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Soup of This Day #42: For The First Time From The Inside To The Outside

August 1, 2011

Brooklyn Museum, Chicago's World Fair, by Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran’s 1894 Chicago World’s Fair. It was at the 1893 The Chicago World’s Fair that Josephine Cochrane showed the world her invention: The Dishwasher – Photo: Brooklyn Museum. The Brooklyn Museum is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

My household recently got a dishwasher. As the trade deadline loomed in MLB land and deals were being done across the Atlantic for the EPL this was the most significant switch of them all. Mark it down, Bosch dishwasher to Longsworth72 and family. We had to adjust our roster a bit, discarding a kitchen cabinet and re-arranging the pots and pans to allow the quiet German to slot in. But slot in he did and we’re already seeing some productive at bats from the big guy. Which is nice because Longworth72 had no experience managing this kind of appliance before.

You see, this is my first dishwasher.

Ever.

That’s right, I’ve never lived in a house with a dishwasher before. This was ok as a kid because it gave my parents something to give to me to do. Along with fetching wood for the water heater, chopping wood for the water heater and lighting and tending the furnace of the water heater.

I’m not bitter about the bastard bloody water heater though.

It was ok as a student because I only ever washed the dishes I needed and half the time I couldn’t afford any food anyway. My brother, who shared a flat with me for 5 and ½ years once memorably deployed an electric frypan. He cooked a ridiculously large meal in it, ate what he wanted direct from the frypan and then stuck the whole thing in to the fridge. Next meal he just took it out, plugged it back in and ate some more. Genius.

Those days are gone though and along with Longworth72 there is now a wife and a kid. And a lot of dishes. With all of those dishes comes friction. We don’t like doing dishes. Hate them in fact. Longworth72 Jnr thinks they’re ok but that’s just because he only does pretend dishes that never have baked on egg. This is why we like going out for dinner. At the end of the meal someone else is doing the dishes.

We tried mixing it up a little, turning the dishes into a game. We played Trivial Pursuit dishes.

Longworth72 aced the sports questions.

We tried epic dishes blitzes and promises to keep the dishes under control, washing up as we used them. None of this worked long term. And so we saved and planned. Well mostly Longworth72’s wife saved and planned. We built this dishwasher up – It would save us precious time. It would save our sanity.

It’s mostly done some of those things.

Yeah, it’s brilliant – It silently washes dishes while we sleep, producing a gleaming pile to be unpacked the next day. You still have to rinse off food scraps and soak ingrained pots though. You still have to carefully stack the dishes in to the trays, all the while wondering just how it is that you used 15 soup bowls in 1 day. Without actually having soup.

All I’m saying is that the dishwasher is not a magic panacea.

Which brings me back to trades.

The trade or transfer can look like that magic panacea. In the days leading up to prospective acquisitions we build up these expectations that person X is gonna bring this game to us. As in ‘He’s hitting fly balls short of the wall in that park but at Fenway they would be gone.’ Or ‘He’s scoring 10 goals a season with limited supply so imagine what he could do at Liverpool.’

The hype builds and the targeted player becomes the missing piece in a complex puzzle. Soon, the ‘woulds’ and ‘coulds’ become ‘wills’ and it’s a dyed-on certainty that the man will deliver for your team.

Except that’s almost never how it turns out.

Because:

a. Other teams do not want to give you the piece of the puzzle for nothing and not at all if they think it will give you an edge over them. They’re not stupid.
b. Manager’s aren’t naïve enough to pin everything on 1 player, or even 5. They believe in squads and in such groups there’s a lot of combinations that can give you success.
c. Or not. Trades are gambles. All the due diligence in the world won’t tell you that the guy is going to step on an errant ball at training and twist a knee. Longworth72 once played football with a guy who fractured, shattered actually, his ankle stepping up onto a curb on his way to training. Season over, just like that.
d. Or maybe they don’t get injured but just don’t fit in. Don’t like the food in a foreign country. Miss their family and friends. Sleep with a teammate’s wife (I’m looking at you Wayne Carey) or have a problem with drink and subsequent domestic abuse (Still you, Carey, you utter pillock).

Trades are based on numbers. This kind of approach is sometimes drily known as Sabermetrics but more commonly it is referred to as Moneyball. The 2 terms come from differing sources but both apply to baseball and the use of objective analysis of statistics in order to choose players. The saber in sabermetrics is a contraction of the Society for American Baseball Research. Bill James coined the term and was an early pioneer in sabermetrics, writing over a score of texts on the art of extracting meaning from baseball records. The Baseball Prospectus can trace it’s lineage back to Bill’s work. He’s now a Senior Advisor to the Red Sox.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is the title of a book by Michael Lewis that charts the use from 1998 of a sabermetrics type approach by Billy Beane, the Manager of the Oakland A’s. The A’s couldn’t compete with the big teams on payroll so Beane employed analysis of stats that had traditionally been overlooked to find players that could do a job, almost always without the big paycheck. In doing so he disregarded intuition, accepted wisdom and the gut instinct of experts the baseball world over. Beane is still the manager of the A’s. His budget is still low, but despite that under his watch Oakland has taken the AL East title in 2000, 2002, 2033 and 2006. They’ve now made a movie based on the book, simply called Moneyball. Brad Pitt plays Beane.

Beane and probably even Pitt could see that the Red Sox starting rotation is on shaky ground. Long gone from the 2011 scene is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Clay Buchholz looks to be in trouble too – It’s unclear as to when he will be back and there are whispers that his back complaint is structural. Jon Lester and John Lackey have both spent time on the DL this term. Josh Beckett has given some scares to the faithful but is a cornerstone. In addition Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves have mucked in with decent results. Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland have been less impressive.

With the clock counting down on Sunday the Sox needed a starter. They looked to have Rich Harden from Beane and the A’s but pulled the plug at the last minute when his medical records showed him as too big a risk. One deal that did stick was the acquisition of Mike Aviles, a utility from the Royals. Yamaico Navarro and Class A Salem RHP Kendal Volz went the other way.

In the end LHP Erik Bedard and RHP Josh Fields arrived from the M’s in a 3 way trade that cost 4 minor leaguers. Portland’s Federowicz looked to be a good un so hopefully this works out. Canadian Bedard is injury prone and has recently and rustily come off a sizeable rehab stint. The Sox feel he’s got the goods when healthy.

Beane is apparently a Tottenham Hotspurs man so he probably wouldn’t be of much use to Liverpool FC. The Reds however did acquire Damien Comolli soon after John Henry and co rode on to Merseyside. Comolli had worked for Spurs and is now the Director of Football at Liverpool. Young, at just 38, Comolli uses a sabermetrics approach to selecting young talent. Since his arrival the Reds have acquired Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam. In almost all cases they have paid more than others thought wise but it’s in their recent acquisition of Stewart Downing that they seemed to go too far. Paying £20 million for a player I had marked down as only able to run straight down the touchline before mindlessly floating a cross in was, I thought, excessive.

And then I read this brilliant article: Downing Could Be a Moneyball Buy by Nick Miller over at Football365. It seems that Downing has completed more crosses in open play than any other player in the EPL over the past 3 years. Quite simply, he gets the ball on to the striker’s noggins. And in Andy Carroll Liverpool have a rather accurate noggin, conveniently situated an imposing height off the ground, to aim for.

Liverpool it seems have a touch of William Beane going on.

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