Teams at this stage of NCAA men’s hoopla, approach one another much like sexual partners. The first half is foreplay, feeling each other out, as each game assumes it’s unique positioning and rhythm. Teams this good almost always have the passion and experience, that extra trick or gear, that renders blithely going through the motions impossible, and ensures a repetitive tension and release that, quite frankly, gets me off.
My narcotic is Opening Day and the onset of real baseball. Pumping up the offseason is a burgeoning industry drummed up by clubs selling "stuff" and sabermetric think tanks shooting rapid fire predictions. But the offseason is like withdrawl. There’s only so much you can write about essentially nothing; about games you cant see, and extrapolating from others’ first hand written accounts.
Can you help me, Doc? Pleeaassee! I just need to see a baseball game for myself!
So this time of year, much like Pointer Sisters before me , I’m so excited.
Randy Johnson topped out at 92 or 93 MPH yesterday, depending on who you believe, and struck out five Padre doppelgangers in a split squad, sham exhibition at Chase Field.
"There’s a world of difference between how I’m pitching in spring training than the way I was pitching the last two or three months of last year," said Johnson, who won 17 games with the Yankees last season despite back problems
Let’s hope so, because if the gangly one pitches like he did last year, he’ll be worse than either Miguel Batista or Claudio Vargas was – and more expensive. I caught a glimpse of Randy’s performance, and while his control impressed, his delivery looked stiff, compact and cautious. I suppose that makes sense as he’s not quite "there" yet, but I couldnt hep envisioning all the bunts that neither he nor Jackson nor Tracy will field this year.
On a positive note, the Wall Street Journal published extensive preseason predictions from eleven so called experts, six of whom project Chris Young as NL ROY. After yesterday’s 5-2-3 double play with no outs and the bases loaded, let’s just hope Chris makes the team
The Journal didnt amass the most diverse group of pundits, 20 to 30 something bloggers mostly, but it’s still a collection of shrewd, relatively independent baseball thinkers. The elite eleven selected six division winners each, for sixty six projected race outcomes. Diamondback fans should be heartened by their favorites:
Yankees 9 votes
BP’s Joe Sheehan, a respected analyst – at least before today – actually has ‘em winning the World Series. There’s a certain logic to it, as there is for perpetual motion machines, or proving a bumblebee cant fly – but we still admire Joe’s out of the box thinking, even if he’s so far out of the box he needs a GPS device to get back in.
Memo to Mark Newman. Gameday is totally screwed up. Pls handle
This critically overdue $5M stadium makeover is another example of the financial shackles placed on new owners by the dastardly, free spending Jerry Colangelo. If only Jerry’s dream team had picked the "right" colors to begin with, the new owners could forego this expensive, inherited burden and invest profits instead, into fielding somewhat competitive teams.
The tsarist legacy of Jerry Colangelo, is like a boot on the neck of this poor, poor franchise. So be sure to give the huddled masses currently populating the front office plenty of time to reconstruct a winner from Colangelo’s superlative stable of prized prospects. We Diamondback fans owe the new owners an awful lot, especially we few who still purchase single game tickets, but what we owe them most is our gratitude, respect and obedience to their upright, responsible vision.
When Jerry Colangelo hoisted the World Series trophy over his head in November of 2001, he advised Arizonans: This is for you!
And it was. I have a picture of me and my family posed next to that trophy, a perk of supporting the team in it’s early days.
When you’re at the ballpark next week, soak in the new atmosphere. The new signage. The new sponsors. The new music. The new bars. The new decals. The new kiosks. The new merchandise. The new vibe. The new tradition.
This is for you.
We dont observe daylight savings time here in central Arizona, but the times, they are a-changing in Diamondback land. New players, new seat prices, even a new, truncated team name emblazoned on entirely new, barely recognizable uniforms. Many say that the Moorad/Kendrick buzzsaw has gone too far heralding their dramatic new change of direction, but after due consideration, Diamondhacks has come to the conclusion that perhaps they havent gone far enough.
Especially when it comes to the team name. The Sedona Red threads are a complete departure from the purple, but "D-Backs" is just so eerily similar to Jerry Colangelo’s "Diamondbacks", that it fails to capture the magnitude of the brand new culture of excellence afoot, or the breathtaking scope of the new FO’s Circle of Success.
Clearly, Jeff Moorad’s front office "Dream Team" has looked to certain franchises in implementing it’s ostensibly unique vision. The brick, sand and black scheme, for example, is identical to that of the Houston Astros. And earlier this spring, the Dbacks first televised game vs the LA Angels, featured two barely distinguishable teams, both sporting bright red tops.
Since you’re incorporating the look of the Astros and Angels, why not go all out and overhaul your team name as well – to reflect those same franchises you so unabashedly emulate? Astros…Angels? Astros…Angels. Hmmm. How about combining the Astros first syllable (As) with the Angels last syllable (-els). Eureka!
Your Arizona Asels has a nice ring, but it still doesnt fully capture the pungent flavor of ownership’s Change of Direction. These Asels need something extra, an adjective, to visually evoke the red identity theft perpetrated on Diamondback fans. Got it!
T-Shirts, bumper stickers, tattoos…Flaming Asels everywhere, just in time for the home opener. What better way to salute the current stewards of our halcyon baseball franchise.
Josh Byrnes finally got his younger, cheaper Venezuelan today, dispatching expendable behemoth, Jorge Julio, to the Marlins in exchange for 22 year old, expandable Yusmeiro Petit. Petit was evidently battling for the Marlins final rotation slot, but judging from last year’s near perfect 10 ERA, the newest Diamondback bears little resemblance to, say, Andy Pettitte. One source lists the 19 year old at 230 pounds; a more recent page slims him down to 180. Ay carumba – talk about doing a petite 180!
Regardless of Yusmeiro’s gross tonnage, his arrival means that giddy Phoenicians can once more root for a player whose first name starts with "Y" – a guilty pleasure denied locals since the halcyon days (or was it "day"?) of Yamil Benitez, who (as Brennaman might say) hit the ball "on the rooofff!". Diamondhacks welcomes the youthful "Y" by yelling "Yippee!"
To the extent that the Marlins ate Julio’s salary – and there were undisclosed cash considerations – this deal sounds prudent. Regardless of what level prospect Petit is nowadays, he’s bound to provide more value than Jorge, who was crowded out by a pen full of cheaper, righthanded behemoths. We liked Julio, partly because so many Dbacks fans didnt. He was the proverbial head case, but also an invaluable closer at the beginning, just as Valverde faltered, when the playoffs were still a glint in Bob Melvin’s eye.
Julio only said one or two dumb things during his tenure here, which, based on his past, indicates a concerted effort to fit in. That’s not enough to say we’re sorry to see him go – it’s a smart move for the team provided Valverde and Pena pitch well. And it’s a chance for the Caracas native to close once more,[cue throbbing techno music intro] like a Miami vice.
Entering this weekend’s basketball games, I sat fifth out of 263 contestants in my annual NCAA tourney pool. It’s impressive in that it’s the only hoops pool I enter, but less so considering the pool’s clogged with Notre Dame and USC alums who, despite appearances, collectively know precious little about sports. Last year, I finished eighth (of 218 entries) in the same pool, but was amazed to find myself in the top ten again, given I didn’t watch a single college hoops game all year and neglected to hunker down and seriously research this year’s picks. That sloth came back to bite me(or was it my good luck regressing to the mean?) as Kansas, one of my projected finalists, lost, knocking me out of blue ribbon contention.
The team that impressed me the most this year was Butler. They weren’t the best team, but with due respect to Winthrop, I think they were the best coached squad. What team gets more out of limited physical talent than Butler? Every aspect of the game that can be taught, they execute exceedingly well: they shoot well from the field and the line and create efficient, situation-specific, shots. They recognize and exploit mismatches and distribute fouls and defensive resources. They control tempo while committing fewer turnovers than any team in the nation.
What they cant do as well as the hoops factories, of course, is jump and run and be seven feet tall – and, really, that’s it. Their leading rebounder is point guard Mike Green; leading scorer, A.J. Graves, weighs 155 pounds -and no one on the roster is taller than 6’7”. Yet Florida, a deep, athletic and well coached team in their own right, had to play a terrific game to beat the Bulldogs by eight. Taurean Green and Humphreys hit their threes and Horford and Noah, who dominated as expected inside, also shot uncharacteristically well from the line. If one of those Gators had an off night, the defending champs may’ve been that and nothing more.
Another thing that impresses me about the tourney field generally, is the lack of panic on the offensive end. While particular defenses clamp down to force difficult shots, offenses today seem more prepared to methodically deal with such adversity than their counterparts from a generation – or even ten years – ago. You see fewer ill advised launches than in the past as teams are more adept, and patient, at setting up open threes, even if it takes several screens and passes to accomplish. I suspect the emergence of the inside out style in the NBA is largely responsible for this advance.
Some complain this has been a blasé tournament due to the lack of upsets but it’s also showcased deep, athletic and disciplined teams. Butler will consistently beat bigger and more talented teams who don’t execute very well, but when juggernauts like Ohio State, UCLA, Florida and North Carolina execute like this with passion, it’s almost impossible for a less talented team to break though beyond the sweet sixteen, even if they do everything right. I don’t think that means it’s a bad tournament, but rather signals another level in the maturation of college basketball.
With due respect to the limited efforts of the National League, nothing derails the Diamondbacks quite like putting them on TV. Bob Melvin’s teams have played with their tubes tied for years now, and after quietly fashioning a 13-7 mark in the relative cocoon of the Cactus League, electromagnetic waves from today’s FSNAZ telecast apparently proved too much for our shy and retiring Scarlets, who were zapped by the Los Angeles Heiligenschein, 8-3.
We braved but half an inning of this…this "telecast" ourselves, hardly sufficient to fully critique the new broadcast team, but between errands and FSN power outages, enough to note first impressions. On a humorous if somewhat rehearsed note, Daron Sutton briskly mocked his own "long drawn out story that no one enjoyed", a welcome departure from Brennaman’s ponderous comedic forays. His Stevestonian nasal twang, though, was an unpleasant jolt – and made Daron sound whiny even when he’s desperately cheerful – which appears to be most of the time. He talks too fast and too much, as if selling uninspected meat door to door from a van. And that grating voice isnt going away anytime soon.
Colorman Mark Grace has successfully transitioned from semi-interesting ex-player to shameless company shill, gushing about the look of the new Diamond Club one minute, and volunteering "I haven’t seen it yet" the next.
It’s going to be a long year, and the only thing that might salvage it for both the team and their fans, is radio.
Hi, just got back from Tucson Electric Park , where I took a bunch of pictures at today’s game. Our junket was plagued by all the same problems haunting spring training games up here in the valley, plus it took longer for us to get there. The metro area interstate is peppered with lane restrictions, but having lived in the Old Pueblo some years ago, I snaked my way around alternate routes to show off the city’s sights to the family. Like the beautiful U of A campus, and my old apartment up near Country Club and Prince. That was where my brother and I got a knock on our door at 2AM from the National Guard, way back in 1983, as the swollen Rillito Creek voraciously ate our neighborhood’s condominiums in the middle of the night. Ah, good times.
Today’s game, by contrast, was hot and dry. Not as hot as the other day, but still hot enough to almost kill people. We idled out on Ajo Way in a single file line for about twenty minutes waiting to enter the parking lot behind the stadium. As we’ve noted before, it’s baffling how a game with 6000 fans inevitably takes twice as long to park as an MLB game with 30000. Oh well, at least the lady in the dusty gravel lot who took my money was cheerful.
Inside the stadium, there was a colorful concourse booth plastered with Dbacks signage where one could ostensibly enter to win season tickets. I figured you fill out a form, maybe apply for some crappy credit card, and stick your name in a bowl. Wrong. The sleazeball with the bad teeth in the Hawaiian shirt manning the booth was actually hawking timeshares. Turns out you have to sit through a "presentation" back up in Phoenix before you can even enter the drawing for nebulous tickets in an unspecified location.
A younger, less sleazy fella was trying to give away "free Dbacks shirts", the red ones, along the first base side. I watched him for about five minutes. Just one lady stopped at his table. They had a brief conversation and she left without a shirt. I guess she either didnt like it or it wasn’t really free.
The stadium was pleasantly nondescript, trimmed more in generic green than Sedona Red, in deference to the White Sox who share the facility each March, or perhaps, simply to taste. Our seats were behind home plate, next to the guys with JUGS guns and expensive sunglasses , but the tiny seats were cheaply manufactured with little back support and no cupholders. The Catalina Mountains beyond left field look grand and provide a nice backdrop for the aerial jet maneuvers screeching out of Davis-Monthan AFB.
The game wasnt advertised as split squad but it sure seemed like it. Seattle was without Ichiro, Sexson, Raul Ibanez or Adrian Beltre and our side was missing Byrnes, Hudson, Quentin and Tracy among others. It’d be nice if they told you that before you shell out dough for the tickets. Maybe next time they’ll fill me in after I attend a Hawaiian Getaway seminar.
The Dbacks played well, and I’m not referring to the score, which was something like 8 to 1. Edgar Gonzalez wasn’t dominant but didnt beat himself either – he threw strikes and appeared to mix speeds well. Stephen Drew speared a sure hit up the middle and flipped from his back for a gorgeous 6-4-3 double play. Most of all, I was impressed by Arizona’s hitters. Not so much by the pair of homers and the eight runs – that’s obvious enough – but more by some of the outs they made. At least half a dozen fly balls that Snyder, Drew and others clearly got under still managed to carry out near the track.
It’s only one game and perhaps a function of a lame Jeff Weaver, Seattle’s starter, as much as anything, but that’s what I took away. Sometimes a team scores 8 runs and you see they combined good hitting with a break or two that busted things open, but this wasn’t really like that. They weren’t exactly driving rockets everywhere, but it was hard not to get the feeling that with a gust of wind, or if a barely foul liner had landed fair, the levee would’ve broke and with it a dozen or more runs. As it was, eight looked effortless and within character – at least for today.
(flood photos courtesy of Peter Kresan)
Notice the older man stationed in his sliver of shade. My wife witnessed several others being treated for heat related symptoms on the concourse. Maybe if the Diamondbacks had the foresight to distribute throwaway visors or water to the elderly, instead of Sedona Red T-shirts, this could have been avoided.
At least the beer keg guy had the decency to yield for this poor soul.
I was poised to capture him eating it, but the battery was running low. Couldnt this be an Astros or Red Sox game? Sheesh.