Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stating the Obvious - Observations from the Park

Here's a bit of breaking news*: I am a lazy guy.

*For all intents and purposes, in this space, "breaking news" refers to things that have already been established... over and over again.

There are a number of evenings where walking the 10.2 feet from my couch to my fridge counts as "activity."

Because I oft find myself in a state of such torpor, I'm trying to make it a point to get out and walk or jog through the park when the weather permits. On this very evening, I took a walk around the park, because the weather was very pleasant... and because I really despise jogging.

The nice thing about a trip around the park is that it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a workout (sorry, not interested); it can be a date (sorry... now I'm depressing myself); or it can be an opportunity to simply observe (we have a winner).

Luckily for my curious eyes, I was presented with a number of intriguing subjects on this trek. What follows is an examination of a few of the members of the roster of fellow parkgoers.

The Tie/Cap Combo Guy-

I'm cheating a bit here, because I actually saw this guy during my walk to the park. Nonetheless, the impression he had was the same.

I do not understand the idea behind wearing a shirt-and-tie, but then topping it off with a baseball cap (a.k.a., dressing business super-casual). My best guess is that he who has adorned himself in such a way is trying to send the message, "Yes sir, I'm all business... but I'm willing to have a catch if you want to."

The only other feasible option I see is that Mr. Super Casual just tossed the hat on to cap off (play on words... yes!) a rough work day. This brings to mind the obvious question, is a baseball cap manufactured with secret materials that promote relaxation and/or fun? (Dejected worker: "Oh my. Work was horrendous. I'm not sure I can take another day of this s-" [cap placed securely on head] "-Wow, life is great! Who wants to go fly a kite?") If one makes it a point to toss their cap on as they walk out the door, doesn't there have to be some sort of explanation for this action? Can someone look into this?

The Casual Walker... IN DISGUISE

I cannot question the thoughts of the casual walker, because if a census were taken where one had to describe his or her reasoning for visiting said park, I would fall in the aforementioned casual walker category.*

*Believe it or not, I do not walk down to the park solely to attempt to drink out of the poor excuse for a water fountain. You know, the one that distributes water that is roughly the same temperature as a cup of coffee that has been sitting long enough for the cream to start smelling, and dispenses it in a manner that most closely resembles a bathtub slowly overflowing.

The mindset that I do not understand is that of the DISGUISED (all capital letters signify your cue to imagine dramatic music (of the 'dun dun dunnnnnnn' sort) playing right after that word) casual walker. Allow me to explain...

For this walk around the park, I dressed in athletic shorts and a T-shirt. Such a wardrobe gives the impression that I could actually be there to work out - That I could actually have sweat beads forming on my forehead because I just finished a jog (instead of having them form as a result of my self-diagnosed hyperhydrosis). It seems that most parkgoers that fall in either the workout or casual walker category will dress themselves (well, hopefully they can dress themselves) in a similar manner.

Nevertheless, upon my arrival at the park I found myself walking being a guy wearing khaki shorts, a cap advertising a store that sells hunting/camping/fishing equipment, and a backpack. Because of his dress, I made the assumption that he was heading home from campus. The fact that he made one left turn on the park sidewalk did little to change my mind... but the second left turn (meaning he was now walking north when he was originally walking south) made me realize that he was on the same journey as me.... He, too, was walking 'round the park in a casual manner. I thought to myself, "Why didn't I wear khaki shorts and a backpack on this walk." Then I remembered that I enjoy being comfortable.

Next time that casual walker goes for a disguise, I hope he at least considers a fake mustache.

The Corner-Cutter

As I've already beaten into submission, several of those who venture to the park do so for either recreational or casual purposes. In either case, the concept of cutting corners seems to make little sense. Nevertheless, I encountered a girl doing just that tonight - choosing to cut across the grass in a diagonal manner once she came within about 10 yards of a corner.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong (I don't know how you can correct me... Do I have to think of everything around here?), but if you were at the park to workout via your own free will and your goal was to walk around the park X times, there would not really be a point to cutting corners and cheating no one but yourself (unless you have a horrible memory... "I'll think I met my goal later on... Sucker!"). On the other hand, if you're walking around the park simply to enjoy the weather/sights/sounds/people driving by and staring at you as if they're at a zoo, then cutting corners seems to make even less sense.

The only reasonable conclusion I can conjure for this female's unwillingness to approach the corners of the park is that, as a child, she once heard someone speak of a dead body being taken to a coroner. Unfortunately, she heard the statement wrong and thought they said "corner." As a result, she developed a phobia relating to any and every corner, thinking that corpses will be waiting for her. Such a fear makes driving difficult ("Another corner???"), geometry impossible, and can even affect the ability to sing children's songs (singing: "My hat, it has three... NOOOOOO!").

This concludes our examination of a few of those you may encounter at the park. Feel free to keep this guide handy upon your next trip.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Draft-y Day

"With the fifth pick in the NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select..."

In mere hours, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will begin a sentence with this very phrase (unless, of course, the Chiefs trade the pick... but that would render this entire opening moot, so I'm going to ignore such an idea for now). How Mr. Goodell ends this sentence is anyone's guess.

The Chiefs - a team so adored by its fans that the ending of the National Anthem is modified each game, just to remind everyone that the team resides in the U.S.A. - are in the process of "rebuilding," meaning the focus in developing young players and having your team success rely on how quickly the players improve. In professional sports, rebuilding can be a slow process, at times taking several years to see any sort of results (see: Royals, Kansas City; 1995-2008). It is because of these failures, that "rebuilding" can be viewed as a derogatory term by some fans (Holy rebuilding!).

The idea that the Chiefs plan to build a successful team via the draft is an interesting one, since the team's draft history isn't exactly one that you'd find in How to Succeed as an NFL GM (look for it on bookshelves soon). For every Derrick Thomas the Chiefs have brought in, there's been a Trezelle Jenkins (who's greatest impact for KC may have been giving me a spectacular bust to refer to in this very blog).

At this point, the Chiefs have 13 picks to use (or blow) in the seven rounds stretched over this weekend and my interest is piqued as to how successful (or failful ... I know, just go with it) the Chiefs can be with these picks. To waste time until my reaction to the Chiefs first pick is "YES," "meh," or "d'oh" we'll look at the Chiefs last 10 drafts and rate the picks using these genuine Derek reactions (for those of you confused by my scoring system, "YES" = a pick who became an All-Pro caliber player or who performed much better than expected for the slot he was drafted; "meh" = a player who was about average of what one might expect for the spot he was drafted... not anything to get particularly excited about; "d'oh" = a player that made you question whether the team had a chimp who was high on painkillers make the pick.

YES - Dwayne Bowe (1st rd.)
meh - Turk McBride (2nd), Tank Tyler (3rd), Kolby Smith (5th), Herb Taylor (6th), Michael Allan (7th)
d'oh - Justin Medlock (5th)

It's pretty early to be judging such picks, but at this point, Bowe looks to be a star receiver in the making. Turk and Tank will end up in the d'oh category if they don't develop into players the Chiefs can depend on inside. Medlock fits well in the d'oh category, since that was my response to nearly every one of his kicks while he wore a helmet with an arrowhead on the side.

YES - Jarrad Page (7th)
meh - Tamba Hali (1st), Bernard Pollard (2nd), Brodie Croyle (3rd), Trey Stallings (6th), Jeff Webb (6th)
d'oh - Marcus Maxey (5th)

Page gets top billing simply because finding a starting safety in the final round of the draft is not particularly common. Hali, Pollard and Croyle will all probably be starters when fall arrives, but they all have particularly weak points in their games (run defense, pass coverage and throwing accurate passes, respectively).

YES - Derrick Johnson (1st), Dustin Colquitt (3rd)
meh - Boomer Grigsby (5th), Will Svitek (6th)
d'oh - Craphonso Thorpe (4th), Alphonso Hodge (5th), Khari Long (6th), James Killian (7th), Jeremy Parquet (7th)

Wow... It's nice that the Chiefs got two quality picks (yes, I realize one is a punter... but he was one of the few bright spots on the team last season), but rounds 4-7 were a little rough for the KC front office... Damn that chimp.

YES - Jared Allen (4th)
meh - Samie Parker (4th), Kevin Sampson (7th)
d'oh - Junior Siavii (2nd), Kris Wilson (2nd), Keyaron Fox (3rd), Jeris McIntyre (6th)

Here's a draft the 2008 Chiefs may not want to reenact. Naturally, Allen was an excellent pick. Naturally, the Chiefs decided to give him away this offseason. KC's top pick in '04, Siavii, had 13 total tackles in two seasons on the roster. In other words, the 6-5, 336 pounder made a slightly larger impact than I did.

YES - Larry Johnson (1st), Kawika Mitchell (2nd)
meh - Jordan Black (5th), Jimmy Wilkerson (6th), Willie Pile (7th)
d'oh - Julian Battle (3rd), Brett Williams (4th), Montique Sharp (7th)

This draft is deceiving. Mitchell has become a stellar linebacker, but it's been for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Johnson was drafted as an insurance policy for Priest Holmes, despite the fact that the Chiefs desparately needed an impact defensive player.

YES - Scott Fujita (5th)
meh - n/a
d'oh - Ryan Sims (1st), Eddie Freeman (2nd), Omar Easy (4th), Maurice Rodriguez (7th)

Pardon me while I stick my hand in a paper shredder...

YES - n/a
meh - Monty Beisel (4th), Derrick Blaylock (5th), Shaunard Harts (7th), Terdell Sands (7th)
d'oh - Eric Downing (3rd), Snoop Minnis (3rd), George Layne (4th), Billy Baber (5th), Alex Sufsted (6th)

You know what this mangled hand could use? A dash of salt...

YES - Greg Wesley (3rd), Dante Hall (5th)
meh - Pat Dennis (5th)
d'oh - Sly Morris (1st), William Bartee (2nd), Frank Moreau (4th), Darnell Alford (6th), Desmond Kitchings (7th)

It's fairly obvious that looking at '02 and '01 have made me feel pretty generous. Wesley is a bit of a stretch as an All-Pro caliber safety, and Dennis was the most aggravating starting cornerback I've seen in KC... but he did start. Morris had a decent rookie season, but I think earning "solid first-round pick" status may require more than one successful season (I grade on a tough scale, I know).

YES - John Tait (1st), Gary Stills (3rd)
meh - n/a
d'oh - Mike Cloud (2nd), Larry Atkins (3rd), Larry Parker (4th), Eric King (7th)

Again, I'm stretching. Stills went to a Pro Bowl, but it was as a special teams player.

YES - Victor Riley (1st)
meh - Greg Favors (4th), Derrick Ransom (6th), Eric Warfield (7th)
d'oh - Rashaan Shehee (3rd), Robert Williams (5th), Ernest Blackwell (7th)

I realize that Warfield started for several years after being drafted in the seventh round - drastically outperforming the expectations of his draft position - but I cannot forgive the fact that he was given contract Monty Burns would envy while the Chiefs let Donnie Edwards walk.

At a glance, this seems to be a pretty depressing tally. But lets see what the final numbers add up to. In 10 years, the Chiefs have made 73 picks. A total of 13 of those picks have earned the honor of receiving an outstanding rating on the DL scale. The Chiefs have made 25 average picks during that time, with 35 picks making the author quiver in terror and/or agony.

Let's reiterate this point. A team that has essentially wasted nearly half of its draft picks over the last decade plans to construct a team via this very process.

Should I be scared right now?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Oh, Canada?

In the 1530s, Jacques Cartier arrived in the area that would become Montreal, Quebec, becoming the first known European to set foot there.

In 2008, Derek Larson traveled to that very city, becoming the first known writer from this blog to set foot on Canadian soil.

Cartier found a land inhabited by Native Americans. I, on the other hand, found something a little different.

Here's what I know:

1. - I cannot read or speak French.
I'm not sure that I should be surprised by such a revelation, since I have never attempted to learn the language, but I've also never been so constantly reminded of my inadequacies in that area. The natives speak French (although several are - thankfully for this guy - bilingual), the signs are in French, and it's quite possible that the dogs bark in French... Bonjour, confusion.

2. - Television in Montreal is wildly disappointing.
In some of the few spare hours I had, I tried to relax by planting myself in front of the TV. The nice part about this was that I was able to find several episodes of The Simpsons - my favorite television program as documented by Fun Facts About Derek, Volume XII.

Unfortunately, 90-percent of the episodes I happened upon were voiced in French - a language that I cannot comprehend (see #1). Hearing a poorly voiced Chief Wiggum say, "C'est qu'ils tous disent. Ils tous disent d'oh," just doesn't have the same effect on me.

Frustrated with my attempts to find something funny, I turned to the world of sports. Unfortunately, in this land north of the border my preferred selection of athletic competitions (e.g., baseball, football, basketball... and maybe tortoise racing) take a backseat to hockey. TSN, the Canadian ESPN, puts more focus on hockey than I put on relatively pointless topics... Yeah, it's that bad.

3. - Dancers and fighters make an unpredictable combination.
During our stay, the hotel we were housed in played host to a salsa dancing conference. The combined-force exerted by the hip gyrations produced at this conference may have shifted the rotation of the Earth.

If that wasn't enough, our hotel was just a block away from Montreal's Bell Centre, where a large UFC event took place Saturday night. This means fighters, fans, and groupies were all also located within the 36 floors of guest rooms. Picture, if you will, a motley combination of guys with shaved heads and no necks, a bevy of females with short skirts and artificial breasts, and a boisterous (read: inebriated) grouping of teens and 20-somethings with dyed hair and more ink than the Sears catalog.

So combine the crew of folks wanting to see blood with the crew of folks wanting to be slaves to the rhythm of Latin drum beats and what do you get? A hotel lobby where Derek does not fit in.

4. - Montreal has a fine selection of dining establishments... and beautiful women hang out at Greek restaurants.

This trip did see Derek significantly increase his diversity in the world of food. Indian food had never been tried... until Montreal. Calamari had never been tasted... until Montreal. Some weird tiny fish fried whole had never been consumed (partially because such a thought had never crossed my mind)... but Montreal brought that about, too.

The seafood dishes were consumed at a Greek restaurant, but such bounds in the area of my culinary diversity did not mark the hot topic of the evening. Neither did the items on the wine list, or the extraordinary prices. It was the woman in the little red dress.

It was apparent that this woman - who was as easy on the eyes as an eye exam featuring only one letter - worked at the restaurant. The question that arose was what the duties of her job actually entailed. For the most of our two hours spent there, it seemed that all she did was stand near food preparation area in a dress so tight it may have have been wenched on and occasionally chatted with other employees. Such action (or inaction) sparked a conversation at our table which was nevery really resolved. Occasionally (read: hardly ever) she would deliver something to a table, but the rest of her job seemed to consist of drawing the attention of anyone with a Y chromosome away from their tables... Job well done, I guess.

5. Cab drivers are still crazy up north
Our trip to the hotel from the airport involved an unknown number of kilos traveled, a cab fare of $35 CDN, a long list of traffic violations commited by our driver, and a couple of instances where I hoped I wouldn't end up being buried in Canada... Good times.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Nicking Names and Baseball Games

The weather forecast for Saturday evening in Kansas City, Mo., currently shows a low of 30 degrees with possible rain/snow showers and winds near 20 m.p.h. If one were to conjure up an image in their mind of "baseball weather" odds are such conditions would not be imagined.

Nevertheless, this occasional writer will be at Kauffman Stadium, rooting for the Royals and wondering what the heck 'global warming' is. Upon hearing that, some people probably think I'm crazy, others think I'm stupid, and the rest wonder why the Drago* this matters. Well, you all have a point, but I'm still looking forward to it.

*The phrase "why the ..." ends so often in derogatory manner, but none of the uses ever really make practical or grammatical sense. As a result, it seems that anything could plugged in as the third word in the triad to make the same point. I figure using such an opportunity to pay homage to Dolph Lundgren's Rocky IV character is rather suitable.**

** In a tribute to Kansas City's own Joe Posnanski, The "Pozterisk" has made its way into "The Writings." What, you may ask, is a Pozterisk? Naturally, it's an asterisk, with a little dose of Poz... Or you could think of it as another way for me to lose track of any topic I may have at-one-time been referring to.

Anyway, despite the fact that those in attendance at the current Royals game - the night's feature presentation at the DL home theater - have the look of people who can't feel their extremities, the trip to "The House That Some Construction Workers Built" (trademark Derek D. Larson, 2008) is an anticipated one. It's a chance to see the 2008 Kansas City Royals, which is enough on its own... But it also marks the nostalgic return to powder-blue uniforms and provides an opportunity to check out the revisions to the stadium, including Crown Vision - possibly best described as a high-defintion video board that automatically draws a "holy Sorny*" response

*The rules that apply to "what the..." phrasing (as discussed earlier) have now been deemed appropriate by the Governing Board of "The Writings" for use in pairing with "holy..." as well. Those unfamiliar with "Sorny" should please refer to

In continued browsing of Royals-related web sites, I've seen several discussions of nicknames for members of the roster. I like to think I've at least assisted in the nicking of a few names in my day, and will therefore offer up my best shot.

- Billy "Groundskeeper Willie" Butler - Another reference to The Simpsons. The reasoning? All Butler does is rake (for those yet again unfamiliar with references tossed out by the author, see )

- Zack "Silent K" Greinke - Greinke's a quiet guy, the 'k' in his first name could be considered silent, and the kid strikes a few batters out... I never said these would be rocket science...

- Tony Pena, Jr. - "Pam" - There's a pretty simple joke about "no stick" involved with this one.

In other news, college basketball season has ended and the result was enough to make me wish Dr. James Naismith had never been provided access to peach baskets. Naturally, with my established rule of not allowing any school sits in a Kansas town that shares its name with a former Blossom actor and employing a fictional bird as its mascot to advance past the second round of the tournament, my bracket was doomed. The question follows: If, through some encounter with a wormhole or time vortex (forgive me, I have yet to complete A Brief History of Time, and thus have not fully familiarized myself with such time travelling terms) I could have known the future, would I have been able to live with myself picking Kansas to be the last team standing?

The answer: [refer to rules governing "why the..." and "what the..." phrasing discussed earlier, and insert term of choice here] no!*

*In effort to replace the phrasing "heck no" along with its belittling cousins, proper examples include: "buttons no," "neanderthal no," and "bovine no."

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Novel Idea

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Kansas City Royals new manager Trey Hillman is a visionary. He's going to revolutionize the game of baseball. The Royals - the only undefeated team in baseball - are opening their fourth game of the season, and Hillman has decided stick with what works. He's playing the exact same lineup and batting order for the third consecutive game. As those guys on the Guinness commercial are known to exclaim, BRILLIANT!

OK, by now your sarcasm detector should be beeping or blinking (or whatever a sarcasm detector does when it detects the sarcasm it is intended to find... I couldn't find much information last time I checked Sharper Image) at a expeditious pace. Obviously finding a lineup that works and playing it consistently is nothing new in the game of baseball... but it seems that way if you're a Kansas City fan.

Check the facts (courtesy ... if you're like me (that's a big if) it will become a staple in your web browsing ventures)...

In 162 games in 2007, then-manager Buddy Bell assembled 141 different batting orders. The most common batting order Bell used was written on the lineup card a grand total of six times... This astounds me. I think a helper monkey could pick nine names out of a hat on 162 different occasions and have more consistency in choosing a lineup (and even the monkey would realize that Shane Costa should never bat cleanup).

The fact that Hillman has used the same batting order for three straight games means he's already accomplished something that Bell never did in 2007.

Or 2006.

Or 2005.

In fact, last time Royals played the same batting order for three straight games, Carlos Beltran was hitting in the No. 2 spot, and Angel Berroa was actually a valuable member of a Major League roster (yes, kids, that was once a reality). It was in September 2003.

Oddly enough, 2003 also marked the last season the Royals were in a pennant race. Tony Pena even earned the AL Manager of the Year award.

Now I'm not going to claim that batting the same nine guys in the same nine spots everyday is the key to baseball success (of course, neither is playing Jason LaRue's .240 on-base percentage in 66 games), but a little dose of consistency can't hurt.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Two Sweet

The Kansas City Royals are 2-0.

This, my friends (hopefully John McCain hasn't trademarked that phrase yet), is excellent news.

It has become a recent tradition for me to write something brimming with hope and optimism saying that the Royals are primed to break out, show great improvement, and finish much better than the cellar spot the national media has them pegged for.

This season, I'm late with that piece and my stance has seemingly been stolen from me. National publications have picked the KC squad to finish on the stairs and even on the ground floor (perhaps there's a reason no one ever expands on that "basement" metaphor.

With the new manager Trey Hillman and the Royals actually getting some respect this season, I almost feel like my eternal optimism (what else can one call finding positives in the acquisition of Scott Elarton two years ago?) isn't completely unusual. Now, in addition to a little preseason love, they have opened the season with two victories against the best lineup, top-to-bottom in baseball (including an astounding three-hitter today).

What is the key to the 2008 Royals? Is it an offense infused with the ever-blossoming (arbitrary Spring reference) talents of DH Billy Butler and third baseman Alex Gordon? Is it the triumvirate of Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke proving their 2007 mound performances were no fluke? Is it having a mind managing the club that is willing to give young players opportunities and play to team strengths?

The answer, fine readers ('The Writings' - where you, the reader, get recognition for comprehending text), is all of the above.

At this point, we reach prediction time. Faithful readers (and by reading this far, there's a good chance you are one... Congratulations...?) will realize that my predictions are often like any occurrences of the degradation of communication that is 'ROTFL' (read: horribly wrong and unfunny). Nevertheless, I'm going on record...

The Royals will finish third in the AL Central, behind the Indians and the Tigers.

Write it down. Print it. Circle it. Underline it. Replace the dots over the letter "i"s with hearts... Do whatever you prefer with it. Just remember, you read it here.

In fact, while we're at it...

AL East Winner - Boston Red Sox (way to go out on a ledge for that one, Derek)
AL Central Winner - Cleveland Indians
AL West Winner - Angels of Anaheim (you hear me? Anaheim... none of this Los Angeles junk)
AL Wild Card - New York Yankees (sorry Tigers... but pitching is a part of the game, too)

NL East Winner - New York Mets
NL Central Winner - Houston Astros (nonsensical pick to avoid conforming to popular opinion of the day)
NL West Winner - Arizona Diamondbacks
NL Wild Card - Atlanta Braves

World Series pick - Indians over Mets

Please feel free to tear these predictions apart. Just try to refrain from personal attacks... unless they contain strikingly original attempts at humor.