Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm hedging my bets

So here's the deal.

It started last season, the whole giving up the Astros thing. I felt a little guilty because let's be honest, they're my hometown team and I'm required by fandom law to love them best. However, the team sucked, management sucked, the owner and front office suck, so screw them. I'm not gonna invest time or money in a team that doesn't care.

(Then I went to four games in the first week, but we'll blame that on Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and a boring weekend near the end of the school year.

But that's neither here nor there.)

So I was left with the A's, the team I chose, and we got along pretty well until I forgot how to watch baseball and what the commitment of a game was and my account was languishing. I'm notoriously fickle like that, going months without thinking about a sport and then BAM! A Chinese gymnast gets her medal stripped from 10 years ago and I'm right back on board. Or, you know, Michael Phelps ceases to exist as the best swimmer in the world only to be replaced with Ryan Lochte, of all people. And then, of course, I care again.

(Really though I always cared, I just forgot about how much.)

During the All-Star Break, as happens every year, I really missed the game and promised myself I would be a hardcore fan. Really hardcore. And I have been! Unfortunately for me, the A's have been hovering around .500 and about 7 games back since then. Which kind of wreaks havoc on a girl's patience.

Anyway, somewhere in there I actually started watching Lincecum's starts again. I'd always been keeping track of Zito (hey what, don't judge me, he's finally good again!), so adding another dude onto the list wasn't too difficult. Then I started to care about how the Giants did on days not pitched by Tim or Barry and then realized what was going on.

In dropping the Astros, I'd trimmed off some dead weight, sure, but I'd also eliminated a potential post-season team. Not that they'd actually do it, but the potential was at least there. And in picking up the Giants, unwittingly, I was putting myself into a division and wild card race. Again. This also happened after I'd admitted defeat for the A's 2010 season (too early, it appears, as the Rangers are having difficulty with the Orioles and the A's are dismantling the Rays).

All of that to say: I don't think being a fan has a lot to do with geography. I've been saying this for a long time, actually, four years now at least. It's got a lot to do with relationships. It's got a lot to do with the affection one feels after watching failure after failure and then that heart-lifter of a win right when one was about to lose hope. It's got to do with spending an hour in the Oakland airport with a yogurt and a new mug and lanyard representing one's favorite team. And finally not looking out of place.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Boy Prince Take 2

I'd like you to recall an entry I posted back in July of 2007. I announced (and I wasn't the only one, that was for sure) the arrival of the next great Giants pitcher -- Tim Lincecum. The kid (for I have been asked twice at games if "that guy over there" is Tim Lincecum and had to tell the questioner, "no, that is the batboy.") is now the two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.

The Freak, The Franchise, whatever you want to call him, he's shown up. He's dealt. He's thrown over 800 changeups in the last season plus and only one has left the yard as a home run. Only 34 have gone for hits.

Back in July of 2007, the average baseball fan couldn't tell you who Tim Lincecum was. Now he has little kids wearing his jersey in Houston.

Let's just not talk about his last two starts.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Squint a little if you're not an A's fan

Those of us who live in Beanetown have learned to calm down after the initial shock of the latest star being traded away. Yes, we scream and cry and curse our GM's name, but that tapers off after everyone starts to accept the fact that yes, he's really gone and no, he's never coming back.

It's not easy seeing star after star get shipped off when we least expect it (See: Hudson, Mulder, Swisher) -- and even when we're expecting it (See: Dan Haren), it's still a little heartbreaking. So we start looking for the upsides, or start painting silver linings on the downsides.

Harden's gone? "Well, good riddance. It hurt wincing before and after every pitch he threw."
Gaudin's gone, too? "Eh, he wasn't playing anyway."
We only got ... those guys? "I guess we underestimated Richie's trade value."

Outside of the A's fanbase and those who follow Billy's moves with a sick fascination, this move looks like a white flag. I'll be honest -- my first words upon learning about the trade were: "But I thought he wasn't going to throw in the towel if we were in contention? We're only 6 back in the division!" I'd thought he'd at least give it through the weekend and then make the moves if we we'd gotten swept by the Angels or dropped too many teams to the Mariners.

But sit back; think about it. Harden has had 12 consecutive starts. His last two have been on 4 days rest and have seen him with a drop in velocity (2mph) and fewer innings pitched. We wondered if he was hurt. He says he's fine (as I roll my eyes...) and the Cubs are going to a 6 starter rotation to make sure he gets 5 days rest. But is his health really that good? Maybe he's "fine" right now, but is the next injury right around the corner? My guess is yes. That's what makes the return from the Cubs make sense. The A's get a 22-year-old ML-ready starter in Gallagher (who looked pretty good tonight) and an upgrade on Emil Brown in Murton. Is Brown going to be paired with Patterson and spun off at the deadline? Maybe. It certainly seems possible. Emil's early gaudy RBI totals might be appealing to a team who needs a bat down the stretch, and the A's certainly don't need him with Murton patrolling left.

Beane said if the team was in contention he'd keep the team in contention -- but without sacrificing the future. He's not going to splash a trade out there that cripples the A's in 2009 or 2010 or 2011 or further down the line. His trades aren't going to look like the trades a team makes to "make a run for it." He's not going to land a CC Sabathia, or take a risk on a Rich Harden. He might, however, make a move for a crucial piece by trading guys he doesn't need anymore. As A's fans, we have to remember that things like this turn out for the best (Mulder) more often than turn out not so great (Hudson), and he isn't going to make a move that cripples the team in the long run.

Gallagher, Patterson, Donaldson, and Murton for Harden and Gaudin? Yeah, that looks lopsided on the surface, but this trade came from the same guy who gave us Haren, Barton, and Calero for Mulder, and that in turn gave us Gonzalez, Smith, Eveland, and three others for Haren and Robertson. Beane's got a good track record, and for fans it's important to keep that in mind. Have a little faith and give it a few weeks.

For the anti-Moneyballer and those who are just waiting for Billy to make a bad move? Try not to start making your victory speeches just yet. Also, it'd be AWESOME if y'all could start, I dunno, informing yourselves before going off on the trade. It makes you look like idiots when you say that Harden was the ace, and only GM dismantling the team would deal the ace.

Hi, miniscule 0.861 WHIP of Justin Duchscherer!
Helloooooo, 10 pick-offs of Greg Smith!


Duchscherer-OAK 1.78
Lee-CLE 2.43
Danks-CHW 2.52
Marcum-TOR 2.65
Hernandez-SEA 2.83
Halladay-TOR 2.88
Saunders-LAA 3.07
Floyd-CHW 3.22
Lester-BOS 3.38
Smith-OAK 3.43

Adjusted ERA+
Duchscherer-OAK 215
Lee-CLE 173
Danks-CHW 171
Marcum-TOR 154
Halladay-TOR 141
Hernandez-SEA 139
Saunders-LAA 134
Floyd-CHW 134
Lester-BOS 128
Greinke-KCR 123

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

You mean you want them to start wearing briefs again?

The LZR Racer Concept, from

"To design the ultimate suit offering a fabric with the lowest friction drag, constructed to compress the swimmer into the smoothest, streamlined shape and designed to ensure the full range of movement to win."

What a high-priced competition suit, from the Aquablade to the LZR, aims to do is reduce drag, squish your body into the smallest space possible, and give you that little mental edge when you compete.

If you don't do the work, you don't get the results. Wearing a Fastskin (or now, the LZR) is not going to give you your personal best time. Practicing twice a day every day for months will. The reason for wearing the LZR is to give you the edge to squeeze every last bit of result out of your training. What do the top swimmers say is the biggest help they get from the LZR? Mental edge. Just like shaving down is 1% physical and 99% mental, the LZR -- despite being partially engineered by NASA -- is more mental than physical when it comes to swimming.

The only people out there condemning the new technology that's being used to engineer these "space age" suits are those who follow swimming once every 4 years. I heard something about an "unfair advantage" and I laughed out loud. Speedo sent 2,500 LZR suits to Omaha be given out to swimmers at Trials. Even athletes sponsored by other companies, such as TYR and Nike, are choosing to wear the LZRs. Unfair advantage? Maybe if only the Speedo athletes could wear them, but that's not the case. Maybe if only the American athletes could wear them, but again, that's not the case.

As a swimmer, I'm familiar with the purposes of these fancy-pants competition suits. I understand the technology they use and most importantly I understand that no LZR is going to make a world record-breaker out of a guy (or girl) who doesn't put the hours in the pool chasing that black line every day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Olympics: Men's gymnastics team announced

A day late and perhaps a dollar short, but here's the team:

Jonathan Horton earned his spot outright by placing first in the Trials process (40% Nationals and 60% Olympic Trials meet). The selection committee (rightly) named Paul Hamm to the team. He broke his hand at Nats and had to petition for a spot. He should be healthy for the Olympics in plenty of time (he'll prove his health in late July at a training camp). Morgan Hamm was also named to the team, and my gut says this is a good add.

The other three? I THOUGHT the committee would give a spot to Raj Bhavsar (Houston native and 2004 alternate), David Durante (who looks to be a vault/rings guy), and Sasha Artemev (who could cover pommel horse quite well). But no! My casual fanship of this sport over the last couple years (and dedicated fanship from 2000-2004) was apparently not enough for me to make ANY accurate predictions beyond the Hamm twins and Horton.

Joe Hagerty, Justin Spring, and Kevin Tan make up the rest of the team. I've never heard of Hagerty, I've heard Spring's name for a few years and seen a couple of his routines, and Kevin Tan is a guy that is unknown to me beyond seeing his name on quickly-scanned results pages. I was SHOCKED to see this lineup, and I hope that these guys have enough experience (I don't think so) to hack it at the Olympics because there are high hopes for this team. I want to see another team medal. With Sasha, David, and Raj I thought we could get a gold, even. Seeing what those guys are capable of, I had confidence in them. These other three? No idea. I'll be reading up on them in the last month or so until the Olympics. I hope the selection committee is seeing something I'm missing, cause this looks like a great disappointment waiting to happen. Think: 2000.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Marco Scutaro, how are you real?

This was inspired by a thread on Myspace about how awesome Mariano Rivera is, even though he's kind of old. Whenever the-last-remaining-#42 is mentioned, just one game comes to mind, one glorious game in April.

I wrote this little ditty and posted it in that thread, but decided that here would be a good, permanent home for it.

Warnings: The following may induce A's fans (or people who love to see the Yankees fail in the grandest fashions) to throw their hands in the air in triumph -- make sure you're not going to punch anything that may hurt you or be broken before continuing.


I will tell you about my favorite Mariano Rivera outing. I invite you all to share your own.

Over a year ago in the bright sunlight of the Oakland Coliseum, it’s a day game in April, and the date is Sunday the 15th.

The attendance is 35,077, the same it’s been for the whole series – a sellout crowd (in more ways than one). The Yankees are in town. More than just the famed Mariano Rivera is wearing the number 42.

Rich Harden is pitching.

A two-run first inning had put the A's up early, but their bats were unable to produce the rest of the game.

Goose eggs for both teams until the seventh inning, where after two pitches to Alex Rodriguez (a strike and a ball) Jason Kendall trots out to the mound in all his veteran glory and is joined by home plate umpire Laz Diaz and then the pitching coach, manager, and trainer.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez gets treatment of his own for a bloody nose.

Rich shakes his head at Larry Davis and speaks some in his Canadian tongue, which he slips into in moments of frustration and pain. (Davis, of course, is well-versed in Canadian after spending so much time with the oft-injured pitcher.)

Rich shrugs, nods, and smirks at manager Bob Geren, who is not so familiar with Canadian and steps off the mound to allow Rich to throw some pitches. Rich throws one high and windmills his shoulder. He insists upon staying in the game and Geren, lulled into a false sense of security by the Canadian's charm and gentle smirk, lets him stay in.

Rodriguez, bloody nose taken care of, steps into the box. He works a double off Rich and Geren heads back to the mound and takes the ball from that tricky Canadian. He is done for the day, done for the week, and done for most of the season.

Joe Kennedy (may he rest in peace) enters the game to face Jason Giambi (who is being heartily booed by the Oakland faithful). His first pitch ends up in right field and there are runners on the corners with no outs, Jorge Posada up to the plate. He scorches a double down the left field line on the 9th pitch of the at-bat, scoring Rodriguez and sending Giambi, not exactly fleet of foot, to third. Rich's run has scored and the lead is hanging on by a thread with men on second and third and no outs. The sun beats down on Joe's fair skin and the temperature rises.

Giambi scores on a sacrifice fly by Robinson Cano and it’s a tie ballgame. It’s 2-2 and Rich’s win is gone. Joe has blown the save and with one out and a runner on third he can only hope to get back into the dugout without giving up another run.

Kiko Calero is up in the bullpen.

The Yankees take the lead on a sac fly from Melky Cabrera and Joe keeps sweating. Doug Mientkiewicz strikes out trying to check his swing and the inning is over.

But in the 8th, Joe gives up another run to make it 4-2, Yankees. Kiko comes in to finish of the inning and Jay Marshall pitches a scoreless 9th.

Athletics fans shake their heads when Mariano Rivera steps in, that number 42 on his back making them wince, thinking of their broken starter on this Jackie Robinson Day (not to mention the closer’s impeccable stats and spotless baseball reputation).

Eric Chavez grounds out on the first pitch of his at bat and A’s fans sigh.

Bobby Crosby hits a fly ball to right field, giving the A’s fans a brief rush of “Maybe, could he possibly …?” before it lands in Bobby Abreu’s glove. The A’s fans either sit down to wait out the last out or walk up the aisles to beat the traffic home.

Todd Walker (who else remembered he had a stint with the A’s in 2007?) slaps a basehit to left field and some of those fans walking out slide into a seat, just in case.

Jason Kendall is at bat and as he is swinging through a pitch Todd takes second base on defensive indifference. Jason takes on a 3-1 count and the umpire calls a strike. Geren hollers from the A’s dugout and A’s fans make themselves known. “Are ya crazy, blue? That was a mile high! Who’s payin’ your salary -- Steinbrenner?”

Marco Scutaro is on deck, taking his swings and waiting for the moment he was born for.

Jason fouls off the next pitch and the pitch after that and the one after that goes off his ankle. He’s a hard-nosed gamer not afraid to get dirty, but that’s not what he’s getting paid to do as an Oakland Athletic; he’s getting paid to get on base.

Jason steps back in and waves his bat and takes a pitch high and at his hands. As he takes his base the remaining A’s fans get to their feet – the winning run is at the plate and it’s Marco Scutaro holding the bat!

Posada walks out to the mound and pats Rivera on the back. Maybe he’s saying what to throw next, maybe he’s talking about what Marco’s weaknesses are, and maybe he’s just telling him a joke. Whatever it is, Marco waits patiently, prepared.

Batting ninth in this game Marco has struck out twice and grounded to short, hardly anyone’s best hope in this kind of situation, but all of Oakland remembers his magical doubles and how the stadium shook with their shouts of his name last October, the team clean and crisp and finally finally winning.

Rivera paints the black for a called strike and Marco steps back, appraising the opposing pitcher. He bows his head, adjusts his helmet, and eyes his bat as if to say, “You got a hit in you? Please, jus’ don’ strike out.” He spits in the dirt and steps back in, tapping the ground with his bat and digging in with his cleats. Marco pulls the next pitch foul and the crowd is so full of Yankees fans that hardly a sound goes up in hope. Marco steps out of the box and applies more pine tar to his bat.

It’s the bottom of the ninth. There are two outs. Todd Walker is on second, Jason Kendall is on first, the score is 4-2 favoring the visitors and Marco stands in with an 0-2 count. The crowd gets loud, Yankees fans cheering for a strike and Oakland fans just wanting to get another man on for Bradley. They dare not hope for more. Their tender hearts are already hurting from the loss of their short right-handed power pitcher.

The runners take their leads off their respective bases.

Rivera leans in, gets his sign, then straightens up.

Marco peers out intently from under the brim of his batting helmet and the ball is on its way.

Marco makes contact to left field, it’s high, it’s away, it’s heading towards the foul pole --

“If it’s fair, it’s ------ GONE! THE A’S WIN IT! SCUTARO WINS IT! Celebrate -- Oakland A’s, are you kidding me?”

Marco rounds the bases after Todd and Jason, rushing to meet the clutch of his teammates surrounding home plate, smiles splashed across their faces and the A’s fans, out-cheering the Yankees fans for once, shouting his name --



Rivera left Oakland that April 15th, still looking for his first save of the 2007 season.

Monday, June 9, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics

As many of you may already know, I live for the Olympics. I remember one swimming event from Barcelona, a bunch of stuff from women's gymnastics in 1996, but my real love for the Olympics began in 2000 during the Sydney Games.

I'll refrain from waxing poetic on the importance of the Olympics. This post is just to introduce my "obsession" to my readers. As the summer goes on and the Olympics start I'll post more about the Games.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Let's look at that again, but this time slower

I'm gonna start out by saying that in general, I am against instant replay in sports. Even when faced with Americans losing medals in the Olympic Games, I am 100% against instant replay in gymnastics and swimming. Yang Tae-Young, Paul Hamm, Kosuke Kitajima, and Brendan Hansen cannot change my mind. I'm still hesistant about figure skating instant replay, but that sport's judging is so corrupt that it seems like the only way to go. I've watched swimming and gymnastics for eight years now and I've seen rules change, scoring change, and instant replay be considered.

With swimming, I'm positive that if you slow anyone's stroke down you can find some reason to disqualify them. The things they SHOULD be disqualified for are easy to see with the naked eye. (French official, Kitajima's dolphin kick was visible from the stands).

The Hamm-Young debacle was a product of corrupt judging, not the scorers being unable to see what was going on. If this weren't the case, Jordan Jovtchev would be the reigning gold medallist on rings and Aleksei Nemov would have SOME kinda medal on high bar from Athens. As it stands, the Greek crowd could cheer their gymnast to gold and force a scoring change for Nemov, but nothing more than that.

That said, I am 100% for instant replay in baseball for foul/fair home run calls. What's it going to hurt? Sure, there's been a rash of fouled-up home run calls in the last week, but how many more will happen this season? Odds are, not many. Everyone's complained about balls and strikes for as long as baseball's been around -- and still no one's suggesting we should implement technology to make it "fairer." Joe Morgan suggests a slippery slope argument, though he doesn't call it that. He also makes the case that "strikes and balls decide the game more often than home runs," so why not use technology there? He says that because everyone is worried about that very thing -- enough so that it'll never be discussed.

But the difference between a strike and a ball is a walk or a strikeout (in the most extreme cases, a run walked in). The difference between a fair home run and a foul ball is always a run or a strike. With the rash of bad calls and apologetic umpires, you can't possibly think those guys don't want a little help out there -- if only to take the heat off.

Furthermore, strike zones change depending on the player and the umpire, and as long as it's consistent (-ly bad, or good) for both teams, there's nothing to argue about.

And as an A's fan, I was angry at the out call on Crosby yesterday, but I did not once wish for instant replay. I just wanted that umpire to look at the call after the game and feel bad.

Random labels are due to the sad misfortune that I have to watch the Angels and White Sox play on national television yet again. Oh, nice. Way to go, Carlos Quentin. Way to walk off on the Angels. Now can we be done with this series?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Call me baffled

Dusty Baker's lineup for today's Reds-Phillies game is his "scrap iron-type lineup." It probably has a lot of guys who make the Florida FSN commentators' Gritty Gutsy Guys Who Play The Game Right Team. That team includes Ty Wigginton and, of course, David Eckstein.

I don't even know what to think about this.

In other baseball news, I heard the Cubs WGN guys (see, why bother learning these guys' names?) refer to Jason Kendall as all of the following:
A great leader.
A great guy.
Has a great work ethic.
A veteran.

They failed to mention the fact that he can't throw out runners, can't really hit, and has a ton of passed balls. He's a not very good baseball player. Be happy he's gone!

On the other side of the fence, Kurt Suzuki is the best hitter in Oakland, getting on base at a clip of .423. Oh hey Geren, why're you still batting Buck first? Does an oh-forty-three OBP really look like a lead-off hitter to you? He hasn't walked, he's had 9 strikeouts (more than Jack Cust), and he's 0-21. "How," you might ask, "is his OBP not .000?!" I asked myself that very same question and then I remembered that he has gotten on base exactly once -- by getting hit by a pitch.

How about taking some pitches, huh?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

22-1 = collapse?

Hello, National Media. My name is Skye Walker and I'm a Houston Rockets fan. Please don't talk about how the Rockets are going to collapse before the first loss in 22 games is even complete. Please don't be talking about how great they are in one half and then completely reneg on that in the second. That's not buddies.

It took 21 games to be considered the real thing, and at 22-1 they're already on their way down. Say what? Bring it, Nawlins.