Friday, May 06, 2005

The Waiver Wire: Meta-Fielder Edition 

Last week I shamelessly used the siren call of cost-free yeast-based drinks (i.e., free beer) as a response to a certain D-Back blogger's use of a photo of a certain Russian "tennis" "player" Anna K. My favorite part -- someone posting under Anna's name -- no, I did not click through as I figured it might've skirted the boundaries of "unsafe"…


Speaking of unsafe, how about Quinton McCracken? A .542 OPS, a -2.3 VORP, and, as mentioned earlier today, not a good fielding CF, either. Whenever Jose Cruz Jr. makes his way back to Phoenix (it seems like it might be another week or so), who gets bumped down? Luis Terrero? Well, he's doing marginally better offensively, and would have significantly higher offensive upside. (I also have this vague, nagging feeling that Terrero's out of options, but that can't be right.) A pitcher? Seems like Melvin wants to stick with a 12-man pitching staff, at least until the bullpen settles down a bit and achieves a little more consistency. (And, besides, with Aquino and Villarreal still coming back eventually, may as well keep 12 men on staff until they return.) As much as Melvin seems to like having McCracken around, Cruz's eventual return might spell the end of the run with the Diamondbacks.

And is centerfield a big enough hole heading into 2006 that you're willing to part with Carlos Quentin or Conor Jackson to obtain a good enough player to roam out there?


Many of you may have probably read this already, but for a different view of a ballplayer who's spent a long career on the fringes of the show, this recollection of new Mariner Dave Hansen by a high school classmate of his is a nice read. I can't help but think there's somebody who went to school with McCracken at Duke who could probably write something that would at very least give a glimpse into the person who is most driving D-Back fans nuts right now.


Why not?


Why not indeed? (I particularly enjoy the comments section -- better than the main posts.)


Have a good weekend everyone. Thanks as always for reading and commenting. Go Diamondbacks!

Blast From The Past 

If I weren't so tired, I would write an extended metaphorical post about Thursday night's 6-2 Diamondbacks loss to the Pirates using Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol as the basis for the piece. But I am, so I'll just say my conceit would've been to focus on the Ghost of Christmas Past (i.e., the 2004 Diamondbacks), who made a special appearance at BOB last night. Heck, there was even a holiday being celebrated -- Cinco de Mayo.

Of course, as the Republic noted, one wag in the press box called the game "Stinko de Mayo," a pun only exceeded by Jim's pun in its groan-ability and, unfortunately, far more accurate.

A back-of-the-rotation pitcher giving up lots of hits? Check. (Thank you, Mr. Estes.)

Defensive miscues galore? Check. (Thank you, Mr. McCracken, with the worst fielding percentage and range factor of any non-pitcher on the team.)

Grounding into double plays? Check. (Thank you, Messrs Gonzalez, McCracken, and Terrero.)

Seriously, it seemed like 2004 all over again, and unlike other games this year, where I held out hope the team could recover from a deficit, I had little expectation of winning the game after that fifth inning where the Pirates went up 5-2. It was probably the most dispiriting game of the year, even more dispiriting than Opening Day.

Still, the team has had enough days where the breaks went their way (the Giants series alone is probably proof) that I'm still hopeful the team can win the next three. Javier Vazquez, who has put together an increasingly strong string of starts (mmmmm.... unintended alliteration....), gets the job of shutting down this Pirates offense tonight. Let's hope he's considerably more Scrooge-like than Estes.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cultural Diversion: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 

If you came of age in the 1970s, Star Wars was your requisite sci-fi trilogy -- classic trilogy, even if you thought the Ewoks were a bit much.

If you came of age in the late 1990s, The Matrix was your requisite sci-fi trilogy, even if the second movie was tolerable at best and the third, er, let's not go there.

If you came of age in the 1980s, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was your requisite sci-fi trilogy. The only problem was, it took them more than 25 years to make just one movie of it.

So while the nerds just a little bit older than me found themselves part of a cultural phenomenon that revolutionized the way Hollywood made films and the nerds a little bit younger than me found themselves part of a phenomenon that I would argue gave the DVD format the final push toward mainstream status, nerds my age got a trilogy that, while popular, still grew out of a radio broadcast. It was more like the Little Trilogy That Could.

Which is all a way of saying that I'm probably not the best reviewer of the movie, because I have fond memories of the books, and I'm bound to end up comparing the movie to the book, which really isn't fair.

So I'll keep this brief. If you read the books, you'll like the movie. There were some things that seemed out of place, added, subtracted, over- or under-emphasized, but I found the movie matched the genial and loopy spirit of the book. The cast is amiable enough (Sam Rockwell makes a very good, and very wild, Zaphod), but at times seems overwhelmed by the plot mechanics of the movie. Which is too bad, because the charm of Douglas Adams' book lies in the thoroughly bizarre riffs Adams goes off on. Some of those riffs are in the movie, but it sometimes felt like it slowed the movie down. And some of the cool details (like the need to drink copious amounts of beer and eat lots of peanuts before hitchhiking) are left unexplained.

All in all, I had fun. I hope they make the sequel. I don't even think you need to have read the books in order to enjoy the movie. But compared to the adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (for nerds even older than the Star Wars nerds), it pales somewhat.

What Made This Country Great 

This is a great country. You want to know what made this country great?


Not just capitalism, mind you, because there are all sorts of countries out there with capitalism who many observers would say are Not Nearly As Great As Our Country.

No, here's what made capitalism -- and, by extension, our country -- great:

Three-martini lunches.

Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying, "But there are other countries for whom ritualistic long lunches with an alcohol component are an integral part of the culture." And you're right, there are, so here's what really made capitalism great:

Tax-deductible three-martini lunches.

And for those of you nitpickers who want to point out other countries with tax systems:

Tax-deductible three-martini lunches at an afternoon major league baseball game.

What's that? Still not satisfied? OK, this is all I've got for you:

Tax-deductible three-martini lunches at an afternoon major league baseball game at which the pitcher for the home squad strikes out the opposing batter on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and 2 outs.

Of course, since most of us can't attend 3 PM weekday baseball games and are forced to listen to the game on the radio (the Javier Lopez strikeout of J.T. Snow was as electric a moment I've heard on the radio for the D-Backs since the Randy Johnson perfect game) or "watch" it on Gameday (I thought there might be some computer error when the D-Backs strung together five straight singles plus a double with two outs in the fourth inning), we're a little less enamored of how capitalism and the tax structure operates.

But having the D-Backs beat the Giants 6-2 to take the series on a day when Brandon Webb didn't have his best stuff (114 pitches in 6.0 IP) is enough for me.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Front Office: Links Update 

Time for the monthly links update:

-- First, as I mentioned last week, if you have not checked out the Baseball Tonight blog, please do so. I think the site could use an editor, as it's a bit hard to separate the slightly amusing from the very amusing, but there's plenty good stuff in there. The TMQ entry was spot-on. It's on the sidebar for now...
-- Also, I've added Devin's D-Back blog, Line Drive in the High Desert, to the sidebar. Posting by D-Back bloggers not named Jim, Ryan, or William (or Stefan) has been very spotty thus far this year, but my standards are lower than Jim's, so to the sidebar you go, young man!
-- Cheat has moved his White Sox blog to the SportsBlog nation at South Side Sox. I've enjoyed his writing for awhile now at his old site and besides, I gotta have some other AL Central blog up there to counteract all the Twins love I've got going on.
-- Finally, it's not a new link, but I've removed the "Beta" from my Zooglobble blog, which reviews children's music (and music for the whole family). If it's not ready for prime time now, it'll probably never be ready.

Start Spreading the News 

... I'm leaving today
I want to leave all parts of it
New York, New York...

2004 VORP
Javier Vazquez 23.1 (198.0 IP)
Brad Halsey -3.8 (32.0 IP)
Tony Clark 5.7 (283 PA)

2005 VORP
Javier Vazquez 1.0 (37.1 IP)
Brad Halsey 7.7 (35.0 IP)
Tony Clark 6.3 (43 PA)

Ignoring for today Javier Vazquez, whose '05 VORP is still trying to recover from one horrendous Opening Day, you don't think Brad Halsey and Tony Clark, heroes of last night's 3-2 Diamondbacks victory over the Giants, are glad to be out of the Big Apple? The two of them are the second- and third-biggest surprises of the D-Backs' young season behind Brandon Lyon and the Diamondbacks might be at or below .500 without them.

Clark delivered another timely hit last night, driving in Royce Clayton in the bottom of the eighth. Halsey gave up a couple home runs, but pitched well otherwise in his 7 innings of work.

I chose to think about the game coming down to two double plays -- one missed, one made. In the bottom of the seventh, Omar Vizquel, who'd robbed the D-Backs of several hits already, tried to turn the double play with the bases loaded and one out. But instead of turning two, the throw was low and skipped away from first baseman Lance Niekro, scoring two and giving the D-Backs the lead. In the top of 7th, Halsey seemed to be struggling a bit, having given up his second homer (to Feliz) and then immediately walking Ray Durham. But Halsey then got Lance Niekro (who hit the other home run off him) to ground into a tough 5-4-3 double play and get out of the inning.

I know that the D-Backs can't keep up this run of one-run wins. They're the luckiest team in the league, as judged by their 3.1 wins above their Pythagorean record (as of this morning) But they're also just above .500 as judged by their Pythagenport record. The difference between them and the Giants seems insignificant at this point, so it's important that they win the series tonight and take no less than 3 of 4 from the Pirates, who may just be the worst team in baseball right now.

As odd as it might have sounded before the season, the Diamondbacks might truly be better than the Yankees this year.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Slowly Revealing 

Sometimes the story is better when you don't know everything. Well, maybe not better. But definitely different.

For example, I turned on the TV last night to see the D-Backs trailing 6-1, with Ortiz still on the mound in the 3rd inning. After Glaus hit his homerun in the bottom of the 3rd, my thought was, you know, at least this year, 4 runs isn't an insurmountable deficit.

And when Lance Cormier came jogging out to the mound in the 4th inning after it became completely clear that Ortiz had zip to offer (7 hits and 5 walks in 3 2/3 IP), I thought, "Well, I guess Melvin still thinks he has a shot at this game, otherwise he'd bring in Bruney."

Sure enough, Cormier held the line (except for giving up the 7th run, also charged to Ortiz) and when the D-Backs scored a third run in the bottom of the sixth, I thought, they still have a chance.

So when Valverde started the seventh inning, I thought, well that explains Bruney's non-appearance in the fourth inning -- he's on his way back down to Tucson. Valverde pitched OK in his inning of work, and Chad Tracy got things off to a good start in the bottom of the seventh. (Making me wonder again why Alou didn't have someone pinch-hit for Schmidt in the top half of the inning -- Schmidt left the game with 120 pitches, and probably should never have gone out in the bottom of the 7th.)

At which point I turned off the TV. I was tired, I was getting up early this morning, and although I thought they still might make it close, I wasn't committed enough last night to see it through.

And so when I picked up the paper this morning before my jog, I was heartened to see that the D-Backs clawed all their way back -- twice -- before losing in the 10th inning. And disheartened to find that Brian Bruney had somehow lost his way down to Tucson and had, instead, found himself on the pitcher's mound at BOB. With 2 hits and 2 walks (1 intentional) in the 10th inning -- all with 2 outs -- Bruney said, "Here, Mr. Giants, I truly do not want this win. Please take it."

"I'm not trying to walk anybody," said Bruney after the game.

Here's an idea, Brian -- why don't you try walking someone? What's the worst that could happen? You could walk someone! And how exactly would that be different from now?

OK, that was mean, and I don't like to do "mean" 'round here. But it makes you wonder if something has happened to Brian -- through April 18, he'd pitched 9 innings with just 7 hits and 3 walks, but since then he's pitched 6 1/3 innings with 6 hits and 8 walks. His control is just gone. And while I guess I can understand the logic of sending Hairston back down to Tucson, since he's not getting much playing time up here, I'm not sure there's much point in keeping Bruney up as long as he's pitching so wildly again.

So in the end, I'm happy that we had the second best comeback of the night (first-place honors going to the Cardinals, of course), just disappointed that we couldn't close the deal. 9-8 Giants.

Here's hoping the bats stay and the wildness goes tonight.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Three Weeks: Early Playoff Edition 

I'm not fool (or bold) enough to say this is indicative of anything, but if the playoffs started today, the D-Backs would have to face the Braves in a tiebreaker for the right to play the Cardinals. I don't know what's worse: the fact that somebody's writing that or the fact that I'm linking to it.

The Week That Was

Record: 4-2 (overall: 15-10, 1.5 GB Dodgers)
Runs Scored/Runs Allowed: 4.00 - 2.25 (high/low removed)
Transactions: None

Almost any way you want to look at it, last week was a good week for the Diamondbacks. Sweeping the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium for the first time in the D-Backs' history. A winning road trip. Against division opponents. The Diamondbacks briefly led the National League West, for goodness sake! Shouldn't that have been accompanied by a plague of locusts or some other apocalyptic sign? Leading the NL-freakin'-West!

We have the pitchers to thank.

Thank you, pitchers! We salute you! Not with one of those middle-finger salutes or with sarcasm in our voices and certainly not in any way commensurate with with how we thank "community helpers" (that's a preschool term, folks) such as firefighters or policemen or doctors, but in a measured all-things-in-their-place way. Thanks, guys!

In particular, thank you, Mr. Javier Vazquez, who pitched a total of 17 innings, giving up 11 hits, 2 walks, and throwing 17 strikeouts on his way to two of those four wins.

Bullpen? Hey, yeah, you guys done good, too.

Defense? 89 1/3 innings without an error, a club record. The D-Backs' defense probably isn't that good, but at least they're average, and that's a far sight better than 2004.

Offense? Er… well, Petco Park isn't really hitter-friendly and even the modified environs of Dodger Stadium probably is still a hitter's park. Even so, hello? Anybody there? You can come out of hiding now… we're coming back to BOB… (Home OPS: .894, trailing only the Rockies in the NL; Away OPS: .600, worst in the NL).

The Weeks That Will Be

10 at home (3 vs. San Francisco, 4 vs. Pirates, 3 vs. Nationals)
4 at Colorado

It seems like I've been writing this every week now, but it is crucial that the D-Backs take care of business right now. The Giants are without Bonds, without Benitez and, dang it all, are still only 1.5 games behind the Diamondbacks in the standings. Their hitting's been great (3rd in NL OPS), but their pitching overall has been worse than the D-Backs (12th NL in ERA, 13th in K/BB). They've got Jason Schmidt going tonight, but it's still important that the Diamondbacks win this series.

You know, the difference between this year and last year is that I can say the D-Backs have a shot at winning this series -- whatever series it is -- with a straight face. I'm not saying they will, but they sure as heck can.

Whereas it must take effort to have hope if you're a Pirates fan. At least last year D-Backs fans like myself had a recent history of strong performances to allow us to maintain our delusional (yes, I can see now it was delusional) hope into, say, June. No, the Pirates are bad on both sides of the ball. Last in the NL in OBP, AVG, and OPS. 13th in the NL in ERA and last in their groundball/flyball ratio (0.90). Even their defense, which appears to at least be average by most metrics, leads the NL in passed balls.

So I guess what I'm saying is, if the D-Backs don't take at least 3 of these 4 games against the Pirates and have a winning record for the week, I'll be disappointed.

That and make sure to start Troy Glaus in your fantasy leagues. Oh, wait, that'd be me. Done.

Off Weekend 

Sometimes you choose to watch a lot of baseball on the weekend and sometimes you decide you have better things to do. (Sometimes you have those better things thrust upon you like unwanted leftovers from an office potluck, but that really wasn't the case here.)

Let's see... spent a relaxing evening at home with the family Friday night after a long week; went to the zoo with my daughter Saturday, capped by a trip to Krispy Kreme; had dinner with some excellent sangria at the neighbors' Saturday night; accompanied my daughter to a birthday party at Enchanted Island and watched her ride The Dragon three times. (You have no idea how big of a deal that is.) Oh, yeah, my daughter is starting to swing a mini-baseball bat quite nicely, on the basis of absolutely no instruction on my part. Maybe by the end of the season, she'll get a crack at the D-Backs' 2-spot in the lineup.

So instead of watching a 15-inning loss Friday night, or searching for the missing offense Saturday night, I caught the 7th inning of Sunday's 5-2 Diamondbacks win over the Padres. That was enough for me.

It's hard to get too frustrated by Friday's 5-4 loss -- losing in 15 innings is always tough, but on the other hand, the relief staff pitched 8 eight scoreless innings before Brandon Lyon gave up the winning run in the 15th inning. Saturday's 2-0 loss is a little harder to take, as it's never fun to watch your offense get blanked, especially by somebody who's not considered an ace.

But having Vazquez pitch a complete game yesterday -- that's huge. 9 innings and 115 pitches, less than 13 per inning. Heading into a stretch of 14 more consecutive games (advance plug for Three Weeks later today), getting the bullpen a day off was crucial, and Vazquez delivered big-time. Scoring 5 runs in Petco was also nice.

In the end, the D-Backs scored 9, gave up 9, and, because tie games are relatively rare in baseball, went 1-2 rather than 1.5-1.5. They finished the road trip 4-2 instead of 3-3 had Vazquez lost, and come back home with a much different attitude.

It was a nicer weekend for me than for the Diamondbacks, but at least they didn't take the whole weekend off.