takes a little detective work, and ‘Triple D’ takes a lot of the mystery out of it. This show just never gets old for me, and it has inspired me to take a few chances in my own kitchen as well…
I was raised around food…good food. My mother, who can be compared to Tanta Kringle, was and is one of the best ‘home cooks’ that has ever lived (IMHO). Some mom’s (and dad’s too) looked at mealtime for the family as something to be thrown together with whatever you had around and took the least effort to prepare. That is a shame. Here is a golden opportunity to bond with family over a good meal, and maybe even some conversation, but the opportunity is tossed away like the fish sticks and canned green beans that were hastily prepared and served and promptly tossed in the garbage. My wife tells tale of her own mother (God bless you, Jackie…) who looked at dinner as a task to be done as easily as possible. Jackie used to say that if it was something that took more than 30 minutes to make, she wasn’t making it. Now granted, there were 6 kids, plus Ed (father-in-law), and two of the boys were especially finicky, but still…My wife was the oldest of the family, and probably could have, and probably did, help where she could, but who knows…
My point is that I will bet that it was and is the case more often than not, and I wonder if that is just indicative of our problems regarding the breakdown of the family unit as a whole? What is more basic than gathering the family around the fire and eating the kill form the days hunt? We can debate that topic in another blog, because I really want to try and stay on point with this food thing.
Back to Tanta Kringle (mom). It is in no small part that I owe my love affair with food to her. She always made sure that as a family, we ate together, and we ate very well. I can count on one hand and have a few fingers left over, all the bad meals that we ate together. She always knew how flavors worked, and that is important because so many people today have no clue, largely because no one ever taught them. I was lucky, because I was always hanging around in the kitchen with my mother when she was doing her meal magic. She allowed and encouraged me to taste, to cook, to try new ideas, and to really enjoy the creative experience. My mother always said that ‘food is an expression of love’, and I couldn’t agree more. I use that as my cooking mantra today. While I am certainly no professional chef (although one of my best friends growing up, and the drummer of the rock band I was in became one), I am reasonably confident and competent in the kitchen. I enjoy creating. I enjoy tasting. I enjoy eating. I hate cleaning up. It is awesome because my wife is also a ‘foodie’, and although she is not the ‘addicted foodie’ that I am, the pretty redhead can hang. It is so much fun to have someone (and a really pretty someone, too) to try all different food things with. At home, she is perfectly happy to let me flap my culinary wings and see what brand of havoc I can create. I have done everything from smoked ribs and brisket, to seafood bisque and ratatouille, to all sorts of Italian and German classics, and just about everything in-between. It is a rare day indeed when I don’t feel like doing something creative regarding mealtime. I admit that it is not always ‘creative’ in the classic sense, but it is always ‘good food’, in the tradition of my mother. I do not ever, nor will I ever, just ‘throw something together’ because it was easier to do so. I am lucky, because my pretty-someone of a wife is also a really good come cook too! We always say that she is a better cook, but I am a better chef. If you want simple, good, everyday food, you would pick her. If you want something tricky and involved, you want me. We have made some amazing meals together…
Another thing that is really cool, and that has brought some really creative out-of-the-box food ideas is the resurgence of food trucks. I am not talking about the roach-coaches and ptomaine-travelers of yesteryear. No sir! I am talking about Gourmet Food Trucks. Some of the trucks exist simply because of the economics’ of today’s world. A chef wants to ply his trade, but there is no way in H-E-Double Ladles that he can afford the rent, the insurance, staff, food costs, and the myriad of other expenses that come with owning a brick and mortar establishment. So what is he to do? Give up and flip burgers and shake out baskets of French fries in his local McWendKings? I don’t think so! What this chef can do is, for a significantly smaller investment, start a gourmet food truck. We have all seen them, and there are more and more of them popping up every day, and believe me, it is a good thing! Do you remember that thing that I was saying a few paragraphs back, about trying different diverse cuisines but not necessarily needing a passport? Well, you erstwhile food critics, this is what I was talking about. On any given day in just about any city all across America, all you need to do is go to a busy downtown area around lunchtime, and you will see a cornucopia of trucks, all with different and frankly quite amazing culinary offerings. You will really see, smell, and taste it all, from classic American to Vietnamese Bahn Mi and everything in between. It is Nirvana for foodies! If you ever get the chance, stop by and check one out. The prices are generally reasonable, and they are very eager to please, because they know that in today’s world of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, not to mention residents of the blogosphere, word of mouth will either make them or absolutely kill them.
Let me close todays’ non-sports blog with this. Food, glorious food…it’s not just for filling the pie hole anymore…