Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 9

Top 8:

Funny how much less dangerous Mauer seems in this spot aa opposed to last inning: leading off with no one on base and a five-run lead. Let him swing away. See, in this spot, that hit is no big deal.

Good to see Joba getting loose. Let him throw the 9th, get his bullpen feet back under him. (Unrelated note: don't they issue new hats for the postseason? Seriously, Joba? Your lid looks like it's mid-August and you're still working the one you got in spring training.)

Hughes could use a double play here. Although that strikeout was pretty nice, too. Good work, kid.

Good to see Tex brought his leather to work. A one pitch night for Coker...give way to Joba! Two pitches and he's out of the 8th!

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 8

Bottom 7:

A-Rod drives in another run! Could it be that the demons are really behind him?

Between Jeet and A-Rod, this offense is rolling! And that doesn't even factor in Swisher and Matsui. If Tex gets going, too, this is going to be special!

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 7

Top 7:

CC. So good. I've read some who suggest the Yanks have pitching issues, but when this guy can throw multiple starts in any series this fall, I'd say they're in good shape.

I'd love to see Girardi let him finish this inning, but there's no reason to let it get hairy, either. Cannot let the tying run come to the plate.

Posada's work behind the plate tonight has been an adventure. Good block, but then...what happened?

Nice throw from Swisher on Span's fly ball. Even nicer cheer from the Bronx faithful as CC leaves the game.

Here comes Hughesy.

I like Hughesy's approach to OC: climb the ladder, go 95 in his eyes, but he's gotta drop the hammer. (Phil Coke warming...Nick Turturro is dying right now.) Full count...CAN'T let Mauer come to the plate here. C'mon Phil! TAKE THAT! Done.

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 6

Middle 6:

This is what CC cashes the big checks for, folks. 19 wins were nice, but this is the Yankees and everything's a prelude to this month. And this is what October used to feel like. It's good to be back to normal.

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 5

Bottom 5:

A-Rod gets off the o-fer! Nicely done. I think I'm even happier than Kate Hudson.

And Matsui! Wow! Crushed!

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 4

Middle five:

Looks like it.

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 3

After five:

This is why the Yankees lineup is so tough. The number 8 hitter is just as likely to get a clutch hit as anyone else. Nick Swisher. Yes, please.

Let's see if CC rebounds now and gets some momentum here.

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 2

Bottom three:

So, the top of the third sucked. A squeezed strike zone leads to a couple of hits which lead to a run. A passed ball leads to another run?! CC's thrown a lot of pitches already, but I expect he's ready toss 110 or so, if needed.

Joe Mauer is really good at this.

But, so is Derek Jeter. Bomb! This is how they do it in the NYC. There's a real possibility they could pile on here and put this thing away early, allowing CC to settle down a bit.

Or not. Tie game.

Yanks-Twins game 1, post 1

Bottom two:

So far, the Yanks look good. Good to see CC work out of the first inning trouble. As long as they can neutralize Mauer, the Twins lineup doesn't strike much fear. It would be great if he could go 7, then Joe can go to Hughes and Rivera.

Love that Jeet smoked the first pitch for a hit. As an overall strategy, however, I think they need to work deep counts. The Twins just played 12 innings last night, after all. Would've been nice if A-Rod had cashed in Jeet in the first, but it was encouraging that he hit the ball well.

Craig Sager is a badly dressed idiot.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hair wars...

Folks want to talk about the Steelers defense running headlong into the Cardinals offense. Kurt Warner trying to encourage one more big victory out of his 37 year-old body. Big Ben winning a second championship since taking the reins in Steel City. But, those aren't the stories. No, the real story of the Super Bowl match up is which hair style will triumph, thereby setting an irreversible follicle course for a whole generation of young, impressionable kids. Make no mistake, the winner of the Troy Polamalu v. Larry Fitzgerald hair derby will have ripple effects throughout the culture sure to be felt from Bangor to Bakersfield. So, let's break it down.

The Combatant: Troy Polamalu
The Style: The Lion's Mane
Popular With: 80's rockers, science nerds, utter geniuses, and kings of the jungle

The Combatant: Larry Fitzgerald
The Style: The Viper Locks
Popular With: Reggae megastars, nursery playthings, fictional Greek villains and dust-eating creatures

The Showdown, Round 1: In the opening round of the popularity playoffs, the 80's rockers knock off the reggae megastars when the latter are too, um, "mellow" to fight back while the guitarist from Slayer bashes them repeatedly with his Flying-V axe. In a mild upset, the nursery playthings overpower the science nerds by distracting them with an Erector set. While the nerds fiddle away, the nursery playthings gang up in a "Child's Play" sort of way. The fictional Greek villains score a victory for the Viper Locks by freezing the utter geniuses in place. The resulting statue looks great on an executive's desk, but does little for the battle at hand. In the final first-round face off, the kings of the jungle easily overpower the dust-eating creatures by simply tearing them into little pieces and subsequently distributing the pieces for the whole family to dine on. After one round, the Lion's Mane and the Viper Locks are dead even.

The Showdown, Round 2: The 80's rockers, fresh off of their convincing pummeling of the reggae megastars, meet some unexpected resistance from the nursery playthings. It seems that most rockers are simply trying to get in touch with their inner child and at the sight of the mementos of days gone by, the rockers break into uncontrollable weeping. Score an unexpected victory for the Viper Locks. In the other second-round battle, the fictional Greek villains square off with the kings of the jungle. When the fictional Greek villains attempt to use their signature hypnotic attack against the mighty beasts, they are shocked to find that their powers do not work on members of the panthera genus. In the brief battle that ensues, the fictional Greek villains are torn into little pieces which are subsequently distributed for the whole panthera family to dine on. On to the final round and an epic battle for the ages: nursery playthings v. kings of the jungle, with the future of hair culture on the line.

The Showdown: Final Round: The kings of the jungle come out wary, not sure what to expect from the upstart nursery playthings. The kings of the jungle resort to such intimidation tactics as circling, pawing and roaring. The nursery playthings seem undaunted, never flinching once in the face of such a display of brute power. The nursery playthings approach appears to be the classic "play dead and maybe they'll leave us alone." Instead, the kings of the jungle tire of the posturing and pounce. It's all over in a blur of stuffing and fabric. The kings of the jungle prevail and the nursery playthings tactic of playing dead no longer seems so playful. The kings of the jungle have struck a decisive victory in the fashion war and the Lion's Mane style remains the undisputed champion of gridiron hairdos. Children everywhere will now begin growing out their hair as large as it can go. Congratulations, Troy, I hope you're proud of yourself.

(The preceding was brought to you by Aqua Net.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Florida, Florida, Florida...

Raise your metaphorical cyber-hand if you've grown tired of the University of Florida. I know my buddy Scott won't raise his, but mine is firmly thrust into the air.

I mean, really, Florida? Two national titles in football in three years? Knocking UCLA out of the men's basketball tourney two years in a row (and once on my birthday)? We've all grown tired of the dominance.

Whatever happened to parity? Whatever happened to the little guy having a chance? Whatever happened to the sudden rise of the unknown amateur athlete? All gone in a blue and orange swirl of "chomping" arms, overaggressive recruiting and shameless cashing in on the previous run of success.

I will not root for Florida. They simply win too often. They have simply grown too good. I represent the majority of right thinking people.

(See how crazy your argument sounds when it's about a team other than the Yankees?)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Baseball's Red Scare...

A senator with a firm belief that something is not quite right in America. A list of suspects based on information gathered from insiders. A public spectacle that forever ruins reputations. Alleged perpetrators with no method of clearing their name. Welcome to baseball’s version of McCarthyism.

We awoke on Thursday morning to a world in which our baseball heroes no longer walked as tall. For some, such as Roger Clemens, the damage done by Senator George Mitchell may never fully be understood until the last Hall of Fame ballot is cast. Many observers, including baseball’s commissioner, are hailing the Mitchell Report as a triumph of good over evil. Yet, just as in the quest to unearth the “Reds” in the ‘50s, unearthing the “’Roids” often creates fuzzy distinctions between good and evil, let alone justice and injustice.

The flaws with the Mitchell investigation are myriad. First, the insiders questioned by the Senator and his crew of federal investigators were two former clubhouse workers for the New York Mets and New York Yankees, a notably limited pool of information. Aside from these two, the only other player names in the report came from the much-publicized BALCO investigation. The Senator would have you believe that this report is a decisive and thorough blow in baseball’s battle against performance-enhancing drugs. He would have you believe this in spite of the fact that, in essence, what the Senator “collected” was names from the CNN crawl about 20 months ago and the testimonies of two former employees, whose allegations might be suspect, given their status as former employees. Senator Mitchell has assured the American public that those involved in the investigations knew of the serious consequences awaiting those who did not tell the truth. Yet, nothing in the Mitchell Report can be proven—or disproven—by positive tests. Therefore, the same veil of secrecy that protects any real users also protects fact-creating “whistleblowers” with a bone to pick.

The damage done by these “informants” is similar to the effect of having one’s name “blacklisted” during the Red Scare. Today, players such as Clemens, Miguel Tejada and Andy Pettite are instantly cast as the bad guys because someone else said so. Publicly vilified and with no recourse to clear their names—after all, it’s difficult to clear your name from using a substance for which you never tested positive because your employer chose not to test you—these players have already faced conviction in the ever-swift court of public opinion. Pettite’s confession of guilt yesterday does nothing to change the injustice of making such allegations based on limited evidence. Instead, it reinforces the seemingly convincing aspersions cast by Mitchell, which remain built on shaky foundations. As more players come forward—which may be unlikely—it will simply cement the guilt of others in the minds of the public, whether their guilt can ever be proven or not.

The media, which ought to display at least a little hesitancy over jumping on Mitchell’s bandwagon given journalistic patriarch Edward R. Murrow’s brave stand against McCarthy’s methods and “conclusions in the 1950s, has instead pounced not just on the story but on the opportunity to play judge and jury as well. Newspaper headlines forsake all objectivity when they scream “Cheaters Revealed,” “Outed,” and “Ballplayers Busted.” Not surprisingly, many players have quickly and publicly denied their involvement in the scandal, as well they should, given the impossibility of proving either side of the allegations. Much as McCarthy banged on the drum of national pride while tapping on the cymbals of fear, Mitchell is simply using nostalgia for baseball “the way it used to be” to create an outcry from a public that still isn’t sure if it liked seeing records fall to men they’re not sure they like to see breaking records.

Another serious flaw in these proceedings relates to Senator Mitchell’s relationship to Major League Baseball. As a member of the Board of Trustees for the Boston Red Sox, a serious conflict of interest exists for the Senator. Perhaps not surprisingly given this relationship and the fact that the two insiders worked for other organizations, the list of almost 80 players named in the Report reveals few with ties to the Boston organization. Those who do have some tie to Fenway either played for the team in the distant past (like Clemens) or were spectacular flameouts not really considered one of the Sox (like Eric Gagne). In any other sphere, such a conflict of interest would preclude Senator Mitchell’s leadership in this type of project. But not under the twisted and often indefensible logic of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. In Selig’s world, this arrangement makes sense. This is because, in Selig’s world, objectivity and true progress matter much less than the appearance of objectivity and true progress.

Selig represents a baseball ownership group that willingly turned its collective head during the so-called “Steroid Era.” These owners found a simple string of mathematical logic that helped them to do so. The equation reads: These suddenly enormous players = More home runs. More home runs = More people in the stands. More people in the stands = More money in our pockets. In response, these owners concluded—as the mathematically savvy are likely to conclude—that the suddenly enormous slugger was good for business. So as long as the home runs flew, the pockets grew, and everyone went home happy.

Where, in those days of record-setting performance and attendance, was the righteous indignation and clamor for change in the game that has accompanied much of the reaction to Mitchell’s report? In the owner’s box, lighting cigars with chemically-enhanced money. A strict and effective steroid testing policy at that time would have cramped everyone’s style. The outrage of the baseball owners who refused to insist on testing when it would have been unpopular instead rings of hypocrisy. Any ownership appeals for sanctions now are not unlike a parent taking the driver’s license of a teen for wrapping the family Mercury around a tree while driving to work to support the family finances. The damage is already done, the hypocrisy is obvious, and sanctions will do no good in changing the past.

The limited pool of informants, the blatant conflict of interest faced by Senator Mitchell, and the “too-little-too-late” false outrage of the owners driving this effort combine to form a significantly flawed product, one that leaves regular fans with a difficult choice. Fans can either turn their head and be thought ignorant rubes or they can join with the torch-wielding mob on a quest to punish the cheaters.

Did players use steroids throughout much of the 1980s and 90s? They certainly did. Did all of them named in the Mitchell report do so? We have no way to know for sure. And this is where this ugly episode leaves us: stuck in the 1950s, pondering whether the names we’ve heard are really guilty of the things we’ve heard. As Senator Mitchell should know from his Senatorial predecessor, this is a tricky road to travel down. Hopefully, the advantage of temporal perspective has created a public unwilling to blindly march behind a Senator with a mission of outing the subversives. If not, then the age of Mitchellism has just begun.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rocket launch...

Back in March I called the Rocket a Band-Aid. Little did I know at that time how bad the pitching staff would be bleeding.

Let’s review:

Wang: Strained hamstring.
Mussina: Strained hamstring.
Igawa: Can’t get people out in America.
Pavano: Pain threshold of a field mouse.
Rasner: Broken leg.
Hughes: Strained hamstring.

Pettite has been the only reliable starter and he’s no sure bet to make it through the season without an injury. In short, if the Yankees hope to make the postseason for the 13th straight season, the Rocket will play a huge role.

Despite appearances, he had every reason to sign with New York. First, he gets to indulge his savior complex (which every professional athlete has, not just Clemens). By joining this squad, he sets himself up to receive copious amounts of credit if they do turn things around and make the postseason. This same situation simply doesn’t exist in Boston. The Sox have the best record in the game and a stacked pitching staff. In Boston, Rocket would have to settle for “contributor.” Add to that the fact that Boston is the only town that he didn’t leave by his own choice, and it everything makes sense. Sure, on May 7, Boston seems to give him the best chance for another ring, but how much sweeter if he’s the catalyst? And Houston? Not happening. Record-wise, they’re in a similar situation to the Yanks, but without the proven track record of willingness to do whatever is necessary to turn things around.

Second, he’s got friends and fellow competitors in New York. When Pettite left to go to Houston, Roger followed. When Andy came back to the Bronx, it makes sense that Roger followed. But Andy’s not all. If you listened at all yesterday, you know how much he admires Jeet and Mo, too. Basically, this is a team full of guys he feels comfortable going to work with for the next 5+ months. He believes in these guys and sees in them the fire he thinks necessary to make a run at October. Maybe that type of thing is present in Boston or Houston, but judging by the things he said yesterday, New York has a unique collection of such individuals.

Third, there’s the money issue. Yeah, the Yanks will pay him a ridiculous amount of money over the next few months, but if you’ve got it, why not use it? Boston likely could have come close, but why would they? Their pitching staff looks set, so why shell out that kind of money? The only logical reason to do so would be if they could keep him away from the Yankees, but even spite only goes so far when it comes to shelling out that kind of money for a player they don’t really need. And Houston…yeah, right.

Overall, it seems surprising that any mystery surrounded this situation. The Yanks offer the right combination of situation, potential, familiarity and money. In the end, the Rocket was bound to touch down in the Bronx. Let’s see if he turns into the tourniquet that the Yanks so badly need.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hearing voices again…

The voices went silent for a while. The institution of higher learning bears full responsibility for the electronic laryngitis. But the voices have returned with plenty to say.

On the sportscape lately:

So, the five-part series didn’t really come to fruition. Since the only things left anyway were previews of the bullpen and the overall team, I’ll summarize.

Who needs one when you’ve got A-Rod? In fact, right now, he could probably serve as the set-up man, too.

A-Rod will win the AL MVP after amassing 58 home runs, 137 RBI, a .346 average, 8 errors, and plenty of “I’ve always been an A-Rod guy” fans. Riding his coattails, the team will win 105 games, sweep the Indians in the Division Series, win the ALCS in five over the Angels, and then beat the Mets in the World Series in six. In the postseason, A-Rod will hit .483, with 7 home runs and 15 RBI and win MVP of all three series. Fans will adore him like never before. He’ll appear on Letterman and SNL. He won’t opt out of his contract, instead choosing to donate 75% of his annual earnings to Habitat for Humanity, saying, “The love of the Yankee fans is payment enough.” The Canyon of Heroes will be re-named the Canyon of Those Who Pale in Comparison to A-Rod. All will be well. Oh, and around May 1, Roger Clemens will sign with the Yanks, too. He’ll request to have the name on the back of his uniform read “A-Rod’s Friend,” before being reminded that Yankees uniforms don’t have names on the back. He’ll settle for picking up an old piece of A-Rod’s gum and putting it on his mantle next to all the Cy Youngs.

Really, though, A-Rod is on fire at the moment and the best way to tell is that his swing looks easy again. He rarely looks like he’s forcing anything at the plate and he seems to drive even bad pitches. All good signs.

My better half and I made a quick jaunt to Houston over the weekend. Took in a game at the Juice Box. Fun times. Although we would have preferred to see the visiting Redbirds prevail over the hometowners, the chance to see a Roy Oswalt complete game made up for the undesirable final score. That dude can throw. Add in home runs by El Caballo and Lance Berkman, and a foot-long chili-cheese dog, well, let’s just say the evening provided treats for many of the senses.

I REALLY hate the Florida Gators. Oddly enough, Scott—the only friend I made in college—loves the Gators. Not me. I hope that they all enjoy cashing in on their Tournament success with huge NBA contracts that will allow them a lifetime of luxury and excess. I hope they really enjoy that. Because, secretly, nobody likes them. Except Scott.

UCLA, meanwhile, has broken my heart yet again. Maybe next year? Is there any way that Afflalo stays in school? He got himself on the “graduate in three years” plan, which, by the way, I don’t recommend to anyone. In fact, schools offering a “graduate with your 120 unit degree in three years” plan should simply strike it from the catalog. No right thinking person would ever conceive of it themselves, and only because it’s mentioned in the catalog do A-type personality people attempt it. It’s crazy. Really. To fulfill the requirement, a student has to keep a stupid pace; writing papers, doing research, rarely sleeping. Our academic institutions are systematically assaulting a whole generation of students. So, come on Dallas Seminary! Get with it! I blame you, and, somehow, UCLA.

That’s good for now.

Oh, and Pavano’s still a bum. Maybe he should try to get a locker closer to A-Rod’s.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Succumbing to the Madness...

We interrupt our regularly scheduled baseball discussions to give some attention to the Dance. Granted, the tastes of Voices run decidedly National Pastime, but I won’t ignore the NCAA Tournament.

Bracket fever has swept the nation in recent days. It seems that everyone is filling out brackets. Everyone has a method. Mascots. Team colors. RPI. Of course, some people take this far more seriously than others. For them, I offer the following guide to a successful trip through the four regions.

Following this formula will not only assure you of March success, but may even improve your tax return. So, here it is.

Point values are assigned based upon stringently researched and scientifically verifiable factors. Each round has different formulas, of course, since each round is a unique entity unto itself. Simply calculate the points for each team in any given game. The team with the higher point value moves on.

Without further ado, I present The Voices from the Outfield Guide to the NCAA Tournament:

1st round:
If a team has a directional marker in its name = 5 points.
If a team has a color in the name of its mascot = 11 points.
If a team is playing in the region geographically closest to its campus = 37 points.
If a team was assigned a seed between 1 and 3 = 91 points.
If a school’s name rhymes with “Doral Groberts” = 112 points.
If a team’s coach has previously won a national title = 261 points.
If a team’s alumni include Bill Walton and/or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar = 512 points.
If a team’s coach previously coached at Pitt = 5,006 points.

2nd round:
If a school’s name is one word or less = 93 points.
If a school’s name is between two and three words long = 101 points.
If a school’s name is more than three words long = 551 points.
If that school’s name happens to be Texas A&M Corpus Christi = -549 points.
If school is commonly referred to by way of an acronym = 2,967 points.
If the last three letters of that acronym are CLA = 8,496 points.

Sweet Sixteen:
If a team’s uniforms prominently feature numbers on the back = 1 point.
If a team’s uniforms prominently feature the color red = 12 points.
If a team’s uniforms prominently feature the color orange = 22 points.
If a team’s uniforms prominently feature the color green = 65 points.
If a team’s uniforms prominently feature the color baby blue = 4,621 points.
If a team’s uniforms prominently feature player names such as Aboya, Collison, Mbah-Moute and/or Shipp = 9,238 points.

Elite Eight:
If a team’s mascot has ever appeared on “The Crocodile Hunter” = 39 points.
If a team’s mascot has ever appeared on the endangered species list = 54 points.
If a team’s mascot rhymes with “Bay Pox,” “Faders,” “Gong Corns,” “Duck Ties,” “Toyas” or “Bar Reels” = 61 points.
If a team’s mascot is an inanimate object = 87 points.
If a team’s mascot is from the bear family = 1,267 points.
If a team’s mascot rhymes with “Ruins” = 6,343 points.

Final Four:
If a team’s home games are played in a “Fieldhouse” = 8 points.
If a team’s home games are played in a Dome = 13 points.
If a team’s home games are played in the state of California = 952 points.
If that team is USC = -9,821 points
If a team’s home games are played in a Pavilion = 2,348 points.

Championship Game:
If a team features a player with a criminal record in Kazakhstan = -426 points.
If a team features a player named Greg Oden = 986 points.
If a team features a player named Kevin Durant = 1,002 points.
If a team features a player named Aaron Afflalo = 4,090 points.
If a school has previously won 11 national championships = 9,585 points.
If a school formerly had John Wooden as its coach = 11,764 points.

As you can likely tell, this highly scientific method took years of trial-and-error research. Although it has had a few problems with the last few national champions, it has successfully predicted the last five Iowa gubernatorial races and the winner of the 2006 World’s Strongest Man competition.

After running all 64 candidates through the formula, UCLA emerges as a somewhat surprise victor. With a whopping 67,868 points, the Bruins project to win this year’s tourney, and, from the looks of things, the formula’s pretty convinced.

So, get on the Bruin bandwagon now. There’s still room, but only until Saturday. After that, you’ll have to cast your lot with Creighton. And the formula doesn’t especially like them.