More Baseball: Manny's Market

Its January 31st, 2009. Many sports fans will consider today the day before the Superbowl. But I'm from Boston, so I consider today 13 days until pitchers and catchers. If the Patriots aren't in the playoffs, then its just the pre-baseball pre-season. This makes perfect sense to anyone from Boston.

With that in mind, here's my third baseball post in as many days. After yesterday, I got to thinking about when Manny's punishment would end. All along, I expected the Dodgers to throw down 3 years 60 million. But then, after looking up the Cardinals 2009 salaries, I looked at the Dodgers. Things aren't looking good for Manny; the Dodgers are already floating 118 million, the highest in team history. Granted, they offered Manny 22.5 earlier this season, but that's before giving Rafael Furcal 15.7 per season (which makes zero sense--a shortstop coming off injury with a career OPS of .764... yikes). They could still make the deal, but that jacks their salary figure to 2nd in baseball.

So, I did some digging. Here's my list of teams most likely to sign the Man-ram:

  • Oakland A's:
    An interesting home for Manny. A's. Though payroll rarely exceeds 60 million (only twice since 2000), they are only around 47m going into the season. And Manny Ramirez and Matt Holiday would make a great back-to-back. However, they only have 18 established players on the 25 man roster, so they need depth. Still Ramirez would instantaneously make them a contender for the West. And while the big free agent is not Beane's style, Manny is a sabermetrician's dream.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks:
    Once upon a time, the Diamondbacks won a World Series and managed to keep their payroll between 80 and 103 million (2001-2003). Give a team with their pitching an actual run producer in one of baseball's weakest divisions, and I smell Manny paying for himself. Their payroll rests around 67 million, so they could be a surprise player. If the Dodgers do sign Manny, then I think it will have been to keep him away from Arizona.
  • Florida Marlins:
    Don't laugh. The Marlins payroll totals 22.7 million--and yes, Manny would likely make as much as the rest of their team. Manny Ramirez puts butts in the seats. I won't say he pays for himself, but he does generate revenue and excitement. That's two things that the attention starved Marlins could desperately use.
  • San Francisco Giants:
    I'm assuming they've had enough with aging diva sluggers, and that's why they've been so quiet. But they have the need and the money to make this work. Their current salary is 14 million under the Barry years. But this team is so raw (or bad), that I don't think one slugger would make a difference. And San Fran was one of the few franchises who have seen a great hitter this century. Chances are Barry's blasts spoiled them--Manny wouldn't be as appreciated as he was in LA.

There's a few other teams out there who could take a shot--Minnesota and Cleveland could be in the mix. Thinking back to my baseball economy post, there's hesitancy in this market to risk committing this much money to such an unstable player. On a side note--I feel bad for the Brewers. After so much mediocrity, they are really investing in their franchise. I hope the fans can afford to come out and support the team.


A Little More Baseball: Manny to the Cards?

Albert Pujols mentioned that he'd like the Cards to invest in Manny Ramirez. Looking at their lineup, one can see why. Pujols hasn't had any real protection since the fade of Edmonds and the departure of Rolen. Ankiel faded last season (hitting well below .200 in both August and September), and expecting Glaus to play 162 requires crossing-fingers and sacrificing chickens. So, sure, the Cards could use another bat. And I would argue that Ramirez and Pujols are the two best right-handed hitters of my lifetime, and, perhaps, all-time. If you look at all the numbers, and not just home runs, then they are both better than that other guy.

But its not going to happen. If you look over at Cot's Baseball Contracts, then you'll see that the Cards salary is already at 99 million. Nothing suggests that the cards could afford Manny, even at a discount he's going to command 20 million a year. And, the Cards second best hitter is likely Ryan Ludwick, their young left field prospect who OPS'd .966 last year (compared to Manny's 1.041).

As I mentioned in my last post, Manny is in baseball purgatory. He is being punished for the second highest baseball crime: slacking (gambling, of course, is the worst). I honestly believe that if you could assure the Cardinals, or any team, that you'd get the Dodgers' Manny (.396 .489 .743 OPS+ of 219), they'd offer Boras' desired 6 years, 150 million in the time it took to grab a pen. But real life isn't MLB: The Show. Manny's Boston numbers last season (.299 .398 .529 OPS+ of 136) demonstrate that he will tank it if he is unhappy with his contract. And the very nature of this off-season ensures that, wherever he signs next season, he will be unhappy.

Hey, whoever, good luck with that.


Since Everyone is Talking about the Super Bowl, I'll write about Baseball

I just read a story over at MLB.com on baseball economics this year. While some high profile players have received big deals, many major leaguers are feeling the pinch of our struggling economy. Some big names have settled for small money (Milton Bradley with the Cubs for 10 million a season, Pat Burrell with the Rays for 8 million). While the figures might not seem small, they compare to a baseball economy 2 and 3 years ago that saw anybody on an all-star roster earning 15 million a season (above average guys like Johnny Damon, Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew and Alfonso Soriano come to mind). We're not talking about the superstar, "can't go to the bathroom or I'll miss his at bat" guys, but rather the quality, impact starters that fall just below that threshold.

But even those guys are feeling it this year. Jason Varitek is expected to see his pay reduced in half after one poor season. Bobby Abreau, a formidable OPS guy, can't find a long-term deal. Neither can Adam Dunn, one of my favorite players to watch (and someone who hits balls somewhere in the vicinity of Venus). I'll leave Manny out of this right now since I think his lack of contract is a baseball penance... The pinch is everywhere. Teams in baseball aren't necessarily trying to "win" this year--they are trying to survive. You'll see a lot of minor leaguers filling out major league rosters this year, while a few veterans with fuel in their tanks sit home.

That got me to thinking that this is probably true across our whole country. We are all very much in a cultural atmosphere of survival. I wonder how the oppulance of the Superbowl will feel this year--if something pathetically won't quite jive. I can say I don't feel like celebrating anything. I also wonder how this attitude plays into Obama's election--did we vote for him out of hope for a better future, or rather for the fact that he didn't believe we were winning, that things weren't right. Didn't we need a leader to give us that kind of honesty? I would propose that we were not, as some critics might have us believe, deceived by a dream; we were convinced by the nakedness of honest, self-directed criticism. Perhaps. We certainly did celebrate his election... could that have only been little more than a week ago?

The exception to my baseball analogy, of course, would be the Yankees, who spent around 440 million dollars in about 10 days. They are out there trying to win. But, I think I hate the Yankees as much as the rest of the country seems to hate Republicans, so lets not include them in that "everybody."


On Thinking and Clarity

The following material is a response to Richard Lanham's Style: An Anti-Textbook. I shared it with my expository students today. It relies on a ridiculous simplification. My use of the terms "rhetoric" and "composition" are completely idiosyncratic and reductionary.

I’ll write as preface that these remarks probably won’t be clear. And the reason they won’t be clear is that I’m thinking. Or, perhaps I should say, I am still thinking, and thinking doesn’t tend to sit still. What I’m reacting to is Lanham’s question “Does clear writing really make for clear thinking?” And, while my thoughts are conflicted, they go something like this:

Clear thinking isn’t necessarily representative of quality thinking. Thinking is messy and conflicted. In fact, when it comes to teaching, we often must choose to teach either thinking or clarity. As a teacher, when I think of clarity and Freshman Composition I think of assignments such as “what did you do on your summer vacation?” Because the question is insipid, students can focus on the expression, the clarity, without any thinking getting in the way. If you want to teach clarity [prose], then you can’t teach thinking.

Thinking back (uh oh) to an earlier lecture, I discussed the principle canons of rhetoric germane to an Expository Writing class: invention, arrangement, and style. Rhetoric (as a pedagogic discipline) primarily concerns itself with invention—generating ideas. Composition primarily concerns itself with style—communicating those ideas. Arrangement gets caught between the two: for rhetoric, awareness of generic (and in genre) forms can help stimulate invention; for composition awareness of structure can facilitate communication.

So, thinking of this class, I hope you see that the emphasis is on Composition. All our work engaging a network is to help you generate ideas. And allowing you to choose your own area of interest is to “limit” your thinking (is this true? I don’t know). Let me explain: last semester I taught this same course on the history of education. Students needed to compare and contrast Plato’s allegory of the cave with Cicero’s analogy of the healthy civic body as regards the purpose of higher education. This was a course on approaching complex, messy ideas. And relating them. And, as expected, the writing was messy.

Now I’m toning down the reading list. In fact, I am essentially allowing you to generate your own weekly reading lists (is Lanham right? Do you read?). But I don’t think I am necessarily teaching clarity. I haven’t used that word yet. And, as a deconstructionist, I abhor simplicity (simplicity and certainty always mask complexity and doubt). This aversion to simplicity goes along with my aversion to teaching writing in favor of the possibility of exposing W-R-I-T-I-N-G. But I wrote about that here.

See. I knew this wouldn’t end clearly.


We Might Overcome, Maybe, If We Really Work at It

As I wrote over at Black Masks the other day, all of the Obama love has my deconstructive sense tingling. I think I'll let Ill Doctrine offer my hesitation:

The work is never finished. This theme has been rearing its head everywhere in my life recently: research (Levinas and the relation to the other as saying rather than said), teaching (Jim Corder and Burke on interminable social relations as the foundation for blogging), and, well, I guess I only have two facets to my life. Oh, well, there's that cancer thing. That seems pretty interminable as well.


Santos on Fish on Donoghue Take Two

My last post came on little sleep, so I thought I might try again. Actually, I already tried again in an email exchange with an old friend. He wrote to get my thoughts on Fish's piece. Here's my (hopefully) more coherent response:

As a rhetorician, I'm in a weird spot. I am a member of the humanities, sure, but not necessarily the Humanities [the remnants of the Arnold's liberal arts, those non-utilitarian caches of Culture]. I do things, I produce things, I engage actual people and practices. Although I work with "high theory," I attempt to reconcile high theory with everyday life. Rhetoric has been disparaged for the last 200 years by the very disciplines that Fish sees as dying.

Chances are this is some remnant of the Clark experience. The whole "peas in a pod" thing, our social obligation, blah, blah, blah.

Still, there is a part of me that believes education involves periods of pointless exploration (in rhetoric we refer to this as "invention"). The H/humanities excel at such intellectual wandering. Yet, in an era marked by increased demand for results, education is more and more becoming exercises in accountable delivery. It is hard to measure wandering. So we resort to teaching rather than attempt to learn.


Fish on Donoghue on the State of the Humanities

Stanley Fish has a review of Frank Donoghue's recent book The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. Reading his review, I couldn't help but think of my recent post on the links between my teaching and Bill Readings' University in Ruins. Fish sums up Donoghue's position:

The opposition between this view and the view held by the heirs of Matthew Arnold’s conviction that poetry will save us could not be more stark. But Donoghue counsels us not to think that the two visions are locked in a struggle whose outcome is uncertain. One vision, rooted in an “ethic of productivity” and efficiency, has, he tells us, already won the day; and the proof is that in the very colleges and universities where the life of the mind is routinely celebrated, the material conditions of the workplace are configured by the business model that scorns it

Fish quotes Donoghue's conclusion: "that all fields deemed impractical, such as philosophy, art history, and literature, will henceforth face a constant danger of being deemed unnecessary." And Fish applauds Donoghue's utter pessimism: there is no future for the humanities, no return to glory, no Renaissance. They will all be subsumed under the wave of productivity.

I agree with Donoghue and Fish regarding the humanities future--especially in these economic times. As a rhetorician and a writing instructor, I am not sure how to feel about such a prognosis. While I believe that Universities have a larger obligation to craft citizens rather than scholars, I also feel that literature, philosophy, history, art, and all the other courses on the endangered species list help develop critical and imaginative thinking. These courses cannot be reduced to mere delivery (of static content). They train the brain to produce. But, as Fish points out, that's not the way these disciplines have conceptualized or marketed themselves in centuries past. Whether they can refashion themselves in the public's mind as something more than extravagance or intellectual decadence remains to be seen. But, while perhaps as not as absolutist as Fish and Donoghue, I remain skeptical.

Again: I am torn. I am torn because I feel that the Humanities have put themselves in this position. Referring again to Bill Readings' University in Ruins, this the lingering malaise of the Modern Enlightenment's divorcing academia from the public sphere (Kant's mantra to "think, but obey" and his distinction between public and private faculties). Our faculties need to become public once again. The University, as a place X, crumbled. Readings concludes: "In attempting to sketch how one might dwell in the ruins of the University without belief but with a commitment to Thought" (175). And rhetoric, when taught well, does this better than most of the disciplines surrounding it. Sophistic rhetoric is the art of eschewing belief, of dwelling in ruins, or appreciating agonism and celebrating insecurity--all while encouraging critical, thoughtful engagement. Welcome to the parlor. We might not be able to craft Matthew Arnolds, but I'll settle for Kevin Kellys--people who are active participants in actual (i.e., not-necessarily-academic) social networks. And that's the real crux--for Kant, for the humanities, for students: in the 21st century, the era of the network, you can't go it alone; you have to produce something for someone.

Productivity is not necessarily a dirty term. The digital citizenship course I am working with this semester aims to produce humanitarians--people who are critical participants in a community. People who are ready, able, and willing to work with other humans. My job, as a "new" professor, is to help increase the productivity of that work. I do not aim to rebuild a University, rather I hope to build people (such work is risky, ideological, difficult, controversial--but anything worth teaching should involve all four of these things). This is what the humanities need to sell in a very concrete fashion: we build good [productive] people. (Of course, I work at a research university... and they don't give out tenure for producing people...)

Thinking about First Posts and Abouts

Today my students will be setting up there blogs. I wanted to think about first posts and/or about pages. These are important to establish the tone, feel, and personality of a blog. Here's some source material:

Whether through the first post, or through the "about," or through what you choose to label your links section, some of your important first decisions regarding your blog will be developing your writerly persona. Just as important as telling readers what you'll be writing about is telling them who will be writing. And this telling need not be explicit (though in the case of Dooce it certainly is, although I would argue that her explicity tells much about her--it is strategically over-explicit--an indication that her writing will share personal details).



This is worth the time:

Uploaded by titounetsan


Productive Mess Hits the Airwaves

Here's some shameless self-promotion: the new issue of Kairos includes my article with Nathaniel Rivers and Ryan Weber "Productive Mess: First-Year Composition Takes the University's Agonism Online." The article has two main arguments: first, it discusses how to better integrate CMSs into FYC. Briefly: increasing interaction and productivity requires careful, well-planned structure (arguing for heuristics)--going digital doesn't necessarily mean more engaged students. And the article provides one particular structure that we found effective.

Second--the article questions the purpose of FYC, and, in greater scope, of University education. I believe I will be writing/publishing on this more in the future. Essentially, I think the growth of digital technology will increasingly move us away from the Enlightenment University (as a center of knowledge production) and more toward the university as a center of civil discourse and engagement. Those who know me know my appreciation for Bill Readings' University in Ruins; I want to spend some more time with that book. I believe Readings' themes permeate the entire article, even if there is limited discussion of his work.


Tour of the Internets

Here's a work in progress. Next semester I am giving my students a tour of the internet early in our digital citizenship course. Please feel free to make suggestions in the comments.

General Resources for starting a blog-type thingie

Art Traditional and Digital

Cool Hunting


Finance / Business

Video Games

  • Penny Arcade, some of the most disorienting writing on the web... but everyone in the video game community is aware of these guys
  • Slash.dot and engadget have robust forums dedicated to games
  • joystiq
  • games for lunch
  • dasgamer
  • major nelson, x-box insider and microsoft employee


Comics and Funnies

Entertainment / Pop culture

Professional Trolling / Punking / Debunking




Smart People Writing Smart Things


Jack McCoy, Ciceronian Rhetoric, and the art of Pathetic Conclusions

Tomorrow I'm planning a quick, introductory lecture on Ciceronian argument. As such, I'll be referring to the six-part structure extracted from the Catiline Orations and discussed at length in De Inventione. In brief:

  • Exordium [prepares the hearer... this can be creative, it depends on kairos; thinking of They Say, I Say, this is where you make the case for "who cares?" or "why care?"]
  • Narration ["the facts of the case," here is an objective overview, or a statement of a problem]
  • Partition [here is where the speaker lays out exactly what they will be arguing; defining the scope of there work. What they hope to accomplish]
  • Confirmation [the presentation of evidence]
  • Refutation [respond to possible objections]
  • Peroration [sums up the argument, usually incites pathos of some kind]

In putting this lecture together, I hoped to find an example of one of Jack McCoy's closing arguments from Law and Order, by far my favorite television show. Nathaniel River, Ryan Weber and I have talked about doing an article comparing Law and Order and CSI in light of Sophist (non-Aristoletian) rhetoric vs. Platonic philosophy. In CSI, cases are always solved "beyond a shadow of a doubt." The show is full of cliches testifying that "the evidence doesn't lie" or "there is always a clue." There's even a few episodes in which Grissom staunchly denies that "human observation" (i.e., eyewitnesses) shouldn't be considered as evidence at all. In the end, a CSI episode wraps up nice and neat (even if there is at times some question as to whether the crime was justified). As a rhetorician, I prefer the "mess" of Law and Order: at the end of every episode, regardless of the legal decision, there is always residual moral ambiguity. In Law and Order, stasis is never as absolute as it is in CSI. In CSI, a dead body always signifies a crime to be solved. In Law and Order, a dead body signifies a social problem. Whether there was even a crime is often a matter of the morality of the jury (and viewer).

Anywho, in searching for a video clip, I came across a PDF article "The Art of Closing" on the impact of Law and Order on juridical practice. While I had heard of the CSI effect (the idea that the show has made jury's expect rigorous scientific evidence for every conviction), I had not heard of a Law and Order effect. Essentially the author, attorney David A. Gradwhol, argues that the performative and emotive dimensions of McCoy's closings are having a noticeable impact on jury expectations. I think his conclusions make sound advice for any rhetorician:

  • While attorneys might not be able to reduce their closings to the five-minute (or less) Law and Order versions, they should push for focused brevity: "a focused closing has the power to etch the merits of the client's position onto the jurors' minds."
  • Avoid jargon: "lawyers should not confuse the jury with obscure legal terms... The lawyers' verbal arsenal should include analogies and key words that elicit strong mental and emotional images for the jury."
  • While actual closings might not be able to offer moral soliliquies, they can strive "to keep the moral high ground... as they may present issues of moral concern about honoring contracts or providing an injured person with the compensation he or she deserves"

When teaching "academic writing," I have always struggled to find a helpful way to present conclusions. But I think these two final points offer a possibility of conceptualizing the conclusion as an emphasis on "why care?" Sure, the conclusion needs to remind us of the logos for the argument, but it should wrap this logos in pathos. The conclusion elicits cooperation by arousing passion. Truth can never be divorced from desire--and a strong conclusion needs to remind the audience why they should care to endorse a particular truth.


Rowan Update

Its been awhile since I have put up anything on Rowan, and I thought I should share our good news. Rowan has finished her final round of chemotherapy. Hooray!

We've been having some trouble with her temporary prosthetic (as in it fell out, and Megan and I, despite our best wrestling moves, cannot get that thing back in...), but otherwise things are going well. We will have to travel to Miami once every 6 weeks, and then once every three months for the next year. Rowan will be on high alert for the next calendar year--we have to be extremely careful protecting her from infections (infections, even minor ones, still mean a hospital stay). But they'll be no more overnight stays in the Jackson Memorial Pediatric Oncology ward. Let me say that again: there will be no more overnight stays in the Jackson Memorial Pediatric Oncology ward.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped us along the way. The support of family, friends, and strangers has meant so much to us through this whole process.


Lessig's New Book

One of my heroes, Lawrence Lessig, has a new book out. While the website is up, the book isn't available for free yet (but I'm sure it will be soon). In the meantime, he recently gave an interview with Colbert.

I'll have to pick up Lessig's new book--I am interested in how this interview suggests a change in his argument. He seems to be completely rejecting copyright in this interview (vs. his more moderate position in earlier books). I am also a bit surprised about his "children" argument; I would think that pushing for the economic benefits of free-cultural exchange would be more persuasive to the Colbert audience. I guess its time I give Amazon more money...


Jim Corder as an Ethic for Blogging

Today I presented Jim Corder's "Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love" to my expository writing class. I believe Corder's propositions for "writing with love" serve as particularly apt principles for approaching digital writing. Corder pushes for five core values:

  • The writer is exposed "...the arguer is alone, with no assurance at all that the other or any audience will be kindly disposed")
  • All writing is provisional ("we can learn to dispense with what we imagined was absolute truth and to pursue the reality of things only partially knowable")
  • Writers are not authorities ("an authoritative position, anyway, is a prison both to us and to any audience")
  • All writing by nature closes, we must work to attempt to keep it open ("Each utterance may deplete inventive possibilities if a speaker fails into arrogance, ignorance, or dogma. But each utterance, if the speaker having spoken, opens again, may also nurture and replenish the speaker's invective world and enable him or her to reach out around the other")
  • Writing should be both personal and thoughtful--not detached, objective, or positively referential ("we must rescue time by putting it into our discourses and holding it there, learning to speak and write not argumentative displays and presentations, but arguments full of the anecdotal, personal, and cultural reflections that will make us plain to all others, thoughtful histories and narratives that reveal us as we're reaching for the others.")

As I was reading Corder today, I couldn't help but notice how much he shares with Levinas, especially in terms of fragmenting the stability of the subject-writer, of indebting the composition of the subject-writer to the author. Of thinking of writing other(than)wise.

I also find it interesting that, writing in 1987, Corder sees technology as speeding up time (he cites electronic mail as an example). I argue the opposite: that forums and especially wikis create a new lived experience of time. This new time somewhat (not completely) outs writing from time--frees us for contemplation and reflection.


Expository Writing as Digital Citizenship

Its a new semester, and I am teaching two sections of upper-division expository writing. I am excited to return to a previous approach: blogging as composition. Last time I tried this with freshman we and we were quite pleased with the results. Here's what this semester's course description looks like:

This course is an attempt to reimagine writing instruction, moving away from 20th century models based on print scholarship and toward 21st century models of digital citizenship. My premise: the purpose of the contemporary university has to be more attentive to maximizing new communicative tools, including blogs, wikis, aggregators, bookmarks, and networking technologies.

Traditional writing classes, especially those “academic” in nature, instruct students to write for imagined audiences. Unfortunately, in practice, this is rarely the case—students end up writing for “a general conversation of mankind.” For many complicated reasons, cutting edge writing instruction has denounced writing for this universal / incorporeal audience. Yet, few alternatives present themselves to instructors: who can students write to? Can authentic audiences be a part of writing instruction?

This class is my experimental answer to this question. I am refiguring the way we teach writing. This semester you will be writing to an audience of your choosing—but you will have to demonstrate to me an authentic relationship with this audience. You will be entering into a discourse community, participating in its social conventions, and reporting back to the class on its values, purposes, and intrigues.

To explain: this will be a course on blogging. This is not to say that this will be a course that uses blogs. I am proposing something a bit more extensive than that. I am proposing that blogging will not simply augment the material of the course, it will compose the material of the course. Playfully, composing blogs will be the expository exercise.

Simultaneously, we will be reading, discussing, and (of course) writing about the viability of blogging as an approach to expository writing. We will discuss the goals and purposes of the traditional expository class in relation to your experiences in this class. We will use a contemporary academic argument handbook, They Say, I Say, assessing whether the values of academic prose translate into blogging. In their work, Graff and Birkenstein argue that “rote instruction [has] indeed encouraged passivity and drained writing of its creativity and dynamic relation to the social world” (xv). This class, then, can be understood as an attempt to revitalize and reprioritize writing. I am looking to teach a form of writing that is creative, dynamic, an integrally tied to your social world.

This work will culminate in a discussion on the broader conceptualization of blogging within our social sphere. You will use your experiences as a blogger to respond to the contemporary debate concerning the rigor and value of blogs.

This course will be run as a creative writing workshop. I imagine all of you will be writing on different topics (and entering into different communities, crafting different voices, different styles of blogs). Our class sessions, then, will be dedicated to providing peers with meaningful and helpful feedback (critical in its least pejorative sense). You should be prepared to share your work, ideas, and thoughts in a respectful manner.

The course, then, is an extension of my previous semester: on the purpose of higher education. I am further attempting to move beyond the Ruins of the Enlightenment institution, the knowledge factory, and toward something more social, democratic (?), and connected.


Now it feels like New Years

Tomorrow marks the first day of second semester here at USF, and I am in the middle of my "holiday" ritual--cleaning out the inboxes. Three email accounts, 2000 combined messages. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I do this at the beginning of every semester, my way of cleaning the slate and preparing myself for the new crop.