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What part of "killer whale" is in any way unclear?

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I was most amused by the report yesterday about the attack on a trainer at Sea World. Of course, it's no laughing matter, especially for the trainer, but the tone of the piece...well, read it for yourself:

A 2?-ton orca that dragged a trainer underwater during a show at SeaWorld may have been put out by a spat with another whale, grumpy because of the weather or just irritable from a stomach ache, according to marine mammal experts. "Some mornings they just wake up not as willing to do the show as others," said Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Wash. "If the trainer doesn't recognize it's not a good day, this will happen. The whale, Kasatka, was back in the water Thursday for a lunchtime performance that went off without a hitch. But the show was limited to tricks that did not involve trainers getting in the water.

Emphasis added. If I was working with a 5,000-pound, carnivorous animal, in an environment which was naturally his and not mine, I would be intent on taking every precaution imaginable. Mrs. Snakepit suggested that Sea World could maybe tie giant, whale-sized mood rings around their cetaceans, in order to help the trainers tell whether they should stay safely on dry land. "Hmm, Shamu is green, tending to black - he appears to be a bit miffed. Must be the weather. Let's skip the diving off his nose today, shall we?" Such things have never really impressed me, so I'm not exactly astonished when they go awry.

There are certain surreal moments of consumerism that will forever stick in my mind. Finding myself in Walmart at 11:30pm last night, looking for ping-pong equipment is probably one of them. This resulted from an earlier raid on the local 99c store by Mrs. Snakepit, to pick up Christmas doo-dads; included in the pile was a table-tennis set. For a laugh, we tried it out on the dining-room table, and found it curiously entertaining. However, it's clearly the case that you get what you pay for, and neither the paddles nor the balls in the set were up to much. The balls, in particular, were so flimsy, they'd deform, simply on hitting the table; though the crazy bounces which resulted were...interesting, flailing at thin air eventually paled as entertainment. Hence the midnight run for "proper" equipment: four bats, eight balls and a net for $11.48. Cheaper than meth, but almost as addictive.

Oh, alright. I'll talk about baseball. Not much to say,just a couple of bits of news - or non-news. We offered Miguel Batista arbitration; we didn't offer it to Luis Gonzalez. Neither move was unexpected, and probably count as no-brainers. Taking Batista first, this way, we either get a fourth quality-plus starter at a little above what we paid last year, or - as is more likely in the current market - he signs a multiyear deal elsewhere. If he does that, we get another draft pick between the first and second rounds, adding to the one we received when Counsell went to the Brewers.

Not offering arbitration to Gonzo makes it easier for him to sign elsewhere: he's a type-A free-agent (Batista's a type-B), and so a club no longer has to factor in losing their first-round draft pick to Arizona. But it's not just a kind, charitable gesture to our former franchise face. If we'd offered him arbitration, he might have accepted it, which would be a disaster for Arizona. In general arb, I believe there's a 20% limit to the percentage drop in salary that can result, which for Luis would be $8.5m in 2007. Though that limit does not apply to free-agents, I can't see any arbitrator slicing Gonzo's salary in half, which is what AZ would probably be willing to pay. In short, if no-one would pay $8m to Gonzalez in the free-agent marketplace, why should we? Not a risk worth taking.

Gonzalez is currently soliciting bids for his services, with a number of teams apparently interested, and an announcement of the winner likely next week, according to reports. However, if he gets more the $6m for a one-year deal, or $10m/two years, I'll be astonished, because even in a seriously-hitterish ballpark last season, his offense was no better than league average left-fielder. And it's not as if his defense or speed are plus factors for him. Mind you, I've been astonished by the deals that have been signed more times than I care to admit this season already, so who knows? I really hope he does sign for someone in the NL West, draining their resources and condemning them, in all likelihood, to sub-par production from a spot in the lineup.

Tidied up a couple of sections of the site - removed the D'backs watch stats, since I don't expect any change in the 2006 statistics for the immediate future. :-) I also added a section on the left-hand side, which will track my current best guess as far as the Opening Day 2007 roster is concerned. It's obviously a work in progress, and will mutate as things go on. Couple of points there that should be addressed: I've included Eric Byrnes, but not Jorge Julio. The former is still, according to official pronouncements, our 2007 left-fielder, so for the moment, that's where he stays. Though I really don't think it's going to happen, and fully expect him to be traded between now and April. Jorrible Jorge, however, has no such statement of support, so for the moment, is excluded from the expected bullpen.

Coming up with the list was a pleasant task. As somewhat noted earlier, it's good to realise just how set the Diamondbacks roster is, especially compared with some of our NL West rivals, who appear to be offering multi-year contracts to anyone with a pulse. In contrast, we have no more immediately pressing needs than a #5 starting pitcher at the moment. Sure, be nice to upgrade the bullpen a bit, get some more production from LF, that kind of thing. But we headed into the off-season with no free agent issues of major concern, and strong expectations of improvement in a number of areas, even without actually doing anything. A full year of Drew, Quentin and Young will be nice, for starters.

Quick update on the "round-table" discussion, featuring Nick Piecoro, Jack Magruder and Steve Gilbert, which you may remember me announcing at the end of the season: I've now got the responses back to our questions from 2/3 of the panel (for which, thanks to them). So, would like to wait a bit for the remaining one, and we'll be good to go; I won't publicly "name and shame" the respondent on whom we're waiting...yet. :-)