Dan McQuade: October 2009 Archives

Okay, fine. I'm not doing anything so I figure I might as well do a liveglog. Sorry it's late.

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Alex Rodriguez! John Lackey! Tim McCarver! Are you as pumped as I am for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series? Rob invited me to liveglog this event because "nobody else could," and I accepted because "my girlfriend is at the Leonard Cohen concert in Upper Darby."

I'm going to actually try to use the CoverItLive feature for the first time. Expect incredible failures on my part -- or maybe just more puppy photos that usual in the chat room. Join me after the jump sometime around 7:45 p.m. and we'll get started.

Update: We're live!

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Well, well, well! The TV is turned to Fox, and while I'm upset that Judge Joe Brown is over, I'm excited to bring you Game 3 of the ALCS right here on Walkoff Walk. The game's slated to begin at 4:13 p.m., or an extra-convenient 1:13 p.m. for those out in California.

While we're waiting to begin, maybe you should go read the playoff diary I've been doing for The Fightins. Or maybe you should get a drink or something, I dunno. Whatever you want!

Today's matchup is Andy Pettitte (for the Yankees) and Jered Weaver (for the Angels). Join me after the jump for the game.

TBS PitchTrax: Very Funny

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We've lived about two weeks now with TBS's PitchTrax (above, with Craig Sager and George Lopez added for my amusement) sitting on the screen during every pitch. I have to admit, I was kind of repulsed by it at first; it seemed distracting. But after an inning or two I grew to like it. It doesn't get in the way on my HDTV -- indeed, it's only on the HD broadcast -- and it allows me to bash the umpires, one of my favorite pastimes during a baseball game. Just like the score box in the corner in any sport or the first down line in football, I got used to it. And once I got used to it, I decided it added to my enjoyment of the game.

There's little-to-no information about TBS' PitchTrax on the Internet1. My guess, though, is it's not the great PITCHf/x and is instead the same PitchTrax as the QuesTec product detailed on the company's website. I mean, it has an 'x' at the end! That has to be a copyrighted name.

There have been plenty of complaints on the Internet that it's inaccurate; since we're not getting the right camera angle, I don't think we can tell from television. It is definitely inaccurate on pitches that are too high out of the zone: the PitchTrax box doesn't go high enough and so pitches that are higher than a certain point all get shown as if they were in the same spot. Obviously, pitches on the bottom don't have this problem (as there's a limit to how far down a pitch can be), and pitches way to the left and right are far less common than ones that are way too high, so it's not as much of a problem there.3

Questions of accuracy aside, here's my problem with TBS' use of PitchTrax this postseason.4 As far as I know, none of the announcers have ever mentioned this groovy little feature on any of the network's broadcasts so far. I haven't watched every moment of every game this postseason, but from what I can remember -- and from what I skimmed by on a quick re-viewing of last night's game this morning -- this is true. This leads to situations where an announcer will say a ball was over the plate while -- at the same time -- PitchTrax says it's a ball. Of course, in a way, that's good, because it gives us more ammunition to complain about the announcers (another fine baseball pastime).

So what gives? The way I can see it, there are a couple of options. Let's go over them, charticle-style:

• As I tweeted last night, MLB probably doesn't want the announcers to mention it, because it makes the umpires (and therefore MLB, or maybe even the game of baseball) look bad. In my mind, MLB must nudge producers and announcers to mention or not mention certain things; we've all see how homer-ish our local favorite teams' broadcasts can be, even when on TV stations not owned by the teams. (Have announcers ever criticized the job of their home team's grounds crew, ever?) But... I dunno; the more I think about this, the more I think it's just the stupidest conspiracy theory ever, because they could just not have PitchTrax if they didn't want the umps to look bad.

• Rob thinks the whole set-up is a way for Bud Selig to discredit the umps and lower their salaries or fire them all or replace them with robots or whatever. Intriguing, but you'd think the announcers would mention how inconsistent the strike zone has looked (according to PitchTrax, at least) if this were the case. I like this one, because I want to feel bad for the umpires, since they have a tough, thankless job that has been made even tougher and more thankless thanks to new technologies.5

• And then of course there's option C, which is: The announcers don't have HD cameras, and so they do not know about the new PitchTrax technology. This might explain most of Chip Caray's mistakes this postseason, too. This can be rectified before today's game: I just saw an HDTV for sale at my local CVS (really); quick, somebody head to a drugstore in L.A. and get an HD set for the booth!

• Of course, there's also option D, which might be the best of all: Simple incompetence, which is the simplest explanation and the one that is true many situations. This also explains Chip Caray, of course. This one could also get me off the hook if it turns out that the announcers in a series I didn't really pay much attention to -- Angels-Red Sox, for example -- talked about PitchTrax the entire time and about half this post has been moot.

1 I suppose I could make a call or two, but I already told Rob I'd finish this by 2 and it's already 2:30.
2 That PitchTrax demo also has a note that smokeless tobacco isn't harmless tobacco. Thanks, PitchTrax!
3 Warning: Anecdotal evidence. I think it makes sense, though.
4 Also, it'd be great if the pitches were color coded for balls, looking strikes and swinging strikes. I mean, my copy of MVP Baseball 2005 can do this.
5 Still, they could be a little better at it.

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Courtesy of Can't Stop The Bleeding comes this link to Dibble Baseball, the official online store of the 1990 NLCS co-MVP.

Not only does Rob Dibble really have t-shirt design down, he also knows pricing: The t-shirt on the left is $40 (or $65 with Rob's signature), while the baseball jersey on the right is $70 ($95 signed). I once bought the signature of former WWF wrestler Virgil for $20, so I think the Rob Dibble signature price is pretty on the mark.

With their low price point I'm pretty sure these t-shirts are almost sold out, so you might want to snatch some up now. Think nasty!

Who Would Jesus Boo?

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swingingfriar.png I'm sure we've all been to a baseball game where we wished the people around us were a little quieter. There are plenty of boors -- who usually seem to not understand how the game of baseball is played -- who yell stupid, occasionally racist things at the players, other fans, the umpire, whoever. Don't get me wrong: I love a good heckle, and I understand sometimes emotions get the best of you and you curse when you're not supposed to. Just don't be super annoying, non-stop.

That's not to say, though, that I want a baseball game to be like church. Ballpark food is way better than communion wafers (and, depending on how much one tithes, it's cheaper). Second off, you have to kneel at church, you can't yell out anything but "Amen" or "Praise the Lord!" and long sermons are way longer than any break for instant replay would be. But apparently some people, like "Philadelphia Christian Perspectives Examiner" Lisa Small on the always-hilarious Examiner.com, wish baseball were more like church. Apparently Lisa spends a lot of time thinking about Christian perspectives on rooting for the home team, like during her trip to Game 2 of this year's NLDS in Philadelphia:

My mind was being flooded with thoughts about how fanatical these fans were about the Phillies and I wondered how fanatical they are about our God and Creator. Given what I saw, I thought this was a legitimate question. My intention wasn't to criticize or judge anyone but to simply question how long would these fans sit and get excited over a discussion about our Lord?

I know church attendance is down, but I'm still pretty sure Jesus is more popular than baseball. A politician who isn't a fan of baseball could maybe get elected president; a politician who isn't a fan of Jesus would probably be tarred and feathered.

But I think I'm getting off track here. I think the real question is: What does God think about throwing back home run balls from the other team?

Worldly competition contradicts what Jesus teaches. I was taken back when the Colorado Rockies hit a home run and the Phillies fan who caught the ball threw it back onto the field. I questioned my husband about this and asked him why they would do that? He said they do this because they don't want to keep the ball that represents the opposing team's home run. This reaction demonstrated the kind of sportsmanship we breed and even the lack of love, if you want to go deeper into it. Even if the Rockies were our enemies, we are to love them. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, not hate them. I know that hate is a strong word and that many would say they don't hate the opposing team, they are just rooting for theirs. I understand the difference, however, does God differentiate?

I don't know. Isn't God all-knowing and all-powerful? I'm pretty sure an omnipotent creator knows that when I want the umpires to get the calls right at home plate I don't actually hate his guts or want him dead. But maybe she's right, and Chicago Cubs fans will spend an eternity in Hell because they throw home run balls back. This seems like adequate punishment for following the Cubs, actually.

The activity was constant and every second was filled with either a boo, a jump to your feet, making noise, watching the "kiss cam", the "flex cam", being on the "kiss cam" or "flex cam", or waving the rally towel, the symbol of the Fightin' Phils which, by the way, replaced the wave.

I'm not sure how this is un-Christian, but I do think church would be a lot more popular if it had a flex cam and a kiss cam.

A while back Wezen-Ball posted a 1950 article that complained about the new breed of baseball player that didn't care about the team and only played for the money. "One of his greater ambitions in baseball is to endorse a cigarette," Bob Considine wrote in Baseball Digest, "though he might not smoke a pack during an entire season." In other words, the problem was not with endorsing cigarettes, but endorsing cigarettes without even being a smoker.

I think there's some truth to it, though. Endorsements mean a lot more when it's something the celebrity really loves. (In other words: Tony Stewart is right.) Check out the above ad with Ryan Howard and Jared Fogel for Subway. Ryan Howard lost a lot of weight this year, so clearly he's been eating Subway sandwiches instead of Whoppers.

How long will we be seeing Ryan Howard shill sandwiches this postseason? We'll find out a little bit today when the Phillies play the Rockies to open MLB's postseason. Join me at game-time after the jump for liveglog coverage.

lopeztonight.jpg Once again, TBS is televising some of MLB's postseason; this year, TBS has all four divisional series and the NLCS. During the past two postseasons, you may remember, every commercial break had at least one (and sometimes as many as 15) promos for Frank TV, the since-canceled sketch comedy show also airing on TBS. There were so many promos for the show that the Frank TV promos started commenting on the number of Frank TV promos.

This postseason, you won't be annoyed by Frank Caliendo. Now, you might think you'll only be annoyed this postseason by Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Derek Jeter, Billy Wagner, Buck Martinez, Victor Martinez, Tony LaRussa, Vicente Padilla, Jon Corzine and Chris Christie (if you're in New Jersey), the Los Angeles Times sports department, the Baseball Tonight crew and whatever other baseball players you happen to hate personally. But you'll also have to deal with George Lopez. He has a new talk show on TBS, Lopez Tonight, and I'm sure we won't hear the end of it this postseason.

I have nothing against Lopez. I don't know much about him, but he hates Carlos Mencia and was the Choice Comedian at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards1, so how bad could he be? But I've already seen about 50 promos for his show -- including one with Barack Obama, inexplicably -- and I am positive we are going to see plenty of them during the baseball playoffs.

There are only two words to describe this: Very funny.

1 The Choice Celebrity Pet was Bo, the Obamas' Portuguese water dog. Cat Stairs was robbed!

oktoberfest.jpg The original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and featured a big horse race. This year, baseball's Oktoberfest celebrates the eight teams that were skilled enough to keep playing deep into October and, if they're lucky, finish the year with a trophy, a platter of sausages, and an imperial pint of Hofbräu. Next up, the Philadelphia Phillies, as penned by Dan McQuade.

The Philadelphia Phillies don't have the most successful history, exactly. Their first season, top pitcher John Coleman went 12-48. Their second year, their top pitcher went 21-25. The Phillies didn't have a pitcher -- any pitcher -- with a winning record until their third season. The Phils lost 100 straight games for five straight years from 1938-1942. They won their first playoff game in 1915, then didn't win another one until 1977.

Things have been looking up recently. After seven straight losing seasons from 1994-2000, the Phillies have had a winning record in eight of the last nine years. And, of course, they won the World Series last year. Now they've clinched their third straight National League East title, something that seemed unthinkable during the dark days of the late 1990s.

And yet, Phillies fans are not exactly champing at the bit for the postseason. Sure, people are excited -- the Phillies Phillies filled Citizens Bank Park to 102.5 percent of capacity this season -- but listen to talk radio and read the newspapers and you'll see that people are worried. (I mean, you listen to talk radio and read the newspapers. I am certainly not doing that.) What made last year's postseason so surreal was how easy the Phillies coasted through. The Phillies went 11-3 last October, didn't blow any games in the eighth or ninth innings and nobody died during the celebration after the Phils won it all. (Okay, so some cops beat some people and some cars got overturned. Look, for Philadelphia that's pretty good.)

Every Phillies fan can already feel that this year is not going to be like the last. The bullpen is a mess. Last year's perfect closer, Brad Lidge, went 0-8 with 11 blown saves and a 7.34 ERA. Ryan Madson blew six more. J.C. Romero allegedly attacked a Tampa Rays fan and only recently returned from the DL; Brett Myers didn't attack anybody this season but he, too, only recently returned from the injured list. Jamie Moyer had an ERA just under 5.00 and is out for the year. Cole Hamels was just above league average (101 ERA+). Cliff Lee was now statistically better in Cleveland, this after looking unhittable in his first five starts with the Phillies. Even Pedro Martinez and J.A. "Jay" Happ got hurt.

Hitting, too, is questionable. Catcher Carlos Ruiz, fresh off a superb postseason, had a disappointing year; he's been hurt too, leaving the Phillies to use extended periods of Paul Bako -- and even someone allegedly named "Paul Hoover." Jimmy Rollins leads the league in plate appearances and at-bats -- and yet only has an 86 OPS+. Matt Stairs went a month without a hit. Eric Bruntlett is one of the team's pinch hitters. Raul Ibanez had a torrid first half but hasn't been the same player since coming off injury. Yeah, the Phillies can rake, but they're not perfect.

All of this will be covered in my upcoming short play, A Panic in Philadelphia.

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In my fantasy world, the Phillies will steal home field advantage from the Dodgers in the season's last few days, get some revenge for 2007 by sweeping the Rockies, sneak by the Dodgers or Cardinals in 6 then plaster either Boston or New York in the World Series so I can send trash-talking, gloating IMs to both proprietors of this site. ESPN might even pay attention to the Fall Classic this time around (but it was pretty nice when they didn't last season).

For now, though, Phillies fans shall panic.