A Beautiful Afternoon on Clearwater Waterways …

A Day Without Baseball

Actually, just kidding that I’m just kidding.  Of course I have an idea of what a day without baseball is like on Clearwater Beach, though admittedly the month here revolves around baseball.  Thanks to Heather & Elliot, and grandkids Carson, Layla and Hunter, for influencing me to get out on the waterways on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in paradise.

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Maria Popova and Brain Pickings

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“Timeless but timely pieces of knowledge, wisdom, information, inspiration, and radiance out in the world that illuminate us when we encounter them … helping us explore what it means to live a meaningful life.”  A nice self-description by Maria Popova in this interview, revealing what her masterful blog, Brain Pickings represents.

Subscribe to her newsletter, and you’ll get weekly email updates of her blogs.  Today, for example, was the intellectual trifecta of Stephen Hawking, Hannah Arendt, and Henry David Thoreau.  I can almost guarantee that you’ll thoroughly enjoy reading Ms. Popova’s compilations.  Brain Pickings was launched in 2006, and even though this Mother Jones piece was published in 2012, midway between the birth of Pickings and now, it is an attractive window into Maria’s beautiful mind.

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From the Beginning

What an incredible British group they were, and one of their signature songs “From the Beginning” is so nice, you’ll want to hear it twice.

Keith Emerson was the driving force behind the formaiton of ELP, and the band that he left was The Nice, which featured his signature keyboarding.  Emerson influenced guitarist Greg Lake to join him, leaving King Crimson whose signature song was The Court of the Crimson King.

The band became complete in 1970 with the addition of drummer Carl Palmer, formerly of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, whose big hit in the United States was Fire.

Personally speaking, nothing ever approached the beauty and emergence of the ELP sound that they produced on their first album.   Greg Lake captured the essence of the uniqueness of British bands forming in the late ’60s and early ’70s, looking toward European rather than American influences, and particularly that of classical music.

ELP reunited in 2010 for their final performance together.  Keith Emerson died in March, 2016 and Greg Lake followed soon after in December of that year.  The beat goes on with Carl Palmer, who organized a tribute to his departed band mates.

The centerpiece of Carl Palmer’s homage to Emerson, Lake and Palmer is The Legacy Tour, and this rendition of Karl Evil #9 that welcomes back old friends to a show that never ends.

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Clearwater Beach Marina

And first up on the runway for the 2018 Miss Clearwater Beach contest is …









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Jake’s in the House

Just kidding.  That’s not a video of Jake Arrieta making his first toss of Spring Training at Spectrum Field, but during his press conference this morning the question was put to him about his drop in velocity.  Naturally Jake’s answer was that velocity isn’t everything.  Look, miles per hour isn’t the only metric that shrinks as men age, so some candor can be refreshing.  Arrieta doesn’t seem like the type of athlete that wants or needs to be the center of attention.  If you came to the ballgame today you’d never know he had joined the club.  No fanfare, no wave to the fans, and you wouldn’t have even known he was in the dugout were it not for his signature beard visible behind the shades as he briefly turned around to scope the crowd.

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What you could see, if you were near enough to the dugout, was that Jake was frequently chatting with teammates who were intent on taking in every word during these E.F. Hutton moments.

Even though Jake kept his uniform under wraps during the game, there were telltale signs among the fans making the circuit around the concourse rimming the outfield.


It’s tradition in baseball that stud status confers the right for an incoming pitcher to request his customary number.  In Arrieta’s case that means he’ll wear his #49 jersey as he wore it for the Cubs during his star years from 2013-2017.  (He previously wore #s 57, 34, and 38 when with the Orioles from 2010-2012).  That means he owes Ben Lively a nice watch for vacating #49.


There was buzz all around the stadium about Arrieta today.  Pitchers and catchers were talking about him in the bullpen.


Even wildlife in the pond rimming the stadium were excited (well, about as excited as they can get).

Not to mention the excitement among Mad Dogs and Beat Writers.

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Well … that’s enough excitement for one day.  Arrieta wasn’t the only big arrival in town imported from Chicago.  Time to head to the airport to pick Miriam up, presently on her way back from Chicago after surprising our superstar opening up his new office.  Seems like this is the season of renewal in many ways.


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Restoring a Winning Culture

Not since the Phillies re-signing of Cliff Lee in 2010 have the Phillies pulled off the type of stunning move that has now brought Jake Arietta to the club, officially announced today.

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As Jake tweeted, “It’s time”.  The Phillies were really bad last year, finishing the year with a record of 66 wins and 96 losses landing them firmly in last place in the National League’s Eastern Division.

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It’s almost a guarantee that the Phillies will move up in the standings.  The Marlins have been substantially weakened by the loss of Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, and the Mets and Braves have done little to upgrade themselves compared to the Phillies’ acquisition of free agent Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta.  But it isn’t just the acquisition of two established players that may prove to be the turning point that vaults the Phillies into 2nd place in the NL East this year.

Now that the club has addressed a glaring weakness on the mound, it’s time to do something about third base.  Not since Scott Rolen (who visited camp yesterday) have the Phillies had anyone at the hot corner with the type of offensive production that contending teams typically get from the position.  As David Murphy pointed out last year, Franco is a compulsive swinger who has no idea how to manage a count and would be an eight-hole hitter on a contending team.  But his lack of plate discipline and offensive production is just the tip of the iceberg.  Take a look at this clip of Franco during minor league camp in spring training six years ago, and tell me what you notice:

The obvious observation is that he swings at the first pitch, but the more nuanced part to the at bat is the way he busts it down the first base line even though he’s out.  Frankly it’s the way that every player should run to first every time a ball is put into play.  That includes a live ball that gets past the catcher on strike three.  But all too often Franco trots half-heartedly to first base, and that lack of urgency isn’t part of a winning culture.  We’ve witnessed it too much this spring and not just from Franco.  J.P. Crawford, Odubel Herrera, and Nick Williams are just as guilty.  Interestingly, at various times, those three players have been in hot water about “attitude issues” in the past.

Franco came into this spring training with alot to prove.  Instead of trending up toward Scott Rolen-like numbers last year, his production nose-dived providing little upgrade over Cody Asche who he displaced.  And then there was controversy during the off-season in January this year in the Dominican League when he was sanctioned for partying with teammates into the wee hours of playoff game day.

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The Phillies wound up shutting down Franco in the Dominican so that he could concentrate on getting ready for spring training.  I have a feeling that it wasn’t just the disciplinary issues.  A look at Franco’s stats shows that he wasn’t doing much at the plate for the Gigantes del Cibao, and the Phils figured he was just further embedding poor habits.

Part of the problem of course is that no one is in the wings waiting to displace Franco from third base.  Coming into camp, Will Middlebrooks was to be given a shot but that experiment ended quickly when he was carted off the field after a nasty ankle injury.  The Phils have had fill-ins there like Pedro Florimon and Jesmuel Valentin, either of whom would be an upgrade over Franco’s laid-back style but neither of whom has the pop in his bat expected from the position.  But the Phils do have someone in camp who not only shows plate discipline and busts it to first base on every at bat, but who also has long ball potential solidified in the minors last year.

Scott Kingery has all the attributes of a hungry young player that Gabe Kapler can identify with.  An honor roll student in high school, Kingery was ignored by Division 1 colleges for baseball, told that he was too small to succeed on the diamond.  The undeterred Kingery went on to excel in college as a walk-on and has the type of DNA that makes him a potential Zobrist-like super-sub that has become so popular these days.  He is blocked in the Phillies system at SS by Crawford and at 2B by Hernandez, but where the Phillies could really use him now is at 3B to push Franco.  It is curious then that despite fielding the position flawlessly in four games with the Pigs last year, Kingery hasn’t been given any playing time at 3B this spring training that I can recall.

Give me that lineup sheet, Gabe, and I’ll show you where to pencil Kingery in.  It’s time.


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Thoughts from the Ballpark

I may have located the Fountain of Youth at the Sandpearl Resort, where many of the Phillies VIPs stay, but I’m not sure it’s safe to sip the water.  A better bet to longevity is socialization, one reason that women tend to outlive their husbands by a considerable margin, as reviewed by psychologist and social science commentator Susan Pinker in her TED talk last year.

Socialization of the type that promotes longevity surrounds us at Spectrum Field.  There is the lovely woman in front of us who moved from the Delaware Valley to the Gulf Coast in 1995 after her husband fell in love with the area, only to witness his passing in 1997.  They bought spring season tickets in 1993 at Jack Russell stadium and she keeps up the tradition of coming to every game, always resplendent with some sort of baseball jewelry such as this lovely pendant.  In my mind, she’s the perfectly pensive fan – chatting with those around her intermittently but always mindful of the special rhythm and quietude of springtime games (please take note, Ms. Cackler in the row behind us!).


There are walking tributes to special individuals who are part of the fabric of the team who are no longer with us, such as Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas.


And then there are other walking fabrics that I just can’t begin to understand, like this human rally towel.



But someone who we can always understand, despite never uttering an audible word, is an inimitable mime – the Phillie Phanatic.  Here is the Phanatic putting the whammy on the opposing pitcher.

And here is the Phanatic leading the Phans in the rhythmic clap-clap-clap rooting on a Phillies hitter.  Or not!

Consider this: the Phanatic is the perennial number one merchandise seller for the ballclub, with paraphernalia more popular than any player.  The latest addition to Mr. Burgoyne’s portfolio is this slim volume oriented toward business philosophy that just came into the main gift shop a few days ago.


Of course I couldn’t resist picking up a copy, and Miriam did her best to elicit an inscription from Mr. Big, but apparently his costume doesn’t lend itself to gripping a Sharpie.


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