Expanding Major League Baseball – 1

We’re in that gap in the Baseball Calendar between the Hall of Fame announcement and the beginning of Spring Training. What better time to talk about baseball, and muse on the future of the sport?

Over at ESPN.com, they’re doing a series of essays under the heading “Baseball 2.0”, where their writers talk about various ideas that come up every now and then. Relocating the A’s to San Jose, tweaking the replay rules, and the like. One of the ideas that’s been talked about there is expanding to 32 teams.

The idea has some merit; with 16 teams in each league, you could have four divisions per league (each with four teams) – and get rid of the silly wild card. You want to make the playoffs, you win your division. It would also remove the need for interleague play (which is probably a good thing). True, it would dilute the talent pool a bit more, especially since you’d also need two more sets of minor league teams. But that’s been a complaint every time baseball has expanded. However, we are just doing a little pie-in-the-sky dreaming here. So we’ll ignore that.

So, assuming we are going to add one team per league, which cities get the honor?
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The 2016 Presidential Campaign – 1

Being the first in a series of posts and commentaries on the 2016 Presidential Campaign

I’ve been holding off here on commenting on the presidential campaign since so far, it’s been too uncertain with candidates coming and going, and the standings in the polls changing so often. But now as the primaries are starting, things are getting serious, and it’s time to take a look at the main candidates.

Personally, I consider myself to be a little “left of center”, a moderate liberal or a liberal moderate if you will. I’m not registered as one, but I almost always vote Democratic. So all my thoughts will be colored that way, despite my efforts to be as fair and even-handed as I can.

In alphabetical order, here’s what I have to say on the four main candidates:

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BOOK REVIEW: The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. DOYLE: A Journey into Madness and Mayhem
By Daniel Friedman, MD and Eugene Friedman, MD
Square One Publishers, 2015

Sometimes it’s not easy being an amateur reviewer, especially with today’s obsession with “spoilers”. You really, really don’t want to give anything away about your subject. But sometimes, it’s almost impossible.

So in this case, if you don’t want to know too much, don’t go reading past the “More” link. Just take my word that this book is a very good recounting of the five “canonical” Jack the Ripper killings, intermingled with an equally good biography of Arthur Conan Doyle in his early years (before he became a famous writer). It’s worth reading for either of those.
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Ken Griffey, Mike Piazza, et al.

Earlier this week, the Baseball Hall of Fame officially announced the deification of Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza. In the days around the announcement, there was much discussion in social media as to whether or not Griffey would be chosen unanimously, and also as to whether or not allegations of performance-enhancing drug use had affected Piazza’s voting results.

Of course, I have a little to say on this. Let me take the case of Mike Piazza first.

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2015 In Review

Well, I made it through another year of blogging!

I posted 61 essays, which is down a bit from 2014, but still better than my desired target of one post per week.

The number of views (1,482) and visitors (1,028) is way up. Probably because I’ve been a little better at promotion this year. January was the top month for views, with 192. I got 17 “Likes”, too! Thanks, everyone!

My most viewed posts (those with 20 or more views):

Book Review: Mars Girl by Jeff Garrity — 35
I think I have the only full review of this SF book out there….

A Christmas Mix for You – 2015 — 31
I happened to have the chance to plug my blog to a lot of old friends just after I posted this.

A Holiday Message from Our Sponsor – 2015 — 26
I was able to mention and link to this post in a comment on Joe Posnanski’s blog; he’s a sportswriter who is a far better writer than I could ever hope to be.

Charlie or Ahmed? — 26
Movie Review: A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) — 23
Review: Project: Potemkin — 23
Random Thoughts on the 2015 All-Star Game — 20

People stopped by from all over the world.  Residents of a total of 80 countries visited (Hello Andorra! Thanks for stopping by, St. Lucia!) – though some stretch the definition of “country” (Isle of Man), I’m not going to argue with them. I do wonder why I’m so popular in Brazil….

United States – 771
Brazil – 217
Russia – 68
Italy – 58
United Kingdom – 41
Germany – 28
Canada – 20
Mexico – 18
Australia – 15
Portugal – 13
India – 11

What’s coming in 2016? Well, there’s a presidential campaign and election to comment on and the Rio Olympics. There’s also Eurovision, more vacations, and the baseball season. Plus the usual reviews (I’ve got four book and four movie reviews already written and ready to post).

Keep checking in!

Ave Atque Vale

It’s the time of year when all the news magazines and papers and other media publish their “Best of” articles on the ending year, along with the usual lists of notable people who passed on. While they devote space to the Christopher Lees, Yogi Berras, E.L. Doctorows, B.B. Kings, and Leonard Nimoys of the world, there are still plenty of people who have left their mark on history and culture who get overlooked.

Maybe they contributed to an obscure field. Maybe they were only locally famous. Maybe their time in the limelight was too short. Maybe we just plain forgot. But they still deserve a proper farewell.

A few worthy of honor, in no particular order….

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Seasons Greetings from Apollo 8

Apollo 8 was originally planned to be a test of the Lunar Module in Earth orbit in early 1969. But in September of 1968, the Soviets had sent a couple of animals around the Moon – and brought them back safely. Clearly, they were well ahead of us in getting to the Moon. When the LEM kept having engineering problems, the manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, George Low, suggested that they simply send the Command & Service Module combination into lunar orbit. It would mean rushing things, but it was something that would have to be done anyway.

Apollo 8 lifted off at 7:51 AM EST on December 21, with Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot Bill Anders aboard. Once at the Moon, they orbited it ten times, checking equipment. Bill Anders did most of the reconnaissance photography, checking potential landing sites.

On December 24, they gave a special broadcast, with over a billion people listening in.

The Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 8°8′N 165°1′W at 10:51:42 EST December 27. Total mission duration was 6 days, 3 hours, 42 seconds. Apollo 8 came back with a ton of “Firsts”: First manned flight of a Saturn V. First launch from the Kennedy Space Center. First manned mission beyond Earth orbit. First manned mission to reach the Moon…. From a technical standpoint, this was a much greater achievement than Apollo 11. By July of 1969, all the engineering problems had been solved. Apollo 8 was when we proved we could actually send men to the Moon and bring them back safely.