Friday, February 11, 2005

The Distance 

Ever since graduating from UNC, I've lived at least 1,000 miles from Chapel Hill. As my undergraduate days have receeded in the rear-view mirror both literally and figuratively, my connection with the University, and its sports squads in particular, has faded somewhat. Part of that has to do with the passing of time and the development of other interests on my part, of course, but some of that has to do with removing myself from the frenzied hothouse that is the Atlantic Coast Conference. The intensity of interest on the part of regular students -- as if this were part of their blood -- almost scared me when I watched my first real Carolina game, a Carolina-Georgetown game my freshman year in a Pizza Hut on Franklin Avenue with about 150 other students ready to rip somebody's head off. (In relatively short order, I joined them.)

But of course it was part of their blood. Most of my compatriots were North Carolina natives whose parents may have had their own connection with the University and who, in any case, had been watching ACC basketball with devotional interest since elementary school. Unlike many sports fans, whose sports interests are catholic (lower-case "c") in nature, encompassing whatever happens to be in the forefront at the moment, my classmates were almost single-mindedly devoted to Carolina basketball. Interest in other Carolina sports was more social in nature, and interest in pro sports was non-existent. (This was before the arrival of the Panthers, Hornets, or Hurricanes, so it'd be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.)

Now that I live in Phoenix, the distance separating me from Carolina basketball is large. If I want Carolina basketball news, I need to actively seek it out, rather than being bombarded with it daily in several newspapers and the nightly television sportscasts. This distance has its benefits sometimes, as in the case of Wednesday's Duke-Carolina game. I watched the game with some alumni here, and while it was frustrating watching the Tar Heels give the ball away repeatedly like it was some sort of cheap midway trinket, the level of cursing was remarkably low. Unlike the fans gathered at "Top of the Hill" in Chapel Hill (and shown in alternating states of craziness and disappointment throughout ESPN's telecase), we moved on after the game. The distance helped us to see that even though the Heels played horribly in the always-intimidating environment of Cameron against a good (though not great) Duke squad, all was not lost. Carolina should've lost by 10, if not more -- the fact that they only lost by 1 was almost -- ALMOST -- heartening.

But in case you need to feel a little more intense East Coast perspective on Duke-Carolina, you can read Ryan's thoughts here.

Of course, the distance between me and the Diamondbacks is considerably less. With players beginning to show up in spring training camps and pitchers and catchers required to report in less than a week, that distance is about to narrow to virtually nil. Here we go again.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Spring Training and You 

A few weeks back, I mentioned the possibility of getting together at a Spring Training game. I had the following suggestions:

Su 3/13 @ 1, Maryvale -- Brewers (ss)
Su 3/13 @ 1, Phoenix -- A's (ss)
Sa 3/19 @ 1, Peoria -- Mariners
Fr 3/25 @ 7, Surprise -- Rangers
Sa 3/26 @ 1, Peoria -- Padres
… and possibly the Red Sox games, which I'm assuming will be at night

Of that list, I'm probably most interested in the Padres game, with perhaps
the Mariners game #2.

So... any follow-up thoughts? I've gotta believe that Padres game will be comparatively easy to get tickets to as it: a) comes at the end of ST, and b) doesn't involve the Cubs or Giants. But maybe someone has a different perspective.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Stupid Babelfish! 

Check this out. Since my Korean is rusty (OK, nonexistent), the Randy Johnson panel is most amusing to me, though the Hillenbrand and Mantei panels show promise. Because they're pictures, I couldn't get Babelfish to translate the page.

Thanks to Richard and Rob for pointing out the series.

Good-Case Scenario 

So, with the news that lefty pitcher Casey Fossum has been traded to the Devil Rays for outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., what's left to do? Well, if you're a D-Backs fan, the first thing you do is exhale a huge sigh of relief. Somehow, we managed to make it through an offseason with a Diamondbacks management seemingly preternaturally disposed to veteran players and determined to compete for a playoff spot without losing a single key prospect. Quentin -- still here. Jackson -- still here. Santos -- still here. And even though we have no way of knowing if any of those players were actually being considered for a trade, they clearly would be the most attractive prospects to opposing GMs.

After that, I'm not sure it really matters that much. Cruz is an OK player -- 15 Win Shares, -1 WSAA, 19.5 VORP -- not as good as Burnitz, Byrnes, or Cameron perhaps, but with just one year left on a $4 million contract (with the D-Backs reportedly getting some of that in cash from the D-Rays), the risk is acceptable in my mind. Should August come around and the D-Backs find themselves 15 games out of first, Cruz could probably be dealt to a contender for a middling prospect.

I like Casey Fossum as a pitcher and think that he could probably be a good fifth or even fourth starter somewhere (including the Devil Rays). But the D-Backs clearly had decided that he had little future as a starter, and so it is somewhat surprising to me that they managed to sell Fossum's strengths as a starter to the Devil Rays. Fossum's trade does narrow down the list of 5th starters for the D-Backs (Gosling, Villareal, perhaps Pena remain), and I've got to believe that his trade makes it more likely that Halsey makes the team as a second LOOGY.

With that, it's something like 9 days until pitchers and catchers report.