I am an active duty officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. All views expressed in this blog are my personal views as an individual and not those of the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

Friday, September 23, 2011

In the summertime, when the weather is fine...

I should be running right now but it's almost 9AM and still just 62 degrees out and foggy so I'm waiting for it to warm up a bit.  Now I'm not complaining about the weather here, but it's late September and I should probably accept that summer is just about over.

It's been a pretty good summer over all.  When I first got back in March, as you might have noticed, I was a bit of a frenzied mess mentally, inexpressibly relieved to be back but slightly disoriented by the shimmer of civilization.  My brain just felt like it was overheating a bit at times.  I remember trying to fill up my gas tank for the first time, getting it all wrong - trying to pump before I slid in my card, forgetting to select a grade - and wondering how something I'd done automatically for years could suddenly require such concentration.

But the initial dither of readjustment faded within a month or two (I now pump gas almost effortlessly, thank you), and since then I've just been enjoying life in S Cali, one of the world's great places to relax.  In May my youngest brother (E) came to visit (as previously briefed), in June it was my mom, and in July the middle brother (A).

After the big Grand Canyon trip, E and I spent a day
in Hollywood looking for amazing cars.

 We found some.

Mom on the USS Midway museum
Mom and me at the Grand Canyon (it never gets old)

A and I went to the SD zoo.  Love animals, hate zoos.

July-August was Scorpion Fire, a quick trip to NH, some more camping, and all kinds of other mishigas.  In September we sat a bunch of drills.  Also I ran the CFT and I got a 300(!).  First time I've aced a Marine Corps fitness test, though I still have plenty of work to do to reach my personal goals.

Yuma in July is hot...

...but at least it has an A&W!!

...and good sunsets.

Me man, make photogenic fire.

Chasing the sun from NH to CA

I also stood duty a few Sundays ago - September 11th.  Like so many of you who blogged/posted on that day, I thought about how quickly those ten years had passed and how things have changed since - in my life and in the world.  If you had asked me on 9/11 what I'd be doing exactly ten years later, I would never have imagined I'd be in a Marine Corps uniform, pistol on my belt, saluting the flag, preparing for a second deployment to Afghanistan.  Globally, on 9/11 the idea of "The End of History" ended as we recognized another ideological challenger to Western Democracy and entered the fight of our generation. (Unfortunately, much of the moral clarity of that period has since been lost - a situation for which I blame hyper-partisanship and a superficial and sensationalist press...but that's a whole other post).

Anyway, that just about brings us to today, when I'm on a five-day weekend, thanks to a 96 plus a day off for my birthday.  This Thursday I'll head out to Yuma, AZ for WTI (as previously briefed), where I'll be in the field until the end of October.  Somehow, that sand and heat just isn't the same as the CA coast.  So I'm gonna go out and enjoy it while I can.  See ya!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Greatest Ever, Part 1: Mariano Rivera

"We don't want to face him any more. He's too good. He belongs in a higher league. He should be banned from baseball." 
- Former Twins Manager
Tom Kelly

In the 140+ years of professional baseball in America, and the over four decades since the emergence of the role, there has never been a greater closer than Mariano Rivera, who made it official today when he saved his 602nd game, setting the all-time record.

I've been a fan of Mo's since he made his big league debut in 1995.  Inspired by his accomplishment and some other random neurons firing in my brain lately, I've decided to start a series of posts highlighting, IMHO, the greatest ever in a given category.  Feel free to disagree and suggest your own candidates. 

In the case of Mo or any athlete, some justification is required.  

First, some background.  For those who aren't familiar with baseball, the closer is a pitcher whose job it is to get the final few outs in a close game, thereby securing the win and earning a save.  It's easily the most high-pressure position in baseball, and requires not only phenomenal pitching but nerves of steel.  This is especially true in the playoffs, where a blown save can shift the momentum of an entire series.   

In Mo's case, he's now the all-time saves record holder, but even if he had never reached that summit, he still would have been the greatest in my book.  Consider some of his other records, for starters:
  • Post-season saves (42)
  • Post-season series clinching saves (9)
  • Post-season ERA (0.71(!!))
  • Post-season scoreless innings streak (34.1)
  • Regular season save conversion rate (89.3%) 
  • Though it's not an official stat, I'd venture he has the highest post-season conversion rate as well (min 20 appearances, say) at 91.3%
Next consider his longevity and consistency:
  • Most pitching appearances in American League history (1038)
  • Most consecutive seasons with at least 25 saves (15) and 30 saves (9)
  • Most All-Star selections as a pitcher (12)
Other incredible accomplishments:
  • Eight seasons with 40+ saves
  • Two seasons with 50+ saves
  • 1999 World Series MVP
  • 2003 ALCS MVP
  • And oh yeah, 5-time World Series Champion
But even all these numbers and records don't tell the whole story.  For one thing, Rivera has accomplished all this with just one pitch.  He throws no curve balls, no sinkers or change-ups.  Every batter in the Majors knows exactly what's coming - the cutter - they just can't do anything with it.  Mariano simply dominates hitters.

His achievements vis-à-vis other pitchers aren't bad either.  Consider that second to Mo with his 42 postseason saves is Brad Lidge, with 18.  After Trevor Hoffman, whose record Rivera just broke, the next highest regular season saves total belongs to Lee Arthur Smith with 478. Mo's 2003 post-season WHIP of .438, also a record, is over 60 points better than the next closet, .500 (Mike Scott, 1986). 

"I get the ball, I throw the ball and then I take a shower."
- Mariano Rivera 

Then there are the (much maligned) intangibles.  There is no stat for consistency of delivery or pinpoint precision, but Mo is legendary in both areas.  Often overlooked is how well a pitcher fields his position: Mo does so with an agility and intelligence that far surpasses most pitchers.  Finally, the aptly-numbered 42 (the last player grandfathered in when Jackie Robinson's number was retired throughout baseball) might be "the most respected player in the league," as Rangers slugger Michael Young put it.  His professionalism, deeply held religious values and serenity are reflected in the imperturbable calm he brings to the mound, even under the glaring spotlight of October baseball in New York.

"The most mentally tough person I've ever played with."
- Yankees Captain Derek Jeter

Though fans often forget it, the man is still human.  Like any closer, he has blown saves - none bigger than Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.  With a 2-1 lead in the 9th, a double by Tony Womack and a whisper-soft bloop single by Luis Gonzalez combined with some other factors to cost the Yankees their fourth straight Championship, and that in a year when the entire world was rooting for New York. 

But even that failure only emphasizes how unequaled Mo is at what he does.  After all, the only other player who comes close is Trevor Hoffman, the previous saves record-holder with 601.  And Mariano Rivera has blown more World Series saves (1) than Trevor Hoffman has ever converted.  Sure, a few other names are sometimes thrown out there, such as Billy Wagner, Goose Gossage, Sparky Lyle or Dennis Eckersley.  I'll let Eckersley respond:

"The best ever, no doubt."
- First-ballot Hall-of-Famer
and former closer Dennis Eckersley

There is simply no comparison.  Mariano Rivera is indisputably the greatest closer in the history of baseball.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The lights are off but somebody's home

Enjoying the great S Cali power outage of 2011. No need to worry, I'm well stocked on food, flashlights and sarcasm. In lieu of canned goods please send cash, or at least a cool breeze. iPhone battery reports 35% happiness remaining. Gotta run.

Same great taste...

...but now with twice the flavor!

Hope you like the new look.  It's a work in progress.

Monday, September 5, 2011

And by "March," I mean "January"

A lot has been going on the past few weeks, and I know I've been pretty bad about updating you, my undoubtedly dwindling readership.  But on the off chance that you clicked the wrong bookmark and somehow ended up here, let me catch you up and let you know in some more detail what's coming down the pike for me. 

Where to start.

My last post was from Yuma, AZ, where we were doing a three-week drill called Scorpion Fire.  That was a blast, and by "blast" I mean it was hot, slow and boring.  Prior to that drill, you might recall, I was back at my unit at Camp Pendleton, CA, where things were actually pretty busy.  By "actually pretty busy" of course I mean I spent almost every day trying to make 45 minutes of work last eight hours.  (Don't give up on me; I'm going somewhere with this.)

Anyway, I don't know why I whined so much about not being busy.  After a fairly full year in Afg I wanted nothing more than nothing to do, but it turns out I'm too antsy and impatient to leave well enough alone.  So in June or July or so a schedule came out with rosters for four upcoming drills and I was on none of them.  I whined, and now I'm on all six.  (It's Marine Corps math, to wit: how many paragraphs are in the Five Paragraph Order?  Six, naturally.)  

I think I also previously posted that I would be deploying again (to Afg) some time in March.  Well by "March" it turns out I meant "February."  By "February" I soon found out I meant late January, and of course "late January" is just MarineSpeak for early January.  Making plans lately has been about as useful as a football bat.

As you can imagine, with the compressed timetable things have gotten really slow and relaxed at work, if by "slow and relaxed"...well enough already, you get the idea.  We had a drill two weeks ago, have another in a week (that I'm currently scrambling to design), then I'll be in Yuma again for the whole month of October on an exercise called WTI.  November brings the Marine Corps Ball (a wasted week if you know what I mean), another exercise and Thanksgiving weekend.  Early December is the culminating exercise - two weeks of 24/7 ops I believe - followed hopefully by pre-deployment leave.

And then one morning about 10 months after I got home, I'll wake up in Afg again and wonder if I ever really left.

Well not exactly.  This time I'm supposed to be in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand.  This is a good thing.  It's a British base (I love the Brits) and even better, it's not Camp Leatherneck, where I spent the year last time and to which I'm in no real hurry to return. 

So that's what the next few months, and beyond, will look like for me, at least as of this moment.  Other than that I've been doing some hiking and camping and a little schmoozing and OH YEAH I'M GOING TO BE AN UNCLE! 

My brother and his bride will be returning from the desert in just a few weeks, and they're pregnant!  Well, she's pregnant, he's just hormonal.  I'll be hanging out with them and fam over Thanksgiving and it'll be really nice to have them back in the states.  If the prospect of me as an uncle (or A as a dad) gives you arrhythmia...well you're not alone.  I believe there's even a support group already.

OK as you can tell by now, I recently broke my funny bone and I'm still rehabbing it.  More later.

Currently in NH for a quick visit.  Pic credit: AH.