Friday, July 3, 2015

Dying on Felipe

"I don't believe one manager enjoys having players die in their hands." -Felipe Alou, October 3, 2006

There are certain things that, like, you've got to be a real Giants fan in order to understand. I've got to know that you know and you've got to know that I know or else what's the point?


The quote above, in which former manager Felipe Alou was given his walking papers, is the one that defines the 2005-2008 era of futility for me. Well that, and Mark Sweeney's locker, which is where Barry Bonds said he found the greenies he tested positive for back in 2006. 


If you don't know about Marquis Grissom dying in Felipe's hands or Bonds apparently rummaging through lesser players' lockers for vitamins, then I guess you have more of a life than I do. But if you don't know these quirks and peccadilloes of an era also marked by the signings of Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand then you weren't really there, man. 


And so but I did three things today that I haven't done much of recently: receive a paycheck for labor services rendered in our free-market capitalist economy, attempt to run, and attempt to write this blog. This particular blog post being prompted by my current dissatisfaction with the San Francisco Giants Baseball Associates LLP. I only listened to the last two innings tonight on the way home from work. Cha blogger is a working boy once more, after all. 


Apropos of nothing: the Giants are on pace to go 84-78 after going 88-74 last year. They've played exactly 81 games, so half of another season is gone. 


Apropos of something, here's the good news about the Good Guys: they have players who are really good at baseball! 


Buster Posey is hitting .304/.375/.504 with 14 dingers at the half-way point. 


Matt "Duff-Man" Duffy now hits third and is sporting a robust .289/.333/.468 slash line with 8 home runs. That's right, a guy who slugged .290 without hitting a bomb in college and who was an 18th-round afterthought, is killing it at the hot corner in the Major Baseball League. How is that possible? 


Joe Panik, lovechild of Buster Posey and David B. Flemming, is hitting .312/.379/.456 with 6 home runs. I did not think Panik would hit 6 home runs in his career. I did not think Panik would ever put up a .312 on-base percentage, much less a .312 batting average. My sports opinions are almost always wrong. 


Brandon Crawford is also handsome, and he's hitting .267/.343/.469 with 11 home runs while playing the normal Crawfordian stellar defense at short. I never thought Crawford would blast 11 home runs in a season, much less in half of a season. 


Nori Aoki, whose signing I was the first to break, was a godsend in the leadoff spot with a .383 OBP before breaking his leg. 


Gregor Blanco is, as usual, a fourth outfielder extraordinaire, slashing .319/.383/.450 while filling in for Aoki and the injured Hunter Pence. 


Brandon Belt is hitting .268/.338/.471, which is such a Brandon Belt line.

Even the backup catcher, Andrew Susac, is above-average (.739 OPS). 

Other than Aoki, who signed a cheap free-agent deal, and Blanco, who was a scrap-heap pickup, all those players having good years were drafted by the Giants. Here's a chart I pulled out of my ass:


Posey, 1st Round 2008, .879 OPS

Belt, 5th Round 2009, .809 OPS 
Panik, 1st Round 2011, .835 OPS
Duffy, 18th Round 2012, .801 OPS
Craw, 4th Round 2008, .812 OPS
Susac, 2nd Round, 2011: .739 OPS

Bumgarner, 1st Round 2007: 2.99 ERA

Heston, 12th Round 2009: 3.78 ERA  

Chris Heston, once DFA'd by the Giants and passed over by the 29 other teams, has been quite good. The threw a fucking no-no! Chris Heston! Who are these guys? 


Madison Bumgarner: still really good at baseballing. 


That's a pretty solid job of drafting, Giants. Most teams do not have eight home-grown players providing above-average production for them in 2015. Still, the goal is not to have draft picks justify their selections. The goal is to win baseball games, and the 2015 version is currently not winning enough of them when you factor in the fact that we've won three out of the last five championships and are sporting the game's fifth highest payroll. Expectations are higher than this mediocre shit, man! 


84 wins ain't gonna do the trick, though that pace is distorted by four straight losses on what's shaping up to be a nightmare road trip. But if you can't a win a game in Miami when they don't have Giancarlo Stanton, then fuck you.


So, what's wrong with this team? Well, we're out of arms, Skip. Which brings us back to the first paragraph, as the author of this blog is wont to use the envelope structure. 


The Giants are paying Tim Lincecum $18 million this season. That contract was a disaster the moment it was signed as it paid him for what he'd once done rather than for what he was likely to do going forward. Let's not forget: he was coming off two straight down seasons when the Giants gave him $35 million right after the 2013 season. Through 15 starts, he's got a 4.13 ERA, a fastball that averages 87 mph, and, worst of all, that slop he's lobbing up there isn't even going to play up in relief at this point. The dream of a dominant second act as a reliever is a delusion at this point. 


The rest of the contracts on this roster are defensible, and even Timmy showed signs of life in 2013 to justify bringing him back. 


Still, the Giants are paying Tim Hudson $12 million this year, and the 40-year-old righty appears to be dying on Boch. He's got a 4.68 ERA and he's striking out only 4.78 hitters per nine innings. When your K-Rate is even with your ERA, you are bad at throwing baseballs. Huddy was a key cog in the Giants 2014 championship run. That he died one season too early is just the cost of flying flags forever. 


Jake Peavy, acquired at last season's deadline to help push the Giants over the top, has made only three starts this season as he's battled back issues. His best of those three starts was tonight, but it wasn't good enough: Boch wanted one more inning out of an ailing body that doesn't have many innings left to give. He's making $11 million this year. 


Matt Cain, once the staff ace, made his first start in a year yesterday following season-ending elbow surgery and complications in spring training that knocked him out for the first half of 2015. He's making $20 million this season, and he's owed $20 million in 2016 and 2017. Extending Cain was an obvious move that just hasn't worked out thus far. If he isn't going to be Matt Cain again in 2015, the Giants probably aren't going to get to October. 


Ryan Volgesong was brought back for $4 million at the 11th hour of the offseason following a mediocre 2014 campaign and a terrible 2013 season. He had three awful outings in April (9.31 ERA), a brilliant May (1.14 ERA), and a mediocre June (4.11). Add it up and you have a mediocre starting pitcher with a 4.19 ERA and 8 quality starts in 14 tries. 


And so you add that up and the Giants are spending $65 million on five pitchers who have ERA's of 4.13, 4.68, 6.43, 9.00, and 4.19. Lincecum, Hudson, Peavy, Cain, and Vogelsong have combined for -0.1 Wins Above Replacement. In other words, the Giants would have been better off just burning 65 million of the hard-earned dollars the fans spend on tickets, cable television, concessions, and other merchandise. 


It gets worse. 


Jeremy Affeldt is making $5 million on the final year of his deal. He's sporting a 5.96 ERA on the DL at present and a WAR that's in the red. 


So now the Good Guys have spent $70 million of their payroll for -1.0 wins. 


Angel Pagan, who missed most of the last two seasons with injury and has been perpetually banged up this season, is in the third year of a 4-year, $40 million deal that looked like a bargain after his stellar 2012 season. He's making $9 million this year and hitting a slap-tastic .269/.305/.323 with 0 big flies while playing a crap-tastic center field. 


So we're up to $79 million for -1.1 wins. 


Casey McGehee, whom the Giants acquired to replace Pablo Sandoval in an offseason trade, has been removed from the roster twice, but not before hitting .213/.275/.299 with a league-leading 15 double-plays in only 138 plate appearances. Fangraphs pegs his value at -0.7 wins. 


So we're up to $83.8 million for -1.8 wins. 


Hunter Pence is making $18.5 million on an extremely fair deal this season. Sadly, his 2015 campaign was derailed in spring training when he was plunked on the arm with a pitch. The Giants looked outstanding during Pence's 18-game return, but his arm flared up again and he's not due back until after the All-Star Break. 


So now we're up to $102.3 million spent for -1.7 wins. 


Marco Scutaro is making $6 million on the final year of his deal this season. He played in 5 games last year, and he won't be coming back in 2015. 


So now we're up to $108.3 million spent for -1.7 wins.


Joaquin Arias is somehow still on this roster. He's hitting .176/.176/.255 in 52 plate appearances. Somehow, he's been worth -0.5 wins while making $1.45 million.


Travis Ishikawa hit a pennant-winning home run and was the starting left fielder on a championship team. Was that even real life? 

Justin Maxwell is fucking terrible. Like Tyler Colvin last year, Maxwell looked good for a second. He's now hitting .208/.259/.344 in almost 200 plate appearances. A guy with a .259 OBP has 200 plate appearances. He's on pace for 400! This is bad! Fangraphs thinks he's been good at defense though, so Maxwell somehow has positive value. I do not agree with that evaluation, saber nerds. 


All told, the Giants are spending $111.75 of their $173 million payroll on Lincecum, Hudson, Peavy, Cain, Vogelsong, Affeldt, Pagan, Pence, McGehee, Scutaro, Arias, Ishikawa, and Maxwell, who have combined for -1.8 wins. A win now costs about $8 million on the open market. So those guys have made $111 million to cost San Francisco $16 million. 


Here's another chart:


Cain          $20 M -0.2 WAR

Pence       $18.5 M 0.1 WAR 
Lincecum $18 M  0.3 WAR
Hudson    $12 M  0.0 WAR 
Peavy       $11 M  0.0 WAR
Pagan       $9 M   -0.1 WAR
Scutaro    $ 6 M  0.0 WAR 
Affeldt     $5 M     -0.8 WAR
McGehee $4.8 M  -0.7 WAR 
Vogelsong $4 M    -0.2 WAR
Arias       $1.45 M  -0.5 WAR 
Ishikawa $1.1 M   -0.1 WAR 
Maxwell $1 M     0.3 WAR 
Total     $111.85   -1.9 WAR 

And yet all those moves are entirely defensible. Lincecum was an overpay who was coming off two bad seasons, but his peripherals and what he meant to the organization justified at least a portion of that contract. The Cain, Pagan, and Pence extensions were totally fair deals. They went to a third year on Scutaro to keep him away from the Cardinals. Affeldt was one of the most important relievers on two championship teams. The Hudson contract was totally reasonable. In fact, some saw it as a steal. McGehee was not a particularly inspired acquisition, but it sure beat paying Sandoval $100 million, and it was slim pickings at the hot corner this winter. I didn't like the Peavy contract, but who else was going to pitch for the Giants after Jon Lester and James Shields spurned their offers? 


The Cain re-injury, the Pence and Peavy injuries and re-injuries, Hudson and Affeldt's declines, and Pagan and McGehee's total collapses have been major issues for a team that needed those veterans to contribute. Heston, Panik, Crawford, and Duffy's over-performances have kept this team above water. 


Without better starting pitching, particularly from the recently returning Cain and Peavy, the Giants will be watching teams with smaller payrolls stealing their October thunder in 2015. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Giants Jekyll and Hyde Rotation

The San Francisco Giants enter play on Saturday with a record of 37-32, placing them 1.5 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. If the season ended before action today, the Giants would play the Chicago Cubs in a one-game playoff for the right to play a one-game playoff with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The season likely won't end today, however; there are 93 games left. 
It's been a Jekyll and Hyde season for the Giants. They started 4-10, then went on a 26-10 run to get to 30-20. Two straight losses at home to the Atlanta Braves, followed by a three-game sweep at the hands of the visiting Pirates dropped the Giants to five games over .500, where they currently reside. 
The Giants offense ranks just 19th in runs per game, but that stat is very misleading. When you adjust for the unfriendly offensive confines of AT&T Park, the Giants offense ranks as the third-best in all of baseball. The Giants have seven regular players with an OPS above the league-average of .709. The homegrown infield of catcher Buster Posey (.839), first baseman Brandon Belt (.819), second baseman Joe Panik (.833), shortstop Brandon Crawford (.818), and third baseman Matt Duffy (.787) has been exceptional. Top prospect Andrew Susac's .685 OPS is quite good when you consider how to difficult it is to hit when you play once a week. In the outfield, left fielder and lead-off man Nori Aoki has been a revelation with a .381 on-base percentage. Fourth outfielder Gregor Blanco (.787 OPS) has helped offset the loss of right fielder Hunter Pence, who has played in only 18 games this season. The only weak spots in the lineup have been the now displaced third baseman Casey McGehee and center fielder Angel Pagan. 
McGehee's futility has been amazing to behold. I'm not even mad. It's really been a thing of beauty to watch. When he comes to the plate with first and second and no one out, I'm almost rooting for a triple play. He led the league with 31 double plays last year. This year, he's hit into 14 in only 131 trips to the plate. That's the most double plays anyone has ever hit into in 200 plate appearances or less. He has 25 hits and 10 walks this year, so that's 35 times he's reached base. When you remove 14 outs from his ledger due the DP's, his on-base percentage moves from .267 to .160. This is historic futility we are witnessing, and I am proud to be a witness. 
Pagan got off to a BABIP-infused hot start. He's struggled ever since hitting .342 in April, his power looks totally gone, he doesn't walk, he doesn't run anymore, and his defense in center is below average. Pagan will soon turn 34. Perhaps the end of his days as a contributing regular are upon us. 
Still, when and if Pence returns, the Giants can mitigate his issues by resting him more and giving more playing time in center to Blanco. In short, the offense is not the reason for the Giants inconsistency. 
Instead, it's the Jekyll and Hyde rotation. Madison Bumgarner has been outstanding, giving the club a chance to win pretty much every time out. Giving the team a chance to win is the issue. Some games, Chris Heston looks like a gem, such as when he no-hit the Mets or threw a complete game in Houston. Other games, he looks like the journeyman DFA candidate he once was. Ryan Vogelsong spun a gem the last time out, recalling to mind the All-Star 2011 version and the 2012 postseason ace. Yet four of his 12 starts have been awful. Both of Jake Peavy's starts were atrocious before he hit the DL. He was on track to return to the rotation, then hit another setback. He's currently rehabbing in Sacramento with former ace Matt Cain, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues in nearly a year. Tim Hudson is clearly nearing the end as he turns 40. Tim Lincecum, who once averaged 94 mph on the heater, is averaging 87 mph now. When anyone other than Bumgarner takes the mound, the Giants have no idea what they're going to get. They also have no idea what they're going to get out of Peavy and Cain, who are both nearing their returns. Heston has been the Giants second best starter this year, so he should stay in the rotation when those guys get back. Will the Giants have the heart to remove two from the Vogelsong/Hudson/Lincecum veteran crew? 
The Giants brass was recently in attendance to watch Cincinnati Reds starters Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. Cueto would certainly move the needle for San Francisco, but do they have the prospects to get him? The Giants have an affinity for Leake, with Andrew Baggarly reporting that crosschecker Doug Mapson once compared Leake to Greg Maddux
I don't see how Leake moves the needle for the Giants. Is he that much better than Heston, Hudson, Vogelsong, Lincecum, Cain, and Peavy? He'd give the Giants eight starters, or nine if you count Yusmeiro Petit, who might be better than everyone except Bumgarner. Which three would be removed from the rotation? Leake is really a younger version of Hudson in my mind: he gets ground balls but he doesn't miss bats, as his strikeout rate is near the bottom of the league. He's had eight quality starts out of 14 this year. He's also had three disaster starts, one of which was against the Giants when the Good Guys pounded Leake for nine runs in five innings. 
Let's conclude with a look at each start the Giants have had this year. As you can see, on a lot of days, the Giants starters just aren't giving the offense a chance.
Madison Bumgarner 
IP       R
8        2
8        1
8        5
6.1     3
6        3
6.1     0
7        2
5        3
7.1     0
8        1
6.1     2
7        4
3        5
7        1

Chris Heston
5.2     3
5        3
9        0
3.2     5
7.1     0
5.2     6
2        5
9        1
5        5
6.1     1
5.1     6
7.2     1
7        2
6        2

Ryan Vogelsong/Jake Peavy 
6.2     0
3.2     4
6.2     5
6        4
6        1
6        0
5.2     2
7        1
7        0
3        6
6        2
4.2     7
3.2     4 (Peavy)
4        4 (Peavy)

Tim Lincecum/Yusmeiro Petit 
5.2     2
4.2     3
6        4
4.1     4
5        4
7        0
4.2     3
6        0
8        0
4        4
6        1
5        4
7        0

6        4 (Petit) 

Tim Hudson 
5        3
5        4
7        2
7        1
3.2     8
6.1     0
5.1     3
6.2     6
8        3
7        3
5        5
7        3
6.1     0

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Time Like This

"Electric sounds of insects at their business...Very old land. Look around you. The horizon trembling, shapeless. We are all of us brothers." - David Foster Wallace, The Pale King 

"[It's] A Republic, if you can keep it." - Benjamin Franklin

I am, increasingly, of the fatalist opinion that we cannot keep it; that the entrenched, moneyed interests which have come to control our Republic are having their day. A lot of people of my ilk--which is to say college-educated, somewhat informed, relatively intellectual or well-educated in some sense, relatively abreast of current events--are cynical when it comes to our current predicament. I am certainly not the most positive, happy-go-lucky, optimistic person. I'm more of a negative, pessimistic fatalist.

I'll wear the leftist label that goes with it, though I certainly posses my own distaste for government, in some cases more so than those aforementioned, vested special interests--the NRA being at the forefront once more. Of course, if you know a little bit about the Second Amendment, you know that there was a time when it was interpreted differently by the courts and the legislatures, when the NRA was a far less influential lobby. However, over the past few decades, that's changed drastically. This is a complex area, and it doesn't yield simple answers.

The little bit of reading I've done on the matter--at least in regards to the massive amounts of urban violence that has plagued and continues to plague our country (though while not garnering much attention)--has indicated gun control is not a particularly fruitful way to go about diminishing the violence. That ongoing killing centers on a myriad of complex problems, the Drug War tops among them. Unlike a mass murder, such as the one on Wednesday in South Carolina at a church founded by a former slave who was himself executed in 1822, the random bodies turning up in Chicago, Baltimore, Oakland, and other cities don't quite register in the national consciousness. When nine people, one of whom was a state senator, are randomly murdered in a church for no purpose--or when a Congresswoman and others are attacked at a grocery store, or when 20 children are executed at an elementary school, or when high school or college students are massacred, or when a movie theater is shot up--it snaps the consciousness to attention. I suppose we can turn the other way at urban violence because those folks are either involved in the illicit drug trade or they are guilty bystanders who failed to pull themselves out of the ghetto.

Ghetto being a word we don't use anymore because it's a nasty thing and we can't call things what they are, less it shocks us to act. Ghetto is more than a word; ghettos are real things this country created through its zoning laws to keep non-white people out of white neighborhoods. We're living with the consequences of racist zoning laws just as much as we are living with the consequences of slavery, of the false start and failed promises of Reconstruction, of Jim Crow, of separate but equal which is inherently unequal and terribly dehumanizing, and now the era of mass incarceration and the de facto segregation which exists when we're living in separate neighborhoods, going to separate schools, and experiencing vastly different opportunities in life as a result of circumstances and a history we cannot go back and re-do. That history having a way of coming home whether we want to acknowledge it or not, whether we want to look away or not.

I'm not African American. I don't go to church. I'm not likely to be the victim of a hate crime. My ancestors were not enslaved. I've never been shot at close range by someone who wanted to kill me even though they didn't know me. I've never been in a war zone. In a war zone, at least, you have a chance to defend yourself. In a house of prayer, there is no such opportunity. I don't have to go to war, I don't think I'll be murdered in a pointless rampage, I don't think I'll be swooped up by the Drug War, and I don't think I'll be incarcerated and then never tried for a crime which I didn't commit. So it's very easy to look away, to pretend these evils are not part of our country's reality.

Many of us don't have time to look, to keep our Republic. It's a squeeze just to survive economically in this country. Between the commuting time and the work one has to do to maintain employment, there's little time for becoming informed and participating in other democratic activities. In addition to competing in a cut-throat economy with a crumbling, poorly planned infrastructure, people are raising families, cooking, cleaning, relaxing, and trying to manage an onslaught of addictive technologies (this blog notwithstanding). Being an informed, or perhaps misinformed, citizen has become a luxury that many cannot afford. It's nearly impossible to come home from an 11-hour work and commute day and tend to the complex, depressing realities of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, discrimination, racism, war, and violence. I'm not here to judge; I'm here mostly to listen to the sound of my own voice and to pretend that I possess virtues that long ago eluded me.

Yet if we are here listening to the musings of some white dude with a liberal arts degree, well, I just cannot get the thought out of my head that if you put your best friends in that church, if you put your nieces and nephews in that church or that school in Connecticut, or your sister-in-law, or your brother-in-law, or a teacher that had a profound influence on you, then I think it becomes something impossible to look away from. You can't pretend like it didn't happen. You can't pretend like that history isn't there. You can't pretend as though that history doesn't continue to shatter our society and make it way less than it ought to be.

We cannot re-do that terrible history. We cannot undo what is done. We cannot just wish for a better past. There is never a way to go back. But we can acknowledge it. We can stop white-washing it, stop pretending that it's over, that it no longer touches the present. We don't just show up here one day of our own volition with no past. We all got to the present somehow.

We also cannot look at anything through a lens other than our own. We can't look out at the world without seeing ourselves in it. "We are all of us brothers." Genetically, we are 99.5 percent similar to each other. And yet it is our differences that lead us to hate and kill each other. It is our differences that we use to make flippant, insensitive jokes to entertain ourselves. An offhand, racist joke isn't a slippery slope towards murder. But it is its own form of sickness, its own disgusting thing. It is a tacit way of agreeing with ignorant, gross generalizations.

I have three African American nieces. The world they are living in is better than the one they would've inhabited at any previous time in our country's history. But improvement is not enough. I have to hope for more. Things have gotten better, but they are still broken. If things are broken, we have to fix them. We are still sick as a society. We fail to acknowledge the sickness.

On that horrible Wednesday night, I was reading a New Yorker article about three Muslim Americans who were murdered in February. They were killed for being Muslim, for being brown-skinned, for wearing hijabs, for being successful, and for being social: their killer was upset over their use of visiting parking spaces. They were beautiful people: selfless, giving, faithful, innocent, friendly, and ambitious. Deah Barakat's pursuit of his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, was an incredibly innocent, refreshing love story that reflects exceptionally well on their culture and faith. Abu-Salha's sister, Razan, was studying to be an architect. She was visiting her sister and her brother-in-law when three more of us were killed for being different and for having the audacity to park their fucking cars in a visitor's parking space. As soon as I finished the article and refreshed my Twitter feed, I found out that another violent, racist massacre had taken place.

A resigned President Obama said of this latest act of senseless brutality, "....we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun....At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of violence
does not happen in other advanced countries."

We will also have to confront the fact that the government which represents us is, as Martin Luther King said, the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana, responded to President Obama by saying, "It's a shame that in his first statement to the nation, the President would inject gun control politics into this. Now is the time for the nation to wrap their arms around the families...I would hope that the President would focus exclusively on uniting the country at a time like this."

Sadly, there is never a time not "like this." Right now, someone is currently plotting the next mass killing in our country. Tonight, someone will die from gun violence in our country. Tomorrow, most of us won't care unless it's horrific enough or hateful enough to make us care; unless it's us or someone we love on the other end of the barrel. We "wrapped our arms around the families" in Newtown, and then when some of those families decided that gun control was something they desired as a means to make sense out of the senseless, we told them to fuck off.

I'm sympathetic to gun owners. I know people who own guns and I don't think they are going to become deranged and go on a killing spree. But we all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That right ends when we're murdered in a church for being black, murdered in our homes for being brown and Muslim, or murdered in a school for no reason whatsoever. I'm willing to sacrifice on "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" if it means more of us can avoid senselessly dying at the hands of deranged racists and hate-mongers.

Until we face what ails us, this will keep happening. There will never be a time not like this, unless we create a better reality, a more perfect union.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

About Last Night: Some Things I Think

There were certain aspects of last night's 96-91 loss in Cleveland that weren't acceptable. Some mistakes you can live with, while others are intolerable.

At the end of the first half, the Warriors came out of a timeout with Festus Ezeli, a center, matched up on James Jones, a deadly perimeter shooter. Predictably, the play resulted in a Jones three that stretched Cleveland's lead from four to seven going to the half. Not having the right personnel in the game out of a timeout is an unacceptable coaching error.

Earlier in the game, Draymond Green had slacked too far off from Jones, leading to an open three. To compound the error, Green fouled Jones on the shot, leading to a killer four-point play. Twice in the first quarter, Green moved towards the hoop as the shot went up rather than getting a body on Tristan Thompson. David Lee missed a box out on Thompson later in the game, resulting in some post-traumatic stress from Mark Jackson, who spent the last three years watching Lee struggle on defense. Green spent more of the game whining to the refs than he did actually competing.

I understand that he's not completely healthy. He's shooting 26 percent in the series and 12 percent from deep. Cleveland is begging Green to beat them and, right now, he can't. If he isn't healthy enough to play better, perhaps he shouldn't be out there. If he's healthy enough to give a better effort, then he's got to give the Warriors more than he has thus far in the series. He wasn't particularly good in Game 1 or Game 2 before the injury.

In the third quarter, Harrison Barnes got a pass near the top of the key. LeBron James was sagging about 10 feet off of Barnes, daring him to shoot. Barnes didn't even look at the basket. Instead, he began laterally dribbling to nowhere in particular, making himself a total non-threat. The triple-threat position is Day One Shit. Catch the ball ready to be a threat--ready to shoot, pass, or attack the defense off the dribble. Instead, Barnes catches the ball with no purpose, puts the ball on the floor for no particular reason, and then when he sees Thompson open on the other side, he has to pick up the dribble and make the pass. By the time the ball gets to Thompson, he's no longer open, and a good shot becomes a contested brick.

Barnes was 0 for 8 from the floor in Game 3. He's nowhere near the match Andre Igoudala is for James on defense. He had one point-blank look near the basket where he went up quite weakly. He's shooting 33 percent in the series and 30 percent from deep after shooting 48 and 40 percent on the season. I understand that Kerr doesn't want to destroy the guy's confidence by benching him, but I think we might be past that. In Game 3, it looked like his confidence was already destroyed.

Throwing a behind-the-back pass out of bounds with two minutes left in the game as Steph Curry did is another mistake that leans more towards the inexcusable. Can we be a little more solid with the ball given how important each possession is?

Then, down 88-83 with a minute left, the Warriors had a fast-break opportunity after a James miss on the baseline. All five Cleveland players sprinted back on defense, getting to the Warriors three-point line. Meanwhile, Green and Lee failed to ever cross half-court. The season is on the line, and you can't bother running up the court? James knocks the ball loose as Curry is once again careless with the ball, going behind-the-back in traffic. He then fouls Curry, but the Warriors don't get the call. The ball is loose, and Cleveland gets the ball on the scramble because Lee and Green have decided to take a break from the game.

Green and Barnes missing open shots is one thing. Who can fault a guy for missing a shot? Who hasn't missed a shot before? But throwing the ball away, not being ready to be a threat on offense, being late with passes or missing wide open guys, being careless with the ball, consistently attacking Mosgov as Green has in an ill-fated attempt to get to the line, and failing to run down the court: all that shit adds up, particularly in a series where the current running score is 292-291. If you don't carelessly throw the ball away, if you come off a screen ready to shoot or find the open man, if you pull up for an open 10-footer rather than crashing into Mosgov praying for a foul that isn't going to be called, you'll probably have better possessions that are more likely to lead to points.

---

Opening the second quarter, Steve Kerr once again chose to play without both Curry and Thompson. I don't think the Warriors can afford any more minutes without one of their two offensive threats on the court.

I don't think Kerr can play Leandro Barbosa anymore in this series. Barbosa shot 38.4 percent from beyond the arc this season. He's a more aggressive offensive player and a better shooter than Shaun Livingston or Andre Igoudala. But whatever offensive advantage he gives you, he takes away at the other end of the floor. In Game 1, Barbosa had a stretch where he turned the ball over twice, missed a terrible shot, and gave up two baskets on the other end. In Game 3, he missed his first shot, then gave up five points to JR Smith. It's not like the dude isn't trying. He's just not a good defensive player. Other teams will do that scouting for you: as soon as Barbosa is in the game, he's attacked.

There are four guys Cleveland wants to attack on the pick-and-roll: Barbosa, Curry, Lee, and Andrew Bogut--they know Bogut isn't going to hedge out when his man sets a screen. Thus, they can get an open jump shot using that action every time, unless the wing defender can somehow avoid the screen.

Kerr seems like he's going to stick with Barnes in the starting lineup and stick with Barbosa in the rotation. I don't know if that's right or wrong. But I think starting Igoudala and removing Barbosa from the rotation gives Golden State the best chance to win Game 4. Then again, I would've never inserted Lee into another game, and his offense brought the Warriors back in Game 3.

The Warriors are 80-20. They've had an incredibly great season. They bounced back from being down 2-1 against Memphis without making drastic changes. But Cleveland has got LeBron James, and Memphis did not.

At no point in this series has Golden State been in control. They've never established a big lead. They've yet to really assert themselves. After three games and two overtime periods, facing elimination if they lose twice more, facing the best player on the planet, staying with the status quo might not do the trick this time.

---

I want the Warriors to win, so I'm obviously biased. I'm not some basketball genius or something. I just want them to win the championship! I also want my observations to be brilliant and accurate! But most things coaches and GM's try in sports don't work. This stuff is hard! You might play David Lee more, but he'll hurt you too much on defense. Maybe Kerr will stick with Barnes and he'll have a huge game. Who knows?

I don't know. If the Warriors lose two more games, it's not like I'm going to die or something. If they win, it's not like I'll live happily ever after. But it'd be better if they won. Let's win!

It'd help if they made more open shots. It'd be better if they were more solid with the ball. It'd be better if Igoudala spent more time on James. It'd be better if Green, Thompson, and Curry, their three best players, played better.

It'd just be better if they won. But I guess it doesn't really matter if they lose.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Helpless Sports Fandom

Well, it'd be better if sports wasn't what brought us together, but this is the society we've been dealt, so I suppose we ought to make the most of it.

When the No. 1 fan, Silverstein, texted me Sunday morning as we prepared for the Warriors game, I told him that I didn't think Kyrie Irving's injury was going to matter much. "This is a LeBron series," I texted. "Inserting JR for Irving actually makes them better on defense, and gives them the same shooting off the ball that they already had."

Watching the game last night, it was clear in the first quarter that these guys weren't going to make it easy on us even if they were down two starters. Cleveland, a mediocre defensive team during the season, is suddenly looking like an elite squad on that end of the floor, holding Golden State to 39.8 percent shooting in Game 2. Just like in Games 2 and 3 against Memphis, it seems like Cleveland has figured the Warriors out. The Warriors look like a two-man team on offense, and if one of the Splash Brothers doesn't have it, this team has nowhere else to go.

So far this series, Andrew Bogut is 2 for 6 from the field. He took one shot in Game 1. Draymond Green is 6 for 20 and 0 for 4 from deep. Harrison Barnes went 0 for 4 from three in Game 2. Mo Speights went 0 for 3 in Game 2, missing a crucial dunk in a game that ended up going to Overtime. Leandro Barbosa played only six minutes off the bench. Andre Igoudala took only five shots in 36 minutes, passing the ball ahead to Speights on that ill-fated fast break, passing the ball off with no time on the shot clock on another possession that resulted in a shot clock violation, and turning the ball over an uncharacteristic four times in Game 2. Festus Ezeli was -8 in only six minutes of action. Bogut has been thoroughly out-played by Timofey Mozgov in this series. The Dubs were hammered on the glass (55-45) in Game 2 by Mosgov and Tristan Thompson. Twice in Game 2, Steph Curry allowed a screen to end his effort on defense. On one possession, his man had the ball, he was screened, and he just decided to stand and watch for the rest of the possession, which resulted in an offensive rebound that he might have gotten had he decided to keep playing. On another possession, his man screened the person guarding LeBron, Steph stood there, did nothing, and pointed as LeBron took it to the basket for an easy bucket. Draymond was torched by the 34-year-old James Jones when Cleveland played him as a stretch "4." For a team that is obviously coached by a very smart dude, Steve Kerr, the Warriors often look poorly coached. Every night, they do at least three or four things that you leave scratching your head. 

And yet if Steph Curry doesn't shoot 5 of 23 and 2 of 15 from beyond the arc, the Good Guys are two wins away from winning this thing*. It's easy to forget sometimes that these guys are now 80-19 this season. 

Bogut and Ezeli aren't going to give the Warriors much on offense. Green isn't a good three-point shooter; he's just the rare power forward who can kind of shoot from deep. He's shooting just 41 percent in the playoffs and 25 percent from three. Barnes, who shot 40 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season, is down to 32 percent in the postseason. Igoudala is an average three-point shooter (34.9 percent on the season; 34.6 percent during the postseason) who clearly doesn't want to assert himself more on the offensive end. Barbosa is an aggressive offensive player who can hit open threes, but he might be an even worse defender than Curry. 

The Warriors are the best defensive team in the game. They held Cleveland to 32 percent shooting in Game 2. How much can Kerr afford to play a defensive liability like Barbosa in this series? In Game 2, he decided that one Barbosa stint was enough, even if he was effective offensively. Shaun Livingston is a 6'7" point guard who does most of his work near the basket. He had as many turnovers as shot attempts (2) in 14 Game 2 minutes. Speights took an awful, fall-away, contested 18-footer that he airballed before bricking the break-away dunk. The Warriors have missed a lot of wide open shots in this series, but they've also had some terrible turnovers and thrown up some ridiculously bad shots. 

Where would this series be if Cleveland had Irving, Kevin Love, and Anderson Varejao healthy? Probably 2-0 Cleveland I'd guess. Would the Warriors have gotten past Memphis if Mike Conley was fully healthy?I think the Warriors still win that series. Would the Warriors have gotten past their nemesis, the Spurs, if San Antonio had advanced? Hard to say. Would the Warriors be in the Finals if Oklahoma City had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka fully healthy? I think a fully healthy OKC team wins it all this year, but there's no way to prove that. 

I don't know what my point is. All I know is that late in the fourth quarter of Game 2, a friend of mine was calling me. I ignored the call until James hit a three to make the score 83-72 with only three minutes left. The game was over. I called my friend back and took a long walk. There are more important things than a silly basketball game. When I got back home, I saw that the Warriors had lost in overtime. How in the hell had they made up an 11-point deficit in three minutes? I still don't know. 

The thing about my sports fandom, at least, is that it's dysfunctional. Like, if the Warriors had played well in Game 2 and won, I'd have just been relieved that they didn't lose. When they played like shit, I was devastated. Why would they do this to me? It's like a personal affront. I'm embarrassed for them. 

When you watch sports, you have absolutely no control of the outcome. You're on an emotional roller coaster in which cable television brings 15 dudes into your life that you don't know and yet who control your well-being for a few hours. And I know that so much of this is habit: we live in a culture that has decided to entertain itself in part by watching sports contests on cable television. This is a recent phenomenon that most of us haven't given much thought. What is this doing to us? Are there better ways to be spending our time? It feels like a waste of precious time and energy. Surely, we could be donating this time to something more productive, right? 

On the flip side, these games do bring us together out of our isolation. Sports fans have this bizarre hobby that allows them to at least communicate about something. There are positives involved. The glass isn't always half-empty, even though it feels like it is when your team plays terribly and you're left with no recourse other than to get in a Twitter debate with someone about whether or not David Blatt might actually be a pretty coach. And Twitter is a special form of insanity: I'm tweeting things out as a form of therapy during these games, even though the only people that are going to see it are people I could just text or call rather than communicate with on a social media forum. But venting on Twitter or on a blog is a nice form of self-importance: sure I'm just an unemployed blogger who has sports opinions after 20 plus years of following this shit, but my analysis does seem to often be better than what you get from most talking heads. It seems to me that most media narratives are poorly thought out and inaccurate: Iraq didn't have WMD's, this series is not over with Irving out, and Blatt is most certainly not an idiot. 

He's a first-year head coach trying to run a team in an organization that James thoroughly controls. That was the deal with him coming home: he'd sign with Cleveland if he could have a tremendous amount of authority within the organization. That's an extremely difficult situation for a rookie head coach. When Cleveland was 19-20, it appeared that Blatt had lost control. But they traded for Mozgov, JR Smith, and Iman Shumpert, lost only nine games the rest of the season, and breezed through the weaker conference to get to the Finals. LeBron holds a tremendous amount of sway, and he ought to. He's a basketball genius and one of the greatest players of all time. Cleveland would've been insane not to bring him back because he wanted some of his boys to be employed by the team. But it's a lot easier to coach a team led by Curry, who doesn't have his buddy sitting next to the head coach on the sideline.  

Cleveland has outplayed Golden State in this series despite being down two starters, despite being heavy underdogs, and despite being on the road. This is LeBron's team, and he's the biggest reason for that. Cleveland's size and rebounding is another factor. Their improved defense is certainly having some effect. The Warriors lack of execution and poor shooting is part of this. Even if Cleveland is LeBron's team, Blatt has to get some credit for having Cleveland prepared, for their defensive effort, and for overcoming the loss of Irving in Game 1. How much credit? Who can say. But sports, as dumb as they are, are at least more complex than we're often led to believe by the talking heads. These games also give us something to focus the mind on and, in lieu of finding something better to do, we at least have that much. We might be helpless over the desired outcomes, but at least we can learn a few things along the way. 


*I'd like to apologize publicly to Redacted for giving too much credit to Cleveland's defense for the Warriors poor shooting. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Dispatch from the Annex

Walking around the sleepy East Bay town of Albany on Thursday afternoon, waiting for Silverstein to get out of his doctor appointment, wearing my yellow Warriors shirt, cars kept honking at me and pedestrians decked out in their Warriors attire would acknowledge me as a fellow member of the congregation. I'd put my hands in the Dubs "W" and throw my arms up with an acknowledgement of "DUBS!" The anticipation grew worse as the day slowed to a crawl. Would Game 1 ever get here?

After what felt like years of waiting, which included the reminder that the salty Mark Jackson is once again announcing these games, the tip-off finally came. The first quarter of Game 1 of the National Basketball Leeeeeeeague Finals was not the Golden State Warriors' finest hour. I think it was in the first quarter when, once again, Draymond Green threw the ball to the other team in the back court. It's amazing how much of a struggle getting the ball across half court has been this year for a team that is now 80-18. At times, it's hard to believe that record is real.

I could also do without a contested Green 25-footer in transition. Green, Andre Igoudala, Harrison Barnes, and Leandro Barbosa should take threes when they are open, whereas Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are amazing shooters who can shoot whenever the hell they want, regardless of how tightly they are defended. If either guy gets their eyes on the basket, they can shoot. The other Warriors three-point shooters should only be launching when they are open.

I also was shocked that in both halves, head coach Steve Kerr had the club play for extended periods without Curry and Thompson. The Livingston-Barbosa-Igoudala wing triumvirate just doesn't provide enough offensive firepower and spacing. Kerr was really playing with fire using that lineup, and it nearly cost them the game early in the fourth quarter when Barbosa was shredded by Kyrie Irving for two baskets and an open three that Irving missed. On the offensive end, Barbosa basically had three straight turnovers. With LeBron James off the court, the Warriors could've taken control of the game there. Instead, Barbosa basically gave the Cavs a 4-0 run of his own accord. He is the worst defensive player on this team besides David Lee, who is mercifully out of the rotation again.

Steph Curry fell asleep on defense twice in the second quarter which gave Iman Shumpert two open threes; he made both. Curry has improved tremendously on defense, in large part because he has great hands, which he uses to generate steals. Still, if you watch closely, you can see that he often loses track of his man, leading to open perimeter looks. There's a reason that Mark Jackson had Thompson guard the best back-court guy during his tenure as Warriors head coach, and there's a reason why Kerr employed that strategy with Thompson on Irving for the most part last night.

There was an in-bounds play early in the game last night in which it appeared Igoudala had a wide-open layup. Instead of taking the shot, he passed the ball out to Andrew Bogut on the perimeter. It's one thing to throw the ball from the inside out to an open Thompson or Curry for a three, especially if you think your shot is going to be contested. But in that situation, Igoudala needs to be aggressive and take the shot; there's no advantage to throwing the ball to Bogut for a 17-footer that he isn't going to take. After that mistake, Igoudala heeded my message and was the Warriors MVP for the second straight game.

He contested James much better than Barnes was able to, forcing him into an extremely difficult shot at the end of regulation, which was the shining example of Iggy's prowess. He also hit a huge three in the fourth quarter even though he was missing a shoe. In 32 minutes last night, Igoudala was 6 of 8 from the field and 2 of 3 from deep for 15 points. The Warriors were +8 with him on the floor. He's the smartest player on the floor, an elite wing defender, a sure ball-handler, a willing passer, and a completely unselfish player. He could've told Kerr that he didn't want to come off the bench this year; instead, he accepted his role without making a stink. Without Igoudala, the Warriors do not win that game last night, and they probably don't win Game 5 against Houston either.

Late in the fourth quarter, I noted that the Warriors ought to go small, saying that there was, "no advantage to playing Bogut right now: Mosgov perimeter screens will get an open J each time; Mosgov killing on glass. If we aren't gonna rebound big, let's play small." The Warriors bigs are in a precarious position: the wings can't help to James off of Irving, Shumpert, or J.R. Smith because of their three-point shooting, so Green and Bogut have to be the guys to hedge towards James. For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction, however: when Green or Bogut shows help, Mosgov or Tristan Thompson can cut to the hoop for a pass from James or an offensive rebound. Or, Mosgov can set a screen on the perimeter, knowing that Bogut will stay back in the paint, which allows the man receiving the screen to get an open look. Since Bogut doesn't give Golden State much on offense, and since more athleticism is required on defense in this series, it seems to me that the Warriors are better off matching up with the big Cleveland front-line by playing small. Mosgov and Thompson won't be able to defend Barnes and Green on the other end, and it isn't like Cleveland is going to run their offense through anyone other than James.

The Warriors will live with James taking 38 shots as he did in Game 1. What they don't want is for anyone else on Cleveland to get loose. Still, they don't want James to barrel his way to the hoop every play, so they want to at least threaten him with help. I'm not saying the Warriors should play small all the time, but it's something they should've employed earlier. It's hard to believe the Warriors actually out-rebounded Cleveland 48-45 last night. It seemed like we were getting murdered on the glass.

That's the downside of being a fan, I suppose: I want these guys to win so badly that I don't see the game all that clearly. The No. 1 fan, Silverstein, the No. 2 fan, Kyle, and I were eating our feelings last night. It was a quiet night in the Annex as the Warriors eked out an overtime win. Hell, fucking El Senor, our No. 3 fan, is off in Hawaii having a grand ole time instead of having focused fun out there with the Warriors. Our motto as the top fans of the team is simply: Let's Get Better Today, Every Day. Which is why the Warriors should give their four most dedicated fans free court-side seats for the remainder of the playoffs. You can't quantify the value of getting your most loyal compatriots out there to sway the outcome of the game. What's a few thousand bucks to a team that might top $10 million in gate receipts for a single game in the Finals?

In overtime, Kerr started with Festus Ezeli at center in order to try to win the tip, then he finally went small with Barnes at the "4" and Green at "5" at the first dead ball. The more athletic, quicker Warriors outscored Cleveland 10-2 in overtime. Again, I don't want to be a smartass and say that the Warriors should start with a small-ball lineup and play that way all night. In fact, I think it's more important that Kerr adjusts by keeping either Klay or Steph on the court at all times and by removing Barbosa from the rotation. This is for all the marbles: a nine-man rotation is workable in a short series with multiple days off. Barbosa just isn't a good enough defender to hang with Irving (if he recovers from an injury suffered late in Game 1), Shumpert, or Smith in this series. These are not the Memphis Grizzlies on the wing: there's no place to hide. Still, if the Warriors struggle again in this series by playing big against big, Kerr should go small earlier to create an offensive advantage and to get quicker on defense. That doesn't mean the strategy will work all series as well as it did in overtime. Most strategies in sports fail. I'm just of the view that if one strategy isn't working particularly well, you might as well try another. If Green is at center, he can show help against James and perhaps be athletic enough to recover on a slashing Mosgov to take away some of those dunks he had in Game 1.



After the game, an exhausted Silverstein fell asleep quickly on the couch. After 53 minutes of white-knuckling it, we'd rooted this ballclub to their 80th win. We were now three wins away from what we'd set out for back in October, back when I was still processing processes. We're so close, but the enemy still has LeBron James, and we do not. We've come so far, but in reality, we haven't really won anything yet. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Edge of the Baseball Earth

Aaron Miles, the former big leaguer who now owns, manages, and plays for the independent Pacific Baseball League’s Pittsburgh Diamonds, stands in against Mike Jackson, Jr., the son of former San Francisco Giants set-up man Mike Jackson. Miles, pinch-hitting, pulls a ground ball into the four-and-a-half hole for what looks like a sure basehit. I put my head down and input the data from the pitch into our tracking system, sneaking a peak at the radar gun below me. While inputting the data, I hear a roar from the crowd. Somehow, Miles is out at first base. Was he picked off after the play? Or, was that just the slowest hard 90 in the history of the game?

This is the edge of the baseball Earth, a place where a fringe writer like myself hangs onto some childhood nostalgia without even realizing it. But, at 29 years old, this could be the last chance I get at doing something I like to do, though I’m depressive and can’t even really say that I enjoy anything at this point. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if I ever enjoyed anything.

Last Friday, I arrived at the Sonoma Stompers’ practice to meet the Director of Baseball Ops. It quickly dawned on me that he probably has twice my IQ. Hence his writing for Grantland and my washing out on the shores of Bleacher Report. Perhaps we do live in a meritocracy after all.
There was another intern there that day whom I’ll call “Jason” because he is a dead ringer for a family friend of ours called Jason: same voice, same height, same sarcastic sense of humor. 

“When I was driving in on the two-lane road,” he told me, “I got a very Bull Durham feeling. I just have no sense of this league. Who are these guys? Where are they staying? Are they local? Do they have jobs?”

“I think they stay with host families. They can’t be local because there’s only a few people from around here who would be good enough the play at this level. I can’t imagine they’re getting paid. Or, if they are, it can’t be very much. It’s 10 a.m. on a Friday and they aren’t at work, so I guess this is it.” 

“This is a pretty casual environment. Just kind of show up, mill about, get loose, joke with each other. It’s not like what I’d imagine a big league or minor league practice to be like.”

“Yeah, this doesn’t seem very formal. I just have no concept of what this is or where these guys are from.”

“What are you doing that you can help out with this during the summer?”

“I’m not really doing anything anymore. I just retired from the legal grind. Kind of just writing and getting ready to maybe go back to school in the fall. I used to write about baseball but I think that’s pretty much over.” 

I threw a 49-mph fastball according to PITCHf/x when we tested out the system. What the tracking system cannot see is all the scar tissue in my shoulder. That’s something I should probably get looked at. 

On Monday, Opening Day, I shagged home run balls near the outfield bleachers at Arnold Field. I figured I’d have a better time of it out there than with the rest of the PITCHf/x crew: they had tasked us with hanging up bunting, the red, white, and blue banners that baseball teams occasionally hang up for big occasions. There are two rules in bunting club, neither of which our crew of nerds was made aware beforehand: bunting is to be hung up on the outside of the fucking fence, and there is absolutely to be no bunting hung up in the outfield. If you motherfuckers didn’t know that, now you know. Don’t ever fucking do it again. 

Walking around the bleachers under the warm Sonoma sun and throwing balls back over the fence is probably the most strenuous thing I’ve done in a long time. I like to hike and shit, but walking, even uphill, isn’t very difficult if I’m being honest. 

After the Stompers second game, the one that ended on Tuesday night with Miles’ slowest 90, my ex-wife calls me on the drive home. If this is about my dead cat JoeJoe I peeing on her stuff again, I’m not even going to be able to even with her.

“What are you doing?” she asks me.
“Driving home from the Stompers’ game. We are 2-0! Stompers!”

“The Stompers?”

“Come ahhhhhhhn! I told you about this shit that I’m doing.”

“Oh, right. Well, remember when your stupid cat peed on my stuff a bunch of times?”

“Jesus Christ. I can’t even with you. I drive a 2013 Honda Civic! I haven’t had a drink in 12 days! You don’t talk to me like this!”

After nine years of failed marriages and 77 divorces, I still think we’re a couple that’s going to make it. I became completely convinced of that at my buddy’s wedding last Saturday. Just being at a wedding made me realize that I was already part of a very successful, failed relationship that has just as good a chance as any. What I’m trying to say here is that the world can no longer be seen as a particularly rational place in my view. I don’t know that it ever was, but I’ve only been here for 29 years and I’ve got but this one lousy perspective to offer. This blog offers a money-back guarantee: all blogs free until I make a salient fucking point.

I was never actually married and my ex-girlfriend doesn’t actually bring up my dead cat. I’m the one who thinks about JoeJoe a lot. He was an orange tabby cat who was very friendly towards humans. He had these whiskers that, combined with his friendly manner, made him seem like some sort of enlightened being for a time. Then he got old, lost control of his bladder and seemingly his mind, people got pissed at his pissing, and he died.

Last night, which was Wednesday I think, the Stompers game went 10 innings and lasted over four hours. That was a lot of baseball. I couldn’t help but wonder what in God’s name I was doing. How did I end up here, in the valley of the moon, watching an indy league baseball game, entering the game into a database, wondering about this silly game, hanging loosely to my grip at the edge of the baseball world? No one would go to this length for football, hockey, or basketball, right? I don’t know. 

I got home in time to see the Dodgers blow a 6-4 9th inning lead at Coors Field. I can’t even say that I dislike the Dodgers all that much. I like a lot of their people: Joc and Kershaw and J-Roll to name a few. They’ve got smart sabermetric types in the front office. Their ownership group isn’t pinching pennies, which somehow leads to them taking an endless stream of shit for not being tightwads. Good for them for spending money on their payroll; would you rather they pocket more of it? The Dodgers are trying to buy a championship! The outrage! Well, wouldn’t you try to buy wins if you were a billionaire? Hell, I’m spending money just to watch indy league baseball and enter data into a computer. If I had a lot more money, there’s no telling the lengths I’d go with it for this stupid sport.

The Dodgers lost 7-6, but the Giants lost earlier in the day for the 5th straight time. The Stompers are 3-0 after a come-from-behind 10-9 win. Against my better judgment, I’m back in the game, trying to find my salvation on a baseball field tucked under the Sonoma hills.