History in the Making



Ichiro Suzuki, a surefire first ballot hall of famer, is closing in on 3,000 MLB hits. This is a momentous achievement for any player, all the more so since Ichiro played in Japan for 9 seasons before making the trek to Seattle in 2001. Adding up his numbers from both leagues and you get the all time hit king of baseball. And even with all of this, as one of the greatest baseball players ever, he has found a way to astonish here in his age 42 season.

His walk rate this season is 11.3%.

Is your mouth agog? No? Really? It’s 11.3%. Still nothing? No reaction? This is not a player who walks much. It would easily be a career high if he maintains it for the season. Moreover, it is virtually unprecedented for a player of Ichiro’s stature to increase his level of production in any capacity so deep into his career.

Frankly it’s shocking for any player to produce at a high level at such an age. How shocking you ask? If we compare to the best age 42 seasons in the history of baseball, excluding the dead ball era, Ichiro, is on pace to have the best batting average, third best on-base percentage, seventh best slugging percentage and second most stolen bases to name just a few standard batting stats. The reality is, if we toss out the dead ball era and Barry Bonds, there have only been a handful of players at this age who were any good at all as regular or even part-time players.

Now, of course not too many guys played into their 40’s, so it’s a small sample size to look at his level of production in the proper context. But what if we look at every player in the 3,000 hit club during his final two seasons? This is with the exception of Alex Rodriguez, given his playing career continues despite the Yankees best efforts to the contrary.

Anyway, here’s a list of how many posted a career best in any major statistical category, which includes home runs, walk rate, strikeout rate, isolated power, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, WAR and wRC+ (according to fangraphs and with 150 minimum plate appearances).

Pete Rose (walk rate)
Tris Speaker (strikeout rate)
Lou Brock (strikeout rate)
Paul Molitor (strikeout rate)

And that’s it. Ichiro is on pace to do it in two categories (strikeout rate along with the walk rate) and he’s also knocking on the door of accomplishing it in OBP and wRC+. It’s not quite the all star break, so there’s plenty of time still to tank and/or start acting his age, but he’s positioning himself to have one of the greatest age 42 seasons in the history of baseball and one of the most impressive late-career seasons of his peers in the hall of fame. He’s always been a unique player, and now, in the twilight of his career, he’s adding value to his game we’ve never seen before. Incredible.

What makes the walk rate all so much more bizarre is that Ichiro has always had a pathological obsession with base hits at the expense of power and walks. In fairness, the latter is partly a result of his preternatural ability to make contact and put the ball in play, limiting the number of swings and misses and foul balls, and thus, limiting the number of pitches he would see in his at bats, a crucial component in drawing free passes. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given how exceptional he has been in reaching base safely through singles.

As to the former, much like Wade Boggs, another hit machine who eschewed (attempting) knocking pitches out of the ballpark for a few extra percentage points on the batting average at the end of the season, there isn’t as good a defense for choosing singles over (potential) extra-base hits. Brass tacks – both players likely hurt their teams by refusing to swing for the fences more often. A few more strikeouts, sure, fewer singles, definitely, but more home runs, doubles and triples (and the likely result of more walks with the threat of power) would almost certainly have increased their value.

More valuable, maybe. And yet, it would have made Ichiro less fun to watch. He’s a singular phenomenon, there really is nothing else like him in baseball. Watching him at the plate, slapping at the ball and beating out grounders to the shortstop, is one of those indelible images of the game for the last fifteen years.

Plus, I can’t complain now that the kid is walking at a healthy rate and getting on base at a rate 70 points above the league average. Now I get it all, the singles machine and an advanced metrics analyst’s dream come true. Good lord, at this rate of production, he might not need to retire until he hits 50.

Minor Adjustment

MA no gun

My novel Minor Adjustment is now out in paperback. Here’s a bunch of helpful links to various esteemed booksellers where you can read reviews and purchase many copies for yourself and loved ones.




Want to buy it but only wish to do so from a Korean language website? No problem! Just follow the link below.


What’s the book about, you ask? Perhaps you’ve perused this site and you’re thinking it’s about baseball. Maybe traveling? Politics? Any of the stuff I write about here? Nope. It’s a story about a suspended homicide detective and her chiropractor fending off a bunch of mid-level mobsters running amok in Los Angeles.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

It wasn’t Susan’s fault. Not really. Yes, she accidentally shot a robbery suspect while he was in handcuffs, and yes, she subsequently managed to make the 11 o’clock news splattered in blood wearing only her bra, but that was just a series of unfortunate misunderstandings. Now she was suspended, quite unfairly in her opinion, her future as a LAPD homicide detective up in the air, her parents were driving her crazy about, well, everything really, and to make matters even worse, she’d thrown her back out during a night of heavy drinking and unnecessary violence. Also not her fault, Susan would be the first to point out.

Truth be told, Bob wasn’t faring much better with his life. Sure he was a successful chiropractor, but he was absolutely miserable. He just couldn’t shake the feeling he was stealing money from people who didn’t understand what a giant scam his entire industry was perpetrating on the world. A mid-life crisis in his 30’s seemed absurd on the surface, but Bob was certain there was something more to life than overbilling insurance companies for unnecessary x-ray exams.

When his father, a retired jewel thief, is shot and murdered by a rampaging mid-level mobster with delusions of grandeur, Bob is shaken from his malaise and inspired to not only find the culprit but change his life in the process. He does not, sadly, have the first clue of how to do this, but fortunately for him, one of his patients is a suspended homicide detective who despite her best efforts can’t seem to figure out a way to say no to Bob’s repeated pleas to take on an unauthorized investigation into a murder everyone else is convinced was just a simple mugging gone bad.

Amidst the ensuing romantic complications, Bob and Susan must navigate their way through the labyrinth of the Los Angeles underworld and a motley assortment of incompetents and reprobates with an assortment of personal problems of their own that would make a therapist of twenty years shake his head in disbelief, all in an effort to find the killer and bring him to justice.

The Greatest Lines in B-Movie History

The line of dialogue almost pales in comparison when brought to light against the backdrop of the absurd fight sequence between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David, as the former tries to force the latter to put on a pair of sunglasses in a last-ditch effort to save the world from evil aliens. This is the simplest, clearest description I could provide of the scene and is a fairly accurate summary of the movie as a whole. So yes, to answer the obvious question, They Live is an absolute must-see.

The joys of the film have everything to do with dark humor, satire and piles of genre fun. Directed by John Carpenter, whose exceptional body of work rivals the greatest American film directors without all the pesky corresponding critical acclaim, They Live is nowhere near his best effort (The Thing, Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13) but it practically defines the term ‘cult favorite’, which is praise enough. Aside from the forthcoming line, the highlight of the film is the aforementioned six-minute long battle royale in the alley that defies description. Here it is in its entirety.

Frankly, and I’m not saying Mr. David was right or wrong in his decision making during this scene, but for me, I probably would have put the glasses on.

Anyway, once the two men have settled their differences as scholars are wont to do, the story kicks into high gear, as we learn the aliens have slowly taken control of the Earth through subliminal messages delivered through a powerful signal broadcast from high atop the city. A plucky band of freedom fighters will try and disrupt it, which leads to a pretty cool ending. Before that, however, Rowdy Roddy Piper stumbles into a bank, for some reason that escapes my memory or perhaps because it simply happens for no good reason, and there he delivers one of those perfectly awful lines of dialogue that make movies so damn great.

The Remnants of an Empire

The Reception in Old Town

The Reception in Old Town

Venice was quite the operation back in the day. They had ships and everything. Here’s a brief history to get you up to speed if you’re not up to snuff on your Medieval powerhouses. The Venetians started out as a profitable little part of the Byzantine Empire, then the alpha dog in the region, but thanks to maritime operations and prime real estate (location, location, location) grew in strength and influence and only a few centuries in they sacked Constantinople, decimating their former masters, a blow from which the Byzantines would never really recover. The Venetians also stole these fine fellows four from the future Istanbul and put them on display in the finest drawing room in Europe, as Napoleon was wont to say.

The Venetian Empire lasted approximately a millennium. It was, by any stretch of the imagination, a good run. Lots of highs, plenty of lows. They fought in the Crusades. They ruled the seas. They battled the Ottomans for centuries, slowly declining in military influence as the years wore on, ultimately succumbing to the advances of Napoleon just before the dawn of the 19th century. And now it’s reduced to an irresistible tourist trap with great gelato that slowly sinks into the lagoon from whence it came. This feels like a metaphor for something, but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Anyway, part of the empire’s conquests included the Dalmatian City-States, which includes the Bay of Kotor in modern Montenegro. The impressive fortifications the Venetians established are a sight to behold, but they don’t deserve all the credit. There were previous versions of the defensive line high above the bay stretching all the way back to the Illyrians in classical antiquity. The walls, which stretch about 3 miles in length, are still in visible if not quite working order high upon the cliffs gazing down upon the old walled city, which bears a striking resemblance to the old walled fortress of Dubrovnik, which is no big surprise, but with notably better food inside.

The ruins rising up to the sky

The ruins rising up to the sky

Kotor is gorgeous. If you get away from Old Town it starts to become more the sort of small city you might expect to find in Montenegro, but still, just stepping off the plane it was a panorama of mountains and mist as far as the eye can see.
The view from the tarmac

The view from the tarmac

We stayed in Old Town, which made for a fun/easy trip since the walled city is the tourist highlight. The narrow passages, open courtyards, impressive architecture and historical sites all make for excellent wandering. It’s super touristy, yes, no question at all about that, but like Venice, it’s so good even the visitors can’t screw it up.
The San Giovanni castel is at the very top of the upper town walls, way up high, and it would have been cool to set foot in it and take in the view. We gave it a go, despite the steep climb and intermittent but heavy rain that day. There is a long, winding path up to the top. We hiked up to the Church of our Lady of Health, which marks the halfway point, but made it no further. There was an intense downpour, and all us tourists on the way up and down huddled together in what little shelter the exterior of the church offered. The English speaking portion of the group exchanged a few stories and Ferda spent the time playing with a stray dog, which made me very nervous and the puppy very happy. The stone/rock/dirt/imaginary path leading to the very top was literally flooded and it was borderline impassable. We might have been able to make it, but this way there’s an easy excuse to come back and visit again. Ferda took a couple photos when the rain momentarily abated before we hiked back down.
I did twenty goofy poses and this was the best one.

I did twenty goofy poses and this was the best one.

We had a few days to roam around before catching a bus to Podgorica. Kotor is the perfect place for idle tourism, virtually everything is interesting and/or beautiful to look at. Stunning views and a great meal here, impressive architecture and a cappuccino there.

Ferda had recently finished a couple new designs, so we went out to take some photos on our last night with Kotor as the backdrop before heading out of town.

Handmade by Ferda Emecen

Handmade by Ferda Emecen

To Live and Die in Eternal Hope

Even casual observers are aware of the Chicago Cubs’ failure over the last one hundred plus years to win a championship, a level of accomplishment that has built up an aura of inevitability that welcomes suckers, gamblers, statisticians and romantics in equal measure. Writers far more tortured and elegant than I have written about the agony of cheering for the Chicago Cubs.

This legacy of ineptitude is somewhat misleading. The club was actually pretty good, all things considered, from 1903-1945. Since WWII? Only 5 seasons of 90 or more wins. Tampa Bay alone has equaled that mark, and not just from the franchise’s inception in 1998, which would be cringe inducing enough, but since the name change in 2008 from Devil Rays to Rays. Yeesh.

What can you do? Love is love. Trying to explain the why of it is as pointless as telling Don Mattingly why on-base percentage is important.
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Don Mattingly and the Tyranny of Math

Here stands a great hitter.

Here stands a great hitter.

I understand people who are resistant to placing their faith in numbers. It must be especially threatening to those who have built a professional identity through a lifetime of success either without the use of, or more likely, in direct opposition to analytics. To be told your entire life you are great, knowledgeable, or both, and to then have those core values, really your entire sense of self, challenged must be difficult. To value what you see, what you have done, everything you have been taught, well, this is a difficult thing to toss away, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
I was taught this was a rock. It's still a rock, right? It sure looks like a rock. I'll bat it leadoff just in case.

I was taught this was a rock. It’s still a rock, right? It sure looks like a rock. I’ll bat it leadoff just in case.

So when I write that Don Mattingly is an idiot, please understand it’s done with affection, understanding and compassion. He was a great, great player. He’s from Indiana. But idiot he is.
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The Greatest Lines in B-Movie History

Yor: The Hunter from the Future

Yor: The Hunter from the Future

As a child barely seven years of age, I saw this delightful and highly influential piece of trash in the theater when it was released out into the world in 1983. It’s one of my earliest movie memories and gives proof to the notion that there is no film so awe-inspiringly awful that it will not still beat the pants off the outdoors during an Indiana summer. Attendance wasn’t by design, mind you. My mom was out running errands and had made the classic mistake of taking her young children with her instead of leaving them alone in the house to fend off potential burglars, and she was desperate to get out of the heat. The timing was fortunate, in a way, I’m not even sure air conditioning had been invented before the 80’s.
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An Open Letter To My Alma Mater

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Dear Idiots,

Thank you for the recent letter updating me on all the goings on and whatnot at HWS, signed by the President of the Colleges but likely written by a number of administrators, detailing the current state of affairs at the institution where I managed a BA in history, won a chess tournament, broadcast the 1997 women’s soccer division III national championship game (which we lost 1-0) and was threatened with expulsion by the dean, because apparently every movie about a crusty dean threatening students is based on reality.

Anyway, back to the massively insulting/disgusting letter, mostly a bunch of banal blah that is likely cut and pasted from previous versions sent to alumni, in which you include the following paragraph:
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I have amassed a pretty respectable number of frequent flyer miles over the years and decided to take them out of mothballs and use 60,000 in exchange for a ticket to Istanbul. I’ve spent precious little time in Istanbul in the summertime, and by precious little I mean none. This was a wrong that needing righting. The only downside was the only flight available from Delta included a seven-hour layover in Seattle followed by another seven-hour layover in Amsterdam. Still, no reason to sit in an airport when reliable public transportation can provide me all manner of entertainment. I’d start with a Sunday afternoon baseball game, move on to a favorite restaurant and close it out with a visit to an antiquated relic of the 19th century.
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Celebration in Sarajevo

Celebration in Sarajevo

It was roughly twenty years ago that Bosnian Serbs, with arms and the direct support of the Serbian military and government, laid siege to Sarajevo for almost three years. It was part of a Serbian nationalistic effort to lay total waste to an entire people through organized rape and murder. I have no vested interest in Balkan politics save for a general concern over the state of humanity and/or flooding disasters, but as an exercise in short-term memory, holding grudges and skewed perception it’s hard to beat. I still can’t help but think about Serbian atrocities whenever I watch Novak Djokovic play tennis.

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