Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Comic-Con wrapup

And people wonder why I go back to Comic-Con year after year after year ...

Over the years, I've noticed I've spent less and less time on the Comic-Con floor in favor of instead going to panels (of course, as lines have increased I've been going to fewer panels as well). All told, I spent a little more than an hour on the floor this year.

Besides the panels I mentioned last time, on Sunday I hit the Doctor Who panel (below). The crowd went wild when David Tennant came out, mercifully drowning out the chants of ("Torchwood: Children of Earth" spoiler coming up), "Bring Back Ianto!"

Crowds, of course, were huge leaving the convention center at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Sarah Michelle Gellar sings what all us fanboys do when told how much Comic-Con admission will be ($100 for a pre-reg pass for 2010!).

I ended up having dinner in Mexico on Sunday night, having $1 tacos and Tijuana bacon-wrapped hot dogs. The new requirement for passports at land crossings may not have helped the auto line entering the United States (above), but the walk-across was much quicker than I remember. I caught the trolley in no time.

Ian (right) gave me a big hug when I picked him up at school Monday and really liked the Chewbacca action figure I snagged him at Comic-Con. I got Claire a Battlestar Galactica "What the Frak?" T-shirt.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Name and shame

Seen at a San Diego Trolley stop in Chula Vista:
I personally don't think "name and shame" tactics work, and quite frankly pass re-sales like this are a natural outgrowth of the San Diego Transit system eliminating transfers earlier this year. SamTrans is planning a day pass once new fare boxes are installed system-wide. Will we see something like this at San Mateo County busstops?

Crescenta Valley High Class of 1989 reunion

Our class gift, a sign at what was once CV High's main entrance.

Some people think of high school as either the worst times of their lives or the best (in my opinion, if it’s either – assuming one’s out of high school – that’s pretty sad). To others the time seems to slip by quickly, with barely a notice. To me, high school was probably the most formative era of my life. It’s where I discovered my interests in publishing, law enforcement and civic affairs. It’s where I developed my personality, my humor, my knowledge base.

Right: Me at my high school graduation, June 21, 1989.

Last night was my 20-year high school reunion. The Crescenta Valley High School class of 1989 was gathered back together at the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant in Van Nuys.

What’s scary to me is not that this was our 20-year reunion, but rather that it’s been 10 years since our 10-year reunion. I had thought the first ten years went fast, but the next ten went even faster. Time seems to pass at an exponential rate.

My 10-year reunion was one when I felt much like I did after graduation itself – a time full of hope and potential. I had recently graduated from college, was freshly engaged and had a good entry-level job in the career of my choice. The future was wide open. Ten years later, I’m, after some employment setbacks, in an even worse career situation than in 1999 and will soon start grad school -- the third time I’ll be starting my education again after thinking it was finished. The time has flown by and I again feel as if I need to start my life (at least I’ve still got the great wife).

I’d been hesitant about going to the reunion, honestly. My wife Claire was unable to attend, so I’d need to go “stag.” The one fellow member of the CVHS class of 1989 with whom I maintain regular contact chose not to attend (most of my high school friends were in different class years). Therefore I would be going on my own – a daunting proposal, as I am not one of the more social people you would meet. But I also knew, high school being among the most-important times of my life, that I would regret not going, even if only to turn a page on a long-over part of my life.

The trepidation had built to a crescendo the past couple weeks, and I didn’t really know why. Were the opinions of these people – most of whom I had not seen in two decades – still important to me? I decided to find out.

It turns out that about a third of our class, which was about 350 strong, made it, along with various significant others and a couple fresh babies (and about five more in various bellies). I ended up being able to recognize about half the attendees without nametags, which I thought an accomplishment because my mental images of these late 30s-something people were stuck on their 16-year-old forms.

Our class president, Michelle S. (for their privacy, I’m not using my classmates’ full names except for those with a high public profile) was among the first I saw and not only did she look great, but the whole setup reminded me why I voted for her in the first place. A table of memorabilia lined the wall – old photos, programs from football games to awards ceremonies, cheerleader sweaters, etc. The well-anointed buffet table beckoned with a generous spread and the al fresco dining overlooking the busy general aviation runway of Van Nuys airport was inviting. She even got the weather to cooperate.

Because I came alone, I could fill any empty seat and was able to sit with a bunch of folks with whom I didn’t generally hang out with at CV. It actually worked out well.

For the second straight reunion, I ended up sitting at the same table as Cristy Thom, who later gained fame as Miss February 1991 and later showing off her considerable talents as an artist. I had a minor crush on her in junior high (she had the 80s Madonna thing going on before I had even heard of Madonna), but we got along like oil and water – even getting into a minor scuffle in the seventh grade. But the last couple times I’ve seen her she’s been as sweet as can be. I guess we’ve both grown up.

John Baker and Cristy Thom
Me and Cristy Thom

Besides Cristy, I was at a table with Tom T., Marc L., Tim P., Sadie L., and Victor R. (who probably was one of the first friends I made in the first grade at Fremont Elementary, although I doubt I exchanged more that a couple words with him since 1979). People seemed genuinely interested in my roundabout life story and I found theirs’ interesting as well.

Sadie L. and I had our longest, most-substantive conversation since the seventh grade. After the mandatory “you look good” comments were exchanged, we mutually came to the conclusion that only the “beautiful” people came to 20th reunions (very few folks were without hair or unusually overweight were in attendance). I think we liked the idea, as it appealed to both our egos.

I had the longest, more interesting conversations of the night with Allen A. and his wife Angela. Allen was a recent immigrant when the alphabetical closeness of his name put him directly in front of my in history class. It was a genuine pleasure seeing how he’s developed. Angela also recently finished an MPA program at CSUN, so she was able to give me some tips and allay some of my concerns about my upcoming program.

It was a pleasure seeing everybody, especially the following folks for the following reasons: Fred K. and Steve H., who are both actively working for Uncle Sam; Kim F., one of the first people I met at Fremont and saw all the way through; Kevin G., whom Rob and I got into a knockdown, drag-out fight on a summer night in the middle of Foothill Boulevard but harbors no ill will; Kurt R., whom I met on my first day at Rosemont Junior High and whose humor remains intact; and Bob J., one of my oldest elementary school friends, who continues to work in the railroad business. (If I saw you and didn’t name you, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy to see you.)

A lot of people didn’t go and their absence was disappointing. But I really did appreciate the chance to catch up with those who did attend and I extend my greatest respect and admiration to all my classmates, whether or not they made it to the reunion.

As I noted, I had some anxiety going in. But those worries subsided rather quickly once I got there and I quite literally felt a bit sad when I had to leave (had the big drive back to San Diego ahead, so I lit out about 11:30 p.m.). I am very glad I went and had a good time. Whether high school was the best of times or not, it was probably the most influential part of my life and it felt right to acknowledge it. Our senior prom theme was Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.” While we can never get that moment back, it’s nice to be reminded it was there.

Edit (July 29, 2009): Can't believe I forgot to mention how proud I was of my classmates that the dance floor remained empty until "White Lines (Don't Do It)" by Grandmaster + Melle Mel was spun. My old school mates went "old school!"

Kurt R., Bob J. and myself.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Comic-Con days one and two

Spider-Man makes an appearance at the Marvel booth.

SAN DIEGO – I’m here at the 40th annual Comic-Con International, my 14th since 1992. I flew down Thursday morning on Southwest and think I was hit upon by both male and female flight attendants. Guess I still have it.

The lines here are, as expected, long. I had a 45-minute line simply to pick up my badge. I think Comic-Con should charge a couple extra bucks and male out the badges like they used to. Speaking of charging a couple extra bucks, pre-registration for 2010 is now $100! That’s up from $65 last hear and $50 two years ago. The CCI administration now recognizes it has a cash cow, but seems to have forgotten there is a recession.

Anyway, the first panel I attended was a retrospective by Richard Hatch, who starred as Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica series and Tom Zarek in the “re-imagined” version. I then got in the long line for the Burn Notice panel, worrying slightly that I was further tarnishing the Con’s reputation by supporting a non-genre show (of which too many are at Con – C’mon, “Glee?”)

But Burn Notice actor Bruce Campbell – a fan favorite thanks to his roles in the Evil Dead and Spider-Man movies – allayed some of my fears by pointing out, “If you’ve ever been to Miami, you’ll know there’s a lot of aliens there.”

I should point out that while I was in the long line, I was in front of two of the few stereotypes I’ve seen here. A couple bearded, overweight gentlemen were discussing the comics field, then drifted into the movie field with comments like, “May 8, 2009 – the day ‘Star Trek’ died. The guy from Lost killed it.” And even, “I’m not even going to correct people when they say ‘Star Track’ anymore.”

They did make one good point, which I independently came up with a couple years ago, that Comic-Con should come up with a system similar to Disneyland’s Fast Pass system, wherein one picks up an “appointment” for a certain attraction (or ballroom, in this case) for a certain time and can come back at that time for priority admission. Some sort of panel ticketing system is a must.

My Twitter account has been updated frequently on this trip, but not as often as it might. At times, AT&T’s 3G service has been so overloaded that I couldn’t even text. The “free Wi-Fi” Comic-Con offers is so bogged down in the Convention Center that it’s useless.

In other news, Comic-Con continues to be clueless over what’s popular. The panel on Thursday night for “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog” was in the smallest open ballroom, was full and had the equivalent of another full ballroom waiting in line. I ended up watching “Iron Man” for about the fourth time in a nearby room. For popular panels, they need to do what they do at events like MacWorld, where panels are often simulcast in a satellite ballroom.

I like these actors, but will likely not watch their show. I have too much TV on my plate already.

On Friday, I arrived early for the combined Battlestar Galactica: The Plan/Caprica panel. The line went faster than I expected and I caught the earlier panel in the room for Stargate: Universe, staring Robert Carlysle of “Full Monty” fame and Ming-Na Wen (whom I’ve had a crush on since she was on “The Single Guy” in 1995). African-American Stargate star Jamil Walker Smith got a laugh when he related that his mother said he would be “the next Levar Burton” after hearing he got the part.

In the BSG panel, moderator Faith Salie got a laugh when she noted that the Battlestar crew was passing the torch to prequel-show Caprica “in true sci-fi style” --by passing it backward in time a half century. Salie also noted ironically that Edward James Olmos played Esai Morales’ father in “American Family,” and now Morales would be playing Olmos’ father in “Caprica.”
The passing of the franchise torch.

Show runner Ronald Moore made a point of calling it “a fraking crime” that no BSG actors received Emmy nominations in the course of the show’s run, and I agree. Mary McConnell, I think, should have received several noms.

Him: "Exterminate." Me: "Hey, I saw Captain Jack just around the corner, go after him instead!"

After BSG, I picked up some lunch (and a packed meal for dinner) at a nearby supermarket, then came back to roam the floor. Besides almost literally rubbing shoulders with Gene Simmons of Kiss, I also got close to Torchwood star John Barrowman and Hobbit Elijah Wood.

A TV Guide panel on science-fiction television followed in the early evening (the remake of “V” looks interesting) and I caught a screening of last winter’s “Push,” which I found quite interesting, although seeing it sleepy made it seem more complicated than I think it should have been.

I closed out Friday by attending last half of the Eisner Awards, the comics industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. Highlights included “All Star Superman” winning Best Ongoing Series. I checked out the first volume from the library last month and enjoyed it, thinking it had Golden Age flair combined with modern sensibilities. Nate Powell’s "Swallow Me Whole" won best new graphic album.

After a few hours at Comic-Con today, I’ve renting a car and driving to the Los Angeles area, where I will attend my 20th high school reunion tonight (arrgh, I’m old!). The will then put on my suit and Converse sneakers and run back to San Diego for Sunday mornings Doctor Who panel. I should already be in line, in fact.
Folks camping out overnight for the Lost panel, which I could not get into. I lightened the picture with Photoshop, that's why it looks like crap.

I am in line now (10:45 a.m. on Saturday) for a "Futurama" panel due to start at 12:45 p.m. I'll make it, but will have to sit through an hour's worth of (ugh) Seth McFarland first.

Other random pictures:
A mere one-fifth of the Convention Center floor.
Even Rorshach gets tired at Comic-Con.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Catchup week on the blog -- Part 3: SamTrans now faces fare hike

Ian might have to wait a little longer -- and pay more -- for his next SamTrans bus.

There was no good news for riders at this month’s SamTrans Board of Directors meeting. In fact, the bad news from last month was piled upon.

For the first time, transit directors spoke of the potential need – beyond the potential 15 percent service cuts already announced – to raise fares by 25 cents, just months after another fare increase and weeks after SamTrans officials said that no increase would be sought in these troubling times. SamTrans CEO Mike Scanlon said he had heard from some riders that they would prefer a fare increase to serious service cuts.

“It’s a distasteful (idea), but perhaps a little less distasteful than others,” Scanlon said while addressing the Board. “It would be another tool in the toolkit. Whether you use it or not is up to you.”

Scanlon suggested that a fare increase would potentially reduce the need for some of the more harsh service cuts proposed and would translate into a $2 basic fare for SamTrans, with passes going up by the same ratio as cash fares. Scanlon said his “worst dreams” do not envision the fare going beyond $2 at this point.

The proposed cuts (most of which I discussed last month) will be discussed at a series of community meetings (including July 27 at the South San Francisco Municipal Building at 6 p.m.) and a formal public hearing during the Aug. 12 regular Board meeting at 2 p.m. The SamTrans Citizens Advisory Committee (of which your blogger is a member) will also discuss options at its meeting on Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

When the previous fare increase was announced near the end of last year, I had wondered – I admit I do not recall if I raised the possibility with anyone else verbally – whether we should just raise fares to $2 then in order to build a reserve and prevent a situation like the one the District is facing now. It now seems like that would have been a good idea. Oh well, hindsight is 20-20.

But I almost feel Scanlon’s fare proposal is a cynical attempt to either increase fares and say “Hey, at lease we preserved service,” or to have the Board not adopt the fare increase, but make cuts and say, “Hey, at least we kept fares down.”

It’s not helping that SamTrans management’s actions are worrying the rank and file. The District recently made an offer to spare about 20 jobs to the union if it would forego a scheduled pay raise. But, as the details were extremely vague, the proposal was not voted on at the June union meeting.

With as many as 70 layoffs on the table in the fourth quarter of this year, it’s no wonder one operator told me that “people are scared” and another admitted, “We see the economy; we see concessions; we are not without reason.”

But there’s another worry. This recession will not last forever, and times will improve. Ridership tends to rise and fall with the economy (we saw it in the last dot-com bust and boom cycle and, illustratively, SamTrans ridership is down 4.6 percent from this time last year) and it will one day improve – meaning the need for more service and more maintenance staff and bus operators. A little more long term, this is an environmentally conscious county, with more and more people turning to “green” transportation like mass transit. The District will need the staff to serve those people and I worry that mass reductions in staff will make it all the more difficult to increase service when needed.

Of course, that scenario may not come for a long time, and a nearly $30-million deficit now needs to be addressed. Do I have answers? No, not really.

I do think cutting the full 15 percent and eliminating express routes is out of the question (and I say that as an exclusive rider of local routes, BART and Caltrain). Maybe having some more-attractive service, like a limited-stop line on El Camino Real, will help draw riders and funds. I also think some line consolidation, minor service cuts, some modest union givebacks and, yes, the fare increase may be necessary. But a line needs to be held after this. We need to preserve transit professionals’ jobs with a view toward a busy transit future and need to do things with a mind toward attracting riders, not scaring them off.

There were also some interesting Caltrain facts presented at the July 8 meeting: a rash of Caltrain suicides have been in the news lately, but staff pointed out that there are an average of nine suicides on the Caltrain tracks annually – that’s nine out of about a 250 annual suicide average in the three-county service area (or 3.6% of people who decide to kill themselves in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties). Chuck Harvey, Caltrain and SamTrans' COO, also said about 40 people have been taken into custody in recent months for their own protection.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Catch-up week on the blog -- Part 2: Florida

Continuing catch-up week, here is the long-promised quick recap of my recent trip to Florida.

My grandfather turned 81 in early June and to celebrate, Claire, Ian and I flew out to the Tampa Bay area (specifically Bradenton), where my grandparents live. Based on my off days and the availability of a free ticket I could purchase with United miles, I left on May 20 (a day before Claire and Ian flew over on Delta), arriving in the early evening at TPA, where my grandparents, Bob and Carol Baker, picked me up.

Our first stop was at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field, where I treated my grandparents to a ballgame (below).

It turns out the Oakland Athletics had also made the trip from the Bay Area and narrowly defeated the hosting Rays, 7-6.

My grandfather and I at the ballgame.

On Thursday, I took a quick tour of Anna Maria Island, before driving back to Tampa and getting Claire and Ian. We then began what seemed to be recurring pattern of swim, dry, swim.

We swam in pools and jacuzzis (below) ...
We swam in the Gulf of Mexico ...
... and other fun stuff.

My Aunt Kathy (who's three weeks older than me and had her first child, Andrew, just two days before Ian was born) brought her husband and Andrew on Friday and we had an impromptu mini reunion. On Saturday, we headed to Bradenton's South Florida Museum (right) and saw Snooty the manatee -- among other local residents. While Snooty (below) was genial, the highlight for me that day was our visit to the A La Mode ice cream parlor in nearby Palmetto.

(Although I did have an awkward moment with my grandfather when I suggested his father was a bootlegger because he travelled frequently to Havana in the 1920s).

At left, Claire finds she has a fear of large reptiles.

We did more of the same over the weekend. It doesn't sound like we did much, but that was the point. We made it a real vacation -- with not much to do and did quite a bit of relaxing. (We had another awkward moment over the weekend when I accidentally broke my grandparents' ceiling fan while stretching to put on a new shirt, but a quick trip to Home Depot and $40 solved that issue). The most physical thing I did the whole trip was throw two 5-year-old boys (below) back and forth across the length of the pool. That was tiring.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. On the way back, I had layovers in Denver -- where I discovered the restrooms are also tornado shelters (right) -- and Las Vegas (below), where I both had ice cream and blew five bucks in the slot machine. While it was more than 100 degrees in Las Vegas, after a week in the humid Tampa Bay area, I discovered what it means when people say, "At least it's a dry heat."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Catch-up week on the blog -- Part 1: Grad school

Do I have a busy week ahead. I'm working today, enjoying a visit from my mom on Monday, have both a baseball game and a Wiggles concert to go to on Wednesday and fly down to San Diego on Thursday for the San Diego Comic-Con (which will always be my preferred name for the event). I'll be there until Monday, but will also take a side-trip up to Van Nuys on Saturday night for Crescenta Valley High School's Class of 1989 20-year (gasp!) reunion. Dang, I'm getting old.

But there's also the matter of catching folks up on a couple things that have happened recently in my life. While, I'm up to date on my Twitter updates, I've been remiss here on the details. I've promised blogs about the family's recent sojourn to Florida and an update on the SamTrans service cuts, both of which will be forthcoming.

But the biggest news is related to my educational plans. Let me preface this by saying don’t let anyone tell you that persistence doesn’t pay off.

I’ve previously outlined my quest to be admitted to a Master of Public Administration in this blog. I also sadly announced last winter that I had not been accepted to San Francisco State University’s program for the spring semester. I later saw a stat that the university took only about a third of the spring applicants – and no doubt there were many, many applicants with the economy going down the tubes.

Not one to take no for an answer, I reapplied recently for the fall semester. I wasn't expecting much, not after last time and also going to a workshop at SFSU's downtown campus where the instructor estimated the school was only going to be able to accept a fifth of applicants this year because of budget cuts.

But I got good news while at a baseball game in early May. My iPhone rang. It was my dear wife, Claire, who told me she had just gotten a call from the acting program chair at SFSU. They were offering me admission and thought I had "an interesting background." Needless to say, I'm thrilled. I think this master's program can give me a needed leg-up in the public service field and can help me gain my first interesting job since I left dispatching.

I credit my acceptance to my being able to finally say in my application essay how important public service is to me (and also drastically shortening the dang thing from the one I submitted the first time around). I think the purpose statement puts into focus a lot of my future goals and so I offer it here in its entirety:

To Whom It May Concern:

As one whose adult life has been geared toward public service, it would be an honor to be considered for admission to San Francisco State University’s Masters of Public Administration program.

Studying for an MPA will dovetail the two main motivators in my life: my search for knowledge and the desire to serve the public. I have always liked to learn, but I stumbled into public service more recently. After some bumpy early college semesters where I stretched myself both working and studying full time, I needed a fresh start. I moved to Northern California, where I began to concentrate on journalism, changing my major from criminal justice. I graduated and began working for a local newspaper, where I was assigned a civic affairs beat. Through that position, I became familiar with local government workings and the experience helped fan my own desire to serve.

When my staff newspaper job was eliminated in the “dot-com bust,” I started working as a public safety dispatcher, where I explored serving the public in a very tangible way, learning how to work within guidelines in often-stressful situations. At the same time, I began to develop my community leadership skills. Specifically, I served as a South San Francisco Library Trustee, where I made decisions regarding budgets and library guidelines. Currently I hold office as both a commissioner on the South San Francisco Housing Authority, where I help oversee contracts and policies in a low-income housing development, and as vice-chair of the San Mateo County Transit District’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee, where I serve as a bridge between the public and elected officials on mass transit-related matters.

While I have learned a great deal in those positions, my ultimate desire is to be more valuable to the organizations with which I affiliate by becoming a more-effective leader. San Francisco State would be the ideal place for me to learn that effectiveness. Not only does the MPA program have an excellent reputation, which was outlined to me by a number of graduates (including South San Francisco Councilmember Kevin Mullin*, when he interviewed me for the Housing Authority), but I also have a strong familial connection with the university. I earned a bachelor’s degree at SF State in 2003, during which time I was introduced to the public administration program via an online class, and my wife and mother-in-law both earned masters degrees at SFSU. I strongly desire to reinforce my affiliation, as I believe SF State is among the best public universities in the United States.

A community member may rarely deal with the federal government outside of sending a check to the IRS each April. That same citizen, however, may have frequent contacts with local government by taking the bus to work, watching local police and firefighters serve the community or by checking books out of their local library. A government agency or non-profit organization can become a much more immediate part of its citizens’ lives than might a typical business. This ability to have a positive and continuing effect on other people’s lives and the community as a whole is what draws me to public administration and is why I want to advance my career with an MPA from SF State. Indeed, I can think of no finer way to both enhance my service to the community and to satisfy my thirst for knowledge.

Thank you for your consideration,

John Baker

* Yes, I name-dropped someone whom I don't know well, but it was for a good cause.

Maybe a bit fawning, but the guiding principles behind the letter stand. I've reached 20 years past high school and now it's time to give something back.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why the Internet is good for television

There has been much discussion as to whether the Internet is killing traditional television shows. Bit Torrent, etc., has hurt a lot of studios who are losing out on revenue (both advertising and DVD revenue). But online commercial-supported streaming may change that. For example, the multi-network/studio venture Hulu has led to a bunch of new TV viewing by me. To wit:

Ongoing TV shows I've started -- watching both online and on TV -- because of Hulu: Burn Notice, Parks and Recreation, My Name is Earl (OK, this has since been canceled, but the point remains -- they are getting an ad-viewing audience they would not have received otherwise).

Old, archive shows shows I've started watching because of Hulu: Dead Like Me (I love this show!), Firefly. I likely would never have watched these shows without Hulu and certainly wouldn't have bought the DVDs. So it's free money for the studios.

On the flip side, shows that I started watching on television, but now catch (or caught if since-ended) thanks to Hulu: Battlestar Galactica (2004 series), ER, King of the Hill, The Simpsons, American Dad, House. (In fairness, I will buy the BSG Blu-Ray when it comes out and I likely would NOT have watched ER if it had not been available online.)

(On the flip side of the Internet/television argument, I must admit to watching last week's BBC sensation "Torchwood: Children of Earth" through, shall we say, illicit means. I found it fantastic, good, thinking science fiction. It doesn't air until next week on BBC America, a channel I do not have. To make up for it, the Blu-Ray is on pre-order from Amazon.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Most unfair baseball stat

On the occasion of today's All-Star Game in St. Louis, it's time to announce I've come to the conclusion that the most unfair statistic is baseball is "defensive indifference."

You know, when a runner -- usually on a team trailing by several runs -- apparently steals a base in the late innings of a one-sided game and the defense makes no attempt to throw him out. The official scorer often rules "defensive indifference," rather than crediting the runner with a stolen base.

Officially, Rule 10.07(g) states that the official scorer "shall not score a stolen base when a runner advances solely because of the defensive team's indifference to the runner’s advance." This usually happens when the pitcher chooses to concentrate on the batter and runners are free to take bases at their leisure.

I've never understood this stat. I know a lot of commentators will say that the runner generally represents a run that is "unimportant" or that there is more to be gained in concentrating on the batter. But isn't the whole point of baseball to score runs? And isn't one of the reasons baseball is great because there is no clock, and every run can become part of a slow developing rally?

More importantly, isn't it the job of a defense to get outs? A runner stealing second -- or advancing on "defensive indifference"-- with no one else on reduces the potential options for a force play by 50 percent. More importantly, the run is at least 90 feet closer to scoring. Nothing that gets a runner into scoring position should be so handily dismissed as "indifference." A defense may indeed chose to concentrate on a batter rather than a runner, but any runner that advance makes the defense's job all that much harder.

When Carl Crawford (left) stole six bases on May 3, it was one of the more exciting individual feats in recent baseball history. But I recall some discussion at the time as to whether some of those steals show be defensive indifference. Way to denigrate a great feat -- steals should be embraced in this post-steroids era and I hope that "defensive indifference" be eliminated from the baseball lexicon as soon as possible.

Maybe "Moneyball's"Billy Beane thinks stolen bases are over-valued. I think the opposite, and I think that any advancement by the runners makes things harder on the defense and players should receive full credit.