KingMidget's Ramblings

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The Shift

Be forewarned, if you’re not a baseball fan this will bore you.

In recent years, baseball teams, in their neverending quest for an advantage, have started instituting a defensive shift.  For the most part, this involves moving three infielders to the rightfield side of the infield whenever most left-handed batters come to the plate. This year, I have also seen it happen with a few right-handed batters.

What this means is that all too frequently, left-handed batters who apparently know only how to pull the ball, they hit into a routine groundball out to one of those infielders stacked on the right side of the infield. The theory is that this is contributing to the stifling of offenses in baseball.

I’d suggest instead that what is stifling offenses in baseball is twofold. First, pitchers are learning more and more ways to throw the ball. A lot of relievers throw the ball hard. Starters throw sliders and curves and change-ups with location and batters are simply at a disadvantage because of the quality of the pitching.

Second, batters have become one dimensional. It’s a generalization, but the reality is that far too many major league hitters are simply up there now to pull the ball, grip it and rip it, and they either strike out, hit a home run, or hit into that defensive shift for an out.

For much of my life as a baseball fan, there were what I call slap hitters.  Batters like Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs that would hit the ball wherever they could in search of a hit. Both Gwynn and Boggs could muscle up when needed and hit an occasional homerun, but their objective was to get a hit, wherever they could on the baseball field. Players like that are an extinct breed these days. It is pull, pull, pull.

All that needs to happen to defeat the defensive shift is for major league batters — who are supposed to be the best in the business — to redevelop the skill of hitting to the opposite field. To not view every single at bat as an opportunity to pull the ball and get the girls, because you know that chicks dig the home run.

Outlawing the shift will actually do nothing to fix this problem.  Take that third infielder out of the right side of the infield and lefthanders will keep trying to pull the ball every at-bat. And Major League offenses will continue to stagnate.

More importantly, what does this tell hitters — keep doing what you’re doing, if defenses figure something out, we’ll protect you, we’ll change the rules. Don’t adjust, don’t learn, don’t identify a better way. We’ll change the rules and make it all better.  Is that how these things are supposed to work?

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Three Songs for Today

All day I have been thinking about a post I want to write. It’s the result of some conversations I’ve had over the last few days and a podcast I listened to yesterday. It relates to some family issues, and some personal issues. It has to do with fathers and rough play, delayed gratification and instant gratification. Failure and addiction. It’s about my son and it’s about me. About my failures as a writer and how I have replaced writing with the instant gratification of the internet and social media. It’s about a lot of things.

But then I got in my car after work today and turned the radio on while I made my way to a nearby pizza place to pick up some grub to take home for dinner.

I have satellite radio in my car and started moving through the stations. I got to Classic Rewind, which bills itself as the channel for classic rock from the tape deck era. During the course of the short drive to Chicago Fire, three songs came on and they were just right.

First, this one. It’s a song that I always enjoy hearing and when it came on, I turned the volume up. The odd thing was that, even though I didn’t turn it up as loud as I frequently listen to songs I enjoy, it caused my whole car to vibrate. I could feel the buzz of the opening sequence of this song all around me and it just swept me away from the troubles of my day.

 

The next song was from a group I have never really liked. Van Halen. I was about to switch to another station but decided to stick with it and I’m glad I did. This song, too, allowed me to continue my escape from the day and all else that surrounds me.

 

And, yes, I hate that I now have a Van Halen song on my blog, but it was just right for the moment. Just so right.

As I neared Chicago Fire, the third song came on. I’ll just leave it here. Just good old fashioned rock and roll.

 

In the meantime, if you’ve stuck with me this long, I’ve decided to leave my failures behind. At least for the time being, I’m leaving Northville Five & DimeThe Irrepairable PastK Street StoriesThe Jump, and a few other lesser tales in the filing cabinet. I’m striking out in a different direction — a couple of creative nonfiction pieces I want to see if I can do something with. I am going to try to put away my fear for a bit. See if I can avoid the instant gratification of all things technology and do a bit of writing. We’ll see what happens.

Immigration and America

Today’s Sacramento Bee’s Forum section had three (at least) different op-eds on immigration. One was written by Pete Wilson, the Republican Governor, who supported California’s Proposition 187 in 1994. The proposition would have prohibited illegal aliens from receiving a range of public benefits, including attending public schools. Five years after it was passed, the proposition was ruled unconstitutional.

Wilson’s support, along with other Republicans, is commonly understood as the beginning of the end of the Republican Party in the state. In the almost 25 years since, California has become one of the bluest states in the nation and the Republican Party has dwindled to third party status — behind “Decline to State.”

As you can see from the linked article, Wilson believes the issue is how to strengthen and modernize legal immigration, while securing California’s borders. While he pays lip service to the reasons people come here illegally, he says nothing about how we should deal with Dreamers, and others who arrived here illegally and have been here for years contributing to America. He also says nothing about family separation, the wall, or some of Trump’s most extreme actions.

The second piece was written by John A. Perez. (Unfortunately, I can’t find it on the SacBee’s website to provide a link.) Perez’s history includes being a labor organizer, a Democrat elected official who rose to be Speaker of the State’s Assembly, and fealty to the liberal left. Perez’s piece is titled “How our Debased Immigration Politics Must Change.” While he bemoans the long history of American anti-immigration hysteria, he makes absolutely no reference to any need to stem the flow of immigrants to this country. He does not acknowledge at all the idea that a country cannot exist if it has open borders and uncontrolled immigration. Instead, Perez calls for action in November to elect officials “sane and human immigration policies” while offering absolutely no specifics about what he thinks those policies would be other than that Trump’s policies are inhumane.

The third piece was written by Sasha Abramsky and is titled “After Migrant Family Crisis, America Just Might Become America Again.” I have no idea who Abramsky is except that he started appearing in the Bee’s Forum section with regularity over the past couple of years. His pieces are all of the very liberal sort and the short bio on today’s piece identifies him as a professor at UC Davis, a nearby public university. Abramsky’s piece extols the virtues of those who protest what he calls Trump’s “gangster-state.”

As with Perez, Abramsky says nothing about reasonable limits on immigration, whether illegal immigration can be tolerated at all. In fact, he says virtually nothing specific about immigration policy and what he thinks it should be. Instead, protesters are “marching for decency, for morality, for empathy with the weak and solidarity with the detained.”

In participating in one of the protests, he felt like “This was America.”

Why am I sharing these three pieces with you? Because they define perfectly the problem that exists in our country today.

Republicans are unwilling to acknowledge and address the reality of immigrants already in our country and that we have to agree to a path forward for them. Republicans are also unwilling to deal credibly with the yearning immigrants continue to have to come to this nation of immigrants and which still is the promise so many seek.

Democrats refuse to acknowledge and address the simple reality that we cannot survive as a country as long as we have open borders and that there is some level of security we need at our borders. That people who arrive at the border and are not authorized crossed should be turned away. That people caught in our country illegally must be treated as individuals who violated the law.

No, instead, Republican “leaders’ speak to their base and refuse to budge towards a compromise allowing for Dreamers and a path to citizenship, while shouting for a wall. Democrat “leaders” scream just as loud in opposition to the wall while offering nothing in exchange. On both sides, immigration is a shining example of the divide in our country, the noise being generated to drive us further apart, and the absence of leadership on both sides that could produce a compromise. Why? They are addicted to the noise, they are addicted to all out ideological war, they are addicted to the idea of accepting nothing less than total victory.

And America, the real America which is defined by neither of the extremes, continues to suffer.

Photoshopping

9 out of 10 photos on this blog are unenhanced, unedited, uncropped. They represent the photo I took. For years, I have resisted editing my photos. I want them to look as natural and real as possible and so many edited photos I see out there look plastic to me. The colors are too bright, too vibrant. The clarity just too much. Some end up looking cartoonish.

But all too frequently, I started to notice that a lot of photos I was taking simply didn’t reflect what I actually saw when I took the picture. The colors too faded, washed out. Shadowy areas much darker and less distinct than in reality.

So, occasionally, I’ve started tinkering with pictures. Just increasing the color a bit, or the light, or both, and enhancing the clarity. What I’m trying to do is use the editing tools to create the picture I saw while not turning them into an unbelievable riot of color.

Below are three versions of the same picture. The first is what my camera produced. The colors in the sky are far less than what I saw when I took the picture.

IMG_8902

The second is what I produced using the basic photo editing software on my laptop. I brightened the colors, but lost the foreground.

IMG_8902 (2)

The third is taking that initially enhanced photo and running it through the auto enhance feature on Photo Shop Express. The colors remain, but the light in the foreground is returned, bringing the entire picture to what I saw that night in San Simeon. I’m still trying to figure out how clicking on one “button” on the app can do this.

IMG_8902 photoshop

 

 

 

Tonight’s Moment

As I sift through pictures…

IMG_8902 (2)

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