George Will On Why Aluminum Bats Are Evil

For quite a while now I’ve been plodding through George Will’s Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball.

It’s a well-known book in the baseball world, and it’s been recommended to me multiple times. I’ve been a little disappointed in it so far (hence the “plodding through” as mentioned above), but that’s mainly because several of the characters Will spends so much time focusing on aren’t so impressive 20 years later (Orel Hersheiser, Greg Swindell, Jim Gott, Jose Canseco, Tim Raines, Wade Boggs, Dwight Gooden), and also because I’ve already heard his best anecdotes from his interviews on Ken Burns’ Baseball.

Nevertheless, Will does make some good points, and perhaps none of them better than his description of the insidious evil that is aluminum bats (which are, by the way, the main reason I don’t get into college baseball at all):
“And he was pitching to aluminum bats, which do not break. That fact is even more important than the fact that they put a few extra feet on fly balls and a few more miles per hour on line drives.

Because aluminum bats do not break, pitching inside becomes problematic, even futile. Jam a batter on his fists with a pitch that would shatter a wooden bat and he still may be able to put it in play or even over the infield for a hit. That is why college baseball games last so long and why college batting averages are so high—and why professional scouts have such a hard time judging college talent. Because of aluminum bats, college pitchers throw fewer fastballs than they otherwise would. They throw curves, sliders, split-fingers and other breaking balls, and they throw them away from the hitters.

This has three pernicious consequences: They do not develop the arm strength that comes from throwing fastballs; they jeopardize their arms with all the torque involved in throwing breaking balls; they do not learn to pitch inside.”
So, aluminum bats actually contribute to the weakening of the Major League pitcher (which, if you look at pitch counts, complete games and win totals, has continued at a dramatic rate since Will’s book was published 20 years ago).

Plus, they make that terrible pinging noise when the ball is hit. I hate aluminum bats.

p.s. One time I broke an aluminum bat in half. This is quite possibly the only piece of evidence in existence that I possess any sort of strength.


Helping Haiti

If you’ve watched any news over the last few days, you’re aware of the utter devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, and probably, if you’ve watched any of those news reports, you are anxious to help in some way.

Unless you’re a doctor or a nurse, flying down there isn’t helpful (at least, not at this point), and buying “stuff” (food, water, clothing, medical supplies) to send isn’t helpful either, as there is no way to get it there.

Right now, the two best things you can do are to pray for the victims of the earthquake and to send money:
  • The American Red Cross has made it easy for you: you can donate $10 to Haiti relief by texting “HAITI” to “90999.”
  • If you’d like to donate more than that or aren’t a fan of texting, you can donate directly to the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti here by clicking on the button for the International Response Fund.
  • Finally, if you are reading this and happen to go to church with me, we’re working set up a collection which will go directly to a mission contact that we have. More should be announced about this later.
Whatever you do, help in some way. God gives us what we have so we can bless others.


Reading in 2009

I used to read all the time, but by the time I was in college, I got busy with a lot of other activities and got out of the habit. I made more of an effort to read in 2008, and was pleased with the change.

Here’s my reading list for 2009:
  1. God Came Near, Max Lucado
  2. The Mission Song, John le Carré
  3. Hanging Curve, Troy Soos
  4. The Clue of the Broken Blade, Franklin W. Dixon
  5. The Days of my Life, George L. Dockery
  6. Do The Right Thing, Mike Huckabee
  7. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
  8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  9. The Final Solution, Michael Chabon
  10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon
  11. High Octane? A Primer On The Economics Of The Energy Crisis, D.P. Difine
  12. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel DeFoe
  13. The Shack, William P. Young
  14. A God For All Seasons: Meditations on the Presence of God in our World, Bobby Dockery, Randall Caselman & Robb Hadley
  15. I Never Had It Made, Jackie Robinson
  16. The Mark on the Door, Franklin W. Dixon
  17. Cry, The Beloved Country, Alan Paton
  18. 1984, George Orwell
  19. Stalin’s Ghost, Martin Cruz Smith
  20. Four Faultless Felons, G.K. Chesterton
  21. Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork
  22. Jedi Search, Kevin J. Anderson
  23. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
  24. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
  25. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  26. Things They Never Taught You About Youth Ministry That You Really Need To Know, Todd Clark
  27. Luckiest Man: The Life And Death of Lou Gehrig, Jonathan Eig
  28. Havana Bay, Martin Cruz Smith
  29. Too Late the Phalarope, Alan Paton
  30. Maigret’s Failure, Georges Simenon
  31. Maigret in Society, Georges Simenon
  32. Maigret and the Lazy Burglar, Georges Simenon
  33. Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
  34. The Message New Testament: The New Testament in Contemporary Language, Eugene Peterson
Over the past year, I read a few books that I had heard a lot about in one way or another which turned out to be quite disappointing (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Shack, 1984), but also read a few that I thought were great (The Power and the Glory, The Final Solution, and Cry, The Beloved Country). I also got somewhat interested in biographies, and found an author who I’m going to read more from.

In all, I read 34 books for the year, which is slightly up from last year’s total of 29. I was on pace to do quite a bit better than that, but I slowed toward year’s end as I got busy with work, travel and, ahem, a computer game that took up quite a bit of time.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to read more in 2010, but I’m starting grad school, so we’ll see how I do at finding spare time.

I already have a shelf of books that I plan on reading, but I’m always open to suggestions. Any must reads that I should check out in 2010?


Apparently It Took More Than Milk

Mark McGwire has admitted to using steroids during his Major League career.

In other breaking news, ice is apparently cold.


Satchel Paige’s Rules For Staying Young

As the new year dawns I thought it might be appropriate to pass on some morsels of wisdom from Satchel Paige.

Paige is widely regarded as the greatest Negro Leagues pitcher of all time, and might have proven to be the greatest pitcher of all time period had he been allowed to pitch in the Major Leagues while he was still in his prime. Regardless of this, it’s probably safe to say that he was one of the top five pitchers in history, and as someone who pitched professionally into his 50s, is probably qualified to give the following advice:

Rules for Staying Young

1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.

2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such an carrying on in society—the social ramble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. And don’t look back—something might be gaining on you.

I’m not sure about number 5, but the rest sure sound pretty good.


Observation #7

I’m not sure what Bill Watterson is doing these days, but unless he’s working on a cure for cancer, it’s not as worthwhile as what he used to do.


London Pictures

I finally uploaded pictures from the London trip to my Flickr account. I let my Pro account lapse, which means I’m limited to just 100 MB worth of photos at a time, so I’ll have to upload more later.

Here’s the link for the full set, and here are some of my favorites.

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