Friday, October 30, 2009

Game Two

Yankees won last night, so not a lot of merriment. Another pitcher’s duel. No complaints about that; pitcher’s duels are often compelling, as every event is magnified, since there’s no expectation of getting another chance later like there might be in an 11-10 game.

AJ Burnett threw first pitch fastballs for strikes to just about every batter. He did this in his first ALCS appearance and beat the Angels. They were ready in his second outing and scored four runs on his first twelve pitches before he adjusted. Did the Phillies’ scouts watch the ALCS? Phillies hitters took Strike One all night when they should have been looking dead red from time they left the on-deck circle.

Is A-Rod a pleasure to watch, or what? Three more strikeouts last night, though he did finally get a ball out of the infield. (Medium-deep fly to left.) Oh-for-eight so far in the Series. Remember the comments about Chase Utley’s two Game One home runs being the first time a left-handed hitter has hit two off a left-handed pitcher since Babe Ruth in 1928? Well, A-Rod made his own move for immortality last night. Only one other player has struck out three times in two consecutive Series games: Jim Lonborg, in 1967. A pitcher. With a .136 lifetime average back in the day when even the American League played Real Baseball. Another hat trick tomorrow and A-Rod’s place in history is secure.

The Game Two Tim McCarver Moment – Jimmy Rollins on first, running with the pitch. Shane Victorino singles to right. Melky Cabrera changes the ball and fires a strike to third to hold Rollins at second. McCarver’s analysis includes a rambling tale of how former Dodger outfielder Ron Fairly told him once the surest way to keep a runner from going first to third is to have the right fielder charge the ball, as his momentum is moving in the direction of the throw. No offence to Ron Fairly, who was a fine player in his day, but Tim needed help to figure that out, and was so impressed at Fairly’s acumen he credited him for the tip? Maybe Fairly bought one of McCarver’s CDs. The only one.

The Game Two Tim McCarver Moment (Honorable Mention) – Now Rollins and Victorino are on second and first, respectively. Chase “Doing Things No Left-Handed Batter Since Babe Ruth Has Done” Utley runs the count to 3-2. McCarver says the runners have to go. They don’t, and Utley hits into a double play. McCarver then goes on to rail about how the runners had to go. Down two runs in the eighth inning, Rivera on the mound, stay out of the double play. Sure there’s the chance of a strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play, but Utley is a contact hitter.

Whoa. Chase Utley is a fine hitter and I’m happy to wash his cars for him after his Game One heroics, but he is not a contact hitter. He struck out 110 times this year. Not Ryan Howard or Jose Hernandez levels, but he ain’t Rod Carew or Richie Ashburn, either. Over his career, Utley strikes out about every fifth at bat. On the other hand, he only hit into five double plays all year, about one every 114 at bats. Which was he more likely to do? Well, that’s why they play the games. I would’ve sent them, too; Rivera doesn’t mess with holding runners. (Most great pitchers don’t. They get the batter out. He’s the one can hurt you.) That doesn’t make Manuel wrong; it just blew up on him.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game One

Comments on World Series Game One:

Cliff Lee and Chase Utley are now the Official Favorite Players of The Home Office, at least until after tonight’s game.

It’s nice to see some things never change. The sun rises in the east, water runs downhill, and Alex Rodriguez chokes like Jenna Jameson with tonsillitis when the games get big enough. (Three strikeouts and a weak ground ball to third.)

The Phillies won the game in the first inning, even though they didn’t score, by making C.C. Sabathia throw over 20 pitches. No way he’d get a complete game, and the Yankees bullpen is as reliable as Colin Powell speaking to the United Nations.

When will people figure out Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman is the most overrated person in sports? Ten years of unlimited budgets and he’s never put together a bullpen to support Mariano Rivera, who he inherited. How many key players have the Yankees drafted since Cashman took over? Cano. (Maybe.) Phil Hughes? Sucks. Joba the Hutt? Sucks. Don’t talk about Teixiera or Sabathia or Burnett (who can suck mightily on occasion) or any of the other free agents he signed. It doesn’t take the second coming of Branch Rickey to know Tex was the best player available last winter and Sabathia was the best pitcher. Baseball gets a salary cap and Cashman’s Yankees are the Washington Nationals North.

Joe Girardi has even less confidence in his bullpen than Charlie Manuel has in his. Girardi went through five pitchers to get six outs in the eighth and ninth innings, trying to match up on every batter. Wait till he gets to Philadelphia, where they play real baseball, and he has to worry about the pitcher batting.

Play of the Game – Jimmy Rollins catching Robinson Cano’s pop-up right at ground level after almost letting it drop. Base runner Hideki Matsui didn’t know whether to have sushi or wind his watch while Rollins and Ryan Howard combined to get a double play out of five possible outs. (The five? 1. Rollins caught the ball in the fly to get Cano. Even if he hadn’t caught the ball, he stepped on second to force Matsui (2) then threw to first in time to get Cano (3). Throwing to first doubled off Matsui (4), since Rollins did catch the ball; Howard tagged Matsui while off the base, which counts whether Rollins catches the ball or not.) It still took the umpires five minutes to figure out how they did it and get the call right.

The Game One Tim McCarver Moment—His certainty, expressed before every batter in the ninth inning, that Lee was coming out of the game. Lee hadn’t lost an inch off his fastball, threw 122 easy pitches total, as the Yankees never put two men on base in an inning until they were down 6-0 in the ninth and Rollins made an error. “He’ll pitch to Damon, but not Teixiera.” “He’s pitching to Teixiera because he’s struck him out twice, but he won’t pitch to Rodriguez.” He finally shut up when even he realized he could no more grasp this game than an African swallow can grasp a bowling ball.

Game One Tim McCarver Moment, Joe Buck Division—When describing Chase Utley’s night, Buck noted Utley was the first left-handed batter to hit two home runs off a left-handed pitcher in a World Series game since Babe Ruth in 1928. Joe then added, “Of course, Ruth did it for the Yankees, and Utley for the Phillies.” Thanks for providing that deep insight, Joe.

Center Ice

I Brett Favre’d over the decision for weeks, finally got the NHL Center Ice package. This allows me to watch any NHL game I want; sometimes I’ll even be able to choose which announcing crew and feed I get.

This week showed me I chose wisely. New Jersey beat the Pens 4-1 on Saturday night (bummer), but we then switched over and caught the last minute of the Buffalo-Tampa Bay game in time to see Buffalo pull the goalie and tie the game, then win in a shootout. I doubt I’ll watch a lot of games other than the Pens, but it will be nice for those evenings I’m too tired/lazy/spaced to do anything but stare at the TV and can’t find anything worth watching on my 500 channel system. There won’t be too many evenings without some hockey.

More to the point of the purchase, the Pens beat Montreal 6-1 last night. I’ve seen nine of the Pens’ twelve games so far, and it’s nice to get a feel for how the team is playing. I’m learning to spot when there’s a good effort, and what kinds of plays that don’t show up in the box score can lead to goals. Sidney Crosby got his third career hat trick by the middle of the second period, and Chris Kunitz finally got a goal after eleven-plus games of doing all the dirty work. Kunitz also garnered three assists, mostly through doing little things I might not have noticed if I wasn’t becoming more hockey literate: not giving up on a play, being the “third man high,” and taking a beating to throw the puck from the corner to the slot. The Pen’s did nothing spectacular. It was a workmanlike effort, and suddenly I looked at the score and realized this was turning into a pretty good ass kicking.

This is going to make winter—aka The Season of Doom™--a lot easier to take.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pot and the Kettle

Sub-head from today's Washington Post online edition:

Administration fights GOP suggestion that money can buy untoward access in Obama's Washington.

It probably can; there's no reason to think this administration should be noticeably different than all its predecessors. On the other hand, for Republicans to cry foul after Tom DeLay's blatant "pay to play" policies is a little like Madonna calling someone else a slut.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I was away at a writers conference for most of last week, calling in daily to check on the Beloved Spousal Equivalent, who was happily busy painting her bathroom in preparation for the new sink to be plumbed so her new cabinets could be hung.

She told me she'd probably need my help with the cabinets. We could do it after work on Monday. I pointed out there was a baseball playoff doubleheader on television after work on Monday. She paused only a second and said it wouldn't take long. I was unconcerned, as the miracle of modern DVR technology allows me to control the space-time continuum when televised sporting events are involved.

I got home last night, dropped off my stuff, and engaged my beloved in domestic conversation. After a few minutes she slipped in a morsel about how there had been a power failure over the weekend and she was having trouble with the big television in the living room. Half an hour of troubleshooting--which consisted largely of looking for the manual--showed the bulb was burned out. It's a do-it-yourself repair, once you get the bulb, which will take from one to three days. This conveniently left my Monday open for whatever home improvement tasks might be on the agenda.

She's not as dumb as I look.

Virtue is sometimes its own reward. The plumber never showed, and nothing can be done until the sink is in.

The Home Office is not mocked.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stuck in the Middle

Senate Majority Leader (their term, not mine) Harry Reid (D-NV) has a dilemma. His job as Majority Leader requires him to promote a political agenda more liberal than his constituents in Nevada are comfortable with. This is causing him trouble in his 2010 re-election campaign, and Republicans would like nothing better than to see a Majority Leader’s pelt hanging from their rafters come January 2011.

Reid’s problem is easy to see, and one we’ve probably all had from time to time. He’s trying to serve two masters, and succeeding with neither. The obvious thing to do would be to resign the majority leader position so he can “better serve his constituents in Nevada.” The Democrats could then name someone from a more liberal state who would not face such a quandary, allowing Harry to keep the Nevada seat warm.

Of course, this would call for leadership and a willingness to self-sacrifice, so it’s not likely to happen.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Unsolicited Advice

The Nobel Peace Rpize isn't just a cool medal; it also comes with almost a million dollars. As president, Barack Obama can't accept the million bucks. What should he do with it?

Not that anyone asked, but I think he should offer it to Rush Limbaugh, if El Rushbo gets a flu shot. Let's see how much ideological purity that fat fuck has with a million simoleans staring him in the face. That can buy a lot of Twinkies.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

God's Will

A Wisconsin couple was sentenced to six months jail time and ten years probation for refusing to seek medical attention for their 11-year-old daughter, praying over her with others while the child died of a treatable form of diabetes.

From the article:
"We are here today because to some, you made Kara a martyr to your faith," [Judge Vincent] Howard told the parents.

In testimony at trial and in videotaped interviews with police, the parents said they believe healing comes from God and that they never expected their daughter to die.

During the sentencing hearing, Leilani Neumann, 41, told the judge her family is loving and forgiving and has wrongly been portrayed as religious zealots.

"I do not regret trusting truly in the Lord for my daughter's health," she said. "Did we know she had a fatal illness? No. Did we act to the best of our knowledge? Yes."

Dale Neumann, 47, read from the Bible and told the judge that he loved his daughter.

"I am guilty of trusting my Lord's wisdom completely. ... Guilty of asking for heavenly intervention. Guilty of following Jesus Christ when the whole world does not understand. Guilty of obeying my God," he said.

Here’s a suggestion for what Judge Howard might have said instead:

This is God’s will. He took your daughter from you because you are unfit to be trusted with His creations. He has, in His wisdom, made available to you medical procedures that could easily have saved her, and you spurned His efforts. Had you truly trusted Him, you would have availed yourself of the He has provided for you and given Him His due thanks, as you do for every meal He has provided you throughout your miserable existence, you ignorant, small-minded bastards.

I suppose it’s too much to ask for their other children to be taken someplace safe, far away from their parents’ medical and theological expertise.

It's About Time

Interesting, though not unexpected, article in today’s Washington Post. Minority groups have been curiously quiet so far in the health care debate, apparently because “they had been reluctant to make race and ethnicity a central issue because the topic is so controversial.”

"There are some people who would like to defeat this bill by tagging it to the issue of race," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Are these organizations limited to addressing only issues of race, or more broad-based issues solely through the lens of race? This should have been an easy one for them. Minorities are disproportionately hurt by the current system because so many of them fall through the cracks. This is more due to class than to race. Still, it’s a matter of right and wrong. Is it in their organizational charters that they can’t stand up for something that will benefit their constituency just because it’s right, and just not promote it because they’re black. Or Hispanic. Or whatever other group you care to name?

Will some on the other side use their input to cast the debate in more racial tones? Almost certainly. That’s probably a good thing for reform advocates, as it will expose more of this demagoguery for exactly what it is: obstructionism without a factual leg to stand on.

As has been noted, I’m safely defined by contemporary standards as a liberal. I think health care reform is imperative, and I favor some form of a public option. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with every “liberal” or “progressive” organization because they’re right-thinking people with altruistic motives. Right is right. Get out in front of it, or quit asking people to think of you as leaders.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Hawk Be 61

Avery Brooks is 61 years old today. He’s a fine actor, worthy of recognition for many things, but to me he’s Hawk. Ever since I saw him on Spenser For Hire—an okay show that he made better than it should have been—I can’t read a Robert B. Parker without thinking of him and hearing him every time Hawk makes an appearance.

The five greatest marriages of an actor to a character in television history are, in ascending order:

Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker in All in the Family
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos
Avery Brooks as Hawk in Spenser For Hire
Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing in Dallas
Ian McShane as Al Swearingen in Deadwood

Struggling for a Topic

I try to post something here at least once a week so my legion of regular readers have something to look forward to when they adjourn from their meetings in a carnival photo booth. It’s been hard lately. I try to stay timely, but look at the options:

Health Care
I’m getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from typing about health care, and I’m not positive I’m insured for it.

As this column shows, writing about politics is currently beneath even me, which is kind of like saying someone is such a low-life, not even Rod Blagojevich will drink with him. Even if he buys. Things are officially bad when one becomes nostalgic for such statesmen as C. L. Schmidt and Bill Scranton.

Chicago’s Failed Olympic Bid
Good for Rio. South America’s first Olympics and a time zone ahead of us for a change, so NBC won’t too badly butcher the concept of “plausibly live.” That’s about all there is to say about that, and it’s not worth an entire post. Obama’s trip to Copenhagen? Bad PR, insignificant otherwise. See above comment.

The most exciting baseball news for me this summer is the Pirates’ heroic chase to avoid 100 losses. Last night’s rainout helped their chances as much as a win. Still too early in the Steelers’ season to get worked up, and the Penguins don’t start until tonight.

At least the baseball playoffs start next week. I may be sleep deprived, but I’ll be interested. Since the Pirates have kept their seventeen year streak of ineptitude alive, here are my rooting interests for baseball’s post season, in decreasing order.

Colorado Rockies – The Sibling Correspondent and his family are Rox fans. That’s good enough for me. Who could root against a team with a player named Tulowitzki?

St. Louis Cardinals – Maybe the best baseball town in America. Tony LaRussa’s kind of a tool, but Albert Pujols is the shit.

Philadelphia Phillies – A tough choice. They could have been second—I like a lot of their players—but they’re from Philadelphia. The schadenfreude potential of watching their obnoxious fans lose drops them to third.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Again, a lot of players to like, and Joe Torre. Man Ram outweighs them all.

Detroit Tigers – Jim Leyland was the last Pirate manager to win more games than he lost for even a single season, and that was in 1992. He gets it, too. Told the players early in the year things were tough in Motown, so running out ground balls would be a good idea. Owner Tom Ilitch has also done what he can with ticket prices and promos. Be nice for Michigan to win one after Michigan State (college basketball) and the Red Wings (hockey) came so close. (No sympathy for the Wings. Pens rule!)

Boston Red Sox – Normally the Number One choice for a card carrying fan of Red Sox Nation, but the Tigers have a lot of intangibles, and the Sox payroll and revenues have turned them into Yankees Lite. The David Ortiz revelations don’t help, either, no matter how much he denies them.

Los Angeles California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – I’ve always been a Mike Scioscia fan, and I love the way they play the game. I almost put them Number 2, but realized they’ll play the Sox in the first round, and I’d wind up rooting for the Sox without thinking about it just out of habit.

New York Yankees – Yankees suck.

The World Series? National League always trumps the American League, unless they send the Dodgers, or the Junior Circuit sends the Sox. (Maybe the Tigers.) If the Dodgers play the Yankees, it’s time to check the hockey listings.