March 6, 2003

The Ladies Man

I'm one of those people (usually referred to as "writers") who is infinitely more comfortable expressing his thoughts via written word, as opposed to actual speech or human contact. Truth be told, when I'm around people I don't know very well I get nervous and self conscious, so I tend to be very careful with my words, which leads to an inability to express myself in the same manner I do here.

Yesterday was a perfect example of such difficulties...

I was in my non-fiction writing class. We were talking about books we've read recently and I said that I had read "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy," by Jane Leavy. So, as I'm leaving class I walk by this girl and she reaches out and grabs me by the shoulder.

Girl: Hey, Aaron right?

Me: Yeah...

Girl: Guess what?

Me: Um...what?

Girl: One of my nicknames is "Koufax!"

Me (having completely forgotten that I had talked about reading the Sandy Koufax book 15 minutes earlier): Koufax?

Girl: Yeah!

Me (amazingly remembering the girl's name is Sandee): Oh, yeah...cause you're Sandee, right?

Girl: Yep, people call me that all the time!

Me: [awkward pause] Well, that's ya.

Girl: Oh...ok...bye...have a good day...

Damn, I am soooooo smooth. I don't mind making a fool of myself by saying dumb things as much as I do not being able to think of even a single thing that could possibly keep a conversation alive!

So I leave class with my confidence quite shaken and I hop on the bus that will take me back to my dorm. I sit down next to this cute little blonde and, amazingly, start up a decent conversation. I shocked the hell out of myself, but I figured I'd try to keep chatting as long as possible.

So we are talking, about the campus bus system (she doesn't like it), about her classes (she's an English major) and some other stuff. She's laughing (and not at me!) and I'm "on top of my game." We're approaching 10 minutes of conversation when we finally get to my stop. Feeling confident, I manage to come up with a non-embarrassing goodbye and get up to leave...

BOOM, I smack my head on the metal bar hanging over the seat near the ceiling of the bus! I doubt she even noticed, but I did. Now, the first thing that says about me is that I am tall - which is good, I guess. In addition to that, it was almost like the bus felt the need to remind me that I'm just not that smooth with the ladies. Sort of like saying: "Hey Gleeman, where do you get the nerve successfully talking to an attractive female on me?!"

I would like to appologize to the bus and say that I am pretty sure it won't happen again.

If I could conduct all my conversations with members of the opposite sex via email, I think I would be the most wanted bachelor in the world. As it stands now, I am a guy that bangs his head when he stands up on buses and has absolutely nothing to say to a girl that is obviously trying to be friendly and start a conversation with me!

But hey, I write good blog entries, right?

There is one baseball topic that I wanted to discuss before the weekend hits and I completely forget about it...

According to the The Baltimore Sun, the Orioles are pursuing a trade for Ken Griffey Jr.

Interestingly enough, I actually discussed this exact situation in some depth back in December when there were rumors of him being traded to San Diego flying around.

Here are some quotes from my December 14th entry:

So, the question is, can Ken Griffey Jr. possibly be all washed up at age 32? And, if not, would he be worth trading for?

First of all, I don't think he is all washed up. Obviously, if he can't keep the injuries under control, he is never going to be a star again. But, if he can stay healthy, I believe he still has the skills to be an elite player.

Then a little later on in that entry I said:

Ken Griffey Jr. is no longer the 20-something year old kid with the backwards hat hitting .300 and making leaping catches against outfield walls. He is now just an aging slugger who is probably best suited for right field and might never see a .320 batting average ever again.

That said, if I were a GM, I would be more than willing to take a chance on Ken Griffey Jr. You will never, ever be able to acquire a superstar player in his early-30s for any cheaper. Trading for Griffey right now is the very definition of "buying low."

I still feel the exact same way about Griffey now as I did when I said that in December, which means I think the Orioles going after him is a decent move. They've got the money and the team stinks anyway, so why not try to acquire a guy that has a chance to become a great player once again. That said, their reasons for trying to get Griffey seem to be quite misguided, to say the least:

Behind the scenes for the Orioles, Angelos is said to be pining for a player with Griffey's star power to not only help the lineup but also help stir interest at Camden Yards, where attendance has fallen for five consecutive years.

Last season, the Orioles' first without Cal Ripken, the club drew 2.7 million fans, falling under the 3 million mark for the first time since they moved into Camden Yards, save the strike-shortened season of 1994.

Camden Yards appears to be an absolutely beautiful place to sit and watch a baseball game and I would love to do so at some point. However, the reason their attendance is falling has absolutely nothing to do with them not having someone with "star power."

The reason their attendance is lacking is that they are, when spending is taken into account, the worst run franchise is Major League Baseball. They have absolutely no farm system and zero decent prospects. Their front office for the past several seasons has been signing 35 year old players to big contracts and then watching them decline and/or get injured. And the franchise shows a complete lack of any kind of viable plan, long or short term, and seems to have a goal of winning 78 games a year for the rest of eternity.

The only reason their attendance doesn't resemble Tampa Bay's attendance is that their ballpark is awesome and the history of the franchise is so good that the city is pretty much in love with the team no matter what. But, a shiny ballpark and lots of winning 30 years ago can only get people to part with their money for so long.

The Orioles won the AL East in 1997, which is the last time the Yankees haven't won it. Then they had 3 straight years hovering slightly below .500, finishing with 79, 78 and 74 wins from 1998-2000. For the past 2 seasons they have been among the worst teams in baseball, going a combined 130-193.

You put everything together and you come up with a clueless franchise with absolutely no hope on the horizon and 5 straight years of finishing in 4th place, with only the Devil Rays to thank for avoiding the cellar in all 5 seasons.

Short of Barry Bonds, they could acquire just about any other hitter in baseball and I don't think the fans would change their mind about the franchise. No, the key to getting asses in the seats is very simple: Winning.

From 1994-2000 the Minnesota Twins drew between 1.0 and 1.4 million fans per season, playing in one of the worst stadiums in baseball. Then they started winning in 2001 and in the last 2 seasons they have drawn 1.8 and 1.9 million fans, in a stadium that is just as bad as it always was - just older and a little crappier.

The Cleveland Indians opened up their brand new baseball stadium, Jacobs Field, in 1994 (a couple years after the Camden Yards opened). From the time Jacobs Field opened they usually ranked either 1st or 2nd in the AL in overall attendance and topped 3 million fans 6 seasons in a row. This was all taking place while the Indians were winning 6 AL Central division championships in 7 years. The Indians had their first poor season since 1993 last year and the resulting attendance drop was immediate - the Indians finished 5th in the AL with "only" 2.6 million visitors, their lowest total in almost a decade.

The Oakland A's have been playing in the same stadium for about 35 years. It has been remodeled, but that just made it worse. They had a great run of winning in the late 80s and early 90s, which included 3 straight World Series appearances and a championship in 1989. During that time, their attendance was near the top of AL. Then the A's fell on some hard times and started losing, year after year. Their attendance dropped almost in half and they routinely drew only 1.1 or 1.2 million fans a season, which was often good for 13th or 14th (out of 14) in the AL.

All of sudden the A's started winning again in 2000 and they have continued it through last season. In 2001 and 2002 they had 2.13 and 2.16 million fans, which is about a million more than they averaged from 1994-1999.

I could go on and on and provide a few more examples, but I think my point is pretty clear. There are a lot of things that can increase attendance, including a new ballpark and maybe even acquiring a player with "star power." However, there is absolutely nothing in the world that will boost attendance quite like winning.

Until the Orioles not only realize that, but figure out a viable plan for accomplishing it, the attendance at Camden Yards is just going to continue falling, Griffey or no Griffey. So, if they think that acquiring Ken Griffey Jr. can make them a better baseball team, I am all for it. If they are only interested in him because he used to be a really popular player, well, that's a big mistake and one that would seem to fit the Baltimore Orioles.

There was one other quote that interested me:

Baseball sources said [the Orioles] are willing to package starting pitcher Sidney Ponson with one or two prospects to make the deal happen.

I'll save what I think about Sidney Ponson for another time, because it is fairly irrevelant in this situation. No, the interesting part is the thing about the Orioles being willing to send "one or two prospects" along with the Ponson "to make the deal happen." The problem with that is that the Orioles don't have one or two prospects in their entire farm system.

There is not a single Baltimore player on Baseball America's "Top 100 Prospects" list.

There is not a single Baltimore player on The Prospect Report's "Top 100 Prospects" list.

There is not a single Baltimore player on John Sickels' "Top 100 Prospects" list.

I feel fairly confident that I could search this entire world for every "Top Prospect" list in existence and I wouldn't find one with a single player in the entire Baltimore organization listed.

John Sickels, whom I trust more regarding minor league prospects than anyone else, grades each prospect he analyzes. He gives them all grades, from "A" to "C-minus" (the guys he grades below "C-minus" are the ones he doesn't even talk about).

Anyway, the Baltimore Orioles have exactly 3 players in their entire organization that do not receive a grade of "C" or worse. Rommie Lewis gets a "B" and Tripper Johnson and Luis Jimenez get "B-minuses." That's it, for the entire organization - 3 guys that he get borderline decent grades.

On the other side of the organizational spectrum, the Cleveland Indians have 17 different players that receive at least a "B-minus" from Sickels.

As I said before, the Orioles organization is a complete mess and is showing no signs of improving. What makes that even worse is the fact that they appear to not recognize their messiness and they also appear to have convinced the local Baltimore media too, because any reporter that could write that the Orioles are willing to package Sidney Ponson "with one or two prospects to make the deal happen" is buying the Orioles company line and is probably a good candidate to purchase some swamp land in Florida or a large bridge in Brooklyn.


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