Big Papi, Not Going Gently

David Ortiz, the Buddha-like designated-hitter of the Boston Red Sox known as "Big Papi", turned 40 last November. Shortly thereafter he announced that this season, his twentieth in the big leagues, would be his last. Ordinarily, when a star ballplayer reaches this stage their decision to retire is greeted by fans with a mixture of relief, admiration and a desire to look back misty-eyed over the satisfying achievements of a long and storied career. We think, "Whew, I'm glad he knows it's time and is going out on his own terms with some dignity while he can still get it done, instead of looking bad trying to milk one last pathetic season out of his decrepit body." Or something like that. Well, think again folks: Ortiz has turned all this on its head by having, even by his own lofty standards and at such an advanced baseball age, an astonishing season. He is not giving us a swan song, but more of a swan opera. He's currently leading all of baseball in four important hitting categories: doubles, with 26; RBI, with 55; slugging percentage, an amazing .728; and an on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) of 1.153. For good measure, he is also among the leaders in home runs (16, tied for sixth), batting average (.340, fourth) and on-base-percentage (.425, third.) Surprisingly, in spite of reaching base so often and playing on such a prodigious hitting team, he's scored just 28 runs, but the reasons for this are fairly obvious. He was never fast and is even slower now, so quite regularly after more [...]

How Are These with Guacamole?

We've just experienced our first heatwave, that sudden annual transition from "it could be warmer" to "man, can you believe how friggin' hot it is already!?" The last thing anyone wants to do in this heat is cook, yet we still have to eat, even if a little lighter. What's needed is some refreshing, satisfying food that doesn't require an oven. Salads and chilled soups like gazpacho are good, but one of the best summer snacks is guacamole, it's very fresh-tasting and quite filling. And, not to spoil it or anything, but it's actually good for you, provided you don't eat the whole bag of tortilla chips once the velvety green dip is gone. Obviously, the key to making good guacamole is having avocados at a perfect stage of soft ripeness, but the timing of this can be tricky. I usually buy the mesh bags with five or six rather than the individual ones, it's cheaper that way. They're often hard as rocks in the store, so you leave them on the counter for a few days to ripen. If you squeeze them and they give and a small dimple is left, they're ready. The trouble is, sometimes they're ready when you don't have time to make the guac and you end up leaving them too long and they get all black and mushy inside. My sister-in-law recently showed me a simple way around this: once the avocados are ripe, put them in the fridge. This stops the ripening process and has the added advantage of chilling the avocados, making the finished product even more refreshing. I've been tinkering with more [...]