Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Tip

Fantasy Baseball Tip: When assessing your team for the final drive in the waning weeks of the season, rid yourself of all players wearing the orange-and-black of the San Francisco Giants.

Got Lincecum? Dump him. Thought Aubrey Huff would be the answer because he had an uncharacteristic mid-season power surge that turned out to be a mirage? Dump him. If the Giants really needed a schizophrenic bat and a player with no experience in games that really matter, they should have kept Randy Wynn.

Pablo Sandoval was a rookie sensation last year, but his sole contribution to the 2010 season is that he's gained even more weight during the hot summer grind and can barely waddle around the bases even when he manages to hit a ball over the fence. In fact, why is Sandoval still on the 40-man roster? So the Giants can sell more Panda hats to dimwits? (Overheard at AT&T Park on Saturday: "I don't understand the Panda hats." "I guess they'd be okay when you're hunting or something.")

Freddy Sanchez would never be a power hitter, of course, but the Giants curse has reduced this one-time batting champion into the Ray Oyler of the new millennium. I suppose you could keep Pat Burrell, if you get all enthusiastic for meaningless solo homers and bases-loaded strikeouts. And if you're ever looking for the always-exciting run-scoring bases-loaded double play, you might want to add Juan Uribe to your roster.

Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez are capable of striking out a lot of opposing batters, sure, but it takes them at least 120 pitches and several home runs to get through five innings.

On the other hand, the obvious silver lining of this month's Giants collapse is that it will be impossible to justify Brian Sabean's tenure as the Giants' GM after mid-season trades that demolished the "magic inside." Mike Fontenot turns out to have been the only player the Giants could have picked up that makes their fans yearn for Freddy Sanchez's return to the lineup. And the best we can hope for from Jose Guillen is that he'll be suspended for the season by the MLB for some reason and Bochy won't have to force him into the lineup every day.

Fans sensed the Giants brain trust was aware that 2010 would turn into the disaster it has become when the promotions department looked through the roster and concluded that a Bruce Bochy Bobblehead promotion might be a terrific idea.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Hotel Paper

In San Francisco for the weekend, it occurred to me that there is one clear difference between quality hotels and operations that don't really care about the quality of their customer service.

The best hotels will deliver the local daily newspaper to the doorstep, or at least have a stack of 'em available in the lobby.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Larry Ellis

After 27 years at The Herald, I like to think of myself as a bona fide old-timer.

But I'm just a rookie to Larry Ellis, who has been kicking around this joint for 50 years. A succession of managers, ownership groups and operating systems have come and gone, but Ellis has been a constant at The Herald.

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of Ellis' hire at The Herald, and the event was celebrated a few days ago with a ceremony and the presentation of a watch.

Actually, it should be noted for the record, his affiliation with the newspaper started four years earlier, in 1956, when he threw The Monterey Peninsula Herald as a delivery boy. He was hired fulltime as a district manager in circulation in 1960. Ellis moved to the composing room three years later. Over the years and as the technology supposedly "improved," Ellis has learned seven different systems to produce and output type, from hot type to Linotype to whatever it is The Herald is using now.

With his low-key humor and his mellow demeanor, Ellis said he survives the stresses of daily deadlines with a "one-day-at-a-time" attitude.

For those keeping score — and Ellis is — the record for employment longevity at The Herald is held by Clark Bruce, who retired after 50 years and two months.

Ellis said he intends to break the record. "People generally can't survive in jobs that long anymore," he said. "When I started, longevity was considered a virtue."

In the meantime, Ellis said he was grateful to receive the commemorative watch for his 50 years of service, especially since the watch presented him on the occasion of his 25th year stopped working the day after he got it.

He also recalled that Clark Bruce had been eagerly awaiting the watch he would receive on his own 50th anniversary. Bruce had told his colleagues that he intended to wear his 25th anniversary watch and his 50th anniversary watch on both wrists, a matching set.

Alas, when it came time to celebrate Bruce's 50 years of service, the company presented him with a commemorative VCR.

Live and Lively

Me and the Pauls get together once a month to disagree about stuff.

The three of us gather at the AMP studios with Catherine Bowie on the second Wednesday of each month. Our little discussion is aired live on Comcast's Public Access Channel 24.

Bowie serves as host, and the Pauls are Paul Wilner, editor of the Monterey County Weekly, and Paul Miller, publisher of the Carmel Pine Cone. The one-hour show is simulcast at 5 p.m. on KNRY-AM and is produced by the Vossens, Jim and Mary Lou.

The daily Your Town show is a great community resource, an opportunity for local groups, agencies and chambers to get their messages out to whomever happens to be watching or listening at the moment.

But when me and the Pauls are on the show, a quarrel is sure to follow. During our monthly appearance, Bowie asks the collected media jackals about local issues our respective newspapers have been following and, as one can imagine, the three of us tend to disagree a lot.

The show last Wednesday heated up almost immediately.

Paul Miller and the Pine Cone have taken great delight in tweaking both The Herald and the Weekly for its coverage of the Rich Guillen controversy in Carmel, where the council recently settled a harassment lawsuit with nasty implications about Guillen for $600,000. In an editorial last week, Miller accused us, with some dripping sarcasm, of naively accepting the veracity of the claim filed by Jane Miller against the city. He also furiously defended Guillen — and then advocated that Guillen should probably be terminated from his job as city manager.

Bowie wasted no time to seize on the controversy, unleashing the trio of fuming journalists to rant at one another for the rest of the hour. Feelings were probably hurt and professional integrities were impugned. Nerves frayed.

We were jaundiced and frothing by the first break, but Bowie informed us that we had engaged in "great television."

Oddly, we'll be back in the studio next month.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Almost all the online news sites in America run meaningless interactive polls.

They are meant as an amusement, a diversion, something to generate a few more hits on the site. And they are about as scientific as the Flat Earth Society. (Discussion group on forum: Sometimes the Facts Don't Matter.)

Did I mention that online polls are meaningless? (Thursday's Quick Question on Have you undergone a full-body scan?)

Sometimes an online news site will ask a question that assumes that all its readers are swamis. ('s You Decide on Thursday: Will Kagan Tilt the Court Further Left?)

And sometimes the questions are meant simply to allow readers to vent their spleens. (Tuesday's poll question: Should Carmel City Administrator Rich Guillen be fired?)

In Carmel, there are few kerfuffles in town that aren't incapable of spinning a whole new network of dread controversies.

The Rich Guillen thing is certainly a bonafide fuss, worthy of the attention it has received. But now the The Herald's unscientific poll seems to have generated a whole new controversy in town.

As it turns out, some pest apparently ruined the fun and hacked the online poll. In a matter of a few minutes, nearly 1,000 votes were cast in Mr. Guillen's favor. The casual observer might conclude that 82 percent of online readers think Guillen should not be fired.

Outrage has ensued. Letters have been written. Phone calls have been placed. Declarations have been boldly asserted regarding the accuracy of the poll and the ramifications of the poll results on the future of Carmel.

For the record, the readers' polls on all media websites are unscientific samplings. And they are meaningless.

And it is possible to hack away at online polling sites to skew results. You can learn how with a simple Google search.

So if zealots and the naive are using the results of this meaningless and unscientific Guillen poll to support or oppose public policy in Carmel — and people are taking them seriously — then the political climate in Carmel is much worse than I could have imagined.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The 'Latest News'

As an experiment in counter-intuitiveness, we've tweaked The Herald's online home a bit.

Or, as more than one newsroom employee has asked, has the editor gone bonkers?

Now in testing mode, we've added a Twitter feed of local breaking stories from a variety of local sites, including our competitors.

"This is the weirdest thing yet," declared one reporter. In essence, she said, we have Twitter feeds on our website that take readers to our competitors' websites instead of keeping them here. How is that going to help our ad revenue?

To start backwards, there's not much that any newspaper has done that has resulted in an online advertising revenue bonanza. The newspaper industry essentially botched the online strategy 15 years ago when it started providing news online. And now that that cat is out of the bag, there is no good way to stuff it back in.

While providing the news for free online, newspapers have also allowed the aggregators of the world to eke out a living by scraping the good work that legitimate news organizations are producing. They don't consider news organizations their competition.

The Herald will never be on par with global aggregators like the Drudge Report or Huffington Post. But if you can't beat 'em, why not join 'em?

If nothing else, posting all breaking news stories emanating out of Monterey County on The Herald's online homepage gives readers a single place to go to find out what's happening in their community. If it means that serves as a launching pad to another site, so be it. But I'm confident that readers will return to The Herald's homepage to see what pops up next on our Twitter feed for their one-stop "shopping" of local news.

In the end, the convenience of seeing all the breaking news stories — including the competition's — is a reader/public service, which is ultimately what a newspaper is supposed to be about.