Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's True, I Swear

by Bill Holmes

This blog was originally published 01/01/2013 in the Viewpoint.
This week I was reminded of something I knew but that you always have to be vigilant about.  That something is that you can't believe everything you hear, read or see.  No source is totally accurate.  Not newspapers, radio, TV, Internet, movies, books, friends, email or gossip can be totally trusted nor totally dismissed.  You have to check stuff.  You should first give it a brain check.  Does it even make sense? Even if it does, find another source or two to verify or debunk the information.

Nowadays the biggest source for both information and misinformation is the Internet.  TV runs a close second with the competition to be first with the information among the numerous news and fake news outlets.  If I see a friend on Facebook or email spreading a myth or falsehood, I'll point it out.  I hope to do it tactfully but I'm sure I fail sometimes.  I'm pretty sure I'll continue to do that and I hope my friends will correct any misinformation I disseminate. 

One of my signals to check a story is when it contains a bunch of superlative adjectives and adverbs.  When there are many biggest, most, worst, least, first, last, lowest, fastest, greatest type words in the story, my radar lights up.  This may surprise you, but some things are just average. They are not the most or least, biggest or smallest, best or worst.  Other clues are when what looks like a huge story comes my way via an email or FB post but failed to show up in the newspaper or TV news.  I know the established media is not completely objective and they miss, delay or suppress some stories but if it's really big and important someone will report it.  Check the date of the original source too.  I've seen chain emails that portend to be current cutting edge but contain information that is years old and has been debunked multiple times.

Why am I bringing this up now?  It is because I just read a book that I found was mostly a fabrication.  During the holidays I've been reading biographies.  I've read about Willie Mays, Jay Leno, Paul Shaffer, Ed McMahon and Brian Wilson.  Baseball, late night TV and music are three of my favorite subjects.  Willie was and still is my favorite baseball player, Ed McMahon was the sidekick of the best ever late night TV host (Johnny Carson), Jay Leno inherited the the Tonight Show from Johnny (a terrible mistake), Paul Shaffer is band leader and sidekick for David Letterman on The Late Show and Brian Wilson was the founder and creative force of the Beach Boys.  His were the songs of my youth.  So you see, I had a good reason to read all those books.  With the exception of the Mays and Shaffer books, the others are 10 or 20 years old.  There's a reason for that.  I frequently shop at a place called Half Price Books.  It's mostly a used book store that sells a few new books plus used magazines, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and vinyl records.  In other words, it is a great place. The Mays biography is “authorized” but not co-written.  The other three are supposedly autobiographies but have co-writers too.  

I've read several articles and books about Willie Mays and Johnny Carson.  I also was around when they were still plying their trade so I have some first hand knowledge of their greatness.  I grew up in the 60's in Florida so of course I know about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.  If I'm not busy I usually watch Letterman.  I never was a Jay Leno fan and his autobiography confirmed why.  To me, he's not funny or interesting.

 Based on my experience and knowledge I think the Willie, Ed, Paul and Jay books are relatively true.  I'm sure some incidents are embellished and some suppressed.  If you write a book or a blog, you get to express your viewpoint, emphasize the positive, and reduce the negative. Conversely, the Brian Wilson book appears to be a complete fabrication.  Too bad, I would like to know the story of one of our true musical geniuses.  One who came to prominence when I was a teen surfer in Florida.  Everyone I hung out with was a Beach Boys fan.  We had the surfer bangs (now impossible for me), surf boards, baggy shorts and absolutely no woodies (the cars, not the ones in our pants).

Here's the deal. I read all 390 pages of “Wouldn't It Be Nice, My Own Story” by Brian Wilson with Todd Gold.  I have read and heard a million stories about the Beach Boys over the years.  I've seen them perform live over a half dozen times.  I read stuff about them as it was happening.  Now, years later I found this book at a used book store.  After sitting on my shelf for a few months, it percolated to the top of the stack this month.

It's a tough book to read for those that remember the fun music of the Beach Boys.  From 1962 until 1966 there was no bigger musical group.  Between '62 and '65 they produced 10 albums.  Then Brian Wilson burned out and went nuts.  Drugs, sex and rock & roll took over.  So, here's the review.

The book “Wouldn't It Be Nice” was published in 1991.  It was pawned off as an autobiography by Brian Wilson.  The first half is a review of his life and the Beach Boys from the early '60s through the early '70s.  Brian is an amazing musical force who produced a whole new sound that some of us grew up with.  He also had a tough childhood with an impossible father.  The second half of the book became a tribute to his psychologist, Dr. Eugene Landy.  I knew Brian was a mess and I knew about Dr. Landy.  As I read the book, I wondered about several things.  I wondered why nobody called a lawyer when it seemed appropriate.  I wondered why Dr. Landy gave up his license to practice rather than fight the charges.  The book said it was because Brian was too fragile to testify on Landy's behalf.  I wondered why everyone who was related or close to Brian hated Dr. Landy.  Why they chose to go to court to extricate Landy from Brian's life.  Still, it was an alleged autobiography by Brian.  When I finished reading it, Brian was cured and Dr. Landry was a saint.  Carl Wilson (his brother), Mike Love (his cousin) and Al Jardine (original Beach Boy) were demons.  His ex-wife and children were either glossed over, ignored or also in the enemy camp.  The next time the litigation got going, Landy again acquiesced and disappeared.

It seems Dr. Landy might have been a charlatan.

I don't often question books like I do newspapers, TV or Internet stuff.  This time I did because the book was so one-sided and didn't jibe with my memory.  I also thought that the recent 50thanniversary reunion of the Beach Boys could not possibly have happened if the book was true. There was just too much bad blood among the Beach Boy members.  After I finished reading the book, I did some research.  It turns out that the book was a PR publication by Dr. Landy.  The book was copyrighted by Brains and Genius, a company owned by Landy and Wilson, not by the purported author, Brian Wilson.

One statement I found in my research:

Landy's depiction in glowing terms in the second half of Wilson's autobiography Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story, published that year, would, were it a legitimate autobiography, indicate Wilson's approval of his methods; in an unrelated court case, however, Wilson testified that he had never even read the final draft of the manuscript, much less written any of it.

While reading, I did wonder how a stoned Brian could remember some of the facts in the book.  I also wondered how some of the doctor/patient stuff could be published.  I think all the Wilson stuff published was revealed in supposedly private sessions.

I don't doubt that Landy helped Brian.  For the money he charged and full control, most anybody could have helped.  Brian was a mess.  He needed intervention. Landy charged $35,000 a month plus expenses. 

So the point is be cautious.  There is lots of flotsam and jetsam out there.  Believe what you want but maybe verify first.  It's tempting to pick up stray Internet stuff to support your position.  It's even more important to verify stuff you agree with.  Anybody with a keyboard and an Internet connection can post stuff as “fact”.  Some of it might even be true. 

BTW, I'm still a Willie Mays and Brian Wilson fan.  I always will be.  They are far from perfect, but so am I.  They both rose to the pinnacle of their chosen field at a time I was an impressionable youth.   

Be careful, be vigilant and try not to spread false info.  You never know where the BS will come from.  Every word in this blog post is accurate and absolutely true, I swear.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Challenge Blog

by Bill Holmes

So I was quietly celebrating my recent birthday when a long-time friend challenged me on Facebook to write a blog about certain subjects. I accepted the challenge so now I have to deliver or forever be ridiculed by that friend.

First a little history. This long-time, now also old, friend and I have numerous shared experiences. We were drinking buddies before we could legally drink. We shared many exciting adventures as well as many quiet times. We went through multiple relationships together starting with puppy love girlfriends and progressing to serious relationships and finally to marriages. At times we probably helped each other in those relationships and at times we probably hurt them. Nevertheless, we remained close friends through it all. My parents would ask about this friend through the years even up until their deaths. So you see, even if I couldn't stand the guy, my parents liked him. I was stuck. We helped each other in the beginning when we were trying to become adults. That didn't happen when we turned 18 or 21 or even 25, it took a little longer. Some may say we never achieved adulthood. Eventually family, work, distance and time changed the relationship. We spent less time together, not on purpose or for any particular reason. It just happened. Sometimes we'd lose touch for a year or two and eventually it was probably over ten years. There was no internet or email or Facebook. It was easy to lose touch either by accident or on purpose. I moved, he moved, he had a new job, I had a new job, he had a new family, I had a new family. Stuff happens. We stumbled upon each other again about five years ago. Like with any true long-time friend we still share at least much of that one time connection.

So, I have to ask all of you, what kind of a son of a bitch would put forth the following challenge?
What? Another birthday? I'm looking forward to your blog on this one. Have a great day!”
Followed by my reply -
Not sure such an old man has the energy or memory for another blog.
Followed by his reply -
“Well maybe you could just do a Facebook post detailing your contributions to the world of sports, your preferences in adult beverages, and your outlook for the Rangers since Josh Hamilton sez that there are no true baseball fans in Texas.”
Then stupidly I accepted the challenge -
A certain long-time, not old, friend challenged me to a blog or FB post tied to my recent birthday. He suggested I talk about my contributions to sports (none), my adult beverage preferences and my views on the Rangers upcoming season since there are no real baseball fans in D/FW. He also snuck in a memory test of a 1964 event. I will accept and do my best in the upcoming days to meet the challenge and the test. This comes from the 1st ever FWC. No one can take that title from me. Hoping the statutes of limitations have expired.”

I accepted because I had to. This won't take too long.

1. My contributions to the world of sports

Minimal – I think my sports career peaked when I was 12. I was one of only two sixth graders to make the boys varsity softball team (Catholic elementary schools went from K through 8th grade). I didn't play much but I was on the team. Because I was probably only 4'2” I was the designated walker. Go to bat, take every pitch and hope for a walk. I was not allowed to swing. Because I was a sixth grade softball prodigy, I was one of the few three year letterman in school history. Oh wait, we didn't have lettermen. I was a decent ball player. My problem is I wasn't a decent grower. That's a sports disadvantage. I played Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball until I was 16 or 17. No colleges or Major League teams called. As a youth I also played some fast-pitch softball in what were adult beer leagues. I was part of a City Junior  championship team (maybe under 15 year olds) that thought it could compete with the big boys. We could hit and run and field but as any fast-pitch softball aficionado knows it is all about the pitcher. We didn't have a pitcher. A little later in life I badly played some college (dorm/frat) intramural touch football and basketball. Later a few beer league slow-pitch company softball teams. My most significant sports contribution is that for a few years I coached youth baseball. That was a lot of work some years but a lot of fun. The kids are great, sometimes the parents aren't. There are also politics involved. I don't do politics very well. There was a little golf and bowling through the years. Now I'm just a sports fan. So you see there is no doubt the Baseball Hall of Fame is preparing a spot for me.

2. My preferences in adult beverages

In a word - beer. I have always preferred beer. When I was growing up my Dad mostly drank beer around the house. That may be because it was hot in Florida and beer is quite refreshing or because it was pretty damn cheap way back then. He drank Scotch, Rob Roy's or some mixed drink when out socializing or when some friends stopped by. He was a bartender in his youth and prided himself on having the ingredients and know-how to make whatever his guests wanted. If it was just the family or one of the neighbors it was beer. Once I was big enough, I was the designated beer boy. I was in charge of getting and opening the beer for Dad. At one time, the opening part wasn't that easy. Beer cans were made out of heavy steel and there were no pop-tops or twist off caps. Everybody carried a can/bottle opener (church key). Well, Little Billy began taking payment for the butler service by taking a sip of Dad's beer before it was delivered. Before that, Dad would give me a sip if I asked (and Mom wasn't around). I can't remember ever not liking beer. Well, the sips got bigger over time and pretty soon Dad got half a beer and I got half a beer. He knew what was going on but didn't care. He sometimes would tell me to get him a FULL beer. It was OK to drink Dad's beer but I was also the designated TV remote control. That task was not negotiable. On time and on the station. No way Mom and Dad are going to miss a second of Ed Sullivan or Lawrence Welk. Because I became a beer drinker early in life I never drank much liquor. When I have it has not always worked out well. I think it's a quantity problem. You can drink 12 or 24 or 36 or more ounces of beer over time and still be OK. You can not drink 12 or 24 or 36 ounces of Scotch without being a little impaired. I almost never drink hard stuff out in public anymore. A bottle of Irish or Gin or Vodka at home will last a few years. I normally only drink wine when I have some left over from cooking or go to a fancy restaurant. So, here's the bottom line, 98.5% of the time I drink beer (anything but Bud products). I'll sip a little Jameson Irish on rare occasions. I have vermouth, vodka and gin around in case I want a Bloody Mary, Screwdiver or Martini. I think I last had a Martini in the 1990's. Now a spicy Bloody Mary is delicious. You can use some of the above mentioned beverages in your cooking too. Bottom line – I choose to drink beer.

3. The Rangers

I fully realize that D/FW is not a baseball town, a super star told the world, so I can not be a true fan. Despite that, I am going to express my opinion on the upcoming Rangers season. My take is that it will be just fine. I have absolutely no regrets that Josh Hamilton and Michael Young are gone. Michael is an excellent person, unfortunately he is now a very mediocre baseball player with a big salary. At one time he was maybe the best Rangers player. As the team upgraded their talent he became one of their worst players. He was a pretty good 2nd baseman whose hitting improved. He was then a very average shortstop but his hitting again improved. He was a much below average 3rd baseman whose hitting fell off. Finally he became a poor designated hitter and a pretty bad 1st baseman. Both of his assets, fielding and hitting, deteriorated. A once barely adequate fielder got worse and his batting average, run production and power declined. If you watch those who have replaced him and caused him to change positions you will understand. Young at one time played 2nd, short and 3rd. He was replaced by Kinsler, Andrus and Beltre. Kinsler is better, Andrus is very much better and Beltre is the best. All those guys are on the Rangers roster. Young's funk as DH/utility guy sealed his fate. There is too much talent in the farm system to keep a mediocre old guy around. As for Josh the Jerk, good riddance. He has a bushel of physical talent and less than an ounce of psychological ability (for those of you on the metric system that would be 27 kilograms and less than 28 grams). His physical durability is also in question. In his five years with the Rangers he missed the equivalent of a full season with injuries, some very bizarre. I don't think the players or the organization will miss the Josh drama. We're not exactly a Kardashian kind of town. I don't often wish bad times on any player but in this case I'll make an exception. I hope Josh hits about .198, hits seven home runs and drives in 22 runs. I also hope he misses 57 games with an energy drink/coffee/caffeine/dip adverse reaction. Then let God tell Josh he wanted him to have a bad season. The bullpen had some significant personnel loses but the Rangers seem to rebuild that from scratch every year. The replacements will do fine. It should be another post season appearance by the Rangers.

4. Memory Test

I'm not sure how well I did on the memory test. I think I got a majority of the answers correct. I am pretty sure that the test giver isn't positive of the correct answers either. I've decided this is not the time or place to tell that story. It was an adventure that took place almost 50 years ago. There are too many lost brain cells to accurately detail it without much more thought, maybe some research and collaboration.

Well I didn't keep it short. Once I get started I tend to ramble. I'm not sure if my challenger will find this blog acceptable. If he doesn't I will hate him forever and never speak to him again.  

PS - The font size and color shift has something to do with problems between LibreOffice Writer, were most of it was originally typed, and Blogger. I can't easily fix it so I left it. I may correct it before I submit this blog for a Pulitzer Prize.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cooking for Two or Fewer

by Bill Holmes

There seems to be a conspiracy by grocers and retailers against those of us who live in a household with one or two people. I've noticed this for several years because I've often lived alone or with only one or two other people. A situation in the last couple of days brought it to mind again so here goes my rant.

Last week, Kroger had crawfish on sale. It was the frozen kind from China (not obvious from the ad) but that's OK for the times Louisiana fresh crawfish aren't available. Seemed like a good time to cook some up. I'm a big fan of Louisiana cooking, both Cajun and Creole. My favorite Louisiana dish is probably etouffee although gumbo ain't bad. I guess you can use almost any shellfish, seafood or mild meat to make etouffee. I'm partial to crawfish and shrimp, either separate or combined. Of course I needed a few more ingredients besides the crawfish. That''s where the problem started.

I'm not a strict follower of recipes but if you're going to make any Creole or Cajun dish you probably are going to start with the trinity. No, not the religious trinity, the Louisiana cooking trinity. Onion, celery and bell peppers. Peppers and onion are not a problem because I use them most days. I tend to eat a salad five or six days a week. Now celery, that's another story. I'm not a big celery fan, except in recipes, and don't have it laying around. I needed about one cup of chopped celery. That's about three trimmed medium stalks. Have you ever tried to buy three stalks of celery? The hermetically sealed washed and trimmed celery packages contain eight or ten trimmed stalks. A fresh bunch of celery is made up of ten or 12 larger stalks plus the leaves and root. If you only need a cup of celery there is going to be a little left over. The fresh bunch is always cheaper and usually better, so that's what I bought.

The next challenge was that I needed some flour. Depending on the recipe, I needed a blond roux or a slurry for thickening. That takes only between one or a very few tablespoons of flour for either choice. No flour in the pantry so that went on the shopping list. The smallest package of flour I found was two pounds. I now have two pounds minus one or two tablespoons of flour. I don't bake and I don't bread stuff to fry. What else can I use flour for? I bought a small bag of flour, probably two pounds, shortly after I moved back to Texas with Dad in 2003. I'm guessing I breaded some veal or pork for Dad. He liked a little breaded and fried meat now and then. I put whatever flour was left over into a glass container to keep the bugs out. Probably about five years later I came across that container. No bugs or mold but I thought it best to dump it, probably two pounds less a few tablespoons. Now ten years later I have another new bag of flour. The original glass flour container has been repurposed and I don't have another airtight container big enough for two pounds (minus a tablespoon) of flour. Need some all purpose flour? I mixed the flour with a cup of white wine (instead of water) for the slurry. Now I have a half bottle of wine left over too. Oh wait, that's not a problem.

These are just my most current gripes. Over the years I've tackled what I thought was a simple recipe only to find out that I needed five new ingredients. Check the bank balance if you need five new spices or herbs. One little jar or tin can set you back more than five dollars. That's five bucks for a pinch if you don't normally use that spice or herb. I'm not talking about truffles or real saffron. That dish you thought you would make with the on sale chicken (or crawfish) suddenly costs $27 per serving because of the other ingredients. Yes, it is sometimes cheaper to go to a restaurant for that food you are craving.

As for the huge packages of food, I have seen some attempts at more reasonable sizes. When in Florida several years ago when Mom and Dad lived in an area with several retirement communities, there were some individual serving sized products tucked away on a high shelf. There were even little jars of ketchup or mustard or mayonnaise, all overpriced. Sometimes you can find the same smaller sizes in a resort/condo area where there is a high turnover, like the Piggly-Wiggly at Coligny Plaza on Hilton Head. The problem is most of the products were neither very healthy nor delicious. In the grocery stores I now shop, I see older people (which I now am) filling their carts with individual servings of frozen and packaged meals. The food companies still make individual serving size prepackaged products. Most of these products are crap. Lean Cuisine, Stouffer's, Healthy Choice, Hormel and a few others occasionally stumble on a dish that is palatable but they still are full of salt, fats and sugars. I know part of the reason folks buy this crap is for convenience. That's OK, I buy convenient crap food too on occasion. When an older person is pushing a cart with a dozen Banquet or store brand frozen meals I know it's not really by choice. It's cheap and convenient. It will also kill you. Some of it is generational culture. Many men of my generation and older never learned to cook and have no desire to learn. My Dad could barely make a simple sandwich, heat up a can of Campell's soup or cook an egg if he was starving. That's it. He either couldn't or wouldn't bother to heat up a jar of Ragu and cook pasta. That's despite the fact that it was one of his very favorite meals. Spaghetti and sauce took two pots. That's at least one too many.

Well as usual, I've wondered all over the original subject and peripheral subjects. Partially attributable to old age, ADD, dementia, derangement, softening of the brain and mental decay.

I wish I could find individual portions or at least more usable portions of some ingredients. I wish those that can't or don't cook could find convenient, nutritious and delicious foods that weren't full of crap. Maybe as we baby boomers become infirm the food producers and sellers will offer alternate product sizes and choices. That will only happen if boomers have enough money and desire for real food to make a difference. I guess the alternative is to live in communes or co-ops. Didn't some of us try that in the 60's and 70's?

So, the etouffee was delicious, the extra celery, onion and bell pepper went into the stock pot along with some chicken scraps I had in the freezer. I also was able to use that wine I had absolutely no use for as stock or broth liquid. Now I have a couple of quarts of delicious stock or broth. I can never tell the difference between the two. I really don't have much to complain about. I use most of my food scraps. I have enough stock/broth in the freezer for several dishes. I haven't had to cooked rice or beans or make soup with plain water in years.

Nevertheless I'll still gripe about food and other packaging. If you go to Costco or Sam's expect to buy two dozen pork ribs or a gross of toilet paper. If you go to a local grocery store, it would be nice to be able to size the purchase to the recipe, family or occasion.

I think my youngest son is coming by this weekend to get this batch of etouffee. I can make more. I even have enough celery and flour for another batch. He loves etouffee and most of my cooking. What good taste he has. He's also very handsome, talented and extremely smart. It must be part of that tree, apple adage.

Anyway, it's hard to shop and cook for one or two. A big freezer helps but eventually somebody has to eat the overflow. 

By the way, I still have almost two pounds of flour for sale. 


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Spring Training

by Bill Holmes 

It's that time of year again.  The Super Bowl, the very last football game of the season, is over. The days are getting warmer and longer.  Fathers and sons are out playing catch.  Youth league posters for spring signup are all around town.  The ads and circulars in the newspaper feature gloves, mitts, bats, cleats, cups and other baseball equipment.  The local baseball fields and parks once again have kids getting ready for another season.  All this can only mean one thing, it's almost time for baseball spring training to start.

Baseball is and has always been my favorite sport.  I have vague memories of watching baseball on my folks huge black and white TV when I was very young.  The TV probably had a 9" or 10" screen.  That was back when we lived in New Jersey, across the river from New York City.  Back then NYC had three major league baseball teams and even more TV channels.  I'm sure at some point I saw the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees play on a local NYC station.  I was always a Giants fan, Dad was a Yankees fan his whole life.  Even back then we disagreed on a few things.  When I was a little older we moved to Florida.  There were far fewer TV choices and far fewer games on TV.  That's OK because now I was able to throw and catch a baseball.  Almost every evening during the spring and summer my Dad and I would play catch.  I would have the gloves and ball ready when he got home from work.  These were teaching experiences, not just recreation.  Dad was always giving me lessons and tips on fielding and throwing.  I remember that every spring, as I got bigger and my arm got stronger, we would stand a little farther apart.  I can remember being able to feel the difference in my abilities from year to year.  When I got to be a tween and a teenager I would think I was as good as Dad.  He would zing a throw or two to put me in my place and show me that it wasn't quite yet the year.  Then finally one spring I was able to throw as hard and far as my Dad.  That was a memorable event to me.

I think I was about eight years old when I started playing organized baseball.  There were no t-ball or coach-pitch leagues back then so we didn't start quite as early as kids do now.  That was an exciting time for me.  We were going to play real games on real fields and wear uniforms.  Before my first spring training, Dad took me to Finkelstein's department store.  I remember it as a huge, cluttered store. I guess it had a good sports department because that's were we bought my glove, shoes (rubber cleats) and maybe a bat.  Our team had a sponsor so we had great uniforms.  They were grey flannel, full button jerseys with blue piping and the sponsors name embroidered on the back. We had blue stirrup socks and a blue hat.  We played at Crabtee Park on University Blvd. near San Jose Blvd.  The park is still there. That was the beginning of several years of playing organized baseball every summer.  I couldn't wait for the new season to start each year.

I got to relive those days when the kids were growing up.  Unfortunately not so much with my oldest but quite a bit with the youngest.  The games of catch in the evenings, the joys of going to the sporting goods store for all the equipment and the new uniform each year, especially that first year.  I must admit that my spring trainings in Florida were a little warmer than those for my son here in Texas.  It can get pretty cold and windy here in February and March. One day might be in the 70's but the next can be in the 40's and windy.  Baseball in the cold can be a little painful. Although my youngest son is now grown, we got to share his high school alumni game a few days ago.  We still get to have at least a little spring training together.  I'm thankful that he shares my love of baseball.

In between those years of my youth and my sons and now again since they are grown, I've had major league spring training to look forward to.  It's a magical time of year.

Every team is undefeated and ready to win the pennant.  All the rosters are looking strong with the off season moves and the new rookies coming up to the big club.  The injuries are all healed and everybody is in the best shape of their career.  Of course we all know that some of those off season trades and sighnings will be busts, some of the new "can't miss" rookies will miss by a mile, new injuries will crop up, old injuries will return, some players will have stayed around a year too long and any number of other problems and excuses will arise.  A few of the favorites to get to post season will have bad years for any number of reasons.  Likewise a projected cellar dweller will play above their expectations and either make the post season or at least make the races interesting.  One or more of those big free agent signings will look pretty foolish.  Some team will take a chance on a reclamation project and strike gold.  It all happens every year and we know it.  The fun is that we don't know what will happen to which team or player.  Everybody still has to play the games.

My team, the Texas Rangers, start spring training on February 12th with pitchers and catchers reporting.  There are several question marks about the Rangers.  They failed to pull the trigger on any blockbuster free agent deals.  They lost one of the best, though flawed, players in the game to a division rival.  They traded their team leader of the past several years.  They have questions about their pitching, both starting and the bullpen.  They have a potential 50 game drug suspension of one of their big bat starters.  They have bench strength questions.  They also have the the psychological scars of two losing  World Series appearances and a stretch run collapse in the last three years.

So, here we are one week from the start of major league spring training.  Little leagues begin in March.  High schools and colleges start the season in a week or two, the World Baseball Classic starts March 2nd and the Major League season starts March 31st with a game between the Rangers and their old in-state and new American League West division rival Astros.

Until the regular season begins we can all enjoy a few games that don't count.  Watch the new roster, try to predict the winners and losers from the free agent and trade deals and evaluate the rookies.  When the season kicks off, I'll be rooting for the Rangers, Braves and Rays.  A Rangers/Rays AL Championship Series followed by a Rangers/Braves World Series followed by a Rangers World Championship would be perfect.  You can dream the same scenario for your team too.  After all, at this time of year every team is tied for the lead.

It's a new season and I'm ready.  Play ball, batter up!