Crawford regaining confidence on base paths thanks to Cotuit’s Mike Roberts

Crawford regaining confidence on base paths.

Cool story on NECN about how Red Sox Carl Crawford brought along Cotuit Kettleer’s coach Mike Roberts to spring training to help improve his base running. Any Cotuit fan knows the mark of a Roberts’ team is incredible basework and small-ball. Roberts’ son, Oriole Brian Roberts, is a perennial stolen-base leader. Together they wrote a book on the art of the steal: “You Can’t Steal Second Base and Keep Your Foot on First”

For two days, after the team’s regular workouts, Crawford went back out to Field 3 to work with Mike Roberts, a former college coach and a baserunning specialist. Roberts and Crawford have worked together for several years, most recently before Crawford’s last season with the Rays, in 2010.

“It’s usually like for a reminder,” Crawford said of these sessions. “I don’t care how good you get at something, it’s always nice to have guys like Mr. Roberts come in and remind you of the little things that make you successful at it.
“Last year I lost my confidence on the basepaths and that’s one thing we were talking about, having confidence on the bases. It might translate to my playing better defense and hitting better.”
“The best word to use is ‘refine,’” said Roberts. “He’s got to refine [his technique]. And the other thing that I mentioned to Carl is by refining and working on the little things on basestealing, if it clicks, his legs are more alive, he has more confidence. With some of the athletes that I’ve worked with it seems that they have more confidence when they’re hitting, they have more in their outfield play, when they have to make a throw. So I think it transcends the entire game. A lot of people start with  offense.  With a player like Carl,  I think you start with his baserunning to regain his confidence.””

Good reads from the last week of February ’12

Dorade: Max Kaleoff is a fellow blogger and New York digital marketing guy (Clickable) I’ve known for over six years. We’ve struck up a friendship over our shared love of wooden sailboats. He even grew up on one, a Sparkman & Stephens yawl. I’ll let him tell the tale:

“I lived on a 52-foot sparkman-stephens yawl named Magic Venture until I was eight years old. Didn’t have running water or electricity or non-coal heat — ever. Had the boat until I was 22. Rebuilt it along the way at Gannon & Benjamin shipyard in Martha’s Vineyard along the way.”

Max recommended a book review from the Wall Street Journal about one of S&S’s most famous boats, the Dorade. Published by the Boston publisher, David R. Godine  (I interned there in 1980), Dorade is going into my bookshelf very soon. This boat is as much an icon of American yachting as Finisterre or any Herreshoff  design.

From the review:

“Boats, like people, have yarns to spin, some better than others. Dorade, the low-slung wooden yawl that revolutionized ocean racing nearly a century ago and launched the career of America’s greatest modern yacht designer, has a rich tale to tell. Indeed, it’s still unfolding.

At 82, the graceful dowager still slices through whitecaps on the West Coast, where she is in the hands of her 15th owner—or caretaker, as he might more aptly be described. “She was, and is, unique,” writes Douglas D. Adkins in “Dorade: The History of an Ocean Racing Yacht. “On one hand, lovely and dainty, and on the other purposeful and determined. She is still an icon of a certain beauty in yacht design.”

Lewis Dvorkin on the Long Form movement

Lew Dvorkin runs these days. We were colleagues in the 90s when I ran the place and he was on the magazine side editing cover stories under Jim Michaels. Lew went on to run AOL’s homepage — making him arguably one of the most powerful traffic generators on the planet at the time (a link from AOL to in September 1999 on the occasion of the annual list of the richest 400 Americans, generated so much traffic that crashed went dark for three days under the traffic load, my first and lasting lesson on flash traffic capacity planning) — he’s recrafted into an interesting exercise in “open journalism”, opening the platform and tools to not only the paid staff of Forbes, but select outside contributors. The net result is a little like Huffington Post, but to draw too close a parallel would be a disservice.

Lew has written two excellent columns about the new strategy and how it fits into his view that online journalism can foster and support long-form reporting/writing over multiple screens as opposed to his earlier view that USA Today-style “news nuggets” and bullet-form journalism was best suited to the attention-deficit medium known as the web. I agree with his observation that “Store-and-read-later” apps such as Instapaper,  digests such as, and the ability to push long form content onto e-readers is helping to drive the renaissance.

Anyway, two good reads for anyone interested in the future of journalism, online writing, and the state of

How Long-Form Journalism Is Finding Its Digital Audience: Part I

Long-Form Journalism, Part II: The Challenge for Reporters, and What Forbes Is Doing About It


More Sailing Fun:

Bloomberg Pursuits has a piece by Aaron Kuriloff on the state of the art in ocean racing, and the tale of one ill-fated hedge funded super yacht, the Rambler 100 that capsized during last summer Fastnet. A very fast boat this boat was, especially for a monohull:

“In one 24-hour period during that passage, she logged 582 nautical miles, just 14 shy of the record for a monohull (catamarans and trimarans go faster). That’s an average speed of 24.25 nautical miles per hour, or knots, equal to about 28 miles per hour. ”

The Lit’ry Life: February 25, 2012

Here’s the first stab at a “reader’s digest” from the periodicals, dailies and slicks that crossed my gaze this week.

The first macro theme to catch up on is the rise of “big data” in driving business decisions. This meme has gathered steam lately as terms like “predictive analytics” gain traction with the business trendy and buzzwordy set. The New York Times captures the moment with Charles Duhigg’s piece about how Target knows you’re pregnant but conceals that knowledge from you. How Companies Know Your Secrets.

I’ll try to anthologize some other greatest hits about the rise of data, but having spent six months on the topic for a major, unnamed public relations firm, I can assure you, there is fewer places in the world that give more credence to Einstein’s observation that not everything that matters can be measured and not all that can be measured matters, than social media metrics and data analysis. Expect to see some trees die in as big think pieces emerge about social media data analysis replacing traditional political polls in the 2012 presidential election.

Going back to the greatest hits of 2012, and straying from the intent of only recommending long-form stuff that originated on paper, I commend the list on (a holy place for me as it should be for you) of last year’s (2011) best essays. One jumped out from Grantland, the multi-author sports blog that ESPN let Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy columnist, launch last year as his own vanity project. Good writing, sometimes achingly funny, and more indepth than the other off-piste sports blogs like Deadspin.  Longform nominated The Greatest Paper That Ever Died as one of its top ten picks of 2011. It’s an oral history of the launch and spectacular crash of the first national sports daily newspaper, The National Sports Daily. The format alone is worth checking out.

Current on the book list is a biography of the often-overlooked British mountaineer, Andrew “Sandy” Irving, who died at the age of 22 near the summit of Mount Everest. Fearless on Everest: The Search for Sandy Irvine,  is by his great niece, Julie Summers, and as such is largely written in an adoring tone that is lightened when she casually mentions she found his hickory cross-country skis from 1920 Spitsbergen expedition in a dis-used squash court on the family estate. Irvine died on the mountain in June, 1924 with the better known George Mallory, who uttered the famous “Because it is there” line when asked by a reporter to explain the drive to be the first to climb the world’s tallest peak. There’s some good mystery as to whether or not Irvine and Mallory actually made the summit before meeting their demise, as a Chinese climber some fifty years later reported seeing the corpse of an “old English” near the peak. Mallory’s body was found and identified only a few years ago, but Irvine remains a mystery. If you want to read about the quintessential British hero-figure in the tragic Scott tradition, then this book will entertain. Otherwise, spend your mountaineering literature time elsewhere.

In Woodenboat’s winter edition is a feature on Managing the Dream, which discusses the quixiotic drive by some people to build their own wooden boat in their backyard and then sail the seas aboard it. The sobering reality is they might be better off spending one-tenth the cash on a used Fiberglas boat and get sailing sooner than later. Tales of moving boats under construction from one backyard to another, the high price of lumber, and the years and years of work was enough to scare me out of the dream (which I’ve never had as I am an inveterate thumb hammerer of the first degree). Woodenboat is going to be a problem to link into. I can’t get into the online edition, even as a print subscriber, as I suspect the good publishers in Brooklin, Maine just punted the digital version to a third-party newsstand who doesn’t have the ability to let print buyers cross the electronic paywall. When motivated I will try to crack the code.

That’s it for this week. I am falling behind on the New Yorker and have to empty my Cape Cod mailbox this morning after a week in New York.



Armchair rowing

The CRASH-B Sprints happened this past Sunday. I was 200 miles to the north driving around a snowless Vermont, my messed-up bicep still in its Tron-brace. At one point, as my wife and I drove through Stowe and Morrisville, home to the company that makes the standard racing ergometer, Concept 2, I realized my heat was underway and a few dozen poor fifty-somethings were suffering a very hard 2,000 meter race. Later in the day, when I found WiFi, I saw that the winning time was a blistering 6 minutes, 11.4 seconds,  35 seconds faster than my last time trial back in December. That 6:44 would have been good enough for a 13th place, assuming I didn’t improve in the intervening two months.

Now I have 12 months to get recover, re-train, and set my sights on my last remaining year in the 50-54 heavyweight division. Water rowing certainly would be happening right now given this clement winter and some beautifully smooth water the past few weeks, but I don’t think I’ll have the all-clear until May at least.



Reviving the Lit’ry Life

George V. Higgins was one of the best contemporary authors in the state of Massachusetts and elsewhere as far as the crime genre goes. His masterpiece (and first novel) is considered to be The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which opens with one of my favorite first sentences:

“Jackie Brown at 26, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns.”

Image links to a Boston College Law Review appreciation of Higgins and his work.

Higgins died in 1999, before reaching the age of 60, but his impact will be felt far longer. I write of him not in appreciation, although I do appreciate him, but because the other day I found myself wading through a stack of magazines — those glossy sheets of paper stapled or glued together that had their Golden Age in the 1950s through 2000 — flipping with my finger through a iPad cluttered with apps from some other “magazines” and I suddenly remembered Higgins’ weekly column in the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed section:  The Lit’ry Life in which he randomly related his reading through the books, magazines and papers from the week before. Higgins inherited that column from its original author, George Frazier, perhaps the most elegant columnist in the city of Boston.

I wish there was an example I could quote, but the column was immensely useful to me as a reference and recommendation source for great long-form essays and journalism. From the Atlantic to Harpers, Time to Foreign Affairs, Higgins somehow find the time in between  his law practice and his novels to read and read some more and then summarize that in a succinct 200 words every week.

Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I figure it’s time to do the same, especially since an avalanche of reading material comes out of my post office box every week and it seems like a full time hobby just to skim it all. Add to that my vow not to become overloaded with junk information from the Internets and the Facebook, but to focus on quality, and well, heck, I might as well make a habit of noting what I’m reading and think you should too.

So, first off, the basis of my reading ramblings are:

  • The Atlantic Monthly: both in print and online. This was the crown jewel of Boston publishing until it decamped for Washington, DC, but the writing is superb and I am a devout fan of James Fallows.
  • The Economist: again, both online and in print. This is the magazine that, like cod liver oil, is taken dutifully as a chore but is good for you.  While one might joke about reading a six-page exploration of the economy in the Maldive Islands, the business coverage is superb and the columns tart and succinct. All I know about the Euro Zone, I owe to the Economist.
  • The New Yorker: online only. A joy to read in the post-Tina Brown era. David Remnick continues to produce a masterpiece. Any publication that publishes John McPhee and Roger Angell is fine by me.
  • Monocle: print, haven’t checked out their website. This recent (and expensive) addition to my stack, is a uber-trendy global style monthly  edited by Tyler Brule (there are all sorts of diacretical marks in Brule, but darned if I can find the keys to produce them) the founder of the late 90s style bible Wallpaper (which I never read). Monocle is part Economist, part GQ, part hipster e-zine.
  • WoodenBoat: print only. I believe the noblest manmade object is a wooden boat, and this monthly is a pleasure to read for any armchair maritime historian or sufferer of boat lust.
  • The New York Times: I still get it in print and read it both on paper and the iPad. The Sunday Magazine is a favorite, as is the Book Review. David Carr and Gretchen Morgenson and Nick Bilton and John Markoff and ….the talent goes on and on.
  • Wired: I only read it on the iPad. That is continues to march along is a bit of surprise. Anything as ahead of its time as Wired was from the beginning seems doomed to age and wither soonest, but not Wired.
  • Cape Cod Times and the Barnstable Patriot: local news I read online (and pay for). Disclaimer, I am a former Cape Cod Times “special” writer, having spent the summer of 1980 beginning my journalism career in the newsroom on Main Street in Hyannis.

All of these have one key thing in common: I pay for them and probably will continue to pay for them. Notable omissions: The Boston Globe which I probably should read for the Red Sox coverage. Forbes (I spent 13 years there, and grew so accustomed to receiving a box of first-run freebies every two weeks that when I left in 2000 I never got around to paying for a subscription).

So, going forward, I’ll try to find the time every week to write a synopsis of what I’ve read and recommend as well as what books are loaded in the Kindle. Right now I’m just beginning Gore Vidal’s first novel, Williwaw, and finished over the weekend Steven Pressfield’s account of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, Gates of Fire. More to come later.

Cotuit Crocuses in February

The biggest spring “harbinger” cliche is the annual photo the Cape Cod Times publishes of a gorgeous blanket of purple crocuses (croci) in front of some quaint old Cape house on Route 6A — the Old King’s Highway — in Cummaquid. This photo usually runs in March. Last week the Times ran a photo of some confused daffodils blooming in Orleans.

This past weekend I took the dog for a stroll and to my surprise, spotted these two brave blooms — during the first week of February. Every fall, when I bury the tulip bulbs, I always plant another set of crocuses out along Main Street. The photo below is of a batch planted three years ago.

My garlic has already sprouted in the garden, the parsley and rosemary are still going strong, and groundhog’s shadow be damned, it would seem the Cape might actually have a real spring again this year. The downside is the house is infested with flies — I guess some critter expired under the shop and the warm temperatures are … well, you can guess. I roam the house with the electric tennis racket/swatter in hand. I have a serious aversion to flies.

The Erg Will Not Be Denied

I admit it, I am not happy to be sitting out the indoor rowing racing season. I limped out of the Agganis Arena last February unhappy with my performance at the Crash-B’s, joined the local Crossfit gym, and worked my ass off for 12 months with the unreasonable goal of winning a yellow hammer in the 50-59 heavyweight class. I was on track to deliver a good time this year, but it wasn’t to be.

Then pop goes the distal bicep tendon and I’ve had to scratch all two-armed activities for a few months. I recently returned to the gym and have learned the erg can be done with one arm. I don’t do a lot of this — mostly 250 to 1,000 meter intervals. This was shot at the end of a 15 minute workout consisting of 250 meter rows interspersed with 60 single-under jump ropes. I managed ten rounds and can hold a 1:55 – 2:00 split if I work at it. The trick is figuring out what to do with the useless arm.

Now for 2013.

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