During the post-season, I was noticing all the good baseball managers for the teams still playing and began thinking about who I thought the best ones in baseball might be today. The one at the top of my personal list was Joe Maddon on the Tampa Bay Rays. It's sort of stunning to me that today Joe Maddon is now the manager of my beloved Chicago Cubs.
And so the Joe Maddon Era officially starts. And now we sit and watch what happens next. They should be some starting pitcher-signings coming. We'll see.
Of course the manager doesn’t win for the team. But it’s nice to put pieces together that a team needs. We’ll see what the Cubs do now. It should be an interesting "Hot Stove" off-season. Then again, it already is.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Rick Renteria who was just fired by the Cubs after only one season, but he’s got two more years of a contract he'll be paid on, and can always be hired by someone else. And ultimately, it’s hard to feel overly bad for anyone when your own team hasn’t won in 106 years…
On Pardon the Interruption today on ESPN, Michael Wilbon went on a tear slamming a couple of unattributed comments from unnamed baseball executives who were critical of Maddon. Among other things, he said that the Cubs have been so polite and gracious for 106 years, and have been losing. And the teams that are criticizing the Cubs are probably those who wanted them to keep Maddon so that they could keep beating them.
There was a particularly good perspective on it all in a piece today by Tim Brown on Yahoo Sports. He wrote --
Maybe the criticism is in part born of jealousy, because Maddon, again, is very good at what he does, and he is a wonderful, interesting, smart man whom nobody wouldn’t construct a franchise around. It’s a bottom-line game, everybody knows that, and better than most the Cubs understand what the bottom looks like. So, given the opening, they’d take their shot and undoubtedly would justify themselves as honoring the best interests of the franchise and their deserving fans.
That has generally been the reaction. But for all the criticism of how "cold" this maybe have been by the Cubs, what I appreciate is how the team went far beyond the norm to say good things about Rick Renteria and how he deserved to stay, but when given the opportunity to hire a Joe Maddon -- who's not only such a good manager, but especially good for helping build a team that has so many young, highly-touted prospects -- you almost have to do what you can to get him. The team didn't only say nice things about Rick Rick Renteria, but also offered him a job in the organization. And they had GM Jed Hoyer fly to San Diego last week to talk the situation over and kept providing him with regular updates.
Among other things, team president Theo Epstein admitted that Renteria, whose record last year was 73-89 record despite losing two starting pitchers in trades during the season and having to play with such a young, inexperienced team, deserved to return. And Epstein added --
"Rick’s sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day."
So, under difficult conditions, I think the Cubs handled things as well as could be expected. And in the end, it's a business decision. They hired someone they felt was the best, and did something they felt would be best for the team -- and did so in as gracious a way as reasonable, however tough it was.
And in the end...the Chicago Cubs now have Joe Maddon as their manager. And a growing roster of hopefully up-and-coming young stars.
By the way, I still don't expect the team to compete for the post-season, even if they sign some great starting pitching. But with so many young players, they still need time to mature. I think they can be a respectable team next year, over .500, but still think they're a year, maybe even two from seriously competing for the post-season and World Series.
But at least they should be a whole lot more fun to watch...
Hey, it's only been 106 years.
A very entertaining article from London's The Guardian, sent to me by my long-time Camp Nebagamon friend John Kander (the nephew of...) about reminiscences by composer John Kander (the uncle of...) and Judi Dench about the original London production of Cabaret. The show was the first musical that Dench had starred in, and though by her own admission not much of a singer, she subsequently starred in several others, most notably A Little Night Music.
My favorite line in the piece is the very first, with John Kander commenting, "As I see it, I was part of the last generation that was allowed to fail." To anyone who doubts the importance of this in creating art -- or doing pretty much anything -- he goes on to tell a story about flopping with the first show he and lyricist Fred Ebb wrote, Flora the Red Menace, but even during rehearsals the director Hal Prince told them that whatever happens he wanted to start talking about their next show. And so they did. And that next show turned out to be Cabaret.
Judi Dench tells a very funny about how her dressing room was situated such that she should easily hear the public as they walked past. And one afternoon after a matinee she overheard a woman tell her husband, “Oh, you told me it was all about nuns and children.” To which Dench then adds, "I think she was rather disappointed."
You can read the whole thing here.
A long while back, I posted a video here of Judi Dench singing "Don't Tell Mama" in performance during that initial production. Here's a video of her rehearsing the number. (Side note: the main "talking head" here is a woman named Marti Webb. She not only starred with Dame Judi in one of those afore-mentioned musicals, The Good Companions, but she was the female lead in the original London production of Half a Sixpence, which made Tommy Steele a stage musical star.)
But enough about Marti Webb, here is Judi Dench.
In a bit of deft political analysis, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX/Canada) was on CNBC and channeled his inner-Ann Coulter, and said --
""We need to learn from history. If Republicans run another candidate in the mold of a Bob Dole or a John McCain or a Mitt Romney... we will end up with the same result, which is millions of people will stay home on Election Day. If we run another candidate like that, Hillary Clinton will be the next president."
O what, o whatever-so could his point be? That perhaps unless Republicans run a far-right candidate (like, hmm, gee, I don't know...possibly someone from the Deep South, as well as Frozen North, covering all the bases and available countries), they would lose. Not that this isn't fully self-serving, of course, that's to be expected from most anyone who wants to be President of North America. But it's the logic of it all that's so whiz-bang.
I mean, it's a great debating point to say that if we pick candidates like candidates who have lost, we will lose. That's pretty unimpeachable logic. It's sort of like saying, "If the American League keeps sending teams to the World Series who score fewer runs than their opponents, they will continue to lose."
On the other hand, if what he's saying is that if Republicans pick a candidate who isn't radical far-right reactionary they'll lose yet again, it's a bit tougher bit of logic to accept, since that doesn't factor in the first George Bush, let alone Richard Nixon, or honestly even George W. Bush, who (while conservative) got elected running middle-of-the-roadish "compassionate conservative." For that matter, Ronald Reagan (the former Hollywood union president governor of hippy California) was significantly more moderate than the reactionary-right of today, and probably couldn't even get nominated in the current GOP landscape.
And it doesn't factor in the most far-right conservative who's run for president in the last 50 years, Barry Goldwater -- the Republican conservative patriarch who got pummeled by Lyndon Johnson in one of the biggest landslides in U.S. history.
But still, in the end, I don't know if Ted Cruz is someone we can trust for spot-on analysis of the United States political scene. But then, if he wants to discuss his views on Canada, he might be on to something.
As you may have noticed, I like the comedy of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie a great deal. There's a good deal of Python mixed with some Beyond the Fringe, and their own urban sensibility, erudition and absurdity. They had quite a few series on British television, not all successful, but eventually they clicked with the public, most notably their sketch comedy series, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and also Jeeves and Wooster, based on the short stories by P.G. Wodehouse.
Here's some more from their sketch show. A bit of absurdity tossed into a normal daily setting.
In a note the other day, I mentioned the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof that starred Alfred Molina. Here he is along with the company preforming at the opening of the Tony Awards that year. It's sort of a mashup between the song Tradition and the bottle-dancing during the wedding celebration of Tevye's daughter.
One oddity about the TV work here -- just as Alfred Molina, the star of the show, who plays Tevya, starts to throw himself into the role and begins to feverishly stomp down...the camera cuts away. (And then just as he begins to dance -- they cut away again.) Not the best artistic choice. I get the sense that the director's timing was just off, and a couple of cues might have been missed. Or not. But the number remains energetic...
This website is hosted by a service called Weeby. By and large, they do a very nice job, with a few slip-ups here and there. Last week, though, I noticed something strange on the Statistics page. A lot of this is long and convoluted -- and crammed with figures -- so I won't go into details, but just give you the reasonably short version.
It starts with seeing the number of "Unique Visits" to the site plummet. I mean like "Wile E. Coyote going over the cliff" plummet. But just as oddly, the number of "Page Views" skyrocketed. As in "Fourth of July is here early" skyrocketing.
(Unique visits are the number of individuals who come to a site during the day. If you come 50 times, you only counts as one. Page Views are simply the number of pages people read.)
I wrote to the Support Desk, and they said they'd discovered that Unique Views had been counted incorrectly for a long time, and corrected it. Page Views were unaffected, though. In a long series of exchanges -- all polite on both sides -- I basically expressed two things. 1) An executive from Weebly should have sent a note to subscribers explaining the problem, and 2) I thought that something was still screwed up, because not only were all the statistics acting bizarrely, but the law of averages weren't remotely working out in any rational way.
No, the guy insisted to me that things were fine. And I kept replying that that may be, but...man, it just looks screwy on my end. And in a long series of emails, I kept sending him samples of stats that just didn't add up. And I mean "didn't add up" almost literally.
(Just one example: their new statistics were telling me that -- on average -- every person coming to this site was looking at about 10 pages every day. That's just not how blogs work. People tend to read one page, see if there's a new post, and that's it, and go browse somewhere else. Sometimes, sure, there are people who don't come to a site every day, and check up on four days of material. But even that might only be two or three pages. And as the law of averages goes, for each person who only looks at one page a day, another person must look at 19 pages. Like most any writer, I think I do an okay writing here, but even I don't think there are people loony enough to read 19 pages of material. Every single day!)
I told my correspondent that I simply didn't believe that all was well and resolved. And he kept telling me, just as politely, that I was the only one commenting on this supposed anomaly. I said that it might be because the issue just happened and no one else had noticed it yet. Or no one wanted to write in about it, or everyone was figuring the numbers were right because that's what it showed. Or who knows what reason?
And that's where it was left. The Weebly Support Guy saying that they believed everything was right, and the Elisberg Industries Guy saying, geez, I don't know, this just looks all screwed up to me and I simply don't believe it.
Yesterday morning, I got the following note from my Weebly pal --
"Between yesterday and today, we've actually received reports from some other Weebly users who are reporting the exact same statistics issue. I've reached out to our developers to see if they can explain and/or fix the issue."
I wrote back to say: "I don’t know if I should be happy knowing that what I’ve been suggesting may be valid – or sorry to know that what I’ve been suggesting may be valid..."
(By the way, I was being very polite about this, rather than dancing around in circles shouting "Nyah, nyah, nyah, I told you so!!!" But I am certain that this is not a case of "may be valid" -- I am certain I'm right, The numbers are just too completely out of whack. And I didn't need other reports to confirm that to me. But other reports DO confirm that to me.)
Oh, and I also politely said that I can't believe that no executive from Weebly has still yet to write a note to subscribers explaining that there's a problem, which is borderline irresponsible. My use of the world "borderline" was being very polite, too. Because there is nothing remotely borderline about it.
I still have no idea what the resolution of all this will be, but I'm glad that they're now getting other reports, because it means they'll look into it and hopefully get things resolved.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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