February 22, 2016


I am away for two weeks, in Vancouver and Oregon. By the time I return, Boston's spring training schedule will have begun. The Red Sox open their Grapefruit League schedule against the Twins on Wednesday, March 2.

February 21, 2016

Review: "My Father, The Pornographer (A Memoir)", By Chris Offutt

My Father, The Pornographer (A Memoir)
By Chris Offutt
(Simon & Schuster)

When Andrew Offutt died in April 2013, he left his eldest son Chris with a ton of pornography. I mean that literally. When Chris packed up and shipped the contents of his father's office to his own home in Mississippi, the books and letters and assorted papers weighed more than 1,800 pounds.

Offutt writes, in this fascinating memoir: "My father was a brilliant, man, a true iconoclast, fiercely self-reliant, a dark genius, cruel, selfish, and eternally optimistic. ... Dad had no hobbies, no distractive activities. He didn't do household chores, wash the car, mow the grass, go shopping, or fix anything. ... He didn't sleep much. He drank. He rarely left the house. Dad was an old-school pulp writer, a machine who never stopped."

Andrew Offutt wrote and published more than four hundred books under eighteen different names (male and female), including John Cleve (which he regarded more as another persona than merely a pseudonym) and Turk Winter. His novels included some science fiction and fantasy, but most of it was classified as pornography. Offutt notes that the commercial popularity of written porn in America peaked during the 1970s, which was also his father's most prolific and energetic period. Andrew Offutt's goal was a minimum of one book per month. In 1972, he published 18 novels.
Dad wrote pirate porn, ghost porn, science fiction porn, vampire porn, historical porn, time-travel porn, secret agent porn, thriller porn, zombie porn, and Atlantis porn. ... Dad claimed to have single-handedly raised the quality of U.S. pornography. According to his private papers, he believed future scholars would refer to him as "King of XX Century Written Pornography".
Offutt gives us a look at his father's process and discusses several of his books, but I would have liked more context for the work. Andrew Offutt was incredibly prolific, but was he truly that influential? I have no idea. A brief history of the genre, some information about other authors, and when and why the genre died out would have been welcome.

The heart of the book is Chris Offutt, in his mid-50s, coming to terms with the complex relationship he had with his father. While clearing out his recently deceased father's office - a room he was forbidden to enter (and was afraid of) as a child - he quickly understands that this excavation offers a chance to "separate the writer from the man", although succeeds only partially at that.
I wanted an opportunity to understand him further through his work. ... Clearing Dad's office felt like prospecting within his brain. As I sorted, like an archaeologist, backward through time, I saw a remarkable mind at work, a life lived on its own terms.
By any measure, Andrew Offutt was not an easy man to live with. Chris Offutt's memories of his childhood in rural Kentucky, shared throughout the book, are dark and depressing. While his father sometimes joked that he was mentally ill, Offutt also quotes his father as saying (seriously, it seems) that he would have been a serial killer if it was not for the release of his writing career.

Offutt offers the few details he knows about his father's background. Andrew Offutt, a shy, sensitive bookworm, was born in 1934, during the worst of the Great Depression. It was a youth that was "shrouded in pain and difficulty". His own father died when he was only 17 years old.

His father "had little tact and no sense of diplomacy. ... None of us knew whom we were dealing with at any given moment." On visiting his parents as an adult: "Dad never made us feel welcome and didn't care for the presence of grandchildren."

Through the 1960s, married with children, Offutt worked as an insurance salesman while writing at night and on weekends. He was profoundly unhappy.
At age thirty-five he'd achieved his goals - social status, big house, nice car, his own business. He also felt snared by his values. He didn't like children. He made it clear to the family that he'd fathered kids due to Catholicism and resented the Church for the burden. ...

Though highly successful as a businessman, Dad was frustrated and miserable. ... Since childhood, all he'd ever wanted to do was write. Now he had more ideas and less time, and he hated the life he'd dutifully built. He wanted a way out but wouldn't leave my mother. Instead, he spread his misery to the family.
Chris Offutt cites two significant events that occurred in the mid-60s.
My mother recalls Dad sitting in the living room reading a pornographic novel he'd bought through the mail. Dad hurled it across the room and said, "I can write better than this!" She suggested he do so. By 1969, he'd published five and had contracts for two more.
Problems with Chris's teeth prompted the other event.
He believed he could double his output with a full-time typist. If he quit his job to write, and Mom typed manuscripts for submission, they'd make enough money to fix my teeth.

My parents were not brave people. Nor were they particularly bold in any way ... They worked hard and played it safe. After a great deal of planning, my father made the most courageous decision of his life, the only risk he ever took - but it was enormous. At age thirty-six, with four kids, an uneducated wife, and a big mortgage, he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of being a professional writer.

My father's sudden presence in the house jarred the family in many ways. He went from being gone fifty hours a week to being in the house all the time. Home was now a place of business. He was working, which meant the house had to be quiet - no loud talking, laughing, or walking. We learned to move silently up and down the steps. Doors had to be eased shut or left open. The slightest sound startled Dad, who would yell.
The office was off limits and its occupant was not to be disturbed. "Dad regarded any intrusion as not merely a distraction but a form of disrespect and attack. ... He never struck us or our mother, but we feared his anger, his belittling comments and inflictions of guilt. ... Our punishments were more of a temporary emotional shunning." Offutt's sister once told him: "I was afraid of the whole house."

In subsequent years, when the entire family would attend sci-fi conventions in the early 70s, Andrew Offutt would assume the persona of John Cleve, one of his many pen names. "The minute we arrived at the hotel, Dad began operating in full John Cleve mode, refusing to acknowledge his children." The Offutt offspring were given their own room, on a different floor than their parents. "It was well understood that John Cleve had no children."
Despite lifelong difficulties with my father, I lived for his attention. The only behavior that earned it was writing, which I began at age seven ...
Offutt is the author of several books, including Kentucky Straight, a collection of short stories, and The Same River Twice, a memoir from 2003. (It appears that he had been working on a version of this book about ten years ago, but stopped at the request of his mother).

Throughout his life, and especially when pouring through the physical history of his father's writing life (some of which is extremely disturbing), Chris Offutt worried about becoming more like his father.
The essential DNA of my father lay arrayed on the pages before me. This undertaking hadn't brought me closer to him. If anything, it's a constant reminder that no matter who I think I am, I will always be my father's son. I don't know if I'm a writer because of him or in spite of him. If my life has been motivated by rebellion against my father, what have I gained through the liberty of his demise? ...

I don't miss my father, but without his shackles to strain against, the world is terrifying and vast. I have lost a kind of purpose, a reason to prove myself. ...

I became concerned that examining the minutiae of his work was turning me into him. I wrote ten hours a day. At night I read. I avoided leaving the house. I got mad at small things, yelled at inanimate objects. ...

Months of close proximity to my father's pattern of thought influenced me to think like him, then behave like him - distant, preoccupied, and critical.
While Offutt ends the book on an uplifting note, he has to venture outside of his family to find it. It is a recollection of roaming the Kentucky woods with a pack of boys from the surrounding area. "I don't recall particular events, only the sense of friendship and loyalty, laughter and acceptance. There were no boundaries. ... We could go anywhere and we did. Nothing could hurt us but the land itself."

[Note: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher.]

February 17, 2016

Baseball Prospectus Projected 2016 Standings

Baseball Prospectus' projected (PECOTA-based) 2016 standings.
             W    L    RS    RA
Rays        91   71   713   619
Red Sox     88   74   735   671
Blue Jays   86   76   765   711
Yankees     85   77   725   686
Orioles     72   90   697   786

February 11, 2016

As He Prepares For Final Season, David Ortiz Looks Good

February 10, 2016

Truck Day!

Today is Truck Day!

Part of what is being driven to Fort Myers:
— 20,400 baseballs
— 1,100 bats
— 200 batting gloves
— 200 batting helmets
— 320 batting practice tops
— 160 white game jerseys
— 300 pairs of pants
— 400 T-shirts
— 400 pairs of socks
— 20 cases of bubble gum
— 60 cases of sunflower seeds

February 8, 2016

The Awesomeness Of Babe Ruth

The Ace of MLB Stats tweeted a bunch of amazing things about Babe Ruth:
Babe Ruth would have to resurrect, return to baseball, and go 0-for-3,188 for his career slugging to dip below .500.

Babe Ruth would have to resurrect, return to baseball, and go 0-for-1,147 for his slugging percentage to drop below Barry Bonds's .6069.

Babe Ruth would have to resurrect, return to baseball, and go 0-for-1,501 for his career OPS to fall below 1.000.

Babe Ruth in the #WorldSeries
10 series played, 7 World Series Rings
3 GS, 3-0, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 0.87 ERA
41 G, .326/.470/.744, 15 HR

In 2015, Bryce Harper became the youngest player in baseball history with at least 40 HR & 120 BB in a season. Previously: Babe Ruth, 1920.

Barry Bonds would have to return to baseball & homer in 247 straight plate appearances to pass Babe Ruth's record .690 slugging percentage.

Babe Ruth had a career 2.28 ERA in 1221.1 IP. Only Mariano Rivera had a better ERA with at least as many IP since Ruth last pitched in 1933.

Just how good of a pitcher was Babe Ruth?
Career ERA+
Zack Greinke 123
Babe Ruth 122
Tom Glavine 118
Madison Bumgarner 118
Nolan Ryan 112

Babe Ruth allowed ZERO home runs over 323.2 innings in 1916. He slugged three homers that season.

Babe Ruth never batted .400 in a season. But he maintained a .402 BA over a 250 game span from April 30, 1923 to August 8, 1924.

Babe Ruth hit 71 HR over the span of 162 games from July 24, 1927 to July 30, 1928.

Babe Ruth batted .276/.391/.541 (.932 OPS) in the games in which he had at least one K. Hank Aaron had a .928 career OPS.

Babe Ruth hit 365 HR with runners on-base during his career. Most in baseball history. Nine more than Henry and 53 more than Barry.

Babe Ruth was tied for the lead in MLB with 11 HR in 1918. He ranked 83rd in plate appearances. He also had a 2.22 ERA with 18 CG.

Babe Ruth had a combined pitcher & position player WAR of 183.6 in his career.
That is 1.3 more WAR than Derek Jeter & Tom Seaver combined.

Ken Griffey Jr. batted .284/.370/.538 during his career.
Babe Ruth batted .314/.382/.534 in the 163 games in which he pitched.

Qualified seasons with at least a .350/.480/.730 slash-line
Babe Ruth: 7
The other 18,662 players in history: 5

Babe Ruth had three seasons in which he batted at least .375/.500/.750.
No other player in baseball history has even one.

The Red Sox were 17-9 (.654 -- 106-win pace per 162 games played) in games during which Babe Ruth both pitched and batted clean-up.

Babe Ruth last played for the Yankees in 1934. To that point he had hit 28.32% of all HR in team history. He still owns 4.33% of Yankee HR.

Babe Ruth reached base safely 379 times in 1923. Most in a season in baseball history. This is one of those "unbreakable" records.

Babe Ruth had 10 career steals of home. More than Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, & Tim Raines had combined (9).

Pitching wins above replacement
Babe Ruth (1916-17) - 15.2
Clayton Kershaw (2014-15) - 15.0

Mike Trout has averaged 9.27 WAR per 162 games played during his career. Second all-time only to Babe Ruth (10.56 WAR/162). We should note that does NOT even count Babe's additional 20.6 WAR as a pitcher.

Babe Ruth, HR by batting order position:
1st: 0
2nd: 0
3rd: 553
4th: 148
5th: 1
6th: 1
7th: 1
8th: 0
9th: 10
Ruth also had the greatest letterhead in baseball history:

February 2, 2016

The Sporting News Predicts Red Sox World Championship

Punxsutawney Phil can go phuck himself. The true sign of spring is the arrival on newsstands of the pre-season baseball annuals. And this year, my favourite annual is The Sporting News, which predicts the Red Sox to beat the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Two other magazines tab Boston as one of the wild card teams. (None of the three annuals pick the Yankees to do anything.)

The Sporting News
After consecutive last-place finishes, new Boston exec Dave Dombrowski has added hope with a bolstered rotation and bullpen. The Sox have the talent to go worst-to-first.

Scout's View: David Price changes everything. He takes pressure off [Clay Buchholz], he takes the pressure off the young lefty [Eduardo Rodriguez] and Joe Kelly. They don't have to do too much. It takes pressure off their manager. John Farrell now has a very deep bullpen, too. That pitching has stabilized itself. They have a lot of good kids that can play like Mookie [Betts] and [Xander] Bogaerts and [Jackie] Bradley to go with Dustin Pedroia and [David] Ortiz. Now, if they can get Hanley [Ramirez] and Panda [Pablo Sandoval] out of the fat farm and play the way they should, they're dangerous.

Bottom Line: The Red Sox have gone from worst to first before, wining it all in 2013. They have also been champions of the offseason, only to see things fall apart once the games counted. No one in New England is taking a playoff berth for granted, but no one would be surprised if it happens.

AL Divisions: Red Sox, Royals, Rangers, with Cleveland, Astros (WC)
NL Divisions: Mets, Cubs, Giants, with Dodgers, Cardinals (WC)
ALCS: Red Sox over Royals
NLCS: Giants over Cubs
World Series: Red Sox over Giants
MVPs: Trout, Harper
Cy Youngs: Archer, Kershaw
Scouting Report: They signed David Price when they hired Dave Dombrowski, and it's understandable. They overpaid for him and Craig Kimbrel, but it's what they had to do, and they didn't take anything away from their major league team to get them. They're the best team in that division, for me, but they still need a guy to start Game 2 of a playoff series. They're going to get more from Pablo Sandoval - they can't get much worse - and while Hanley Ramirez will probably be a poor first baseman, he'd going to bring value with his bat. Rusney Castillo doesn't have to be a great player, like Mookie Betts already is, and Chris Young is a good fourth outfielder who can play half the time, if needed. They can expect their young core - Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart and Jackie Bradley Jr. - to keep getting batter, and Dustin Pedroia is still an All-Star-caliber second baseman. After a long offseason, I expect him to be healthy and productive again.

Final Analysis: The Red Sox have finished last in three of the last four seasons, so naturally Las Vegas gives them the third-highest odds to win the World Series in 2016. That sounds optimistic, given a careful examination of the roster, but stranger things have happened. If Bogaerts and Betts develop into All-Stars and Ortiz digs deep to deliver one final monster season before walking into the sunset, the Red Sox could be ready to roll on offense. Starting pitching remains a concern, but count on this much - they'll finish closer to first than last.

AL East: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Rays
AL Divisions: Blue Jays, Royals, Rangers with Red Sox, Astros (WC)
NL Divisions: Mets, Cubs, Giants with Nationals, Diamondbacks (WC)
ALCS: Blue Jays over Royals
NLCS: Giants over Cubs
World Series: Blue Jays over Giants
MVPs: Trout (with Betts 9th), Harper
Cy Youngs: Price, Kershaw
The Sox had a busy winter, reeling in David Price and one of the game's best closers, Craig Kimbrel, following a last-place finish in 2015. If Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval start earning their free-agent riches, Boston could turn it around quickly.

Scout's Take: Things are changing with Dombrowski in charge. He's a hard guy to work for and can be hard on his guys. But he gets things done. Dombrowski likes to trade prospects for proven guys. He can do a lot more of that with this club than in Detroit. They've got a great system, full of players. ... They're going to be stuck with two mistakes by Cherington: Ramirez and Sandoval. They're going to play Ramirez at first - that'll be a disaster. He's lost his skills, and he's a bad guy, too. An infield with Ramirez and Sandoval will be the worst in the majors. The pitchers will lose their minds. ... Their bullpen was terrible last year. It'll be a lot better with Kimbrel and Carson Smith.

AL East: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Orioles
AL Divisions: Blue Jays, Royals, Rangers with Red Sox, Astros (WC)
NL Divisions: Nationals, Pirates, Giants with Cubs, Diamondbacks (WC)
World Series: Blue Jays versus Nationals
MVPs: Correa, Goldschmidt
Cy Youngs: Sale, Scherzer