Sweating it out on the South Lawn

White House 402, Finger 1977 passWASHINGTON – The last time I was at The White House was Oct. 22, 1977 during the early days of the Carter Administration. The reason I know this was because my mom saved the tickets from the tour signed by President Carter (he signed his name, “Jimmy”). I was just a little fella back then and apparently I tripped my sister on the east portico and she fell on her face.

I don’t remember that one or maybe I’m just blocking it.

Either way, The White House as it was in 1977 was very different from the visit I had with the press corps to watch the WFC Phillies be feted by President Barack Obama. For one thing no one nearly got killed during that trip in ’77 though there was that incident with my sister.

No, this time around the budding writing careers (as well as the lives) of a pair of baseball writers nearly came to an end at approximately 11:10 a.m. on Friday morning. That’s when David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, wandered into the West Wing…

Right past the Marine sentry…

Steps away from the Oval Office…

Where the President of the United States was receiving his daily economic briefing.

That’s when those two chuckle heads decided to take a private tour.

Actually, it was an honest mistake. It had to be, right? For those who have never traipsed past those wrought-iron gates and onto the White House grounds, it’s easy to see how someone could get confused. That’s especially the case with Murphy and Zolecki, two guys who are used to going wherever they want whenever they want. Access and credentials are something other people worry about – not those guys.

Anyway, the way it works is you say your name into an intercom at a gate on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the complex closest to Lafayette Park. Once the guard at the other end of the speaker hears your name and finds it on the all-important “list,” you show a guard a government-issued identification and if it checks out, you are buzzed into the security shack.

That’s where you empty your pockets of everything and put the contents into one of those containers you get at airport security so they can run it through the X-ray machine. Then you walk through the metal detector. If you set off the detector, like I did, you get wanded down. That’s where they found that I left Chap Stick in one pocket and a pen in another to confirm that, yes, I am a jackass.

But not nearly as bad as the two guys that walked right past the Marine sentry as if they were in a hurry to get to a policy briefing.

So how could Murphy and Zolecki stumble within feet of the leader of the free world like a pair of children wandering around in the woods without a care in the world? Who sees the straightest laced Marine with the crisp dark suit, sparkling white pants with matching gloves (on a muggy, swampy D.C. day, no less) and thinks, “Yes, there’s a Marine sentry guarding a door of the White House. That’s where I should go.”

Who does that?

Murphy and Zolecki, that’s who.

To be fair, one can see how they made the mistake. Once a person is admitted to the White House grounds, they must walk up a long driveway past a bank of TV cameras set up for live shots before rounding a slight bend and squaring up with the entrance to the West Wing. Now there are two things to know about this entrance, one is if there is a man in a sharp Marine uniform standing at the door with a serious demeanor, which means the President is in the vicinity.

Or, as President Obama said to RNC chairman Michael Steele at the White House Correspondent’s dinner, “In the hizzy.”

Rule two is, if there no Marine, the President is not in the West Wing or the Oval Office.

But instead of following the path around a copse of trees and to an area marked, “Press,” and “White House Briefing Room,” ol’ Butch and Sundance walked straight beneath an awning and directly to the door where the Marine was stationed

Now get this… the Marine opened it for them. In fact, the Marine did everything but snap off a strong salute. After all, who walks into the West Wing if they don’t belong there?

A couple of baseball writers, that’s who. One from Milwaukee and another who has had brushes with the law in the past.

Here’s the most important part of the story – the two guys not only were nearly killed in cold blood by the Marine who held the door open for them once the subterfuge was discovered (as well as by various trained sharpshooters with the pair in their sights and simply waiting for the go-ahead to pull the trigger), but they also were literally steps away from the Oval Office and the President.

Obama PhilliesAll they had to do was cut through the Roosevelt Room and stroll right into the Oval Office, or, they could have made the first left and then a right to find the way to the President.

That’s much too close.

Then again, we all got pretty close to the Oval Office when we were led through the Rose Garden to the South Lawn. It was quite a sight strolling out of the portico and looking to the right to see that same path where JFK and his brother Bobby conferred during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But as soon as we exited the narrow pathway where some delicate roses separated us from the President of the United States, we made a quick right and were presented with the vastness of the South Lawn as well as a stunning view of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

Looking out to the South Lawn immediately conjured the image of Nixon beating a hasty retreat aboard that helicopter as he was exiled from the White House after Watergate.

This was from the shadow of the Truman Balcony, which just so happens to be my favorite architectural facet of the exterior of the building. We stood facing this splendor as we waited for the Phillies and the President to make their appearance for a brief ceremony to honor the champs for a pretty big season.

Put it this way, it was definitely worth waking up early for.

Besides, it’s not every day you get to stand 10-feet away from the President of the United States as he walks over to Gary Matthews and says, “Yo, what’s up, Sarge,” and then gives him the hug.

The President and the Sarge from Mike Meech on Vimeo.

Yes, Sarge with the President was almost as good as watching Heckle and Jeckyl disrupt American governance.

Link swiped from The Fightins (who, in turn, swiped it from us at CSN)

Lunchtime ceremony with The President

whWe’ll be back from Washington, D.C. after the trip to The White House where President Barack Obama welcomes the World Champion Phillies for his first ceremony in his new job.

If you want to watch the ceremony live, click here to view the stream from The White House web site. I’m sure it will be on CNN and MSNBC, too.

Apropos of nothing, Charlie Manuel once told us about being introduced to President Obama by Aaron Rowand when he was a senator.

So we’ll have all the color and pageantry live from The White House (check the twitter site for off-the-cuff live updates) and more here and on CSNPhilly.com afterwards.

Moreover, we’ll be at Nationals Park to write about the 16-16 Phillies as they take on the last place Nats. Maybe the Nats’ pitching staff will be the remedy for the Phillies’ quiet bats.

In that regard, I stumbled across an interesting note about the crazy Phillies offense… get this: the Phillies have lost three games in which the opposing starting pitcher did not record a strikeout. In one of those, last Thursday’s loss to the Mets at CitiField, the Phillies did not strikeout at all.

Check it out on the Baseball-Reference blog.

Andre the giant

iggyIf the Sixers get their way, Andre Iguodala will become the marque player who not only is the go-to guy on the floor, but also the man in the locker room. It shouldn’t be too difficult, though. Only 25, Iguodala isn’t close to reaching his prime as a player.

However, away from the court Iguodala might be coming into his own as a leader. On last night’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon program, Iguodala stood up for the American taxpayers by depicting President Barack Obama, the leader of the free world, in a docudrama of sorts in which Iguodala/Obama sent a message to the American car makers in Detroit.

Take a look.

Iguodala might have more lifting to do with the Sixers if Thaddeus Young’s sprained ankle turns out to be a bad one.

Meanwhile, Andre and ?uestlove of The Roots (Fallon’s house band) have already worked together on a Nike ad:

The easy money

President Obama was in Peoria, Ill. on Thursday to discuss the woeful state of the economy at a Caterpillar plant. There, the heavy machine manufacturer in Jim Thome’s hometown and the former employer of Chuck Thome, Jim’s dad, for 40 years, announced that it was going to cut 22,000 jobs.

Chuck Thome retired as manager for Caterpillar in 1993 and no doubt knows some of the people who will be affected by the job cuts… and then some.  Actually, those job losses could change just about everything about the town where Jim Thome grew up and first learned how to hit a baseball. The Peoria the Thomes knew might never exist again.

After all, in Washington, D.C. on Friday afternoon, Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs gave an answer to a question that had to make folks in Peoria shudder. Even if the President’s stimulus bill works, there was no guarantee that Caterpillar’s CEO Jim Owens would hire back any of the 22,000 folks whose jobs disappeared.

Just like that they could be gone forever as if picked up and carried away by a soft breeze.

“He’s not saying, ‘I’m going to rehire U.S. employees or even Peoria employees,’ ” said Rick Doty, president of the United Auto Workers Local 974, which represents thousands of Caterpillar workers.

To call these tough times doesn’t quite describe how rough things are for regular Americans.

Meanwhile, a little farther south from the White House, another press briefing was taking place. And in an indirect way this presser had something to do with the economic stimulus. At least it did to Ryan Howard, who met the press for the first time since signing a three-year, $54 million contract.

So for that first press conference Howard came adorned with shiny diamond earrings the size of hubcaps and some bling on his wrist that could cause carpal tunnel. While the rest of the country struggles, Howard is flush. Over the next three years he will take home a little more than $111,111 per game. That’s a figure more than twice the amount of the average household income ($50,233) in the U.S. in 2007, according to the U.S. Census.

Yes, for one game, Howard will get nearly twice the pay that the average American family brings home in a year of going to work every day.

Not bad work if you can find it. But then again it seems as if any work is good work if folks can find it.

Continue reading this story …

Hey, it’s Barack! Yeah, that Barack

Phew!

Lots of craziness going on here… where do we start? Maybe with Google Chrome? I downloaded it yesterday hours after its launch and have been using it ever since. I was a Firefox devotee for years, but I am going to give Google’s new browser a try. So far it seems a little quicker and maybe even a little less buggy. We’ll see how it goes.

Or do we begin with Donyell Marshall, the newest addition to the 76ers. Interestingly, I actually recall the very first time I ever saw Marshall – a 14-season NBA veteran – play basketball.

It was either 1988 or 1989 and I was sitting on the home team bench our gym at McCaskey High School. Marshall, probably a freshman or sophomore in high school at the time, rolled down 222 with his teammates from Reading High. Back then Donyell was built like a Q-Tip. He was all legs, tall and skinny. Like, really skinny. Even though Reading was always a good basketball team that usually gave us fits, no one knew much about Marshall. He just looked so young and we figured he was in the game because he was taller than his other teammates.

You can’t teach height, they say.

Nevertheless, no one really paid too much attention to Donyell until a point early in the game when he caught the ball on the low block at the hoop on the far end of the gym, turned around with a man on him, jumped straight up into the air and dunked the ball with one hand.

That one got our attention. Besides, the gym got really quiet after that. “Uh-oh,” is what we thought.

Anyway, Marshall is with the Sixers now. Too bad they don’t train at Franklin & Marshall College any more…

Maybe we can start with the Phillies and the trip to Washington, which is where I am sitting as I type. Certainly left-handed starter Cole Hamels turned in another stellar outing last night to beat the Nationals to keep the Phillies two games behind the Mets in the NL East. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that Hamels will start in the big, nationally televised Sunday night game against the New York Mets and Johan Santana.

Coming off a 4-0 win over the Nationals on Tuesday night where he tossed 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball, Hamels pushed his league-leading innings total to 203. More importantly, Hamels threw 104 pitches on Tuesday and 108 in seven innings in the previous start in Chicago on Aug. 28. Hamels has thrown 100 pitches or more in 17 of his 29 starts, but has gone over 110 eight times and just twice since July 3.

Moreover, Hamels has better statistics this year when he pitches on four days rest (8-2, 2.47) as opposed to five (4-5, 4.14). Sometimes, Hamels says, he feels a little “off” with that extra day of rest.

“I understood the situation. I think this is the time that really matters,” Hamels said. “I know five days is what I just did five days ago. That’s what I’ve been able to do all year, and that’s what I’ll do this time. The main guy, when it’s the playoffs or the division championship or the big division rivalry, that’s what I want to be. It’s time to step up to the plate, and I know that I’m ready for it.”

Manuel and Dubee feel the same way.

“He’s coming off 108 pitches and 104 [Tuesday],” Dubee said. “You have to give the kid credit – he’s worked hard and kept himself in shape. He’s preserved his body and prepared well.”

Besides, with just 22 games remaining in the season after Wednesday’s game against Washington, the Phillies are putting a lot of stock into the series against the Mets. Sunday’s game, in particular, is one of those two-game swing outings. Since Kendrick turned in a 6.08 ERA during August, and was tattooed for six runs, eight hits and three walks last Monday in a loss to the Nats, the decision wasn’t too difficult.

Actually, it was just a matter of Hamels recovering well enough following Tuesday’s start to give the thumbs up.

“I talked to Kyle – he wants to pitch,” Dubee said. “I respect that. But we want Cole.”

However, it seems as if the weather could play a role in this weekend’s pitching matchups against the Mets. Saturday’s early forecast shows lots of rain in the New York Metropolitan area, which could force a wash out. If that occurs, Sunday would set up a day-night doubleheader in which both Kendrick and Hamels would pitch.

No, we’re not going to discuss the weather.

However, it should be noted that it is pretty damn hot down here. But then again (as we have written in the past) this city was built on top of a swamp.

Speaking of Washington (weren’t we?), the town is rather empty this week. Part of the reason is because the Republican convention is in St. Paul, Minn. this week. Another reason is because Congress is not in session. Still another reason is because campaign season is in full affect so everyone is out doing all of that stuff.

Nevertheless, Washington is an industry town (yes, we’ve broached this topic in the past, too) and the product is government. However, it seems different here these days. Most of the time the politicians eschew the so-called Georgetown cocktail circuit or even routine weekends hanging around with each other in The District in order to return to their home districts. As a result, the theory goes, fewer behind-the-scenes deals get brokered and the government is less efficient.

If that’s possible.

Yes, that was too easy.

Speaking of Franklin & Marshall, Washington, the campaign season and basketball enthusiasts, get this:

Barack Obama is going to be in my backyard tomorrow.

Yes, that Barack Obama.

And when I mean in my backyard, I’m not kidding. See, the Senator from Illinois will bring his presidential campaign to Lancaster’s Buchanan Park at 5 p.m. tomorrow. Chances are he will give a speech and rally his supporters into being even more supportive. Plus, such events are fun because it brings out all sorts of people – both pro- and anti-whatever the issue is. Frankly, I enjoy the spectacle.

Since it’s early September and steaming hot out there, Barack won’t be showing up at Buchanan Park to sled down the ol’ hill. However, I imagine they could open up the wading pool on the other side of the sledding hill for him.

Of course, he could hang near the dog run, too.

Whatever Barack decides to do, it will be a fun event. Guys running for president don’t make it to Buchanan Park all that often, and I should know. After all, not only have I lived in the neighborhood near the park most of my life, but back during the summer of ’88, I was the Buchanan Park playground supervisor for the Lancaster Rec Commission. Yep, that was me. I coached the softball team, planned activities, lifeguarded the pool and generally kept the riff-raff of my home neighborhood in line.

Then again, Buchanan Park is named for a president. President James Buchanan, in fact, and the guy lived two blocks away on Marietta Ave. I even suspect the land that was quartered off and developed into Buchanan Park was originally part of the President’s estate, called, “Wheatland.”

Buchanan Park, of course, is directly adjacent to F&M College, which just so happens to be where John McCain will visit next Tuesday.

Yes, that John McCain.

That’s two different presidential candidates in less than a week, if you are scoring at home. That’s also two different spectacles I hope to attend.

Regardless, those guys must really like Lancaster. Tomorrow will be Obama’s third trip to town and it will be McCain’s second in two months. If either guy wants to stop by, they are more than welcome. We’ll be in the neighborhood.

Do the chickens have large talons?

Nap and KipJust like Napoleon’s big brother Kip, newly acquired Phillies reliever Rudy Seanez is training to be a cage fighter. They call it mixed-martial arts, or something like that, and it seems to be all the rage. I wouldn’t know anything about what’s “cool” anymore because I’m an old man who lives in Lancaster with two small kids and a wife. If cultural trends take three years to filter down to Philadelphia from New York City as has been suggested, it takes another year or two for those things to penetrate Lancaster.

There’s no wall around The Lanc, but who would know otherwise.

Anyway, Seanez was ready to dive into a career as a professional bad ass until the Phillies called to see if he wanted to pitch. The money is good in baseball and Seanez has a chance to add up to $750,000 in performance bonuses to the $400,000 he gets in base salary from the team. This comes a few days after the Dodgers gave him $135,246 in termination pay upon his release.

Not bad work if you can get it and it beats a throat punch.

Nevertheless, Seanez is coming off a 2007 season in which he appeared in more games (73) than he had in any of his 16 big league seasons. Again, not bad for a guy who will turn 40 in October. But while digging into those 73 games with the Dodgers in ’07, I came across this little nugget about Seanez in the Baseball Prospectus yearbook.

It reads:

24 appearances came with the team down one to three runs, seven came when up one to three runs, and 23 came when the margin was greater than four runs in either direction.

Very interesting.

Moreover, Seanez made it into 57 games before the seventh inning and 36 games after the seventh inning. Additionally, he only faced three hitters twice in a game.

In other words, Seanez might be the man to deliver a flying drop kick during a bench-clearing brawl, but don’t expect Charlie Manuel to turn to Seanez with a one-run lead late in the game.

But then again, the Phillies already have pitchers to do that… Seanez is here to be a support guy.

***
Speaking of stats, here’s one from statistician John Dewan:

Over the past 12 seasons, 96 teams made it to the playoffs. Of those 96 playoff-bound teams, 66 had spring training records that were .500 or better – that’s 69 percent. That’s fairly significant.

***
Unlike most baseball writers, I have always been underwhelmed the baseball-stylings of writer Roger Angell of The New Yorker. Clearly it has to be me – I’m missing something.

Nevertheless, Angell checks in with a good one in this week’s issue about baseball and how it enters yet another so-called new era.

***
Finally, as most people have heard Barack Obama was in Lancaster earlier this week. During his travels through the county, the presidential candidate made it up route 501 to the tiny hamlet of Lititz where the Wilbur Chocolate factory is located. Ever fastidious about his diet, Barry O. had a rough time saying no to some of the nasty cuisine served here in our Commonwealth.

Sure, he handled the chocolate at Wilbur reasonably well, but the cheese fries and other abominations of the American diet were handled with less grace. Besides, the political writer for The New York Times just seemed to have a bit of difficulty with the concept of dumping cheap cheese on top of cheap potatoes.

Morning newsy news

paper boyIn an effort is to make this site more blog-like (is that good or bad?), we are going to incorporate more stories from places that folks following this site and the Philadelphia sporting scene would otherwise miss.

Call it a public service.

So in this public service to you, the dear reader, I’ll assort all the things that pass my way that is noteworthy and post it here as many mornings as I am in business. Some of it will be about baseball and the Phillies and some will come from the sports world. But most of it will be about other things. That’s just the way it goes.

Plus, how much sports writing can one read, really?

Anyway, there are two magazines in which everyone should own a subscription if they want to be (relatively) switched on to the basic cultural trends.

The other magazines can just be put out in the recycling bin.

One of those magazines is Esquire, which is in its 75th year of telling grown men not to wear sports jerseys lest they want to commit a social faux pas and look like some sort of a philistine. In fact, in a recent issue of the magazine it was suggested that there was a name for grown men who wore the jersey of their favorite team while out and about in public.

They’re called professional athletes.

The other magazine that people should subscribe to is The New Yorker, which is a weekly that digs deeper into stories so that the nuance has nuance. The magazine is also the home to cartoons that are not funny and original poetry and prose. Actually, The New Yorker is doing the same things now that it did decades ago. Once I heard editor David Remnick say in an interview that he didn’t care about how long the stories in his magazine were as long as the writing was interesting. This struck me as an odd thing to say because shouldn’t that be the case in every publication?

Obviously, it isn’t the case.

Nevertheless, I remember sitting in the library at J.P. McCaskey High in Lancaster, Pa. thumbing through the latest edition of the magazine looking at the names of the writers and all of the different styles they used to tell a story. But more interesting than that was the pages of events listings that has always been a staple of The New Yorker. Right up front, before the always entertaining “Talk of the Town” column , columns and columns of agate type describing where and when all the latest bands, plays, shows and openings were going down. Sometimes I actual got dizzy thinking that out there, in one city, all this stuff was going on and quite clearly there wasn’t anything happening in Lancaster.

As a result my friends and I got together on weekend evenings and spent time tripping the alarms on the houses in our neighborhood.

What, did you think there was a Jean-Luc Goddard retrospective happening downtown?

In the March 27 issue of the magazine there’s a story by Eric Alterman chronicling the death of the American newspaper business. I’m one of those guys that believes advancements in technology should only makes things better – particularly when it comes to words, discourse and information. Yet for some reason the scions of the newspaper business just don’t understand how to make it work, which, clearly is because of a forgetfulness of the newspapers’ mission. For some reason folks believe that news, information and art is a product or a commodity like anything else.

Those are folks we like to refer as pigs.

Anyway, newspapers are dead. Stick a fork in them. If you don’t believe me read Alterman’s story.

***
Meanwhile, a guy who seems to get what the mission of the story is a fellow named Bob Lefsetz. An ex-publisher of a influential newsletter on the music business-turned web site, Lefsetz now turns out daily posts on, oddly enough, Lefsetz.com, because, “I’m just passionate about music and trying to speak the truth about it.”

In a story by Josh Freedom duLac of The Washington Post, Lefsetz is described as the Jim Cramer of music writing… only without the millions from hedge funds to pay the freight. Simply, Lefsetz just wants to write about what matters to him and big-wigs in the business have taken notice.

Is that so wrong?

***
Speaking of wrong, I caught the 1 a.m. edition of the PBS show Frontline the other night just in time to watch the latest piece called, “Bush’s War.” Complete with over 400 interviews, including extended talks with the so-called “architects” of the war in Iraq and many of the generals, the Frontline episode should be viewed as the first honest retrospective of the five-year old war.

PBS shows the series regularly, but if you miss it on the tube it’s available for online viewing.

Perhaps the most striking part about the first hour of “Bush’s War” was how readily some of those in charge of the operation were willing to admit that the plans and the policies were and are “a fiasco.”

I wish there were something I could add here.

***
Barry O Finally, it appears as if Barack Obama will hit Lancaster on Monday (and I thought nothing happened here) for a rally. Hillary Clinton also made the trip to Lancaster last week to film a special for MTV, hold a rally at Millersville University, and then be sucked up to by the local press. That’s probably how it will go with Barry Obama, too.

Celebrities can do no wrong here in Lancaster as far as the locals go.

Unfortunately, Monday is also the opening day of the baseball season, so I’m stuck going to the ballpark…

Could that be the first time that sentence has ever been written? Sure, hang around the press box and that sentiment is right there on the surface, but as far as typed out on a keyboard and thrown out there for consumption, yes, I believe it is the first time someone has complained about having to go to a baseball game.

***
Clicks
The New Yorker: Out of Print – Death and Life of the American Newspaper.

The Washington Post: Rage Against the Machine – Bob Lefsetz, the Music Industry’s Go-To Gadfly

Frontline: Bush’s War

Fully engaged?

Barack & HillaryToday is another Super Tuesday of sorts in the Presidential primary races. It gets the all-encompassing “super” moniker simply because of the implications the races in Vermont, Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island. For the Republicans it means that shoo-in nominee John McCain will collect the necessary delegates to put him over the top.

On the Democrats side, a four-state sweep by Barack Obama could push Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid to the brink. However, if Clinton wins the two delegate-rich states in Texas and Ohio, be ready for a full-court press by both candidates before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Here comes the understatement of the week: There is a lot at stake today.

But that fact has been known for a very long time. In fact, media reports indicate that the 2008 bid for the White House has galvanized voters of all ages in ways that have not been seen in a very long time. People are engaged in the process, they are listening to the speeches out on the campaign trail, dial up the relevant news on the Internet, and have turned out to the polls in record numbers.

Everyone is engaged, especially 20-something year-old voters, who, according to reports, have turned off the ridiculous YouTube videos and dived into the national discourse. Better yet, those folks are asking questions and confronting conventional wisdom… these are all very good things. Frankly, it should make all citizens, regardless of political philosophy, to see so many people engaged.

It is an exciting time in our history.

But according to an ESPN.com story by Jeff Pearlman, there is one subset of folks whose precarious bubble has not been pierced to allow reality inside. That group?

Major League Baseball players.

According to Pearlman’s story, there are little fraternity houses in every ballpark around the country where Maxim magazine, the lack of fuel efficiency of one’s Hummer, and the run-of-the-mill superficiality of the bling-bling culture have not been offset by a true historical moment. Yes, according to Pearlman, baseball players are as dumb as ever.

Chronicling his visit with the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals and the lack of political discourse therein, Pearlman charted the top 10 topics of discussion. They were:

Indeed, a top 10 list of spring training topics discussed by ballplayers would look something like this:

1.Baseball
2. Free sunglasses
3. Breasts
4-5. Jesus/golf (tie)
6. Dinner options
7. The Kyle Kendrick YouTube video
8. Britney Spears
9. Strip clubs
10. More Jesus/golf (tie)

C.J. WilsonNot every player is so switched off, though. One who was not shy about discussing his disdain for his teammates’ apathy was reliever C.J. Wilson, a left-hander who has been described as a Taoist and adheres to the Ian MacKaye-inspired “Straight Edge” philosophy of personal politics. When asked who amongst his teammates is as interested in the Presidential races as he, Wilson glumly answered, “No one.”

“It’s frustrating,” Wilson told Pearlman. “I’d say there are two reasons. One, there’s a general lack of education among us. But two – and most important – you’re talking about a population that makes a ton of money, so the ups and downs of the economy don’t impact whether we’re getting paid. Therefore, we often don’t care.”

“It’s not that complex,” Wilson says. “Baseball players think about baseball.”

That’s true. Baseball players get paid a lot of money to play a game and there are always dozens of players just waiting to get a chance to bump off another from the lineup. Understandably, there is a lot of pressure involved in keeping such a high-profile and high-paying job.

Yet at the same time there is a ridiculous amount of downtime for professional athletes. Games don’t last all that long and there is only so much time that a player can devote to workouts and treatments and whatever other job-related tasks. As a result, Pearlman’s list is pretty apt, though he seems to have missed on the ballplayers’ devotion to gambling, card playing and crossword puzzles as favorite pastimes.

At the same time, maybe Pearlman picked the wrong clubhouse? The Phillies have a few players switched on to issues, if not elective politics. Chase Utley is a budding conservationist and has lent his name to environmental and animal-rights initiatives. Meanwhile, Jimmy Rollins, the team’s player representative, is quietly aware of history regarding civil rights and baseball.

Jamie Moyer runs his Moyer Foundation, which created and funds Camp Erin, the largest national network of bereavement camps for children and teens; Camp Mariposa, for children affected by addiction in their families; The Gregory Fund, for early cancer-detection research; and The Moyer Foundation Endowment for Excellence in Pediatric Palliative Care for Seattle’s Children’s Hospital.

Additionally, Moyer’s father-in-law, Digger Phelps, worked for the Office of National Drug Control Policy and also served as an observer in the 1993 elections in Cambodia.

Those things are little more involved than simply following along with the process. Still, baseball players have – and various athletes in general – have picked up the label as being nothing more than “dumb jocks.” Some have chided golfer Tiger Woods for refusing to take a stand on various racial and political issues. Meanwhile, Michael Jordan famously failed to endorse African-American democratic senatorial candidate Harvey Gantt in his early 1990s race against arch-conservative Jesse Helms in North Carolina, because, as Jordan stated at the time, “Republicans buy sneakers, too[1].”

That’s hardly as inspiring as Ali’s, “I ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong,” but perhaps Jordan and Woods have to protect their corporate interests first? If that’s the case, how does one define ex-cyclist, turned marathoner, Lance Armstrong, who has been nothing if outspoken in endorsing political candidates and calling out others for their failure to work for improved cancer research and better health care?

Greg Odenwhat about Greg Oden, the top pick in last summer’s NBA draft? Out with an injury for the entirety of the season, Oden has spent his time following the campaigns and musing about them on his blog. In a recent interview with The Washington Post’s, Michael Wilbon, Oden admitted some of his naiveté about politics, but said he is committed to being fully engaged in the process.

“I can’t even imagine that now, knowing enough to govern a city or a state,” Oden told Wilbon. “I’m just at the point where I’m watching CNN more than I ever have, listening to the candidates. I’m not the most educated guy in the world on the issues, but I’m getting there.”

During various campaign stops, Oden has had a telephone conversation with Obama and introduced First Lady Laura Bush at a campaign event. He admitted that both events were quite nerve-wracking.

Nevertheless, Oden has come out with an endorsement for Obama on his blog and says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I can’t say I know every single one of his policies by heart,” Oden told Wilbon, “but I’ve done enough homework to know what I like about him. I really feel more strongly about young people voting, about making an educated decision. I’m not trying to tell people what to do or who to vote for, just to educate themselves and participate. What could be the harm in that?”

None. None at all. Perhaps all this engagement could have some sort of influence on our democracy and maybe even get a few more folks involved.

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Also by Pearlman: Nomar is a creep.


[1] To be fair, Jordan contributed money to Gantt’s campaign and has also been a contributor to Bill Bradley’s and Obama’s run for the White House. Plus, people have the right to shut-up, too.