I Love the Royals/I Hate the Royals

The Kansas City Royals are headed to the World Series. Had you told me that at the beginning of the season, I probably would’ve asked you if you knew they weren’t in the National League. They had the look of a good-but-not-great ball club, the sort that might sneak into the Wild Card and then get swept in the first round. Except that didn’t happen, and the entire Kansas City metroplex (you know, all the way out to Farmer Johnson’s grain silo) is busy singing that song Lorde wrote about George Brett. Yeah, that’s a thing.

I don’t remember the last time I was this conflicted about a baseball team. Normally I’m quick to lump every club into the league into one of two easy to define bins: They’re Fucking Awesome! and Shit, They Suck!  The Royals are somewhere in the middle for me. Why am I overthinking this so badly? Well…

I love the Royals because they’re a small market team that built a championship caliber squad The Right Way: by developing talent from within, by making smart trades, and by not breaking the bank in free agency.

I hate the Royals because their manager is basically a humanoid cauliflower who blew more important decisions this year than your average drunk girl on Tinder.

I love the Royals because their designated hitter is nicknamed Country Breakfast.

I hate the Royals because they rely so heavily on base running and small ball.

I love the Royals because Alex Gordon is basically what a bunch of brilliant scientists would cook up if they were told “make the perfect left fielder.”

I hate the Royals because Alex Gordon bats sixth.  He racked up a .286 Tav and 5.5 WARP in the regular season. The five guys hitting ahead of him right now, in order: .255 and 2.5, .267 and 1.0, .269 and 2.9, .262 and 1.4, .256 and 0.0. Remember what I said about that humanoid cauliflower?

I love the Royals because third baseman Mike Moustakas,  a supposed washout of a former top prospect, has completely revitalized himself and started cranking homers like it’s going out of style.

I hate the Royals because I own Mike Moustakas in a keeper fantasy baseball league and he’s totally going to go bust after I spend too much of my budget to keep him around.

I love the Royals because Yordano Ventura reminds me of a young Pedro Martinez and they have waterfalls in centerfield.

I hate the Royals because  I can’t help wondering how they would’ve dealt with an Athletics team with its rotation intact and Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of its batting order, a Tigers squad that still had Doug Fister, Drew Smyly, Austin Jackson, and Jose Iglesias, and an Orioles club not playing a bunch of ham-n-eggers where Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Manny Machado should’ve been.

I love the Royals because they’re making this tough for me.

I hate the Royals because they’re making this tough for me.

So fuck the Royals. This is too hard. Go National League.

 

Stop Messing with Chicken and Waffles

Seriously. All you have to do is take some goddamn fried chicken, put it on a great big motherfucking waffle, and cover those bitches in enough syrup and butter to make a lumberjack cry. That’s it. Maybe you put some hot sauce on the side. If you try to do more than this, you are doing it wrong. Ergo, lots of restaurants are doing it wrong and their villainy must be stopped.

If you’re trying to “make it your own,” you obviously need to learn humility and how to recognize perfection. You’re probably one of those people who’s never satisfied. Stop it.

If you’re trying to “jazz it up,” I can tell you don’t have much luck on Tinder and no one’s responded to your ad in the casual encounters section of Craig’s List.

If you’re trying to “put a new spin on an old favorite,” you need to put down the pomegranate puree and back away slowly so no one gets hurt.

If you’re “reinventing a classic,” you’re messing with the balance of the Force and the Jedi will be arriving soon to stop your Dark Side nonsense before it spreads. The last thing the galaxy needs is the return of Darth Waffles.

Waffles. Fried chicken. Syrup. Butter. That’s all it takes. And for chrissakes put a wet nap on the damn plate.

 

 

 

I Want to Like the New Rosebud

Davis Square’s got a new place to eat and get loaded. The Rosebud American Kitchen opened a week and a half and ago in the space formerly occupied by the Rosebud Diner and the Rosebud Bar & Grill, merging the dining car out front with the bigger room in the back. It’s owned and operated by the same crew responsible for the square’s two best establishments, Posto and the Painted Burro.

It’s a nice place. The food and drinks are perfectly fine and the beer list is moderately interesting.  Entrees and cocktails are a little on the pricy side but not out of line for the neighborhood and the sandwiches are surprisingly affordable. The pisser’s nice and clean. There’s just one thing keeping me from giving the place the Scott Colby Seal of Alcoholic Approval: the location.

The problem here that I can’t quite get over is the fact that despite its interesting exterior, the Rosebud really isn’t any different from the other restaurants in Davis Square. It’s like someone shoved Orleans, Five Horses, Saloon, or the Foundry into an old diner. It makes no sense. With an exterior that cool, the inside really ought to be the most fun, kitschy place in the neighborhood. Instead, it’s just boring like everything else in the square.

This is a missed opportunity, doubly so given that Davis Square’s nightlife absolutely sucks. I know; I live there. When Sligo’s your neighborhood’s best option for an entertaining Saturday night adult beverage, your neighborhood has issues. Davis is supposed to be one of the most eclectic, fun parts of the greater Boston area – so why do Somerville residents have to go all the way into Cambridge to get to bars that fit that description? Why isn’t there a Charlie’s or a Friendly Toast or a State Park in Davis Square?

I’ll probably end up hanging out in the Rosebud regularly anyway, but I don’t have to like it. There’s a pie list. And it’s good. But that’s small consolation.

Breakout Star of NXT Takeover: Charlotte

It may sound weird to some that I’m pleasantly surprised Ric Flair’s daughter, Charlotte, has turned into an absolute boss in the ring. Strong bloodlines don’t always equal success in the squared circle. For every Rock or Randy Orton, there are twelve Sim Snukas or Ted DiBiases or David Flairs. Charlotte – at least last night – looks more like an Orton than a DiBiase.

I went into her match at last night’s NXT Takeover firmly in the corner of her opponent.  Bayley’s exactly the sort of character a jaded New England asshole like yours truly should hate: a peppy, friendly girl with a huge smile who often would rather give her opponents a hug than fight them.  She wears bright, youthful colors and makes her entrance to sugary-sweet music while a quartet of inflatable tube men wave their arms around the ramp. It all works, though, because it’s genuine; the woman behind the Bayley persona is just as happy to be there as her character and it’s obvious she’s having fun with it. The fact that she’s a very good wrestler certainly doesn’t hurt. You root for Bayley because it’s impossible not to, even if, like me,  your heart’s crusted with ice and covered in a Yankees Suck bumper sticker. If we could retcon the last six months of WWE programming so Daniel Bryan married Bayley instead, that angle with Stephanie McMahon would be fucking gold.

Anyway, back to Charlotte. I really wanted to see Bayley take down her former best friend and win the championship, but my resolve waivered a bit as soon as Charlotte made her entrance. Flair’s daughter owned that ring the moment her music hit. The announcers constantly billed her as genetically superior and every little thing she did implied that she is and she knows it and she isn’t going to let anyone forget it. That nonchalant gymnastics routine into the ring, which she caps with a melodramatic wink, quickly establishes the character and her athleticism. She plays the part of professional wrestler better than most of WWE’s veterans. She just belongs.

The match itself told a great story. Charlotte stalked around the ring, dictating the pace. Bayley got in the occasional flurry of offense just to get dropped by something big and vicious when Charlotte regained her footing. Although it wasn’t technically perfect (Charlotte notably ruined an otherwise impressive moonsault by landing on her feet before dropping onto her target), they kept the pace moving and the action believable. In the end, after a defiant Bayley kicked out of a moonsault, Charlotte fixed her opponent with one hell of a death stare and put her down with a flipping cutter.

It was a great match, but the pinfall wasn’t the end. Sasha Banks, the woman Charlotte originally turned on Bayley to become friends with, showed up to put the hurt on the fallen Doctor of Huganomics. As Charlotte watched the beatdown on her way up the ramp, there was a distinct moment where her features just softened. She didn’t like what she was looking at, and she reacted realistically rather than in the melodramatic fashion that’s taken over most WWE characters. Her underdog opponent had earned her respect. She strolled purposely into the ring, fought off Sasha Banks, and walked back up the ramp a much more sympathetic, real character.

In wrestling, it’s the little details that really matter. Charlotte nailed them all last night. NXT has done a great job developing the next generation of female WWE wrestlers. Charlotte may be their greatest creation yet.

Report on MBTA Savings Missed a Few Things

According to the American Public Transportation Association’s August Transit Savings Report, an individual in a two-person Boston household can save $13,045 a year by using the MBTA and living with one less car. These numbers are based on savings in gas, parking, insurance, and the like.

This is obviously shoddy science and flat out wrong. The savings were calculated primarily using the price of a monthly transit pass. This math obviously fails to account for the hidden costs of riding the MBTA:

  • $722 a year in dry cleaning bills. Because you sat in gum. Or the air conditioner broke on a 90 degree day in July. Or some wildebeest wedged himself into the seat beside you and the thigh fat that wound up in your lap oozed cottage cheese all over your khakis.
  • $513 a year in soap and hand sanitizer. See above. Plus the fact that you never know what the hobos and BU kids have excreted all over the hand holds.
  • $2549 a year in additional liquor. Because the goddamn red line was late for the third time this week. Or there was a switching problem at Park Street and hitting up the Beantown Pub for a few pints sounded more fun than standing on a platform jammed with angry people in their business casual best.
  • $827.87 a year in entertainment costs. You’ll want to have a book with you for when you inevitably get stuck between Central and Harvard for half a fucking hour.
  • $1200 a year in medical costs. Because packed buses and trains are basically big metal petri dishes on wheels during flu season. Plus you never know when some jerk is going to use a baby carriage as a battering ram.
  • Fuck it, tack on yet another $1000 for booze. Because you never know when regular service is going to be replaced by a fucking shuttle bus. Make sure you budget for it.
  • $623 a year in taxi costs. Because sometimes you don’t want to have to take a bus to a train to another fucking bus. And sometimes you have to get to Jamaica Plain. And sometimes the bus just doesn’t show up.
  • $45 a year in shoe laces. It touched the floor of the orange line? Burn it.
  • $26.33 a year to give to Keytar Bear. Face it, we all get sucked in eventually.

Well, well, well – doesn’t that put a serious dent in our supposed savings? Those additional costs total $7506.20, which knocks the real savings down to $5538.80. I can’t believe they screwed this one up. It’s just basic math.

 

Summerslam 2014 Results and Analysis

It wasn’t quite the “biggest party of the summer” as it’s often billed, but Summerslam was a fun show – and it undoubtedly set up the next few months of WWE programming in interesting and unexpected ways.

Dolph Ziggler won the Intercontinental Championship from the Miz – I really, really didn’t think this was going to happen. Normally guys who come back from an extended hiatus get to win for a little while. I don’t think this is a sign the writers are getting behind Dolph again as much as I think it’s a sign Bad News Barrett is coming back for his belt soon.

Paige won the Divas Championship from AJ Lee – I whiffed on this one, too, but I can’t say I’m disappointed in the result. Paige has brought a refreshing amount of violence to her pay-per-view matches. There’s always an absolutely brutal outside spot when she wrestles in a big match, which is a welcome change from the typical Divas bout where the biggest move is a slap or a rollup or that running hair pull thing. These two work really well together.

Bray Wyatt beat Chris Jericho – It’s about time Wyatt got back on track, although I can’t help wondering why his opponents don’t just jump on top of him when he’s doing the upside-down spider walk. If it creeps people out that badly, maybe I should do it on the subway to get some extra seat space.

Seth Rollins beat Dean Ambrose in a Lumberjack Match – I can’t decide whether I think this was a dumb clusterfuck or fun and chaotic. They used the lumberjacks well in a few spots and awkwardly in others. It mostly worked, though, and it should progress the beef between these guys nicely.

Stephanie McMahon beat Brie Bella – Steph carried this one. Everything from her outfit to her facial expressions to her wrestling was spot on, but the match definitely suffered from its lack of a compelling or empathetic protagonist. I find it hard to get behind Brie Bell. She’s just kind of there, and when she finally started to turn the tide against Stephanie was about the time I started playing with my phone. In the end, Brie’s sister turned on her to set up the next few months of bathroom breaks. Can we have Stephanie vs. AJ now?

Roman Reigns beat Randy Orton – This wasn’t nearly as dull as I worried it would be. Orton continues to be the most natural looking wrestler on the roster. Reigns gets better every time out.

Brock Lesnar won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from John Cena – Holy shit. This wasn’t a match; it was a mugging. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a match with the build and high profile of this one turn into a legit squash. It sets Brock up as an absolute beast with no obvious rival. I can’t help wondering if they pushed him too far; there’s no one on the roster who would seem to have a realistic chance of beating him one-on-one. Orton? Maybe if he goes into absolute evil shit mode. Reigns? Not ready. Daniel Bryan? Maybe. Cena in a rematch? Sure, but that would defeat the point of this one if it happens too soon. Whoever finally beats Lesnar is going to get one hell of a rub. It’s exciting stuff.

(Update 8/18 at 4:30 pm) And Rusev beat Jack Swagger in a supposed Flag Match I forgot about – The Russian’s fantastic selling of an ankle injury inflicted by his opponent’s Patriot Lock really made this one. He had to half-ass the Accolade the first time because it hurt too much to put his weight on that ankle. He didn’t make that mistake the second time even though he looked like he was in absolute agony. I like Rusev and Lana and I’d like to see both in higher-profile matches.

Shit I Learned Looking For an Apartment in Cambridge

I don’t often play anthropologist, but when I do my findings inevitably rock the establishment and drive professionals in the field to drink. What can I say? I’m a revolutionary, baby, and I don’t play by your rules.

Case in point: I’ve spent the last month and a half or so looking for a new apartment for September 1, most of it in the apartments of Cambridge, Massachusetts. This makes me the country’s newest expert on both the rental market and the living habits of the average 25 to 35-year-old Cantabrigian. Let me drop some knowledge on ya, son.

  • People in Cambridge are content to overpay for a dumpy apartment. You wouldn’t know it from looking at them, but most Cantabrigians are independently wealthy lords and ladies who work shitty jobs at startups and nonprofits just for fun. They’ve got nothing better to spend their money on, so they just give it all to their landlords as a sort of charity act.
  • People in Cambridge can’t tell when shit’s not level or when something needs to be fucking painted. Approximately 99.67% of the rental units in Cambridge need to be completely gutted and renovated, but none of the city’s residents realize that. I’ve also discovered that previous generations of Cantabrigians had a thing for floors that rolled like sine waves. Flat flooring simply wasn’t cool fifty years ago. There’s simply no other explanation for all the shitty floors I saw.
  • No one in Cambridge has cable TV. In fact, the city’s erected fortifications three stories tall for the sole purpose of keeping Comcast and RCN trucks out. Cable company employees are stopped on sight and lectured about how much better it is just to listen to NPR.
  • The rental agents are routinely memory-wiped to ensure obedience. I responded to an ad for a studio in Inman Square. The address I was given was actually in Union Square. Yeah, that’s right, in fucking Somerville. I had to show the agent where the place was because she hadn’t been since her latest memory wipe, and she proceeded to insist we were actually in Inman. I hope she remembered where she parked.
  • People who live in Cambridge are cold blooded. Every apartment I visited was at least 90 degrees inside, regardless of what the weather was doing. I swear I got swamp ass just from ringing the doorbell of a few places. There’s only one logical conclusion we can draw: Cantabrigians are, in fact, a race of cold blooded reptilian humanoids living among us in disguise. What are they after? Where are they from? Sadly, we won’t know until it’s too late and they’ve eaten us all.

There you have it, readers and science dudes who are going to steal my work! Sure, there may be a bit of small sample size bias here, but I’m sure my observations will prove true and I’ll put a few nerds out of business. Don’t worry about those fools: they’ll make great rental agents!

Summerslam!

Should be a good one. The card looks pretty stacked with hard-hitting matches between interesting competitors, and Summerslam is usually the event that sets up WWE’s fall calendar and plants the seeds for the upcoming Wrestlemania. We saw the latter last year with Daniel Bryan’s title victory and immediate loss. So what’s on tap for the 2014 version? Let’s see if I know as much about wrestling as I think I do.

The Miz retains his Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler – I really like both of these guys, and I could see them moving back up to the top of the card in a few years depending on how things shape out.  Right now, Dolph’s just too good in that make-someone-else-look-great role and the returning Miz needs a solid win.

AJ Lee retains her Divas Championship against Paige – Paige talks like the British Mayor Menino, but she’s the bee’s knees in the ring. Although I’d like to see these two keep going at each other, I’ve got a bad feeling they want to run AJ up against Eva Marie.

Rusev beats Jack Swagger in a Flag Match – Rusev needs to beat someone legit. Swagger’s suddenly that guy. Smells like another case of building a big tough guy up just to feed him to an established main eventer.

Bray Wyatt beats Chris Jericho – Because it’s about damn time Wyatt beat someone. Detect a trend in my predictions?

Dean Ambrose beats Seth Rollins in a Lumberjack Match – I’m not a big fan of the stipulation because I think it always takes away from the main wrestlers involved, but I’m looking forward to this one anyway. Ambrose is the modern day Roddy Piper and Rollins is amazing. Feels like this is just the beginning of a multi-match feud, one the guy with the Money in the Bank briefcase should eventually win after a bit of back and forth.

Roman Reigns beats Randy Orton – I don’t have high hopes for this one, however. Orton’s one of the crispest, most natural looking wrestlers on the roster, but he can be an absolute slog when he isn’t in there with someone more dynamic than he is. Reigns is improving, but I still think of him as a bit of a big man spot monkey who’s really only interesting during the last minute or so of a match when it’s time for him to get all his signature stuff in. That’s exactly what I expect here.

Stephanie McMahon beats Brie Bella – Bathroom break. This feud’s been an absolute clinic in how not to write for professional wrestling. Stephanie makes a fantastic villain, but Brie’s a miserable hero. She’s pretty and I’m sure she’s nice enough in real life, but she can’t act and nothing her character does makes any sense. I want to see Stephanie get her comeuppance, but I don’t want it to come from Brie. Can we get AJ or Paige in this spot instead? Is it too late to retcon the last year of WWE programming and pretend Daniel Bryan married Bayley instead?

Brock Lesnar beats John Cena for the World Heavyweight Championship – This is one of those situations where the outcome seems almost too obvious. The guy that beat the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak can’t lose his first match after, right? Regardless, Brock feels like the character they’ll focus on for the rest of the year, and putting the belt on him would be especially interesting.

Amazon vs. Hachette: CAGE MATCH FOR THE FUTURE OF LITERATURE!!!!

There’s drama brewing in the publishing world. Amazon, purveyor of cheap ebooks via its booming Kindle platform, has ruffled the feathers of traditional publishers, namely Hachette, a company I’d never even heard of until this latest brouhaha. Hachette’s pricing ebooks in the $14.99 to $19.99 range, which is kind of absurd when you realize brand new hardcovers go for a few bucks more and electronic files don’t incur the same costs in terms of physical production, storage, and transportation. Amazon, obviously, wants ebooks to be priced cheaper because it makes more money the more ebooks it sells.

Here’s the big thing we all need to remember: neither company is operating altruistically. When you hear Hachette claim it’s protecting its authors, that’s just a side-effect of its main goal: maintaining its own bottom line. The same thing goes for Amazon when it says it’s trying to help authors reach a wider audience. It’s Terd Sandwich vs. Giant Douche all over again, and buying into the rhetoric of either is silly. We authors need to remember one thing best put by the immortal Method Man: “Cash rules everything around me. Dollah dollah bills y’all.”

All that said, I’m going to side with Giant Douche. Amazon gave me a chance traditional publishers never would have: it let me put my work out there with no bullshit to see what the market would do with it. I’m under no illusions that what I write isn’t some weird shit most traditional publishers would toss in waste basket like the remains of yesterday’s power lunch.  In the modern world of digital distribution, what I did is the way publishing should work. There’s no longer a need for the sort of monolithic gate keepers Hachette and their ilk have become. You can argue that an ebook published by a big name company has a certain seal of approval on it and as such is less likely to suck…but then you read something like Allegiant and realize they could give two shits about quality if they think something will sell.

And as a big consumer of ebooks, lower prices are obviously attractive to me. Isn’t that part of the point of owning a Kindle? No one has to make any paper, stamp any words on said paper, bind those pages together, store the thing, ship the thing, store it again, or destroy it if hangs around for too long. There is no loss due to unused inventory. It’s basic fucking math.

Am I coming down a little too strongly on Amazon’s side given my previous basic cable cartoon comparison? I don’t think so. I’m actually siding with the authors, who should have the freedom to write and publish whatever the fuck they want without some jackass behind a desk telling them it’s not good enough. And I’m siding with the consumer, because simple economics state that ebooks should cost significantly less than their physical counterparts.

So yeah. I’m with you, Giant Douche. Although I’m standing in the back, doing my own thing and watching out for my own interests as a consumer and a shitty author.

The Red Sox Royally Screwed Up with Jon Lester

I’m concerned for my Red Sox. My unease isn’t due to the fact that they’re losing – that happens, and I told everyone who would listen that they were due to come back down to earth this year because last season’s team played well over its head. What worries me is the way they’re attempting to build the team.

Recent reports indicate that the Sox are looking to trade ace Jon Lester, the best pitcher the team’s had since Pedro Martinez. We’re talking about a guy with a 3.64 ERA and a 110-63 record in nine big league seasons. If you want to get fancy, he’s got a 3.62 FIP and has generated 22.5 WARP over that time.  He’s ninth on the team’s all-time wins list and fourth in strikeouts. He’s thirty years old and he’s only hit the disabled list three times – and two of those were for fucking cancer. I’m going to skip his World Series heroics because I’m not a fan of relying on playoff stats, but he’s been great in the postseason as well. This is a guy every team in the majors should want in their rotation.

So of course, the Red Sox, who pride themselves on being super tough negotiators, low balled Lester during extension talks. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the team offered Lester a four year deal between $70 and $80 million. Sounds like a lot of money, right? Not for a player who’s been one of the top ten starters in all of baseball for a good chunk of the last ten years. Pitchers like that regularly receive upwards of $25 million a year on the open market. Lester’s track record certainly makes somewhere in the $20-$25 million a year range more than acceptable.

Here’s where my team-building worries come in. Number one, offering someone like Lester such a shitty deal sends a pretty solid message to the rest of the players in the league that you’re a bunch of assholes. The Sox are the only team Lester’s played for. He beat cancer while coming up in their system. He’s been a part of two World Series victories. He’s made statements indicating he’d prefer to stay in Boston. Shouldn’t all that be worth something? Players constantly talk about wanting to be appreciated. That contract offer suggests the team would never actually give a shit about anyone it employs. If they don’t appreciate Jon Lester, who in the fuck would they ever appreciate? Why would any player ever give 110% for a team they know is going to just dick them over?

Number two, the team’s made a pretty pronounced shift away from signing big money veterans toward developing from within and offering short-term deals to good but not great players. When you’re a low revenue team, this strategy makes sense: keep costs low and roll the dice with kids and cheap retreads. It’s worked in Tampa, but Boston ain’t Florida. New England is one of the biggest baseball markets around and the Red Sox brand stretches all the way across the nation in a way rivaled only by the Yankees. That means they’ve got cash. If you’re a big market team that isn’t using its cash to lockup superstars, you’re wasting your single biggest advantage. Plus, the greatest value of building a strong farm system is that every home grown player you bring up frees up a ton of cash to use elsewhere. The Sox, in focusing on prospects and cost savings, are going about things completely ass backwards. This team should be a mix of high-priced superstars and solid young players on cheap deals.

Third, there’s a growing argument that prospects are becoming overvalued. Dumping a veteran doesn’t generate quite the haul it used to because teams are hording their cheap young assets. The smartest general manager in the game, Oakland’s Billy Beane, seems to have recognized this and flipped it on its head. He recently shipped out blue-chip shortstop prospect Addison Russell and useful young arm Dan Straily to Chicago in exchange for starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, a pair of veterans that should really solidify his staff going forward. He got a borderline ace and a solid number three for one great prospect and a fourth or fifth starter type. Oakland sits at 65-40 as of this writing. That’s only the best record in the Major Leagues.

Regardless of how you slice it, the Sox really fucked this one up.  Hopefully it’s a one-time screw up and not a sign of dumb bullshit to come. Lester’s going to look great in pinstripes next year, isn’t he?