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Our Little Marine Le Pen Town

April 23rd, 2017 · No Comments · France

Polls closed at 8 p.m. in France tonight in the vote for the country’s next president.

The results were announced one minute later.

At 8:01 p.m., a polling company that an hour earlier had retrieved results from 200 key voting stations … announced which two candidates were going to get the most votes and advance to the final vote, May 7.

So much for election-night drama.

What in the U.S. might mean seven or eight hours of waiting for results to come in, state by state … was over in 60 seconds.

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Bill ‘Stat King’ James and Another ‘Baseball Abstract’?

April 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, France

Let’s get at this the long way ’round.

Most of our possessions arrived in southern France, from southern California, in one big crush of boxes along about mid-October. We had them stacked on a big plastic sheet in the garage, and the boxes made for a pile about three feet high and maybe 10 yards wide and 20 yards deep.

A lot of stuff, and “books” were not a high priority at the moment, considering we did not have any bookshelves.

Not until March did we finally attack the final 15-20 boxes, and I came across my cache of books, a subset of what I had when we left Long Beach for Abu Dhabi, back in 2009. (You can’t travel with a library.)

I was happy to see many of those books, including a half-dozen baseball tomes, led by a book I have cracked open at least 50 times in subsequent weeks:

The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. All 998 pages of it. Still fun as can be. Having it is like rediscovering a long-lost friend.

And as I pick it up and read this section about “baseball in the 1920s” and that section on “ranking the top 100 second basemen” (Joe Morgan, No. 1) … I marvel at how all-encompassing the book is, how amusing, how provocative, how persuasive is Bill James‘s statistics-based writing is …

And then I want a new one. A New New Historical Baseball Abstract, picking up at where he left off, in the one I have in my hands — basically at the end of the 2000 season.

Hey, Bill James! Get busy and update this with another couple of decades! What else do you have to do?

Then I found out … well, the man has lots and lots to do.

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Separated at Birth?

April 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Football, NFL

Maybe it’s just me, but I have trouble differentiating between Tom Brady and Matt Damon.

No, really.

(And the photo, above, in which Damon is wearing Brady’s uniform, makes things worse.)

To me, they are pretty much the same guy. If asked, “Who starred in all those Bourne Identity movies, I might well pause and say, “Tom Brady?”

Which I know makes no sense on several levels, beginning with “one is a 6-foot-4 NFL quarterback and the other is a 5-foot-9 actor”.

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Handsome Name, Unreal Expectations?

April 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball

Adonis Garcia is a third baseman/outfielder who plays for the Atlanta Braves.

He also is the first big-leaguer to answer to “Adonis” in more than a century, according to the database at the baseballreference.com site.

The previous Adonis was given the name not at birth, but some time after he became a professional baseball player — in 1884.

Apparently, William H. Terry was considered handsome by other players, or perhaps by journalists, and he was gifted Adonis as a nickname. If we was vain enough, perhaps he appreciated it. He was able to win 197 games, anyway.

Adonis Garcia seems to have had his name all along, which feels like a bit of a burden, given that pretty much none of us live up to the “strong and handsome” reputation of the Greek god Adonis who, as the expression goes, had the body of a Greek god.

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Aaron Hernandez and a Question Left Unanswered

April 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, NFL

If I could ask Aaron Hernandez one question, it would be this:

“Why?”

But I will never have that chance, and no one else will, either, going forward …

And I’m not sure he could answer that question. The “why?”

Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end with a $40-million contract, hanged himself in his prison cell early today, according to authorities, and he takes to his grave charges and suspicions — and one life-in-prison murder conviction — involving a variety of shootings going back to 2007, when he was 17.

And we are left to wonder about the whole of it, and what led him to be involved in perhaps the most lethal off-the-field behavior of any star athlete in American sports history.

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The Forgotten Dodgers Relief Ace

April 18th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Mike Marshall.

No, not that Mike Marshall, underachieving Dodgers outfielder of the 1980s, perhaps best known for the club’s explanation why he was sitting out another game: “General soreness.”

The other Mike Marshall. Or the original Mike Marshall. “Iron Mike” Marshall. Who was, pretty much, an original, in that what he did for the Dodgers in 1974 may never be replicated as long as baseball is played.

Marshall set MLB records (which still stand) for most games pitched (106) and most games finished (83) and threw 208.1 innings — yes, out of the bullpen.

He probably was the most valuable player on the winningest Dodgers team since the franchise moved to Los Angeles; that 1974 team went 102-60, and to beat that we have to go back to the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, who were 105-49.

He certainly got the attention of journalists of the era: He was the easy winner of the National League’s 1974 Cy Young Award, the first relief pitcher so honored. He was third in MVP voting, behind Steve Garvey and Lou Brock.

And yet … we don’t think much about Mike Marshall. Mention “Dodgers, 1974” and even many older fans, who lived through that season, will say: “Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey …”

Say “Dodgers reliever” and you might get Perranoski, Brewer, Worrell, Gagne …

Why, then, does the Mike Marshall of Dodgers bullpen fame seem nearly forgotten?

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The Data-Driven Demise of the Closer?

April 17th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball

It always is perilous to pick an argument with statistics wonks.

They have the “truth” of numbers in their tool kit and failing to acknowledge their intellectual superiority … well, just admit up front you are a Luddite.

But sometimes I wonder …

The latest trend in baseball is the notion of “leveraging” your best relief pitchers by using them at critical moments in a game — and not saving that ace reliever for the ninth.

The notion of a “closer” throwing the final inning, only, has been around for a couple of decades, but increasingly that tactic is considered hoary and is under attack.

Buck Showalter was practically fitted for a dunce cap when he failed to use closer Zach Britton in an 11-inning, wild-card game last October in Toronto, one his Orioles lost as Britton went unused.

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The Chick Hearn of France

April 16th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

The NBA is a fairly big attraction, in France, a nation which also has produced the greatest number of foreign players in the league, about a dozen.

The New York Times today has drawn a link between a Franco-American wannabe baller — who did heavily accented commentary for French television for much of two decades — and the sport’s popularity here.

As I read the piece, it finally dawned on me where George Eddy may have drawn his inspiration:

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Not All Precincts Have Reported, but Westbrook Has Healthy Lead in MVP Vote

April 15th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

Perhaps you have been following the great debates over who should win the Most Valuable Player race in the NBA.

The 2016-17 competition is about as hot as it gets.

People of intelligence and good will can make a case for at least four players, and that is leaving Stephen Curry, the two-time defending MVP winner, out of the discussion.

The four? Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.

The announcement of the winner, previously made during the second round of the playoffs, this year will be revealed in a televised awards ceremony on June 26 — more than two months after the completion of the regular season this week.

The electorate is 100 professional journalists, none of whom were identified by the NBA.

But journalists being journalists, various sites are attempting to figure out who has a ballot, and how he or she has voted.

Bleacher Report is reporting that Westbrook is the clear leader from 54 known choices for the top position in the MVP ballot.

According to the website, Westbrook has 34 first-place votes to Harden’s 15. Leonard has 3 and James 2.

Westbrook is in very good position to win, clearly.

What I wish could happen? With two guys separated from the rest of the pack?

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Meanwhile, Back in the World, the Lakers Screw Up

April 14th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

While slogging through the hills of northern Spain, it was easy to lose track of stories he or she thought were important, before.

And after.

Top of the list on the sports side, for me … is the Lakers’ ridiculous five-game winning streak that cost them a chance to have the second-best position in the NBA draft lottery.

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