Good For Ball, Bad For Ball

3 Jul

From Josh Reddick’s biker/philosopher goatee, to Joba Chamberlain-to-the-Giants rumors, to chilled beets staining your salad -– everything in life can be labeled one of two ways: Good For Ball, or Bad For Ball. It’s time again to check out what’s what.

… Reddick’s chin sock? Good For Ball. Especially when it’s paired with the slicked-back, serial-killer wig he’s been favoring. Menacing works in baseball, and given that Reddick looks like he weighs about a buck-fifty, it’s much-needed if he’s to be taken seriously as a legitimate power hitter (and not the one-season wonder his anemic first-half stats are suggesting).

Oh, and please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks Reddick’s a dead ringer for the pre-Mark-McGwire’s-obvious-influence-through-advanced-chemistry Jason Giambi. Same uniform number and oversized affinity for attention, too.

Giambi, by the way, is a prince of a human being. I covered the A’s for MLB.com during his MVP season, and a more engaging, gracious superstar you’ll rarely meet. I have nothing but great things to say about the man.

Doesn’t mean he wasn’t a lab beaker with arms and legs, though.

… Moving on to the Joba rumors: Ooooh. So Bad For Ball. Like, chilled-beets Bad For Ball. Call me crazy, but the Giants do not — repeat DO NOT — need an ineffective middle man. Isn’t that George Kontos’ role?

Anyway, remember when the hyperventilating New York media tried to force the phrase “Joba Rules” upon us? Yeah, that was when the big fella actually had promise. Now he’s pretty much the white Hideki Irabu.

… Speaking of Irabu, does anyone else miss George Steinbrenner? He was a colossal ass at times, no doubt about it, frequently morphing into a cantankerous caricature, but he was never, ever boring. Look around these days, and virtually every owner in every sport is less interesting than your neighbor’s blog about his rescue beagle.

George was volatile, dynamic, unpredictable, entertaining. And best of all, he poured a ton of his own money into his team in an effort to win for the fans of New York. A lot of people criticized him for trying to “buy” championships, but isn’t that what every team does on a fundamental level? Yes, it is. The Boss was Good For Ball.

… If the baseball gods were mocking the Giants’ recently pathetic offense by having a pitcher named Homer no-hit them, well, that sucks for the Giants and their fans. Good For Ball, though. Baseball is by far the sport most easily mined for humor, so it makes sense that its gods are a little bit twisted.

… The notion that Dwight Howard would destroy the Warriors’ admirable harmony is ludicrous. Bad For Ball. It’s also a slap in the faces of Mark Jackson and Steph Curry, the team’s unquestioned leaders. That Howard is a freakishly large man doesn’t mean he’ll be able to impose his seemingly petulant will on the Warriors.

If anything, what we know of Jackson thus far suggests he’s the perfect coach to turn Howard back into the humble, infinitely likeable young man who spoke so openly of his Christian faith upon joining the league as a teenager in 2004. That kid is still in there somewhere, and Curry’s general good-guy-ness would likely help pull him out.

And while it’s impossible be stoked on giving up Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes in a Howard deal, at this point Warriors fans should be pretty open to buying whatever Bob Meyers might be selling. A healthy and mentally rehabilitated Howard makes a second-round playoff team a conference finalist at worst.

… Still reeling from unthinkable tragedy, Boston didn’t just lose the Stanley Cup Finals. It lost by blowing a pair of two-goal leads before falling in triple-OT in Game 1, dropping another heartbreaker in OT in Game 4, and, worst of all, giving up two goals in the blink of an eye during Chicago’s Game 6 clincher.

Ergo, we can come to no other conclusion than this: Unlike the baseball gods, who rise to the occasion and give us moments such as Mike Piazza’s post-9/11 homer for the Mets and President Bush’s perfect strike at Yankee Stadium during the World Series, the hockey gods aren’t just Bad For Ball. They flat suck.

… I never let my daughters leave the basketball gym without making one last shot. It’s the same principle I apply in making “I love you” the last thing they hear from me every night: end on a positive. I’ll apply it here, too, because I don’t want “suck” to be the last thing I write before we celebrate the birth of this great country.

Joseph Zito, the father of Giants lefty Barry, passed away a couple of weeks ago. Barry, as many of you know, is a friend of mine. So Joe’s passing wasn’t just a few lines in my favorite newspaper’s “Giants Notes.” In fact, Joe played a pivotal role in my life.

Let me explain: I’m friends with Barry in part because when we first met, he was as comfortable in his own skin as anyone I’d ever met. He was a young stud with the A’s, rich and famous, with a ridiculously bright future — but he was straight-up normal. No airs whatsoever. What you saw was what you got, and what you got was a young man who’d clearly been raised right.

So when I got to meet Joe, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to pick his brain. I was about to become a father for the first time, and I wanted to do it right. In my opinion, Joe had done the Dad Thing right, so I asked him for advice.

He happily obliged, and his message was essentially this: Expose your children to as much as humanly possible, then hang back and watch intently. Just stay the hell out of it once you’ve presented them with the options.

Sports? Have ‘em play ‘em all. Music? Every genre. Art? Same deal. People? Ditto. Travel? High and low.

“They’ll show you what they love,” Joe told me. “And ‘show’ is the key word. Telling you they love something is one thing. But do they show it? That’s what you wait for, Wait for them to show you they love it, with their actions, with their passion. And when they do –- and only then –- you can step back in and encourage them to move in that direction.”

Best parental advice I’ve ever gotten. Good for Ball.

Thanks, Joe. Glad you’re Home.

HPH and other Friday fun

7 Jun

Honest. Positive. Helpful.

These are three traits to which the old me paid little to no attention, and the results were predictably unfulfilling. Miserable, even.

Now? Being as honest, positive and helpful — HPH — as humanly possible in everything I do is the primary goal. During my morning commute and throughout each day, I remind myself that HPH has to be my personal GPS.

It’s an approach I adopted, ostensibly, to offset/counter/combat my destructive self-centered tendencies; HPH is, after all, largely selfless.

But the more I practice HPH, the more I find that it’s NOT all that selfless. I get a TON out of it. Turns out being selfless is a little bit selfish — in a good way. My life now is the polar opposite of unfulfilling and miserable!

It only took me 44 years to figure that out, by the way. My jackassness never ceases to amaze me.

Now on to some sports …

One of my Twitter followers, @Michael_RA, asked me to update my thoughts on a discussion we’ve had in the past regarding the Giants’ Brandons, Crawford and Belt. Specifically, he asked me who’s better at this point in their budding careers.

Great question, isn’t it? You could make a strong case for either one.

Both have Gold Glove potential at their respective position, but Crawford’s position is more important, and despite the fact that he’s made errors in bunches at times, he’ll be the superior defender in general over the long haul.

Crawford has proven that the I’ll-be-happy-with-.250 stance many fans adopted in regards to his offensive upside, but Belt, despite his propensity to slip into extended funks at the plate, has more power and will be, over the long haul, the superior (more productive) hitter in general.

So again, the question: Who’s the better Brandon?

Sorry to give you a Waffle Cone, folks, but from here it seems pretty much a push. One’s a rock-star defensive shortstop who contributes his fair share offensively and runs the bases well. The other’s a corner infielder with power who can pick it, play some outfield and run a little bit himself.

Ask any GM in the game which type of player he’d rather have. His answer will probably be the same as mine:

Yes, please.

———-

With all due respect to LeBron, he’s not the most unstoppable player in the NBA right now. That would be Tony Parker. Holy crap, is there anything he can’t do when he really wants to do it?

OK, maybe he can’t smash on a 7-footer, but he doesn’t need to. It’s just as demoralizing to drop a feathery floating runner over the big fella’s fingertips.

———–

I understand the fascination with professioinal drafts. Sports are an escape, a fantasy, and every sport’s draft allows its fans to fantasize about the future. But you can’t put earrings on a pig, and that’s what MLB has been trying to do with all the TV time and analysis.

The NBA, NFL and even the NHL drafts are mostly dealing with the immediate future. MLB is mostly dealing with three to five years from now. That’s, like, three more versions of the iPhone down the road. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

———–

Thanks for stopping by, folks. If you download one song today, make it “Roundabout” by Yes. Especialy you youngsters with, um, hippie tendencies. Feel me?

–Urbs

Syringes half-full

5 Jun

According to Tuesday, MLB has persuaded one of the ringleaders of suspected cheat factory Biogenesis to rat out a large collection of suspected cheaters, which we’re told will likely lead to an unprecedented slew of suspensions.

If the reports are true, the nickname “A-Fraud” will have never been so apt — before PEDs came to the fore, it simply mocked his transparent, plastic personality — and Ryan Braun, the other headliner in the soon-to-boil-over cauldron of controversy, will officially and irretrievably lose any shred of respect he might have maintained in the wake of his MVP/overturned drug bust drama.

Here in the Bay Area, the A’s will have to once again make due without Bartolo Colon, a loss perhaps offset competitively by the fact that Rangers stud Nelson Cruz is said to be among the dopes, and Giants fans get to thank their lucky stars that Melky Cabrera got popped last year — BEFORE the Giants convinced themselves they needed to sign him to a monster multi-year deal.

Across the country, baseball fans will be taking sides.

On one side will be those who skew negative, using this unprecedented-in-scale scandal as support of their theory that big-league ball is as dirty as ever. The testing program isn’t working, they’ll claim. The penalties don’t serve as a severe enough deterrent. The players have no respect for the game, its history or its authority.

We’ll probably get some racial nonsense, too, given the surnames of the players implicated.

Are those on this side of searing condemnation wrong? Not really. Truth is, there is no right or wrong here. Any frustration, disappointment, anger or indignation associated with this story is certainly justified.

It’s another flaming bag of feces on the so-called national pastime’s doorstep, and a great number of fans long ago resigned themselves to the notion that very little that’s seen on the fields before them can be believed as the product of talent plus hard work and sacrifice. The preponderance of evidence to the contrary makes it hard to assume anyone’s 100 percent clean.

Unfair to those who ARE clean? Sure. But a sadly understandable stance.

The other side? That’s where I’m choosing to sit on this one, in a place where what’s sought is progress rather than perfection.

Is baseball ever going to be cheat-free? H-to-the-ell no. You’ve heard the saying, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” right? Well, there’s a lot of truth to that. It’s not the most pious approach, but it’s taken in one way or another by virtually everyone who’s played the game at a relatively high level.

“Cheating,” of course, is difficult to define in sports. Stealing, for instance, is unacceptable in the real world unless it’s in reference to glances or kisses. In basketball and soccer, though, stealing the ball is an art form to some, as is stealing signs in baseball and football.

There are rules against scuffing the pearl in baseball, or loading it up with the nectar of Gaylord Perry’s essence, but it’s in an entirely different class of “cheating” than popping greenies or stabbing needles in your ass. In fact, there’s a wink-wink/nudge-nudge admiration associated with the practice of subtly getting over on umpires.

Hey, I did it too. You ever throw a ball accessorized with a little sweat and some Ivory soap? Pretty damn magical movement, and pretty damn easy to get away with when you’re wearing home whites. Just rub a bar against your thigh before every inning, step off the mound to wipe your brow, introduce fingers to said thigh, and say hello to that strikeout you so desperately need.

Cheating? Some call it gamesmanship.

Drugging it up, though, is something we can all agree is Bad For Ball. It’s absolutely cheating in every sense of the word. There is no gamesmanship in a lab. And unfortunately, it’s likely that no matter what happens when the Biogenesis dust settles, a certain segment of the player population will choose ego and the lure of bloated stats, money and fame over integrity.

They will try to beat the system. They will cheat.

But some of them will get caught. Given the progression we’ve been witnessing, it seems likely that a LOT of them will get caught.

Not all of them, of course. Good and evil will cat-and-mouse it ad infinitum; baseball’s scientists on both sides of the equation are no exception. But we’re seeing more and more players exposed as sullied every year, and that, at least to me and those of like mind, is proof that the game really is serious about cleaning things up.

It wasn’t always that way. We have those “Chicks dig the long ball” commercials as evidence of the blind eyes once turned.

Those same eyes appear wide open now. Who cares if they were shamed open by the pathetic showings of Big Mac, Sammy Sosa and Pointy Palmeiro in front of Congress? Open is open, and open is good.

Bust are up. Home runs, and the pajama-style unis that juicers used to rock to hide their freakishly enhanced Frankenstein physiques, are down.

That’s progress, and as long as there’s progress, we should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Perfection? Not often found in this world. Queen’s Live Aid set, Sophia Loren and Halle Berry in their prime, and Vin Scully’s handling of Kirk Gibson’s homer in ’88 (sorry, A’s fans) are about all we’ve seen.

Are we going to see more imperfection in baseball regarding PEDs? Yup. No doubt. Some people are flat-out dumb and greedy and dishonest.

Keep combating that with honesty and sincerity in the effort to eradicate the issue, though, and the pastime will always survive the occasional angst of the present.

————–

Thanks for stopping by, folks, and if you download one song today, make it Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight.” Dude was a teenager when he bust that out. Insanely good.

–Urbs

Sudden impact all around

3 Jun

Some of my posts here are going to have a singular focus. More often than not, though, multiple subjects will be addressed, and in the name of generating some sense of appeal, I try to find a theme that might connect the various and seemingly disparate musings.

Whether it works or not, hell, I don’t know. Not even sure it matters. If you dig my work, you’ll read what I post. If you don’t, you’ll bash me anonymously online. I know the drill. Perhaps my thematic efforts are an example of my tendency to make things harder that they need to be. Whatever.

That said … “that written” just feels weak … the theme today is reflected in the first two words of the post title. The topics include the response to my soul-baring, butt-nekkid post on Friday, everything Tim Lincecum says and does, Chad Gaudin’s debut as a Giants starter, and A’s lefty Sean Doolittle.

Friday’s post: It was pretty amazing, the response it got. Particularly on Twitter, from folks who’ve been where I’ve been and are where I want to go. I also heard from a gang of loyal readers welcoming me back to the land of the living; within minutes of posting, I was inundated with congratulations and pledges of support.

I used to think people were basically negative. I subscribed to a theory I once heard thrown out by a popular standup comic:

“I like the concept of people … but people fuck it up.”

Now I realize that this attitude was the result of my own negativity, so I make every effort to take the glass-half-full route these days, and the results have been staggering. Friday’s response is but one example, and for those who understand my the root of my recent struggles, it was an example of good things coming quickly in the wake of real work. Another example: a friend at BaySportsNet.com asking, later Friday, upon seeing I was writing again, if I’d like to contribute to the rapidly growing site. I agreed, and my first post there went up early this morning.

Just a great way to head into my weekend, so thanks to everyone who chimed in.

Timmy Time: Scary how big all things Freak become, no matter what it is. That’s essentially the jumping-off point of my BaySportsNet.com debut, which examines the all-but-etched-in-stone eventuality that Timmy will be working out of the bullpen before long.

A related thought on the topic that I saved exclusively for “Unchained”:

Lincecum’s unorthodox windup, which requires exquisite timing and body control, was created to allow for a relatively small man to maximize the inordinate amount of power in his body. So now that the power has clearly been diminished, with no sign of anything more than an occasional return of a couple mph, why not make an all-out effort to simplify those mechanics once and for all?

Lincecum’s money pitches, even with diminished velocity (which is overrated, anyway), remain downright filthy. His split change is cartoonish, his fastball still slips and slides, and his breaking stuff is breathtaking when it’s on. But none of it means much if he can’t command it, and as is the case with 98 percent of struggling pitchers, Lincecum’s struggles can be pinned on the fact that he’s nothing close to pinpoint.

Insanity, we’re told, is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Stop the insanity. Make a radical change. It can’t get any worse, right?

Pronounced GO-DAN:  Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. That’s how you say the last name of our man Chad. Not gaw-din, or go-deen or gaw-deen. It’s go-dan. I know because I asked him — all the way back in 2006, when I was the A’s beat writer for MLB.com and Gaudin arrived for his first Spring Training with Oakland after  being acquired from Toronto for a player to be named later.

That PTBNL designation always gives me a chuckle, by the way. I immaturely envision a newborn deemed so insignificant and that his parents put off giving him a name, but he somehow perseveres and makes it all the way to professional baseball and gets sent from one organization to another, eventually being assigned a name upon completion of the transaction. Inspiring, goosebump fiction, ain’t it?

Aaaaanyway, Gaudin was a hell of a pitcher for the A’s for most of the time I covered him, and he’s been that for other teams as well. He’s had some rough patches, in part because he fought the notion of being a Swiss Army Knife, but now that he’s accepted the inherent value of such a role, he’s settled in nicely as a pitcher capable of saving a team’s ass at any time in a game.

He’s also a great guy, period. Easy to get along with, quick-witted and generally pleasant in the clubhouse.

And what a great sign by the Giants. Just keep the guy into Vogey’s role until Vogey gets back. Don’t even try to force some square-peg prospect into a round hole. Count the blessing that is Chad GO-DAN.

Doolittle does a lot: Nice to see the converted first baseman get the feature treatment in the Sporting Green over the weekend. His story is one of about 324 ridiculously rich stories unfolding in the A’s clubhouse that have gone largely untold.

The guy was a washed up, banged up hitter a couple of years ago, and now he’s a very strong candidate to represent the Elephants in the All-Star Game — hopefully along with Josh Donaldson, giving Oakland two players in the Midsummer Classic for the first time since the days of the Big Three.

Donaldson, of course, is a heck of a tale, too. He got the treatment recently as well. Two down, 322 to go. Good for the Chronicle. Good for A’s fans. …. And wait for it … Good For Ball.

Bonus plan: Gotta get this off my chest before I bolt. The world of youth sports must be rid of the character-building scourge that is participatory trophies.

Come on. You get rewarded just for showing up? Yeah, kid, that’s EXACTLY how it works in real life. Just show up and do the bare minimum. It’s all good. You don’t even have to be on time. Just show up and it’s all cookies and juice boxes.

No wonder we’re getting so soft.

It’s time to get back to teaching life lessons rooted in reality. Winners get trophies, losers get to try harder. That’s real. Who’s with me?

And don’t even get me started on not keeping score …

Thanks for dropping by. Check back tomorrow for more. Oh, and if you download one song today, make it “Flava in Ya Ear” by Craig Mack. Siiiiick.

Peace,

Urbs

What’s old is new … or something

31 May

If you’re reading this right now, it’s likely because you follow me on Twitter — thank for that, btw — and saw my “ressurrection” post. So most of you know me, and some of you likely used to visit the blog that one of my followers designed for me. You know, the one with AT&T Park in the background and a cool baseball-in-broken-chains logo.

That’s gone. This is a new blog, sort of.

As you can see, this is obviously not as cool-looking as the old one. I just didn’t feel right hitting up my generous Twitter followers again, because the cool-looking blog died off due to my own neglect/apathy/self-sabotage. It would have been be selfish and wrong to ask someone else to clean up my mess, so I decided to just go back to the generic format — simple, no-frills, self-supported and -maintained — with which I started blogging way back in the day.

So it’s not really a new blog. It’s the oldest of my old blogs; the only thing new about it is the fancy new blue background. I still have no idea how to make the text darker, btw. Feel free to help a brutha out on that.

Aaaanyway, I’m happy to report that neglect, apathy and self-sabotage have been replaced by action, drive and clarity of purpose. In other words, I’m back.

From where? Let’s just say it was a pretty friggin’ dark place. I might reveal more over time, I might not. I’ll let the Power guiding me determine that.

For now, let’s just say the lights are back on and I’m kind of diggin’ myself again — in a confident, not arrogant, way. And that regained sense of self has me wanting to start … I don’t know … doing shit again.

(Excuse the profanity.  Certain sentiments require a certain amplification not available by traditional literary means, if you know what I means.)

So here I am again, basically returning to my roots — I started out as a writer, nothing else.

For those of you who may have only recently started following me, a quick refresher:

After graduating from the University of San Francisco, where I was a spectacularly average left-handed pitcher on a spectacularly bad baseball team while working on my Communications degree, I started a career in sports journalism that started at a weekly newspaper in Half Moon Bay and led to other newspapers, large and small. Then came the move into the digital world, in which I worked for websites big and bigger (NBCOlympics.com, MLB.com) before transitioning into television (CSN Bay Area) and radio (KNBR-680 AM, 95.7 FM The Game).

Somewhere in that 22-year span, I managed to get a book published. It’s called “ACES,” and it’s about Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, who essentially made “Moneyball” possible by winning a ton of games for the 1999-2004 Oakland A’s, but were virtually ignored in Michael Lewis’ book and Brad Pitt’s movie. “ACES” came out in 2005, and you can buy it online these days for, like, a dollar or something. It’s worth at least twice that.

No movie planned as of now, but if there ever is one, Art Howe will not be portrayed as out-of-shape dickhead, Huddy will be played by Ed Norton with a shaved dome or John Malkovich, and I will be played by David Morse, whom I’m chagrined to admit really does look quite a bit like me.

I digress. Get used to it. I stopped taking my ADHD medicine (read: speed) when I graduated from USF. And unlike 95 percent of people diagnosed with the disorder, I actually have it. Nowadays it seems like every kid who brings home a report card riddled with C’s and D’s, and every professional athlete hooked on outlawed greenies, gets an ADD or ADHD diagnosis so parents and front offices can feel less responsible for their developmental failures.

Wait. That was another digression, wasn’t it? Oh well. Don’t even try to say it wasn’t at least slightly amusing.

Decidedly less amusing is the fact that starting with the expiration (and non-renewal) of my contract at CSN in the fall of 2011, a variety of circumstances, including me being a zoo, gradually pushed me out of my various media jobs. My last regular gig, as a columnist for the Examiner, was discontinued due to “budgetary issues.”

All of which led to budgetary issues of my own, so now I’m starting a career in hospital administration. Specifically, nursing homes.

Quite a change, yes, but every business, when you get right down to it, depends heavily on one’s ability to effectively communicate and build/maintain strong relationships. And those abilities were key to most of the success I found in media. It was when the ridiculously outsized sense of entitlement (and, paradoxically, insecurity) that I developed during my ascent started to overshadow my other skills that things started to go south.

Life is heading north again, however, and my new life is infinitely more stable and rewarding.

My best days toward the end of my media career were highlighted by people telling me “great show” or the like. My job was to entertain.

My best days at work these days are highlighted by people expressing thanks for the dignity, peace of mind and quality care I helped to provide for a family during trying times. My job is to comfort, reassure and lead.

This suits me better, and it’s helped me immensely in my personal life as well.

I’m focused less on the selfish pursuits that consumed me while climbing the media ladder, focusing instead — intensely so — on the far-more-satisfying endeavor that is trying to be a good, honest, responsible person … a loving and supportive husband … a doting father of two young girls who make waking up every morning a genuine joy … a reliable friend.

I still love writing, though, and I now realize that my first mistake in media was in chasing the money and attention that comes with TV and radio work — as opposed to honoring and honing the writing skills that allowed me to explore TV and radio in the first place.

Hence this reclaimed space on the ‘net, this “ressurrection.” It’s my karmic makeup call for pissing on one of my gifts for far too long.

Sports will be the primary subject here, but if you know me at all you know I’m prone to pop off about pop culture and, every now and then, share some of the life lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

And as always, my thoughts will be presented as they come to mind — always unfiltered, hopefully humorous as often as not, and unconditionally from the heart.

Thanks for stopping by. Please do so often. I plan to post daily as part of my ongoing effort to fully restore a life that I’d let go awry. The hope being that somehow, someway, it helps me become the best possible version of myself —  the man I was meant to be.

Failing that, I’ll just rip Bud Selig a new hole every other day for dogging the A’s; steer Giants fans clear of the razor blades in the wake of every three-game losing streak; explain why J-Jack is easily replaceable if my beloved Dubs don’t bring him back; gently mock Jim Harbaugh for taking himself entirely too seriously; marvel at the blind devotion to Raider Nation; make a fool of myself trying to sound like I know hockey from a hemorroid; and let the chips fall where they will.

Have a great Friday night, y’all. What rhymes with “hug me”?

–Urbs

A lesson from Steve Jobs

15 Nov

The joys of parenthood are many and ever-changing.

The mental victory dance you do at 2:12 a.m. upon hearing your 3-year-old flushing the toilet after her first nocturnal visit to the potty? Yours precedes her own victory dance, two years later, after she’s finished confidently striding across the stage to collect her Kindergarten “diploma.”

Why are you crying, Daddy?

You’ll understand when you have kids of your own, sweetie.

What does the above have to do with sports? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that’s why I dig writing here, in my independent little corner of the world wide web, more than any place I’ve written.

With the exception of my book, which was a true labor of love (“labor” being the key word, as it was arduous for both me and my expectant bride), I’ve been writing what other people want me to write my whole career — and for a long time that was fine.

But as I grew older, as I grew more independent in my thinking and nature, I did what a lot of people do as they get older.

I changed.

I developed something of a stubborn streak.

I decided that when push came to shove, I was going to stick to my guns and insist that I’m right.

Not always the best approach in the corporate world, and my two most recent jobs have been with huge, national companies. It’s as much about  who you spend time trying to appease as it is the quality of your performance when it comes to working in big buildings, and I’m the first to admit I haven’t always played nice with the people holding my career cards.

So here I am, writing when I want and about what want.

Liberating, to be sure. Lucrative? Not so much. Not yet, anyway. That’ll come.

That’s the plan, anyway, but it has to start with great work. And for work to be great, it has to be something you love. This is one of the many lessons I’ve learned in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death.

While he was living, I didn’t pay much attention to Jobs’ life, his legacy, his overwhelming impact on the lives of millions of people. Since he passed, though, I’ve devoured every word I can find detailing that life remarkably lived, and among my joyous and profound discoveries is that he lived that remarkable life because he figured something out that it takes many of us far too long to realize, and it’s not a complicated lesson or message.

In fact, it’s pretty simple.

A career is far too long to not spend it truly loving what you do, and life is far too short not to spend it doing what you want with those you hold most dear. Find a way to marry those concepts and you’re way ahead of the game.

You might not change the world as did Jobs, but you can change your world and the world of those around you.

And that’s pretty remarkable, too.

Carroll, Panda and the Giants

11 Nov

Now on the tail end of a busy week of searching for ways to piece together a living, I’ve come to the following conclusion: Looking for work is more exhausting than actually working.

Unless, perhaps, you’re Brian Sabean and his front-office crew. With 13 arbitration-eligible players, eight free agents and holes in the roster a-plenty, they entered the offseason with perhaps the longest to-do list in the big leagues.

They’ve already addressed some of their issues, bringing back lefty relievers Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt last week and acquiring outfielder Melky Cabrera this week by sending mercurial starter Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City.

There’s still a ton of work to do, though, and among the issues is finding a reliable backup middle infielder.

As of now, Brandon Crawford is atop the depth chart at shortstop, Freddy Sanchez is No. 1 at second base (assuming he’s healthy), and Jeff Keppinger and Mike Fontenot, both among the arbitration-eligible Giants, are No. 2 at shortstop and second base, respectively.

Keppinger should be kept, in my opinion. Freddy hasn’t exactly proven to be a quick healer since he arrived via trade from Pittsburgh, and Keppinger is essentially Freddy Light. He can do everything a healthy Freddy does, just not quite as well.

Fontenot? Eh. He’s a non-tender in my book. Nice little scrapper, but if Crawford doesn’t quite work out, you simply can’t go with Fontenot for the long haul. We’ve seen that movie before. He gets exposed after a week or two, the holes in his swing pried open with the Jaws of Lively Fastballs.

So the need for a reliable backup shortstop should be prioritized — unless, of course, Sabean pulls off a stunner and reels in Jimmy Rollins.

This is what has me thinking about Jamey Carroll, whose name kept popping up on my Twitter feed (@BigUrbSports) this week as a possible “get” for the Giants.

My thoughts as I read the tweets?

Carroll had a nice year for the Dodgers, and he’d be a nice fit as a backup and in the clubhouse, but he made $1.8 million last season, he’s going to be 38 by the time next season starts, and word is he wants more than one year. Under those terms, no thanks. A year and a mil? Bring him on.

On Friday, though, the Twins signed Carroll to a two-year deal said to be worth about $7 million. Wow. If Jamey Carroll is worth $3.5 million, the Twins have scouts that see something I clearly do not.  

Moving on, another priority for the Giants is keeping Pablo Sandoval healthy, and they might want to add “keeping him safe” to the mix. 

While on tour in Taiwan with a Giants manager Bruce Bochy and a group of MLB “all-stars,” the Panda denied having put on some of the pounds he lost last winter, but don’t buy that for a second.

There’s no question he put on weight. It’s undeniable.

But he knows how to get it off, and he’s already working on it at the same Phoenix-area facility that transformed his body and career last offseason. That’s great news, because the Giants absolutely need him at his best again in 2012.

Not-so-great news is that he’s still considering a trip to his native Venezuela for some winter ball. If I’m the Giants, I strongly urge him to reconsider, and this where “keeping him safe” enters the equation.

Or did you miss the terrifying story about Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos being kidnapped from outside his home in Venezuela this week? People with big money are frequent targets of such crimes in that country; it’s why many Venezuelan-born players make their offseason homes in the U.S.

Granted, Sandoval would be there for only a week or two, and he’s a considerably bigger star than Ramos. If he requested national security he’d probably get it. But why take the chance?

That’s it for today, folks. There’s still some daylight left, so there’s still time to hustle for gigs.

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