If I had known then what I know now

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. I can’t change my past. I can only learn from it. And what a past it was–filled with petty humiliations, awful decisions, regret. My biggest regret, my greatest embarrassment?

For about a year, I was a Counting Crows fan. I knew all the lyrics to "Round Here" and "Raining in Baltimore". I sang along, imitating Adam Duritz. I knew his every inflection. I mimicked his peculiar nasal  whine perfectly. I identified with his passive-aggressive lyrics–somehow I saw myself (a scrawny high school freshman, whose longest relationship with a girl had lasted a week in junior high) in his sensitive evocations of failed relationships. I hailed him the genius of my experience, the poet of our age.

Perhaps, I lacked the experience which would have given me the proper perspective. It was only a few years later that I realized that the Counting Crows were not my thing. In fact, they sort of sucked (Sorry to any Crows fans out there. Just an opinion.). In the intervening time, I had listened to better music. I had lived more and understood the utter corniness that Adam Duritz was. 

I mention my previous mistakes as a music listener because, in a way, they are comparable to my mistakes as a baseball fan. I would like to think that over the years I have become a smarter fan. In fact, I think the majority of us probably have become more astute fans in the past ten years. We live in the Bill James Post Money Ball Age–a time in which OBP is mentioned in every telecast, and brilliant sites such as Baseball Musings, Bronx Banter, WasWatching, Baseball Prospectus, River Ave Blues and the Baseball Think Factory rule the day.

But in the early days, I wasn’t as informed. And I made some mistakes. I am not as embarrassed about these as the Counting Crows worship, but they do remind me of a very simple lesson I tell the kids I teach: You learn through taking chances and making mistakes. So without further ado, here is one miscalculation I made as a youthful baseball fan:

Roberto Kelly was not a great player, or even a very good player. He was not better than Bernie Williams. Paul O’Neill turned out to be a much better player than he was. In fact, I was wrong when I called the Kelly-O’Neill swap the worst trade in the history of the franchise. Roberto Kelly was just not that special of a player. He was decent, but, for some reason, I believed he was the next coming of Rickey Henderson. In those days, I was less reliant on the stats (although I was a lover batting average and RBI), and made judgments based on what I saw. He was a speedy player. I remember liking his swing. He fit into his uniform well. Paul O’Neill, on the other hand, seemed a plodding slow poke, who was a little stiff. I was wrong.

But in fairness to me, I was not always wrong. In fourth grade, I discovered Eric B. and Rakim, and quickly surmised that Rakim was one of the greatest rappers of all time. That conclusion holds to this day. Sheer brilliance cannot be denied. Was it his genius or my genius as a listener? Similarly, I always recognized the value of Willie Randolph’s game, even if the stats I had access to the time (batting average and power #’s) did not conform to this insight. I knew he was better than those numbers said. My young eyes saw that.

What about you? Any music/baseball skeletons in your closet? 

47 comments… add one
  • C & C Music Factory. But I’d swap that out of the deck for Public Enemy.
    I loved Roberto Kelley too and was also initially upset about that trade. I think it was because he was the lone brightspot during the dark days of the organization. His presence pointed to a better future. Mike Pagliarulo and Dan Pasqua also come to mind.

    A YF July 1, 2008, 10:52 am
  • Phil Plantier. I couldn’t wait for him to get called up, and then after a couple of moonshots I thought he was the answer.
    Howard Jones on the music front.
    Waiting for Paul to chime in with “the Beatles”.

    SF July 1, 2008, 11:02 am
  • My Red Sox fandom did not begin until 1998, so my knowledge is relatively limited. But, like 99% of Red Sox fans, I thought the Gagne trade was perfect when it happened. Oki was getting tired and Delcarmen was still a question mark, and adding Gagne made our already great bullpen flawless. Of course a few weeks later “Gagne” would become a 4-letter word in Boston, but for a short time it was perfect.
    Music-wise, I used to like Sum-41. Don’t ask me why.

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 11:05 am
  • What the f*ck is wrong with the Beatles?!?!
    Trade rumours: the Sox are interested in Brian Fuentes, and the Rays are pushing hard for Matt Holliday. Grabbing him would make the division race a LOT harder to win.

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 11:07 am
  • “What the f*ck is wrong with the Beatles?!?!”
    For once, we agree.
    “the Rays are pushing hard for Matt Holliday”
    If they go out and get him, they deserve whatever they win. Good for them, finally.

    A YF July 1, 2008, 11:13 am
  • Yeah, a small part of me (VERY small part) is sort of glad the Rays are doing well, even though it’s coming at the Sox’ expense. I have a soft spot for crappy small-market teams that have never done well.
    Having said that, I hope we crush their dreams in the playoffs, Colorado-Rockies-style.

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 11:20 am
  • One of our best posts ever, I think.
    I, too, loved Robo-K. But looking back at those numbers, he really wasn’t bad. (Unlike the Counting Crows. They totally sucked.) He just wasn’t terrific.
    Another player in the same class, though maybe worse, as he was revered for his “grit”: Pags.
    Bands? Chicago. With that name alone I should have known better.

    YF July 1, 2008, 11:32 am
  • Yeah, I looked at Kelly’s stats before the post, and he was definitely an above average player for a portion of those years. I just happened to think he was an elite player. It was shocking to learn in later years that he wasn’t.
    And Pags is a good one as well. I think he hit over 30 homers one year which convinced me he was in the elite echelon as well.
    Re: Beatles. Paul has a little Lennon in him. He doesn’t believe in Beatles. I think he believes in Zimmerman though.

    Nick-YF July 1, 2008, 11:40 am
  • By the way, I can’t stand the Counting Crows either. I mean seriously, is the lead singer looking like Sideshow Bob on purpose?

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 11:59 am
  • By the way, did anyone hear that Bonds is offering to play for free? He said he’ll donate 100% of his earnings towards buying game tickets for underprivaledged children. With Matsui down, how would Yanks fans feel about signing him?

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 12:17 pm
  • I don’t really have a guilty conscience regarding any Baseball players I rooted for. Should I? I was really bummed when the Sox ditched Todd Walker and Bronson Arroyo, but I can’t really say those moves didn’t help the team (or at least fail to hurt them), and neither one was really all that earth-shattering to begin with. I liked Darrin Lewis more than most people did. Does that count?
    I’ll second the Counting Crows blunder. I walked into that trap with the help of a recommendation by Rolling Stone (last time I ever fell for one of their reviews). I had resold that CD within months. Same goes for a Dave Matthews Band album, which is probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever owned. Anyone who knows me would probably guess that that would be the last thing I’d ever listen to. And yet…

    FenSheaParkway July 1, 2008, 12:33 pm
  • Dave Matthews is awesome. Shame on you FSP.

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 12:59 pm
  • Boyz II Men. Oy.

    Devine July 1, 2008, 1:08 pm
  • hootie and the blowfish?

    dw (sf) July 1, 2008, 1:52 pm
  • I am secure enough in my musical taste bona fides to say that all this Counting Crows hate is rather unfair, hyperbole.  I actually like (early) CC.  First two albums were very good, and they have aged reasonably well.  The later stuff, feh.

    Dave Matthews, on the other hand, I have never gotten.  Unlistenable.  But then again I never bought an album, so feel no guilt.

    One more: Weirdly, during a major Who phase in high school (I am still in that Who phase, to an extent), I cheated on the English rockers with this guy.

    SF July 1, 2008, 2:16 pm
  • Oh, and Tesla.

    SF July 1, 2008, 2:18 pm
  • The Who is always great–the oldies are the best. My two favorite musicians are, by far, Led Zepellin and Jimi Hendrix.

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 2:34 pm
  • Baseaball skeleton: I was privately bummed when the Yankees released Alavaro Espinoza.
    Music skeletons: This list is so long… Hmm. Where to start…
    – My first pop album was a cassette of Linda Ronstadt Heart Like a Wheel
    – I liked Waylon Jennings (because of the D.O.H. theme/narration)
    – I thought Mike Score from Flock of Seagulls was cool
    – Blondie
    – I thought Men at Work was a brilliant band (this one is still true)
    – Thriller
    Okay, that’s enough self-flagellation.

    attackgerbil July 1, 2008, 2:53 pm
  • AG, but all those groups were and are cool! Blondie rules!

    Nick-YF July 1, 2008, 2:55 pm
  • AG’s last comment makes me remember another of mine: Michael Jackson, back when he was still black. He was AWESOME, and still is. The Smooth Criminal video is still his best work in my opinion.
    Flock of Seagulls is good, if only for their one-hit-wonder.

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 3:03 pm
  • Nick, thank you for politely ignoring my infatuation with Alvaro Espinoza.

    attackgerbil July 1, 2008, 3:19 pm
  • Gerb, those are your skeletons?
    What are you, musical taste’s gift to God?
    Come on man, no Ratt or Stryper in there?

    SF July 1, 2008, 3:22 pm
  • Sorry AG, he was a little before my time. Hadn’t heard of him until you mentioned him.

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 3:23 pm
  • I’ll try harder .. bought Kim Carne’s Bette Davis Eyes as a single back in 1981 or so .. know the lyrics to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by heart.
    Hated Ratt. Round and Round made my ears bleed. Hated Stryper. Loved Asia. Loved Boston (whom I hate now, completely unrelated to baseball–gerbil was a DJ for a long time in a past life). I was huge into Rush in junior/senior high school. Front-to-back, all the time; can’t even guess how many times I have listened to “Exit Stage Left”. The “Power Windows” tour was the first concert my parents let me go to by myself. I have never felt as starstruck as I did the first time I met Geddy Lee. He had the flu and bad dandruff. On a long car ride, my grandmother (an incredibly tolerant and forgiving woman) swore out loud and forbade me from ever playing it in her presence because of Geddy’s shrieking.
    Where was I? Oh yeah.. does liking Def Leppard count?

    attackgerbil July 1, 2008, 3:49 pm
  • Asia – I loved Asia, still have it on the iPod. How can you diss Scholz, though?
    And I know you can’t hide it: you loved Poison. And Winger and Warrant too.

    SF July 1, 2008, 4:01 pm
  • (Sorry to any Crows fans out there. Just an opinion.)
    You, sir, are misconstruing opinion with cold, honest facts.
    Waiting for Paul to chime in with “the Beatles”.
    That would assume I had ever once liked the Beatles. Ok, that’s not fair. I’m just trying to get under SF’s skin. I have liked — and still do — many Beatles songs. Just not enough to anoint them best band ever, like many do.
    I was a huuuuuuuge Smashing Pumpkins fan. They still have a lot of songs I like, but I’ll listen to their albums now and realize that Billy Corgan was just not the musical genius I — or he — thought he was.
    It’s funny you write this, Nick. I tried a while ago to say something similar about Scott Cooper, who I thought was just terrific (TWO All-Star Games, I mean, that’s more than J.D. Drew!). Until I looked back at his stats after his name came up on our “Random Sock” feed at right, and realized he actually kinda sucked.

    Paul SF July 1, 2008, 4:07 pm
  • What on earth is wrong with knowing the lyrics to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, I’d like to know? That song’s a blast.
    Oh yeah, um, I totally like a couple of Foreigner songs (not all the hits, but a lot of them). That’s bad, right? Like “Double Vision” and “Head Games” and all that jazz.

    Devine July 1, 2008, 4:12 pm
  • What on earth is wrong with Foreigner? “Cold as Ice” and “Jukebox Hero” continue to rock.

    Paul SF July 1, 2008, 4:15 pm
  • > you loved Poison
    No. But “Talk Dirty To Me” is fun on GH3. My close friend Phil went to their show recently; it’s his favorite band. He said they still kick. Phil’s hilarious about it.
    > Winger
    No, but Kip Winger did vocals for Twisted Sister, whom I did like for a short, embarrassing moment.
    >Warrant too
    I can not describe the intensity of my immediate and total dislike of that band.
    > Scholz
    You’re right. I ca not and should not ever diss Tom Scholz. He is a genius/god. It was just too many (literally _hundreds_) of playings of “Rock and Roll Band”, “Foreplay/Long Time”, “More Than A Feeling”, “Peace of Mind” etal … the late Brad Delp’s voice eventually got to me.

    attackgerbil July 1, 2008, 4:18 pm
  • > What on earth is wrong with Foreigner
    Hmm, I’d probably start with Lou Gramm and work from there.

    attackgerbil July 1, 2008, 4:22 pm
  • I had a few CDs that I got from The Nature Company, but that doesn’t count. I mean everyone goes through that phase, right? Who’s with me?
    Paul – Corgan might not be a musical genius, but Siamese Dream will stand the test of time.

    FenSheaParkway July 1, 2008, 4:46 pm
  • “I realized that the Counting Crows were not my thing. In fact, they sort of sucked.”
    Round Here + College Friends + Beer/Alcohol = The Understanding of Counting Crows true brilliance.
    Of Course you can also substitute Round Here with Far Behind (or any Candlebox sond) as well. I guess it’s not so much the music, but the meaning and memories behind it. Cut me some slack I went to Quinnipiac (Hamden, CT) in the 90’s, it’s just not my fault.
    Roberto Kelly was also my favorite player not named D.A.M. Glad to see I was not alone.

    John - YF July 1, 2008, 4:47 pm
  • FSP, fair enough. If Mellon Collie had been one CD, with the right songs being cut, that would remain one of my favorite albums ever made. As it was, just too much filler.

    Paul SF July 1, 2008, 4:48 pm
  • i thought benny agbayani was gonna save the sox ’02 season. i remember being so bummed when they acquired cliff floyd mid season. how could they add cliff when the answer was clearly benny.
    as for music….as a kid i was completely enammoured with DC hardcore. ian mackaye was my idol. in the late 80’s ian and al jourgensen (of Ministry fame) put out a 7″ under the name Pailhead. the record was god awful but i forced myself to love it and told all my friends it was the best record ever.
    paul & nick- since we’re on music, i got my hands on an advance copy of conor obersts new solo project (out Aug. 5th) and it is well worth seeking out. also, the Two Gallants have been owning me lately. get on board now if you haven’t already.

    sf rod July 1, 2008, 4:50 pm
  • “Asia – I loved Asia”
    Tell me that didn’t make everyone reading this think of “40 Year Old Virgin.”
    I am not so concerned with your statement SF, as I would be if I found out he had a framed Asia poster. (Please say you don’t!)

    John - YF July 1, 2008, 4:50 pm
  • > had a framed Asia poster
    Had a poster, but it wasn’t framed. I used that gooey blue playdough-ish stuff to stick it up.

    attackgerbil July 1, 2008, 5:02 pm
  • sf rod – Actually, come to think of it, I might have thought the same thing when the Sox picked up Roberto Petagine in ’05. But I think I was remembering the version of him that Rob Neyer always used to rave about.

    FenSheaParkway July 1, 2008, 5:14 pm
  • What on earth is wrong with Foreigner? “Cold as Ice” and “Jukebox Hero” continue to rock.
    Wow, and you can’t bring yourself to say a single kind word about perhaps the most important band of the last 50 years? Foreigner? Seriously?
    Who wants to bet that Paul rocks himself to sleep to the synthetic tones of Falco?

    SF July 1, 2008, 5:31 pm
  • I liked Der Kommisar.

    attackgerbil July 1, 2008, 5:34 pm
  • I liked Der Kommisar.
    I prefer After the Fire’s version.
    Man am I dating myself here.

    SF July 1, 2008, 5:41 pm
  • fsp- i had high hopes for petagine as well. he really had no chance to prove himself being stuck behind millar, mccatry and olerud. he was a prime example of the old adage “what happens in japan, stays in japan”.

    sf rod July 1, 2008, 5:48 pm
  • I honestly have no idea who Falco is. (Upon Googling him, I see now what the “Der Komissar” reference meant. That’s not a bad song. Though for New Wave goodness, I’d rather “Walk Like an Egyptian”.)
    You must have missed my good words for the Beatles, such as they were, further back. :-)

    Paul SF July 1, 2008, 6:07 pm
  • I see after further Wikipdia perusal, that I was thinking of the After the Fire version, as well…

    Paul SF July 1, 2008, 6:09 pm
  • I liked Pass the Dutchie on the Left Hand Side (Musical Youth) for more than a few weeks.

    IronHorse (yf) July 1, 2008, 6:16 pm
  • I liked The Bangles too Paul, don’t feel bad.

    Atheose July 1, 2008, 6:20 pm
  • “Pass the Dutchie” was the first dance song at my wedding.

    SF July 1, 2008, 7:20 pm
  • mmm… Susanna Hoffs… hot, and a talented vocalist/musician. What’s not to like?

    attackgerbil July 1, 2008, 7:23 pm

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