Sunday, February 19, 2012

Farewell Mike Cameron-I loved watching you play

Matthew announced at Lookout Landing that Mike Cameron is hanging up his glove at age 38.  In camp with 54 competitors in the Washington Nationals camp, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise. 

Mike Cameron played center field at Safeco like he owned it.  As matter of fact he did own it.
Maybe you don't have as high a regard for Mike Cameron as I do.  He came over in the Ken Griffey, Jr. blackmail and he simply could never be Junior.  He was never going to be as productive a hitter, try as he might.  But in my book, in some ways he was better (and I have considerable fondness for number 24.) Cameron loved Seattle.  It showed in his relationship with the fans and that he was always laughing and smiling.  Though he frequently struggled at the plate, and famously so in Safeco field, he was sans peur in center field.  The first great center fielder to arrive at Safeco, he played  shallower than Griffey, allowing him to come in on balls better, but had enough speed to make the play at the wall just like Junior. His UZR numbers were very good for the 2002-3 years, the only ones available on Fan Graphs.

Perhaps you've forgotten this play on Derek Jeter's home run shortly after Cammie joined the team in 2000.  It shows why he took some of the sting out of Griffey's flight to Cincinnati for me.  I even wrote a poem about Cameron's catch for my 5th and 6th graders to show that poetry didn't have to be a bore.

After M's didn't offer Cameron a contract for the 2004 season, he signed with the Mets.  After an  average year with the Metropolitans in 2004, Cameron suffered a terrible season-ending injury in a collision with Carlos Beltran. He went on to play with the Padres and Brewers, posting decent seasons with both teams.

Cameron had a good career. shows him as a slightly above average hitter for his career, with an OPS+ above 100 from 1999-2009.  Not surprisingly, his best year was 2001, along with many others, with a .267/.353/.480 slash line, 126 OPS + and 16th place finish in MVP voting.
A loyal player, a loyal teammate who got the most he could out of his talent.  No, Cameron wasn't Ken Griffey, Jr., but in some ways he was better.
It's great to see this baseball good-guy go out on his own terms, and I'll remember his time in Seattle fondly.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Dream dreams, then write them. Aye but live them first." Reading Samuel Eliot Morison

Statue of historian Samuel Eliot Morison in Commonwealth Park, Boston
 I'm not sure whether Samuel Eliot Morison was a sailor who also happened to be a Harvard scholar, or if Morison was a Harvard scholar who was also a sailor.  Morison (1887-1976) was prolific.  He wrote the official history of the U.S.Navy in World War II.  Won two Pulitzers for his biographies of Christopher Columbus (Admiral of the Ocean Seas, 1943) and John Paul Jones (John Paul Jones: A Sailor's Biography, 1959.)  Before his death of a stroke at age eighty-eight, Morison went on to win the Bancroft Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Morison was an unusual historian, in the sense that a lot of his work was related to his first love, the sea.  Set aside that he wrote these tremendous naval histories-U.S.N. Operations, fifteen volumes worth, still popular and in print today, or those two prize-winning sea dog biographies, Morison was a sailor himself. Whether sailing the coast between Boston and Maine he knew so well, or retracing the path of Columbus himself, Morison's, a native Bostonian, advice to writers was "Dream dreams, then write them.  Aye, but live them first."  When World War II came along, Morison offered to write the official naval history of the conflict to his friend Franklin Roosevelt.  Though his offer was accepted, and Morison was commissioned as a Vice Admiral in the USNR, he didn't just write from behind a desk.  He went to the thick of the fighting while in his late fifties, faithfully serving on convoys across the Atlantic, witnessed the Torch landings in North Africa, went to the Pacific and bunked on destroyers, battleships and cruisers in the Solomons, including the Battle of Kolombangara, and served on the U.S.S. Tennessee in 1945 as part of the covering force at Okinawa.  

I'm writing this entry, not so much because I think that Morison was a great historian-he was.  But this isn't the sort of eat your broccoli 'cause it's good for you post.  It's that his work was so good and so accessible to anybody with an interest in his subject matter.  I'm currently reading Old Bruin: Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry. Perry was the younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry, the victor of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.  Though he did not achieve the notoriety of his older brother, Calbraith, as he was known, was the dominant figure in American naval history 1835-1856, much as Winfield Scott was the commanding leader of the U.S. Army during the same period.  It's an enjoyable tome (440 pages) because Morison was a great storyteller, shared lots of great detail and wove it into an engaging narrative.  In scholarly circles today Morison would be scorned.  Too much telling and not enough analysis.  My kind of writer.

I can't help but believe that the Admiral, a nickname repeated to me by Redmond Barnett, one of my professors at the University of Puget Sound many years ago, would be perfectly at home if he'd been born fifty years later.  Morison would be great as one of Ken Burns' talking heads (no derision intended), or as one of CNN's experts in residence, called upon to explain the Cole bombing in 2000, or the Navy's role in both Gulf wars, '91 and '03, or how the Navy will handle the closure of the Straits of Hormuz, should Iran follow through with its threats. I'd compare him favorably to David McCulloch, another great storyteller, and less obnoxious than Briton Niall Ferguson.

Samuel Eliot Morison was my kind of historian. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Something to cheer, something to jeer

While the most entertaining political issue in America remains the GOP version of the Insane Klown Posse, this is not about that.

There is actually some uplifting news in our politics and that is the Washington State Senate's approval of same sex marriage.  I very rarely contact my elected representatives about any issue, but when I heard Ed Murray's announcement he would announce a same sex marriage bill in the Senate and the votes were close I couldn't help myself.  I know my Senator, Jim Kastama, to be a very careful, very moderate Senator that was viewed as a swing vote.  I immediately sent him an e-mail urging him to support the measure.  That he did so is something I will not forget.  More forthright than Kastama's vote were those four Republicans that insured themselves the opposition of their own party, and a likely primary fight to vote in favor of equal rights for all Washingtonians, gay or straight.  In a time when there is so little to admire in politics, I offer them my thanks.

I am not gay, but I have friends and family who are.  I believe it is wrong to deny equal rights to gay men and women and the approval of this bill simply completes the hard work this state has already done to extend full citizenship rights to all our residents.  There will be a ballot measure to challenge same sex marriage when it becomes law after passing the House next week.  They will claim that marriage should be between a man and a woman, that traditional marriage will lose its status or meaning if this measure becomes law.  I say bullshit on that.  I'm married to the woman I love and will always love.  This law strengthens my marriage by recognizing the right of all families equally as a fundamental right enshrined in the law of the State of Washington.  Those who don't share this view are free to practice their beliefs and sanctify their marriages in the fashion they choose, but they may not deny the same rights to others.

Kudos to the Washington's  Senate, and my thanks to the House in advance.

I wish I could say the same for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Their decision to discontinue providing grants to Planned Parenthood for breast examinations and other matters related to women's health is appalling.  Citing the desire to avoid granting to organizations under investigation, the Komen Foundation makes a blatantly political choice.  Planned Parenthood, because it receives federal dollars, will always be under scrutiny.  And not just because it receives federal support.  Planned Parenthood is an abortion provider, and as long as there is the most remote possibility that PP is mingling its federal dollars with forbidden abortion services the pro-lifers in Congress will be out to trip them up.

Komen's national director, Nancy C. Brinker has scuffled to cover her vulnerable ass, going so far as to retreat and recant today.  It does not disguise the fact that there is an organized effort afoot in this country to deny women reproductive freedoms that were won in the courtroom 40 years ago.  While there is room to sensibly regulate abortion consistent with Roe v. Wade, that does not give movements, typically led by men, the right to deny abortion rights, limit contraception, or deny health services to poor women.  My hope is that this will be a wake up call to women who believed the women's rights movement was consigned to the history books in the '70's and demand the rights that belong to them.