Friday, July 08, 2005

The Bounce 

I prefer the mad dash -- The Bounce, for whatever reason, looks dorky to me.

But it was nice to see the Diamondbacks mob Luis Gonzalez at home plate and do The Bounce after Gonzo's walk-off homerun off Ray King in the Diamondbacks' 2-1 victory over the Cardinals Thursday night. After spoiling a great Claudio Vargas outing by giving up the tying run in the top of the 8th, National League Rookie of the Year Lance Cormier pitched a solid 9th inning, then was the lucky beneficiary of the win.

So after two games in which the Cardinals looked every bit like the favorites to win the World Series and the Diamondbacks looked every bit like the softball team for your corner Circle K, the D-Backs came back with two closely fought games, avoided the sweep, and remained in 2nd place in the NL West. 5 1/2 games out, yes, and 7 1/2 games out in the wild card race, but 2nd place nonetheless.

One wonders if Vargas will soon lose the magic he's shown recently, as have a number of other D-Back pitching pickups did thus far this year (Javier Lopez, anyone?). But with news that Shawn Estes is heading to the DL, Vargas' spot in the rotation seems secure for awhile now. And, frankly, Brad Halsey has more to worry about when both Estes and Russ Ortiz come back.

So now the Diamondbacks are 3 games below .500 with the Cincinnati Reds coming into town. I've said this before when bad teams come into town, but we should sweep this series. And the D-Backs have let me down (Royals, anyone?) But, really, a sweep of the Reds is doable (unlikely, perhaps, but doable), and going into the All-Star Break with a .500 record would be waaaay satisfactory.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Chutes and Ladders 

My daughter has recently taken up "Chutes and Ladders." Despite our best attempts to de-emphasize winning (we have "first winners," or we play other games in which the playing, not the winning, is the key), our daughter has shown a competitive streak that would make Lou Piniella blush. (Luckily, she's not old enough yet for an allowance, otherwise she'd be complaining that it wasn't sizeable enough.) Yesterday morning we played and she cried when I won two games in a row.

Now, I'm sensitive to this and while I think that it's important that Margaret Anne lose occasionally, I'm also not averse to throwing a match once in a while.

The problem with "Chutes and Ladders" is that you can't throw anything -- it's purely random. Spin the spinner, move the desired number of spaces and, if applicable, climb up the ladders or slide down the slides. There's no pattern -- sometimes you cycle through the same set of ladders and chutes, sometimes you hit it lucky and zoom right up to the top.

(Sometimes, if you're really bored, you note that there are 10 chutes that lose a collective 243 spaces while there are just 9 spaces that gain a collective 210 spaces. And then you understand why baseball holds such an allure for you.)

So it is this year with the Diamondbacks. Their even keel -- never reeling off too many wins or losses -- is exceeded by just four teams: Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. Those four teams are the only ones whose longest winning or losing streak is just five games. Arizona's is six (a winning streak, incidentally). It makes it hard to see any pattern, to get excited (one way or the other) about the team and its prospects.


You turn on the radio in the morning and you hear some strange press conference with men in British accents. It takes you awhile to figure out what's happened, and when you do, your day immediately dims. Hey, that's really sad for those families. I've been at those Tube stops. What an incredibly up-and-down 24 hours for London... I think these events hit people harder because unlike natural disasters or disease or traffic accidents somebody planned for this to happen. That idea seems to upset the natural order of things (or at least my natural order).

So I'll simply applaud the beauty of last night's suicide squeeze (an unfortunate phrase to use in this light) play by the Eckstein and Taguchi and of a well-pitched effort by both sides in a 2-1 Diamondbacks loss to the Cardinals.

Patterns can be fun, but sometimes it's better to enjoy the trees than to look for the forest. Baseball is a game of joy. Of hard work and disappointment, too, to be sure, but of joy.

And so is Chutes and Ladders.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Back in Boise 

"We are trying to come up with other ways to say ['you're fired']. For instance, if someone is from Idaho, I could say, 'You're back in Boise for apple-picking time.' " -- Martha Stewart on her upcoming Apprentice show

In the elegant dance of Arizona Republic newspaper sections my wife and I perform every morning at the breakfast table, the Business section (or whatever it's called) is the wallflower, unchosen unless needed to (e.g., the wife is finishing up the "Arizona Living section). Every now and then, however, there's an article that makes my day.

Or maybe just a quotation.

Seriously, isn't that, like, the worst catch-phrase ever?

Perhaps it's got some merit, though. Let's see, for Javier Lopez, designated for assignment on Tuesday (replaced by pitcher-of-the-week Armando Almanza) and born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, perhaps Martha would say, "you're too common for the wealth of the big leagues and barely the 52nd-best player in the organization, let alone 26th -- you're back in San Juan."

Or something like that.

Feel free to vote off your least-favorite Diamondback in faux-Martha-pseudo-Donald style in the comments below.

(And, yes, I'm ignoring Tuesday's 7-1 Diamondbacks loss to the Cardinals. 'Cause this was more fun, anyway.)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

10-3, Good Buddy 

What the pitching taketh, the pitching also giveth away.

A day after winning 10-3, the Diamondbacks lose 10-3, this time to the Cardinals. There's not much to report here -- needing a great game to give his last-minute All-Star Game bid legitimacy, Brandon Webb had a middling, though not horrible, game. (Still, at least Webb's in 3rd place at the moment, and Roy Oswalt's leading, surprising me as I figured the fans would want to reward Trevor Hoffmann for past success.)

Wish I could get my blogging mojo working after the long weekend, but there's not much there. May you live in interesting times, the old blessing/curse goes -- the problem this year is that the Diamondbacks are nowhere near as interesting as they were last year. Better, yes. But less interesting.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Discretion Is The Better Part Of A Series Win 

If I wasn't in the midst of a relaxing holiday weekend, I would've posted something about the undue panic and alarm in Saturday's Republic after Friday's 7-0 Diamondbacks loss to the Dodgers. I mean, at four games, the losing streak wasn't even the Diamondbacks' longest of the year. Calm down, people, or something like that.

But I was in the middle of a relaxing vacation and I decided to let the moment slide. And sure enough, the Diamondbacks came back and won the next two games by 7-5 and 10-3. Not only did they win the series, they won the Pythagorean series. (We will take our victories in as many ways as we can get them.) By no means is our pitching solid, but the offense certainly turned things around these last two games, and can feel good about itself heading home for this afternoon's game against the Cardinals. It had nothing to do with new batting practice uniforms or veiled threats by Bob Melvin -- I think it was just the essential .500 nature of this team -- to drop 4 games below would be too much.

So Gonzo goes to the All-Star Game and Brandon Webb is destined to finish 4th in the NL balloting for the final slot. I would've preferred to see the positions reversed, perhaps, but the two players have had the two best D-Back seasons thus far and perhaps the theory that stars should be rewarded gave Gonzo the edge for our token slot. Maybe it was Gonzalez's diving catch Saturday night that sealed the deal for him.

Oh, well. I'll vote for Webb online, but fully expect to see Trevor Hoffman in Detroit.