Thursday, November 04, 2004

Change Everything

After nearly a year-and-a-half with Blogger, this will be my last post here. Shallow Center is movin' on up, though not to a deluxe apartment in the sky. No, from here on out you can find my stuff here. And you can write to me at So stop on by and let me know what you think.

I've finally got a piece of the pie.

Coming Soon

Expect a Major Announcement on the future of Shallow Center soon. (Relax, I'm not going into full-time political commentary. I'd like for all of my family and friends to continue speaking to me.) Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Manuel Labor

The Inquirer is reporting tonight that Charlie Manuel will be introduced formally as the Phillies' next manager tomorrow:

Manuel's two seasons working for the Phillies afforded him the opportunity to gain knowledge of the roster he is taking over. The players also became familiar with him. Manuel has a more easy-going personality than Bowa and several players privately campaigned for him to get the job.

Manuel won out over Jim Leyland, who led the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series titles. Leyland badly wanted the job. He was the final candidate to interview, and he impressed club officials. But in the end, Manuel was the man they wanted.

Interesting note about the players' private campaign. My gut told me Leyland was the better choice, but I'm okay with Manuel. (And Tom Goodman should be really happy.) Much as the Flyers accommodated Keith Primeau & Co. in cashiering Bill Barber, Ed Wade now have given the Phillies players what they wanted. And much as the Flyers told Primeau and his mates that the onus was off Ken Hitchcock and on the guys on the ice, the Phils now must accept that it's put-up or shut-up time.



This is a bit late, but the first annual awards of the Internet Baseball Writers Association have been posted at I'm flattered to have been asked to contribute; my ballot is below:

1. Scott Rolen/Cardinals
2. Albert Pujols/Cardinals
3. Barry Bonds/Giants
4. Adrian Beltre/Dodgers
5. Bobby Abreu/Phillies
6. Carlos Beltran/Astros
7. Eric Gagne/Dodgers
8. Aramis Ramirez/Cubs
9. Jim Edmonds/Cardinals
10. Sean Casey/Reds

1. Vladimir Guerrero/Angels
2. Miguel Tejada/Orioles
3. Ichiro Suzuki/Mariners
4. Gary Sheffield/Yankees
5. Michael Young/Rangers
6. Manny Ramirez/Red Sox
7. Curt Schilling/Red Sox
8. Hank Blalock/Rangers
9. Travis Hafner/Indians
10. Johan Santana/Twins

1. Roger Clemens/Astros
2. Carl Pavano/Marlins
3. Jason Schmidt/Astros

1. Curt Schilling/Red Sox
2. Johan Santana/Twins
3. Jake Westbrook/Indians

1. Khalil Greene/Padres
2. Jason Bay/Pirates
3. Ryan Madson/Phillies

1. Bobby Crosby/Athletics
2. Daniel Cabrera/Orioles
3. Alex Rios/Blue Jays

1. Bobby Cox/Braves
2. Phil Garner/Astros
3. Jim Tracy/Dodgers

1. Ron Gardenhire/Twins
2. Mike Sciosia/Angels
3. Joe Torre/Yankees

1. John Scheurhohlz/Braves
2. Gerry Hunsicker/Astros
3. Kevin Towers/Padres

1. Terry Ryan/Twins
2. John Hart/Rangers
3. Chuck LaMar/Devil Rays

Electoral Collage

We the people have just given four additional years to a president who misled the nation into an unnecessary and unjustified war that has fostered, not suppressed, greater terrorism around the globe; who bought off the electorate with a pandering and insignificant middle-class tax cut that served only to hide much larger givebacks to those who need them less; who impugned the valorous war record of his opponent despite using family connections to avoid combat; whose morally bankrupt fiscal policies have created a mammoth budget deficit that our children and grandchildren will be forced to contend with; who gutted essential and effective environmental legislation; who demonizes those who disagree with him rather than engage in dialogue; who ran on a record of compassion and unity, then governed as if his dictionary didn't include those words; who has pathetically little command of the English language; and who claims to be guided by God in his decision-making.

How the hell did this happen?

Will Saletan of Slate has as good an explanation as any:

I think this is the answer: Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.

Bush is a very simple man. You may think that makes him a bad president, as I do, but lots of people don't -- and there are more of them than there are of us. If you don't believe me, take a look at those numbers on your TV screen.

Think about the simplicity of everything Bush says and does. He gives the same speech every time. His sentences are short and clear. "Government must do a few things and do them well," he says. True to his word, he has spent his political capital on a few big ideas: tax cuts, terrorism, Iraq. Even his electoral strategy tonight was powerfully simple: Win Florida, win Ohio, and nothing else matters. All those lesser states -- Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire -- don't matter if Bush reels in the big ones.

This is what so many people like about Bush's approach to terrorism. They forgive his marginal and not-so-marginal screw-ups, because they can see that fundamentally, he "gets it." They forgive his mismanagement of Iraq, because they see that his heart and will are in the right place. And while they may be unhappy about their economic circumstances, they don't hold that against him. What you and I see as unreflectiveness, they see as transparency. They trust him.

Now look at your candidate, John Kerry. What quality has he most lacked? Not courage -- he proved that in Vietnam. Not will -- he proved that in Iowa. Not brains -- he proved that in the debates. What Kerry lacked was simplicity. Bush had one message; Kerry had dozens. Bush had one issue; Kerry had scores. Bush ended his sentences when you expected him to say more; Kerry went on and on, adding one prepositional phrase after another, until nobody could remember what he was talking about. Now Bush has two big states that mean everything, and Kerry has a bunch of little ones that add up to nothing.

Understand, I'm no Kerry fan. He never stood for anything, changing positions more often than Paris Hilton in front of a videocamera. (Pause for rimshot.) My vote for him was far more a statement against President Bush than any endorsement of Kerry. For the second straight election now, and the fifth of the last seven, the Democrats have saddled the country with what appears to be the safe choice, the guy who looks great on paper but who doesn't understand that leadership -- real, effective leadership -- is intimately tied to human connections. It's not about who's smarter or whose resume is the most glittering; it's about who understands people and their problems. Bill Clinton knew that; Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry didn't.

The more I look, the more uneasy American politics makes me. The Republicans have been hijacked by a politically ruthless and deeply troubling secterian wing that has abandoned the party's core principles of fiscal responsibility and limited government. The Democrats, after a successul flirtation with the pragmatism of the Clinton years, can't get out of their own way; they seem unwilling or unable to adapt to political reality and adjust their messages, and their candidates, accordingly.

So what now for moderate centrists like me? I'm a registered independent perfectly willing to split my ticket -- did it yesterday, in fact -- but these days I fear I have no place to go. So -- do I join a party and try to work from within the system to improve things? If so, which one? Do I move beyond this little effort and become a more vocal advocate for change? Do I run for office myself?

What would you do?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

That's the Chicago Way

My 3-year-old daughter proved today that she has a wonderfully engaged civic future ahead of her.

Or a lifetime of rampant political corruption.

We had traveled to our polling place this morning to cast our ballot and remove the swing-state shackles of direct mail and recorded phone calls that had imprisoned us for the last two months. Inside the booth, I made my choices. I directed my daughter to press the orange button, the one which would record my vote. The machine made its happy voting noise, we stepped through the curtain, and I told her, "We did it! We voted! Way to go!" High-fives and happiness all around.

Then, she piped up with a very familiar word, the one she uses whenever she does something she really likes.


"Well, sweetheart, next year. We'll come back next year and vote."

"No, I want to vote again! Again!"

I'll have to do some genealogy research to see if we're related to the Daleys of Chicago.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

They Can't Handle the Truth!

With yesterday's parade in Boston, baseball fans have closed the books on the 2004 season. Yes, there will be plenty of talk over the next few months about free agent signings and trades and managerial changes, but all of that is about next year. We're done with this season.

A final note about the World Series champs and their many supporters: As much as I wish I could believe Bill Simmons's frequent, fervent assertions that all Red Sox Nation wants is to be treated like all other baseball fans, Boston's ability to channel its own supposed victimhood in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary makes me skeptical. The Sox hadn't won a Series since 1918, but they were a hell of a lot more competitive in the intervening seasons than a lot of other teams -- including, say, our own hometown nine -- and meanwhile the Patriots were winning two Super Bowls in three years while the Celtics are the NBA's most storied franchise. Yet all you ever heard about was the woe that had befallen Fenway Park and the surrounding area since Babe Ruth was peddled to the Yankees.

My suspicion is that Red Sox Nation is going to need some expert therapy to deal with the sudden disconnect between perception and reality. Boston doesn't want admit it, but I think its fans find some sort of perverse comfort in the heartache they believe they've had to endure. As Col. Nathan Jessup barks in A Few Good Men:

You don't want the truth because, deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall -- you need me on that wall.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dogs and Cats Living Together

In the space of less than a week, the Boston Red Sox managed to do something no team had done, ever, in well over a century of Major League Baseball, then won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

Now that the impossible apparently has become routine, I will be:

  • Submitting Shallow Center for a Pulitzer Prize

  • Awaiting Mia Hamm's impending divorce from Nomar Garciaparra so that I can ask her out, with my wife's okay

  • Entering the Mr. Universe competition

  • Barging into David Montgomery's office and demanding to replace Ed Wade

  • Subsisting entirely on a diet of sausage pizza and Stoudt's American Pale Ale, and not gaining an ounce or seeing my cholesterol levels rise

  • Acquiring the powers of X-ray vision, clairvoyance, and flight

and expecting it all to come true.

As gripping as the two League Championship Series were, the World Series had an air of inevitability about it. The Red Sox jumped out to the lead in every game, and while the Cardinals occasionally were able to draw close, this was clearly Boston's show.

And so the Sox have exorcised the most infamous of baseball demons, sent Babe Ruth's ghost careening west on the Mass Pike toward Albany. Theirs has been a truly remarkable performance -- a blistering close to the regular season, an easy divisional series win over the Angels, the historic vanquishing of the Yankees, and the ultimate triumph over St. Louis. They are due every congratulations which comes their way. Including mine.

Managed Care

While the baseball world zeroes in the Red Sox' impending World Series victory -- man, is that a weird phrase to type -- intriguing things happened in Phillies City-State yesterday. Jim Fregosi was in South Philadelphia yesterday to interview for the Phils' vacant managerial post, and Ed Wade confirmed that Jim Leyland would be a candidate as well.

As Wade prepares for the most important decision of his career -- at some point doesn't his job have to be on the line for a nearly $100 million failure? -- he'd do well to heed these words from Phil Sheridan in today's Inquirer:

Watching the Sox buzz through the Cardinals is a breathtaking example of design in action. [Sox GM Theo] Epstein wanted a lineup of smart, aggressive hitters. He wanted players with asbestos-covered psyches who could endure the heat of playing in Boston. He wanted depth (the money really helps there). And he wanted a manager with the right temperament to keep it all together.

Also Sam Donnellon in the Daily News:

A year after watching Aaron Boone's home run send his hard work home early, Epstein is one game away from emancipating Red Sox Nation from an 86-year-old curse because he outworked and outthought George Steinbrenner's baseball people in the offseason and inseason, and because he spent more wisely than they.

While the Yankees added two big bats to a lineup already full of them in the offseason, Epstein added another ace in [Curt] Schilling and a reliable, two-inning closer in [Keith] Foulke. While the Yankees assembled a team of aloof professionals who came and went separate from each other, Epstein has, over the past two seasons, constructed a team lauded for its cohesiveness and chemistry.

It's ridiculously easy to point to a winning team and say, "Just do that." But it doesn't hurt to draw some parallels. The high-priced Phillies have spent the last two seasons punching in, playing a lifeless nine innings, and then punching out. Wade's disastrous hiring of Larry Bowa was both a poor baseball decision and a poor "people" decision -- as you watch the Red Sox romp joyfully through the postseason, sucking it up even when things are going badly, you realize that Bowa's Phillies would have imploded immediately when faced with even a fraction of the adversity with which Boston has had to contend. Then there's the Sox' amazing ability to work pitchers through every spot in the lineup (a hallmark of the Fregosi Era, by the way), something the hacking Philadelphians are brutally incapable of.

Yeah, a $125 million roster helps. But $93 should be enough to buy you a team that does better than a 10-GB second-place finish.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Ashlee to Ashes

As much as I enjoy Ashlee Simpson's pleasant little pop tune "Pieces of Me" -- oh, c'mon, like you don't have any guilty pleasures -- I can't help but cringe at her glaringly inept attempts to control the damage of her disastrous appearance on Saturday Night Live last weekend.

Most PR pros would advise owning up to bad news and speaking with one voice, especially when a national television broadcast reveals incontrovertible evidence of the screw-up. Yet patriarch-slash-freak Joe Simpson, removed from the journalistic security blanket that is MTV News, couldn't decide which lie to trot out and so decided to flood the market with as many as he could manufacture. First Team Simpson attempted to deny Ashlee's blatant lip-synching, blaming the band for playing the wrong song and then pointing to a computer glitch. A day later, the Simpsons relented and admitted the obvious, but still managed to trip over themselves in the process. First there was some nonsense about needing to lip-synch because of acid reflux, then a statement on Ashlee's Web site saying her overworked voice needed a break.

Understandably absent, perhaps, was the truth -- that Ashlee's voice when unassisted by a crack studio production team is too poor to be heard live in a small venue.

The news that a young pop singer lip-synchs is hardly earth-shattering. Simpson's problem is her vehement denouncing of the process in a recent magazine interview. Lying about it after being caught red-handed -- much as another Simpson, Bart, says "I didn't do it" despite being nabbed with a can of spray-paint in his mitt -- isn't helping any, either.

Or maybe the Simpsons are smarter than we all think. Perhaps Joe is angling for a reality series of his own. After all, playing dumb while counting her millions has worked for his other daughter, right?

Monday, October 25, 2004

Wan Helsing

Talk about typecasting. As the dreary and too-long Van Helsing labors toward its conclusion, Hugh Jackman, whom you may recall played Wolverine in two X-Men movies, gets all hirsute and turns into, well, a werewolf.

At one point, Van Helsing actually howls at the moon. I think that was probably in the script, though Jackman may have been expressing his regret at agreeing to appear in this piece of crap. Few things are more frustrating than a big-budget, FX-laden thriller that plods dully along for two-plus hours; by the time VH ended, I was calculating what I could have done with the 132 minutes of my life that I'll never get back. Writer/director Stephen Sommers throws elements of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, religion, and camp into his blender, but instead of a smooth and delicious puree, the result is a chunky mess of badly contrasting flavors. Worse, it's wicked boring.

As the title character, Jackman gives it a game performance, but the uneven script allows his considerable charm to sneak through only occasionally. Sommers, who helmed The Mummy so ably, offers a confusing mishmash of a film here, and without someone as offbeat as Brendan Fraser to set the pace, the actors stumble their way along. Jackman and David Wehnam, his little sidekick, wink their way through the film, but Kate Beckinsale mistakenly plays it straight away, only with a weird Eastern European accent. As Dracula, Richard Roxburgh channels his inner cheese and delivers an out-of-place performance lifted straight from Adam West-era Batman.

And what on earth is the lovely and talented Beckinsale doing in this piece of crap? She went from promising Indie It Girl (Cold Comfort Farm, The Last Days of Disco) to Just Another Blockbuster Babe (Pearl Harbor, Serendipity) in about 30 seconds flat. In Van Helsing she doesn't even look like herself -- buried underneath layer after layer of makeup, she is completely and sadly generic.

Which is, perhaps, an apt description of the entire movie. A lot of folks cashed some very impressive checks in making it, a disquieting thought to anyone who ponied up nine bucks to watch Jackman go to the dogs.