50 Shades of Gray Matter

I am troubled. Deeply troubled. On an almost-daily basis, I engage in self-destructive behavior. I know it’s not healthy for me. It doesn’t satisfy me, but still I can’t help myself. I’m powerless to control this insatiable demon.

I don’t know if there’s a support group for people with my addiction. So, this may be the closest I come.

My name is Dan. I am a Yahoomasochist.

Far too frequently, I defy every informed instinct I possess, and wade into the comments section of a frontpage story on Yahoo. Or, I’ll follow a not-so-helpful link from a friend into the deeper recesses of the internet, a place entirely void of any shred of humanity. The Deplorables website, for instance. I routinely check in on the Facebook updates of a former colleague who can only be described by the clinical term, batshit crazy.

I can’t say why I do it. Am I hopeful that this time, the assembled commentariat will surprise me with a lively and intelligent discussion? Or am I just looking for carnage, the accident on the opposite side of the interstate that I simply can’t avoid staring down.

In either case, the voyage only leaves me feeling angry, ill, or merely hopeless. It’s tempting to respond, as a few brave souls occasionally do, but their words of wisdom, logic or simple sanity are swept away by the tidal wave of horrific spelling, random capitalization and faulty logic. Oh, and the racism, sexism and all the other delightful isms.

Many of these commenters can only be described as professionally stupid. There’s simply no way one could reach that level of ignorance without actively working at it. This is not just obliviousness to fact and reason, but being introduced to the concepts and voluntarily and forcefully opting out.

But if they’re stupid, what does that make me? I’ve got to trudge up three flights of stairs (no elevator service here), just to reach breathtakingly moronic.

Please help.

Commenting is now open.



TBtB: Giants voting thread


We have selected four potential names as a replacement for the replacement for the replacement for PacBell Park, which, as corporate names go, wasn’t half-bad. They are listed below.

If you’d like to vote, you’ll need to visit Baseball Think Factory. Registration is pretty easy and painless, and your identity is secure if that’s important to you. My “handle” over there is or SoSH U at work.

Choose one of the four choices, then add in the full name you prefer. If you like Pacific, but think it should be Pacific Grounds, choose C, then write in the preferred full name.

Further debate on the merits of each choice will continue to take place in the nominating thread.

And, it should go without saying that we are restricting this to one vote per person. And, just so you know, I’ve got Kobach on speed dial and that SOB is just itching to dig up some irregularities.

  1. China Basin
  2. Golden Gate
  3. Pacific
  4. West Bay

What About Bobby?

Sometime in the recent past, before the Hall of Fame again modified its eras for Veterans Committee consideration, I sent a letter to a member of the previous screening committee. At the time, it was sent to the Expansion Era Committee, though that era is now called the Modern Baseball time frame, encompassing players whose peaks fell between 1970 and 1987.

I have no idea if that letter ever reached its intended target. So, what the hell, I’m going to repost it here, on the extraordinary off chance it finds one of the members of this crucial but overlooked Hall body. That group meets again this year, to put together the list of 10 names the voting committee will consider for Hall induction in 2018.

Dear xxx,

I’m writing to you based on your position on the Historical Overview Committee for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I believe you and your fellow committee members have an opportunity to review the case of a ballplayer from that era who badly warrants a fresh take on his career: Bobby Grich.

I was a baseball fan during Grich’s career. I remember when he signed with the Angels as one of the biggest names in that first free agent class. Neither an Orioles nor an Angels fan, I seemed to lose track of him after that. I don’t think I was alone.

So when I read, several years back, that Grich was a deserving Hall of Famer, I was stunned. It wasn’t until I gave him a second look that I realized the second baseman was not just a legitimate candidate for Cooperstown, but clearly worthy of joining the other all-time greats in the HoF.

Here we have a quality defensive infielder, who once joined Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger to form perhaps the greatest infield defense ever assembled. The four Gold Gloves he won speak very clearly about his reputation with the leather.

But he wasn’t just a glove. He combined good patience with excellent power throughout his 17-year career. Sure, his batting average is a little low for a Hall of Famer, and almost certainly obscured his credentials when he first hit the ballot back in 1992. But we know better now that BA isn’t the most useful stat when determining a player’s offensive value. Grich’s lifetime on-base percentage of .371 and his slugging percentage of .424, compiled in an era before balls were flying over the fence at record rates, would be laudable for a leftfielder. For a second baseman with a great glove, they’re simply excellent.

A comparison with the premier second baseman of his day, Joe Morgan, illustrates this nicely. Sure, Grich comes up short across the board when compared to Little Joe, but his line of .266/.371/.424 in 8220 plate appearances is not that far behind Morgan’s .271/.392/.427 slash line, though Morgan’s career was obviously much longer. However, one doesn’t need to be as good as Joe Morgan to be a Hall of Fame second baseman, otherwise Cooperstown’s second base roster would run just three players deep. It’s possible that playing at pretty much the same time as an all-time great second sacker like Morgan further muted the perception of him. We saw that happen with Tim Raines, though Rock was fortunately able to escape Rickey’s considerable shadow in his last gasp with the BBWAA.

You may not be convinced that Grich is, in fact, Cooperstownian timber. I understand. What’s undeniable, however, is that he’s never really gotten a good look from the electorate. He was gone after just one vote. The candidacies of other players under your purview, such as Steve Garvey and Dave Parker, got 15 years of consideration from the BBWAA, and each time these fine players were found to be not quite good enough.

Your screening committee does incredibly important work. You have a chance to allow the historically overlooked to get a second look from a fresh set of eyes. No one deserves that fresh look more than Grich, a great player and respected professional who, through no fault of his own, fell through the cracks the first time he was eligible.

I hope when you set out to put together this year’s ballot for the committee, you take another hard look at the full career of Bobby Grich. I’m confident if you do you will find him quite worthy of a place on the ballot for the Modern Game Committee to fully examine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Dan Markham


Update: Obviously, my Grich push didn’t resonate, if it even reached the proper people. Grich, and equally qualified second sacker Lou Whitaker, were not included in the 10-person slate sent on to the Golden Era Veterans Committee. Hall-unworthies Garvey, Mattingly and Dave Parker were. It was quite disappointing.

Taking Back the Ballparks – San Francisco Giants

Welcome to the initial nominating thread of Taking Back the Ballparks, where today’s palatial, taxpayer-funded ballyards will be reclaimed from Fortune 500 companies, in-pocket politicians and onerous owners, and returned to the fans who fill them. Over the course of however long this takes, we’re going to select new, distinct and appropriate names for each of the 30 major league ballparks instead of the corporate-sponsored monstrosities they currently call themselves. And, in some cases, we might determine the old sobriquet was just fine.

To get this series started correctly, we’re going right to the stadium in most need of a permanent moniker makeover: AT&T Park, a ballpark that’s already had more legal name changes than a member of the extended Kardashian Klan.

One of the absolute gems* of the HOK era, the stadium has been an upgrade over the Giants previous home in every way but one. Candlestick was a glorious name for a ballpark, either in its full or nicknamed version (the Stick). AT&T will never be anything but the name of a phone company.

Now, you can fix that. In this thread, suggest a replacement for the Giants stadium, and make a case why this new name is preferable. Given the source material (San Francisco and the Bay Area and a history-rich franchise), there should be no shortage of potentially evocative names just waiting to be tapped.

In two weeks, we’ll close nominations here, at BTF and anywhere else that might piggyback onto this exercise. With the help of a few other Primates, we’ll select up to four finalists from the nominees and we’ll begin a full vote to be taken exclusively at BTF.

• By all other accounts. As with the case with most of the parks, I haven’t been there, so I can only go on the reports of others. The baseball writing staff at the Washington Post just slotted it No. 1 among the MLB 30, for instance.


Ballpark History

Name:  AT&T Park (previouslyPacific Bell Park, SBC  Park)

Built: 2000

Capacity: 41,915

Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Candlestick (aka 3Com Park), 1960-1999, Seals Stadium 1958-1959)

Distinctive Features: As many as you’ll find anywhere. The Coke Bottle and Glove in Left; 24-foot high brick wall in right; McCovey Cove.

Ballpark Highlights: Giants have played in four World Series since park opened in 2000, winning three. However, none of the title-clinching games took place there, nor was the Game 7 loss to Anaheim in the 2002 Fall Classic.

Matt Cain threw baseball’s 22nd perfect game there in 2012

Neifi Perez scored on an infield fly.

Ruben Rivera engaged in “the worst baserunning in the history of the game.”

Barry Bonds played a lot of games at the place.

Back to Blackout

Over on Facebook, aka Snapchat for Old People, my good friend I’ve never met Marty Walsh opened a post about today being the 40th anniversary of the New York Blackout of 1977. It launched an interesting thread of recollections, and prompted me to delve further into the subject at my new home here.

The Blackout was a seminal moment in a seminal year in the Tri-State area. It punctuated one of the most memorable summers in New York City history, a time when the city was on the brink of insolvency, its residents were suffering through one of its worst heat waves and the boys in the Bronx wearing Satan’s Pajamas were feuding and fighting their way to their first World Series title in 15 years. Oh, and the Son of Sam was absolutely terrorizing the city and surrounding areas, forcing every woman under the age of 25 to flee in horror any time a yellow VW was spotted.

For city residents, the Blackout was the exclamation point on the chaos. When the lights went out, chaos reigned, with rioting and looting becoming the order of the day. It surprised no one. That was New York in 1977. There’s a reason Kurt Russell wasn’t trying to escape from Omaha.

For those of us in the upper reaches of Westchester County, the event hit even closer to home. That’s because it literally hit close to home. The Blackout was caused when a substation at Indian Point was struck by lightning. For me, not born for the JFK assassination and not old enough to recall the moon landing, it was my first “I remember where I was moment,” a fact I obviously shared with many other denizens of the Buchanan-Verplanck-Montrose Metroplex (we were a village, we go first).

When the lightning struck, I was with my family at Steamboat Dock. Now, anyone familiar with the beautiful, well-manicured piece of greenery on the shores of the Hudson, the 1977 version was a little different. For a 10-year-old boy like me strolling the grounds at Steamboat, my recreational options were somewhat limited. If I didn’t want to risk the subprimordial ooze that was the Hudson River circa 1977, I could frolic on the Steamboat beach, perhaps collecting the colorful shards of broken beer bottles or sucking on the creosote-soaked pieces of wood that comprised the tiny sliver of beach. Ah, nothing but the finest in family fun.

But I’ll never forget when the lightning struck. The sky, which had been approaching full darkness, lit up as if were the middle of the day. I’d never seen anything like it before, and I haven’t since. That moment of brilliance was followed by sheer darkness, with power knocked out all throughout the east side of the river.

As I recall, the Markhams did nothing, recognizing that if this was a catastrophe at Indian Point, we weren’t going anywhere. Not living as close to Ground Zero as we did. Others didn’t, with scores of people filling up their cars in a desperate attempt to escape any fallout. It would be another two years until Three Mile Island and nine more until Chernobyl, but we were already aware that if things went completely screwy at a nuclear power plant, those bastards could be quite killy.

But it didn’t happen. Instead, it just left us with memories that we’d be sharing 40 years later.

Postscript: One year after the Blackout, I was out shopping with my mom when we stumbled across veteran NBC newsman Gabe Pressman conducting some interviews in the A&P parking lot, getting locals’ recollection of the events of the previous year. When he was done, I rushed over and got his autograph, a memento I cherished for a good six hours. That was until we turned on the Channel 4 news telecast that night and noticed that when the camera panned over Gabe’s shoulder, there was my mom in the background, casually smoking a More while leaning against the exterior wall of the A&P. Yup, my mom’s visage was being beamed into homes from Darien to Nutley to Patchogue, and all I got was a piece of paper with a crappy signature from a reporter so low on the TV news totem pole he was forced to schlep all the way up to Peekskill to talk about a year-old lightning strike.



Taking Back the Ballparks

In two years, the Seattle Mariners will have a new stadium to call home, without changing their address. The ballpark to be formerly known as Safeco Field is undergoing a corporate name change. In 2019, King Felix, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager will be playing in Boeing Park, or Amazon Yards or Starbucks Lot. Whatever the new moniker, chances are it will be a downgrade.

As corporate names go, Safeco isn’t bad, much closer to Citi Field than Guaranteed Rate Field. But even if the new name is truly representative of Seattle, Heroin Fields, for instance, we still lose. Names really aren’t made for the name holder, but for the rest of us. My name is primarily used by others, as a means to identify me, and thus changing it regularly would be a disservice to those who know me. It’s no different for stadia.

The question is, why do we go along with it? That some well-heeled corporate sugar daddy is willing to fork over big bucks to the local extortionist baseball owner for naming rights doesn’t mean we have to play along. Why should we be forced to follow all the latest merger and acquisition activity to keep up with the name outside that limestone and steel ode to corporate welfare?

Truth is, we shouldn’t. Until Delta Airlines or T-Mobile or Geico wants to cut us a check, we ought to just pick a name for the local ballpark and stick with it. No longer should we be required to know which telecommunications company is out front in the Bay Area or, which banking institution has bundled its way to supremacy in the Midwest to know where our favorite team is playing this weekend.

Starting soon, we’re going to change that. Both here, and at my primary home for online baseball activity, Baseball Think Factory, we’re going to establish new names, or at least validate the old ones, for all 30 ballparks. If you think Houston can do better than Minute Maid Park (and who doesn’t?), then let’s find a better name for the joint. Or, if you think the park at Clark and Addison can be known as nothing but Wrigley, that’s cool too.

I’ll introduce a new team, and solicit suggestions for a new name for the team’s ballpark. Perhaps the park is located adjacent to an interesting geographic feature of its host city, or near the site of an important event in history. Maybe there’s an interesting baseball connection, either with the home team or a ballplayer from the past. A significant local industry might have called that area of the city home at one point in time. I’m looking for the kind of name that will be unique to its home city, and one that can stand the test of time.

I’ll open up a new page here, at BTF, and maybe a few other places on the tubes, for nominations. At the end of the nomination period, I’ll hash out the best options among the nominees with a few like-minded Primates (fellow baseball junkies found at BTF) and we’ll offer a choice of four to vote on the following week.* Voting will take place exclusively at BTF. I don’t want to allow voting in more than one location, and the project idea originated over there.

Ideally, when we’re done, we’ll have a nice collection of distinct names that online baseball fans can use for each major league ballpark. And, for once, there’s not a damn thing MLB, the owners, the players, the media and anyone else can do about it. Taco Bell’s chief execs can toss a bunch of cash at some poor beleaguered billionaire owner, but they can’t force us to use Gordita Supreme Stadium in everyday conversation.

* Yeah, we’re picking the finalists. Boaty McBoatface was marginally funny. Once.