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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pickoff Moves

Spring Training In Phoenix: The Times Travel Section Reports

An interesting if perhaps a bit tardy piece in the Times travel section by Sherry Stern and Christopher Smith about spring training, tardy because usually by this time of the year it's all but impossible to get tickets; your mileage may vary, of course, and in these economic times, it might be much easer. Vital information (emphasis mine)
Four places you don't want to sit
  • Avoid what appear to be premium seats in the first two rows of sections 106 to 124. A walkway looping the field in front of these seats is only about 3 feet below you, so unless ushers police the access, a distracting tide of humanity will cut off your view of the field. Rows C and above in these sections don't have this problem.
  • If you have even a trace of claustrophobia, steer clear of seats in the middle of any of the rows in sections 103 on the first-base side and 127 on the third-base side. These are the largest sections in the park, with as many as 24 seats per row; there's minimal legroom, and getting in and out of the aisles will be a pain. [I note in passing that this is fairly typical for spring training complexes. -- RLM]
  • The sections farthest down the lines from the plate -- 29 on the third-base side, 1 on the first-base side -- are deceptively enticing because they bump into fair territory. But the trade-off, especially in the front rows of these sections, is a bad angle on home plate.
  • Unless you are related to or hoping to date one of the relief pitchers, the bullpen patio areas in distant right and left fields don't feel worth $30 to $36 to be that far from the action.
A very good read, and something you might miss if you take your paper exclusively online.

Related: the Dodgers spring training 2009 season ticket sales are not materializing, as are sales of large corporate banners in the park. (Most spring training complexes sell ads for local businesses rather than national ad space.)

Russell Martin's Whisper Numbers

And they're not good:
The dropoff in Martin's numbers from 2007 wasn't exactly a freefall. His on-base percentage actually increased from .374 to .385 because he drew more walks, but his batting average, doubles, home runs and RBI totals all were somewhat reduced. Perhaps more alarmingly, his percentage of throwing out would-be basestealers fell from 30 percent in 2007 to 19.5 percent in 2008, and there were whispers inside the organization that his game-calling skills suffered because he was so focused on improving his hitting.

Hence, the conversations with Torre.

"I don't know if (the talks) got into anything really specific," Martin said. "I think it was just time for me to do my part as far as all the responsibilities with being a catcher. One part of that is learning as much as I can. (Torre) has so much knowledge and so much experience, and it was kind of ridiculous for me not to pick his brain."

Q: Where's Manny?

A: Who cares? Honestly, isn't it about time the Dodgers faced up to the fact that they won't have Ramirez in their starting lineup? And that this is the most boring hard-to-get, bad-date-from-Hell story ever?

Kendry Morales, Starter?

Like it or not, he is. I'm mildly optimistic, but I don't expect a lot of OBP. That could be worrisome, but Bobby Abreu will help out in that department.

Get Ready For A Sirius(/XM) Disappointment, Baseball Fans

Farhad Manjoo at Slate sees the satellite broadcaster as doomed, and, well, that's just too bad:
None of this is surprising. Though many of Sirius XM's problems have been exacerbated by the economy—the company loaded up more than $3 billion in debt with the expectation that cheap credit would remain plentiful—satellite radio has always been an idea out of step with the times. Like print newspapers, travel agencies, and record shops, Sirius XM offers what seems like a pretty great service—the world's best radio programming for just a small monthly fee—that has, in practice, been eclipsed by something far cheaper and more convenient: the Internet.

Go online and you can find just about any music or talk show that you want. It's pretty much all free, and it's computationally personalized to suit your tastes. You can get these services on the go, too. Apple's iPhone, Google's Android platform, and other smartphones can stream a huge lineup of radio content through cellular networks. There are still many hiccups—3G wireless networks don't yet blanket the nation nearly as well as Sirius XM's seven geosynchronous satellites—but Internet radio's reach is sure to expand. Indeed, it's already mesmerizing: Load up a program like Pandora or the Public Radio Tuner on your iPhone, plug it into your car's audio-in jack, and you've got access to a wider stream of music than you'll ever get through satellite.

Despite his comments, it's still not as easy as all that to listen in your car, of course (I'm not giving up Verizon without a fight), and that's a big problem for me. The infrastructure needed to listen to stations on the Internet portably remains woefully behind.

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As someone who recently bought a new car with a free 3-month trial of XM, I could not be happier with the service. There's tons of programming, and it's all right there. Sorry, but I have neither the time, nor the patience, nor the knowhow to go out and buy a whole bunch of technology, figure out how to get music onto it, and then plug it into my car somehow. Heck, the car even has a dedicated iPod jack, which is great except for the fact that after 2 or 3 years I still have only about 5 albums on the thing.
It's really not that difficult. I've had an iPhone for the last year or so. It takes 60 seconds to download a free Shoutcast app from the AppStore, and that's it: access to more than 25,000 radio stations, and the audio quality is better than satellite. The 3G network covers most all of the LA metro, and there are rarely dropouts.

If you have an iPod jack in your car (I do as well), an auxiliary stereo cord costs less than ten bucks, and you're good to go. And when the three-month XM free trial is up, you won't be paying $12.95/mo to keep that audio stream flowing. Free radio is the past, and free radio is the future.
I'll confess to being something of a Luddite when it comes to these things; you won't see me buying an iPhone until it's (a) offered by Verizon, (b) Bluetooth compatible with my car, and (c) the same size as my current phone. That thing, while impressive in so many ways, is just too big to wear on a belt buckle. It would also help if they had one without a camera (this is a problem with just about every phone on the market, I admit), since they're technically not allowed where I work. While $12.95 a month for XM is a bit bothersome, I've heard that if you don't sign up right away after the free trial ends, they'll make you a better offer. Also, I'm willing to pay something for the absence of commercials. Meanwhile, I can't imagine that any of the free radio that's available on the net, which I assume are simply over-the-air stations that have a net feed, is really any different than the stations I already get on my FM antenna. Just more of the same, right? Or is there anything approaching the variety that the satellite service offers?
Substantially more variety. 25+ thousand stations with a free app like Shoutcast, 60+ thousand stations for a six dollar app like WunderRadio. Most of that is commercial-free, and contains the thousands of internet stations that people stream from their own servers, plus AM/FM stations from all over the planet. (I'm usually listening to stations from Chicago and New Jersey.) Then there are free online music streaming services like Pandora that tune music algorithmically to your tastes.

iPhones already have Bluetooth support for the car, but it doesn't sound like that will address your other concerns. What you may want at some point is an iPod Touch, which is essentially an iPhone without the phone or the camera: just internet, email, wi-fi, a reasonable operating system and a ton of storage. You could view it as a handheld computer and radio/video tuner. That's largely what it is.

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