Saturday, October 09, 2004

Freaky Friday 

The AL switched places yesterday.  Up until the 7th inning, Game 3 of the Anaheim-Boston series looked like it was going to continue along its Boston Conquers All path.  And then, with one swing of the bat, Vlad changed it.  You could hear the silence even out here in Arizona.  (Well, not really, but you know what I mean.)  All of a sudden, it was that series had swapped bodies with the other series.  That is, until Mike Scioscia swapped bodies with... Bob Brenly and Francona.  It's one thing to bring in a starting pitcher to pitch in relief as Brenly did in Game 7 in 2001 (Randy Johnson, top of the 9th) or Francona did with Lowe in the top half of the 10th.  It's another to bring a starting pitcher to pitch in relief in the middle of an inning.  One pitch, boom, a David Ortiz shot off Washburn and Boston has to be the favorite against whichever team it faces... One cool thing about listening to the game on the radio -- it was easy to hear the Boston fans going absolutely nuts for, what, about 10 minutes?  On TV, the sound probably wouldn't have been so pronounced, and they'd've broken away for commercial.

Completing the swapped bodies theme, the New York-Minnesota series took a turn for the uncompetitive as, unfortunately for us Twins fans, Kevin Brown decided to pitch like the Kevin Brown of old, and the Twins played like, well, the Diamondbacks.  Another blowout (at least the losing team scored 4 runs instead of three).  C'mon, Johan, send this one back to the Bronx.

I suppose it doesn't matter so much if the Yankees go on to win -- there's not an ace on that staff, but even if Minnesota wins now, their rotation's so messed up heading into the next series that Boston would have to be a huge favorite, with 3 starts from Schilling if necessary.

And on, now, to what might be the best sports day of the year so far.  Three playoff baseball games, Texas-OU (Hook 'Em, Horns!... please?), USC-Cal, Florida-Georgia football.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Cultural Diversions: Mundanities 

It's been awhile since I've written one of these reviews. In part that's because some of the stuff I've been listening to or reading doesn't lend itself to discussion here. I don't think I could write anything enlightening about the 7-CD Talich Quartet recording of the complete Beethoven String Quartets (let alone anyone want to read it) I got recently, and it seems just weird to write about the Clash's London Calling, an album I've listened to in its entirety for the first time just recently (and, no, not the recently-issued expanded version -- just the plain vanilla version). I could say the same thing about the books I've been reading.

Nothing exciting, but that's the theme of this review -- making something interesting out of nothing at all. (It's not quite like making love out of nothing at all, but eh.)

There were three articles of note in The New Yorker's Sept. 6 issue, which was a special "Food" issue. It included 3 articles I found entertaining. In ascending order of entertainment...
1) Burkhard Bilger's article on gourmet salad. Want to know why you can find all sorts of bagged salad in the refrigerated produce section? Want to know how the chemical basics of those salad bags affects the type of lettuce sold? Want to read an article that puts California restauranteur Alice Waters in a bad light? Read this.
2) Malcolm Gladwell's article on ketchup. Gladwell has always posted his New Yorker articles on his own website, and so you can actually read this one without tracking down the hard copy. It's amusing, and the article doesn't quite overreach like Bilger's -- not every review of a minor foodstuff can be turned into a review of a culture, which can be turned into a broad review of "truth." (By the way, in trying to find Gladwell's website, I stumbled across this interview of Gladwell by Rob Neyer; the interview appears to be a couple years old.)
3) Adam Gopnik's review of a book on wine (whose title escapes me now) makes the above point exactly (that's where I stole it from) -- sometimes a book about food should just be about food. The reason I enjoyed this review so much is that as Gopnik discussed how a Baltimore lawyer Robert Parker revolutionized wine by ranking wines "objectively," I thought immediately of how Bill James did the same to baseball... and then Gopnik made the same exact point in his article. But it's an interesting article even beyond that.

I also recently finished David Sedaris' Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I've been a fan of Sedaris ever since his first book Barrel Fever. Over time, Sedaris has increasingly turned his skewed view of the world away from the world and onto his own family, never more so than in Dress Your Family. You sometimes wonder why his family puts up with him because he constantly paints them in less-than-flattering ways. (In fact, one of the best stories in the collection concerns this very subject and one of his sisters.) I worry, however, that Sedaris is writing himself into a corner. Yes, his stories now have an underpinning of sadness and self-realization they didn't have a decade ago. But I wish that he'd dip his toe back into the water of absurdist comedy he used to spend much more time in.

At Least It Wasn't 8.5 - 3 

Yesterday's Games: At least the Houston at Atlanta game wasn't a blowout. I was getting worried that the Twins-Yankees series would be the only one worth watching by a national audience. Just the kind of nail-biting game and dramatic ending that makes playoff anything worth watching. Couldn't have been easy for Ron Gardenhire to see Bobby Cox leave closer John Smoltz in for a 3rd inning for the first time in more than 3 years... and pitch just fine. I'm still not excited one iota by this series, but at least it's a little competitive now. I really don't have much to say about Los Angeles at St. Louis (it's difficult to see much of a game while shuttling a child to and from swim lessons) other than I don't rule out the possibility of the Dodgers winning the next two in L.A... but I ain't counting on it.

Playoff Satisfaction Index: A couple days ago, I established my Playoff Satisfaction (PS) score for the playoffs, based on how much I wanted a particular team to win each series. Tuesday's score was a 7 out of 9 (pretty high). Wednesday's score was lower (3 out of 8), as was Thursday's score (1 out of 3). My cumulative score thus far? 11 out of 20. With today's AL matchups (which I care more about than the NL -- comes from years and years of living in AL markets), it could swing...

Derek Jeter: I forgot to mention this yesterday, but does anybody think that Jeter's tagging for home on Wednesday night could just as easily be called foolhardy? If Jacques Jones gets off a decent throw (or isn't backpedalling when catching the ball), Jeter might've been tagged out...

Who Wants To Be A D-Backs Manager? According to the Republic, the Diamondbacks are interviewing Al Pedrique (yesterday), Mark Grace (informally, perhaps, today), Bob Melvin (today), Lancaster manager Wally Backman (next week?), and Anaheim Angels bench coach Joe Maddon (next week, especially if the Angels don't get their act together today).

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Whisper To A Scream 

Thoughts on yesterday's games:

Houston at Atlanta: Whatever. OK, I probably shouldn't be so flippant, but there's a reason why this game is scheduled for 1 PM Phoenix time two days in a row. No compelling storyline. I don't know, if the "Killer B's" continue to play well, I can certainly see that becoming played up, but unless the Astros meet the Yankees in the World Series, who really cares? (No offense to Houston or Atlanta fans... believe me, I know what it's like to cheer for a team nobody really cares about nationally.) What kind of game was it for Atlanta? After one Houston homerun, an Atlanta fan threw the homerun ball back onto the field... and accidentally plunked a Brave outfielder in the back. (Luckily, the Brave didn't go all Milton Bradley on the man.)
Los Angeles at St. Louis: No, they didn't play, but what is it with Milton... getting into a physical argument with a reporter? Not good.
Minnesota at New York: So close. So close. We could've gone to Minnesota, and the Yankees probably would've lost once and never returned to New York. Now we have to listen to hagiography about A-Rod "finally earning his pinstripes," more Derek Jeter, and that damn comeback victory mark. Can we please spend a little time (on TV -- blogs cover it well) talking about how the reason the Yankees have so many comeback victories is that they have a $100 offense, a $20 relief staff, and a nickel starting pitching staff? Can we try not to talk about last year's Twins-Yankees series?

I don't blame Gardenhire for bringing Nathan out in the 12th; I do question him for not pulling him after the 1st walk to Cairo, and for not making up his mind who he wanted to warm up (on the radio it sounded like Crain and Romero would each alternate, like, 5 pitches, and then sit down), which might have forced his hand. Still, I hope the Twins focus on the fact that they, too, chased their opponent's best closer. After last night, how can you not bring Santana back in Game Four?

And, finally, what's with the standing-back-and-flipping-the-bat thing? Torii, A-Rod, you both know better than that.

Anaheim at Boston: And after the Twins-Yankees game, I didn't bother staying up for the rest of the Angels-Red Sox game. While Pedro didn't quite look like the Pedro of old, he didn't look like the Pedro of 3 years from now, either. My only question is... did Boston and SoCal fans have to sit through the Twins-Yankees game before getting to watch their game, or ESPN at least switch to coverage in those areas of the country?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Link update 

Time for some cleaning up of the links.

Took off poor Roses and Rattlers, which I think I discovered the day of its last post, back in April. Guess blogging full-time for a living took its toll on the free stuff...

Cleaned up the link for Out in the Desert. Levski, I see you posting on the Republic's forum... where are you?

Added Collegeball, which is a great college basketball resource. Ryan, I think you'd like this...

Finally, I added Get UP Stand UP, a blog from New York-based music editor Yancey Strickler, whose posts I've enjoyed reading in other fora. His blog posts are good reading, too. Not limited to music.

I try not to go overboard on links -- these 2 new ones are ones I plan to read on a regular basis.

This Is So Much Easier Now... 

... that I don't have to stress about the D-Backs' walks, lack of walks, lack of strikeouts, defense, or offense.

So... let's see, in scattered, random style...

Playoff Satisfaction index: Yesterday I talked about my preferences for the divisional series. I've decided to quantify my misery (or lack thereof) by keeping score during the playoffs. Of the 3 games yesterday, the only team I wanted to win who lost were the Dodgers. So I'll give myself a Playoff Satisfaction (PS) score of 7 (since I'd weighted the Red Sox with a 3 and the Twins with a 4) out of a possible 9. I'll keep a cumulative PS score throughout.

That's just the kind of sabermetric innovation you've come to expect from me, right? ;-)

My Daughter Predicts: I'd also talked about how my daughter wouldn't pick winners in the series on Monday night. Well, I tried again last night, with much more success:

Los Angeles over St. Louis
Houston over Atlanta
Boston over Anaheim
New York over Minnesota

Yes, the predictions were made after the New York-Minnesota game started, but she's 1-2, so she can hardly be suspected of cooking the books on this one.

Thoughts on the series:
Minnesota-New York: Santana looked OK, but got out of jams when he had to. Nothing I saw would lead me to believe that New York can't win the next 2 games, which leads to the $64,000 question -- do you start Santana in Game 4. Frankly, I don't care whether the Twins are up or down 2-1 in the series, I think you have to start him in Game 4, to shut the door on the Yankees, or just to get you to Game 5.
St. Louis-Los Angeles: The only thing the Dodgers have to hang their hat on is that the Cardinals' pitching still isn't super. But it doesn't look good for the men in blue, does it?
Boston-Anaheim: I'm more worried about the Angels' chances -- Boston has Pedro, plus one more start from Schilling. Oddly enough, even though Anaheim looked to me better offensively than the Dodgers (they just couldn't put a good inning together), I think they're sunk.

Random Diamondbacks note: In the first inning of the Yankees-Twins game last night, Fox put up a graphic comparing the Yankees' first-inning success with the Twins' lack thereof. The only team with fewer runs scored in the first inning in 2004? The Diamondbacks -- just shows you how anemic the offense was -- nobody getting on base.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

What, I Can't Stop? 

Boy, you finish a 111-loss season, and the first thing you want to do is just stop blogging.

But then there are these playoffs, and the winter meetings, and looking back and looking ahead, and before you know it, it's March and spring training time and then it's Opening Day with Randy on the mound (maybe), and...


OK, I really do plan on cutting back here. I've been busier than I was back in the summer (no more time for in-depth analysis of whether the pitching staff is overworked or hitters' patience at the plate). I want to focus on some other blogging stuff. I just need a break.

But I do plan on posting occasionally over the next six months, so do stop by when you can. And thanks once more (sorry, no Scooby references this time) for everyone who took the time to stop by and read. Next year will be better (D-Backs-team-wise, at least), I promise.

And, finally (for today), a few notes:

Conor Jackson has started an AFL diary. Wonder if he'll mention all those bloggers at the Oct. 16th game?

Let me get this straight: Bob Melvin gets fired from the Seattle Mariners, and then Bill Bavasi recommends him to the Diamondbacks. This is the managerial equivalent of the "It's not you... it's me" breakup statement. For U.S.S. Mariner's view on Melvin, read here. (Summary: Not good. And certainly doesn't sound like what we need with a young D-Backs squad.)

In any case, check out the list of rumored candidates here -- Rob and Jon, it's possible that Eric Karros might not be in the booth for the Dodgers next year (very last paragraph).

Predilections and Predictions 

I don't like doing predictions. Ever since I won the office NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament pool a few years back, I realized that it was a stroke of luck and that I enjoyed running the pool much more than playing in it.

I had planned to have this post be a record of my daughter's picks for the playoffs (a la Dan Bickley's weekly picks from his daughter on his radio show), but since she refused to pick a winner for any series, I can't use this opportunity to highlight the sheer luck associated with these predictions at this stage of the game. Well, she did pick St. Louis over the Dodgers, but that's only because -- and she said this -- she thought I was talking about "Louie's Restaurant," which is featured in her current favorite Richard Scarry picture book. So you can take that pick to the bank.

So rather than talking about who's going to win -- because we have no idea -- let me talk about who I want to win here in the first round. Preference scores are done on a 1-5 scale:

1: Could really care less... what's The Simpsons rerun tonight?
2: OK, maybe I care slightly
3: Would like to see somebody win (or lose), maybe because of a favorite (or hated) player
4: Definite rooting interest and preference
5: [Reserved for Diamondbacks games]

Los Angeles at St. Louis: Dodgers (2) -- It'd be nice to see "Diamondbacks West" do well... OK, it'd be nice to see Steve Finley do well and go far in the playoffs (Dessens and Mayne are just along for the ride). I don't dislike St. Louis, though, and probably would want them to win over the winners of the other NL series.

Houston at Atlanta: Atlanta (1) -- Really, it's do I cheer for Atlanta because my friend Bill is a big Braves fan, or do I cheer against Atlanta because my friend Bill is a big Braves fan? I lived in Texas for many years, but was always a Rangers man.

Boston at Anaheim: Boston (3) -- Nothing against Anaheim, really, but I like Curt Schilling and I've always liked the Red Sox in some genial way.

Minnesota at New York: Minnesota (4) -- I've already clearly established my allegiance to the Twins in past posts, and on top of that, they're playing the Yankees. Go Twins!

So there you have it... you might not know how I'd do in Vegas (the answer, in any case, is poorly), but at least you'll know whether I'm pleased by the outcomes.

Monday, October 04, 2004

AFL Gathering Sign-In Sheet 

OK, you don't actually have to sign in. But as Jim suggested in his blog, it might be good to know about how many people might attend both the pre-game dinner and drinks as well as the game itself. You're not committing yourself to going, you don't even need to post your name -- we're just trying to get a head count for the table at the restaurant/bar and an idea of how many tickets our group will need when we get to the game (will that be one section or two?)

Again, Saturday, Oct. 16th at Scottsdale Stadium, 7:05 start for the game; pre-game time TBD.

All are welcome -- it should be lots of fun.

The End Of The Tour 

There's a girl with a crown and a scepter
Who's on WLSD
And she says that the scene isn't what it's been
And she's thinking of going home
That it's old and it's totally over now
And it's old and it's over, it's over now
And it's over, it's over, it's over now
I can see myself

At the end of the tour
When the road disappears
If there's any more people around
When the tour runs aground
And if you're still around
Then we'll meet at the end of the tour
The engagements are booked through the end of the world
So we'll meet at the end of the tour

Never to part since the day we met
Out on Interstate 91
I was bent metal you were a flaming wreck
When we kissed at the overpass
I was sailing along with the people
Driving themselves to distraction inside me
Then came a knock on the door which was odd
And the picture abruptly changed

At the end of the tour
When the road disappears
If there's any more people around
When the tour runs aground
And if you're still around
Then we'll meet at the end of the tour
The engagements are booked through the end of the world
So we'll meet at the end of the tour

This was the vehicle these were the people
You opened the door and expelled all the people
This was the vehicle these were the people
You opened the door and expelled all the people
This was the vehicle these were the people
You let them go

At the end of the tour
When the road disappears
If there's any more people around
When the tour runs aground
And if you're still around
Then we'll meet at the end of the tour
The engagements are booked through the end of the world
So we'll meet at the end of the tour
And we're never gonna tour again
No, we're never gonna tour again

The lyrics above are from the last track of They Might Be Giants' John Henry CD. Why do I include them here?

1. "End of the Tour" -- end of the season? Isn't the parallel obvious?
2. Repeated accident imagery -- end of the D-Backs' 2004 season? Isn't the parallel obvious?
3. It's just a gratuitous They Might Be Giants reference.

So here we are after a weekend that, were this the opening weekend, would be greeted with relative happiness. Win the series against a good, young Padres squad. Decent offense, shaky defense, and some fine pitching. I mean, c'mon, that's what we -- what everybody -- expected from Brandon Webb this year. Not a single walk. 4 strikeouts. 81 pitches in 7 innings of work. Even when he got in trouble in, what, the 4th inning, he managed to extricate himself with just one run scored without collapsing like he had in other situations this year. That's definitely something to hang his cap on and for us to get excited about heading into the offseason.

Three homeruns? Sure, we'll take that from a team that exhibited very, very little power this year.

In the end, 4-1 D-Backs over the Padres, ending 51-111 for the year.

So they made it. We all made it. Tired, a little bit cranky, but we crossed the finish line.

I'll talk a little bit about the playoffs tomorrow...

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Just One More... 

The last game of the season has started -- not a single Diamondback position
player starting today was starting (in that position) on Opening Day. So I
don't feel like talking much about yesterday's game. 7-6, Diamondbacks over
Padres. Randy Johnson doesn't pitch great, and the defense is only adequate
at best, but for whatever reason, the offense wakes up, Johnson helps with
his bat, and the D-Backs win.

Heck, the Dodgers-Giants game, with Elmer collapsing in the 4th inning,
Finley hitting a grand slam, and Mayne basically a non-entity was almost
more D-Back-like than the D-Backs.

More tomorrow.