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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Friday, April 29, 2005

I Got To Be A Matzah Man

Traditionally, at the Passover seder, the youngest person at the table asks the Four Questions, a ritual reminder of what it is we're doing on Passover and why we're doing it. I made it back to Philly for my family's seder on the first night of Passover last weekend, and strangely, less than a month before my 24th birthday, I was the youngest at the table. I don't think I'd been the youngest since before my brother was born in 1983 and I was coming up on my second birthday, so it fell to me for the first time to read the questions. (It probably wasn't really the first time, but in theory, it should have been.)

So there I was, asking, in Hebrew, among other questions, "Why, on all other nights, do we eat either unleavened bread or matzah, but tonight we eat only matzah?" Good question.

Aside from the obvious problem with this question, which is that on all other nights there is no way in hell I'm eating matzah, the question remains: Why do we eat matzah on Passover?

I'm no religious scholar or historian, so bear with me if I make any mistakes - I'm just going with what I know (or think I know) about this holiday and Jewish dietary laws. However, the way I understand it is that we eat matzah on Passover in order to remember the Jews' Exodus from Egypt. As the story goes, the Jews got word that they were free to leave, and they were in such a hurry to get the hell out of Dodge that they didn't wait for their bread to rise; hence, they were left with crappy flatbread that tastes like cardboard and calls itself matzah. By eating matzah, we share in the ancient Jews' flight from Egypt.

Sometime between Moses and Moses Malone, this eight-day restriction on eating matzah and not leavened bread was broadened. Jews are technically not permitted to eat any foods containing corn syrup (most sodas and candies have this) or yeast (that means no beer, either). There's other stuff that you wouldn't think has anything to do with bread that you can't have on Passover, either, like some chocolates. I don't know when the change happened, and frankly, I have no idea why.

A semester of Constitutional Law has made me realize that I'm looking at this from the perspective of an originalist. In other words, what was the intent of the people who laid down the original law? (I know there's more to originalism than that.) As I understand it - and I don't have any legislative findings to back it up - the point of the dietary restriction on eating bread is so we can sympathize with the Jews who had to book it out of Egypt before their bread rose.

Maybe I was sleeping through this part of Hebrew school, but nowhere in the story of the Exodus do I recall the mention of corn syrup or beer. I'm pretty sure the Jews didn't have to take their unfinished cola mix with them or their still-to-be-brewed beer. And if they didn't have to deal with these restrictions, I'm not quite sure why we have to do this today. So I don't. I think by cutting bread out of my diet for eight days, I'm still complying with the spirit of the law.

On the other hand, there is a mini-industry that springs up around Passover time of fake bread products that are kosher for Passover. Bagels, cakes, cereal, chocolate, soda, you name it, there's a Passover version of it. Most of the stuff has the consistency and taste of unhardened cement. This, though, is just a way to cheat around the rules of the holiday. The idea is to give up certain food products, i.e., bread, in order to remember the Exodus. If you're eating cakes that happen to be made in some kosher way, are you really sympathizing with the Jews of millennia past? You're not eating matzah, you're eating a form of bread (a crappy one, at that). I'm pretty sure if they didn't have time for their bread to rise, they also didn't have time to bake faux cake and bagels. That kosher for Passover cake is merely a loophole in the dietary laws of Passover.

So tell me, who's obeying the spirit of the law - the guy who will drink a Coke while he eats his matzah, or the guy who's drinking corn syrup-less soda while he eats his kosher for Passover bagel? I say the former. If Moses didn't have time to make normal bread, he didn't have time to make kosher bagels, either. The guy parted the Red Sea and then ate matzah. And I'll do the same, minus the Red Sea-parting.

While I'm on the topic of Jewish dietary laws that don't make sense to me, there's another issue I want to address. Now, I'm not a strict kosher guy. I don't eat pork products, but aside from that, I don't really follow the rules. I'll eat a shellfish, beef, and cheese sandwich (in theory, not in practice). Anyway,the rule that you can't eat milk and meat together apparently comes from one of two reasons. First, way back in the day of roaming nomad Hebrews, it just wasn't sanitary to cook dairy and meat together. I understand this, even though it doesn't apply at all today and so the purpose of the law would no longer be valid. Second, there was a moral objection to cooking a kid in its mother's milk. Okay, now I understand the reasoning here too, even if I don't agree with it. But the restriction is grossly overinclusive. Why can't I eat a chicken cheesesteak? Poultry isn't producing milk.

One final story that is very tenuously related to Jewish food: In my Contracts class a few weeks ago, we studied a case called Parev Products Co. v. I. Rokeach & Sons. Anyone who grew up in a Jewish household will recognize Rokeach as one of the leading producers of kosher food. Around Passover, Rokeach is probably second only to Manischewitz. Eventually, Jewish kids learn that Rokeach is pronounced "roe-kay-ach," with the last syllable rhyming with Bach. Jewish kids also learn that "parev" is a term that describes foods that are neither meat nor dairy; they can be eaten at any meal. It's a descriptive term, just like "kosher."

My contracts professor, being a Canadian shiksa, had no idea about any of this. She pronounced the defendant as "roe-key-atch" (rhymed with "ho biatch") and referred to the owners of the plaintiff company as "the Parev Brothers." This amused me far more than it should have. It's like calling someone "the Kosher Twins."

And speaking of Contracts, I really need to get working on that outline. So forgive me if updates to the site are a little sporadic during the next couple of weeks. I have a semester of work to catch up on for finals.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Dr. Strangelife Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Be Da Bomb

Today was that time of year again. I have this ring, see, and every six months, I have to take it to the jeweler and get it checked out so that the lifetime protection plan stays current. So at the end of every April and October, it's checkup time. Really, I've been meaning to sell the ring for over a year now, but a combination of reasons (diamonds don't depreciate, I won't get the retail value I paid for it, and I just never get around to it) keep me from doing so. But what, exactly, am I doing with a diamond ring in the first place?

What's the most reckless thing you've ever done? I'm not talking reckless in the legal sense; I mean it in the colloquial sense - doing something stupid without regard for the consequences. For some people, maybe it's having unprotected sex with a stranger or driving under the influence. Maybe it's getting into a fight you know you shouldn't have. A lot of times, I'm pretty sure of my answer to that question. In a completely emotional blur, I asked a girl to marry me.

At the time, I had plenty of reasons for doing it, but really, I think I did it just to show her that I would actually do it. I loved her (despite the fact that I had broken up with her two months prior), and I freaked out and somehow thought this was the only way to get her back - to do something this drastic. In my frantic mind, I was certain that I would follow through if she said yes. On the other hand, I was pretty sure she'd say no, and I was right. But what if she hadn't?

If my family and friends couldn't have talked me out of it, I suppose I would have ended up with a wife at age 22, although I think part of the reason I would have gone through with it would have been to prove to myself that I did the right thing. It's total nonsense in hindsight, akin to buying a Ferrari to show that you aren't wearing a Ferrari hat just to be cool. Regardless of whether I would be a divorce at age 24, though, I know for sure that I would not be where I am now. And I like where I am now.

I suppose I'd be in New Jersey, or somewhere near there. At the time, she had a post-college job waiting for her in North Jersey. I didn't have a job lined up yet; I probably would have just gone with her to Jersey and figured something out from there. Since I was looking for a job as a sportswriter, maybe I would have eventually lined up a job doing that or copy editing for a small paper. And two years later, there's a good chance I'd still be working the same job, unless somehow I got an early break and managed to get promoted, or get a similar job at a bigger paper. Or maybe I'd get the law school idea anyway, but I would have applied to Columbia, NYU, Rutgers, and Seton Hall, then probably have ended up at Seton Hall, since I know I couldn't have got into Columbia (and most likely NYU, too).

More importantly, I don't think I would be happy. Discounting the scant possibility that things between her and me would have somehow drastically improved, I'd be with someone with whom I'd broken up two months before getting engaged. And this was because, after nearly two and a half years, I'd come to realize that we just weren't fit for each other (this is benefited by hindsight, certainly). It's entirely possible that I would be divorced by now, or, more likely, stuck in a marriage that I would keep trying to "make work," because that's just what you do with bad marriages.

Well, I didn't get engaged. Instead I went home after I graduated, and I searched for a job while I thought of ways to get her back. Eventually that turned into searching for a job while I thought about moving on. Then I got a job at ESPN, a job researching sports and baseball in particular, and I really loved my job. I can't ever recall getting up in the morning and thinking, "I don't want to go to work today," and there were plenty of times when I paused just to reflect on the fact that I got to look up Barry Bonds's home runs per season, grouped by weight, while other people are stuck in cubicles crunching interest rates. But while I was at ESPN, I still worried about my ex - I saw her a few times while I was there, and I wondered whether I should or would get back together with her. Then law school came along, and I took the opportunity. I moved out to Los Angeles. I slowly stopped talking to my ex. I joined the UCLA hockey team. I made law review. And somewhere during the rains of the winter of 2005, I stopped caring about my ex.

Finals are around the corner; after that, a summer trip to Europe to study law. I'm too busy to have a girlfriend anyway, and in my free time, when I stop to think about it, I'm responsible only to myself. If I want to walk down to the bar and get a beer, I don't have to tell anyone where I'm going and when I'll return. If I want to apply for a four-week summer job in Alaska as a beer company brand representative, then I'll do it - and I did, without worrying what the girlfriend I don't have will do for four weeks while I'm watching bears outside Juneau. I'd be lying if every now and then I didn't think about the girlfriend I don't have and what I want her to be like - but for the first time in years, those thoughts don't concern my ex-girlfriend.

Today, I went to the mall and I took the ring to get cleaned up and checked out. I wasn't the least bit emotional, not like previous times when I've taken the ring in and the woman said things like, "She must be missing this," or "This looks like it hasn't been worn." This time, I even had some responses ready in case she tried a line like that; unfortunately, I didn't get to use them. It was an errand, like any other, I had to get a ring checked and that was that. I drove to the mall with the sunroof open, listening to country music; I browsed in Lids and bought a smoothie on my way out.

I like my life. I like it a lot more than the life I think I'd have right now if that "no" had been a "yes."

Friday, April 22, 2005

Low Voltage

Back in January, when Elektra came out, I was planning on seeing it, because I watch Alias and so I like Jennifer Garner. (Don't worry, I don't go see every Jennifer Garner movie that comes out. I never saw 13 Going On 30 and I have no plans to.) However, it looked like it was going to be a crappy movie, and I never motivated myself to go see it in theaters. Fortunately for me, it was the inflight movie on my flight to New York last night, and because I had headphones with me, it was free. And fortunately for you, I have a morning to kill in NYC before a job interview, so I'm going to review it for you. (If you plan to see Elektra and insist on not knowing a thing about it, then stop reading, although really, it's not as if there are any sudden, unexpected plot twists that I'm going to ruin for you.)

The premise itself is a good one. If it hasn't been used in a movie before, it should have been. And it should be done again, only better. The basic plot line is this: Attractive female assassin for hire is sent on a job, the targets of which are to be revealed later. While waiting for her assignment, she falls for the target. When she can't follow through on her assignment, the bad guys send other assassins after the target; now the attractive female assassin must protect him. Maybe one day I'll work this plot into a better screenplay.

Anyway, that's basically the idea here. Elektra gets sent to some remote house to await further instruction. She meets the next-door neighbors, who are apparently the only other people on this island. Naturally, she falls for the handsome single widower (Goran Visnjic - hey, he's a star in Croatia...) and Abby (Kirsten Prout), his precocious 13-year-old daughter. And of course that's who she's assigned to kill. She can't bring herself to do it, and she spends the rest of the movie trying to protect them. Sounds decent, right?

Well, things get screwy because this is based on a comic book, and so some paranormal crap goes down. For starters, Elektra had to be brought back to life in order for the movie to work at all, because her character was killed in Daredevil before the producers realized they were going to spin her off into her own flick. Then there's this whole thing about how Elektra can sort of see the future, and the bad guys all have their own superpowers, and so on. Oh, and it turns out that Abby is something of a supernatural whiz in the making. So I guess if you're a fan of the "whack!" "boom!" "crash!" comic book movie genre (or you liked the end of Tomb Raider) then you'll like this movie. I thought it was kind of lame.

Prout turns in the best performance out of any of the actors, which I suppose may be due to the fact that she's probably a precocious teenager in real life (she's 14) and didn't have to stretch too much to pull off this role.

The cast of Elektra is also a good illustration of something I have tried to articulate on various occasions in the past: the difference between hot and beautiful. Jennifer Garner is beautiful (screw you, Ben Affleck). She looks like the wholesome girl next door (maybe this is a residual image I have of her from Alias, but even as a contract killer in a red two-piece bodysuit, she still looks somewhat classy). Actually, I thought she looked best in her modest all-white training suit while she was kicking ass at the dojo. On the other hand, Natassia Malthe, who plays the token female bad guy (Typhoid), is smoking hot. You may remember her from Maxim Uncovered! Vol. 1 (according to IMDB.com). She looks exactly like the kind of girl I would have nothing in common with (aside from being really ridiculously good looking). She's got the dark, mysterious, evil seductress thing down cold. She's got the black outfit working with the straight, jet-black hair and the dark lipstick and eye shadow. Her superpower, by the way, is that she can kill people by kissing them (or blowing a kiss at them, because I guess it would have been weird to have her kiss a 13-year-old girl). It's not an absolute superpower, though, since Elektra somehow survives a direct kiss.

Speaking of kisses, there's a really contrived romance between Elektra and Mark, Abby's dad, that does nothing at all to further the plot. Basically, all it's good for is an attempt at giving the movie a memorable quote, but it just comes off as cheesy. After Mark kisses Elektra for the first time and then says, "sorry," Elektra sarcastically responds, "Yeah... I hated that." And of course at the end of the movie, the exact opposite happens - she kisses him, apologizes, and he "romantically" gives her the same line. Fortunately, I watched the movie on an airplane and had a barf bag handy.

There are a few special effects that are kind of cool in the movie, mostly centering around the bad guy called "Tattoo" (Chris Ackerman), so named because he is covered in ink. He has various animals in his tattoos which spring to life out of his body (and return to him after they have completed their missions), which is sort of cool, I suppose. Also, some of the fight scenes are choreographed really well.

While I'm on the subject of effects, anyone who's seen The Matrix - the movie that set the modern standard for special effects - will quickly spot at least two cheap knockoffs that appear in Elektra, and they detract from the movie, because as you're watching it, you think, "Hey... that's from The Matrix" (kind of like how I feel when I hear the guitar riff in Green Day's "Jesus Of Suburbia" that sounds suspiciously like a riff from Bryan Adams's "Summer Of '69"). The first is early on, when someone fires a few rapid rounds from something like a dart gun at Elektra, and suddenly the action slips into slow motion and you see Elektra dodging the darts. At this point, someone in the row behind me actually said something about The Matrix; this is how obviously borrowed it was.

Then, later in the movie, Elektra and Abby get into a martial arts sparring session in a Japanese building. The scene is strikingly similar to Neo's training fight against Morpheus; the similarity is emphasized even more by the fact that Elektra (the "teacher") is wearing black, like Morpheus was, while Abby (the "student") is in white, like Neo. Also, like Morpheus, Elektra encourages her pupil, saying, "What are you waiting for? You're faster than this. Don't think you are; know you are. Come on. Stop trying to hit me and hit me!" (Actually, that line is from The Matrix, but she said something pretty damn close to it.) Elektra's movements even seem slow and calculated like those from several Matrix fight scenes.

Anyway, I'd say unless you're a fan of the comic-book-and-major-willing-suspension-of-disbelief genre, don't even bother renting Elektra. If you can catch it for free somewhere, though, there are worse ways to kill an hour and a half. I'd give it a rating of $1.50, as in, that's how much it's worth paying to see it. At least Jennifer Garner and I will always have Alias. Except that I forgot to watch it on Wednesday. Season Four hasn't been particularly compelling. I blame Ben Affleck.


As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in the main reading room of the New York City Public Library. I'd never been here before, but the building is magnificent. The reading room, which is on the third floor, is about two stories high itself, and the ceiling has intricate carved wood and gold leaf designs, plus paintings in the center. It reminds me of an old Italian summer palace in Caserta that I visited a couple years ago. [I had to look up the name of the place later, because I couldn't look it up at the library, because the ethernet ports at the tables didn't seem to be functioning. And I couldn't pick up any bootleg wireless Internet in there. I think the beautiful stone walls might have been hindering the signal.]

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Book Report

Just wanted to check in with some thoughts on a couple of books that I finished recently. First off, The Game, by Ken Dryden.

If there's anything I can say I took away from this book, it's a tremendous respect for Dryden. Here's a guy who won a national championship while at Cornell, then, during his first few years as a pro with the Canadiens, worked double duty and went to law school at McGill simultaneously. Then he actually took a year off from his hockey career in order to do that apprenticeship thing that you have to do to pass the bar in Canada. On the ice in Montreal, all he did was win six Stanley Cups in eight seasons. That's something that'll never be approached again. And Dryden walked away at his peak, winning the Cup in his final year and never returning to the ice. As a nice postscript to the book, Dryden went on to become the Maple Leafs' GM and then recently left that job to become a member of Canadian Parliament.

The book reminded me in a way of Jim Bouton's baseball classic Ball Four, although it's not written in the same style (a season's diary) or with the same intent (to show the sport, warts and all). Rather, the book is written, chronologically at least, as a look into a week in the life of Dryden during the final year of his career, but the book is peppered liberally with flashbacks to Dryden's youth and a little bit of his Cornell days, as well as with very candid observations of his teammates. This, I think, is where the book shines. He dissects various players on the team, always respectfully, both in terms of their roles on the team and their personalities. Ultimately, it is this that provides such a magnificent window into the wide array of characters inside a hockey organization.

Finally, I was just impressed with Dryden's writing ability. Unlike many sports bios, Dryden wrote this himself, and he's an outstanding writer. I'm sure Dryden would bristle at such a description, but he truly is one of the few athletes who combine physical ability with an intelligent worldview and the capability of expressing it. In the 2003 edition of the book, which I read (the original was released in 1983), he concludes the new final chapter with a poem that is amazing, whether or not it was written by a professional athlete, politician, or a poet.

I'd recommend the book to any hockey fan, or anyone who wants a well-written insight into how athletes view the world - because Dryden not only represents his take on life as a pro athlete, but he also gives some insight into what his teammates think about life.

The other book I recently finished was Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs. It's really a collection of 18 individual essays on pop culture, and Klosterman, who I suppose is about 35, reaches into the most esoteric subjects of the last 25 years (as well as some very common ones). The essays on Saved By The Bell (naturally) and life with a Guns N' Roses cover band were my favorite of the group, but there's also some other good ones.

The first essay, like most of them, brings up a thought-provoking, although debatable point. Klosterman claims that, basically, we've all been so exposed to movie-style romance that we can never be satisfied with the real deal. He uses the example of John Cusack in Say Anything (a movie that I haven't seen). He claims that women all have this image of the real John Cusack as his character from that movie; when he steps off the set of High Fidelity, for instance, he acts in real life as his character from Say Anything. I gather that this character is a sweet, romantic guy who girls in the '80s were gushing over. The point was that this isn't reality - nobody is actually like that. I kind of agree with that - the other day, while I was sitting in traffic and there was a guy on the median strip selling roses, I thought about how in the movies, it would be a classic move to buy a dozen roses for the cute girl in the car ahead of you and give the vendor a slip of paper with your number on it and nothing else to hand to her with the roses, and girls watching the movie would probably complain to their friends that nobody does that for them. Meanwhile, if I had actually tried that, I'd never get a call and the roses would probably have been thrown out the window at the next light. Anyway, I'm getting off-topic a little, but you see what I mean when I say that some of the essays are thought-provoking.

However, my favorite part of the book is one of the interludes (between each chapter there is a short interlude - a mini-essay, if you will). This one is about "[t]he twenty-three questions [he] ask[s] everybody [he] meet[s] in order to decide if [he] can really love them" (note the appropriate Bluebook-style alterations there). Anyway, these are some questions that you could have some fun debating with friends (or maybe that's just me, but I think it would be interesting). For example:
Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the assembly. What do you talk about?
I don't want to list a bunch of the questions here, but some are more creative (and bizarre) than that. By the way, when I read that, I was reminded of a quote by Tommy Lasorda: "I've stopped telling people about my problems. Eighty percent of people listening don't care, and the other 20 percent are glad I'm having problems."

Right, so anyway, back to the book. It's well-written and pretty entertaining. I'd say that if you consider yourself a connoisseur of the last quarter-century of pop culture, then by all means take a look at this book. If, on the other hand, you were 30 by 1980, most of the references will probably sail over your head.

There's one other book I'd like to give a quick shout-out to, and that's A Great And Glorious Game by A. Bartlett Giamatti, who hopefully will never become more well known for being Sideways star Paul Giamatti's father than for being the last great commissioner of baseball and one of its most outstanding writers. You might have noticed that I put a Giamatti quote at the top of this site; I think I'll leave that there until another quote strikes me as being appropriate as a header to this site. Giamatti was the youngest president of Yale in the school's history, but he gave that job up to become the president of the National League in 1986. In 1989, Giamatti became the commissioner, and in his unfortunately brief tenure (154 days, ended by a fatal heart attack at age 51), he etched his name in baseball history by (correctly, in my opinion) banning Pete Rose for life.

Giamatti's prose on the game of baseball is beautiful. A Great And Glorious Game is a collection of his writing on baseball. One of the best pieces from the book is actually an official 13-page denial of Phillies pitcher Kevin Gross's appeal of his 10-day suspension for scuffing a baseball. Despite the formal situation in which the ruling was written, Giamatti's writing is brilliant. That piece is actually the reason I want to pick up the book from my home back in Philly when I visit home this weekend. I think with nearly a year of law school under my belt, I'll have a new appreciation for Giamatti's vigorous defense of the integrity of the game. Yep, I need to reread that book.

I found one of his essays ("The Green Fields Of The Mind") online, and in it, I think Giamatti, reflecting on baseball at age 40, somehow captured a huge reason I love going to games, often alone, to take in the serenity of a stadium that might be filled to capacity:

"I was counting on the game's deep patterns, three strikes, three outs, three times three innings, and its deepest impulse, to go out and back, to leave and to return home, to set the order of the day and to organize the daylight."

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Southern California Law Student's Ice Hockey Glossary

If it weren't for the fact that the NHL is locked out right now, we'd be getting down to what is probably my favorite sporting event of the year: the NHL playoffs. Yup, right about now the Flyers would be preparing another disappointing playoff drive in which they lose in the conference semifinals. Not that anyone here knows or cares. Outside of the hockey team, I haven't met anyone here who really cares about the sport. Among my classmates in law school, it's worse. I've gotten half-serious responses such as, "There's ice in Los Angeles?" So I was inspired to put together The Southern California Law Student's Ice Hockey Glossary. Don't look for it in print anytime soon.

Assist - if you do this, the actus reus of the person whom you assist is imputed to you.

Attack - when the court seizes property to obtain in rem jurisdiction.

Backcheck - making sure your citations are correct.

Bench - where the judge sits.

Blue line - the definitive legal style guide.

Boarding - used to describe some teaching styles.

Body check -
what rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows you to do during discovery.

Breakaway -
entering a building without permission.

Butt-ending -
something that's legal between consensual adults, but Justice Scalia doesn't like it.

Center -
the swing Justices of the Supreme Court.

Charging -
what prosecutors do to defensemen.

Conference -
what you have with the opponent before discovery.

Crease -
something that makes your papers look unprofessional.

Crossbar -
what every law student hopes to do on the first try.

Cross-check -
what you do to the opponent's witnesses.

Defenseman -
the guy getting sued.

Delay of game -
something about which you might be able to bring a rule 11 motion.

Division -
how some powers are delegated to the federal government and some powers are given to the states.

Double minor -
a really young person.

Elbowing -
what you do to get the guy next to you to pay attention to what the professor is saying.

Enforcer -
a tough prosecutor.

Exhibition -
something introduced into evidence.

Fighting -
actually, this is about the only thing law students here understand about hockey.

Forecheck -
what the mortgagee does when the mortgagor defaults.

Forward -
what you do with an e-mail you want someone else to see.

Goaltender -
to offer a goal.

Holding -
the important part of the judge's opinion.

Hooking -
a criminal offense in every state but Nevada.

Interference -
when a third party enters a lawsuit.

Intermission -
the break the judge gives everyone during a trial.

Left wing -
the Warren Court.

Line change -
when the witness changes his testimony unexpectedly.

Major -
what you need from the judges in order to win a decision.

Minor -
a young person.

Net -
total income, considering expenses.

Neutral zone -
something you might be able to get into if you bring a forum non conveniens motion.

Overtime -
what the appeals court does when it doesn't like the trial court's ruling.

Pass -
what you do when the professor calls on you and you have no idea what he's talking about.

Penalty -
a big, confusing list of criminal laws.

Penalty kill -
what you want to do to that big, confusing list of criminal laws, especially the model one.

Period -
the thing that needs to be underlined after the word "Id."

Playoff -
the guy suing the defenseman.

Post -
some word that means "after" in Latin.

Rebound -
when the higher court sends a case back to the lower court.

Red line -
what you see all over your rough draft when you get it back from your TA.

Referee -
the person to whom the referor refers.

Right wing -
Justice Antonin Scalia.

Slashing -
what your TA does with your rough draft.

Stoppage -
something that prevents someone from litigating an issue.

Trainer -
a famous judge from California.

Tripping -
probably some sort of narcotics offense.

Two-line pass -
when more than one person doesn't want to answer the professor's question.

Wrister -
a written order from the court.

Admittedly, some of these are kind of weak. I also think some are pretty funny (then again, my sense of humor has been called into question on more than one occasion). If you've got any other suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them.

I think I'm going to wear my Flyers jersey to class tomorrow in mourning.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Las Vegas Story

It was 8:00 on Friday two weekends ago, and I was doing laundry. I'm a pretty cool guy, I know. Then one of my friends on the hockey team dropped me an IM.

"We're going to Vegas in a half hour. Wanna go?"

"It's tempting," I told him, "but I'm in the middle of doing laundry and I would need to shower, and besides, I have some work I need to do for school this weekend."

"Come on, it's only law school."

How could I argue that? One of the reasons I came back to school was because I wanted to do things like this. So I told him that if they'd wait until 10:00 to leave, I was in. And so I showered, packed for a weekend, finished my laundry, and at 10:00 I was pulling my car out of the garage. I was driving because my car fits five people, and we were now a party of five.

I had picked up three people and we were on our way to get the final member of our group. Suddenly, as I drove along Barrington Ave. across San Vicente, my car died. The engine stopped, and the power steering failed. I pulled the car over, threw it into neutral, and my friends pushed it onto a side street. I tried to start the engine again. It turned over and then died again. The battery wasn't the problem; the headlights and CD player still worked fine. I called AAA. By midnight, my car was loaded onto a tow truck. Not to be so easily deterred, we go to plan B. After all, Vegas is a 24-hour operation, and, planning to party the night through, we only had a hotel room for Saturday night.

Since we were still just a couple blocks from my friends' house, they walked back and picked everyone up in an Eclipse. It was a little cramped, fitting five people in a two-door, but we'd suck it up for four hours. We had made it to the 210 in Glendora, about 45 minutes into our trip, when the rear right tire began thwack-thwack-thwacking along the freeway. We got off at the Sunflower Ave. exit. Looking under the car at the tire, we saw that the side wall of the tire had ripped apart. Three hours into our trip, we hadn't left the L.A. sprawl and we'd killed two cars. Two guys put the donut on the Eclipse and drove it verrrry sloooowly back to L.A.; meanwhile, the remaining three of us got one of the guys' girlfriends to come out and pick us up and bring us back to L.A.

At this point, one of the group decided to drop out. I considered following his lead. But I'd already sacrificed my car for the cause, and my options were to spend the weekend in L.A. carless and doing cite checking or to spend the weekend in Vegas. I stuck with it. Besides, I was hoping all the bad luck was spent at this point. We got back to L.A. at 2 a.m., when we should have been arriving in Vegas. We had a midnight snack at Subway, and took a three hour nap. Then, at 7 a.m. we got back on the road, this time in car #3, one of the guys' Dodge Dakota.

Although there were only four of us, a pickup truck is barely suitable for transporting people. We crammed the passenger seat as far forward as possible, and both passengers on the right side of the cab managed to fit themselves in by bending their legs as acutely as possible. Meanwhile, the other passenger in the back of the cab had to sit across the narrow bench-like seat, facing his seatmate. It was far from comfortable, but at this point, I would have folded myself into a crate and shipped myself there; I could deal with this for a few hours. Besides, if this truck, which had racked up 130k-plus miles traveling between California, North Dakota, and who knows where else, couldn't make the 250-mile trip to Vegas, nothing would.

Sure enough, we hit the strip around 11 a.m., only nine hours later than planned. We grabbed lunch at Bourbon Street, which lured us into its two-star facilities with promises of a $7.77 steak and lobster entree. We passed on that, though, considering that lobster so priced in the middle of the desert probably didn't go well with beer, of which we planned to drink plenty. We all got burgers and Coronas. Then it was off to the casinos.

We eventually settled on Excalibur, about which I haven't heard much good other than that it's cheap and has a decent poker room. I hit an ATM up for $200 (which I should have done in L.A. and avoided paying a $3 fee), $100 for gambling and $100 for food, drinks, etc. I took my Franklins to a $5 blackjack table and laid one down, receiving 20 chips. Meanwhile, the rest of the group went to the poker room to put their names in the queue (by the way, my property professor pronounces this word "kwee").

Back at the blackjack table, I was getting slaughtered. The dealer was hitting 20 over and over; I kept busting or staying on 14 (when I should have been). Basic strategy was losing consistently to basic bad luck. I'd get a pair of fours at the same time the dealer would. Somehow the dealer parlayed that into 21. I probably busted. It got to the point where, holding a 16, I was glad to see a dealer blackjack, since it meant that I wouldn't have to bother drawing another card and busting. When my friends returned from the poker room, I'd lost all six hands I'd played. "Get up," they told me. "Get out while you still can." I decided to play until I was down $50. That didn't take long. I lost hands seven and eight. Down $40, I figured I'd double my bet to $10 for hand nine. After all, I couldn't keep losing. Right? Wrong, of course. After losing the only nine hands I played, I colored out, took my two $25 chips, and got the hell away from that black hole of a blackjack table. The odds of losing nine straight blackjack hands are roughly 500-1. Of course, the odds of needing three cars to get to Vegas are probably even narrower.

My friends then informed me that they had put my name down on the 1-3 limit list in the poker room. I've never played poker in a casino, and I definitely didn't get the poker-playing gene that my brother has. Apparently cursed with a desire to lose $100 as fast as possible, I sat down at a table anyway. I figured I could just play conservatively and at least hang out at the table for a while, watching the Illinois-Louisville game on the big screen and get a few free drinks. Again, I was wrong. I quickly learned that when you play low-stakes limit poker, people stay in with crap, and more often than not, you'll lose with what seems like a better hand. I lost with pocket queens and ace-king suited. I lost with pocket aces when some guy with pocket fives picked up another five on the turn. I can't bet him out because of the limit. And once again, I was out my $50 without winning a single hand.

At this point, it was 3:50. I then proceeded to do something very lame. I left the casino and went to one of those convenience stores on the strip that advertises Internet access and bought myself 50 minutes of time. My fantasy baseball draft was happening online at 4:00 and I figured I might as well avoid having my team autopicked if I wasn't going to be doing any more gambling. Although I was happy with the way my team turned out, I lost my first series of the season, 3-6-1.

Then I returned to Excalibur, where my friends were still at the tables. One was up about $70, although the other two weren't cleaning up. Around 6, I was on my way out of the casino with one of them when he decided to stop at a roulette table. He pulled out a $20 and asked, "What number are you feeling?"

"I don't think you want my advice today," I responded.

He pressed on, and I told him red 21 would hit. He looked at me, thought about it for a second, then put his $20 on one of the colors. Sure enough, red 21 came up on the first spin. For the first time all day, I got something right. Unfortunately, I hadn't bet anything on it. That $20 would have made my friend $700 if he'd listened to me. We stayed at the roulette table for another hour or two while he tried to get me to correctly predict more numbers (I did one other time) and I mooched free drinks off him. Finally, we left the casino to get dinner at some food court with really crappy pizza.

We returned to our room at Imperial Palace (by the way, it's a long walk from IP to Excalibur and back), where we showered and began our pregame for the night. At some point here, we heard some girls shouting in the hallway, so one of the other guys and me stuck our heads out the door to see what was going on. Across the hall, a room full of girls in cowboy hats who were clearly getting ready to go to Coyote Ugly were being generally giddy. One, a somewhat ample girl wearing a t-shirt that said "Hug A Canadian Today," told us that they were from Toronto (they were actually from Hamilton, but they figured nobody would know where Hamilton was). We asked her how many hugs she'd gotten today wearing that shirt. Considering that we were in Vegas, you'd think a girl wearing a shirt advertising hugs would have said at least 10, probably more. But her friend, standing at the elevators down the hall, heard the question and screamed, "Three!" And the girl, instead of lying and artificially inflating her hug count, responded that at least two of the three weren't ugly. Hardly a ringing endorsement for this girl. We returned to drinking in our room.

Eventually, we made our way back down the strip - walking again - past Excalibur and to Luxor, where we planned to hit up Ra, a club where another friend of ours from the hockey team already was. Buzzed on beer and caffeine at this point (I'd had a few of those B to the E things), I played around with the slot machines past which the line into the club wound, emptying my pocket of its change. I excitedly would win two dollars and announce that I was only down $98 on the day, then I'd just as quickly lose the two dollars. Finally we made it through the line to the door, where I had to fork over $20 for the privilege of seeing the inside. Then the bouncer negged one of my friends because he was wearing sneakers. I believe he spent the evening at the roulette tables. The club was a lot of fun, and normally I hate clubs, especially here in L.A., which this place reminded me of, but I had a good time at Ra. I'd go back, which is saying something.

[Portions omitted. Some of what happened in Vegas is going to stay in Vegas.]

The next morning, after losing an hour of sleep due to Daylight Savings, we somehow got ourselves up and out of bed just in time to check out of the hotel by checkout time. We folded ourselves back into the truck and drove to Buffalo Bill's on the state line, where we attacked a cheap (and correspondingly bad) buffet for lunch, and then we suffered through miserable traffic, finally returning to L.A. after 8:00.

By the way, my car's still not fixed. The fuel pump blew out and the new part's on backorder from Germany.

So that's my Vegas story. Yep, the luck was terrible, but it was a great weekend and I don't regret it at all. I'd do it all over again...as soon as my car gets fixed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Crash And Burn

Well, unfortunately, my computer crashed, so I'm going to keep this short because I'm in a computer lab at school. Don't expect many updates in the immediate future while I sort all this out. Unfortunately, the Vegas story will have to wait, possibly forever, unless there's some sort of demand for it.

As for the preseason baseball picks, here they are:
World Series: Yankees over Cubs
AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Rangers
AL Wild Card: Red Sox
NL East: Marlins
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Padres
NL Wild Card: Mets
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
AL Cy Young: Randy Johnson
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy
AL Rookie of the Year: Scott Kazmir
NL Rookie of the Year: Gavin Floyd

I'd elaborate on these picks, but I just don't feel like getting into it while I'm stuck here in the lab. In October you can remind me of these and laugh if I was horribly wrong.

2005 Season Preview - The Best Pitching Staffs

I know I said I'd post this over the weekend, but I had a crazy Vegas trip that will be covered in a future post. Anyway, the season's underway by now, but I can still pick my top pitchers. Later this week, I'll also throw out some general predictions for the season, so stay tuned. For now, here's the best staffs in baseball.

1. New York Yankees
Money talks, and nobody spends more than George Steinbrenner. Not surprisingly, the Yanks are the only team to end up on my lists of the top pitching staffs, outfields, and infielders. Obviously the focal point of the Yankees' staff is the Big Unit, Randy Johnson. He's 41 and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. In fact, he's started at least 34 games in every season but one since he turned 34. He actually tied for the major league lead in games started last year. At age 40. Only one of the five pitchers he tied with was over 30. Oh yeah, he led the majors in strikeouts and WHIP, too. While I could go on and on about the Unit, this is about staffs as a whole. As usual, the Yankees will finish games off with Mariano Rivera, who was the only one in the majors to top 50 saves last season. Carl Pavano, Mike Mussina, and Jaret Wright back up Johnson in the rotation. Last year, Pavano won 18 games for the Marlins and finally lived up to the hype surrounding him when the Red Sox traded him for Pedro Martinez many moons ago. Mussina slipped a little last season, as his ERA ballooned to 4.59 and he worked the fewest innings since his rookie season. He's still one of the top control pitchers in the game, though. Wright won 15 games last season and found the stuff that made him a World Series Game 7 starter as a rookie in 1997.

2. Chicago Cubs
The important words about the Cubs' staff are "when healthy," as in, "When healthy, this staff is absolutely nasty on hitters." Case in point - Mark Prior, who starts the season on the DL. In 2003 he showed what he could do when healthy - 18 wins and 245 strikeouts. Prior expects to return soon. He also expected to return soon when he started last season on the DL, though. If you thought I was going to say Kerry Wood or Greg Maddux was the Cubs' second-best starter, you thought wrong. Carlos Zambrano has enormous talent to go with an enormous temper, and unless he does something crazy to earn himself several suspensions or an ass-kicking that sends him to the DL, he might improve on his 2.74 ERA from last season. Don't forget that he led the majors with 20 hit batsmen last year, also. Wood is another injury-prone fireballer who, if healthy, will rack up wins, strikeouts, and hit batsmen as well. Maddux turns 39 next week, but despite his age he's still pitching well. He won 16 games last season and maintained his legendary control, walking just 1.4 batters per nine innings. There are few athletes, if any, whom I respect more than Greg Maddux. Beyond injuries, the big question mark for the Cubs is their bullpen. LaTroy Hawkins, whom I have very little respect for, was handed the closer's job again after inheriting it from the injured Joe Borowski last season. He picked up 25 saves while blowing nine opportunities. Nothing special. He has had an ERA under 3.00 in each of the last three seasons, though, so he's capable of doing a good job. So, to sum up - when healthy, and if the patchwork bullpen holds up, the Cubs have a dope staff.

3. Boston Red Sox
To compete with the Yankees, you've gotta spend like the Yankees. The defending World Champs have a stacked rotation led by Curt Schilling, who is another star pitcher beginning the season on the DL. His famous bloody ankle is still bothering him, but he's scheduled to return soon. He went 21-6 last season and also earned himself free drinks for life in Boston. Keith Foulke, the Sox' other major acquisition before last season, saved 32 games and earned himself free drinks for life in Boston as well. Together, they earned Theo Epstein free drinks for life in Boston. New acquisition Matt Clement will similarly try to earn himself a spot in Red Sox lore this year, as he tries to improve on last year's 9-13 record. He averaged over a strikeout an inning last season, and I expect him to surpass his career high of 14 wins this year. I used to know Bronson Arroyo for being the weirdo who wore uniform number 69 when he was a Pittsburgh Pirate; now I know him for being the weirdo with blond cornrows whom Tim McCarver calls "Brandon." But Arroyo came into his own last season, posting a 1.22 WHIP. Another pitcher who's good at keeping runners off base is David Wells, who got somewhat rocked on Opening Day, but should rebound from that after his hangover wears off. Last season he led the NL by walking just .92 hitters per nine innings.

4. Florida Marlins
Josh Beckett is still best known for his MVP performance in the 2003 World Series, and really, that's all he's accomplished in his career. However, his games started have increased in each of his big league seasons, and if he avoids injury this season, he's destined for big things. His ERA this spring was 0.98. Guillermo Mota will be closing games for the first time in his career, and as a Phillies fan, I hope he fails miserably, although I doubt this will be the case. Mota was one of the best setup men in the league in L.A. and will probably infuriate the Phillies (and the rest of the league) in the ninth inning this season. Like Beckett, A.J. Burnett is a pitcher whose promise has been clouded by injury, although Burnett did pull it together in 2002 when he tossed five shutouts. If he's healthy, Burnett is likely to top his '02 stat line and have a career year. 39-year-old Al Leiter is the geezer of the staff, but he's returning to the site of his '97 World Series win, and he still has good stuff, posting a 3.21 ERA last year. The always-likable Dontrelle Willis (except when he pitches against the Phils) slumped a little bit last season after his 2003 Rookie of the Year campaign. The question surrounding him is whether it was the typical sophomore slump or whether NL hitters figured out his wack motion. I think it's the former. If so, he'll make the Marlins' rotation one of the best in baseball.

5. Minnesota Twins
I'm very proud of the fact that I picked Johan Santana to win last year's AL Cy Young Award before the season started. He wasn't even an all-star, but he led the AL in wins, strikeouts, and WHIP (and was second in ERA, nearly winning the pitching Triple Crown). He's only 26. He might very well do it all again, but this time around, it won't be a surprise. Joe Nathan's move to the Twin Cities and the closer role last season was a success, as he saved 44 games and was the Twins' all-star representative. Preserving leads for him is probably the best setup man in the league, Juan Rincon. He pitched 77 games in relief (and won 11 of them), while keeping his ERA to 2.63. Phillies castoff Carlos Silva is a solid starter for the Twins, going 14-8 last season. Yep, that would have tied for the Phils lead in wins. And for some reason, I like Kyle Lohse despite his 13 losses last season. I think he'll tend more toward his '02 and '03 numbers, when he won 13 and 14 games, respectively.

Honorable Mention: San Diego Padres
Quick, who led the majors last season with a 2.27 ERA, far ahead of Randy Johnson's second-best 2.60? That would be Padres ace Jake Peavy. He could very well be this year's Johan Santana. He wasn't an all-star last season, either. Peavy will celebrate his 24th birthday on May 31, 10 days after I do the same. I am quite jealous. Closer Trevor Hoffman has reached 31+ saves in nine of the last 10 seasons, and if he does so again this year, he'll pass John Franco for second on the all-time saves list. He saved 41 games last season. And when it's "Trevor Time," and he enters a game to the foreshadowing tolling of AC/DC's "Hells Bells," it's one of the most electric feelings in baseball. Seriously. I get chills watching it on TV. Second-year Japanese import Akinori Otsuka is the NL's answer to Juan Rincon - the best setup man in the league. With his 1.75 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings, he was third in Rookie of the Year voting last season. Brian Lawrence won 15 games last season and is certainly capable of repeating that performance. And Woody Williams returns to San Diego to pitch in spacious PETCO Park after going 45-22 in a three-plus-year stint with the Cardinals.

What about...: San Francisco Giants
Yep, they have Jason Schmidt, probably the best pitcher in the NL. He won 18 games last season and is impossibly stingy when it comes to giving up hits. And they also have new acquisition Armando Benitez, who led the NL in saves last season with 47. So that'll take care of every fifth day and the occasional lead that a Bonds-led offense provides. But the Giants' staff is pretty thin beyond those two. There's the mediocre Brett Tomko, who doesn't walk many but doesn't strike many out, either. There's Jerome Williams and his puka-shell necklace and his 17 hit batters last season. Williams pitches well only when you make him take his necklace off, which the Devil Rays made him do on June 8 last season. He then held them to one run and four hits in seven innings en route to the win. And their top middle reliever is Jim Brower, who led the league with 89 appearances last season but also had 10 wild pitches in 93 innings.

Disappearing Act: Houston Astros
It's Roger Clemens (2.98 ERA, 18 wins, 218 strikeouts in 2004) and Roy Oswalt (3.49, 20, 206) in the rotation and Brad Lidge (1.90 ERA, 29 saves) closing things out. Beyond that, who knows? Andy Pettitte is healthy again, and a season like those he had in Yankee pinstripes could make the 'Stros formidable foes. On the other hand, he averaged 5.5 innings per start last season. The rotation behind those three starters is filled with unknowns. Same for the bullpen behind Lidge. The top setup man is Dan Wheeler, whose career 4.95 ERA won't help secure any leads.

The Worst Pitching Staff In Baseball: Colorado Rockies
Well, the Royals didn't sweep my "worst" awards, thanks to the Rockies. Their best pitcher just may be Chin-Hui Tsao, a third-year major leaguer out of Taiwan who's starting the season on the DL. He was projected to be the closer, but elbow tendinitis will force the Rockies to go with a committee of gopherballers. The Patriarch, Joe Kennedy, somehow managed an ERA under 4.00 last year, his first season in Coors Field. He's the ace of the staff, if you couldn't tell from his 9-7 record last season. The number two starter, Jason Jennings, was the 2002 NL Rookie of the Year, but last season he allowed more hits than anyone else in the league and was fourth in walks allowed and second in earned runs allowed as well. Shawn Chacon will move back to the rotation after embarrassing himself in the closer's role last season. He had 35 saves...but also threw nine wild pitches in 63 1/3 innings and had an ERA of 7.11, which made batters oh thank heaven. The Rockies' setup crew is predictably awful, and the best one might be the anonymous Scott Dohmann, who as a rookie last year struck out 49 batters in 46 innings with a 4.11 ERA. With a staff like this in a ballpark like Coors Field, it's quite likely the Rockies will need to score 12 runs every time out in order to win, as they did on Opening Day.

Friday, April 01, 2005

2005 Season Preview - The Best Outfields

Welcome to Part 2 of my season preview. Yesterday I looked at the best infields in the major leagues; today, I'll break down the best outfields. I'm getting more and more psyched for baseball season - today was a beautiful day in L.A. and I went out and threw the ball around for the first time in a long while. I can't wait for Opening Day. So here's a look at the top outfields in baseball...

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Garret Anderson, Chone Figgins/Steve Finley, Vladimir Guerrero)
Despite the half-assed team name change, Orange County is home to the best outfield in baseball. Vlad, the reigning AL MVP, is the best all-around outfielder in the game. He's batted over .300 in each of his major league seasons, and he's good for 30 HR and 110 RBI every year, not to mention his cannon arm. He seemed right at home in Anaheim and there's no reason he won't duplicate his '04 numbers. With the acquisition of Steve Finley, Garret Anderson will move back to left field, where he's spent most of his career. Anderson has been quietly one of the most consistent hitters of the last decade, and he's batted over .300 each of the past seasons as well. Despite his age, Finley played all 162 games last season and hit a career-high 36 homers. If he does run into injury trouble, the speedy and versatile Chone Figgins - a guy who I really like watching play - is ready to move from the infield to center, where he played 54 games last year. I'm going to the Angels-Rangers Opening Day game on Monday - a battle between the best outfield and the best infield in baseball.

2. Florida Marlins (Miguel Cabrera, Juan Pierre, Paul Lo Duca/Juan Encarnacion)
Juan Pierre is, in my opinion, one of the scariest hitters for a pitcher to face. He doesn't have incredible power or anything - he had a career-high three homers last season - but he's the kind of player who can rattle a pitcher and change the course of a game with a scratch single and brilliant baserunning. He'll get on base (he led the NL in hits last season), and then he'll steal on you (he's been in the top two in the league in steals each of the last four seasons). He makes pitchers forget about the hitter, and when the hitter is someone like Miguel Cabrera, that's a problem for opposing teams. Cabrera, who will turn 22 this month, racked up 112 RBI last season and has nothing but upside. Juan Encarnacion will the be the third outfielder, and Encarnacion is a guy who's capable of 90 RBI, especially in this lineup. Two-time all-star Paul Lo Duca will mostly catch, but he's also capable of playing some outfield - he's spent at least a few games there in each of the past five seasons.

3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Carl Crawford, Alex Sanchez, Aubrey Huff)
Crawford is another exciting young player to watch, and perhaps the fastest man in baseball. Crawford, as a 22-year old last season, earned his first all-star selection and led the league in steals and triples. Huff will move to right field from third base, and he was the Rays' leader in average (.297), homers (29), and RBI (104) last season. He's also the Rays' all-time leader in 11 offensive categories, although that's not exactly a ticket to Cooperstown just yet. Sanchez is another speed demon who stole 52 bases two seasons ago and hit .322 last year for the Tigers. If he can fit those two facets of his game together, this trio could surprise a lot of people with their productivity.

4. Boston Red Sox (Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar/Trot Nixon)
This group was a big reason the Red Sox broke that annoying curse. It's hard to dislike Manny Ramirez because he seems to alternate between not caring about a thing at all and having fun doing everything. In spite of, or perhaps because of this attitude, he's an eight-time all-star who hit 43 homers last season and has a career slugging percentage of .599. The guy deserves his status as one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Johnny Damon does things like sign book deals that forbid him from cutting his hair until his book signing tour is done. Oh, he's also an on-base machine and scores more than Theo Epstein would at a Boston bachelorette party. Trot Nixon, despite his injuries last season, batted .315, and Kevin Millar can fill in as well when he's not playing first base/drinking Jack Daniel's in the clubhouse.

5. New York Yankees (Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams, Gary Sheffield)
The Evil Empire, not surprisingly, is the only team to place both its infield and outfield in my top five. Sheffield, Bonds's BALCO buddy, hit 36 homers last season, no small feat for a righty in Yankee Stadium. He also drew 92 walks, and in a lineup like the Yankees', baserunners frequently turn into runs. Matsui increased his production from last year, and it's apparent he's only going to get better over the next couple years as he continues to grow accustomed to American pitching. He drove in 108 runs and scored 109 last year. Williams reclaims the center field job full-time after the Kenny Lofton experiment wasn't a success and the Yanks dumped him on the Phillies. Although Bernie's slowing down with age, he still walked 85 times last year and played 97 games in center.

Honorable Mention: San Francisco Giants (Barry Bonds, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou)
Bonds is hurt, and reports have him being out of action from anywhere between a month and the whole season. I can't stand him, but he'll probably get his at-bats this season and make the most of them. No player in baseball changes a game like Barry Bonds. He's the baseball equivalent of Ken Jennings (if Jennings juiced). Alou is reunited with his pops after a nine-year separation. He can still produce - he was in the top 10 in the NL in runs, homers, and RBI last season. And Grissom, despite having lost a step, still led the Giants in hits last year. They're old, but they're still good. However, the Giants will go as Barry Bonds goes this season.

What about...: Chicago White Sox (Scott Podsednik, Aaron Rowand, Jermaine Dye)
Magglio Ordonez is gone. So is Carlos Lee. But the White Sox still could get plenty of production from this outfield, especially from new addition Podsednik. I wish the Phillies had gone after the Pod Racer instead of getting Lofton, who is so old he used to room with Cool Papa Bell when he was a rookie. Although his batting average fell a whopping .070 from 2003 to 2004, he might find his stroke again in the AL. Plus, once he's on base, he's a terror - 70 steals last season. Rowand is a star quickly on the rise. I bet you didn't realize his slugging percentage of .544 was seventh in the AL last season. He's 27 years old and really could be entering the prime of his career. Look for a lot of production out of him. Jermaine Dye is a wild card. He was disappointing in his stint with the A's, but he's still a former all-star who's cracked the century mark in RBI three times. He's 31, so he might be on the decline now, but he's also a guy who could reacquire his stroke on the South Side.

Disappearing Act: Cleveland Indians (__________, Coco Crisp, ____________)
Who are the Indians' outfielders? Good question. Maybe you know center fielder Coco Crisp because he sounds like a breakfast cereal. You probably don't know any of his stats, though, because they're far from inspiring. In left field, the Indians would be starting the equally uninspiring Jody Gerut...but he's hurt. Knee surgery. Out until June. In his place will be Casey Blake, who hasn't played an inning in the outfield in his 353-game major league career. In right field, the Indians would be starting Juan Gonzalez...but he's hurt. Right hamstring strain. In the case of most players, I'd say this injury won't keep him out for a while, but in Juan Gone's case, he could miss half the season. He hasn't played 100 games since 2001, when he drove in 140 runs for the Indians. Since then, he hasn't totaled 140 RBI. Maybe the return to the Jake will be good for Gonzalez; more likely, he'll be run down by injury all season and the Indians will be forced to go with Ryan Ludwick and his .239 career average in 85 games.

The Worst Outfield In Baseball: Kansas City Royals (Eli Marrero/Terrence Long, David DeJesus, Matt Stairs)
Yep, the Royals have both the worst infield and the worst outfield in the game. Stairs, at age 37, is the Royals' best outfielder, and his best years are long behind him. He did lead K.C. in walks last season...with 49. He also led them in strikeouts (92). In fairness to Marrero, he did bat .320 last season in 250 at-bats for the Braves. He's still a .250 career hitter, and he'll platoon with Terrence Long, who's probably happy to get out of PETCO Park, where he hit all of three homers - the first time in his career he hit fewer than 12. In center field is DeJesus, who as a rookie last season had the distinction of being the Royals' leader in sacrifice bunts last season. I'd guess that none of these guys would be starting on at least half the teams in baseball. Check back later this weekend to find out if the Royals win my award for worst pitching staff in baseball for the sweep!