Ampex Appreciation Day

Mike Cassidy in the San Jose Mercury News:

OK, so it was stunning 60 years ago. But Ampex, which pioneered audio and video tape recording, is still with us. And so is the towering Ampex sign honoring the company’s history. You’ve seen it just off Highway 101 in Redwood City.

Last week, Ampex filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Its head count is down to 101 from a long-ago peak of 12,000. Its shares are trading at about 40 cents. Watching Ampex is like watching some beloved relative stagger and wheeze and shuffle around the house.

And so I’m declaring today Ampex Appreciation Day.

I actually knew nothing about Ampex before reading this article. I’ve seen their sign from the freeway plenty of times, and often wondered what they did. I never remembered to check when I got home.

More about Ampex at Wikipedia.

2008 Baseball Picks

I finished my picks for the 2008 baseball season, so I thought I’d share. 🙂 First up are my Predictatron picks at Baseball Prospectus, picking how the whole season will turn out:

AL East
Boston 95 – 67
New York 90 – 72
Toronto 81 – 81
Tampa Bay 80 – 82
Baltimore 65 – 97 (mortal lock)
AL Central
Cleveland 93 – 69
Detroit 90 – 72
Chicago 76 – 86
Kansas City 72 – 90
Minnesota 69 – 93
AL West
Anaheim 88 – 74
Texas 81 – 81
Seattle 80 – 82
Oakland 75 – 87
NL East
New York 90 – 72
Atlanta 88 – 74
Philadelphia 88 – 74
Washington 75 – 87
Florida 67 – 95
NL Central
Milwaukee 88 – 74
Chicago 87 – 75
Cincinnati 85 – 77
St. Louis 73 – 89
Houston 70 – 92
Pittsburgh 70 – 92 (mortal lock)
NL West
Arizona 90 – 72
Los Angeles 88 – 74
San Diego 86 – 76
Colorado 82 – 80
San Francisco 68 – 94

I approached this by trying to figure out who I thought would be the “surprises” in baseball this year (either doing better than expected, or worse than expected), and I had an awfully hard time coming up with some. It seems like there’s a lot of parity in the Majors these days, with few truly great or truly abysmal teams. A few observations:

  • The two really bad teams in the Majors are Baltimore and San Francisco, both of which lost their best player in the off-season after a bad year last year. Both will struggle to win 70 games.
  • The young teams on their way up are already here: Arizona won their division last year – partly through luck – but should be better this year. Cleveland and Milwaukee are already contenders. Detroit is not exactly young anymore but is a contender.
  • I think the Tigers will overcome their slow start, but lose by a nose to Cleveland.
  • I expect both Texas and Cincinnati to be modest surprises this year. Texas I think had off years from a bunch of guys in 2007 and will be better this year. Cincinnati is a young club, but not yet a good club.
  • Like some sabermetric analysts, and in opposition to some mainstream analysts, I expect Seattle to be a mediocre team this year. Their offense is bordering on the moribund, with three infield hitters who could all be abjectly bad. Their pitching is Erik Bedard, Felix Hernandez, and a bunch of uninspiring guys in both the rotation and the bullpen.
  • The NL East is especially hard to pick since it’s full of teams who have some good points and some bad points and a lot of risk. I could see the top three teams finishing in any order.

Here’s how I picked the playoffs:

American League Division Series:

  • Cleveland over New York in 4 games
  • Boston over Anaheim in 3 games

National League Division Series:

  • New York over Milwaukee in 4 games
  • Arizona over Atlanta in 4 games

American League Championship Series:

  • Boston over Cleveland in 6 games

National League Championship Series:

  • Arizona over New York in 6 games

World Series:

  • Red Sox over Arizona in 6 games

I decided to give in to my Red Sox bias this year, in part because last year I did my picks and came down to picking the Sox and thought, “I pick the Sox every year! I’d better pick someone else.” And we saw how that turned out.

I do think the Sox have the best team in the Majors; it’s not a perfect team, but I think it’s better than any other team. But of course that only gives them a slight edge and they could certainly get knocked off in a short postseason series. But this is the way I decided to bet.

I also picked my HACKING MASS team, which is basically a set of players who I expect will provide the biggest aggregate drags on their teams during the season:

C Ramon Hernandez BAL
1B Rich Aurilia SF
2B Jose Lopez SEA
3B Pedro Feliz PHI
SS Yuniesky Betancourt SEA
LF Juan Pierre LA
CF Willy Taveras COL
RF Brian Giles SD
P Matt Morris PIT
P Barry Zito SF

You can see how I thought Seattle’s infield would suck. (1B Richie Sexson is the third infielder they have who I think won’t hit this year.)

I also wonder whether Barry Zito’s giant (or Giant) contract might be the worst contract any team has ever signed a pitcher to. On top of his 8 year/$126M pay schedule, he has a 2014 option which vests if he pitches enough in 2011-2013, and a full no-trade clause. Which means the Giants are likely stuck with him for the next 6 years, unless the team is so abjectly terrible that he waives his no-trade clause to get out, and they’re willing to take on enough of his salary that they can unload him. (I’m skeptical he’d ever waive his no-trade clause, though, since I have the impression that he loves living in San Francisco.)

It’s going to be a grim year for the local baseball teams here in the Bay Area (the A’s are rebuilding, the Giants don’t seem to have an idea how to start rebuilding), but it should be a good year for us Red Sox fans! 🙂