Friday, February 17, 2017

Shrewd Moves

Thank The Turk It's Friday!

"Ready to take your beating? Set up the board, patzer!"

Who's On Second?

My beloved Kansas City Royals began their Spring Training for the 2017 season on Monday when pitchers and catchers reported. The rest of the players officially reported yesterday, and will have their first full-squad workouts today.

One of the most intriguing stories for the Royals this spring will be Cheslor Cuthbert's bold attempt
to win the full-time second base job, competing with Whit Merrifield, Raul Mondesi, and Christian Colon.

Cuthbert had a decent year last season filling in at third base after regular Mike Moustakas was lost
for the season with a knee injury.

Whether Cheslor can field the new position well enough to earn the job is the only question, as his bat is clearly the strongest of those four.

"And if you had to make the choice?"

Too soon to say...Colon is clearly the best defender, but he'll turn 28 in May and hasn't hit enough yet to win a regular job...Merrifield is one of Manager Ned Yost's favorites, but his offense isn't quite good enough to justify the so-so defense, plus he's 28 also and
is likelier to decline than to improve...Cuthbert probably doesn't have the mobility to play 2B, but he's only 24 and the Royals need offense more than anything else...I'd probably make Cheslor the starter and keep Mondesi on the bench as a defensive replacement (and hope he eventually figures out how to hit)...that would also give the team some defensive flexibility, as Cuthbert could spell Moustakas at third base on occasion and Mondesi could do the same for Alcides Escobar at shortstop...

And yes, I'm glad to have such things to talk about, as opposed to the usual bullshit...

Feast Day

Madonna with the Seven Founders, Agostino Masucci
Today is the feast day of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order,
a group of affluent cloth merchants from Florence who left that city behind to live a life of poverty and penance on Monte Senario in 1233 AD.

The male members of the order they founded are called Friar Servants 
of Mary, as the original seven men focused their devotional lives on Mary, Mother of Sorrows.

There is also a women's order, known simply as Servants of Mary, and their American province actually has its headquarters just across the river from me, in Omaha.

The seven founders were canonized
by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.

Deep Blue(s)

Deep Blue at the Computer History Museum

On February 17, 1996 then-World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov defeated IBM's Deep Blue computer in the final game
of their six-game match, which was played in Philadelphia.

The win gave the human player a decisive 4-2 match win, and made up for Kasparov's embarrassing loss in the match's first game (the first time a computer had ever beaten
a reigning world champion under standard time controls).

How big a deal was this match? Big enough that the Associated Press reported the daily game scores, which my local newspaper in St. Joseph dutifully published.

"And in the rematch a year later?"

There were some shenanigans, which I imagine I'll write about one of these days...

A Splendid Idea!

From the delightfully off-kilter webcomic xkcd, by Randall Munroe, which you should read every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Until Next Time...

As a general rule of thumb, musical artists issue "Greatest Hits" albums when their careers are well-established and (sometimes) when they're in a bit of a creative lull. When I began to switch from buying 45 rpm singles to albums, I sometimes bought those kinds of compilations as a way to save money. The first one I actually remember purchasing was Donovan's Greatest Hits, a 1969 collection that actually peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and received a platinum certification from RIAA. (In my own defense, I bought it because a girl I had a crush on was a big Donovan fan. Didn't help.)

Bands in the early stages of their careers don't generally put out those kinds of records.
By late 1975 The Eagles had produced four platinum-selling albums in just their first three years as recording artists, including their multi-platinum One of These Nights. That record was the first of what would be four straight No. 1 studio albums, so it didn't seem like the band really needed to resort to the "Greatest Hits" marketing gimmick already. Doing so turned out to be one of the savviest moves in rock & roll history.

On February 17, 1976 the band released Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). Less than a month later it reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and went on to become the best-selling album of the 20th century in the United States. It slipped to No. 2
on the all-time best-seller list
in the U.S. market when Michael Jackson's death in 2009 caused a spike in sales of his Thriller album.

The album is easily the best-selling "greatest hits" compilation of all time, with sales nearly double that of its closest competitors. It has received 29 platinum certifications from RIAA, and continues to rack up impressive sales even following the release of other Eagles hits packages.

If there is one song in the collection that epitomizes for me the band's so-called "California Rock" sound, it is "Tequila Sunrise." Desperado, the album from which that song was the lead-off single, was something of a disappointment, as neither of its two singles made the Top 40, and the album only made it to No. 41 on the Billboard 200. (The title track was never released as a single but became one of the band's signature songs.) "Tequila Sunrise" was one of the band's least-successful singles, peaking at only No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it is remains one of my own favorites.

Today's send-off is the 2003 remastered version included on another greatest hits compilation, The Very Best of the Eagles, from their YouTube channel. Enjoy...

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