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Hooray for Ichiro

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Ichiro in Toronto, after getting his 200th hit last Thursday

[Frank Gunn, AP]

For weeks, my primary baseball interest has been whether Ichiro would get 200 hits this season. I wrote about him last March, on the eve of the season:

And for those of us in Seattle, let’s take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are. We are about to enter our tenth year of getting to watch Ichiro. Not everyone is so lucky. St. Louis is, thanks to Albert Pujols. Who else? Who gets to see one of the great baseball players in history for so long?

And I wrote about him a month ago, noting that “I’ve been tracking Ichiro’s march toward another season of 200 hits, a march that has been alarmingly slow” and then adding, in a footnote:

The choice of 200 is of course an accident of our use of base 10, but nonetheless, a 200-hit season has become a sign of excellence, and only the greatest of hitters have 200-hit seasons with any frequency. Pete Rose had 10, the record. Those 10 occurred over fifteen seasons, from 1965 to 1979. Ty Cobb had 9, between 1907 and 1924. Ichiro is in his tenth season, and in his first nine he had over 200 hits every time. Thus, if he reaches 200 this year, he will tie Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons, and do so in his first ten seasons. An astonishing record. Going into today, he was second in the majors in hits for the season, with 165 (behind Josh Hamilton’s 175). Alas, he went 0 for 4 today against the Twins, so he is still at 165, through 130 games. At that rate, he will reach 205.6 hits at the end of the season (162 games).

As it turns out, Ichiro picked up the pace. He had a six game run between September 14 and September 21 when, with 4 at-bats each game, he had 3, 0, 2, 2, 0, and 4 hits. That got him to 197 hits for the season. He then went 1 for 5 and 2 for 5, arriving at 200 hits on September 23, last Thursday. And he hasn’t slowed down. The next three days brought 5 more hits: 2 for 5, 1 for 4, 2 for 4. As for today, let me check. Oh, never mind. 0 for 5.

Anyway, he did it. Ten straight seasons of 200 hits or more. And the only ten seasons he has played professional baseball in the US. He’s unique. That he has secured a place in the Hall of Fame is now certain. Indeed, he should be a unanimous choice in his first year of eligibility.

The next big question is whether he will get to 3000 career hits. He now has 2235 hits. Of course he will if he can maintain this pace, and of course he would have passed it long ago if he came to the US earlier. (He was 27 in his first season. He’ll turn 37 on October 27.) He is so fit, so disciplined, that he may be able to avoid injury and maintain a high level of productivity, with gradual tailing off in the next five years. Let’s say he does tail off, with “only” 190 hits next year, 180 the next, then 170, and then 160 at the age of 40. That’s another 700 hits. Throw in another 5 in this last week of the season and he’ll be at 2940. Again, as long as he avoids injury, he’ll get there — in five more seasons at most.

This is silly speculation. Whatever he goes on to do, he’s already a wonder. Hooray for Ichiro.

Categories: Baseball

Jet-Giant Conversion

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s not news to readers of this blog that I don’t care too much about football. I mean, I follow it and all. Yes, I know that Michael Vick replaced Kevin Kolb for the Philadelphia Eagles and did pretty darn well. Yes, I know the Giants so far suck this year, and the Cowboys kept their hopes alive of playing at home in the Super Bowl with a win yesterday over their cross-state rival Texans. But really, I’m sick already of these story lines — Vick, Giants, Cowboys. And Favre. I don’t want to think about football until Thanksgiving. There’s enough else in sports to occupy me.

Yet, something did get my attention a week ago yesterday, when I watched a small slice of the Jets-Patriots game at the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey. You may recall that the Jets began life as the New York Titans in 1960 in the old American Football League, playing in the Polo Grounds. They would soon move to Shea Stadium, which they shared with the New York Mets baseball team, and changed their name to the Jets. Then they decided to leave Queens (and new York City) behind for the meadowlands of New Jersey, joining the Giants in 1984 as tenants in Giants Stadium. After a failed effort by the team, New York City Mayor Bloomberg, New York State Governor Pataki, and others to get a new Jets stadium built over the rail yards on the west side of Manhattan, the Jets agreed with the Giants to jointly build a new stadium in the meadowlands. It opened for football two weeks ago, with both teams playing at home that inaugural weekend.*

What caught my eye a week ago, as I caught glimpses of the new field during the Jets broadcast, was that the stadium was trimmed out as a genuine Jets home stadium, something the Jets had to do without during all those years as tenants of the Giants. How did they do it? I figured that the week before, when the two teams played at home on successive days, it must have been quite an operation to turn the stadium over from a Giants home to a Jets home.

Well, sometimes you get what you wish for. The New Yorker’s Samantha Henig was on the case. Two weeks ago she observed the conversion, and last Friday she shared the details in the New Yorker’s blog. The post even has a slide show to help the reader visualize the process. An excerpt:

It was five o’clock on a damp Sunday afternoon in mid-September: four hours since the New York Giants christened the new Meadowlands stadium with their first game of the season; thirty-seven minutes since they locked down their victory, thirty-one to eighteen, against the Carolina Panthers; and twenty-three hours until the stadium would begin admitting Jets fans for their turn at a season opener in the new space. That meant less than a day to transform the 1.6-billion-dollar stadium from the Giants’ quarters to the land of the Jets. In Giants Stadium, which both teams shared from 1984 until last year, that was easy enough: as the name implied, it always had a bit of a visitor’s feel for the Jets. At the more even-handed “Meadowlands Stadium,” lights, banners, flags, and artwork all coördinate with whichever team is drawing the fans. Luckily for the forty-six workers orchestrating the night’s quick conversion, this stadium is made to morph.

Even the clothing store had to be converted: “Inside, twenty-five workers in dark gray shirts and black pants wore the glazed expressions of Internet gamblers on an all-night binge. But their marathon was more tedious: stripping the Giants shirts from mannequins and dressing them in Jets gear; restocking three hundred T-shirts, three hundred sweatshirts, and five hundred caps; and, as a final flourish, switching the store lighting from blue to green.”

Forget football. Let’s televise this.

*Maybe I should point out that I grew up going to Giants games at Yankee Stadium and Jets games at Shea Stadium. Those were the days.

Categories: Design, Sports

Change We Can Believe In, VII

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Change we can believe in: Wiretapping the internet

Two months ago, in Change We Can Believe In, III, I addressed the Obama administration’s expansion of e-mail surveillance. On the front page of today’s NYT, Charlie Savage reports on the latest development:

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

. . .

Investigators have been concerned for years that changing communications technology could damage their ability to conduct surveillance. In recent months, officials from the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the White House and other agencies have been meeting to develop a proposed solution.

There is not yet agreement on important elements, like how to word statutory language defining who counts as a communications service provider, according to several officials familiar with the deliberations.

But they want it to apply broadly, including to companies that operate from servers abroad, like Research in Motion, the Canadian maker of BlackBerry devices. In recent months, that company has come into conflict with the governments of Dubai and India over their inability to conduct surveillance of messages sent via its encrypted service.

Think back two months. When you read about in early August about the United Arab Emirates’ demand to get access to Blackberry communication data, Research in Motion’s refusal to turn the data over, and the UAE’s ultimate decision to ban Blackberries, did you think that that’s something that couldn’t (and shouldn’t) happen here? If so, our State Department agreed with you:

The United States said it was disappointed that the United Arab Emirates planned to cut off key BlackBerry services, noting that the Gulf nation was setting a dangerous precedent in limiting freedom of information.

“We are committed to promoting the free flow of information,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “We think it’s integral to an innovative economy.”

The UAE said over the weekend that it would suspend Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from October 11 until the government could get access to encrypted messages.

Evidently the Obama administration no longer is committed to the free flow of information. As Glenn Greenwald noted earlier today:

For those insisting that the Government must have the technological ability to eavesdrop on any and all communications in order to stop Terrorists and criminals, what are you going to do about in-person communications? By this logic, the Government should install eavesdropping devices in all private homes and public spaces, provided they promise only to listen in when the law allows them to do so (I believe there was a book written about that once [Greenwald links here to 1984]). For those insisting that the Government must have the physical ability to spy on all communications, what objections could one have to such a proposal? We’ve developed this child-like belief that all Bad Things can be prevented — we can be Kept Safe from all dangers — provided we just vest enough power in the Government to protect us all. What we lose from that mentality, however, is quite vast yet rarely counted. A central value of the Internet was that it was supposed to enable the flow of information free from the surveillance and control of governmental and other authorities.

Categories: Law, Politics