I've been waiting on this since about the All-Star Break. The AL kicks things off this evening with the Rays and Rangers taking the field at five eastern. I'll miss a little bit of the action, but hopefully just the first few innings. Better yet, I'll go set my DVR to record the game, and I should be able to catch up to real-time before the Yankees and Tigers start their brawl. Thank goodness for DirecTV and their remote recording.
I'm going to have a bit of a hard time picking who to root for in this Rays-Rangers series. I think it will be the Rangers, but I wouldn't mind seeing the Rays take it. The Rangers will start CJ Wilson, which is entirely expected. The Rays are going with wonderkid Matt Moore in his second career start. I didn't see the first start, but word on the street is this kid is the reason CY Young candidate James Shields (in his iconic picture here) won't be on the Rays next year. Tim Kirkjian says expect him to throw about 98, but his body will look like he's throwing batting practice. I really want to get a look at this kid. And, come on, is it not compelling to see a kid making his second ever start in the Bigs in Game 1 of the ALDS?
In other news,* Terry Francona will be leaving the Red Sox after this collapse. I don't think Francona is one of the greatest managers of all time like many seem to, but I do think he's darned good. And not at all to blame for the Red Sox's epic decline. I don't really like to use the word epic, it's been terribly abused as of late, but it really was record breaking. Here's a graph to really put a visual on how bad a choke job this was. Since it was Tim Kirkjian they had on the radio this morning, they asked him where Tito would land and who would take over in Boston. I didn't hear (or pay any attention) to the Boston answer, but Kirkjian threw out the White Sox as a possible spot for Francona. I think that would be an awfully good move. The White Sox still have a good core, but clearly need a different motivation than what Ozzie Guillen was able to provide. I think Francona would be a pretty big change from Ozzie. I think that would be an excellent idea if I were running the White Sox, which plainly I am not.
*I was actually kind of waiting for it to become official before I wrote this post.
Buckle up, folks. I have a feeling this is going to be an October for the ages. I'll meet you around 5 tonight on TBS, yes?
This is just because I think Dan Shaughnesy is one of the most insufferable journalists out there. You know, if there's one thing we've eliminated. . .
Okay, so it's not the catchiest title, but what a night! Unless, you know, you're a Braves or Red Sox fan. Then you're probably feeling like this poor chap on the right. Two extra inning games, one game decided with two outs (two strikes, even, if memory serves), and, well, the Cardinals game wasn't that exciting, actually. But, I didn't watch that one, as it was totally enveloped by the Braves game I did watch. And then flipped over to watch the bottom of the ninth for the Orioles to pull a fast one on the Red Sox. And then ESPN sent me over just in time to watch Evan Longoria put one over the wall to down the Yankees and the Red Sox all at once.
That must have been a conflicted moment for Yankee fans. Your team lost a really tough game, but on the other hand, it put the Red Sox into an early off-season* filled with misery and most likely some knee-jerk, ill-advised moves.
*You may remember that the vast majority of baseball writers picked, with a great degree of confidence, a Phillies-Red Sox World Series. Oops! Not that my prediction was all that much better. Rockies (with an admission that it could very easily be the Giants) against the Rangers.
On the other hand, you have the Cardinals and Rays, who managed to overcome what should have been insurmountable leads to capture Wild Card berths. Doubly so for the Rays, who managed to overcome a seven-run deficit in the 8th inning. Now, as the poster says, they have to watch out for the owl. In this case, that would be the Phillies and Rangers.
Now that the pairings are set, I feel it's time for another set of bad predictions. I'll take the Phillies over the Cardinals, but in five games. I think that will be a lot tougher than many think. Especially the way the Cards have been playing. I wouldn't be shocked if St. Louis pulls off the upset. I'll also take Milwaukee over the upstart D-Backs. This feels like a tough series, too, but I'll say it goes four. But four tough ones. In the AL, I really want to pick Detroit. I really do. I'm just not sure they have enough pitching outside of Verlander, who will likely get paired up with Sabathia, who's no slouch himself. I have to take the Yankees, we'll say in five. Texas I think will beat Tampa Bay fairly easily. I'll say it goes four, but a much easier four than Milwaukee will have.
That leaves us with Phillies-Brewers and Yankees-Rangers. I can't say how much I love those series. I'm going to say the Brewers surprise the Phillies, taking that series in five. Don't ask for the logic behind it, you won't really find it. But I say the Brewers get it done in surprising fashion. In the AL, I think the Rangers take it in six, also in easier fashion than many would think. Which leaves us with a Brewers-Rangers World Series, which I'm sure is not the match-up FOX is hoping for, but boy I would love it. I'll stick with the Rangers, my preseason pick, and I'll say it goes a very tough seven games and the nation finally gets a real good look at just how good Zack Greinke is.
Like most people around this region, I watched the documentary on Bartman. As has been mentioned on here before, I seem to be drawn to teams that are cursed, so I've had my fair share of sports heartbreak in my 25 years. But Bartman was the lowest I've . Combine that with the hype I've been hearing about this documentary since 30 for 30 was launched, and I was primed for last night.
I actually ended up very disappointed. I didn't quite catch it, but I'm assuming Gibney (the director) is a Red Sox fan, because for a documentary on Bartman, it sure had an awful, awful lot on Buckner. It just wasn't all the relevant, didn't add anything to the story, and felt like filler. That was an hour of a two-hour documentary. Cut all the Red Sox stuff out, and you've got a much stronger movie. It wasn't as long, but I felt the same about the minister going on about the historical origin of scapegoat and Gibney's time in the WGN Radio studios.
Disappointed as I was, there were some very strong points to the documentary. All the different angles and edits of the play were very well done. The movie seemed a little more enamored with matching up the radio play by play with the action as it happened* than I was, but other than that, I loved it. It was an athletic Zapruder film. They made very good use some footage taken by fans at that game. Everyone was going in expecting history to be made, and they got it. Just not in the way anybody ever imagined. They talked about how Bartman has added to the mystique by just disappearing and refusing any and all media requests. And, well, it didn't really hurt that he looked like the biggest dork ever. Is he? We don't know, and it doesn't really matter. In this story, perception is everything. That was one of the themes of the movie.
*The radio broadcast that Bartman was presumably listening to in those headphones was seven seconds behind the actual game action.
Now, I do think the documentary overstated how Chicago feels about Bartman. I guess I'm not from Chicago and I don't spend very much time there, but I do pay a lot of attention to sports media and Cubs/baseball fans around. Beyond the immediate aftermath, I don't think anybody blamed Bartman. I've heard people blame Alou,* but that's just downright dumb. If you just had a chance** to make a defining play in such a huge game for such a dogged franchise, and you missed the play through no fault of your own, I would hope you would throw a little bit of a fit.*** No, I think most of Chicago understands that the usually sure-handed Alex Gonzalez booting a tailor-made double play ball is what really ruined the inning. And series. For all the media types and fans and players they talked to, I don't know how they didn't talk to Gonzalez. Maybe he didn't want to talk, but it would have been nice to have been told that.
*And by people I mean one crazy caller on ESPN Radio today.
**A very, very good chance. I thought Alou had it at the time, and I feel even more strongly about that now.
***They tried to lay some of the blame at Alou's feet for the crowd turning like they did, but I thought that was also way overdone by the movie. As we saw in the 2008 playoff debacle against the Dodgers, it doesn't take much for Wrigley's mood to turn during a playoff game.
So, all in all, it was a swing and a miss for me. I wouldn't mind watching the movie edited down for an hour. I think I would have liked it much more that way. But, as is, I would have much rather been watching the Cardinals or one of the big wild card games, like I plan on tonight. I don't really too much care who wins and loses, I just want two game 163's.
I ate lunch at KFC yesterday, which was probably a bad idea. I've been trying to do better about packing a lunch, but I had forgotten and was pretty darned hungry. So, I went down the road here a few blocks and did the buffet. For the record, I love KFC's buffet. More than anybody ought to enjoy anything centered around fried food.* The food was good, as usual. That wasn't the issue. No, it was that I was eating by myself with plenty of time to think. If you know or have been reading me for very long, you probably see where this is headed.
*Arguments could be made about state fairs and how much they center around fried foods. I've never been to a state fair, though, so I didn't know if it was really fair to include those or not.
The KFC was almost deserted. Apparently there isn't much demand for KFC buffet after 12:30 on a Monday. I came in to one slightly older couple in a booth, and what appeared to be a more senior gentleman at the counter asking for a fork. He was also by himself and looked frail to me. He was short, maybe five feet tall. Although I'm sure never a giant by any means, I would imagine he had shrunk with age. His voice seemed weathered, as did his longish (but thin) white hair coming out the back of his flat cap. He had shaky hands.
Shaky hands are the quintessential sign of age to me. My great-grandpa Summers had shaky hands about as long as I can remember. He always seemed old to me since I was born. He died three years ago at 97* A fighter until the end, he lived all of his adult life in his own house until just the last few months of his life. I respect the hell out of that. But I do remember those hands and the paper plates flapping away at family get-togethers.
*I was going to type he just died, but then the obituary informed me it was in 2008. It does not seem like that should be anywhere nearly that long, just like it seems there's no way it was almost a year since Kristine's grandma died.
This man was eating alone as well. I've had this crazy idea in my head to start going to restaurants and see who I can find eating alone and start joining them for dinner. I'm (to this point) far too embarrassed and not nearly forward enough to actually start doing this. But it's a nice thought in my head. We both get company at lunch or dinner and maybe come away with new friends. Or at least learning about somebody new. That thought went through my head with this man, too, but I of course did not act on it. I just stayed in my own booth, letting my mind wander. For a little while, they were quite nice thoughts. Thoughts I've had before, but I like them. How crazy it is to think that every person you see has an entire lifetime's worth of stories and experiences, just like every book in the library is a new and different story. Some good, some not. But a whole different plot with different twists and turns, unique as their fingerprints. To think that everybody you see every day could be a whole book that you will never know the depths of, that just strikes me as wonderful. But, of course, things don't stay that way.
That man left. A new customer finally came in, and he apparently knew the older couple. They got to talking, eventually turning to grandkids.* Everybody the older couple brought up, the new customer would respond with "They're good," or some variation thereof. I was smiling to myself about when he blindsided me with a "you know, she's been through so much." My ears perked a little more at that. I wanted to know what the crisis was, but I wasn't sure if I would ever know. I did find out, though. Cancer. In good news, the girl in question had been released from the care of her doctors and termed a cancer survivor. Almost immediately, the XKCD comic posted at the top popped into mind. I urge you to click it so you can see the full size version. Make sure you hover your mouse over it while you're there to get the alt-text.
*I think it was grandkids, anyway. They were talking about high school cross country, and these folks all seemed old to have high school kids. I was surprised they would have grandkids that old, though.
I connected with this, too. A year after my great-grandpa died, I was back in the same church for another funeral. My mind tells me it was much closer than a year, but the newspaper tells me otherwise. My cousin Jessica died after a long battle with cancer. For reasons I don't really know, I wasn't terribly close with Jessica or that side of my family. I think my family was so big with just my immediate cousins, it was impossible to know everybody. But I did constantly hear the updates, even if I didn't know her like I should have. She had her encouraging moments and her disappointments like I suppose anybody would a prolonged bout of cancer. There was a point, not long before her end came, where it was clear her exit was coming up, to use XKCD's imagery. All she wanted was one last party before she went. We did the best we could, but all the chemo left her weak. She did her best, but she was too tired and sick to really get out and enjoy the party like she wanted. We had a good time, but looking back on it, it was such a sad thing that the sickness couldn't just give her one last blow out, to go out on her terms.
Now, maybe it's because I'm a selfish prick, maybe it's natural, I don't know. But I do tend to turn these things back to me. I think it's because I've never been in these sorts of situations myself, so my brain doesn't know how to comprehend it except to try to put myself at the end of my life. And for reasons I really can't explain, a news story popped into my head.
Of course, I can't find the story now. I think it was on CNN, but I'm not 100% sure. It talked about how social media could provide an archive of the likes we've never seen before once this generation starts moving on. Now, who knows if that's actually true. There have of course been journals before, and there's absolutely no guarantee that social media will continue to be the force it currently is. Or even that the internet would be that big of a deal. I'm sure it wasn't that long ago nobody could have really conceived of things like land lines and the post office turning obsolete. And especially not at the speed it went. But it did get me thinking.
I might have made a jump here, but I started thinking about what drives me to write. I've written a lot all through my life. In more formative years, I think it was more about being known. I don't think that's really the case any more. I think now it's more about being remembered. It won't be too far in the future I'll start having kids, and they'll start having kids, and God-willing, I'll get to see those kids have kids. I might be a relic then, so out of touch it would kill the 2011 edition of me. But, hopefully, through things like Facebook, this blog, books, and God knows what the future holds, but there will be a way for my ancestors and other interested folks to get a feel of what my life was like, the kind of person I am, was, and will be.
I don't know what happens after this life. The dead don't really write postcards, you know? But, I can write about this life, what I've seen and experienced, what I've gleaned from it. What good will any of that do, other than to provide some sort of comfort that I won't be forgotten? I don't know. Just as I'm sure many writers of letters and journals in wars past didn't really think of what historians and the like might get from their writings. I just want to ensure that it's here. If nothing else, maybe the 50-year-old or 80-year-old versions of me can take a look back at this and get a chuckle out of the memories.
Well, the picture might be a bit overstated, but I am so pumped to see these wild card races come down to the wire like this. Boston did win the second game of their double header to stay up late last night, and the Cardinals did what they are expected to against the Cubs. So, here we are three days to go in the season, and the wild card lead is down to one in both leagues.
In the National League, the Cardinals get to finish up with the hapless Astros. Or the AAAstros, as one novelty jersey would have them. I'm sure Houston is just ready to get this season over with. They might like to play spoilers, but they'd probably be just as happy to see Lance Berkman get another crack at the playoffs. The very-slumping Braves get to finish off with the Phillies, who are a bit of a wild card themselves. Charlie Manuel says they owe it to the league to keep playing it just as they would any other game. It's easy to say that in early September, though. I'd want to to get my world-class rotation in order if I at all could if I were managing the Phillies. As with the Canucks this past hockey season, they don't give you a trophy for finishing first in the regular season.* So, the wild card seems to be in the hands of one Mr. Charlie Manuel. My gut says the Cardinals will get this done.
*Well, actually, yes they do in hockey. But I'm sure teams would trade any number of Presidents Trophies to get another year with the Stanley Cup.
In the American League, the Red Sox make a return trip to Baltimore. The Orioles haven't been much this year, disappointing pretty much everybody. But they proved to be awfully tough on the Sawks last week. I do think the Orioles are relishing a chance to play spoiler. The Rays get to host the Yankees, who would probably also love to see the Red Sox miss the playoffs, and have the excuse of having nothing to play for. My gut and my brain says this works out for Tampa Bay.
Braves, Rays, and Red Sox all start at 7 tonight. The Cards get going at 8. I'm sure there will be some scoreboard watching going on all over, but especially in St. Louis given the later start. I at this point don't know who the free game is for MLB.TV, but hopefully somebody relevant. If not, I'm sure MLB Network will giving many, many looks-in* this evening.
*I'm not sure if that's how that should be made plural, but I fairly arbitrarily decided look-in should be
But you just missed a huge oppoturnity, St. Louis. This picture of dejected Tommy Herr and Todd Worrell are about the only way I can sum it up.
Picture going into the ninth inning last night. You're a game and a half out of the playoffs. The team ahead of you is off, so you know a win will gain you ground. You're at home. You're also up four runs against a team that, well, has been just a few cuts above awful. Sorry, Mets fans. Jason Motte comes in, who is probably having his best season ever.* You offer that to any Cardinal fan, I don't think you would find a single one who would wait three seconds before saying I'll take it.
*I haven't even started to look at his numbers, but that's just the way it feels to me.
That, of course, is when the fun started. It wouldn't make for much of a blog post (or definitely a different Tommy Herr picture) if the Cards just went out and put 'em down 1-2-3. Though that easily could have been the case. I know my Uncle Charlie, who does not miss a Cardinal game if he can at all help it, was pretty down on Raffy Furcal when he came to the red birds. I can only imagine what he thinks of him after botching this one to lead off the 9th.*
*I really wanted to embed the video, but MLB is not known for quickly embracing technology, so we're probably at least five years off of that happening.
Yikes. Turn that double play, and that inning takes a whole new flavor. I think the next batter flew out. It was soon after, anyway. With only six to play, the difference between one or two games back is pretty huge. The only good news is the Cardinals get to start again with the still-mediocre* Cubs, whereas the Braves tangle with a surprisingly spry Nationals team that has won eight of it's last ten.
*Sadly, it's still an improvement from earlier in the year.
As far as the AL, the Rays and Red Sox have screwed around enough to let the Angels into the race now. I do like Joe Maddon and the Rays an awful lot, but if there's a chance that the wild card won't come out of the AL East, I'm all over it. The Rays and Angels were tied at two games back yesterday before the Angels stubbed their toe against the Jays. Three games is a lot to make up in so few games, but I'll be rooting for them until that X goes up by their name in the standings.
Well, this is awkward. I was going to write this bit revisiting Charlie Sheen and how we love him because he lives an 8-year-old's dream,* no responsibility and all the money to do what he pleases. But, well, that's about as far as that went. It just sort of bores me now.
*Assuming, of course, he or she is pretty worldly for an 8 year old.
Of course, my life is pretty dull, especially on a Wednesday night. The big story from last night involved not watching a show that I'm sure would have been terribly interesting, but I didn't think my psyche could take it. Science of the Soul sounds right up my alley, but also sounds like a good way to trigger fears about death and the beyond that I have no real way of calming. Can't just meander over and take a peek at what's waiting, you know? So we ended up with American Pickers for a while.
I did watch the premiere of The X Factor, Simon Cowell's new show. I will be honest, I pretty much only watched American Idol because Kristine did, and that was fine. There were some good moments, but for the most part, just not my cup of tea. The X Factor will probably end up being the same sort of thing. It very clearly is in the Idol mold, but it did entertain me more than the average Idol episode.
So, yeah, that's really about it for today. I did see the Blue Jays are going back to the glory days on Uni Watch, which is awesome, but not enough to write a whole post about. I do plan on seeing Moneyball soon, so I'm sure I'll have a write up about that. I read the book, and it was certainly interesting. I didn't really agree with most of it. I'm fine with sabermetrics, but the success of those A's teams had a lot more to do with a very good pitching staff that peaked together and having Miguel Tejada before we knew he was juicing. What have the A's done lately with the Moneyball fad fading? Not much, is the answer. Strategy is good and all, but you've still got to have talent. When the talent well dried up, well, the OBP didn't do much to save them. Although, to quote good ol' Joe Posnanski, that A's team didn't really have that great of an OBP anyway.
Good news, everyone! My potty mouth* has not kept Wabash from claiming her loyal son as an alumni voice. Complete with a headshot and everything! Plus, I'm back in line, which was not the case yesterday. Anyway, see it all here.
*I've kept it in check pretty well on this blog, I think. I very intentionally kept it under wraps in my last book. Two F-Bombs, which I tried very hard to qualify as Precision F-Strikes. By the way, I'm hopelessly addicted to TVTropes. And links.
So, welcome to my humble ramblings, Wallies. Although chances are I know most of you, the hope is I can break out of the "family and friends" readership with the added exposure. I may have done that already, though. I've been averaging a pretty solid 20 readers a day since the start of the blog, and I'm pretty sure I haven't had 20 people say they read me consistently. In fact, the only one I know is my buddy Jonathan, who happens to sit next to me at work. I can't even get my wife to read it. Oy vey.
In sporting news, the Cardinals inched closer to a wild card berth, sitting 2.5 back with 8 to play. My gut says the Braves will hold on, but their bullpen really has not held up like I expected. I suppose that's what happens when you've got a bunch of rookies (even hot-shot ones) and the least imaginative manager in the Bigs.*
*At least when it comes to his bullpen. When it comes to Jason Heyward, I would say he has an overactive imagination.
The Red Sox also tried their best to give away a game after losing to the Orioles again. They lucked out, though, in that the Rays had the Yankees, who are still interested in clinching the division as soon as possible so they can get their rotation set. And apparently this Nova kid is pretty good. I don't know, I try to ignore that the American League exists if I can help it.
Hockey dropped the puck for some preseason games last night, but it's preseason, so I can't find it in me to care. And football only plays once a week, so not much to review there. Not that the Colts leave much to review. Grantland ran a nice story that sums up my gripes with Indianapolis sports fans, though. For a town that has its wagon so firmly hitched to sports, there sure are a ton of fair-weather fans.
I don't really have a lot to add about Charlie Sheen that hasn't already been said. I'm not really an expert on the guy or anything. Haven't followed him all that closely. I did watch Two and a Half Men last night and thought they handled the transition episode pretty well. I also watched The Roast of Charlie Sheen last night, too. It seemed most of the roasters were busy picking on each other and then mostly saying nice things about Charlie. It was entertaining, but not exactly the direction I thought it was going to go.
Anyway, what did I want to say here? Well, for starters, I do hope he gets his life together. I don't know why I have any faith in him being able to do that. He's 46 and lived about, I dunno, 46 years of it in full-on debauchery mode. But, he is getting a little older, maybe it's time for him to settle down. It wouldn't be the first time age has won out over being a hellion.
As they say, Father Time is the only undefeated.
Secondly, I honestly don't think Two and Half Men will be as good with Ashton Kutcher. I don't mind Mr. Demi Moore. I loved in him That 70's Show and I usually think he's pretty funny. But a huge part of the humor for Men was that Charlie Sheen didn't seem to be acting. Charlie Sheen seemed to be playing the pop-culture version of Charlie Sheen. That was what made that show work so well. I might be a little bit pessimistic about how this is going to go, but I will give the show a shot. It has been very funny up to this point, and the transition episode, like I said, was done well. Better than I was expecting.
A couple parting shots. First off, I hope Charlie is serious when he says he's done with "Winning," because he's already won. Second, the (fictional) closer (even though he was actually a starter in the movie) that made the modern closer the rock stars they are: Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn.