Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Ricky Beltran Lights Up Some Friendlies

I have disturbing news to report from Cabinda. Ricky Beltran, a trusted comrade who I have worked with since Thatcher's botched coup, fired on his own personnel today. Beltran was on guard duty and began to consume massive quantities of alcohol. He told his comrades "not to worry (because they were) hanging with Audie Murphy tonight." Later that evening Beltran saw a few armed figures coming over the horizon, and without asking for the code word, fired his .50 caliber on them, killing two and seriously injuring a third. Unfortunately, the three men turned out to be some of our colleagues returning from a night of pillaging the local Cabindan women. When Beltran realized whom he had shot, he broke down. Grief-stricken, he fired several .45 caliber slugs into his amo man Hondo and Wilson the janitor, and then turned the gun on himself and blew his head off. It was a tough day for everyone.

Well you see, in this kind of operation, things get confused out here, power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes the Dark Side overcomes what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." Therein, man has a breaking point. You and I have ours. Ricky Beltran has reached his. And very obviously, he had gone insane. Beltran acted without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct.

Obie, the surviving mercenary who was injured by Beltran's reprehensible shooting

So things are tough here. And from what I can tell they're not going any better in America, as the Major League Baseball disabled list has once again become littered with injured players. A recap of some of the most tragic injuries:

1) Curt Schilling- Well I suppose everyone saw this one coming. The rotund Schilling was all too eager to return to the mound, and damned if he didn't return too soon. The mind was willing, but the body was not. Schilling's going back on the DL, and who knows if he will ever pitch like a #1 fantasy hurler this year. Wade Miller can't come back soon enough and Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo don't have to worry about heading to the pen any time soon.

2) Armando Benitez- He helped San Fransisco win on Teusday, and San Fransisco lost him on the very same fateful night. An MRI revealed Benitez will miss the next 4 months, meaning he could return for the Giants' last 30 or 40 games. Matt Herges will likely fill in, and my advice to everyone going to Giants games would be to take public transporation. If you park your car outside the stadium you run a high risk of having your windshield shattered by a Herges homerun ball. Herges has been a good set-up man, but was a disaster last year as the Giants interim closer.

3) Jason Isringhausen- Izzy landed on the 15 day DL as well. Look for Julian Tavarez and Ray King to try and pick up the slack.

4) Chad Fox- Fox was just trying to keep the mound warm for Joe Borowski when he suffered what may very well be a career-ending injury. Look for that Michael Wuertz guy to step in until Borowski is healthy.

5) David Wells- Didn't I just write something about an injured obese aging Boston hurler? Well make that two. Both Schilling and Wells are headed to the DL, and Theo Epstein may get a spot start.

6) Jaret Wright- In the same vein as mercy killings, Wright has been placed on the DL so he can try to remember how to pitch.

7) Ben Sheets- Ben's ear hurts so he may hop on the DL for a little bit until his ear feels better. They're called allergies Ben.

That's all for now. Again this is a sad day for me because of all the baseball injuries, and it was compounded by Ricky Beltran's equally tragic shooting rampage.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Security Detail in Cabinda

My oh my things went well enough in Cambodia that I was able to land another assignment very quickly through word-of-mouth alone. I have found myself in the Republic of Cabinda, working on a security detail for a European diamond exporter. Essentially, my team provides security for the workers and protects the perimeter from trespassers. There is a stream that runs across much of the land and often times trespassers will come during the night and attempt to draw water from it. Last night we caught two trespassers, gutted them like the pigs they are, and strung their bodies up on the concertina wire to deter future trespassing. We also strung some claymores up in the trees and ended up blowing a few more trespassers to pieces. Bad shit, man. Bad shit.

Me, second from left, activating one of the claymores. Ricky Beltran (far left) looks on gleefully

There are alot of local laborers working on this project. They should be happy to have work, and yet the laborers have quickly developed a reputation for being lazy and under-performing. We have been told by my boss to motivate the laborers to work better. If we identify a laborer who is working too slowly, we often fire our machine guns at them to let them know they ought to work better. Sometimes we will actually shoot and kill the under-performing laborer; although the dead laborer will no longer be able to work on the project, my boss feels the killing acts to motivate the surviving laborers to work much harder and the trade-off is well worth the loss of the laborer.

Here I am monitoring the productivity of the workers

Sometimes a few of the laborers have attempted to flee the work-site. They signed a contract to work on this project until it was completed, and anyone fleeing is in breach of the contract. My boss has told us we are to shoot anyone attempting to breach the contract, and although it is a bit of a subjective assessment, I think we have done a fine job implementing his orders to the best of our abilities. We have some restraints on this project and cannot kill with impunity; we can be docked up to a week's pay for an illegal killing.

At any rate things here are going well, but I have been extremely busy, and I shall have a sports update in a few days once I get caught up with everything.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Placido's Song

Who weeps for Placido Polanco? A skape-goat and patsy like Lee Harvey Oswald, Mr. Polanco has found himself the latest victim of Philadelphia's self-destructive sports fan base.

As many of you know, Philadelphia has gone over 20 years without a national sports championship. Of the 15 most populated cities in America, Philadelphia is one of only two (the other being Detroit) that actually has a shrinking urban population. It is always bad to be likened to Detroit. So this city has set it's sights on the hard-nosed Placido Polanco, the latest victim of its misguided sports lynch mob, which has chased people like Larry Brown, Terry "Tito" Francona, and Curt Schilling out of town so they could win championships elsewhere. Granted Francona was an idiot, Schilling an egomaniac, and Larry Brown couldn't work with Iverson- but let's not split hairs.

Mr. Polanco has merited a starting spot in the Philadelphia infield. He is a career .294 hitter who has struck out only 222 times in 9 seasons. After the 2004 all-star break Polanco hit .326 and socked 12 homers. The fan base however believes they know more than the management and has collectively demanded youngster Chase Utley play second base- so that the team will have a better chance to win in both the present and the future. But what could a fan base of a team that has won only one world series in 100+ years possibly know about winning? Couldn't their chances of winning be better if they just kept their mouths shut, were patient, and allowed the management to run its course? Ed Wade may be a moron, but it's not like overt fan action like hurling batteries at JD Drew or "honking for Hershel" has brought home any championships. Please that kind of reprehensible conduct only brings Phialdelphia closer to Detroit. Or perhaps it is the bi-product of depression?

As it stands now, the fans have booed Mr. Polanco when he has been introduced, and booed him when he has made outs. He has responded by keeping his mouth shut (unlike the fans mind you) and helping the Phils win games. He was booed on national TV Sunday night against the Atlanta Braves, and responded by preserving a tie by gunning down Johnny Estrada at the plate. Incidentally, both Estrada and the player the Phillies traded him for (the enigmatic Kevin Millwood) have found greener pastures after leaving Philadelphia. Polanco later drove in both the game-tying and game-winning runs.

Nevertheless there are no signs the boos will stop until Utley locks up second base. And why is David Bell not booed? Surely Polanco could replace the under-achieving Bell at third base, and Utley could play second base while Bell sits. "Race" is one theory why Bell is not booed instead of Polanco- Bell is white, Utley is white, most of the fans are white, and Polanco is not white. But let's hope the city and team that were notorious for giving Jackie Robinson a hard time are beyond such conduct as we have reached the next millenium. And let's not single Philadelphia out as a racist city- Philadelphia Pennsylvania isn't even the most racist city in America named "Philadelphia." Indeed substantial steps have been made in Philadelphia, but it is disheartening to see a predominantly white crowd of clueless privileged suburbanites, souf Philadelphians, and Cherry Hill white trash booing Polanco in favor of Utley and perhaps Bell. But what the hell do I know anyway? Here is where you can go to see how it all really is- You didn't know? Well then I strongly recommend you ask somebody.

Regardless, I weep for Placido

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Doin' the Village

They sent me back into the Camobdian village the next day, about two thousand meters into Cambodia, into a battalion perimeter. It felt like I was returning to the scene of a crime.

The village, which had stood for maybe a thousand years, didn't know I was coming back that day. If they had, they would've run. I was the eye of my team’s rage. And through me, a self-proclaimed captain Ahab, I would set things right again. That day my team loved me.

I came into the village yelling "Mao! Mao!" and shooting my M-16 into the air, firing mostly warning shots. The villagers began to flee, but some didn't flee fast enough and got hit by machine gun bursts. I don’t like violence; I’m a businessman, and blood is a big expense. But sometimes people die in this business, and this is the life I chose. At any rate, after I had fired a few hundred rounds into the village, it had become completely deserted except for a few wild dogs, a chicken, two pigs, and a midget.

I waded back into the choppy river and received congratulatory remarks from my team-mates. My team-mates instructed me to wait in the river for an airlift, and then sped off in their sandpan. The mighty river became even choppier and I soon found myself struggling just to stay afloat, and unable to reach dry land.

I didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know how you can tell that when you're in the water? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail. Very first light, the sharks come cruising. So I start pounding and hollering and screaming and sometimes the sharks would go away. Sometimes they wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he's got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye. When he comes at you, doesn't seem to be living. Until he bites you and those black eyes roll over white. And then you hear that terrible high-pitch screaming and the ocean turns red and they all come in and rip you to pieces.

But a Lockheed Ventura saw me, he swung in low and he saw me. He was a young pilot, a lot younger than Sorvatz, anyway he saw me and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down to pick me up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waiting to get on. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. Anyway we delivered a napalm strike on the village and I ended up back in Saigon, mission accomplished.

I think now, looking back, we did not fight the Cambodian villagers, we fought ourselves. The enemy was in us. The war is over for me now, but it will always be there, the rest of my days. As I'm sure Sorvatz will be, fighting with Petros for what Dr. James Beckett called "possession of my soul." There are times since, I've felt like a child, born of those two fathers. But be that as it may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again. To teach to others what we know, and to try with what's left of our lives to find a goodness and a meaning to this life.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Colonel Terminated/ The Mettelsome Mr. Zero

Well the mission actually went alot quicker than I thought it would. I snuck up on the colonel and beheaded him, effectively terminating his command with extreme prejudice. I went back and tried to rejoin my comrades on the sanpan, but the villagers quickly caught sight of me from the shore and began to protest. They hurled rocks and spears at us, and cursed us in their native tongue. We returned fire and the villagers quickly scattered. This nonsense with the villagers is starting to get out of control, and it will soon be time to take off the kiddie gloves.

I was somewhat preoccupied with murdering the tax collector and quelling the insipid village uprisings, I still managed to catch some major league baseball action. And frankly I don't know what to do with the meddling "Mr. Zero"...

Shingo Takatsu...AKA "Mr. Zero"

Mr. Zero, no relation to the WWII fighter aircraft, has been submarining grapefruits to major league batters for far too long. He gave up three dongs in one inning to the lowly Cleveland Indians last week. It was the first time in their long and troubled history that the Indians mustered three ninth inning homeruns. Today it appeared Mr. Zero was finally gone, but he replaced Damaso Marte to procure the final out as the surging White Sox marched on. My god it is an embarrassment to have this nitwit Takatsu take the mound for a save opportunity. If Ozzie Guillen won't remove Takatsu, I'll take matters into my own hands.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

"Mr. .400" / My New Assignment

Ichiro seen here firing an arrow into a dense crowd at Safeco Field.

Ted Williams can kiss my hairy bean-bag because our friend Ichiro (pronounced Ee-chee-roh) will be the first baseball player since 1941 to break the .400 mark. He has finally gotten his game to the next level, and there is almost nothing opposing teams can do to defeat this speedy slap-hitter.

Consider the following:
1) Ichiro hit over .500 this spring
2) Ichiro is currently riding a 19-game hitting streak dating back to last year, and is hitting .526 in 2005
3) Ichiro hit .429 after last year's all-star break
4) Ichiro is no stranger to dealing with the pressure that surrounds breaking records, as he broke George Sisler's all-time single-season hit record last year.

Unless he breaks down physically, we will see Ichiro do something very special this year, believe you me. And I digress.

Anyway, everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. They brought it up to me like room service...It was a real choice mission - and when it was over, I'd never want another...

I was going to the worst place in the world, and I didn't even know it yet. I was going through miles of jungle that snaked across the Cambodian country-side and plugged me like a main circuit cable directly into Colonel Bo Du. It was no accident that I got to be the caretaker of Colonel Du's memory, any more than being back in Cambodia was an accident. There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story is really a confession, then so is mine.

I was to terminate the command of Colonel Du, a provincial tax collector. At first, I thought they handed me the wrong dossier. I couldn't believe they wanted this man dead. Like they said, he had an impressive career, maybe too impressive, I mean perfect. He was being groomed for one of the top slots in Phnom Penh. But then things started to slip...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Revised Mission Plans/ Return to the Deadball Era

I am still dealing with the fall-out of the villager shooting and I must admit these Cambodians are taking it alot worse than I thought. The local priest performed a ceremony to put a curse on our entire crew and the villagers have made several unsuccessful and bloody attempts to commandeer our vessel. All in all it is making it nearly impossible for us to operate a covert intelligence-gathering mission from the river.

So my mission leader Sorvatz, whom I fought side-by-side with in the Falklands, has decided it is best I go. He thinks the team may be able to make peace with the village if I am out of the picture. So I'm out. My employer has given me a new mission where I am to go inland about 15 clicks to the Qan Tri province and assissinate a local government tax collector. This is really just "busy work," but I guess it is better than no work at all, and I will take what I can get.

Every day, many of the surviving villagers gather and pray for bad things to happen to me

It's usually during depressing times like these that I can turn to the Great American Past-time to cheer me up. But there is no joy to be found here either. What in the world has happened to the lumber? The offense just isn't there this year. Smaller parks, more teams, stronger players- all that was supposed to lead to more offense. And don't get me wrong, I appreciate defense and pitching too, but I am shocked and appalled to see offensive teams like Houston, St. Louis y Los Yanquis putting up one or two runs in a game. Why is this happening?

Could it be that many sluggers are deflating? In the wake of the Balco-juice scandal, I believe many players have done away with their supplements and steroids and now they have to play normal baseball. Those that do not play by the rules risk severe sanctions such as our favorite Cuban cast-off, Alex Sanchez. So will these players start hitting? Or will we see a deflated Sammy Sosa hit twenty dongs this year? You heard it here first- most ballplayers were taking/injecting/consuming controband into their bodies, and now that they are stopping there will be a whole lot less offense this year. And maybe for years to come.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Lyon in Spring/ Sanpan Massacre

This is the first weekend of the 2005 season, and it is time to address some last minute rumors, injuries, and concerns dealing with closers.

Ned Yost ended speculation in Milwaukee today by formally naming Mike Adams the closer. This seemed like the obvious move, but Yost was wary of going with Adams because he felt Adams was trying to strikeout too many batters and his arm would wear down as the season progressed. Someone should remind Mr. Yost the Brewers will not be in too many save situations, and the possibility his closer may wear down should be the least of his worries. But perhaps Mr. Yost is on to something; you may recall last year Danny Kolb was an extremely effective closer for the Brewers, and he struck out only 21 batters the entire season.

Who will shut the door in Los Angeles? Dear me it appears everyone's favorite four-eyed frog Eric Gagne has himself a bugger of an injury. He will go to the 15-day DL and expect Yhency Brazoban to assume the role of interim closer.

And what of "Mr. Zero?" Spring training opponents teed off on Shingo Takatsu and his 80 MPH "heat" the past few months. He has been around the league once now, and I believe most junior circuit batters are on to him. Youngster Neal Cotts is waiting for Takatsu to falter.

Who will shut the door in Arizona? I am still going with Brandon Lyon on this one. Watch out- he did a serviceable job in Boston before the Foulke-era, and he may come out of nowhere to displace both Greg Aquino and Jose Valverde.

Who will close at Coors? With Chin-hui Tsao injured, the Rockies will go with Brian Fuentes, Justin Spier, Donnie Moore, the recently released Amaury Telemaco or god knows who. The best thing to do here is just wait and see who starts getting the saves in the box score. Rockies closers have a bloody poor history (Shawn Chacon and Jose Jimenez inter alia) so don't cut anyone you need in hopes of beating your other league owners' to Tsao's replacement.

And what's going on up north? No one really cares about Canada, but Miguel Batista quietly assumed the role of closer in Toronto. The Blue Jays tried several other players in that role this spring, and suffice it to say Mr. Batista is on a very thin leash and may go the way of Fulgencio.

And it's finally official...The O's announced that the unhittable BJ Ryan will replace the very hittable Jorge Julio as the O's closer for 2005

Oh and Big Ups to Raul Ibanez. This semi-slugger has slipped blowe most fantasy owner's radar. He had a Ruthian 27 RBIs this spring, and he will be batting in a retooled line-up. He will be 33 in June and has only 85 career homeruns, but I think he may get 110-115 RBIs in the at line-up. Indeed Ibanez, Carl Everett, and former first overall draft pick Adrian Gonzalez were among the hottest hitters this spring.

Miguel Batista, shown duking it out with Tino Martinez, may be a great sleeper closer for the Toronto Blue Jays in the highly competitive AL East

And as some of you may know we had a bit of trouble already on the Sanpan. A few Cambodian village children had come out in a raft to greet us with flowers and chocolate, and it was not until I had shot several of them that they actually identified themselves as unarmed civilians. Some of my team-mates were a little bit taken aback by the whole thing, and the local village seems to be in a state of mourning.

This is a shame but these things happen in the fog of war. Everyone, even children, should know better than to approach an unidentified vessel. Granted our machine guns and bugging equipment are concealed at all times, but no one should be stupid enough to float out on the Nung River and greet a vessel they cannot readily identify. Unfortunately, the fact the children were singing as they neared our sanpan served only to alert me more quickly of their position and made them much easier targets. I have fought against "child soldiers" numerous times in central Africa, and I will tell you this: Do not let your guard down against a child. If you foul up when you are fighting a child, you'll be going home...In a body bag!