By The Time They Get To Arizona 

The Giants today said they've walked down to the beach, found a bunch of guys using metal detectors and muttering to themselves, and asked them to come to spring training. In baseball parlance, these are known as "non-roster invitees."

OK, some of them aren't homeless; in fact, many have their own cozy bales of hay in the Giants farm system. These are the young guys who probably aren't good enough to make the team but show enough promise to get a taste of big league spring camp. (It tastes like low-carb soy shake, by the way.) These wide-eyed, goofy-grinning youngsters will include Jonathan Sanchez, a Lefty Malito who opened eyes last year in single-A ball, and Brian Wilson, Fresno reliever. Wouldn't it be nice if he pitched really well? Then we wouldn't have to wait so long to see him in San Francisco.

But other guys will show up with their soiled possessions spilling out of stolen shopping carts. The most intriguing name in the bunch is Jamie Wright, although "intriguing" really shouldn't be an adjective assigned to a pitcher who has walked nearly as many batters as he has struck out in his veteran career. That's hard to do.

For some reason, Giants fans have a warm spot for Wright. Here's why:

From '03 to '05, he pitched 21.1 innings at Mays By the Bay, gave up 12 hits and only 6 runs. Somehow he also managed to walk 15 and only strike out 6. (Good God, could that be right?) He has always pitched well in S.F. He gets away with lots of walks, sometimes, because he has an extreme sinker and induces many ground balls. If Felipe can pitch him only on cold foggy nights, he may be a good addition.

Small Print Update

Am I missing something? I often thought of Fiona Apple as something similar to Kurt Cobain, a young artist with great ideas and just a couple albums away from blowing everyone's mind.

Sorry, that's not the best metaphor to use in relation to Cobain, but my point is, when he died he was likely on the verge of doing something new, chancey, perhaps bad, but perhaps brilliant. Who knows. But he was restless enough and with the Unplugged thing Nirvana did, I got the sense that a break was coming.

As for Fiona, I like her first two albums Tidal and When the Pawn... enough to put them on shuffle but not to sit through from start to finish. She's smart, she's funky, she's a bit too preciously clever as a songwriter, she can jam, she has the slightest bit of Monk in her piano playing. But she never put it all together. When word spread last year of a weird new album recorded in '02/'03 that Sony refused to release, I was thrilled. Could this be it? Her turn-the-corner moment?

Alas, the new version of Extraordinary Machine isn't close to what I hoped for. The two tracks left over from the old recording session (produced by Jon Brion) are wonderful. The title track in particular is a ticklish delight with chimes and the occasional barrrup! of a baritone sax.

Come the second cut, though, we're back on familiar ground. "Get Him Back" lays down a percussive piano groove, but a minute and a half into it, I feel like I'm listening to "Fast As You Can." The rest of the album proceeds in similar fashion. It's well played, it's smart, a little too clever in some places, and thoroughly utterly predictable.

Top-10 album of the year, my ass.

Anyone know where I can get the bootlegged old version?

I'm also reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time but only about 30 pages in.


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