Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Metaphor Abuse
2008-06-13 20:43
by Mark T.R. Donohue

So I'm sitting here watching the high-speed recap of the Rockies' loss to Chicago today and thinking, what to write about? I don't particularly feel like rehashing the last time that Colorado met the White Sox in interleague play; that series at Coors in 2005 was one of the most thorough beatings I have ever seen one team give another across three games. A typo in's game story gave me a very temporary panicked feeling that I've been spelling Willy Taveras's name wrong for two years.

Willy hit a home run today, his first of the year. His slugging percentage is only one one-thousandth lower than his OBP as of tonight. What more can you really say about a player like that? Not much, except I'm disappointed that he somehow managed to tally an RBI without my physical presence in the ballpark. Coors Field may be the strongest all-around offensive incubator in the modern game but there's no park that's as friendly to all fields

After work today I went to the record store, as is my usual practice on paydays. As I write this I'm listening to a used copy of The Beatles that I was quite excited to get for twenty dollars today. As I flipped on the postgame show and "Back in the U.S.S.R." played, it occurred to me that record collecting is a lot like the MLB draft. Much more so than the NFL or NBA drafts, which are probably like collecting other things.

There's the obvious "diamond in the rough" analogy to be made, but the way that the comparison occurred to me was a little more involved. Hopefully, a little more clever, too. The first thing that struck me was that in either case, you simply can never tell. I got a copy of Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway up in Greeley last week that looked flawless in my hands at the record store. When I got it home, it had an irreparable skip right at the end of side two of the first disc. So it is with these high school and college pitchers. Look at Mark Prior's career! He was the biggest can't-miss of my lifetime and... he missed.

Prior, and Genesis, both have something to do with my second point. That's handling. It's true that there's only so much you can do with some raw material. I have a copy of Elvis Costello's Goodbye Cruel World from 1984 that plays perfectly. Good as new, and I think it cost four dollars. Trouble is, it's still Goodbye Cruel World. Crummy songs in impeccable fidelity are still crummy. When I get a record with some good songs, before even playing it I use a Discwasher brush and cleaning solution to polish it until it shines. And I store my records carefully. If I catch my girlfriend handling one of my albums improperly, I give her holy hell. I have a whole organizational system and always put the records away with side one facing forward. The point is, to get the most out of these investments, I have to treat them with almost clinical tenderness.

And so it was with Prior, if you believe sportswriters in Chicago -- Dusty Baker broke him. Prior was a mint copy of Beggars Banquet, and Dusty left dust, scratches, and fingerprints all over him. I'm not sure how much of the Dusty/Prior myth is something we've all just begun to believe because we've heard it so many times before, but the broader point is there even if the example is a weak one. Drafting guys is like collecting records. You have to have good content on the LP there to begin with, but you also have to maintain it lovingly. You have to keep it clean and undamaged. You have to use it with the proper equipment -- my turntable doesn't play 78's, so I don't collect those. You shouldn't stockpile things you have no use for (unless you know somebody who will trade you some stuff you do for them).

I think the Rockies, or at least their brain trust, has real good taste in records, but questionable knowledge when it comes to their care and feeding. Franklin Morales was barely a test pressing when he was pulled up to the majors; he had no business being played with a needle so heavy. Also, not that it's on the subject, but Colorado would be a lot better off if they stopped bringing in used-store finds who are the baseball equivalent of the hundreds of Barbra Streisand records that clog dollar bins everywhere.

I have it on good authority that Clint Hurdle is a big music hound. Maybe he favors the inferior CD format, where everything is identical and nothing ever changes. More likely, he's an mp3 guy. For the mp3 listener, music is chaos -- iTunes downloads, free downloads, file-sharing, mislabeled or spoofed tracks, no permanence or provenance from anything. I'll bet Clint is an iPod guy. So much has been made of how the Rockies pioneered the use of video iPods for showing batters and pitchers game film; I'm sure Clint has some space on his for some Wilco tunes even with all the footage of Brad Hawpe striking out against lefthanders. He certainly manages the team as if his lineups were being generated by a "shuffle" button at times.

2008-06-14 17:40:24
1.   Todd S
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is one of my favorite albums. I'm a CD guy, and I actually have an "original" as well as a re-mastered copy. Sorry yours has a scratch. Would that mean that The Chamber of 32 Doors has the flaw?

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