Your Seattle Mariners--with mixed helpings of optimism and gloom

I think that any fan of the Mariners is currently struggling on how to feel about their team right now.

On the one hand, they've got a winning record. On the other, they've only played 5 (well, 5 and a half if you count that terrible snowy abomination in Cleveland last Friday) with five games being canceled due to weather.

On the one hand, they've had brilliant games by Felix Hernandez and a decent start by Washburn. On the other, all their other starters have looked absolutely terrible.

On the one hand, the offense has found ways to win when the pitching is good. On the other, the team has a collective AVG of .187 and an OBP of .228. Not good numbers.

Geoff Baker has a pretty gloomy blog post that sums up the dire side of things. However, I think he may be jumping to conclusions that we simply can't come to until the Mariners play a few more games and get into a rhythm. I still think Wednesday's game gives fans a lot of reasons to hope: the Mariners got several hard hits against a difficult pitcher. They strung hits together. They took pitches--yes, they only got a couple walk, but I saw patience at the plate, and that's something they've struggled with. Ultimately, I think that while the numbers paint a pretty dim picture of this team, looking at the whole story makes it seem pretty silly to come to any sort of conclusions at this point.

I think the Mariners have a chance to win a series against a not very good Texas team this weekend. And then, they'll be up in the standings with a little breathing room, and who knows what they might come up with.

In the other news, Washburn is a funny guy and I have added him to my "players I like" list.

After yesterday's game got rained out:

Hernandez, who pitched in cold but completely dry weather Wednesday, looked at Washburn and started laughing at the lefty having had his start pushed back until tonight when Texas visits Safeco Field.

Washburn, not to be outdone, said, "Hey, Felix, I didn't give up any hits today."

A little more on the rain:

Washburn tried to make light of his situation.

“I’ve now prepared to face three teams for the same start – that has to be a record,” he said.

Scheduled to pitch in Cleveland, he didn’t. Scheduled to pitch in Boston, he didn’t. Tonight, barring an earthquake or some other natural disaster, he’ll face Texas in Safeco Field.

“The bright side is, they don’t have any recent video of me pitching,” Washburn deadpanned. “I haven’t pitched since April 3.”


Felix Hernandez just threw a one-hitter

The defense was outstanding, Felix was outstanding, the offense stepped up with a little run support. It's a good day to be a Mariners fan.


Daisuke Matsuzaka vs, Felix Hernandez and Ichiro. Boston vs. Seattle. Two young, possibly brilliant pitchers. Two Japanese superstars. Two American League powerhou-- oh, wait. Ok, so one good team and one possibly really bad team. Although it's hard to tell anything about the Mariners at this point after the long layoff and the abomination 14-3 whipping they took yesterday.

Doesn't matter. Tonight's game (on ESPN2 no less!) has the potential to be very interesting. If only because Felix and Ichiro.

And as much as I want our two key guys to go out there and impress in their little matchups--more than that, I want the Mariners to win. And I don't really care how they do it. 1-0 with an Ichiro homer and nothing but terrible hitting from the rest of the guys? Felix blows it but somehow the offense rallies? Those would be ugly wins, but I'll take 'em.

If I can't have a win, I at least hope that Felix can be impressive on the national stage. If the entire team can avoid looking like fools, that would be nice too. I have this hope--and it may be ridiculous--that the Mariners will come out fired up because of the matchup, because of yesterday's terrible game, because of a weekend of sitting around not being able to play.

We'll see what happens tonight.


professional sports players need your hugs: ARod especially

Sorry for the break in posting, I've been busy. And unfortunately, not with sports. Baseball in particular has been frustrating me: the Mariners opened the season with a couple wins, a loss, and then days and days of nothing due to snow in Cleveland. I was so desperate for baseball I was forced to watch the Braves on TBS. Hopefully the Matsusaka/Hernandez match up on Wednesday will make up for drought.

But today I have thoughts on another matter: Alex Rodriguez. In case you haven't been paying attention, A-Rod hit a bottom of the ninth game winning grand slam this weekend. Pretty cool. And as a local sports talk fellow on the radio noted this afternoon, he followed up that performance with another home run on the very first pitch he saw in the next game. This after receiving standing ovation from the Yankees crowd. But this fellow also noted that at his next at bat, Rodriguez popped up with men on base. And the crowd promptly booed him. They booed him! ARod has to do SOMETHING at EVERY SINGLE AT BAT or else he will be booed. Consider how crazy this is in a game where getting a hit one third of the time that you come to the plate is considered very good hitting. It's nuts! It's impossible! It's no wonder that ARod is a borderline nut case who needs a ton of therapy to remain semifunctional, and it's not surprising that he is my first official Sports Guy that Needs a Hug.

Look at him. All pouty and upset with himself after striking out and no doubt being booed strongly by the fans who oughta support him through a tough at bat. But look what happens when you give him a little emotional support!

He hits you home runs and scampers around the basepath like a happy puppy! Isn't that much better? Come on guys, you have one of the premier offensive players in the game today. Is it that hard to get behind one of your players? I know you want him to succeed in the playoffs, but he can't make October come any faster, so why not give him a little support now?

Think of it this way: ARod is like Tinkerbell in the stage version of Peter Pan. In the show, we learn that every time a person says "I don't believe in fairies" a fairy drops down dead. But we also discover that people's belief in fairies can bring them back to life. At one point, Tinkerbell is poisoned and dying, and Peter Pan urges the crowd to clap and say "I DO believe in fairies" and once they do that with enough enthusiasm, Tinkerbell is restored.

So treat ARod like Tinkerbell. Especially if you're a Yankee fan. Because wouldn't you rather he do great things than drop dead?

My girlfriend Jaci happens to be a Yankee fan. I don't like it but part of liking someone is accepting their flaws. We'll be going to the Seattle/Yankees games this May. And while we'll be cheering for separate teams, we've decided that we'll both cheer for Alex Rodriguez. And I urge you, if you should ever find yourself at a Yankee game--no matter what team you're cheering for, give ARod a little love. The man needs all the hugs he can get, stat.


I've done the unthinkable.

I've drafted Wee Willie Bloomquist in my fantasy baseball league.

This may defeat the purpose of a fantasy league, picking a player that I know probably won't be very good. But what can I say? I'll live and die by the Mariners! It'll be great!


Nice little article on ESPN that runs down possible story lines in baseball this season. A nice little primer.

Bring on opening day!

A couple links for your perusal. ESPN has ranked the 122 US professional teams (hockey, basketball, baseball, football) in fan satisfaction. The Seahawks are ranked 13th. The Blazers are 92, right below the Houston Texans (ouch!). The Mariners are 90.

Art Thiel from the Seattle Post-Intelligence breaks down the Mariners rank and the fact that they are ranked near the Red Sox. He provides us with this glum gem:

As far as the Mariners being ranked low with the Red Sox, it's possible that the native New Englander steeped in club tradition is more comfortable with complaint and bitterness. The 2004 championship is over, and Red Sox Nation is back to being fulfilled by disappointment and low expectations.

The Mariners, once irrelevant, then astonishing, are only in the early stages of building a Red Sox-like industry out of consistent futility in pleasant surroundings.

Sounds like fun.

Here's a pretty good article about how spring training has gone for the Mariners.
I'm excited about the new catcher, Jamie Burke. He's from Roseburg, Oregon, 35, and hasn't played much in the big leagues. And he's not the sucking black hole in the lineup named Rene Rivera, so.

Hey, a lady got to umpire a spring training game. Cool.


Sports have been bumming me out. Between the Ducks losing and the Mariners apparently marching towards a miserable season with poor personnel decisions, I haven't had a whole lot to get excited about this week. Three posts from the U.S.S. Mariner blog is the last two days:

Mariners are probably going to bring up Brandon Morrow, a pitcher they drafted last year, to do relief work. Apparently this is a bad idea and may hurt his development as a starter, and that might suck.

A while back they traded away a young, cheap player with great potential for a more expensive, older, less effective player. And now it seems that this new player is basically the sort of player that other teams simply drop from their roster.

And finally, the Mariners got rid of Rivera, a sorry excuse for a backup catcher, but their bench still sucks.

I feel discouraged. But I have a plan! Starting on opening day, I'm going to boycott blogs for a while, just read the Seattle news sites and whatever might be at ESPN or MLB. Because I'm a little tired of the cranky Mariner's nation. And as realistic and statistically reasonable as they may be, I think opening day should be a time for optimism. Blind optimism, even!

On that note (the positive one) my uncle wrote a pretty good column about the Ducks basketball season which helped me put my cranky feelings about that to bed.


re: the Ducks

Ah, well, that's the way sports go. More often than not when you cheer for little guys and little teams and underdogs, you end up cheering for the folks that lose. The Ducks didn't have any quit in them yesterday, which I liked to see, but ultimately they just couldn't get it done.

I go back and forth on the issue of foul trouble and how the game was refereed. It's hard when their big guys seem to get a pass when they throw their weight around the rim, because they're just using their "natural athletic ability" while if your guys show good D in the paint, they get saddled with phantom fouls because how could they stop the unstoppable Gators without fouling?

It's water under the bridge now, but it reminds me why I find basketball so much harder to get into compared to other sports. Basketball has a lot of physical play, and a lot of fouls come on plays where both players are trying to get position and therefore get the foul called on the other. Especially when players are down by the basket, I can never really tell when a foul will be called. When the players don't have the ball there's always plenty of shoving, but who knows when it'll get called. Even when it comes to traveling, a seemingly simple enough rule, there's all the extra steps you can take, the shuffling that sometimes goes unnoticed, and the palming of the ball to consider. It's all very subjective, and since there's very little replay in basketball, the referees just have to go with their guts in a lot of cases.

Football has a lot of physical play and it's share of foul related frustrations, but their implementation of a replay system allows referees to look at some of the closer calls. Which gives fans, coaches, and players a chance at satisfaction, in game, when things are called. That doesn't mean there aren't a few problems: pass interference can be tricky to peg, and it also isn't reviewable; we've all heard that holding could be called on every play; and I still think that if you go up to catch the ball and then someone tackles you so you land out of bounds, you should be out. But because football is a physical game at it's core, you don't get the same trouble that you do in basketball, where referees are trying desperately to draw a line between okay contact and bad contact, and there's a lot of gray area and room for inconsistency.

Baseball doesn't have the problems that come from a contact sport. For the most part, umpires are simply expected to see where the ball goes and tell the players and fans what the call is. The strike zone can change day to day, yes, but the umpires need to be consistent, and the announcers calling the game will generally point out if the umpire has a fluctuating strike zone. So there's consistency and accountability and when I watch the game, there's very few moments where I'm feeling confused and/or angry at the umpires.

In short? I'm glad it's baseball season. I also want to reiterate how pleased I've been with the Ducks this season. It was nice to be able to cheer for a team from my school (I had a hard time cheering for the football team). I also have high expectations for them next year.

Hopefully, Porter will come back more powerful than we could ever imagine. Go little dude--I'll be watching you next year.


I can't stop talking about Tajuan Porter

The headline from the Oregonian reads: Small wonder lifts Ducks.

Yup. Porter got 33 points last night. Oregon was playing sloppy, clearly more able than UNLV but unable to pull away with things. But Porter stepped up and took control of the game just when the team needed him to. He hit eight threes! The little dude was on fire.

Last night's game illustrated why I like this Oregon team so much. I feel like there are a number of players who, when the need arises, can get hot and take over the game. It's not a team with one superstar, it's a team with a lot of solid players who contribute, and several very good players. What this means is that even though the Ducks have failed to blow out their opponents consistently during the tournament, they've still been able to win. They don't need everyone playing perfectly to get things done.

If they do get everyone playing perfectly, well...

Also in the Oregonian, John Canzano directs some of his crankiness towards Florida and the media.

I imagine it's difficult to win a national title, become overnight rock stars and, for an entire calendar year, maintain the same raging intensity it took to get you there. While Florida was playing Butler in one regional semifinal, a UNLV assistant scouting the game, remarked about how difficult it has been to maintain focus with the media and fans bantering about the Rebels' run into the sweet 16 for the last week.

Understand, the Gators have been told how wonderful and imposing and beautiful they are for the past 51 weeks. They've been put on the covers of dozens of magazines. They've been called sure-fire lottery picks. They've been swooned on by cheerleaders, and asked for thousands of autographs, and chased by dozens of salivating agents. And it's become nauseating to everyone, but them.

The Gators have swallowed the thing whole.
Indeed. The Gators looked beatable last night. In fact, all of the higher seeds have looked beatable, in my opinion. And I think the Ducks could be the folks to do the beating.

So come on Gators, bring on the:

because the Ducks have a little bit of:

and they aren't afraid to use it.


Tajuan Porter: the last little guy in the tournament, but first in our hearts

As soon as I saw Tajuan Porter, genuine little guy, go toe to toe with Craig Bradshaw, genuine rugby player, I knew I needed to find a picture of the match-up. Four days later The Register Guard and photographer Thomas Boyd oblige. There's also this excellent article on the little dude.

I may be biased, but I will always find this:

to be more impressive than this:

I have yet to be impressed by any big players. I'm sorry, but if you're made to play basketball, and you earn your bread and butter by backing up into the paint and shooting over people's heads, well, it's good that you stick with what works, but I don't find it exciting and I don't find it impressive. And you sure as heck better make your free throws.

If you've been reading what I've had to say, you know that I love a good story. Porter makes for a great storyline, but he's also a great player. I'll admit, I'd like it if he was short and decent, and only got a little playing time, but the fact that he is so smart on the field, and so capable and such a contributor means he's pretty much my perfect player.

And did I mention he has a twin sister? I'm a twin, so anyone with twins (even the Minnesota Twins) get automatic points with me.

My girlfriend woke up this morning and told me she had a dream where she played for the Knicks with Spike Lee. I told her I've heard that the Knicks are pretty bad, so maybe they'd take her.

Bunch of basketball games today, but we've reached the point in the tournament where there aren't a whole lot of underdogs to cheer for. I'll probably keep cheering for the lower seeds (especially in the Ohio St. game) but ultimately when the teams get to be closely matched, it's not even a matter of who the lower seed is, it's who is actually behind right at this moment. I'm not interested in blowouts, except maybe over number 1 seeds.

An interesting article by Geoff Baker in the Seattle Times today about how tricky it is to evaluate players from their spring training numbers and performance. And an interesting kneejerk response to it at the USS Mariner blog. Apparently those guys can't handle: 1) any use of the word grit in conjunction with the game of baseball 2) any possible suggestion that intangibles might mean something.

Never mind that the article seems to me to be completely in line with the USS Mariner way of thinking, meaning that it takes fans to task for trying to draw ridiculous conclusions based on the small sample of spring training games.

I liked this bit about yesterday's game in particular:

Batista's stats will show he allowed 11 hits and four runs in five innings. They will show how all the runs came in the third inning, along with seven of the hits.

What they won't show is how that inning was prolonged by hit balls, which would have normally resulted in outs, being blown beyond the fielders' reach by the wind. Or accurately portray how Batista somehow adjusted to conditions that initially had his sinker bouncing a foot in front of its target, toughing out two more innings and keeping his team positioned for a comeback.

"It was pretty uncomfortable in the beginning," said Batista, who had to squint to keep the sand from blowing in his eyes.

Hargrove came away impressed by what he won't see in Batista's stats, including an ERA that jumped from 3.00 to 4.50. Plenty of pitchers would not have recovered from Batista's third inning.

It's games and stuff like this that helps make baseball worth watching. Players overcoming difficult situations. Things that have nothing to do with numbers. These things are worth talking about.

One more article: Putz has twins! Just when you think our closer can't get anymore awesome.


The Mariners blog Lookout Landing has the most pessimistic outlook possible regarding the upcoming baseball season. That sound you hear while reading is all the hope you have exiting your body at a high velocity. Thankfully they promise that four more optimistic predictions are upcoming.

To continue with the pessimism: my hero, Kenji Johjima, can't throw people out at second. He is also the subject of this hilarious and unfortunate picture from Monday's game.

Seattle Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima can't handle a bop foul off the bat of Arizona Diamondbacks' Chad Tracy in the second of their spring training baseball game in Peoria, Ariz., Monday, March 19, 2007. Tracy then reached base on an error by Seattle's first baseman Richie Sexson.
(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

There's also been much worry about ace closer Putz and some strange arm stiffness, but so far it seems like there's no need to panic, and that he'll be okay.

I'm learning that a lot of time being a sports fan means choosing between a constant feeling of dread or blind Pollyannaism. It's hard to take the middle of the road and still be passionate and involved. There's no such thing as looking at a team and letting out an enthusiastic "hmm." What's interesting is that a lot of blogs I've been reading lately--particularly those that seem to be particularly interested in statistical analysis--seem in general to take the pessimistic road. I get the sense that they feel that they have a responsibility to be the voice of reason against the eternally optimistic mainstream media.

While on the subject of sports media and what I'm reading lately: I've been reading a lot of Geoff Baker's articles for the Seattle Times as well as his blog on the paper's website. It's interesting to see what a regular reporter does with the blogging media, and what he chooses to talk about in his blog and what he talks about in print. One of the things that I enjoy is the fact that he writes about the spring training games as they happen, meaning I can check in on how the Mariners are doing as soon as I remember that they're playing. He also provides up to the minute info on developing issues, like Putz and his stiff elbow.

Besides the promptness of the updates, the blog also allows Baker to discuss certain issues in more detail then he might in print. Yesterday he wrote this fascinating article about up and coming pitcher Brandon Morrow, and the possibility of using him in the bullpen this year. Baker discusses what he has personally seen in similar situations with other clubs. It's interesting and really helped me understand the Morrow issue in a way that a brief blurb in the paper would not. Baker even edited the article to respond to a user comment.

Basically, Baker uses the blog to give readers more information, faster, in a more informal environment. It's awesome.

Ok, that's enough baseball blather for now. 12 days until the first real live official game of the season.

Upcoming posts I'm planning: more talk about what makes me like teams--particularly what sort of strategies and tactics I find appealing in all sports; talk about the sweet sixteen in NCAA basketball; and photographic proof that my house has been infiltrated by Yankees fans.


I've learned a couple things the last couple of days:

1. Brackets are stupid. I stopped caring about my brackets as soon as Friday came along I started to think that North Texas could beat Memphis and Texas A&M Corpus Christi could beat Wisconsin. When I saw that the Miami (Ohio) coach was a wearing an ill-fitting turtle neck and was losing his hair I found myself halfway rooting for them against the Ducks. And yesterday, well, almost every single game yesterday had moments where it seemed that the higher seed might pull off an upset, and believe me, I was cheering for the little bracket busters every time.

2. I think my dad is right when he calls me an albatross for teams (meaning I cheer for losers). I don't know if they lose because I cheer for them, or if some sad little part of me cheers for them because I know they'll lose. But oh, did yesterday hurt. Xavier, VCU, MSU, Boston College? You guys broke my heart. The one game where I wasn't cheering for the upset (WSU vs. Vanderbilt) I still ended up cheering for the loser!

2. a) Hey, how cool is it that CBS is posting highlights of the games on YouTube? It's a good way to generate interest and it means I get to link you all to some video content. We're working with all media here! How fancy.

3. Ducks are playing this afternoon, and even though they looked a little sluggish in the first round, I'm hopeful that they can get their stuff together for the game today. The optimist in me thinks that it was a good sign that they could grind out a game against a tough lower seed, even though they never caught fire and pulled away. It shows maturity and a willingness to suck it up and deal even if the shots aren't falling at first. Of course, I expect the most likely way of things today will be a big Winthrop upset (which I can't really enjoy because I'm cheering for Oregon) and a sweep of the underdogs in the other games.

Hopefully the underdogs will at least get my hopes up by playing tough. That way it will be more discouraging when they blow it in the end. Woohoo! Let the Madness continue!


Duke flops (but they flop with class and poise)

Paulus, according to some you may be quarterback like in your playing ability (and your ability to make announcers drool) but you really should be playing soccer.

As we speak, Texas A&M Corpus Christi is shutting out Wisconsin, Winthrop is beating Notre Dame, and Long Beach State is within 7 of Tennessee. I'm betting we get at least another upset before the day is through. Let's just hope that Oregon isn't on the end of it!


welcome to March

My girlfriend and I were making pad thai in preparations of the NCAA games and the first televised Mariners game of spring training. We chopped up vegetables, including some hot peppers, for the food, and then went into the TV room to watch the Duke/VCU game. Duke is leading, but VCU looks good and determined. I'm getting excited. Jaci is reading the paper. At one point, Jaci leaves the room. And in a few minutes, I hear her say, "Mary, can you come here?"

The hot pepper? Yeah, she had washed her hands after doing the chopping, but I guess it wasn't enough because her eye was puffing up--near as I could tell, most of the time she was running it under water. She wanted my help, but I wasn't sure what to do, so I googled "hot pepper in eye" and panicked. Some of the articles were saying things like "pain can last for hours" and "go to the ER if severe pain persists." Finally, I found a more viable option: aloe vera.

"Do you want me to go get some lotion from the store?" I ask Jaci. Her head is still in the sink. She nods.

I poke my head into the TV room. The game is tied. I race out to the car and turn on the radio. VCU is battling. When I get to the store there are two minutes left and a time out has been called. I get a parking spot close to the store and walk quickly inside and find several bottles that say "aloe vera" on them, although some describe themselves as lotions, others are labeled balms, and a few are gels. I pick two and go towards the check out lines and my heart sinks. The lines are long, the express line is the longest. I pick a line that looks fast, but one of the fellows has a long discussion with the clerk about whether he can get cash back from a check. I resign myself to missing the game.

But then! I get to the front of the line! I pay for the lotions! I scamper to the car and turn the radio on and VCU is leading with 16 seconds left! One of their players sinks a three throw and the announcer says in a shaky voice "the crowd on their feet--if you can believe it--cheering against Duke!" and I pump my fist and say "that's right!"and I drive home while listening to VCU upset Duke!

It's a good day to be a Duke hater.

When I got home, Jaci was ok, and the stuff I got her helped even further. She's feeling good, the good guys won the game, and now I'm watching baseball and Weaver may have given up a home run, but hey, it's baseball, I'm not real picky about what they do at this point.


The Mariners have released their television commercials today. Good for a laugh. One of my readers noted that Ichiro should consider pitching since he throws strikes from the outfield. Guess he's one step ahead of Seattle's advertising agency.

The first televised Mariners game is tomorrow.

I'm still preparing several brackets for the NCAA tournament, but I'll tell you how the final will go on my ultimate Oregon homer bracket. Oregon, UCLA, Tarheels, and Ohio State in the final four, Ohio State and Oregon in the finals. Little guys and seniors vs. huge one-and-done players who can't wait to get to the NBA. And of course, in my dreams, the little guys win.


Initial predictions and hopes for the NCAA tournament

The teams are selected. The brackets are set. I'm excited. Here are my initial thoughts on the NCAA tournament, and my uninformed and unrealistic predictions. I'll post my full bracket sometime later this week.


No. 1 Florida (29-5) vs. No. 16 Jackson State (21-13)
No. 8 Arizona (20-10) vs. No. 9 Purdue (21-11)

No. 5 Butler (27-6) vs. No. 12 Old Dominion (24-8)
No. 4 Maryland (24-8) vs. No. 13 Davidson (29-4)

No. 6 Notre Dame (24-7) vs. No. 11 Winthrop (28-4)
No. 3 Oregon (26-7) vs. No. 14 Miami (Ohio) (18-14)

No. 7 UNLV (28-6) vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech (20-11)
No. 2 Wisconsin (29-5) vs. No. 15. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (26-6)

This is the region I'm the most interested in, for obvious reasons. I have a couple different ideas about how this should play out. Ideally, I'd love to see University of Oregon stay hot after their Pac-10 tournament win. They get a satisfying win against Notre Dame, and play out of their minds to beat favored Wisconsin and make it to the elite eight. They play well against Florida, and even though they lose, they win the respect of the nation and cast off their reputation for choking.

Homer pick aside, I'd also like to see Winthrop and Maryland make a splash. Maryland upsets Florida (who seem to have the potential to collapse). Winthrop pulls off a first round and then beats an overconfident Oregon team. I also wouldn't mind seeing Wisconsin come into the tournament with renewed investment after the loss to Ohio State today.

West Region:

No. 1 Kansas (30-4) vs. No. 16 Florida A&M-Niagara winner
No. 8 Kentucky (21-11) vs. No. 9 Villanova (22-10)

No. 5 Virginia Tech (21-11) vs. No. 12 Illinois (23-11)
No. 4 Southern Illinois (27-6) vs. No. 13 Holy Cross (25-8)

No. 6 Duke (22-10) vs. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth (27-6)
No. 3 Pittsburgh (27-7) vs. No. 14 Wright State (23-9)

No. 7 Indiana (20-10) vs. No. 10 Gonzaga (23-10)
No. 2 UCLA (26-5) vs. No. 15. Weber State (20-11)

My main preferences for this region: Duke goes out in the first round, and Gonzaga beats UCLA. Pac-10 loyalties aside, I'm not a fan of UCLA. The only way they'll get my support is if they play Duke in the third round.

East Region:

No. 1 North Carolina (28-6) vs. No. 16 Eastern Kentucky (21-11)
No. 8 Marquette (24-9) vs. No. 9 Michigan State (22-11)

No. 5 USC (23-11) vs. No. 12 Arkansas (21-13)
No. 4 Texas (24-9) vs. No. 13 New Mexico State (25-8)

No. 6 Vanderbilt (20-11) vs. No. 11 George Washington (23-8)
No. 3 Washington State (25-7) vs. No. 14 Oral Roberts (23-10)

No. 7 Boston College (20-11) vs. No. 10 Texas Tech (21-12)
No. 2 Georgetown (26-6) vs. No. 15 Belmont (23-9)

What I want: for someone, anyone to beat North Carolina. Washington State and USC make statements, one or both make it to the sweet sixteen. At the very least, Georgetown beats UNC.

South Region:

No. 1 Ohio State (30-3) vs. No. 16 Central Connecticut State (22-11)
No. 8 BYU (25-8) vs. No. 9 Xavier (24-8)

No. 5 Tennessee (22-10) vs. No. 12 Long Beach State (24-7)
No. 4 Virginia (20-10) vs. No. 13 Albany (23-9)

No. 6 Louisville (23-9) vs. No. 11 Stanford (18-12)
No. 3 Texas A&M (25-6) vs. No. 14 Penn (22-8)

No. 7 Nevada (28-4) vs. No. 10 Creighton (22-10)
No. 2 Memphis (30-3) vs. No. 15. North Texas (23-10)

Oh heck, what do I want to happen here. Well, I want Stanford to win a few and get some cred for the Pac-10. Beyond that: go low seeds! Assert yourselves! Gain my interest!

Tory, My friend from Syracuse is all torn up because of their snub, but in her anger dissed the Pac-10. And I can't allow that. I've watched the Pac-10 (and other west coast conferences) get consistently screwed by the NCAA. It's about time they give us a little respect.

I think the Pac-10 has a good chance to rack up more wins that the Big East this year. I certainly hope they take that opportunity so I can give Tory a little hell.


The List:: who to cheer for

Folks, it's that magical time of the year when college basketball is actually exciting. Basketball is a weird sport. It's fairly fast paced, and yet regular season pro and college games put me to sleep. On the other hand, I think it's one of the most exciting games to watch when everything is on the line for the teams.

Of course, half the fun is getting invested in the games. But when the field starts with 64, how do you choose who to cheer for? I think we all have a list. I think we have a set of guidelines that we mentally review as we settle down on the couch and get ready to watch. Here are my cheering guidelines for the NCAA tournament this year:

1. Cheer for the underdog. I have to admit, this rule will often trump all other rules and loyalties. This may be why I'm often such a disappointed fan--I set myself up for failure by cheering for the guys that will probably lose. On the other hand, when the you've been rooting for wins, there's nothing better. I don't understand people that only cheer for powerhouses. With so little risk, how good can the rewards be?

2. Cheer for the University of Oregon. I'm not bound to my school--in football, I got so sick of the Ducks and their weak efforts that I actively cheered against them. But I like this basketball team. You see, we have this Tajaun Porter.

He's 5'6", he's a scrappy point guard. I'm little and scrappy myself. It's impossible for me to NOT cheer for little guys.

3. Cheer for Syracuse. Does this mean I'm breaking my first rule? I have a very good friend who's a rabid Orange fan, so I mostly cheer out of loyalty for her.

4. Cheer for the PAC-10. West coast pride, baby.

5. Cheer for whoever is playing UNC. I hate the TarHeels in every sport, no exception.

6. Cheer for Michigan and Wisconsin teams. If there are no underdogs available to me, I often cheer for teams from regions like that I like. See rule number 4.

7. Cheer for Maryland. Why? They're turtles. That's awesome. 'Nuff said.

8. Cheer for whoever is behind. Come on boys! In the end, I'm not real concerned with who wins and who loses. I just want to see them make a game of it!


help us Kenji Johjima, you're our only hope

I love Kenji Johjima.

In general, I think I like catchers. Maybe it's because my brother was a catcher when he played ball. Maybe it's because I like it when the catcher goes out to pat the pitcher on the shoulder and calm 'em down. Maybe I like the gear. But I like catchers, and I like offensive minded catchers in particular. I grew up liking Mike Piazza. I like that Mauer fellow who's playing for the twins. And I like Johjima, and the fact that instead of groaning and hiding when he comes up to bat, I get excited (and yes, I'm looking at you Rene Rivera).

Kenji was on the front page of Yahoo sports the other day, and I was happy to see him getting a bit of national press. The article suggests that with the Mariners rather questionable pitching moves this off season, Johjima will need to play a huge roll on the team.

Johjima must learn to read the ball coming out of Weaver's dozen arm angles, to keep Batista from imploding when he gets wild, to draw something out of Ramirez, because 248 strikeouts in 521 1/3 innings just doesn't cut it.


Johjima, though only in his second year in Seattle, is one of the things on which the ever-changing Mariners can rely. His 147 hits last season set an American League record for rookie catchers, and his .291 batting average, 18 home runs, 76 RBIs and .783 on-base-plus-slugging were top seven among big-league catchers.

Hey, a guy who can hit, on the Mariners? Please, can we keep him, pleeease?

Johjima also recently did a chat/interview thing at ESPN. He sounds like a friendly, funny guy, who approaches the game meticulously. I couldn't ask for a better personality on a team I'm cheering for.

One final goodie for you: Ichiro and Johjima share a wonderful, magical moment.


Computer troubles mean that there will be a brief break in the blogging (and sadly, baseball, since I have to listen to the games on the internet). But don't fear--I'm not dead yet.

My laptop, on the other hand...


I read Batista's book, The Avenger of Blood

It was not what I expected.

If you've been keeping an eye on Mariners news, you know that Miguel Batista has written a novel about a teenage serial killer and what happens to him in the justice system. He says that he wrote the novel to pose these questions "what exactly is an `insane' person? And, how can we quantify a criminal mind?"

Interesting stuff, right? A psychological thriller. An exploration of the justice system. Sounds like it has the potential to be an interesting little book, wouldn’t you say?

But the articles are misleading. This book is not about criminal insanity. You see, the premise isn’t really that the teenage serial killer might be insane. The premise is, the teenage serial killer is possessed by an angel who makes him kill bad people. Yes, literally possessed by an angel.

Thomas was floating in the air, just above his bed, with his arms spread open in a cross, his hands covered in blood. A strong wind came in through the open windows, making it hard to see. His eyes were a ghostly white, like salt, and a very intense light glowed around his head, lighting up the room. A huge pair of white wings sprouted from his back.

So, not so much a psychological thriller.

It appears that Batista tries to make a point about faith—mostly that prayer will save you from scary angels, I guess. I felt that the most interesting aspect of the plot (how does the justice system react to the supernatural) was not explored fully or realistically. Morals were not explored. The nature of the creature possessing Thomas was never questioned.

The priest (who quotes so many secret facts from the Bible you’d think he came straight out of The DaVinci Code) shows up, says “hey, it’s an angel killing wicked people, it’s cool” and everyone accepts it. The defense attorney for Thomas never doubts that the boy is innocent at heart. People in this book believe what they believe. They don’t question their feelings and they certainly don’t change over the course of the novel. Again, I guess Batista is trying to say something about faith here, but I think it makes for a very poor story.

In the end, it’s a quick, vaguely interesting read, but I didn’t like it. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been expecting a straight crime story coming into it.

Oh, and Batista uses too many ellipses. Every other bit of dialogue… Can’t these people finish their sentences without trailing off!

There was one bright spot in the novel:

TJ bent down to pick up his cap, brushing it off against his leg. Standing up straight, he said proudly, “You don’t know anything about basketball, Los Angeles has the best player in the whole NBA, and that’s Shaquille O’Neal.”

Marcos put his arm around the boy’s shoulder, replying, “Only a team like the Lakers would dare to pay so much money to someone who can’t even sink a free throw.”

What can I say? I can’t completely dislike a book that takes the time to diss the Lakers. I give it two stars out of five.


This afternoon I listened to the Mariners vs. Padres exhibition game on the radio. I've missed the sound of baseball. Mariners lost, but they're throwing so many scrubs into the game it's hard to make any sort of evaluations of the team.

from the AP

That's Willie Bloomquist being slightly suggestive. Willie got the first RBI of the season. He also got caught stealing. Seems to me that this afternoon summed up WFB's career rather aptly. The man can't do anything right without screwing up at the next opportunity.

Some good news: I received a copy of Miguel Batista's novel today. Watch this space for an in depth review! I know you're all just dying to know how good of a writer this guy is.


I'm actually kind of excited about the Mariners pitching staff. My excitement is not based on any sort of objective assessment of the players, but that's because I've gotten a sense that object analysis might leave me feeling slightly less optimistic.

Let's have a look at the highlights of the rotation.

Félix Hernández. King Felix. Three months younger than me, but somehow has managed to become the future savior of the Mariners. Kind of makes a girl feel like she should do something with her life. Anyway. He lost a little weight this off-season which I think speaks well for his work ethic. I want him to crush all the go before him. Honestly, I just want a legitimate ace in our rotation. Please hit your stride Mr. Hernández, I'd appreciate it very much.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that you heard that Jeff Weaver is a terrible pitcher. But stop. Look at him. Look at his hair. He has a mullet. Do you remember the last Mariner's pitcher to have a mullet? Think hard. You remember that tall, funny looking guy called Randy Johnson? I predict that Jeff Weaver is going to have a career year, surprising fans across the nation. As long as he doesn't get a hair cut.

I don't know yet if Miguel Batista is a good pitcher, but I do know that the dude writes mysteries and poetry in his spare time. Playing baseball and writing books--he's truly living dream. Here's hoping his pitching is good enough to help the Mariners.

In other news, the first Mariners spring training game is tomorrow. I'm so excited that I occasionally do little dances while I walk around the house. Baseball, I missed you.


the fate of women's soccer in the USA... looks good!


Women's professional soccer is coming back to the US.

Still no team in the Northwest (because we don't have a MLS team of our own) but beggars can't choose.

Women's soccer was the first sport I cared passionately about. I'm ecstatic.

why can't baseball fans just get along?

There is a war going on in baseball.

Either you are a proponent of new statistics that have been devised to help explain the game of baseball. Or else you think they're ridiculous.

Nowhere have I seen this battle more directly laid out than at this post at Fire Joe Morgan (a blog that critiques bad sports writing and loves their stats). Go read it. Marvel at the levels of anger that the two sides have for each other. If you're me, you might wonder why these people get so hot under the collar about people looking at the game differently than they do.

The issue in that particular article is stats like VORP which stands for value over replacement player. Now, I'm not sure how exactly it's calculated, but the idea is that you can use it to judge how much better a player is than the "readily available talent" meaning the cheap players you could pick up from anywhere at any time.

VORP and other stats are a part of a practice called sabermetrics, which is defined as
"the analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics." I've read a lot of grumbling that Sabermetrics take the human element out of the game, that good scouts "just know" when they've found a special player. and that many of them have a certain something about them that can't be measured by numbers. Intangibles. I don't know. For me, it's hard to listen to a lot older folks grumble about newfangled technology and not think that they're just scared.

This is how I handle stats like VORP. I think that they give me new perspective on players, but since I don't have a good understanding of the equations behind the most complicated stats, they can't be the only tool I'm using. But I fail to understand why having more perspectives could be a bad thing when it comes to enjoying the game. As a new sports fan, one thing seems clear to me--the more I learn about a sport, the more I enjoy watching it.


The evidence keeps piling up that I may be more of an Oregon State fan more than a University of Oregon fan. What's going on here? According to this:

The pyramid play, used in blocking kicks, originated as a prank at an OAC football practice, according to Bill Tomsheck, a player on the 1933 football team.


The play consisted of hoisting the 6'5" center, Clyde Devine, onto the shoulders of 6'2" tackles Harry Fields and Ade Schwammel, from which point he could reach out and knock down any ball headed for the goal posts.

The first official use of the play was successfully executed against the University of Oregon


The Pyramid was banned by the NCAA rules committee within a year.

I would love to see this in games. You sacrifice your ability to guard against a fake kick, but you have a great chance at blocking the kick. Why the heck not?

let's talk about local boys

Here’s one of the big problems in sports: do you want to like your team, or do you want them to win?

Of course the answer is that you want both of those things. But sometimes it seems impossible for teams to have it all.

Take the Blazers—after the disastrous Jailblazers era, the team has taken to acquiring “character players.” Nice guys, preferably with local connections. Brandon Roy is from Washington. Ime Udoka grew up in Portland. They recently traded for Fred Jones, who went to school here in Eugene. [edit: my sources note that Dan Dickau and Martell Webster are from the northwest as well].

Just because these players are local doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. Udoka has been one of the more consistent players for the Blazers this season. And he can play defense! I hear Fred Jones can also play defense, and let me tell you, that’s something I’d love to see more of on this team. And Brandon Roy is a playmaker. He may be a rookie, but I think he can help lead this team.

But the question remains: could the Blazers be more effective if they weren’t so concerned about character? The Pistons, who have been extremely successful the last couple years, have been an example of a team full of jerks that does well for itself.


I feel very strongly that storylines are important to sports. And that means you need two things—you need characters and you need conflict. That’s why I can’t always take stat guys completely seriously when they breakdown and analyze the numbers. We have a completely different point of view, a completely different way of looking at the games in front of us.

However, just because you need characters doesn’t mean they need to be good. Antiheros can have great stories. But the stories I like the best are the classics: The underdog beats huge odds. The good guys win. The person no one expected to succeed becomes a hero. How else could I cheer for teams from the northwest unless I loved watching the underappreciated struggle for respect?

Getting character guys definitely helps draw my attention. And I do like watching local boys succeed. There was nothing sweeter than watching the OSU Beavers baseball team become national champions, partly because nearly all the players were Oregonians. They represented an entire state. And that makes the story better, stronger, and more satisfying.

If you ask me, the Blazers can keep adding local boys. I just hope that they can be characters in a triumphant script, rather than a bittersweet tragedy.


Ichiro fancypants

Who is Ichiro, and why do Mariners fans love him? He is the calm zen master of our outfield. He is is our most consistent hitter.

He wears fancy pants.

photo from the AP/Elaine Thompson

Current speculation is that Ichiro might leave us next year, possibly for the hated Yankees. Maybe it's time for the team to move on, and for Ichiro to join a team that might actually win something. But I hope he stays. And that he continues to talk in riddles and wear pink.

photo from the AP/Elaine Thompson



The first thing that needs to be established by a Mariner fan is how she feels about one Willie Bloomquist, affectionately known as Willie F-ing Bloomquist (WFB) by the some in the Mariner community. Some fans think he’s great, some fans hate him. What’s his deal?

WFB is a utility player. He can play most positions on the field and he has speed, which means that he’s a useful fellow to keep on the bench in case someone gets hurt or you need a pinch runner. He doesn’t hit very well, however. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, sort of.

The fans that love Willie love him because he’s local and scrappy. They think he’s the best utility player in baseball. Some of them want him to be a starter.

The fans that hate him think that he gets too much money and too many at bats. The U.S.S . Mariner has this to say about WFB:

The problem is that what he offers the team could easily be replaced by any number of minor league players; that he gets so much irrational love from the team, the media and fans due to his local ties; and because of the dramatic divide between the playing time his skills merit and the playing time he actually gets/people want him to get.

That seems pretty reasonable to me.

Take a look at this article in The News Tribune. Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi calls Willie “an old-fashioned red-ass” (what does that EVEN MEAN?) and the article goes on to say he has “a rage to play.”

Bloomquist himself has a lot to say:

“I hate losing. I hate failing. Beat me today, and I’ll try to find a way to beat you tomorrow. I’ve had guys come to me and say I should settle down a little more.

That’s not how I’m made.”

‘If I’m going to be a utility player, then I’m going to be the best utility player, that’s how I look at the job. Every day, I take ground balls at one position or another. During batting practice, I play the outfield.

And every day, I try to find one way to beat you.”

Is he a jerk, or just fired up about his job? I think that's merely a matter of opinion. I think it's a fine attitude for a player to have.

Here's my official position. Willie’s an interesting fellow. Sometimes seeing him at the plate fills me with dread, but I like following his story. And I love it when he does succeed at the plate, not just because it helps the team, but because I think it's funny how uncomfortable it makes the people who don't care for him at all.


What can I say? I’m a girl who loves sports, and I want to throw my hat into the ring of public opinion on such things.

Right now it’s mostly baseball here, but I reserve the right to talk about any and all sports, including basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and curling. Sometimes, I may talk about women who play sports. Don’t be alarmed.

I have strong Northwest and underdog biases. If a team is either from the Pacific Northwest or the middle of nowhere I’ll cheer for them on principle. Can you guess what my principle regarding east coast teams might be?

In any case, let’s get to it.