Hudson vs. Mulder Liveblog

Thought I’d jot down my notes as I watch Tim Hudson take on Mark Mulder for the first time.

I have a soccer game at 6:30, but Mulder works quickly, so I might be able to watch the whole game. Of course, that’s what I thought the other day, too.

4:35pm: Hudson vs. Eckstein. Seen that before. Eckstein singles to left, as Brian Jordan trapped it.

4:38: Larry Walker, bunt single. Huh?

4:39: Pujols chases a hard sinker in the dirt and strikes out.

4:42: Hudson leaves a couple of pitches up and over the plate, and Edmonds and Rolen hit them hard. 3-0 Cardinals.

4:46: Hudson is having a hard time finding the happy zone between hittable pitches up and pitches too low. The low pitches aren’t called strikes, and the high pitches are moving toward the center of the strike zone. This is what happens when Hudson has a bad game.4-0 Cardinals.

4:47: Hudson makes a diving catch on a squeeze bunt and turns it into a double play. Web gem.

4:50: Mulder gets Furcal to ground out on an 0-2 splitter. That’s what Good Mulder looks like.

4:53: Mulder leaves a pitch up, and Jordan hits a deep fly to center. That’s what Bad Mulder looks like.

4:55: Franco lines a fastball up the middle, just like Giles did. Where’s Mulder’s forkball?

5:00: Molina makes a bad pickoff throw, runners move to 2nd and 3rd. Mulder throws the forkball, but Jones won’t chase it. Mulder leaves a 3-2 pitch way up high, and Jones singles to left. Some pitchers duel this has turned out to be. 4-2 Cardinals.

5:02: Mulder at bat. Mulder grounds out 3-1 on a 1-1 changeup. Hudson smiles at Mulder as their paths cross near first base.

5:07: 1-2-3 inning for Hudson. Looks like he found the happy zone.

5:11: Hudson bats against Mulder. Hudson loses his bat into the stands striking out on an 86-mph changeup. That’s gotta be worth a lot of bragging points for Mulder.

5:27: Brian Jordan takes a slider down the middle and hits a two-run homer. Tie game, 4-4.

5:29: Fly out to center, then a walk. This is vintage Bad Mulder. Fly balls and walks are rarities for Good Mulder.

5:35: Hudson gets a strike called below the knees on Grudzielanek. Hudson will be impossible to hit if he gets that call the rest of the night.

5:36: Grudz gets an emergency-swing double down the line. Lucky shot.

5:39: Mulder up with 1 out and runner on third. Infield in. Hudson almost hit Mulder with the first pitch. Perhaps to see if he’s squeezing.

5:42: Hudson strikes Mulder out with two cutters on the inside corner. I guess they figure Mulder’s arms are so long, he’ll have trouble getting around on the inside pitches.

5:43: Giles makes a great play to stop a grounder from going into right field. Inning over.

5:48: Mulder gets two groundouts in a 1-2-3 inning. That looks more like it.

5:51: Albert Pujols goes oppo. 6-4 Cardinals. It wasn’t even that bad a pitch; it was right on the outside corner. Maybe it was a bit too high, but Pujols is just awesome.

6:02: Hudson breaks his bat and grounds out back to Mulder. If you can pitch inside, so can I.

6:06: Boy, it looks like Marcus Giles has Mulder’s number. Single up the middle drives in Furcal. 6-5 Cardinals.

6:07: Mulder gets a double-play ball to get out of the inning.

6:13: Molina bunts the runner to second ahead of Mulder. Unless you’re gonna pinch hit for Mulder, that’s crazy.

6:14: Mulder looks for that inside pitch, and pulls it foul.

6:15: Hudson pitches away, and Mulder hits a line drive to left, but it’s caught.

6:20: We got through five, 6-5 Cards. Gotta run…

Curt Schilling vs. Lou Piniella, Round 2

Curt Schilling wins!

Lou Piniella’s dislike for Modern Architecture is clearly a huge weakness. With my purple forcefield, I could easily kick his ass, too.

In fact, I’m the most kick-ass guy on all of baseballtoaster.com. Well, me and Mike Carminati. Mike, like me, is a giant robot. His computerized brain (presumably the size of a planet) can cause me a slight problem, but I have far superior strength. Plus, Mike is too busy being depressed about the fact that he’s about to be famous.

Otherwise, I can pound the other guys fairly easily. These guys might win once in a while against me:

  • Alex Belth is a Human-Sized Bee that was Created by a Radioactive Accident, and controls Human Thought. His agility is superior, but his strength and intelligence dwarf mine.
  • Score Bard also has better agility, but otherwise, he’s just a stupid ape.
  • Will Carroll (a flying plant) can match my agility, but that’s it.

The rest of ’em just get smacked around, all the time:

Ten Footnotes From My Unwritten Autobiography

1. These two events, the former at a costume ball in Stockholm, the latter in Seattle, happened on the same date, 135 years apart. Not only that, the years have the same exact four digits.

2. She claims she was 55 days younger, but this cannot be verified. The documentation was lost or destroyed during the Nazi occupation.

3. Perhaps the creative urge with sports is genetic. One of his more popular songs was called “Lawn Tennis.”

4. His other film was, of course, one of the top-grossing films of all time. Lee Marvin, on the other hand, had no other films that year.

5. November 29, 1633, in Paris.

6. Vida Blue (twice), Bobby Valentine (twice), and Bob Oliver.

7. The game featured the fifth-to-last career home runs for two different hall-of-famers.

8. Joining Lou Gehrig, Al Kaline, Dave Winfield, and Tom Landry, among others.

9. It was the first overtime game in USFL history.

10. It featured the first female ape in outer space.

Schilling, Piniella, Darwin

Curt Schilling claims that some Tampa Bay players are questioning the rationality of their manager’s beanball policies. In reply, Lou Piniella channels Brian “I am not an idiot” Sabean.

We won’t admit hearsay as evidence into this trial, so we don’t know whether Schilling’s claims are accurate or not. But we can present some evidence on Piniella’s behalf.

A new scientfic study (via Dianekes) has provided a mathematical model for the behavior known as “altruistic punishment”.

Altruistic punishers are willing to pay a personal cost to ensure that people cooperate. Darwinists have puzzled over how this behavior could have evolved, since you would think that the people willing to perform such punishment would have a reduced chance of surviving and reproducing than those who do not.

Eureka Alert summarizes the findings thusly:

To examine how altruistic punishment could take root in a society, James Fowler developed a mathematical model that simulates interacting behaviors in a society over time. He found altruistic punishers can enter a population of cooperators and noncooperators and change the dynamics of the group. Under certain conditions, altruistic punishment is so beneficial to the population that it will come to dominate the behavior of the group and keep noncooperators at bay.

These results may help to explain the origins of cooperation and punishment. Previous studies have shown that altruistic punishment stimulates the reward center in the brain, suggesting that humans may have physically or developmentally evolved this behavior.

So the self-policing behavior of beanball wars has several benefits:

  • It improves the overall cooperative behavior in the group as a whole. It prevents non-cooperating people from taking advantage of those who cooperate. If the whole group is cooperating, you’re less likely to be a victim of a non-cooperator, as well.
  • Altruistic punishers come to dominate the behavior of the group, essentially becoming the alpha males. (Chicks dig the team leader.)
  • The brain is wired to make such altruistic punishment actually feel good. Them’s the rules and we like it that way.

Beanball wars are not necessarily an “idiotic” part of baseball culture; there’s a winning evolutionary strategy behind it. Pitchers who are willing to take the risks (ejection, fines, mound-charging) and throw at batters to “send a message”, as well as the managers who order such behavior, are playing a complex game, where only the fittest survive.

Leftover Rotisserie Chicken

The SF Chronicle has a nice recipe today for what to do with your leftover rotisserie chicken.

Speaking of rotisserie, those of you who have Eric Chavez on your fantasy teams can be glad that Ken Macha did not follow my advice and give Chavez a day off yesterday. Eric Chavez finally looked like Eric Chavez again.

In the first inning, he took a pitch away, and flied out to deep left. I said out loud, “that’s the first good swing I’ve seen him take all year.” It reminded me of Sunday’s game against the Angels, where ESPN had a microphone in the Angels dugout. Steve Finley came back to the dugout after a fly out and declared “That’s my swing.” Next at-bat: home run.

Chavez didn’t follow up that good swing with a homer, but he hit two balls hard to the opposite field, driving in three runs. That’s his swing. That’s the real Eric Chavez.

We also got to see, I’m afraid, the real Eric Byrnes, who at times can win games with his hustle, but also lose them with his uncontrolled style. Last night, he misplayed a fly ball (lost in the lights, presumably), and then later that inning proceeded to throw the ball to third base when no one was standing there, allowing the tail runner to advance to second.

After watching that, my wife said, “He’s not young enough anymore to be making mistakes like that.” So true.

It was good to hear that Mark Kotsay gave the team a dressing down in the dugout after that inning. The play has been so lackluster lately, a kick in the pants was probably a good thing. It was a question before the season as to who would succeed Tim Hudson as team leader; looks like Mark Kotsay is the man.

Meanwhile, Ken Macha will likely give Bobby Kielty, Nick Swisher, and Charles Thomas some more opportunites to grab the job in the near future. Swisher and Thomas get the call this afternoon. Let’s hope Thomas can finally get a hit.

Now, I’ll go listen to the game on the radio while I eat my lunch. I don’t think I’ll use that rotisserie chicken recipe today; after all, I’m not Wade Boggs, and I had chicken for lunch just two days ago.

Get Yer Recipes Here

Last time I tried to do an A’s web site on my own (2002), the A’s started the year and couldn’t buy a run the entire month of April. I got so frustrated I quit writing, and the A’s immediately started hitting again.

I’m sitting here watching the A’s hit into three double plays in the first three innings of tonight’s game, and feeling a strong sense of deja vu: that the RISP jinx may be caused by me.

So I just want to declare the following: this is not an A’s blog. It’s a recipe blog! Yeah, and, um, a blog about, um, the philosophy of, um, cultural, uh, stuff. And of course, it’s a blog about putting a stop to porosity casting. If I happen to mention the A’s here, it’s only to illustrate one of those other purposes. Really.

Here’s a recipe for buttered toast:
1 slice bread
Butter

Place bread slice into toaster.
Press lever down.
Wait until lever pops up again.
Remove slice.
Spread butter onto bread.
Enjoy.

Update: Yup, this is definitely a recipe blog. There’s nothing like the taste of buttered toast with a dash of RBIs (9 runs scored, all after the fourth inning, when this was published).

Harden vs. Buehrle

I was thinking about going to the game tonight, but I’m afraid if I show up a few minutes late, I might miss the whole game.

The average time of game for these two starters this year is 2:17. And that doesn’t even take into account that none of Buehrle’s previous starts were against the A’s, who can’t hit diddly squat. This game might be done by 9:00pm, if anybody manages to score a run somehow.

Ken Macha should give Eric Chavez the night off. Lifetime against Buehrle, he’s hitting .207/.200/.310. Take a day off, and see if it helps cure his slump. Wednesday he gets a familiar opponent, Freddie Garcia. Give Hatteberg a night off, too: he’s .190/.190/.333 against Buehrle. While we’re at it, sit Durazo, too, and play with as many right-handed bats as possible: Ginter at third, Swisher at first, Byrnes and Kielty in the outfield corners. Harden don’t need no steenkin’ defense anyway.

Maybe, if my neck is feeling better, I’ll go to the game tomorrow instead, since it’s not on TV.

Up is Down

Pulled a muscle in my neck over the weekend. Hard to sleep, hard to move. Darn near everything I do is uncomfortable. What to do?

Dr. Orva: Here, smoke this. And, be sure you get the smoke deep down into your lungs.
Miles Monroe: I don’t smoke.
Dr. Orva: It’s tobacco. It’s one of the healthiest things for your body.

That’s a joke from Sleeper, but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Orva is correct. Everything else we’ve been programmed about our health is being turned upside down.

Yesterday, I learned that being overweight is healthy. A new study revealed that having a Body Mass Index in the “overweight” category” is more ideal than the “ideal” weight, and being “underweight” is more deadly than being “obese”. It’s better to be fat than thin.

So go ahead, have a snack. Eat lots of meat and drink lots of alcohol. Because Everything Bad Is Good For You.

TV dulls the brain? No, no: watching TV makes you smarter.

Wear sunscreen? Always. Or not.

Who knows? We can’t be sure about anything anymore, except this: every theory is wrong, including the ones that are right.

Steroids: bad or good? Yes. No.

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

Bill James is wrong. Joe Morgan is right: the A’s need to find multiple ways to win a ball game. They can’t just wait for two walks and a homer; it doesn’t happen every game.

When Billy Beane signed Bobby Crosby to a long-term deal while injured, was he making the same mistake he made when signing Jermaine Dye? Sure he was. Or wasn’t. How do I know?

Why am I even worrying about it?

I love baseball. You know it doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s just beautiful to watch.

Woody Allen is the true prophet of our era. I should just follow his lead.

I should enjoy the beauty of a young team playing two weekends of tense, exciting baseball against the division favorites. They won some, they lost some. Those are the breaks.

As for the pain in my neck, anyone know where I can buy an Orb and an orgasmatron?

A Frustrating Lo..er..Win?!?

I play soccer on Friday nights, so I missed the first half of the A’s-Angels game last night. That’s probably a good thing, as I probably would have kicked my TV across the room after a missed popup fell for an RBI double and the A’s squandered yet another opportunity to drive in runs, this time a bases-loaded no-out situation in the second, where they scored only one run, and that was on a HBP. Instead, I kicked a soccer ball. ‘Tis a wee bit less destructive.

I guess the A’s didn’t want me to feel left out, though, so they showed me some more squandered opportunities after I got home.

The A’s were 0-for-12 going into the ninth inning with runners in scoring position. That actually doesn’t frustrate me so much as the repeated failure to bring home runs from third with less than two out. You don’t even need a hit, you just need to make some friggin’ contact. They can’t even do that. Apparently, Ken Macha’s focus on situational hitting in spring training was a colossal waste of time. It hasn’t done a lick of good so far. Is there some rule that A’s hitters aren’t allowed to take a two-strike approach earlier in the count, even if the situation calls for it?

It’s the same old story. The pitching was once again quite good. The offense sucked. Again. This was such an incredibly annoying and frustrating way to lose. Argh!

What?

The A’s won?

What the…? Well…wow…um…gosh…so, um…never mind. I uh…hey, you know…everything’s just wonderful. Peachy keen. It was a fine, well-played game, gents, yessirree!

Congrats to Keiichi Yabu on his first MLB win.

And kudos to Scott Hatteberg. Way to trick K-Rod into giving you a fastball over the plate on an 0-2 pitch with 2 outs in the ninth, instead of just putting you away with one of those nasty hooks. I knew you could do it, really, I did…

Two Words

Rich Harden.

I don’t really need to say anything else about last night’s game, so I won’t.

Instead, I’ll talk about a useless stat Jayson Stark made up called “runs not scored”. Runs Not Scored is Runs Scored subtracted from Times On Base. Stark notes that Ichiro didn’t score many runs for a guy who was on base so much, and wonders who else in history has had such problems.

Ordinarily I’d ignore such a stat, because “RNS” is misleading: it sounds like you’re measuring a bad thing, but it’s actually a good thing. Teams that have a lot of RNS usually have a lot of runs scored too, because they have a lot of baserunners overall.

But I was certain that last year’s A’s team must have had a ton of Runs Not Scored, so I was curious to see just how much.

We Bay Area baseball fans saw an awful lot of runners left on base last year. The 2004 A’s had 1,415 RNS, which was second only to Barry Bonds the Giants, who had 1,427. The Giants’ total was 16th all time, while the A’s total was tied for 35th all time.

That’s not quite as many as New York fans saw in 1999, though. The ’99 Mets had 1,465 (2nd all time), while the Yankees had 1,441 (12th all time).

This year’s A’s team does not actually have this “problem”; the 2005 A’s are actually tied for 16th in RNS with 124. (The Yankees are first with 150.) The problem with this year’s A’s, despite Eric Chavez being 0-for-15 with RISP, is not so much driving in runners; it’s getting enough of them on base in the first place.

The all-time record for team RNS is held by the 1989 Boston Red Sox, who had 1,476. Below, I’ll put a list of the top 50 all-time teams for RNS. You’ll notice that most of these teams were good teams. Only 12 of the top 50 teams were below .500.

Continue reading

Black Smoke Days

I watched last night’s A’s-Mariners game with an odd feeling of detachment. I think I only yelled at the TV twice last night, which is probably a record low for me in a loss.

Once, of course, was when Eric Byrnes dove for a ball with the bases loaded and let three runs score instead of one. The other was when Eric Chavez struck out looking against Ron Villone on a borderline pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth.

I shouted out in frustration, but it’s really more a matter of cursing our luck than calling it a dumb decision. Each Eric had a difficult choice to make between being aggressive and passive. Byrnes was trying to preserve a tie. Chavez was trying to drive in a run with a walk. You can’t really call it a bonehead decision. In each case, though, the decision didn’t work out, and it cost the A’s the game.

On the other hand, I didn’t yell at all when Barry Zito gave up a grand slam to Bret Boone. Zito came out in the first inning and pitched with as much precision as I do, which is to say, none at all. He wasn’t even getting close to the strike zone, missing by about a foot with any type of pitch he threw. It was inevitable that he would eventually miss in the middle of the plate. You could see it coming several batters in advance.

Zito corrected his mechanics in the second inning, and pitched a good game the rest of the way. But a sense of resignation came over me as a result of that first inning.

This sense of resignation was not just about the game, but about this team. Emotionally, I finally grasped that we’re in a sort of interregnum, where one team hasn’t quite fully abdicated, and the new team hasn’t quite taken over.

The king is dead. Long live somebody, we don’t know who.

Zito and Byrnes were the subjects of all kinds of trade rumors this winter, and survived them all. But I don’t get the sense that they’re here for the long haul. Every time Zito coughs up a homer, or Byrnes misplays a fly ball, or Scott Hatteberg grounds out to second base, I think to myself, “That’s the old team failing. I want to see what the new team can do.”

Black smoke pours out the pipe. We know that at some point, who knows when, a cloud of white will take its place, signaling the true start of a new era. In the meantime, the process runs its course. Filled with anxiety, trying our best to be patient, we watch and wait.

Respect Your Elders

When old farts like Pedro Astacio and Hideo Nomo shut you down, you gotta wonder. So I wondered. And I noticed something interesting.

The A’s median runs scored is 2.5. In 7 games, they’ve scored two or fewer runs, and in 7 games three or more runs.

Age of the opposing starting pitchers when they’ve scored:
Above median: 23, 24, 24, 26, 26, 26, 31
Below median: 28, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 36

In other words, the veteran starters are all completely shutting the A’s down. On the other hand, the A’s are feasting on youngsters.

The only exception to this pattern is last night’s game, where they beat Chan Ho Park.

The correlation between runs and age isn’t quite statistically significant (-0.579, thanks Mike), but it’s not nothing, either. So let’s watch this, for kicks. Here are the A’s upcoming opponent pitchers:

Wed vs. Mariners, Joel Piniero, age 26
Thu vs. Mariners, Ryan Franklin, age 32
Fri vs. Angels, John Lackey, age 26
Sat vs. Angels, Kelvim Escobar, age 29
Sun vs. Angels, Paul Byrd, age 34

If it holds up over the weekend, we’ll continue the fun on Monday, and start making up theories out of thin air. Mark your calendars…

Ex-A Day

The A’s beat the Rangers 8-5 today. The game wasn’t on TV, and I only listened to part of it on radio. Nice to hear the offense do well; the most encouraging news was that Erubiel Durazo had three hits.

Dan Haren still sounds like he’s getting by on talent rather than craft; he walked five in six innings, but only gave up three hits. Kinda reminds me or Rich Harden circa April 2004. It will be interesting to watch if he can begin to harness that talent as he goes along, as Harden did.

Does Juan Cruz have options left? That dude is messed up; he could use a few innings somewhere to find whatever it is that he lost. He darn near blew a six-run lead in the ninth, and Dotel was forced to come in and get a save.

All in all, a nice, but uninteresting victory. More interesting than what happened to the A’s today is what happened to some ex-A’s:

  • Sandy Alderson is leaving the Commissioner’s Office to become the new CEO of the San Diego Padres. Good move for the Padres. The NL West just got a bit more interesting.
     
  • Tim Hudson threw a nine-inning, four-hit shutout, but as usual, ended up with no decision. Roger Clemens matched his shutout for seven innings, and the Braves won in 12, 1-0.
     
  • Mark Mulder pitched a bit more like the Mark Mulder we know. Eight innings, two hits, just 95 pitches, as the Cardinals beat the Pirates, 11-1. The only thing that keeps me from labeling it Vintage Mulder(™) is that he issued three walks. If it had only been one walk, I would have declared him back to form.
     
  • Arthur Rhodes pitched a scoreless ninth in the Indians’ 5-1 win over the Royals. He hasn’t allowed a run all season. If he had pitched like this last year…oh never mind. Could say the same thing about Mulder, I guess…

Unrecognized Parameter Format

I went to the game yesterday, and I still find myself unable to process what happened. I can’t find any sort of pattern to make sense of. Witness:

  • Vladimir Guerrero walks around like he’s sixty years old and needs hip replacement surgery. Every step looks like it hurts. It’s hard to reconcile that image with the the guy who held Nick Swisher to a double with a rocket throw to the infield, who stole a base late in the game, and who, just seconds after the phrase “The A’s can’t expect to get through this whole series without being hurt by Vlad at least once” passed through my brain, hit a two-run homer.
     
  • Kirk Saarloos was not pitching particularly effectively, but his pitch count was strangely low. He was only at about 55 pitches through the first five innings. I’m not sure what to make of that.
     
  • After the repeated failures of last year’s bullpen, seeing Rincon serve up a homer to Garret Anderson seemed quite familiar. But what followed with Street and Dotel didn’t quite register. I’m still kinda thinking, “That’s my team doing that?”
     
  • Usually, when the Angels get a late lead on you, they throw their bullpen at you and stomp on you until you expire. This time, though, Scioscia didn’t pull the right strings, left Lackey in there too long, and didn’t go to his pen until it was too late.
     
  • Chavez and Durazo were the A’s best hitters last year, but have been their worst hitters this year. Durazo’s pitch selection seems to be messed up; he’s swinging at breaking pitches in the dirt, and taking fastballs over the plate. With Chavez, it’s not so much that he’s swinging at bad pitches (although he’s done that, too), but that he’s simply not hitting the ball when he does get a pitch to hit.
     
  • Despite the struggles of their star hitters, the A’s got several clutch hits, including a home run from Marco Scutaro. This fact is still rattling around in my brain, looking for a compartment where that fact seems to fit. Clutch hits? It does not fit any known pattern from recent memory.
     
  • The A’s won two completely different kinds of ballgames on consecutive days; one a 1-0 pitcher’s duel, and the other a 7-6 slugfest. And for the second consecutive day, the game ended on a bad play by the Angels. This time Juan Rivera, the tying run, got doubled off second base on a soft line drive, just a horrendous baserunning mistake.

    What to make of this? Should I be optimistic, because the A’s played good, mistake-free baseball? Or should I be pessimistic, because the A’s played quite well, and still couldn’t beat the Angels without the Angels beating themselves? 

I still have no idea what kind of team we have with these 2005 Oakland Athletics. Now, it’s on to Texas and then Seattle. I have a feeling that this week will be quite revealing, and we’re about to learn a lot about the true nature of the 2005 AL West race.

What have we learned after two weeks?

AL East
The Yankees are sitting in last.
Steinbrenner cries, “I’m aghast!
I have a bill
For 200 mill!
Gimme my victories, fast!”

AL Central
The quickest teams out of the box:
The Twinkies, along with the Sox.
The Royals appear
To bring up the rear.
There’s nothing to mention that shocks.

AL West
No failure, and no big success.
It’s tied, so we cannot assess
Or give any spin.
Who’s gonna win?
It still remains anyone’s guess.

NL East
It’s mentally hard to compete
When nobody fills up a seat,
And you live on a plane.
The Nats won’t complain:
Having a home now is sweet.

NL Central
The only thing anyone should
Declare to be now understood
In a definite way
After two weeks of play
Is the Pirates won’t be any good.

NL West
Without having Gagne to close,
L.A. is still crushing its foes.
If DePo were me,
I’d be dancing with glee,
And be sticking my thumb on my nose.

A’s 1, Angels 0

Moneyball schmoneyball. The A’s have two game-winning bunts in less than two years!

OK, so Scutaro’s game-winning bunt today was an error, not a hit like Ramon Hernandez’s, but who’da thunk?

The real hero today was Rich Harden, who battled Jarrod Washburn pitch for pitch. Just like last night, both pitchers were on top of their game. Compare the two lines:

Pitcher   IP   H  R ER BB SO
Washburn  8.0  4  0  0  2  7
Harden    8.0  4  0  0  2  8

The A’s offense continues to be anemic, but the last two games, I suspect the problem has been good pitching by the Angels rather than bad hitting by the A’s.

Tomorrow, we should see a few more runs on the board, with Kirk Saarloos vs. John Lackey. If Lackey throws a complete game four-hitter, I’ll definitely go back to blaming the A’s offense.

Angels 6, A’s 1

I was at the game tonight, and I really enjoyed it. These are the types of games that I love to watch, and don’t really mind losing so much. Both pitchers were great. Colon was throwing heat with good control. The A’s had some pretty good at bats against him (except Durazo, who looks lost up there right now), but every hard hit ball was right at somebody.

Zito’s changeup tonight had more movement on it than I’ve ever seen. His changeups have always looked pretty straight to me before. Maybe I just had a different angle on it from where I sat tonight, but the changeup I saw tonight had a wicked tail on it, moving down and away from right-handed batters. Darn near looked like a screwball.

Zito also threw his curveball for a strike on (I believe) the second pitch of the game. If he can establish early that he can throw the curve for strikes, so they can’t just sit on a fastball, he’ll usually have a good game. That’s what happened tonight.

Zito’s offspeed stuff was so good tonight that he threw very few fastballs. Except, oddly enough, to Vladimir Guerrero. In one at-bat in the sixth inning, Zito challenged Vlad with nothing but high heat. Guerrero eyes seemed to light up, he swung out of his shoes, but came up empty each time. I love at-bats like that: I’m gonna give you exactly what you want, and we’ll see if you can hit it. That’s juicy fun.

A game like tonight where both pitchers have their best stuff will usually be decided by some lucky break. The Angels got the break tonight, when Eric Chavez couldn’t come up with a hot smash in the seventh which scored the winning run. With K-Rod waiting, that’s all they really needed, although they added some insurance in the ninth off Juan Cruz, who has not impressed thus far.

The A’s really need Rich Harden to have a good game tomorrow. You don’t want to have to depend on Kirk Saarloos to keep from getting swept, do you? Didn’t think so.

Long Walk, Blue Moon


Yesterday, I’m walking to the post office to mail off my taxes when I’m hit with a sudden urge to go find a corner store somewhere and buy some baseball cards. This is quite odd, since I don’t think I’ve had a desire to buy baseball cards for decades. And not only that, corner stores don’t sell baseball cards anymore.

I think it’s the weather. It’s a sunny afternoon, and there’s a slight breeze that changes the air from being slightly too warm to slighly too cool. In Newark, CA, where I grew up, this was the prevailing weather pattern. The sun would warm up the air all morning, but every day at about 2 or 3pm, a breeze would come in and cool everything off to a tolerable temperature.

Alameda, where I live now, has a much cooler and foggier climate, so this kind of weather is less common up here. The sun, the wind, and the temperature combined with being out for a walk must have dug up some deep memory from my childhood and brought it up to the surface.

When I was a kid, when I’d get my allowance, I’d often taken an after-school walk with some friends from my house to the local 7-11 store, and spend my loot. I’d spend it mostly on candy, Slurpees, and baseball cards.

I always bought a Slurpee if they had special plastic cups. I remember one series had superheroes, and there were others with football and baseball players, too. Man, I loved those cups. I had them stacked from floor to ceiling in my closet.

If there wasn’t a special cup, I’d often skip the Slurpee and just buy packs of baseball cards. Collecting was a game; you’d try to get every card with your favorite player on it (mine was Reggie), then you try to get every player on your favorite team, and then you try to get the other cards you didn’t have yet. If you got duplicate cards, you’d trade them to your friends for cards you needed.

I remember in 1974, by June I had collected every A’s player except one: Blue Moon Odom. My friend Kevin had the only one I’d seen, and man, I eyed that card with envy. But I could never find another one. Finally, as the season was almost over, Kevin got another Blue Moon Odom card, and traded him to me. At last, Blue Moon, you are mine!

Back to the future: Blue Moon is missing again. I got rid of all those Slurpee cups, and most of my cards, when I moved to Sweden when I was 13. I suppose I could just go online now and buy the entire set in a box. But that just seems like cheating to me. You gotta chew the chewing gum and slurp the Slurpees, or it doesn’t count.

On my way home from the post office, I walk past the apartment building which once housed the likes of me and Dontrelle Willis. The building has new paint job. I don’t think it had been painted since I moved out in 1989. The strike zone which had been drawn onto the wall by Dontrelle and his buddies is now gone.

I keep walking. A block away now, at Willie Stargell Field, another generation of young baseball players are taking batting practice. The pinging sound of aluminum bats floats up into the air, lands gently in my ear, and becomes a memory. I am home.

A Great Teacher Passes

I shall tell a story. You will read it.

You’re at a party, music blaring, people dancing, and suddenly, across the room, you spot the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen in your life.

She’s the one. You know it. So you work up your courage, walk up to her, and blurt out:

“Will we dance?”

I was saddened yesterday morning to open up the San Francisco Chronicle and find an obituary for my favorite professor at UC Berkeley, Julian Boyd.

Professor Boyd was, among other things, the world’s leading expert on the difference between the words “shall” and “will”. You may think that this is an incredibly mundane topic to be an expert on, but nothing about language or philosophy was mundane when Julian Boyd explained it. Profane, maybe, but never mundane.

When you went to a Julian Boyd lecture, you never had any idea what was going to happen. The lecture would always start off in one place, and then go off on all kinds of seemingly stream-of-consciousness tangents, every one of them incredibly fascinating and funny and entertaining at the same time. Try to imagine Robin Williams as a linguistics professor, and that’s kind of what we’re talking about.

Other lecturers are entertaining, but the thing that separated Professor Boyd was that he genuinely cared and paid attention to his students. I remember one time, he was in the middle of a lecture, and he suddenly stopped, and turned to my girlfriend (now my wife), and asked, “Is something wrong?”

She was confused. “No. Why do you ask?”

Professor Boyd said, “Usually, when I’m lecturing, you nod in agreement when I make a point. You didn’t nod. I find it rather comforting when you nod, and when you don’t, I worry I might be doing something wrong.”

That just blew me away that he would not only notice such a small behavioral quirk of someone in the classroom, but also notice, in the middle of a lecture, that she wasn’t doing it. That just shows how much he genuinely paid attention to his students, and why he was so universally beloved:

“…Julian’s students unanimously adored him. Their write-ups had an unabating religious fervor. Nearly all of them said the same thing: that taking a course from Julian was a life-changing event and the apex of their Berkeley experience.”

Steven Rubio has a wonderful tribute that does a great job of capturing the spirit of Julian Boyd. I love this description of his colorful language:

As perhaps befits a linguist, Julian had a way with words. And some of his favorite words were curse words. And so his lectures were the academic equivalent of an episode of Deadwood, and once in awhile he’d apologize and say he was going to do better in the future, but even his apologies usually contained a “fuck” or two. I was never sure if he just couldn’t help himself, like a savant with Tourette’s, or if he thoughtfully, consciously placed every word he spoke exactly where and when he wanted, like a good linguist. In any event, the result was marvelous. And, since his lectures were so famously dense, the fucks and shits also served to keep his audience alert …

For all of those wonderful things about Professor Boyd, I haven’t yet mentioned the most important thing of all: Julian Boyd had a genuine joy of language: a love, a wonder, a curiosity and a sense of fun about words that was positively infectious.

It infected me, and happily, I’ve never been cured. That, for me, is his legacy. This blog, and all the things that have happened to me because of it, would never have happened if not for Julian Boyd.

So thanks, Professor Boyd, and may could might should you rest in peace.