Saturday, October 27, 2007

Eating my words -- sort of; the Husker edition

After Nebraska football's win over Iowa State a few weeks ago, it was entirely possible that the team would not win another game all season. Things were looking pretty grim at Memorial Stadium and around Husker Nation. The team hit the road after that ISU game, and fell pathetically to Missouri. They pulled out an ugly home loss to Oklahoma State, which led up to the dramatic firing of NU Athletic Director Steve Pederson. Many fans hoped that the naming of Tom Osborne as interim AD would help the Huskers manage a home win against Texas A&M last Saturday, but it didn't work that way.

The offense has incurred a lot of stupid penalties, like QB Sam Keller's tendency to earn delays of game. The offense has turned the ball over a depressing number of times, and the weary defense never earned any takeaways of their own.

It has been sad.

This weekend, the Huskers hit the road to take on the #19 Texas Longhorns. I'm not going to lie, I was not very optimistic about the Huskers' chances against their Big XII rivals; Texas was favored to win by 21 points. I wasn't sure how this game would turn out. I saw several possibilities -- I figured today's game could be a massacre, a blowout, an embarrassment...I saw a number of potential outcomes for Nebraska, but I was not hopeful that "win" was one of them. I told some of my friends this, but I added that I would be thrilled if I had to eat my words today.

This is me eating some of my words, but not all of them. Texas ended up winning today, but Nebraska was a team of which I was proud today.

Today's Huskers looked like they actually belonged on the same field as their ranked opponents. Though they really never started any drives with good field position, they marched; they made big numerous big plays for the first time all season. The defense showed they could do something besides leave giant gaps for the opponent to exploit, and finally used an aggressive blitz approach which has been missing all season.

Nebraska's drive at the end of the 1st half had me jumping up and down for joy. Despite inexplicably burning all of their timeouts early in the half, the Huskers forged their way down field to take a 10-7 lead with under a minute left in the half. For the first time since the season opener against Nevada, I was watching my team play like winners. They lost none of that momentum coming out of halftime, and pounded Texas with another touchdown to start the third quarter.

I think the Huskers got a little tired around the end of the 3rd, and when Texas scored their first touchdown -- their previous 3 scores had been field goals -- the Blackshirts just ran out of steam. That blitz which had worked so spectacularly in the first half started to turn on Nebraska, but such is the nature of a blitz.

I'm not pissed off about this loss like I have been the last three games. In the Mizzou, OSU, and A&M games, there were guys on the field in Nebraska uniforms, but I was sure it was not an actual football team. Today, the Huskers showed up, and played a tough game. I would call it a battle. Not a blowout, not an embarrassment, not a massacre. Good game, guys.

Final score:
Texas - 28
Nebraska - 25

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A personal note

It is necessary to occasionally include non-baseball things here, so that the title of this blog is not a lie. Therefore, I would like to wish myself two happy anniversaries:

Anniversary #1: One year ago tonight, I dove awkwardly after a ball on an ice rink and ended up with a torn labrum. This required surgery, and left me without my right arm for most of last winter.

Anniversary #2: Five months ago tonight, I jumped off the Omaha Royals' dugout awkwardly and sprained my ankle pretty badly. No surgery this time, but I was placed on the 30-day DL.

Two themes here: First, I do awkward things and get hurt. Second, these things happen on the 25th of various months. Perhaps I should stay indoors and sit perfectly still on the 25th of every month to avoid further mishaps?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sweeney home among those endagered by Cal. fires

When I heard about the fires in California, for some reason Mike Sweeney popped into my head. I of course knew he was a SoCal guy, and I wondered how or if the fires have affected him.

Turns out, very significantly.

"We only had time to grab what we could. We got our marriage certificate, the birth certificates, three wedding pictures and two pictures of the kids with Pope Benedict last year in Rome," Sweeney said Wednesday night. "That's all we have."

Sweeney has been told that nearly 50 homes in his community have been consumed by flames and nine were lost within a mile of his home. But he isn't sure about the fate of his house.

"I don't have any certainty. They're not letting any residents in," he said. "We're checking on the Internet and our home is not on that list, so we're very thankful."

Other ballplayers and their families might be in danger too, and David Justice's home has already been lost:
Players with the Padres and other teams who live in the San Diego area also have had to evacuate. Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek lives in the area, but Sweeney has not been in contact with him.

"David Justice lost his home; it was completely burned down," Sweeney said. "It's hit hard in the baseball community because so many live within two or three miles."

Maybe it's because my dad is a firefighter, but I just find news about people losing their homes in fires to be terribly sad. I'm going to keep an eye on this situation; hopefully no more families have to lose their homes, much less members of their families.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Six things

A few random things, because I really love numbered lists:

1.Once upon a time, I comforted myself by counting the number of teams who were worse than the Royals at the time:

-Kansas City SO far from the basement
I am NOT a fan of the worst team in baseball. Pretty much the entire NL West has a worse record. I'm pretty sure the Comic Book Store Guy from the Simpsons has the scientific name for a division like that:
"Worst. Division. EVER."

I found that little gem while I was waiting for the World Series to actually get here. You know, the World Series that features a team from the "Worst. Division. EVER;" the division that produced both representatives in the National League Championship Series.

So either I was horribly wrong about them, or the NL is really that bad.

2. The decision to sell tickets online is apparently NOT sitting well with fans of either team. My friend Gary was going to get tickets right on top of the Rockies' dugout, but that was before this online-only ticket sales thing was announced. Long story short, he does not have the hackeresque skills required to cheat the system enough to actually get tickets, so he is stuck watching on TV. This is sad, because Gary is probably the biggest Rockies fan I've ever met. He deserves tickets more than a lot of people I'm guessing will be there when the Series makes its way to Denver. On the Red Sox side of things, The Ladies... had a similarly frustrating experience, which they shared with us in humorous (and graphical!) fashion.

Hey MLB! This was a bad idea. Don't do it again, please and thank you.

3. I don't have a whole lot to say about the Royals hiring Trey Hillman as their manager, which is why I haven't written about it yet. What I know for sure right now is that I'm excited to have a proven winner on board. I would also very much love to have a Nippon Ham Fighters t-shirt.

If you want to see how the KC managerial move is somehow related to "pissing on the Constitution," read the comments on this MVN - Royals Authority post. It is awfully entertaining. But in all seriousness, Clark and Craig have provided some great stuff about the hire, so all the Royals Authority coverage of the topic is worth a read.

4. This one is sad. Like, 'I'm going to go cry in the corner' sad. The Nebraska Cornhusker volleyball team hadn't lost a match all season, and even more amazingly, had not lost a single game in the last 17 matches. But tonight, the Texas Longhorns swept my Huskers, handing them a huge loss. I don't think Nebraska will fall in the rankings, but I'm sick of losing things to Texas. They have broken up undefeated seasons for the Huskers several times recently, and I really hate them for it. (Well, I already hated Texas, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that I have a deep, burning hatred for any team that beats my Husker volleyball team!)

As I watch volleyball during commercials of World Series game 1, I can feel my heart slowly tearing apart. Stupid Longhorns. I've never seen Nebraska play like this; they normally have this confident air about them, like they're saying to their opponents, "Hi. We're here now, and we're going to stomp your faces in now. Okay? Buh-bye now." Tonight, they looked a little bit like their opponents typically looked: Lost, scared, and lacking confidence. I hope I never see that look again.

5. Who would have guessed that singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" at karaoke night was such a bad idea? Two of my brothers and I found that one out the hard way. The very, very, embarrassingly hard way. Never again.

6. There's only how many Octobers? Tell me again, Dane Cook. It's finally Game 1, and Boston is up 3-1 in the bottom of the 2nd. Thus far, it's really hard to tell if the long layoff harmed Colorado, or if Boston is just that dominant right now. This is one of those Series where I don't really care who wins. I have some good friends who are Rockies fans, and some who are Red Sox fans. From a historical standpoint, it would be cool to see Colorado go ahead and win, so I have more glorious details to tell my grandkids someday. But I see some short-term pros for having Boston winning:
- Josh Beckett said after the ALCS that he would dance right along with Jonathan Papelbon if Boston wins it all.
- My newest Halloween costume idea (the sliding shorts/goggles/dancing version of Paps) will be that much better.
- I have another excuse to blare Dropkick Murphys music 24/7. As if I needed any of the band will still be giddy from their team's victory when I see them play in November.
- Holly, TexasGal, and J-Money (of Ladies... fame) will be pleased.
- I can continue to say that the NL is weak, and shouldn't exist.
- I can feel better about the Royals, knowing that they beat the pants off of the World Champion Red Sox on Opening Day this season.

Either way, though...if I get a 7-game series, I'll be happy.

7. I know seven is not the same as the "six" suggested in the post title, but I had a late addition. I've added a new post label, called "fun stats." Go see!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Manny Being....aggravating

I'm about to do something I rarely do. I will take Manny Ramirez' side. You have probably seen or read what he said this week regarding tonight's game:
“We’re confident every day. It doesn’t matter. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to play the game and move on. If it doesn’t happen, who cares? There’s always next year. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”

I will actually defend Manny here. What he said sounds a lot more harsh when it's typed than when you can see his exhausted face as he says it. It wasn't the absolute smartest thing to say during the race for a berth in the World Series, but it wasn't as horrible as some people are making it out to be. Manny is still doing what Manny always does -- he is hitting the ball, and being slightly more than motionless in the outfield. That's been working for Boston thus far, and that's what he will keep doing. Manny's attitude has always been laid-back; he's the anti-Chicken Little. Why is that well-documented fact more aggravating now than usual?

This is where my defense of Manny Ramirez stops. Even though it works for the Red Sox, I can't stand the way he plays, and I'll never be able to stand it. In tonight's game:

Top 3, 2 out. David Ortiz works a full count and eventually walks.

Up comes Manny; you know what usually comes next.

Ramirez hit what might have been a home run. The ball bounced off the top of the wall; replays showed that much rather definitively. But because the ball hit the top of the yellow stripe, and not anywhere else on the top of the wall, it was not a home run, and Manny ended up at 1st. Yeah, first base. The one that is 90 feet from home. For a bit of perspective, Big Papi scored from that same base on the play.

This is why I can't make myself like MannyBeingaDouchebag. If you watched any sports talk shows this week, you saw countless replays of Manny's Tuesday night home run. He celebrated as though he had just hit a walk-off to win the World Series, when in reality he had only cut his opponent's lead to four runs. I'm pretty sure the ball left the park before Manny left the batter's box.

That one was pretty ridiculous, but tonight's might have been worse, because Ramirez could not have been sure that that ball was a home run. He did not put himself in scoring position, when he should have been at 2nd easily. The score was tied at the time in a do-or-die game. How are Little League coaches supposed to tell their kids to run on all contact when the biggest stars in the game do not? Actually, Manny Ramirez does not run on any contact. He jogs, if we're lucky.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Those Rockies!

When I am older -- much older -- and I have grandkids with whom to share stories, I will tell them about these Colorado Rockies. I will tell them how Clint Hurdle led this team, I can't even type it without catching my breath in awe...21-1 to close out the regular season and sweep their way to the World Series. I will tell them about Matt Holiday, and those deafening chants of "MVP" that rocked Denver so hard. I might mention NLCS Game 3, how the whole game was played in a downpour, but those Rockies looked flawless anyway. How the entire team was named "Player of the game" in Game 4, and that didn't seem silly at all. Todd Helton, the beard. Troy Tulowitzki, the super-rookie. Manny Corpus, unstoppable closer. The frenzied fans.

All of this...this is why I love baseball. Todd Helton's face after he caught the ball for the final out was beautiful. They just showed a replay of that moment and it made my eyes go all misty. Helton is a grown man, a level-headed leader who has been around baseball forever. But in that moment, he was a little boy, lost in the wonder of his postseason dreams coming true. It was perfect.

I've never been a Rockies fan, but all of this Colorado success and their celebration is giving me goosebumps. Congratulations to the Colorado Rockies, and all of their marvelous fans. (Hi Gary!)

Happier times ahead for Husker fans

Steve Pederson will no longer be the Athletic Dictator -- errr, Director at the University of Nebraska.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman probably had to work pretty hard to issue a statement that didn't include the words "program-killer," "idiot," or "Steve did absolutely everything wrong."
Perlman said he believes Pederson is no longer positioned to move the Athletic Department forward.

“We are of course disappointed about the progress in our football program. Steve has done many positive things for Husker Athletics during his tenure but I think only new leadership can objectively assess the state of our program and make the decisions necessary to move us forward,” Perlman said.
I heard an insider rumor earlier today that defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove and a couple other coaches will be removed within the next three days as well. That's not a surprise at all, unless you are surprised that we actually had a defensive coordinator on the field.

The same guy told me that someone whom Husker fans L-O-V-E will be filling in for some of the departing coaches. I won't name names, but it would be a blast from a much-more-pleasant past. The name might rhyme with, ummm...Mom Loz-norne. Just saying.

And speaking of the Huskers...apparently my roommate (from last year) and I are featured on the front cover of the Husker men's basketball media guide. I have not seen it yet, so this could be a very cool, badass thing, or very awkward. We'll see.

During one televised Husker basketball game last year, I got a text from my friend's little brother saying, "Minda was just on TV for like 5 minutes. Good thing there was no mic around cuz it looked like she was really mad at the refs." Heh.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The greatest fans?

A famous and beloved inscription above Gate 21 at Lincoln's Memorial Stadium reads, "Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football."

But partway through Nebraska's brutal loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, I felt rather disappointed in Husker fans, maybe even more so than I am with the team for their awful performances in the last two games. The way the stadium full of so-called "fans" behaved on Saturday makes me wonder if Husker football fans of the last few years have actually been bandwagoners all along.

Before every game, many fans are given red balloons to let go of when Nebraska scores its first points. On Saturday, the Huskers took quite a while to get on the board, and a lot of folks gave up on those balloons, resigning themselves to release them after a rare 1st down instead. Would one of the "greatest fans in college football" show that much doubt that their team could score? What about leaving the game before it was even halfway over, or booing their defense?

It's disgusting. Yes, it is hard for me to watch Nebraska do so badly. I grew to become a football fan after watching the Huskers of the mid-90s dominate everyone they played. It was safe for me -- and all Husker fans -- to demand and expect excellence. Always. Today, the team doesn't quite live up to the standards of excellence we once pinned on them, but I still proudly call myself a Nebraska fan. I will never leave a game early; I have never believed in doing that, and I never will. I will never boo my own team, no matter how poorly they are performing. Booing is for only the most contemptible of figures (the ref who blew two big calls, the other team, and so on) and the team of which I call myself a fan shouldn't fall into that category.

Do I think Nebraska should have played better yesterday, and last weekend against Missouri? Of course I do. But I will not abandon them, not in this season or any other. I will not do anything to jeopardize the status of our mighty Sea of Red as "The Greatest Fans in College Football."

What I will do is make nifty signs to poke fun at the other team's coach.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

He said it best

Joe Po always says what I want to say, only a thousand times better. I got home from class this afternoon, and heard someone on ESPN talking about the possibility of Tony La Russa being Joe Torre's successor at the helm of the Yankees. My immediate reaction was -- and I am not making this up -- a comical, cinematic "Whaaaaaaaaaat?!?" (My roommate can attest to this.)

Posnanski's response was a lot more eloquent and cool-headed:
A friend brought up a rumor, I have no idea if it’s true, that the Yankees want to hire Tony La Russa to be the manager next year, replacing Joe Torre. I want to say right now that I am 100 percent in favor of this. I’m 40 now, and I simply don’t have the time to do all the things I need to do in my life. There are so many projects I want to get involved with but I lack the time. So I’m always looking to consolidate. It would certainly help my schedule if, instead of spending so much time despising BOTH LaRussa and the Yankees, they could be together in one easy-to-loathe package.

Heh. Exactly.

Incidentally, I think I need a separate tag for posts regarding Posnanski's writing, especially given the number of visitors who find this blog by Googling his name.
UPDATE: So it shall be written, so it shall be done!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Eating my words: The 2007 Edition

I am the first to admit that I'm an idiot. That is not the kind of claim I make proudly, nor is it the kind of statement I'll make without some factual evidence to back it up. So, for proof, let's look at all the times this season (plus part of last off-season) I've had to eat my words on this blog. Behold:

Gil Meche: I was not sure what I thought of this "Meche" fellow:
Not sure how I feel about this one. This seems to be some big talk for an up-and-down pitcher who's never been in the spotlight before. For $11m a year, he'd better live up to some of that talk. For the moment, I'm still "meh" on him, and that's sad. I want to put all my trust in Dayton Moore, but something about Meche's acquisition and giant contract Time will tell.
(From Feb. 17)

In reality, Gil was a quality starter. Maybe he wasn't an "ace" by most ballclubs' standards, but we aren't "most ballclubs." We needed a #1 pitcher like Meche to get us started. He did his part, starting 34 games for a total of 216 IP and a 3.67 ERA. His win-loss record is in no way indicative of his talent as a pitcher, and I'm confident that next year's numbers will be better there.

EDIT: So the problem with being somewhat social is that sometimes my friends come over and interrupt me from writing (the nerve!). The end result is that I publish posts with blanks where Gil Meche's stats need to go. My bad; it's all fixed now, I think.

The Cleveland Indians:

I thought for sure I posted about them before the season started, but apparently I did not. However, I am an honest woman, so I'll confess: I disagreed with baseball analysts who picked Cleveland to win the AL Central. And here they are with a chance to win the entire AL. Color me wrong.

The endurance of Royals starters:
Around the beginning of the season, I stated with great confidence that a number of Royals starters could -- nay, WOULD -- pitch complete games:
Could any of them go the distance...? My answer: a definite YES. Gil Meche and Zack Greinke will both have complete game wins before the All-Star break. I think that [Odalis] Perez could do it too, but it will take him a little longer.
Ha! None of those fellows gave the team a complete game. In fact, only once did a Royals player go all the way: Brian Bannister on August 17. For the record, I was correctly excited about his acquisition.

So there you have it: scientific proof that I can, in fact, be a complete idiot. But it happens to the best of us; even the great Joe Posnanski (who, if you didn't catch this sooner, is blogging again!) does this occasionally. It happens. But the way I see it, things like this create some amount of job security for sports writers.

If stats were the sole indicator of how a baseball team or well-paid new pitcher would perform, then why play? The Yankees would win every World Series, Paul Byrd would not have started over C.C. Sabathia, and Gil Meche would not have scored the big-money contract that made him the Royals' ace. That's the beauty of baseball, though. No matter what happens, and no matter how many games we've seen, and no matter how much we think we know, we can always be proven wrong. Every team and every game provide some writer the opportunity to make a bold prediction, and the opportunity to have his words fed back to him after the game. And even if it means looking like an idiot after almost every prediction I make, I wouldn't trade that beautiful mystery of baseball for anything.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Good news, bad news

Good news: Joe Posnanski is blogging again!!!
Bad news: I already have a problem with getting things like schoolwork done. Is it possible to accomplish less than nothing? If so, that is what I will do now that I have my regular dose of JoePo bloggy goodness.

Good news: Stanford beat USC.
Bad news: Stanford, by extension, is better than Nebraska.

Good news: It's not like Nebraska losing to Missouri was a big upset, but
Bad news: Nebraska could have at least showed a little effort.***

***Disclaimer: Maybe it was personal tragedy that prevented the Huskers from playing anything that resembled football. I wonder if God could cut Maurice Purify a break; his brother was murdered this summer, and his girlfriend just died this past week. He played anyway, because he's a badass like that. Can I say badass here? I'm going to anyway.

Good news: The Rockies have continued their unreal Cinderella-esque run by beating the Phillies again.
Bad news: The Ladies.... will be quite sad. In homage to the Ladies..., I'd like to say farewell to Pat the Bat, Chutley, and most of all, their beloved Bacon Pants. Sorry it had to end like that, Ladies..., but when Cinderella magic happens, someone has to lose.

I'll be back with something better later, but I'm pretending to be a responsible student this weekend. (Hi Mom!)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A short open letter to Chutley

Dear Chase Utley,
You've done some impressive things as a ballplayer. You're even kind of adorable; women love you, and they love your wife too (what a sweetie!). You even rescue puppies, for pete's sake! And even though I'm kinda rooting for Colorado in all of this, I think you owe your fans something better than a Golden Sombrero to start the playoffs.



It is officially October, not only on regular calendars but on baseball schedules (the most important calendars!) too. As I mentioned to Mr. Utley above, I am kind of rooting for Colorado to just keep winning, even though I've never had any feelings whatsoever towards them (positive or negative). They just kind of exist, but I'm rooting for them anyway because a number of my friends are good Rockies fans. And besides, I owe Todd Helton a debt of gratitude for being as awesome as he is, thus blocking Ryan Shealy from playing time with the Rockies, thus enabling the Royals to get him so he could become a little part of my life as a promotions chick. (An open letter to Ryan Shealy: Dear Ryan, I love you! Hugs, Minda)

I'll try to watch every single game of the playoffs, but sometimes those pesky little classes get in the way. Oh, and right after the Rockies finish winning (UPDATE: That is right now! Wooooo!) I have a church thing with which to go help!

But I will bring some slightly more substantial posts with the rest of the postseason. Happy October, everybody!