Friday, August 27, 2004

Contracts (Un)signed, (Not) Disposed Of 

Before I forget... if you haven't seen this article, it provides some (somewhat juicy) tidbits:

1) Stephen Drew has registered for classes at FSU, and looks like he'll attend classes next week unless he signs a contract this weekend.
2) Maybe this is just one of those "selective quotes," or "if you ask a question often enough, you'll eventually get an answer you're looking for," but Joe Garagiola Jr. comes as close as he can to actually confirming that the D-Backs put Randy Johnson on the waiver wire (by ripping the lack of supposed confidentiality).

A Goodbye 

I feel confident in saying that I've seen Mia Hamm play soccer more often than anyone reading this blog. (Unless, of course, Nomar Garciaparra reads this, and I consider that highly unlikely.) I attended North Carolina at the same time as Mia Hamm. My freshman year, I started attending Tar Heel women's soccer games primarily because doing so helped me get good seats for men's basketball games. But I quickly found other reasons to attend through my four years there. Aside from the social aspects of attending the games, attending their games was fun for two reasons.

First, it's always fun to see your squad run roughshod over your opponents. Unless you attended those games, it is difficult to convey the dominance that those Tar Heel teams exhibited. Their records in the four years I was there were 24-0-1, 20-1-1, 24-0-0, and 25-0-0. That's right, folks, they went 93-1-2 over that time period.

Second (and even more importantly), they were so good that non-experts could see it. I hadn't played organized soccer since third grade, but even I could see that the Tar Heel players were head and shoulders (figuratively and occasionally literally) above their opponents. They were so good you could understand how the game was supposed to be played. And it wasn't just the ACC; even in the NCAA tournament games (many, many of which were played in Chapel Hill), the Tar Heels pounded their opponents.

On a team of tremendous athletes, Hamm was the best. It was just fun watching her. She actually red-shirted that second season (the season in which the Tar Heels lost a game) so she could play in the first Women's World Cup. If you look at Mia's four actual seasons, the Tar Heels were 96-0-1 over that period. Mia never lost a college soccer game.

Since the first NCAA women's soccer championship was held in 1982, the Tar Heels have won 17 of the 22 national championships. They won 9 straight championships from 1986 through 1994. A consecutive victory streaks of 92 and undefeated streaks of 103 and 101. They almost make Wooden-era UCLA teams (10 championships in 12 years, seven in a row, 88 victories in a row) look like pikers.

Many Tar Heels went on to play for the women's national team. Fully one-third (6 of 18) of the Olympics squad are current or former Tar Heels, including of course Mia Hamm.

Most people know that this will be the last international tournament for many of the U.S. squad, including Hamm. And much as the rest of the NCAA has begun to catch up to the Tar Heels (and the rest of the world has caught up to U.S. men's basketball), the rest of the world has caught up to U.S. women's soccer.

Yesterday's gold metal match against Brazil was not a blowout. Heck, you could argue that Brazil outplayed the Americans, with two Brazilian shots hitting the posts. Yet the U.S. team found a way to win 2-1 in overtime, making the storybook ending come true for Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, and others.

I'm sure that Mia Hamm won't be disappearing from the national stage entirely. Heck, the women's team is already planning a farewell tour. But I know that this is the end of seeing Mia Hamm dominate teams like she used to, and for that reason, I'll say goodbye. Thanks for the memories.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

How To Bunt 

Part of the allure of the Summer Olympics is the fantasy that, with practice, we could be there in some of the events. I could play handball! How hard could racewalking be? I've played beach volleyball at the Monastery! This is a lie, of course, but those sports look easier than, say, weightlifting or water polo or the balance beam.

So it is with baseball. The ability to throw a ball 95 MPH or hit that 95 MPH fastball into the right-field bleachers (I'm a lefty); that strikes me as impossible. (Especially since my baseball experience is limited to a couple graduate school seasons of softball.) But bunting, bunting seems like something I could do, at least with some practice. I'm not talking about a perfect drag down the line, legged out for a base hit, but just a simple sacrifice.

The fantasy makes it harder for me to understand by Scott Hairston couldn't get a bunt down in the ninth inning with runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out. Two missed bunts, then watching strike three. Then Carlos Baerga grounds into a double play. Game over, and another frustrating game by Randy Johnson, who uncharacteristically gives up two home runs which prove to the difference. 2-1 Pirates, both in the game and the series.

Maybe the D-Backs should check out their own video... (see "Baseball: Bunting" section about 1/3rd of the way down the page -- it includes an ASU and a former Diamondback's video).

Edgar Gonzalez is moving to the bullpen. A shame, even if Pedrique says it's not a demotion, since Gonzalez had finally shown some flashes of, if not brilliance, at least competence in the starters' position.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Another Day, Another Loss 

The D-Backs lost 3-1 to the Pirates Tuesday night, with most of the scoring early, early on. The D-Backs scored 1 run in the top of the 3rd to close to within 2-1, but a familiar nemesis -- the double play with runners in scoring position -- ended the inning, thanks to Danny Bautista. Edgar Gonzalez and Alex Cintron, two recent Management By Fear (TM) recipients, had decent games, as Gonzalez held the Pirates to 2 runs in six innings and Cintron was the only D-Back to get 2 hits. Randy Johnson goes tonight in a rare opportunity for a D-Back series win.

In other news, Stephen Randolph will get one more start. We'll see how Randolph responds to MBF. There is "speculation" that Randy Johnson went on the waiver wires yesterday. Nice to see that the state's largest newspaper writes an entire article based merely on unidentified "speculation." And, Padres fans (is it "Padre fans" or "Padres fans"?) might want to check out this article on Matt Bush's early Arizona League struggles.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Cultural Diversions: Living the Dream 

I finished a couple books recently whose subjects both dealt with young men "living the dream" (or on their way to living the dream), though in different arenas. The first had somewhat personal meaning; the second is interesting, especially for Diamondback, Padres, and Reds fans.

So You Wanna Be A Rock and Roll Star, by Jacob Slichter

Slichter was the drummer for the Minneapolis band Semisonic. "Huh?," you say? You know, "Closing Time"...

Closing Time
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer
Closing Time
You don't have to go home but you can't stay here

OK, now the lights go on (maybe). A decent band, but one who, though they don't technically meet the definition of a "one hit wonder," exemplify its spirit. One massive hit, a song nearly inescapable, then little else.

Now, I thought (and still think) "Closing Time" is an awesome song. It was worth reading the book to find out the real meaning of the song (and, no, it's not obvious). For the most part, it's a standard-order description of life as a corporate rock-and-roll artist (i.e., not as much fun as you might think, though apparently all late-night talk shows give their guests clothing of some sort). Slichter and his bandmates seem, well, waaaaay too well-adjusted to be rock stars, which may explain why they were such only briefly and barely. His writing is
fun, though he's almost to cerebral and rarely gets into the emotional reasons of why he wanted to be a musician in the first place. One of the highlights for me was the chapter describing the ever larger and louder crowds who knew the words to "Closing Time" and the rush of playing to those crowds; I wish more of
the book had been about that. I also appreciated the discussion of Twin Cities radio in the early-to-mid-1990s -- it triggered fond memories of the original "Rev 105," the best commercial (barely) radio station I ever got to listen to.

The Last Best League, by Jim Collins

Collins is a college baseball player-turned-writer who spent the summer of 2002 following -- in great detail
-- the Chatham A's of the Cape Cod Baseball League, one of the NCAA-sanctioned summer leagues. Cape Cod gets a bunch of the best college baseball players each year and their games are heavily, heavily scouted by the major league squads.

There's quite a bit of the technical nuts-and-bolts of how the league is run, but the meat of the book is spent on talking about the kids who play, 20-year-olds who are maturing both on and off the field. I say that the book may be of particular interest to D-Back, Padre, and Reds fans because the three players Collins spends the most time with (in the book) are Jamie D'Antona, Tim Stauffer, and Thomas Pauly. Stauffer and Pauly come off well in the book, but D'Antona... It's not that Collins rips him, but he's clearly portrayed as a nice kid with a whole heck of a lot of talent (and power, goodness, what power) but not necessarily the drive that will push him all the way to the Show. At the end of the book, it appears D'Antona may have turned the corner. Although Collins does devote a lot of space to these three, I think he could've jettisoned even more of the discussion on the other players in lieu of more space on these three. As an evocation of "baseball in a special place," the book does only a fair job, but for some background on those three, it's a pretty good read.

Oh, Yeah, A Rally 

In lieu of a well-structured entry, a bunch of assorted commentary...

The Diamondbacks not only scored in the 9th inning of last night's game, but actually held off the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth. The result, amazingly, was a 5-4 win over the Pirates. The game-winning RBI was driven in by Alex Cintron, who also seems to be responding to Pedrique's management by fear approach. Put Jerry Gil in for a couple games, and all of a sudden Cintron responds by going 2-5 with a double. At this rate, I expect Juan Brito to hit for the cycle when he goes back in with Randy on Wednesday.

Casey Fossum had, for him, a not too typical outing -- that is, neither pretty good nor awful. I'd mentioned before about Fossum's decent number of quality starts (6). It's one less, unfortunately, than his what I'll call "negative" starts -- starts in which the ERA is greater than 9.0. It's also one less than those starts between "quality" and "negative." I'll take it. (One other note... I'd said last week I thought Fossum might have as many quality starts as Brandon Webb. As always, the lesson here, as the Sports Guy would say, is I'm an idiot. Webb has 14 quality starts. Which makes his 5-14 record even more shameful to the team.)

Oh, speaking of poor offensive support, much has been made of the lack of offensive support for Randy Johnson. The only problem is, there's not been much of a difference between games with Randy and those without Randy.

D-Back runs/game, Randy's starts = 3.814
D-Back runs/game, all other starts = 3.980

In other words, if the D-Backs had scored runs for Randy at the same rate as for the other starters, they'd have scored about 4.5 more runs for Randy thus far. If Randy complains, the rest of the pitchers shouldn't be far behind.

The problem is, we just notice the lack of offense much more when we lose 2-0 than when we lose 10-1.

Finally, there's news that El Paso will no longer be our AA affiliate and the Diablos' news owners will probably relocate to Springfield, Missouri to become the Cardinals' affiliate. Some moxie... wonder how it'll affect the discretionary spending for movie theatres in Springfield.

Monday, August 23, 2004


Poo-poo [pu-pu], noun:
1.  The way the D-Backs played yesterday.
2.  The word that the very young D-Backs might have used to describe their play yesterday.
3.  The most commonly word used in our household this weekend as we start potty-training out daughter.

Sometimes life takes over in a good way, even if it seems like a bad way at the time.  It's not like we could have seen much of the series at home (only yesterday's 11-1 debacle of a loss was televised), but frankly, the constant, "Do you need to go to the potty?" leaves one with comparatively little time to watch or listen to baseball, let alone blog about it, let alone blog about a series whose importance is trivial, even in the comparative triviality of baseball.

We started Thursday, and it has been a long, trying weekend, even taking into account the  successes (not too many accidents, a continuing interest in trying).  But it seemed relatively pleasant compared to the Diamondbacks-Reds series, which I fortunately missed nearly all of.

I guess the D-Backs' series wasn't soooo awful, when you consider at least that Randy and Brandon held the Reds to 3 runs on their way to a 1-1 split in the first two games of the series.  Yeah, they lost 2-0 on Friday, but held on to win 2-1 on Saturday, and you could at least sustain the fiction that they would win the series and split the homestand.

And then, from all accounts, the wheels fell off yesterday.  Another poor (if not worse) outing from Stephen Randolph, who would appear to have just one more start to show that he can be a starter.  Two errors.  A continued lack of offense.

So the high points, slim as they are, belong to catcher Chris Snyder, who got a hit in his first major league at bat on Saturday, and shortstop Jerry Gil, who got a hit in his first major league at bat on Sunday.  The simultaneous promotion of Gil and demotion of Doug DeVore is a good thing as DeVore (whose upside was pretty low) was hitting poorly and Gil's presence lets Cintron know in no uncertain terms that he needs to play better or risk not being on the squad come April.  I know other D-Back bloggers have probably already expressed their joy at Gil's promotion in much starker terms, but, really, that's a pretty enthusiastic description for me.

I'll get back into the swing of things tomorrow.

But right now I have to go to the potty.