I'm Too Sexy For My Home Run Record 

Just when you thought Barry Bonds couldn't do anything off the field to make people smile, he dresses like Paula Abdul in the Giants' "American Idol" contest. That is, if Paula Abdul ever wore a muu-muu and shower sandals.

Captions welcome but, really, are they necessary?



Mays Field East? 

If it were only this easy.

Meanwhile, the Chron's Phil Frank continues to beat the Mays Field drum in his cartoon strip "Farley."

To aid the cause, I bought a couple Mays Field T-shirts and will proudly wear them, perhaps at the same time, whenever I'm at the yard. Unfortunately, they haven't been updated to reflect the switch from SBC to AT&T, but I won't quibble.




A couple small print updates:

* Added to the link list is Giants Jottings, which features spring training photos. Posting pictures of Noah Lowry pitching live BP in late February is crueller than making a homeless man sleep downwind from the chimney of a steakhouse grill. Can I have some March, please? Because March is only one month away from April.

* Cashed in some old stuff at Amoeba this weekend ($56 in store credit!). The highlight so far: Lucinda Williams Live at the Fillmore, culled from the three nights she spent in S.F. back in 2003. The ravages of time on her voice are stark, as she snarls to hit the high notes, but it's no detraction. Her phrasing and timing are aces, as is her band. (Hear full-length samples of a few songs here.) I was there one night to watch her go apeshit because of too much feedback on her mike. She bitched out the young techie who had to step onstage each time, but she redeemed herself by flirting with him shamelessly once the problem was fixed. Thus, in a nutshell, is Lucinda: an unpredictable older woman who's lived too long to be patient but hasn't loved too much to stop wanting love. There is a name for women like her: cougar. Rowr.

If she were your sister, you might think twice about asking her to keep an eye on your teenage son while you were on vacation. By the time you got home, he'd be sipping whiskey, smoking Camel Lights and listening to early ZZ Top and Howlin' Wolf.



No Depression 

Some of the finest music writing around is found in the pages of No Depression, the "alt-country" bible. Some of our finest local scribes have appeared there, and it's helped define (and promote) a musical genre without quite pigeon-holing it: Beck, Lucinda Williams, White Stripes, Dixie Chicks, Ralph Stanley, Frank Black, Dolly Parton, Janis Joplin, Merle Haggard...all are fair game.

Next time you see Armando Benitez, ask him if he's a suscriber. According to Rich Draper's latest notebook, Benitez is a huge country music fan (although not as huge as last year).

Benitez's favorite country star is Kenny Chesney, a.k.a. Mr. Renee Zellwegger for about seven minutes, which makes it less likely 'Mando is a No Depression reader. Chesney has never appeared in the magazine, according to its search engine. But you know how search engines can be.

It's also safe to assume Rich Draper's writing -- one of my favorite petty obsessions -- has never made it into No Depression. But with lines like this, he may be able to write a song or two for Kenny Chesney: "There's real-life dramas unfolding in traditional country music, the often sad whine of steel guitars telling of loves lost and Grandpa getting drunk on whiskey."

It's possible that Rich's editor missed the fact that "dramas" should take a plural verb, but it's also possible that Rich wrote "there's real-life dramas" on purpose to give his sentence, you know, that ol' country feeling. Ah, yeah. It's also possible that Rich doesn't have an editor and just posts whatever he feels like to the Giants' Web site.

Whatever the case, it's the first official entry for this year's Draper Follies. Keep your eyes tuned and your metaphors mixed for more gems. You never know when Noah Lowry's body is going to whisper in his ear.



Mad! Mad, I Tell You! 

Do you know why hatters were considered mad, by the way? Because they worked with a type of mercury to cure and shape fur hats. Hello, OSHA? I'm having a tea party. Won't you join us?

Deadspin has the most amusing take so far on this spring's Semi-Outrageous And Instantly Forgettable Barry Bonds Comment®. Or, really, comments: first to USA Today that 2006 is his last season and he's "tired of the crap," then to MLB.com that his knee brace is fabulous and maybe he'll play for another five or ten years.

Barry, man, you crazy guy! Is crazy, man, this Barry!

Next topic, please.



Caption Winners 

This week's caption contest came to a screeching halt thanks to Josh from Hollywood's entry. Strong work, JfH.

I realize I also forgot to name a winner to the previous caption contest. It was a tie: Anthony, with his A-Rod themed caption, and A1A with the obscure Vanilla Ice reference.

Congratulations to one and all. You get an El Lefty Malo plush-toy nematode as soon as you mail in your proof-of-purchase box tops. Or a free beer if we can arrange our hectic modern schedules accordingly. Mmm, beer. Mmm, baseball.

A brew before a game seems especially far away today, with temperatures in the near-freezings and snow falling on our local mountainous areas.

A couple notes for the weekend:

- The Mayor of Norwich is moving to Korea. Mike Cervenak, lifetime minor leaguer and 29-year-old nonprospect, has supposedly signed with a Korean team.

- Jim Baker of Baseball Prospectus has named his all-star "transient" team -- the best of the players who switched teams this year. For the National League pitchers, he lists El Duque, Chris Young, Dave Williams, Brian Lawrence, and David Bush. No Matt Morris? I think the Giants have become the opposite of the trendy pick, either as a team or as individual players (Barry excepted). It's cool to ignore them. They're just not much fun to talk about. Unsexy, I think the media like to say. To which I say, Ha! Have you seen Matt Morris's beard lately?

- Follow-on from a McC/Chr discussion board thread: What's a better band name, "Relish Matheny" or "Matheny Relish"? I mentioned this to La Fancherita last night and she said, "Is that some kind of food? I don't get it."



Caption Contest #3 

This is Mike Murphy, Giant equipment manager, getting the new spring-training clubhouse ready. He seems to be putting items of clothing in Barry Bonds's locker.

Alternative captions, please.

Also, please note that "Murph" has won the McCovey Chronicles nickcainname contest. He calls the young Giant hurler "Candy" Cain. Get it? Candy? Cain?



Get Out of My Dreams and Into My World Baseball Classic 

I haven't written much about the World Baseball Classic this winter because I don't want to keel over at my keyboard in a narcoleptic fit.


Sorry -- where was I?

Oh yes. World Baseball Classic. Despite my haughty liberal-elite blue state disdain for international baseball tournaments, I have to give some love to the USA! USA! USA!'s own Randy Winn, who made the 30-man roster for the Freedom Lovers. We also learned today that Randy weighs 89 kilograms, which makes me think the WBC will capture imaginations in the USA! USA! USA! about as well as Jimmy Carter's metric system.

Scanning the rest of the provisional rosters -- the other countries haven't yet announced their final 30 -- there are a few other Giants sprinkled about: Moises Alou, Armando Benitez and Pedro Feliz for the Dominican Republic, Omar Vizquel for Venezuela, Angel Chavez for Panama, and promising lefty minor leaguer Jonathan Sanchez for Puerto Rico (via Seattle).

There's also some cheating going on. The Italians seem to have a Kasey Olenberger of Santa Rosa, Calif. on their roster. Maybe his ancestors are from the Sudtirol. And Mark Mulder is listed on the Dutch team. Is it because he was born in (no kidding) South Holland, Ill.?

Then again, the Aussies have Damian Moss on their provisional roster, which is kind of like self-cheating. I guess it balances out.

My prediction: USA v. Dominican Republic in the final. Pedro Feliz hits a tournament-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th off Joe Nathan and decides to retire on the spot.



Wedlock and Headlock 

I haven't read a baseball book since the outstanding Sandy Koufax biography, so I got frisky and ordered two Will Carroll tomes today, The Juice and Saving the Pitcher.

The latter topic particularly interests me in the twilight of my, ahem, career. I stayed off the mound most of 2005 with a sore shoulder -- impingement, the physical therapist told me. I think there's something else going on in there, but I can't bear to get an MRI and have my suspicions confirmed. Hmm, maybe The Juice holds some career-lengthening tips, as well...nah. At my age the only juice I need is cranberry to keep old man river flowing freely.

But back to Carroll: I like him for the same reason I like most BP writers. Not because he comes up with new, creative ways of examining baseball, and not because he stubbornly refuses to cave in to sentiment. I am, after all, a sentimental fool. No, it's because Carroll is a darn good writer.

You'd think statgeeks and medheads would trip over their own jargon and egos every other sentence. More often than not, BP writers don't. (A few I find nearly unreadable, but I'll hold my tongue.) The new stats can be daunting, but the better writers are deft at avoiding SNVA/WARP/Rate2 pileups, or explaining in simple terms when necessary. The best keep a good sense of humor about it all, too. After all, we're talking about baseball, not nuclear proliferation.

Another who has expanded beyond BP is Dayn Perry. I linked to one of his pieces a while back and sparked some nasty words in the comments box. I'm not sure why -- Perry is one of the snappier baseball writers around.

His latest Fox column is an excerpt from his new book, Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think). In its own right the piece is a great synopsis of the Ted Turner-era Braves, sprinkled with nice details.

One of Ted's zanier promotional nights early in his ownership: Wedlock and Headlock Night. Group wedding followed by professional wrestling? Sure beats a Dave Matthews concert, y'all. If the rest of the chapters are as lively and informative, I may end up with three baseball books to get me through the dreaded February doldrums.



Barry Bad Idea 

Until this weekend, I hadn't paid much attention to the news of Barry Bonds's deal with ESPN to do an all-Barry, all-the-time reality show. It's not something I'd watch -- for reasons beyond not having cable TV, that is -- so I figured, pfft, big deal.

I reverse course: it is a big deal. A big dumb deal. More details of the show and its convoluted arrangements were laid out in this Chron piece Saturday. Praise be to John Shea for raising some tough questions. The main one:

What kind of a distraction to the team will the 24-7 coverage of Bonds be?

Shea notes that Bonds has already gotten special privileges for his entourage to photograph and film him in places where cameras usually aren't allowed:

And last season, despite the rules against cameras, one of Bonds' many assistants, Anthony Phills, had the freedom before, during and after games to take video and still shots of his boss in the clubhouse. He also had access to the trainers' and weight rooms.

Now, as the Giants make what could be their last playoff push in several years, there could be an ESPN camera crew in everyone's face, every night. Maybe everyone's cool with it. Maybe Matt Cain, Lance Niekro, Todd Linden and other young players trying to work their way into big-league rhythms won't be distracted. Maybe the veterans are used to Barry being Barry. Maybe everyone is willing to make the trade-off: you want the world's best hitter on your team, you sacrifice some peace of mind and some sacred players-only clubhouse space.

For the record, the team hasn't protested. At least publicly. The front office is making nice noises about the show -- which, as Shea also points out, will not be part of ESPN's news coverage.

We could argue that Bonds has every right to cash in on his fame and the glow of his home-run chase. But there's two kinds of right: legal and...ethical or moral is a bit of a stretch in this case, so let's say the second kind of right is common-sensical . As in Do the Right Thing.

I'll leave the legal bits to the lawyers; they can sort out appearance waivers and privacy violations and conflicts of interest. Common-sensically, this deal is as good an idea as playing rap full-blast in Felipe's Buena Vista Pizzeria Club. The very existence of the Barry Show tells us that Barry isn't really worried how the Barry Show will affect the San Francisco Giants in 2006.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he's polled his teammates and the coaching staff and everyone gave him an unequivocal thumbs-up. Maybe he went to the front office and asked permission. Maybe he thought it was flaxseed oil. Maybe maybe maybe. Stranger things have happened.



Whatever Park 

Giants executive Larry Baer (who always makes me sing, "he was a scary baer, he was a larry baer") unpacked some adjectives this morning to let me, Esteemed Season Ticket Holder, in on some news before it even broke: SBC Park is now officially AT&T Park.

Thanks for the heads-up, Larry. Membership has its privileges.

Other than the bland corporate officiousness that permeates the e-mail letter "from the desk of Larry Baer," which is basically the cut-n-pasted press release ("Warm Regards," my ass, Larry) I can't get too upset about this. The Giants are, like every other major-league team, just another bland officious corporation. Why hold them to a higher standard? I don't expect ballplayers to be exemplary human beings off the field. It's nice if they can be, but it's not part of their job description. Same with teams -- I hope they can show an organizational sense of humor and tasteful aesthetic, but their job is to put winning teams on the field. The Giants have built a lovely ballpark and a run of good, sometimes great baseball, it cannot be denied. Anything else is very welcome gravy.

It's too bad the Giants couldn't convince AT&T to accept "Mays Field at AT&T Park," as a grassroots campaign has been advocating. It got the support of some local media types, but to no avail.

What's funny is that with the park on its third name in five-plus years, its official name from here on out becomes ever-more irrelevant. Quick, what's the official name of the park formerly known as Candlestick? You probably know it, but you probably had to pause for a second. These corporate names have as much credibility as the boy who cried wolf and as much glamor as, well, Larry Baer.

In those terms, the new name isn't so much a foot-stomping travesty as it is a pathetic little transfer ceremony from one minor colonial functionary to another. Think of it as the vice-governor of the Falkland Islands finishing his two-year tour of duty and handing the keys to the glorified quonset hut to his successor. Just another guy in an ill-fitting gray suit.

Still, $50 million is a lot of dough. That's what Pacific Bell -- remember them? -- paid for naming rights back in the old days. And a contract's a contract; the corporate follow-ons of Pac Bell get to do what they wish. I'm sure the Giants would prefer Mays Field -- hell, they'd probably prefer Atlee Hammaker Yard -- over this latest yawnfest of a name. It can't be good for anything but the cold hard cash of sponsorship to pay off the debt service. We know it, they know it, Larry Scary Hairy Baer probably knows but would never admit it, and when the AT&T marketing minions high-five each other under the glow of the new marquee lights above the ballpark entrance, most people will be snickering behind their backs.

Maybe one day good taste, humor and honor will win out over crass nomenclature and clumsy corporatism. Until then...

¡Viva El Campo de Willie Mays, compañeros!


Small print update:

On the verge of selling it back to Amoeba for a buck-fifty, I decided to give Rage Against the Machine's Battle of Los Angeles its first spin since the month it was released. What once sounded like the dying embers of a well-meaning band's brief tenure now sounds a little more interesting. A few songs in particular ("New Millennium Homes," "Maria," "Ashes in the Fall") have the same tightly-coiled-spring feel that I loved about the debut Rage album back in, good God, could it have been 1993? I still can't listen to it all the way through, and I still can't quite get over how Zack De La Rocha often sounds like Adam Sandler at an anarchist book fair. But it's a good reminder that rap-metal hasn't been a total waste of ear-space.


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