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.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

And you thought it would end at 21

McGrady didn't get a point in the first half, but the Rockets scored 59 anyway.
Alston was 8-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Battier held Kobe to 24 points.

This team is for real.

Your Houston Rockets, ranked first in the West.

And in the Eastern Conference, we have our first elimination -- the Miami Heat, with eleven wins and fifty-three losses.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I was looking at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings today. Tell me this: how in the world are the Heat not yet eliminated from playoff contention? They have eleven wins!


Monday, March 10, 2008

O Kenny!

"The Rockets have won 18 in a row, but Kenny Smith doesn't consider them legitimate contenders."

I also saw this line on when they were at 17 straight. I ask, "How many games do they gotta win 'fore you give 'em a chance, Kenny Smith?"

Don't fall prey to the lure of Houston-hating. We still love you, Kenny! Love us back!

In other news, I am moving to Hawai'i.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

See America right: video games touch our lives

There's a pitcher in the Major Leagues who throws the gyroball. He's not Japanese and he doesn't play for the Boston Red Sox. He's a California-born Texas resident who pitches for the Rangers and in his spare time coordinates Guitar Hero and Halo tournaments for charity.

If you don't already know who I'm describing, you should. In a sports world where the great athletes and bad role models are too often one and the same, C.J. Wilson should stand out in the crowd. I hear too much about the bad guys, about the Allen Iversons, Albert Belles, and Michael Vicks of sports and not enough about the good guys.

Despite being one of the most accessible baseball players out there (if you shout, "I'm your friend on Myspace!" during batting practice, he promises to sign for you) Wilson is largely unknown outside of the Rangers fanbase. He is veritably sick versus lefties, notching a 1.71 ERA and miniscule 0.69 WHIP against the group in 2007. He collected 12 saves in 14 opportunities after a trade sent Rangers closer Eric Gagne to Boston. A straight edge athlete who attends D.A.R.E. graduations and dishes out baseball advice via his Myspace to curious young ballplayers, Wilson isn't your average Major League southpaw.

He's on a mission to save children with hemophilia from utter boredom; the donations generated from his tournaments help to outfit a video game room for children receiving outpatient treatment at Cook's Children's Hospital. In addition to his charity work, Wilson professes a drug-free lifestyle and recognizes his responsibility as an athlete in the spotlight to be a good role model for kids.

But it's not just young and impressionable minds that need a positive personality to look up to when the airwaves buzz with news of O.J. Simpson's latest antics or Pacman Jones' most recent arrest. The next time you play Guitar Hero or Halo, think about what can be accomplished through those video games with a little extra effort. The next time you scoff at the kid in your ten o'clock class who says he doesn't drink, think about what that could mean to the kid's younger brother, facing the peer pressures of high school for the first time.

Take this as a message brought to you by America's favorite pitcher who admits to throwing a gyroball, "Remember that you affect every person you ever meet, and some you never do."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why it's more American to cheer against the Patriots

18-0. The sure bet. The favorite. The quarterback makes girls swoon, the wide receiver plucks footballs from the air in a seemingly impossible fashion and they're called the Patriots, of all things. So why is it more American to cheer against this All-American team? Simple: we want to be entertained. What's entertaining about seeing a game go down just like everyone expected, watching the Yankees beat the Orioles every time they meet, predicting the Mavericks to sweep the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, or witnessing the Patriots roll over the Giants 54-7 in the Super Bowl? Those scenarios are only entertaining if you're a Yankees fan, if you follow the Mavericks, or if you grew up cheering for the Patriots.

Great American sports moments are defined by the same set of standards. Like the patriots of the Revolutionary War fighting off the great British Empire for independence, we look forward to the underdog pulling off an upset. We like the Cinderella stories of March Madness and we love buzzer-beating game-winning shots from beyond half-court.

A collection of not even the best American college hockey players went up against the Red Machine in the 1980 Winter Olympics and won. The Boston Red Sox were facing elimination after the third game of the 2004 ALCS and won four straight against the arch-rival New York Yankees to earn a berth in the World Series. How many Michigan fans cringe when they hear the words "Appalachian State"? Had the Soviets won, had the Yankees swept the Red Sox, had Michigan's field goal attempt not been blocked in the last seconds of the game, these events would be side notes and not full-color glossy pages in the books of sports history.

Super Bowl XLII has the makings for one of the greatest moments in NFL history – if Eli Manning can lead his team to victory. Sure, a 19-0 season would be neat, but in five years will you remember any of the games? Will you feel a rush of excitement when someone mentions it? Will you look back and say, "I still can't believe it!" with a smile? No, you'll file it away with the dusty memories of the 2007 Boston Red Sox, the 1992 Dream Team, and the 2006-2007 San Antonio Spurs.