December 20, 2006

Goodbye To A True Friend

I learned early this morning that a longtime friend of mine passed away late Monday night. This page is insufficient as a memorial to such a good and honest man. He was a my partner and mentor in the NYPD.

It will be of little importance to those whom he protected in those surly New York City neighborhoods where we patrolled together that such a brave officer died. Stephen was indeed courageous. He knew police work backwards and forwards. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to work with him. In any police emergency, he knew what needed to be done and how to handle it.

Yet, Stephen was more than just a cop. He was a father and a loyal friend. When we both left the police department, he built a business and worked diligently to pay for his son's college education. And, when I couldn't find work and times were rough for me and my young family, he had me work for him. He was a fighter who traveled the tough housing projects of New York City with confidence; and he battled cancer with determination.

After a full recovery, he set about making a new life for himself and his son. He closed his business, as many businesses these days succumb to a bad economy. But, he continued to work hard, often taking midnight shifts to keep his son in school. We stayed close. Only recently he told me what a good friend I had been to him. Listening to him speak with such sincerity, I told him the same. His response was "Hey, we worked a sector car together. That's for life." There's plenty to that statement that folks who never had to rely on someone for backup would never understand. Stephen did, and he meant it.

On this ordinary day, I received a message from a friend of my friend that he died suddenly in his home. Stephen was alone at the time. His girlfriend found him. A nice woman at the Medical Examiner's Office confirmed all of this for me and erased all of my denial. As I await the details of his wake and funeral, I sit at my desk, stunned, unable to mourn. His phone number is in my cell phone, begging me to call him so I can make sure he doesn't answer it. Somehow, I imagine, this is all a cosmic joke; and it will be revealed if I would only work up the nerve to call him. But no, that won't work.

In and out of the office today, folks have been coming and going wishing both me and those I work with "happy holidays." I wish that for them too. The last time someone said it, before I sat down to write this little piece, I wondered if the same scene was playing out at the Medical Examiner's Office, and if the nice woman with the sympathetic voice who told me my friend was dead was wishing everyone "happy holidays" as well.

December 19, 2006

Roster Dilemmas And A Fan's Devotion

Weeks ago I offered up a scenario where the Yankees could keep both Bernie Williams and Melky Cabrera by training Melky to be a first baseman. While it is easier to move from the infield to the outfield, Melky is young enough and talented enough to make the switch. Also, after the Yankees were willing to train Gary Sheffield to cover first, in the post season no less, the move isn't outrageous. In fact, it makes good sense.

Instead of trading young Melky, who filled in Hideki Matsui's big shoes admirably while Hideki was on the D.L., the switch to first keeps a young player who is already productive, makes big plays, hits in the clutch, and fits in well in the clubhouse. The Yankees are interested in a setup man for Mariano, and Melky is the best trading chip they have. After such a frugal winter (for the Yankees, anyway) the Yankees should merely write a check to get a setup man. Keep the talented Cabrera who has proved he can play in pinstripes. The move to first also makes sense because the Yankees won't have to spend money on Doug Mientkiewicz, a player they have interest in a platoon situation with either Andy Philips or Josh Phelps (Newsday).

Aren't we Yankee fans tired of a platoon at first? We've had an unofficial "platoon" at first base ever since Jason Giambi started to self destruct. Melky deserves a shot at a full time position and first base is open. It's a safe bet that he'd learn quickly. If such a move were made, this would allow veteran and fan favorite Bernie Williams to return for another year as a Yankee. In this Yankee fan's humble opinion, that's worth it.

As a fan, it is tough to see your favorite players leave. Bernie, if he is indeed not signed by the Yankees again, can leave on a high note. He was treated like royalty by appreciative fan's whenever he appeared either on the field or in the batter's box last season. He will be missed if he doesn't return; but if he does, his presence will loom large, and such a player is a factor on a winning team even if his production is down, his arm a little weaker, and his speed is diminished.

Getting to know young Melky has been a pleasure. Since he stumbled onto Yankee Stadium's field (after a couple of mis-plays) he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and became a very good player who will be a star one day. This Yankee fan is hooked. To see him go will be a shame as it will be hard to root for Doug Mientkiewicz or Josh Phelps instead of Melky.

Of course, Melky is not going to play first base next year. My attempts at being an amateur GM not withstanding, it is still a good idea. We fans can get used to Doug Mientkiewicz (assuming the Yankees sign him) and Josh Phelps, especially if they do well. We can say farewell to Bernie and still wear jerseys and tee shirts with his name and number emblazoned on them. We will cheer Melky as the Yankees visit the stadium of the team they traded him to and he belts a home run off of Randy Johnson. Players like Bernie and Melky, if they are not Yankees next year, will be sorely missed. Players come and go; and as frustrating as that is, that's just the business of baseball.

December 14, 2006

From East To West: Boom Or Bust?

The Red Sox just sank over $100 gazillion dollars into a pitcher who never pitched in the major leagues, and who will not be their number one starter. Maybe the Bosox are hoping to add a "Hideki-like" player to their roster, imitating their AL East rivals the Yankees who added Hideki Matsui from Japan with great success. The Mets added their own "Matsui" a couple of years back by adding Kaz Matsui. We all know how that ended. The Red Sox better hope that with over $100 million (posting fees and newly negotiated contract) invested in Daisuke Matsuzaka that they don't get a Hideki Irabu for their money instead of a Hideki Matsui.

December 8, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I'm not going to get too mushy here, but I love Christmas. Yet, that wasn't always the case. Usually, Christmas was a holiday filled with family conflict. But, I won't elaborate on that either. Now, I am a happily married man with two young children and I realize that now the holiday is all about them. I'll let my children believe in Santa Clause, have fun searching for elves hiding between the branches of the shrubbery outside, and hope for the coolest presents to delivered by St. Nick as they have been so good all year (ahem).

You see, it took me a while to appreciate how wonderful it is to be a parent. After a recent health scare, and after losing my mother a few months ago, I began to sense my own mortality. A few weeks ago, my dad spent the weekend with us as he has been doing since mom passed away. We took him to a nearby neighborhood to see the "rich folk's houses" and their expensive Christmas displays. My string of lights and Wal Mart decorations can't compete on that scale. I made a comment about I'd like to have money like that to throw away on mere decorations. Then, my Dad turned to me and said that I have treasures that many people "only dream of having". Now I know what he meant.

Yes, I said I wasn't going to get too mushy, and I'm also not going to go into great detail, but I'm over a recent health problem and I love my family even more, if that was ever possible. Christmas is going to a truly wonderful time this year no matter what.

December 1, 2006

Bye Bye Bernie

We might lose a hero. Yes, the word "hero" is thrown around way too many times, and is used to describe unworthy people in some cases. But to me, Bernie Williams is a hero, and he might not play baseball anymore.

Bernie contributes to charity, creates wonderful music, he practices hard, and plays with guts and determination. He's not a foul mouthed man, not egotistical, and he is loved by his teamamtes. He was a clutch player for the Yankees, the only organization he ever played for, and his on the field play was responsible for many victories. But does that make him a hero? In my world, yes.

Baseball, and sports in general are more than entertainment. Sports at an early age inspires children to test themselves, achieve goals, work well with others, follow orders, build physical and emotional strength, and, most of all, to believe in themselves. Organized sports are a vital social glue which can bring entire communities, cities, and countries togther to unite behind their team.

Sports are uniguely essential to human existence. Their stars are larger than life because the take us away from the banalities, struggles, and pain of our everyday lives. Sports heroes loom large for us because their deeds are remembered for generations, perhaps for all time. None of us can imagine a historian researching something we did at work over one hundred years ago and then writing a book about it. Sports heroes, and our affinity for them, allow us to hang on for the ride. We root for them because we want to live like them. And one one of our sports figures stands out, and he or she is also a good human being, that makes him or her much more special, much more valubale to the admirer, and to society.

I was at a game in Yankee stadium a few years back. In Monument Park with my wife, we watched with a small crowd of fans as Bernie Williams sprinted back and forth along the outfield. We all shouted and waved as the revered Yankee concentrated on his workout. On his final pass, Bernie waved to all of us with a bright, genuine smile on his face. "That's Bernie Williams" a young man next to me said to his girlfriend. He gushed as he held her close and watched Bernie trot over to the dugout. I don't know why, but I felt like a kid, much as that young man may have felt, as Bernie acknowledged us with graciousness reports today that the Yankees may not re-sign Bernie as their needs are in the bullpen. As reported, Bernie most likely will retire and never walk onto a baseball fieled again. Next year, I'll go to more games at Yankee stadium. In monument park, I'll have to shake of the urge to look look for Bernie sprinting past again. My favorite baseball player didn't save anyone from a burning building, didn't fight in a war, or invent a miracle drug; but, he lifted my spirits at many times in my life with his baseball heroics. For that I will remain grateful. Is he my hero? For all that baseball means to me, and for as much this man has contributed to the game both on and off the field, and for how he is as a person, yes. He's a hero. Bye Bernie. It was great rooting for you.

November 29, 2006

Cashman Or Cash Cow?

In spite of my earlier assertion that the Yankees would land a high priced free agent (i.e. Matsuzaka) before Christmas, Brain Cashman has been showing remarkable fiscal restraint this off season. Maybe this is due to a new philosophy in the Yankee organization where money is spent wisely, or the general manager is actually allowed to do his job. Or, maybe...just maybe...the Yankees are afraid of losing money? Nah. I think that Brian Cashman is finally allowed to be a real GM, and that he is being prudent.

The irony in this is that other teams are spending princely sums on free agents while the Yankees remain relatively stingy. The major moves they made so far are to dump a right fielder and a pitcher for more pitching help. Many believed that the Yankees would top all bidders in the Daisuke Matsuzaka sweepstakes, but the Red Sox threw down over $51 million dollars for the rights to negotiate with him. That was enough money to make even George Steinbrenner flinch. Now, the Red Sox are denying that this was a move to block the Yankees from signing him. Either way, the Yankees came in under the New York Mets as well, perhaps exercising financial restraint. Cashman seems content to let others make the mistakes that his team has made for decades, taking risks by spending giant sums of money on players who come to New York and fail to produce.

Now, it is reported in Newday that the Yankees have won the right to bid with lefthander Kei Igawa for the "surprisingly large winning bid of $26,000,194", according to Jim Baubach of Newsday. This isn't large compared to the huge sum of money the Red Sox threw at Matsuzaka. The Red Sox deny this was a blocking maneuver, as stated earlier. But, it is clear that the Yankees were willing to live without Matsuzaka as evidenced by their bidding strategy, and the Red Sox wasted their time if they were merely blocking the Yankees. This time, if the Yankees were afraid of being out bid by the Red Sox with Igawa, they would have bid a lot more that $26 million dollars than they did. That's restraint.

Baumbach writes: "The Yankees, however, obviously saw something in the Hanshin Tigers lefthander to think they were better off investing in him as opposed to some of the middle-of-the-rotation pitchers who have been receiving big-money deals this off-season. This move likely rules out free agents such as Ted Lilly and Gil Meche." If that's the case, then $26 million dollars makes sense for the Yankees. And while their extravagant spending of the past still taints their organization today. Looking at Cashman's moves this winter, they look like solid baseball decisions. Twenty six millions dollars is not money foolishly spent, but it's the cost of doing business in today's market.

November 27, 2006

Winning With Character, Or Characters?

Much has been said of the 1996-2000 Yankees which won four World Series championships in that time span under Joe Torre. In failing to win since then, many believe the Yankees have lost an ingredient which key members of the core group of winners from those championship seasons had, and that is character. If only they had more players such as Jeter, O'Neill, Brosius, Martinez, Posada, Justice, etc, the Yankees could win every year. Such is the mindset of many Yankee fans and baseball writers.

When describing the Yankee's universe, baseball writers summon up a corporate culture, using IBM as a comparison to the clean cut, professional image the Yankees wish to project. It is as though the clean shaven and short haired Yankees with only milk mustaches had the winning spirit, can-do attitude, and the proper work ethic to achieve post season glory. Character, it is suggested by these opinions, is defined by proper behavior, it would seem. No one questioned Paul O'Neill's character when he would attack the Gatorade cooler after striking out. That was considered intensity. But, character is often defined with intangibles. We know that is the true meaning of character which Yankee fans, writers, and even their detractors refer to. It's a safe bet we won't be watching "Yankeeography: Raul Mondesi" any time soon. He had some very tangible issues which caused him to be traded in mid-season. If you want to see "intangibles" at work, watch Derek Jeter both on and off the field. That's character.

Back to the corporate clubhouse, it was feared that Jason Giambi, hailing from the "Animal House" atmosphere in Oakland, would react poorly to the straight-laced environment in the Bronx. Jason did well, except when other distractions came his way (ahem...BALCO). One could make a case that Giambi showed character when he apologized, without saying what he was apologizing for, when the scandal broke loose. But, it would have shown tremendous character if he really did admit to what he was accused of. Yet, he didn’t. He get’s no credit for character for that.

Then, there's Randy Johnson who arrived to New York and greeted his new city and fan base by angrily shoving a reporter on the eve of his introduction to The Big Apple's fans and media. It took no character at all to apologize during his opening comments at his press conference. It was a face saving gesture, and he had to do it in order to survive. Yes, he may have been sincere in his regret; yet, if this happened in the middle of the season, one doubts if he would have summoned the courage, or would have even been motivated to ask for forgiveness. He get's no points for character there.

As 2007 approaches, fans, writers, and even the Yankee haters, await another perfunctory regular season where the Yankees are destined to trot effortlessly into the playoffs to win another World Series title. A strong argument can be made that character is a necessary component of a winning team. Looking into the recent past, the Yankees better do some re-tooling this off season and bring in players with character, and don't bring in any more characters.

November 21, 2006

Just When You Thought It Was Okay

Michael Richards has demonstrated for America once again, that people are racist, and bigotry is boiling just beneath the surface. Richard's comedy club tirade makes Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic blathering during his DWI arrest seem all the more disturbing. That celebrities of both Gibson's "A" list stature, and Richards' pop culture fame as "Kramer", can go off on a racial tear with little or no provocation makes one wonder what the rest of America is thinking.

I would have thought that men like these, who enjoy fame and fortune that many only dream of would somehow become more enlightened, or cultivated, as they climbed the ladder of success. Apparently not.

Just when you thought that maybe, just maybe things might be getting a bit better in this country, that it might be okay to think that racism isn't so prevalent, someone like Richards or Gibson reminds us that hate exists, and it isn't going to go away any time soon.

The sad part of this whole ordeal is that Mel Gibson might actually be able to resurrect his career. He's amassed a fortune from "The Passion of the Christ", and his new movie "Apocalypto" is due out soon. Will anyone care that Mel Gibson produced a movie that they want to see, or will they stick to their guns and continue to be disgusted by his anti-semitism and boycott his films? My guess is that bigotry and anti-semitism are so widespread that a man with Gibson's resources can obscure his input in future projects enough that people will overlook him. "Mel as executive producer, who cares?" You mean he hates Jews? Oh, he apologized, so what?

It's disgusting to think that Gibson can still make millions in the entertainment industry while being such a blatant anti-semite. We can't stop him from making movies, but certainly, enough decent folks can boycott his projects and not give him their money.

As for Richards, he's had it. Since "Seinfeld" he hasn't put a whole lot on his resume to impress anyone. He should be truly is sorry for his angry, racist outburst, and hope that he isn't too old for civil service work.

November 17, 2006

Yanks Prefer Proctor

As Brian Cashman has been permitted to act like an actual GM, his moves this winter have been both bold, and conservative at the same time. Consider the trades of Jaret Wright and Gary Sheffield. Wright was a disappointment for the team as he rarely went deep into games and continuously pitched himself into jams. Gary Sheffield? Enough said. But Cashman was able to get some young pitchers in return. The market being what it is, pitching is at a premium.

Cashman's strategy of patience and frugality seem to be working (financial restraint and patience aren't familiar qualities to the Yankees or even their fans). reports that the Yankees will instruct Scott Proctor to prepare for next season as a starter. Why not? He's been so effective as a reliever, able to give Joe Torre innings and keep opposing teams bats at bay that this move could be a highly successful one. I've always been of the opinion that Proctor is overused, and that he gets into trouble because he's trotted out to the mound nearly every game and by August his arm is ready to fall off. If Proctor is really going to be groomed as a starter, and not merely dangled as trade bait, then I am becoming a huge Brian Cashman fan. How ironic that a man with the last name "Cashman" has to teach the Yankees how not to waste money.

If the Yankees do indeed eventually sign Barry Zito or even Ted Lilly, my guess is that Cashman by then, has waited out the market and played his hand as well as he could. As a fan, I'd prefer that than to the Yankees simply showing up to the bargaining table with the biggest check and possibly trading a reliable, and proven pitcher like Scott Proctor..

November 16, 2006

Got Melky? Then Keep Melky

A few articles ago I offered up the possibility of the Yankees signing free agent Nomar Garciaparra to play first base with Giambi as full time DH. Rumor has it that Nomar is looking to stay on the west coast. The Yankees reportedly want a right-hander to fill this position, and with Gary Sheffield (thankfully) gone, the search begins for a new first baseman. That person should be Melky Cabrera.

Melky, a switch hitter, filled in admirably for Hideki Matsui while he was on the disabled list. His ability to hit, run, throw, and make incredible plays helped save the injury plagued 2006 Yankees from disaster. In fact, because of players like Melky, one of the "Baby Bombers", the Yankees strode into the post season well rested after clinching early.

The big fear is that the Yankees will trade him away for a starting pitcher or some other high-priced free agent. Melky is too good to be let go, yet he deserves to be a full time player. Rather than trade him, let him take over at first base. He's young enough and talented enough to make the switch. Yes, it is easier to change from the infield to the outfield; but, if the Yankees were willing to risk putting thirty eight year old Gary Sheffield at first, in the post-season, no less, then keeping the talented, fan favorite Melky Cabrera and giving him a shot at first should be an easy thing to do.

If the Yankees do indeed remove Melky from the outfield and place him at first, then what do they do about filling in the utility man's role for the outfield? One attractive possibility is free agent Frank Catalanotto of the Blue Jays. A native of Smithtown, a seasoned outfielder who hits for average, Frank Catalanotto would be suitable replacement as he already knows the role. To keep Melky, a young and valuable player, as a utility outfielder, or to trade him would be a waste of a homegrown talent. Melky should play every day, and play at first. Got Melky? The Yankees do, and they should keep him.

November 14, 2006

Coping With A-Rod

At least three times I've been approached in the last week by knowledgeable baseball fans who insist that Alex Rodriguez be traded. Well Yankee fans, this may be hard to digest for many of you, but he isn't going anywhere...and he shouldn't.

Granted, players such as Alex Rodriguez are brought to the Yankees so they can be a factor in the post-season. Admittedly, A-Rod has been awful in the post-season, even causing Joe Torre to make a controversial move and drop him eighth in the batting order during the ALDS against Detroit. However, getting to the post-season is not a foregone conclusion. Many Yankee fans consider the regular season to be merely a practice session before their favorite team's inevitable and glorious ride to the World Series. With that said, Rodriguez's contributions, even this past season need not be minimized. Not dismissing A-Rod's surprising number of errors at third (twenty four), he still performed well (.298 batting average, 35 HRs, 121 RBIs, 15 SB). You don't take numbers like that lightly. Toss in the argument that A-Rod isn't "clutch", and I'll say that 121 RBIs are the kind of production that a team needs to be assured of a post-season berth.

Now David Lennon of Newsday has an article today which gratuitously examines Alex's "escape clause" in his contract, which affords him the possibility of leaving the Yankees after the 2007 season. While Rodriguez was careful in his response stating "Well, you know options are there for protection and choice," Rodriguez said. "And my choice is to play for the New York Yankees ... I love being a Yankee..." (quote taken from How many more times does Alex Rodriguez have to assure everyone from the media to the fans that he is ready, willing, and able to play next year?

Come next spring, when Alex plays for the Yankees again, fans should cut him a break, stop booing if he doesn't hit a home run every time he comes to bat, and shrug of his less than "A-Rod-like" 2006, and appreciate the fact that Alex's bad years are still pretty good ones.

November 13, 2006

Manager's Meetings

There have been a couple of expected, yet big moves made by the Yankees this off season so far. Good riddance to Gary Sheffield, the multi-millionaire who's lucky enough to play baseball for a living and who is never satisfied with his situation. His big bat will be missed, but only for a short while. It seems the Yankees (Cashman) are focusing early on their pitching needs as the traded Sheffield for three young pitchers. In this market, any pitcher worth trading for is worth taking.

It was no surprise that Jaret Wright was dealt away. It was a rare move to send him to division rivals, the Orioles, but the return value came in the form of a right handed reliever. Being as that Wright rarely went more than 5 1/3 innings for the Yanks, and that he routinely pitched into jams, he won't be missed by Yankee fans. The good thing for Wright is he will be reunited with Leo Mazzone, his former pitching coach with Atlanta who is now also with the Orioles. The Yankees got rid of two headaches and came up with four young arms. That sounds like a good deal to this Yankee fan.

Now comes the real fun. This is the time of year when followers of the "Hot Stove League" really heats up. The General Managers Meetings begin Monday in Naples, Florida. There 's a lot of anticipation in the air as many Yankee fans expect something big to happen. All Yankee fans need to do is sit back, cross their fingers, and think: "pitching, pitching, pitching". Oh, and let's not forget first base. Close your eyes and wish for Nomar Garciaparra.

Mr. Grudge Is In Gotham Baseball Magazine

Mr. Grudge's article "Mighty Mussina At Bat" has been published in Gotham Baseball magazine on line. You may read the article in it's entirety by clicking here. Please visit Gotham Baseball, read the columns, check out the message boards, and subscribe to the magazine.

November 7, 2006

Mighty Mussina At Bat

One of the things I love and also hate about baseball is when a player makes a position switch. The old adage is that the ball will find them all the time to test them. For example, watching Sheffield at first base made me cringe because the switch from right field was made at a critical time of the year and extended into the post season. One needs a lot more than the time Sheffield was given to feel comfortable in a new spot, much less develop the instincts that go along with making a play. Still, it was interesting watching the experiment unfold as the heavily muscled right fielder nearly did splits at first base to dig the ball out of the dirt on bad throws.

Fans of American League baseball always sense the awkwardness a pitcher feels when stepping up to the plate in a National League ballpark during inter-league play, perhaps for the first time in his major league career. The pitcher is out of his element, and that adds a whole new dimension to the game. You root for the pitcher, hoping for a hit, a single, double, or a home run. I especially enjoy watching Mike Mussina at bat. He's so serious as a pitcher, and looks so uncomfortable with a bat in his hand, the disparity is amusing. But, a manager, even in the National League, never counts on his pitcher to hit, so Mussina's uneasiness with the bat isn't catastrophic. That's what I mean by fun.

Position moves are nothing new in baseball, the most prominent one in recent times being Alex Rodriguez's switch to third base from shortstop when joining the Yankees. Also, utility players often are adept at playing two or three positions. But, it is entertaining, to say the least, when these changes occur, if the game or the season is not on the line.

There are so many elements of the game dictated by the player's agility, power, baseball "intelligence", and attitude, that a move of a distance of a few yards to the left or to the right has the potential to throw the entire game out of whack, or even cost a team their season. Much will be written about Sheffield's brief term at first base. It certainly wasn't the cause of the Yankee's collapse in against the Tigers, but it didn't help. Remember Chuck Knoblauch's seemingly incurable throwing "yips"? Thanks to Tino Martinez's athleticism, many a ball headed for the stands were retrieved by his glove. A move of many yards to left field solved that problem for both Knoblauch and the Yankees as in his case, throwing the ball five or six feet off line from left field wasn't as dangerous as throwing from second to first.

Also, when a player you're a fan of sadly leaves your team and dons the uniform or another, you feel remorse when you see him swing the bat in a game for the "new team". The player seems alienated, a stranger to you, and you want to cheer for him again. Gone are the familiar pinstripes, and there are other fans from some different city claiming your hero. That's where the fun ends. I remember watching Tino Martinez in a Cardinals uniform as I was flipping through the channels following a Yankee game. Yes, I rooted for Tino, hoping he'd get a hit with a runner on first a no one out. He didn't get a hit, but he moved the runner over. Go Tino.

Tino did come back to the Yankees for one final, farewell season. It was great to cheer him one last time, to see him reluctantly come out for a curtain call as all modest baseball heroes do. Now he is gone, Sheffield will be gone soon too, hopefully, and that leaves Giambi. Time for a position change for DH.

November 6, 2006

The Steady Hand Steers The Ship

After Joe Torre narrowly missed getting fired for his team's elimination from the American League Division Series by the Detroit Tigers, Yankees fans had time to take stock of Torre's tenure as the Yankee's skipper. As the longest running manager under George Steinbrenner many thought that it was time for Joe to go. His style was "too laid back", many thought. Also, it was widely suggested that he wasn't aggressive enough, perhaps resting on his laurels. Lou Pinella, the polar opposite of Torre's poker-faced and calm managerial style was widely touted to be his replacement.

Piniella served as the Yankee's skipper from 1986 - 1987, and was general manager for the rest of 1988-1989, and is reported to be on of the most ejected managers in history by Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Fans and baseball analysts alike believed that Piniella's aggressive managerial approach would better suit a Yankee team composed of mainly all-stars with big contracts and perhaps even bigger egos. But, as one person who follows baseball closely said to me concerning Piniella "that does not mean he's a better manager." One may agree or disagree with that statement, but Joe Torre can wave a hand with four World Series rings he won as a manager of the Yankees to Lou Piniella's one managerial World Series win as the skipper of the 1990 Cincinnati reds (Piniella won two World Series championships with the Yankees as a player, 1977,78).

Winning counts in baseball, more so in with the Yankees than any other team. Joe Torre had the credentials, skill, and a talented roster to win the 2006 World Series; but we all know what happened. There were times in the past that George Steinbrenner was tempted to cut Torre loose as there have been many disappointments in recent years, including the historic collapse of the Yankees versus the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, losing four games in a row after winning the first three of the series. As distasteful as that defeat was to Yankee fans, this one was worse because this time, the team had everything going for them. What made firing Torre easier this time was that "Sweet Lou" was waiting in the wings, looking to return to his old spot in on the bench as manager of the most storied baseball franchise in baseball history. But now, with Piniella signed as manager for the Cubs, the heir apparent for the job as Yankee's manager is Don Mattingly, who was recently promoted to bench coach, replacing Lee Mazzilli (the only head to roll for the Yankees post-season fizzle).

Mattingly has Joe Torre's level head, calm demeanor, and clout as a player to lead a team of high priced super stars. Once the captain of the Yankees himself, it is certain that Donnie Baseball can not only manage in New York, he can win a championship, a feat he was never able to accomplish as a player. The fans love him, and so does George Steinbrenner. The transition should go smoothly, if and when Joe Torre ends his career with the Yankees and looks forward to entering Cooperstown. Yes, as fans we have much to anticipate as one great manager leaves the helm of the Yankees and hands the team over to a first class Yankee legend. It will be a pleasure to watch as Mattingly is promoted from captain to skipper.

November 3, 2006

Look For An Early Christmas Present

The Yankees entered the bidding war for the rights to negotiate with Japan's Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Seibu Lions, and why not? After the Team's sudden and disappointing ejection from the post season, courtesy of the Detroit Tigers, Yankee fans deserve a Christmas present in the form of highly touted, high-priced talent. Not every Japanese player has thrived in a Yankee uniform. Hideki Irabu inspired "The Boss" to utter one of his most famous lines about a player, saying he looked like a "fat (expletive deleted)toad"
However, one can't say anything bad about Hideki Matsui. He may not be the greatest left fielder in the majors, but with his quick release, he makes up for a weak throwing arm. He's a smart base runner and a very clutch hitter.
There's not too much to gamble by going after Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka who is being posted by the Seibu Lions as it will cost only money. Matsuzaka is a celebrity in Japan, and should thrive here as he is used to a lot of attention. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have fellow countryman and super star Hideki Matsui around to show him how things are done in New York.
The Yankees need to make a splash by signing a big name early on in the off season. This signing makes sense because Yankee fans deserve a bit of salve for their wounds after the playoffs. The Yankees sorely need pitching, and they need to keep Matasuzka away from teams like the Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, and oh yes...the Mets, for the sake of their cross-town rivalry.

Jeter Is Golden

Derek Jeter was awarded his third straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award, according to Not much to say here, except congratulations. Anyone who's ever witnessed Derek's gymnastics at shortstop, especially his signature "jump in the air and throw to first" maneuver, knows that this is a well deserved honor.

November 2, 2006

Vote & Win! More Reasons to Commit Voter Fraud

A story in Yahoo! News reports that there is a proposition in Arizona offering a one million dollar prize to encourage voter turnout. Wait until the winner turns out to be some dead guy who passed away in 1982 who, in spite of no longer being alive is still registered to vote and mysteriously casting ballots. Or, maybe this will benefit those enterprising individuals who manage to go from district to district and vote several times under many different names. Hey, you have to be in it to win it, and these folks are into it a lot.
So, if this proposition is passed, you can cast your ballot and hope you'll be lucky enough to marry someone related to the local political party boss so you might actually have a chance to win the jackpot.

November 1, 2006

Mr. Grudge Is In Gotham Baseball Magazine

Dear Readers,
Mr. Grudge has been published in Gotham Baseball magazine! Go to Gotham Baseball online, read my article, and get yourself a subscription to this fine publication. If you're a fan of New York baseball, this magazine is for you. Not only am I published in the magazine, I'm an avid reader. Thanks for visiting Mr. Grudge's blog, and thanks for reading. Now, do yourself a favor and visit Gotham Baseball.


Halloween Is Over...Back To Work

My mini-writing vacation is over. While Mr. Grudge is not a diary blog, I do write what is current. So, keeping pace with sports, news events, and posting writing articles does take time, and it demands that I be relatively prolific. With that said, I have some writing to do.

October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, readers. Here's and appropriate website to visit for the holiday:
I don't have a ghost story of my own, nor do I believe in them. But, the idea of spirits visiting us from the "other side" always intrigued me as it assures me of a life after death. If Ghosts, ghouls, and other spectres and spirits pop in to scare the the hell out of me every once in a while, it's worth it because that means there's more to death than a hole in the ground to rot in. Enough of the gloomy talk. It's time to raid my "little Grudge's" Halloween candy. Oh, and before I go, boo!

October 30, 2006

Jets & Giants Fit The (Buffalo) Bills

If you're like me, you're a die hard baseball fan, and a "fair weather" football fan. Once the "Fall Classic" is over, no matter if your team was in the post season or not, you feel a bit depressed, flipping through the channels hoping to see a movie about baseball, or a classic game being broadcast on one of the sports networks. You have a calendar counting down the days until spring training, and you jump to the sports pages of the newspaper every day poring through the columns for the latest "hot stove" report. Still, the sports fan within you seeks some satisfaction. There is a need for excitement in your life. You have to cheer for someone, some team, and feel passionate again. For most, that leaves football.
Yes, the NFL "preseason" games begin in August, too early for most baseball fans to pull their attention away from hotly contested division races to watch football. But after postseason play is over and there is a new World Series championship team, there is a "baseball void" which football can only partially fill.
In New York, it is difficult to be a football fan as the Jets and the Giants both play in New Jersey. The only other actual team from New York is the Buffalo Bills, and there isn't much of a chance you want to root for them, much less travel to Buffalo to see a game. There's little incentive to travel to New Jersey to begin with, and being a part-time football fan you don't have much inspiration to buy tickets, pay tolls, and sit in freezing weather to watch a football team you're only casually interested in.
Of course there are many who are both avid baseball and football fans. They go to both baseball and football games, wear jerseys from both sports, call radio stations and complain about the Mets/Jets, Yankees/Giants; but football doesn't give the avid baseball fan who watches all one hundred and sixty games per season the same joy and fulfillment that a seventeen week football schedule offers.
As the hot stove heats up, and Thanksgiving nears, baseball fans will slump in front their television sets watching football, allowing themselves to get excited about a touchdown, or their team's chances of getting to the playoffs. But, immediately after the Superbowl, they will break out their calendars which they marked off in October, and count the days, hours, and minutes until pitchers and catchers show up to spring training.

Pavano On The Mend, But On The Mound?

"I can't worry about guys who are not here, it's not a letdown if you're not counting on it. It's not hard to believe. That's what's been happening all the time." (Derek Jeter quoted in an August 29, 2006 article)
In spite of Carl Pavano's nagging injuries, and his late reporting of an August 15, 2006 car accident in which he broke two ribs, the Yankees should give Carl Pavano another chance in 2007 and not trade him. No one has stated so far that this is a possibility, but due to the apparent distaste for Pavano in the clubhouse (Jeter's statement above may be indicative of the general attitude toward him), this very well may be a possibility. If there are concerns about his character, considering the late reporting of his accident, let them fall by the wayside because the Yankees sorely need him even if his arm might be sore. So, if in 2007, Carl decides he can't pitch for some reason or another, the Yankees can send him to counseling along with A-Rod.

October 29, 2006

Let Wilson, Phillips Do The Walking

The Yankees have a glut of first basemen, with Jason Giambi, Craig Wilson, and Andy Phillips sharing duties at that position. Giambi, the falling star who, while suffering lingering illnesses, ailments, and injuries, has lately been specializing in getting hit by pitches and drawing walks. Sure, he'll hit an occasional, dramatic home run which keeps opposing pitchers intimidated. Yet, it's galling to see him continue to pull the ball and hit into the defensive over shift which nearly every team employs against him. And if he does, he either flies out or grounds out. If Jason would hit the ball to the opposite field, he'd probably lift his batting average another thirty points, and thus, help the team. But, he stubbornly refuses to adapt. The Yankees are stuck with him, and would like to use him as the full time DH. But who would play first base full time?
Certainly not Craig Wilson, who batted .212 in forty games as a Yankee. He may be a defensive upgrade over Giambi, but if the Yankees are to replace Giambi, they need someone who can duplicate his past productivity as well. Wilson filed for free agency on Saturday, and the Yankees should thank him for his services and not re-sign him.
That leaves Andy Phillips, who has had trouble swinging the bat this 2006 season, hitting just .240 in 246 at-bats. At twenty nine years old, he's not exactly a kid anymore and any argument for keeping him because he's young is slipping away fast. The Yankees should trade him in return for anybody who can pitch. Phillips deserves a chance to be a full time position player on a team where he can find his swing and develop a career.
One intriguing possibility to replace Giambi at first base is Nomar Garciaparra who filed for free agency on Saturday also, assuming the Dodgers don't re-sign him. Garciaparra batted an impressive .303 in 2006, with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs. With Garciaparra in pinstipes, the Yankees would be able to use Giambi as their full time DH, and put Nomar at first. As a fan, I'd love to see the former beloved Red Sox shortstop playing in a Yankee uniform along with Johnny Damon, one of the "idiots" who led the Red Sox to their first World Series Championship since 1918.
Imagine an infield consisting of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Nomar Garciaparra? What would such a move cost, except money which the Yankees have mountains of? No one has, to the best of my knowledge suggested such a move for the Yankees. However, if they did sign him, he'd bring talented defense, a good team attitude, a big bat, and it would be a snub to the Red Sox and their fans. Also, I'd never miss a game.

October 27, 2006

"Sheff" Cooks Up "Just Dessert"

This baseball fan appreciates a player who can tolerate injury, strike fear into a pitcher, hit home runs consistently, and change positions to help his team. Gary Sheffield has played through pain, got hits off big name pitchers, switched from right field to first base for the Yankees after coming off the disabled list, and has 455 career home runs. With that said, he needs to be traded, and fast. Jim Baumbach of Newsday reports that the Yankees are planning to just that, trade him.
In baseball, there are many "unwritten" rules. You don't make the third out at third base, you don't swing on a "3 and 0" count, you don't steal bases when you're five runs ahead, and you don't criticize Joe Torre when he's your manager. Following the Yankees early ejection from the playoffs after their loss to the Detroit Tigers, Gary Sheffield was quoted in an article by Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY as saying "We were worrying about all of that stuff, and we still had a game to play. If I'm on the other side, and all of a sudden they're putting Rodriguez eighth and putting me or Jason on the bench, you wonder what's going on. Those guys [the Tigers] were asking me about it. I think it boosted their morale. It gave them confidence they didn't have."
One can either agree or disagree with that statement. But what should be universally accepted is that no matter where Joe Torre batted Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, or anyone else for that matter, after game one, the Yankee's bats fell silent. That's what the Tigers sensed. They knew that their pitching was better than the Yankee's pitching; and everyone, including baseball players, know that in the post season, pitching matters more than hitting. You don't blame a Hall of Fame bound manager for the shortcomings of the entire team.
What makes Sheffield's comments distasteful is his timing. Immediately after the Yankees elimination from post season play, it was reported by Bill Madden of the New York Daily News that Torre's job was on the line. Reporter's everywhere smelled blood in the water while George Steinbrenner mulled his longest tenured manager's fate. So what did Sheffield do? He threw Joe Torre to the sharks. His statement reeks of poor sportsmanship.
As reported by Baumbach, the Yankees are going to pick up Sheffield’s $13 million option in order to trade him. Sheffield finds himself in this untenable situation due to his ineptitude while acting as his own manager. Having failed to have a no trade clause included into his contract during his negotiations with "The Boss", Sheffield now has no say in where he winds up. It seems that the "Sheff" cooked up his own "just dessert". Which team he ends up on is up to Brian Cashman. When he gets there, he can waggle his tongue all he wants, much the same way he waggles his bat.

October 26, 2006

If You Write It ,They Will Read

Baseball is so enjoyable that even the off season provides entertainment. Baseball fans across America and the world are already rubbing their hands together, anxiously waiting for the "Hot Stove" to heat up even before the World Series is over.
Such is the passion of a baseball fan, and such is the goldmine that baseball offers the fiction writer.
Baseball offers intense drama within each game. There's the pitcher's duel, the running game, small ball, and the long ball, each aspect of the game is based on the skill of the players involved. The speedy runner is called upon to steal the base, the heavy hitter drives the ball, the "not so great" hitter will be told to bunt, and the pitcher is needed to keep the bats of the opposing team quiet. This drama can be incorporated into your fiction. Your character can watch the game with either excitement or fear, depending on who is winning. Or, your character can be the pitcher who is throwing a perfect game into the ninth...while nursing a potentially career ending injury. Or maybe, the guy meets the girl while seated next to each other in the stands and they fall in love. Yes, there's plenty of drama to be created both on and off the field.
So much of American life revolves around baseball that it remains within easy reach of even those who don't consider themselves fans. Who among us never passed by a park and watched as kids in colorful, little league shirts scrambled for the ball as a young batter ran awkwardly around the base pads with a helmet blocking his vision? Also, who hasn't smelled hot dogs at the stadium and absolutely had to have one? Many summer memories include splashing all day at the beach with someone's A.M. radio broadcasting a game in the background. For the non-fan of baseball, there are many cultural aspects to the game which aren't easily avoided. Any mention of a "ground ball", "home run", or even "grand slam" has meaning for even the completely uninitiated. Because baseball is so ingrained into our memories and our lives, using the game or aspects of it, in your fiction is universally appealing.
When writing fiction involving baseball, there's so much to build on that in spite of the many baseball stories already out there, the writer can still swing away with an original idea and maybe tug a few heart strings in the process. Your characters don't have to be players, but fans of the game. They can be a child on a little league team, a player's wife, a never was, a has-been, or someone who's last wish is to meet a baseball legend. The material this game provides the author is rich enough to extend outside the stadium and into the lives of even those character's vaguely connected to the game.
In my own stories, although I've yet to write about a player, or give an account of a game, I'll often allow my characters to be fans of a particular team, attend a game, or anticipate going to one. This offers the reader familiarity which transcends the plot of the story. Mostly, it's because I love baseball.
In a week or two, I'll begin plotting another novel. Once again, it will have nothing to do with baseball. Yet, in the frigid months of winter, with the hot stove roaring in the background, one of my characters is going to put on a baseball cap before getting shot at.

October 25, 2006

I’ll Ask The Mailman Instead

You know what I’ve learned over the twenty or so years I’ve been writing? I’ve learned that writers make terrible critics. By terrible, I mean…they can be mean. Every time I give a short story, novel length manuscript, column or other piece I’ve written to a writer to read, out come the gratuitously negative criticisms.
It doesn’t matter if the piece is completed, or that I don’t want a review, or that the work may already be published, the writer feels it is his or her duty to note a few complaints.
This is why I never joined a writer’s group. I feel that many writers’ complaints about other writers (unless the author is a newbie who can’t spell, plot a story, etc) are petty, imagined, and center mostly on thematic elements or style. It is also my opinion that many writers feel a tinge of jealousy while reading other writers’ work and then unleash criticism to balance against their own imagined “talent inequity”. I’ve felt the urge to do that myself, but I’ve bitten my tongue.
Criticism, when asked for, can be painful, honest and necessary. When a writer evaluates another’s works without consent, it can be downright rude. To all of the freelance critics out there who are guilty of unsolicited analysis, take the advice of a wise person I know who often applies this phrase: “Take your own inventory.” Critique that.

October 24, 2006

You Don't Need No Stinkin' Agent

I just finished writing yet another "soon to remain unpublished for good" novel. Once again, my manuscript will be submitted simultaneously to both agents and publishers in the hopes of getting the story published and making me a wealthy man. I couldn't care less what any agent or publisher says about simultaneous submissions. Essentially, they want to read your work exclusively, while they take their time getting back to you while wasting your incredibly valuable time. That brings me to the thrust of this article. An agent needs you, and not the other way around. You go ahead and do whatever you have to do to get published. Don't cater to any whiny agent's demands.
In the past, two agents represented works I've completed. One never bothered to honor the entire term of our contract leaving me little or no recourse to get them to fulfill our agreement, and the other agent apparently made a living exclusively by charging authors excessive fees for photocopying and postage. Now, needless to say I am in the hunt for a new agent.
Agents are business people who actually believe that their clients need them and not the other way around. I've read rude comments on the websites of certain author representatives who write complex rules on submissions up to and including how to place the manuscript in the envelope. The vast majority of them will banish your manuscript to the trash bin if you ever dare to call them (for fear that their children will answer the phone and you'll discover that they are working out of their basement) and most will simply write "not interested" on the front of the manuscript which you paid to have photocopied instead of wasting one of their own precious pieces of paper to write a professional letter of rejection.
Because agents can be picky, rude, unscrupulous, unprofessional, and dismissive, I believe that if an agent seems to have bad traits even before I contact them, then I will avoid them all together. If they become annoying at any point during the contact, read, send more, and the "maybe I'll represent you" phase, then I'll look somewhere else.
The decision comes easy to me because I already have a job, a very good one, and I'm willing to bet that I make a whole lot more money that some of these "agents" who need to realize that without writer's they wouldn’t have careers. And if any agent is reading this, I'm only kidding (not).

October 22, 2006

I've Got Your Theme Right Here

A buddy of mine read my new blog with considerable disinterest. Hey, I'm not John Steinbeck, Edward R. Murrow, or any other famous journalist or novelist. However, I do like to write about things I see in the news or compose works of fiction. Having a blog makes it easy for me to post my views to the zero number of people interested in reading what I have to say. My buddy, who is well intentioned thinks I need a theme...and he's right.
You must understand that I am struggling here. I'm not that creative. To make myself stand out among the millions of blogs out there would mean I would have to do something so completely original and extraordinary that I would practically be inventing a whole new form. Who has that kind of time and energy?
Well, after considerable time away from this entry, I've decided to conclude like this: my theme is writing. Yes, this will be yet another writer's blog. But, I won't write simply about the craft of writing, I will treat this like a newspaper column. One of my favorite columnists, Ellis Henican ( has been inspirational for me. He can be funny (I'm working on that), informative (that too), and he's a pretty smart guy (don't ask). His topics range from the political, topical, and personal. I can do that. Don't expect to be spellbound, I'll just try to be pretty good. Later, I'll be amazing. But hey, I've got a theme now, right?

October 18, 2006

When Tragedy Misses

Driving to work at my new job is a lot easier than when I used to commute fifty miles each way to the city. I don't have to pay tolls, cross bridges, and worry about traffic. No, my new drive is a breezy twenty minute jaunt which includes a stop at my local 7-11 for coffee and a newspaper. But it turns out the danger for getting killed remains the same.
Yesterday I turned my car onto the main highway to begin the first leg of my relatively short journey. I had the radio on, my brain was warming up, and I took notice of the clear sky and warm weather. The traffic light up ahead turned yellow and I slowed my car and stopped when the light turned red. Only, the guy in the pickup truck behind me had a different plan. He didn't brake at all until he was dangerously close to me. His pickup skidded, making a frightening skreetching sound, and he had to cut the wheel and continue jamming on the brakes along the shoulder of the road and into the intersection where he almost collided with another car.
In that brief moment when I stopped, looked in my rearview mirror and watched helplessly as a giant pickup truck nearly knocked my baby Honda across town like a golf ball, it dawned on me just how disposable I was. If he did indeed hit me, I'd have been roasted in a fiery conflagration. Pieces of my charred remains would have rained all over the inersection, and all before I had my coffee.
Needless to say, I was shaken up. The pickup driver pulled his truck over and probably checkd his underwear, and I rolled past him like nothing happened.
My morning ride seemed to take longer. Every turn of the wheel was a risky maneuver, the speed limit became a dare, and why the hell did everyone have to drive so damn fast? The rest of the day went fine and I forgot about my near accident with the inattentive pickup driver. That is until I got home and saw my kids. Like any other day I traipsed in through the front door like Robert Young and my wonderful children clamored around me anxious to tell me about school. I paused, took a deep breath, and stiffened at the sound of squealing tires echoing in my ears.

Mr. Grudge's Self Portrait

Miss Mass For The Right Reasons

Recently, I had a conversation with a man I know and respect who is a former seminarian. He could have been a priest, but the whole celibacy thing was too much of a commitment. Anyway, the subject of religion came up and I began to talk about taking my dad to church the day before. It was during that conversation I informed him that I never wanted to attend mass again.
What sparked that declaration was that during the portion of the mass where the priest directs everyone to "offer each other the sign of peace" I meekly shook the hand of the woman in front of me, gave my father a hug, and continued to mind my own business. You see, my mother died only two weeks before and both me and my dad were having a hard time getting through the mass. My father is deeply religious and he honestly believed he was in the right place at the right time to send some sort of spiritual radio signal to his wife, and I was simply having a hard time dealing with the image I had in my mind of her coffin in front of the alter.
That's when the woman directly behind me stated in a loud voice to the other lady next to her and everyone within ear shot "That man didn't give me peace!" The headline in the paper the next morning should have read "Local Woman Drowned In Holy Water", but I restrained myself.
There were other things about this mass that had me alarmed. I noticed that people like to raise their hands in the air when the pray now, that they actually sing the words to the songs, they pray a little too loudly, and every single person who is able to, receives communion. When I refused to get on line for a wafer (bless me Father for I have sinned, it's been 22 years since my last confession) a woman enthusiastically waved me ahead of her, and she looked disappointed when I told her I wasn't going to receive. I was the only one to put just a dollar into the collection basket while everyone else placed numbered envelopes inside. But, the huge finale was when everyone clapped at the end of the service. Yes, I am not kidding, exaggerating, or making any portion of this up. They clapped. I was dumbfounded.
Since when did Catholics become such holy rollers?
I told the former almost priest that I didn't like going to church because I can't stand dealing with zealots, I didn't like the "charismatic" aspect of modern day Catholicism, don't even mention the pedophile scandals, and I can't stand the fact that the church always has it's hand out for more money because whatever you give is never enough. There are plenty of good reasons why I should go to hell and I don't want it to be because I short changed the collection plate.
After listening patiently, he emphatically stated "That's not the reason to stop going to mass". I had no comeback. For a few long minutes I sat and pondered what he said, not because it was profound, but because it wasn't what I expected him to say, and I didn't think he'd be so passionate about my remarks. He actually cared about my spiritual well being. Because I'm a smart aleck, I asked him what would be a good reason to go to church, and without missing a beat he said "to pray to God." Or, something like that. A plane flew overhead and I really didn't hear him. Still, no matter what he actually said, he made his point.
You don't go to church because you're a fan of priests, you don't get angry at God because people can be rude, greedy, or lose their way morally, spiritually, or criminally. You go to church to be with God. It's that simple.
Since that conversation a few weeks ago, I've had no religious conversion which made me bounce out of bed on Sunday mornings to be the first in line at the church door. I haven't been a particularly nice person, and my problems with the church remain. Yet, I feel something within me which asks why I can't rediscover the unbridled religious fervor I had as a kid before I entered my rebellious, arrogant "I'm an atheist" teenaged years. I'm middle aged, afraid of death, and want to hang onto the notion of an afterlife. Even baking in hell is better than losing everything to nothingness in death.
There has to be a God, there must be a heaven. One day soon I may find my way back to mass. When I'm there, maybe, just maybe, I'll turn around and shake someone's hand.

October 17, 2006

Something Old, Something New & Expensive

Yahoo! News reports that an ancient meteorite was found in Kansas using new, ground penetrating radar. Yes, you read that right. Scientists went ahead and designed radar to penetrate the ground.
Now, if I didn't read any further, I would have walked away thinking that they needed this “Land-ar” (kind of like sonar, but for dirt) to be on the alert for giant, carnivorous moles that routinely terrorize the citizens of Kansas, and that would be a good thing. But no, this ground radar will be used on Mars. I have no idea what they are looking for up there, and I'm sure that scientists don't either. All I know is that my tax dollars were used to create this contraption and other useless machines like it to send to Mars because three quarters of the American population actually believes that there's a giant face carved in stone up there.
I'd be less annoyed if they continued to use that thing here on Earth to find more meteors, gold deposits, and loose change after the carnival leaves town. But hey, why am I complaining? Come to think of it, I want to see some up-close pictures of the giant face on Mars.

Modern Art & Microsoft Paint

Well you know, I think I have a new career. The colorful mess just beneath this post was a little something I cooked up using MS Paint. The other one is an image my young daughter made. I'll bet if I told someone they were real works of art from "artists", I'd get away with it. No one would think they were any good; but anyone told they were real pieces of modern art created by a new and upcoming artists would have no problem believing it.
For too long the art loving public has been duped into accepting "art" that is nothing more than crap, and some of it is actually made know. Everything from graffiti to a crucifix in a jar of urine is given the stamp of legitimacy because they are labeled as art. Don’t you dare say otherwise or you’ll be labeled yourself. So, look at my "art" and learn to accept it because there's a whole lot more where that came from. Keep your eye on this site to see what I can do with the leftover mashed potatoes from tonight's dinner.

"Modern Art"

"Modern Art" By A Little Grudge

Ancient Technology

It has been reported that the ancient Sumerians created a working computer (not electronic, duh) which was highly complex and was able to perform mathematical computations. If this is true, they had better technology than what I currently possess.
I have two old, beat up Pentium III desktop computers at home. One of them I built myself, and the other I bought from a major electronics retailer. I'm one of those geeks who likes to squeeze every last drop out of everything I own. I have an old Honda which I intend to drive until it falls apart. My clothes are so old they are coming back in style. That leaves me with my computers, which unlike my car and my clothes, will die an unseemly death due to uselessness.
Even an old car can be carved up into parts because people like old cars and need things like radiators for them. The next time you're at a garage sale, take a peek at the crummy Pentium II 466 MHZ computer the sellers are practically giving away. Who the hell needs it? As for the parts, there's not a whole lot you want to do these days with a 16x CD-ROM drive. My point? My computers are outmoded and I'm too cheap to buy new ones.
That's where my old buddy comes in. I spoke to him recently and he stated that he has an old Pentium IV computer he wants to get rid of. Imagine that, my computers are so old that a Pentium IV 1.2GHZ computer with 512 MB of RAM looks enticing. Still, I'm going to snatch it up. I'll be using this thing Until Pentium XXVIIIs are out. But, that's okay. By that time one of my friends might be getting rid of a Pentium XXVII.


Since my mother died two months ago, I've experienced every symptom for every disease discovered by medical science. I need a vacation. Mom died horribly, gasping for air, and drowning in the fluid in her lungs. My eyes replay her final moments whenever I close them each night. Hers was not the first death I ever witnessed, many were violent and sudden. Gunshot wounds were typically the cause of these deaths. One person reached up to me from the ground, our eyes locked, and he passed away wondering why I was unable to help him. But, none of those people's untimely and awful endings had the same effect on me as watching my mother die. I miss her. Time will help ease the pain, but it will never erase her final moments from my memory. Also, it may never stop me from discovering yet another funny looking mole, feeling another lump, or having some pain. Doctors beware.

This Just In...

Nothing terrific going on here. Being new to blogging, I've run into the same difficulty that perhaps millions of others have: I want a blog but I need something to talk about. Since no one will be reading this, and I simply want to rant, who cares?

October 16, 2006


During a recent cruise, my family and I toured St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our destination was Magen’s Bay whose beaches are as enticing as any postcard. As alluring as the landscape is, I was taken back by the poverty there.

Our bus driver, a gentleman named Steven, drove us to a scenic overlook. Two men approached us carrying turtles and asked for tips while our children posed with them so we can take snapshots. It’s tough to earn a living that way and I felt a tinge of guilt as a sightseer in paradise. Without tourists, these men and their families might starve, I thought. Yet, technically, I was not a foreigner, and we had much in common.

Born and raised on Long Island, my family was not rich. My dad worked two jobs and my mother had a part time position at the library. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on luxuries, much less a vacation to the Virgin Islands. Yet, like my fellow Americans in St. Thomas, I grew up near the water. The best my parents could do for us during summer was to take us to the beaches at Jones Beach or Robert Moses State Park.

There, I learned to swim, dig for clams with my feet, and to body surf. It was a local paradise where everyone could afford the sunlight and the surf. Rich families could sun themselves inches from our blanket and we would never know. The beach was an equalizer for me.

St. Thomas brought back memories, yet things had changed since my youth. My education took me to a level of affluence my father didn’t have. My children don’t wear hand me down clothes and the holidays are bountiful. Still, my wife and I work hard to maintain our standard of living. Then why did I feel guilty?

Perhaps I misjudged these folks whom I never met before and assumed that they thought like me when I was a boy, gaping at wealthy visitors to the South Shore. I wanted to explain to the driver and the men with the turtles that I was born and raised on an island too, and I lived in a small home with five siblings. My father worked eighty hours a week to support us, and our mom broke her back cooking and cleaning. I may have been a visitor, but I can relate to them.

Steven most likely does not remember me or my family. The men with the turtles may have been the happiest folks in the world. In much the same way I do not want others to look down at me with sympathy for my humble childhood; I should spare the inhabitants of St. Thomas my gratuitous empathy. The world is full of people with similarities and differences which should be celebrated and embraced. I prefer to remember my vacation with a fond fraternity with my fellow islanders.

-Michael J. Kannengieser

October 15, 2006

For The Love Of Books, And My Father

“You want to give me a dollar for this?” It was an insult; and I didn’t hide my scorn for this buyer. I stretched the corner of my mouth, rolled my eyes, and held the book in front of me as if I were holding a valuable artifact.

The guy, a middle aged man wearing cut off jeans, a scruffy beard, and a khaki, bush hat, waved me off and walked away. I felt justified. Not because I didn’t make the sale; but, because I validated the importance of my late father’s book collection.

If I wished to open a book store, this would be a great start. Dad’s compilation included works of World War II and American Civil War history, and an assortment of volumes about sailing vessels, old time railroads and their steam engines, and novels. Yes, there were hundreds of fine coffee table books, and official, U.S. Government historical records of famous battles. Yet, the value of each hardcover and soft back was set not by a bargain hunter’s “fifty cents” mindset; it was my sentimental attachment to the man who taught me to appreciate literature and history. I’m an avid reader today because of my parents; yet, my father set the high water mark with his astounding talent for comprehending and synthesizing every subject he studied.

My siblings were the ones who arranged this rummage sale, held on my father’s driveway in the sweltering June heat. It was a month after he passed away, and we were still cleaning out his home. Watching strangers casually toss aside my mother’s fine, blue plates, her sacred quilting paraphernalia, and various knick knacks she collected over the fifty years they resided in their home, I became territorial. That may be junk to them, I thought. But to me, these things were part of my life, items which were the backdrop to my youth.

It was when folks were chipping down the asking prices for my dad’s books that I became protective. He read every single one of them and remembered most of the subject matter. Often, he bought a book just to clarify something he read in another. So much of his identity was built around his understanding of the past that one of my sister’s friends, a full professor at a nearby college, once observed “Your father knows more about American History than most history professors I know.”

That statement was priceless, as my father was a humble mechanic who repaired oil burners, air conditioners, and refrigerators for a living. His service in the army during World War II left him with severe wounds which caused him pain for the rest of his life. He never had a chance at formal education, but that did not stop him from teaching himself.

While in the nursing home shortly before his death, my brother bought him a hefty, coffee table book on the Civil War. No doubt my dad was familiar with everything inside this volume; but he got it for him because dad stopped reading. He wouldn’t even look at a newspaper. We knew that if lost interest in his love of the written word, he was done. So, in an effort to revive his spirit, we tried to get him to crack a book.

I visited him in the day room with him seated next to me in a wheel chair. His breathing was distressed and he was hooked up to an oxygen tank. With the pages of the new book open before me, I showed him the pictures. He was disinterested, unwilling to glance at the sepia toned images and Daguerreotype photographs printed inside. At one point, I was so engrossed in the subject matter, that I almost forgot my father was seated next to me. In fact, he dozed off.

One photo grabbed my attention. “Hey look Dad, it’s the U.S. Sanitary Commission, they look so important, don’t they?” I chuckled as I could not believe that the grim faced men in the photo could be anything more than glorified government employees.

My dad stirred, examined the page, and with heavy breaths, said “They became one of the most important agencies after the Civil War, giving medical supplies to hospitals, taking care of war casualties, and staffing hospitals with doctors and nurses.” Then, he proceeded to name the men in the shot. That memory saddens me because, while he struggled with his own mortality, depressed and unhealthy; he still made it a point to educate his son.

More and more customers were turned away that day as I dutifully demanded fair compensation for this legacy of learning; mostly because I did not want to see them go. I fought for reasonable prices, parrying with the “I’ll give you a quarter for this” crowd; because, I imagined bits of my dad’s soul being carried away with each sale. At this time, my home is filled with this inheritance of printed text. My basement has a table stacked with an assortment of very old and fascinating hardbacks dated as early as 1840. Some are first editions in fine condition, others did not fare so well over time; but they were read, cherished, and saved for future generations.

One of my father’s neighbors came by the yard sale and browsed the covers displayed on the tables. She picked up one or two to examine them more closely. Then, she turned to my brother and said “Your dad was a very interesting man. I always knew he was a lot more than just a mechanic.” He was indeed, and I have a library full of facts to prove it.

-Michael J. Kannengieser

October 14, 2006

Public Relations & You

I’ve been asked by a professor at the college where I am employed to deliver a lecture on public relations. My speech is tailored to the young, inexperienced, undergraduates in her class. The main theme will focus on how the demeanor and appearance of job seekers influences potential employers.

In my other professional life, I am managing editor for fiction for an international literary magazine. In that role I get to read some well written stories. In many cases, however, I must turn writers down in short order. My duty is to accept only the best a writer has to offer which complements the style accepted by the periodical I work for. I am intolerant towards authors who submit poorly written query letters which do not provide a plot summary or begin with a salutation. Many of the e-mails I receive are composed like text messages and expose the authors as incompetent writers. This brings me to my earlier ideas on public relations.

Writers are entrepreneurs who are the product they are marketing. They must present their stories to agents and editors who have their own individual biases and preferences. In order to be perceived as a skilled writer, one must begin with the opening sentences of their initial contact letter with respect for editor or agent’s position.

You may view your stories as art and be casual about your craft; but, make no mistake, the editor views your work as merchandise which may or may not help sell magazines. The writer/editor relationship is a business affiliation and is best treated as such. There is no room for informality and flattery. The writer needs to make a pitch and wait for a response. In turn, the editor will treat you with the same courtesy which you extended with your initial letter.

I’ve given speeches on public relations before, at the college. Typically, I package my sermons as informal advice while I am conducting seminars on technology. As I stand before a classroom of slouching, apathetic freshman, I point out that their manners convey a lot about them, either fairly or unfairly. While attending a university, you are actually on an extended job interview. The classmates surrounding you will enter the job market at roughly the same time you will soon after graduation. Some may already be working in your desired occupation and could potentially be the one interviewing you for the job you aspire to obtain.

Do you want to be remembered as someone who slept through most of their classes, drank a lot, and couldn’t memorize their class schedule? Or, do you wish to be admired as a dedicated learner who studied and made meaningful contacts through internships? The answer to that question is not always obvious to today’s youth, as they do not see marketing themselves as a vital effort.

Few recognize that companies must promote themselves to a fickle public, and therefore, selecting only the best from the talent pool will help them advance ahead of their competition. One fact which can never be overstated is that talent is sometimes available in abundance; and, other subtle factors are considered when interviewing candidates for any career opening. The key to accomplishment lies in the first impression one makes with a job interviewer.

Authors are free agents who vend their wares to a saturated market. A strong query with a proper greeting, story outline and word count, writing credits, and a conclusion, will rise above queries like these: “I have been published in far more prestigious magazines than this, so I know you’re going to accept my work,” or, a defensive tone “I don’t care if you publish me or not because I know I am good,” or the rude and poorly written e-mail “hi I want u to read my story ‘The riding cowboy’ which is something I wrote for my blog but did not post there becuz I am sending to u now so please publish it as I know you are accepting writing like this.

In the end, I remain employed in my full time position because I consistently prove my worth to the College’s administration. My appearance is professional, and I deal with faculty, staff, vendors, and students alike with the same respect I wish they show me.

In the literary world, I am an editor who expects only the best creation a writer has to submit. It is assumed that an author wishes to peddle only their strongest pieces. When I open stories with poor grammar and with spelling errors, I am inclined to reject them. It’s obvious that the writer did not know, or did not care enough to find out what to do correctly; and, in those cases, it is not my function to teach the author grammar and punctuation, but to dismiss their submission.

I've been asked to be an editor because I impressed the magazine's founder with my experience and with my writing. When I read an e-mail from a writer, I want to be shown the same respect I offered to agents and editors whom I have queried over the years. It is not only professional, it is a courtesy, and it makes one’s work more acceptable before others.

In a few days, I am going to deliver my lesson on public relations. The main theme in my presentation will be personal appearance and professionalism. Right now the students are learning to market themselves, just as writers need to do.

Photo From Stock.Xchng

October 13, 2006

Seasons Of Living

This is the first Christmas season without my mother and father and it has hit me hard. Granted, I am a middle-aged man with a family, and there are those who have suffered greater losses while much younger. Still, my children miss them very much, and their passing left a big hole in our lives. Also, not having parents leaves me at the top of the family tree along with my brothers and sisters. I’m too young for that, I think.

My nieces and nephews are either in college or getting ready to go. My daughter is in high school and we are already picking out universities from websites and catalogs. My son will be entering middle school next September, and I feel like life is sailing past me rapidly. I’m in my forties, sliding down the back end of the hill. There’s nothing but gray hair and an A.A.R.P. membership in my future. I’m not unhappy, but I have a vague sense that I lack accomplishment.

I keep telling myself that I exist solely to prepare my children for the future and create a better life for them. Everything I do, I do with them in mind. There’s a blissful movie which runs through my head each night before falling asleep, of my wife and I watching our kids graduating college, starting meaningful careers, getting married, and bringing their babies back home for visits. However, inside, I hear a voice, harkening back to my childhood, and it is agitated. The voice is me as a boy, and he does not realize that he is mature, older, and almost a half-century in age.

Perhaps we all have a similar, internal monologue which asks us if we’re emotionally equipped to move forward. Time does not stop because we need a breather. Yet, I can hush the voice with my keen grasp on reality. The compass I use to guide me through periods of such anxiety is my family. Each season reawakens dormant, and apprehensive sentiments which need to be dusted off and afforded attention. Much like the Christmas tree I pulled out of storage a few days ago along with boxes of accompanying lights and ornaments, my feelings will be dealt with anew, and they will settle down as I move forward and adhere to the happiness my family brings me during each holiday.

This year is the one which will be marked with me being at the helm of an older generation. I’ll miss my parents and others who have departed before them. Still, I cannot succumb to my inner child’s fear and allow myself even an instant of self pity or to wallow in remorse. After all, I have children who see me as a role model. One day they will lose me, and they need to know how to move on.