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April 13, 2004

It's my birthday, it's my birthday; I'm the birthday boy or girl!
by Larry Mahnken

A few years ago, I was about to turn 24, and was preparing for my party, when I came to a realization. In one year, I would be 25 years old--a quarter of a century. "Who needs that?" I thought. Before I knew it, I'd be 30, then 40, then 50. Every ten years would be a cause for celebration, then every year, then every month, day, hour...

Screw getting old. And so, on that day, I determined that I would never be 25. I suppose I could have taken a mathematical approach to the problem, and declared my age to be asymptotic, but I don't think many people would have gotten that. Instead, I declared my upcoming birthday to be my first annual 24th birthday, and would forever celebrate turning 24. Today, I celebrate my fourth annual 24th birthday. (And to answer the question that EVERYONE asks, no. You're forgetting that the first annual 24th birthday was actually my 24th birthday).

Really, what does age matter? Time isn't cyclical, it moves forward. A year is simply a measure of how many times the Earth has rotated around the Sun, and your birthday is when the Earth is in approxomately the same position, relative to the Sun, as it was when you were born. But it's not when you were born.

And even though it's a measurement of the passage of time, time isn't even a constant for everybody. Everything in the universe experiences the passage of time differently, and what feels like one second to one person could feel like a minute to another--and not just feel, but be. And age certainly doesn't give a reliable measure of a person's maturity, intelligence, health, attractiveness or really anything other than how old they are. A birthday is almost entirely arbitrary, and if I want to say I'm 24, then why not?

Yeah, you're probably pissed off that you hadn't thought of it first. Well, I'm pissed that I didn't think of it when I turned 21. Then I could get everyone to buy me drinks every year on my birthday.

Today is also my Mother's birthday, and since she checks the site out, I'd ask you to also wish her a happy birthday. Especially since she came first, so she has more of a claim on the day.

As for baseball, Barry Bonds hit his 660th HR yesterday, tying Willie Mays. Mays came out on the field and presented Barry with a torch, to represent the passing of the torch, though what figurative torch that was somewhat escapes me. When he passes Ruth, they should have one of his relatives come out and pass him a hooker.

I noticed the torch wasn't lit. Maybe that gives a clue as to the reasons for Bonds' late career Home Run surge--he died in his mid-30's, and was brought back to life by Dr. Frankenstein. Fire bad!

Thank you folks, I'll be here all week. I appreciate the fruit.

Peter Gammons made the idiotic statement on SportsCenter last night that Bonds is the only hitter ever that you're best off walking every time. But he's not. No hitter ever has been, and probably no hitter ever will be. If you pitch to Bonds, he'll hit a lot of HRs--a LOT of HRs--but he'll also make a lot of outs.

The thing is, people only remember the times he hits the HRs, they don't remember the outs. If your pitcher gives up a HR, they say you were stupid for pitching to him, but if he gets him out--as he will more often than not when you pitch to him--they say you dodged a bullet. A HR is the worst thing that can happen, but it's not the most likely thing.

When you walk him, he never makes an out. Ever. He won't hit a HR, but the lineup will keep moving, and there's another runner on base. Overall, it hurts you. But at least you don't look bad.

A lot of people in baseball don't like walks, they think they're failures by the hitter. There's a bias in about big slow guys who walk, some people say they "clog up the basepaths". Well, if they're on second with a fast runner on first, that's true I guess, but then the stolen base is one of the most overrated offensive plays in the game. It's not worth giving up the walks for the few stolen bases you might get. Especially when you consider how much that situation comes up.

I really think a lot of the people who talk about the bases being clogged really think that it hurts the tail runner when a ball's put in play, too. As if there were very many players who were so slow that they couldn't beat a fast runner home with a 90 foot head start.

But I digress. Outs are precious in baseball, and you should never give up the opportunity to get one from the other team, and never give them away, except in a few narrowly defined circumstances.

I like Barry Bonds. It's not because he's such a great hitter, but because he's a real person. You know when he's having a good time, when he likes somebody, and he always says just what he means. He won't tolerate stupidity, and he won't pretend he likes someone when he doesn't, or that he's happy when he isn't. Think about it--you know a lot more poeple like him than you do guys like Derek Jeter.

Jeter's the opposite, though I like him, too. He always says "the right thing", but he seems to say it in a way that makes you feel like he's saying it because he means it, not because that's what he's supposed to say. Like when he says he doesn't care who the Yankees play in the postseason, it's because he doesn't care who the Yankees play in the postseason. Or when he scoffs at discussions about having his number retired, it's because he doesn't think about it much. Maybe he's a phony, but he's really good at it.

And then you have A-Rod. Man, does he try too hard. He's always trying to say the right thing, and it's clear that he's trying to say the right thing. He doesn't want to offend anybody, and so he seems really fake. He's not a jerk, and I LOVE having him on the Yankees (I mean, HOW FUCKING SWEET IS THAT?!?!), but when you see him giving an interview, you kind of cringe. Not smooth.

Thanks again to Alex Belth for filling in for me in the Rivals in Exile column yesterday. I'll be back next week, before I get Pipped.