Frustration: The Weekend’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 3rd, 2010 by Dan

It's Blooper!

I did a search for "blooper" in Flickr to express my frustration and this unexpectedly came up. Not what I had in mind, but it relieves some of the stress.

My PS3 decided to stop reading discs correctly for the second time in its lifespan, temporarily halting my video game NPB season with the Carp just about to widen the gap between third and fourth by beating the Swallows. Hopefully I get the system back before next week, but it’s leaving me at a loss for stuff to play this week. Looks like L4D2 and Sam & Max will be getting my attention.

30 April

Chunichi Dragons (0) at Hiroshima Carp (9). Nothing like a solid, blowout, shutout win to get the weekend started.

Orix Buffaloes (1) at Rakuten Eagles (2). Winning the close ones is key. Rakuten’s weekend rotation is among the strongest in the NPB, so it’s nice to see them get wins.

Boston Red Sox (4) at Baltimore Orioles (5). The only thing better than the Sox losing to the Orioles in a game is being there in person to witness it (which I was).

Washington Nationals (7) at Florida Marlins (1). What happened Ricky?

Kansas City Royals (3) at Tampa Bay Rays (2). Probably the only time all year KC’s bullpen will outduel anyone. There’s a reason Maddon is riding the starters hard in Tampa. Still, it was a strong effort by Jeff Niemann, yet again.

1 May

Dragons (12) at Carp (6). Chunichi gives back as hard as it took.

Buffaloes (1) at Eagles (2). Two nights in a row!

Royals (4) at Rays (2). Another late inning loss despite solid pitching by David Price.

Red Sox (9) at Orioles (12). Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first start back doesn’t go quite like he hoped, giving up six earned (seven total).

Nationals (1) at Marlins (7). This is what I like to see. Way to go Volstad, who throws a complete game gem against the Nats and finally gets his stuff together this season.

2 May

Buffaloes (2) at Eagles (3). Whoa! Series sweep! This puts the Eagles tied for fourth with their 15-19-0 record!

Dragons (3) at Carp (4). Hiroshima takes the rubber game and holds on for the series win. 13-18-0 has them a game behind Yokohama and half a game up on the Swallows.

Nationals (3) at Marlins (9). Another solid win for Josh Johnson who was not as sharp as last time, but sharp enough. Both Florida and Washington end their weekend at 13-12, tied for third, 1.5 back from first.

Red Sox (2) at Orioles (3). Another sweep for the weekend. These three wins put Baltimore at 7-18. They’re still in last, but now they’re only 9.5 games back.

Royals (0) at Rays (1). An old fashioned pitching duel between Greinke and Davis ends with Wade on top. The Rays go into this week still in first with an 18-7 record and a 1.5 game lead.

World and Japan Series Results [WMQ]
Nov 18th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

It’s all old news by now, but the World Series champions for this year were the New York Yankees. Powered by a ridiculous performance by Hideki Matsui, the Yanks pulled far ahead early in the game as Matsui clobbered anything Pedro Martinez threw at him. It wasn’t a massacre, but it wasn’t pretty either.

World Series Time-Lapse by Robert Caplin from Robert Caplin on Vimeo.

Across the pond (the other pond…the one to the west), there was much disappointment to be had too. Not wanting to be left out, the Giants ended their drought (since 2002) and won their 21st Japan Series title (NOTE: Yankees are on their 27th). In the end, Darvish didn’t get to pitch again, but that’s probably a good thing for his health.

The NPB also had its amateur draft happen and my beloved Carp got themselves some great talent. Top pick, Yusei Kikuchi, selected by six teams, went to the Seibu Lions via lottery, continuing the trend of fantastic pitchers headed to Saitama started by Daisuke Matsuzaka. Whether or not he will make an impact remains to be seen, but expect to see him starting the season off in Ni-gun (that’s their AAA) and pitching in the NPB next year. He may not pitch as fast as Strasburg, but I have a feeling both will end up on a professional roster before year’s end.

Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part VII: i believe lions [II]
Oct 1st, 2009 by Dan

i believe lions was printed on the interior of the Lions jersey I bought.

"i believe lions" was printed on the interior of the Lions jersey I bought.

After an intense and draining day, it was finally time to get back to Tokyo for the last leg of the main tour and to catch some more baseball action!

It’s hard not to love Hiroshima and the ChÅ«goku region in general. Nowhere else in Japan did I see such devotion to a baseball team as I did in ChÅ«goku. Convenience stores in both the smallest regional stations and the largest Shinkansen stations sell Hiroshima Carp tea, Hiroshima Carp trinkets, and even Hiroshima Carp onigiri.

I bought Hiroshima Carp-themed food as often as possible. Gotta support my favorite team!

I bought Hiroshima Carp-themed food as often as possible. Gotta support my favorite team!

The city had to pull itself out of extreme tragedy and I don’t think you can fault a place whose mayor personally sends a letter of protest in response to every single nuclear test that its known about since the city was reestablished. Tokyo has excitement, Kyoto has history, but Hiroshima seems to have a lot of heart and I dig that.

Unfortunately, Hiroshima is far from Tokyo, so most of our day was eaten up by a bullet train back.

When asked why he slept all the way back, Dave responded There was no action.

When asked why he slept through the whole train ride, Dave responded, "There was no action."

Have I mentioned that all shinkansen have snack carts that sell bentos, snacks, and drinks throughout the trip or that they’re punctual to a fault? Other than that, there’s not much to say. We got back to Tokyo, put our stuff down, had a bite to eat, and then began our journey to the Seibu Dome to see the Saitama Seibu Lions play.

I don’t know if I’ve talked about this before, but the most fundamental difference between Japanese baseball teams and American teams has got to be the corporate ownership. Sure, there are teams in America who have corporate shareholders or who are fully owned by a company, but I think that the culture is geared more toward a single owner, like George Steinbrenner, for example, rather than huge companies.

If you hadn’t guessed, it’s the opposite in Japan. The naming convention for most teams goes City/Area Name of Origin, Company Name, Team Name. So, in the case of the Lions, you have the city they’re in, Saitama, the company that runs them, Seibu, and the team name, Lions. It’s kind of complicated and it’s interesting that in most cases (the Carp excluded), the city gets left out and gets marginal billing. If you’ve heard of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, chances are you didn’t even know they were in Hokkaido, just that they were owned by Nippon-Ham (which consequently meant they had a funny name).

Why do I mention this? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, it was really seeming like none of the teams had any identity in their hometown. Sure, there was Tokyo Dome City for the Giants, but the area not immediately surrounding the stadium had almost no reference to the fact that the Giants played there.

All that changed when I noticed a lone sign in the train station on the way to the Seibu Dome.

Its not anywhere near as dirty as it sounds.

It's not anywhere near as dirty as it sounds.

Finally! A poster representing the team we were going to see! Cryptic, bizarre, and slightly sexual message notwithstanding (explanation to follow), here was evidence that someone in Saitama loved the Lions.

The illusion came crashing down when I remembered one key fact: I was about to board a train on the Seibu line. While they’re certainly not the only team to own a private rail line that stopped at its stadium, Seibu was cheating, at least in terms of what I was looking for. Of course the company that owns the baseball team is going to advertise its team on the train that will eventually lead to its stadium. So, again, unlike Hiroshima, this was not a region that clearly adored its team, with decent reason, I suppose. Tokyo is a complicated city to love a team in, considering that there are four teams within a reasonable distance to root for (and most root for the Giants).

Now to address the poster. The playoff series in Japan is called the Climax Series. It makes sense when you think of the definition of climax, but it’s one of those things that you’d never see in the states without eliciting laughter (like when they tried to bring Calpis (read it aloud) to the states). The Climax Series is also unique in that, unlike the way it’s done in the states, it has only three teams competing in each league. The first place team gets a bye while the second and third slog it out in a best of 3. The next stage is a best of seven, but the first place team starts off with one win to reward their excellent play in the regular season. After that they play the Japan Series, which is the Japanese version of the World Series (also best of seven, but with no advantages).

On the Seibu line, we met some fellow baseball fans en route to the park. One of the fans was so devoted to the Lions that she had her toenails painted blue to show her support. The other girl was a closet Fighters fan who loved Yu Darvish, but explained that he just came off the DL, so he wouldn’t be pitching in that night’s game.

Save it for the athletic center!

Save it for the athletic center!

Much like Skymark Stadium, the Seibu Dome stop was immediately adjacent to the Seibu Dome (how about that?), but the area was better decorated to reference the team with shops, stands, and blue Christmas lights.

The Seibu Dome...or is it?

The Seibu Dome...or is it?

Dave and I wandered the area, taking in the sights, and I picked up a nice Lions jersey. While the quality was great, it turns out that the team is sponsored by Nike, meaning the jersey was a bit pricier than I had hoped. Another strange aspect of the jersey (beyond the “i believe lions” printed on the inside of the button flap) was that the armpits had “holes.” Maybe they were intended to allow better air circulation, but they’re just confusing and uncomfortable and it means you must wear an undershirt with the jersey, unless you want hair poking out of your underarms.

The Lions recognize good talent when they see it. Dave and I were immediately drafted onto the roster when we arrived.

The Lions recognize good talent when they see it. Dave and I were immediately drafted onto the roster when we arrived.

If you were paying attention to the captions, you’ll notice that I implied that the Seibu Dome was not actually a dome, and that’s with good reason. Instead of the hermetically-sealed, ears-pop-when-you-enter style dome that I experienced in Tokyo, this “dome” was simply a covering that went over the field. It was more like an umbrella than a dome. The stadium was open-air, more or less, aside from the non-retractable roof. This creates an interesting effect, according to a fellow tourgoer who lives on Yakota AFB and has adopted the Lions as his team, where the climate control performs terribly. On cold days, it’s unbearably cold while the real scorchers just feel even hotter underneath the canopy.

If you look closely, you can see the outside!

If you look closely, you can see the outside!

The Seibu Dome is a bizarre stadium construction, without a doubt. It feels more like a college ballpark or something you’d watch a dolphin show at Sea World in than a real baseball stadium, but that makes more sense when some context about the team is made clearer. Up until the Lions got 50 M$ (I believe (lions) that’s the figure) for posting Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Boston Red Sox, the teams financial situation had been relatively dire. It’s only natural that the ballpark be so strange when it was open air at first (no doubt cost considerations went into that) and that it not be converted to a real dome when the canopy was deemed necessary. That’s really part of the charm of baseball, when you think about it. The game is played with a standard set of rules in considerably non-standard locations.

Posing for a shot with Dave.

Posing for a shot with Dave.

Frequent readers know I really don’t like dome baseball, but the Dome brings the best of both worlds, to the degree that one can have such a thing, by doing neither very well. I’d still prefer the pure, unhindered air on my face, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as the Tokyo Dome, so I can’t complain too much.

Hanging with the Colonel.

Hanging with the Colonel.

The start of the game heralded in something I’d yet to see in three Japanese baseball games, the Japanese national anthem. Jet lag may have prevented me from noticing at the first ballgame, but I quickly caught on to the fact that there didn’t seem to be a requirement to play the anthem before the game in these parts. I learned that the Japanese have a short national anthem too and that they seem to have different people come out and sing at each game, just like the ballparks in the states.

They may not play their national anthem, but they do have cheerleaders and beer girls.

They may not play their national anthem, but they do have cheerleaders and beer girls.

Much like Skymark Stadium, the Seibu Dome seemed to be pretty empty, which was strange considering that, unlike the Buffaloes, the Lions were in serious contention for the Climax Series. I’ll chalk the low attendance up to it being a Tuesday and leave it at that for now. Another interesting note is that their mascot resembles a grown up Kimba.

This is a cookie, but if you colored it all white, it would look more like the mascot who looks like Kimba.

This is a cookie, but if you colored it all white, it would look more like the mascot who looks like Kimba.

The reduced numbers didn’t prevent the Lions from displaying the same team pride and some of the raucous behavior I witnessed at the Carp game. Perhaps it’s due to alcohol, but there seemed to be an increasing number of fans who were more into it than others. Fans who yelled out things at players that weren’t synced up with cheers. It’s quite easy to drink too much at an American ballgame, but when you consider that the drinks keep flowing in Japan, even beyond the 7th inning (or two hours), you see that it’s easy to get that much wilder after your latest beer in the 9th.

A shot of me enjoying a fine drink at the Seibu Dome.

A shot of me enjoying a fine drink at the Seibu Dome.

Also worth noting, the drink selection is not limited to beer. Most ballparks also have some serious hard alcohol being vended alongside the beer. At our first game in the Tokyo Dome, Mayumi and a guest bought some umeshu, plum wine, there’s plenty of soju, another rice alcohol from Korea, and I even got my hands on a delicious whiskey sour-type drink at the Lions game that packed quite a punch.

We made fast friends with this couple. She gave us a banner as a gift.

We made fast friends with this couple. She gave us a banner as a gift.

I don’t really have any new observations about the game itself, but it was notable in that it was the first home team victory we had on the tour so far. Thanks to that victory, we also got to see something that they definitely don’t do in the states, the on-field interview. The players of the game are usually rounded up and interviewed on the big screen for the fans that remain. Following the interview and a quick photo shoot, the players throw balls into the stands for the fans and head into the locker room.

Impromtu field press conference.

Impromtu field press conference.

Pose for the cameras!

Pose for the cameras!

Another unique feature of the Seibu Dome is that they allow the fans to run the bases and toss the ball around the field after the game.

Fans celebrating on the field.

Fans celebrating on the field.

After we got our fill, we headed back to the hotel. It was the penultimate full day in Japan and David and I were ready to get our fill of Tokyo before he had to go home.

The area just outside the stadium at night.

The area just outside the stadium at night.

The Price is WRONG [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jun 24th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

There was a lot of talk about the mistakes Joe Maddon was making in not bringing David Price up at the start of the year. I think last night speaks volumes about why he thought he needed more work.

Price gave up ten runs to spearhead a 10-1 loss to the Phillies last night, meaning that he was embarrassed by a pitcher more or less twice his age (Jamie Moyer, age 46).

It’s days like these that I’m glad I can at least root for the Marlins, who won last night against the Orioles and took two of three from the Yankees this weekend. Not only did Hanley Ramirez snap his homerless streak against the Yankees, he hit himself a grand slam last night to bust open the game. Of course, the Marlins bullpen gave up so many runs that the game went on to the 12th inning, but still, go Hanley.

While I’m up here, I think it’s worth laughing at the Yankees AND the Blue Jays for each dropping two games to the Nationals last week. Way to play to win.

Last week was also notable for being the day I saw, in the flesh, Matt Wieters hit his first big league home run against the Mets. In a strange coincidence, I also heard Wieter’s second home run while listening to the Orioles at Marlins game last night.

Daisuke Matsuzaka landed himself on the DL due to sucking, since Boston can’t send him to the minors. It’s an interesting practice, but basically all a team has to do is get a sanctioned doctor to sign off on some sort of injury and, BAM, instant DL stint. This is how we get loony injuries like an anxiety disorder diagnosed through blood work. Dice-K has been having a tough season, likely from WBC-related exhaustion, so this should hopefully get him all better. Too bad he cost the Red Sox 103M$, because he sure hasn’t seemed all that worth it yet.

And that’s all I’ve got for now. Here’s hoping that the Nats take two of three from the Sox, the Marlins keep moving up the standings, and the Rays start beating the Phillies.

Remember, They’ve Only Played Two [WMQ]
Apr 9th, 2009 by Dan

If you hate the Yankees and love baseball, I’m sure you’re running around telling everyone you know about how ridiculous it is that the Yankees have lost two straight to a team that everyone expects to sit right at the bottom of the AL East. You might be mentioning to all their friends that it seems that all the money in the world can’t buy baseball skill or pointing to the Rays or Marlins as teams whose low salaries still yield success. You might wanna slow down a bit there.

Listen, I hate the Yankees as much as the next guy, but probably a bit less than your diehard Sox fan, but it’s really not fair to make definitive judgments on the team after only two days of play. Baseball’s a game where the best hitters fail seven times out of ten, many like to say, so it’s not all that surprising for a team to lose more than a few games and still make it to the playoffs. In fact, in a typical year, the best teams in the league will only win two out of every three and some will barely top a .500 win rate.

Calm down baseball fans, the Yankees aren’t down and out yet. They’re a team that you can never just count out and they’re pissed after last year. Who could have ever expected the AL East to be a three team race?

As an aside, I’m really hoping that the Red Sox and the Rays become the real rivalry in the East. After the brawl last year, the close pennant race, and what’s looking like a good series today, I really want that to be the case. It would be really cool to see Florida teams start having some fire and attention from their fans. The Fish had attendance in the upper 30ks on Opening Day. The MASN guys said that the crowd had dwindled by 32k the next day. It sucks to see so few going to the ballpark down there. At least they’re rocking the Nats…

Upcoming matchups to look out for:

Mets at Marlins starting Friday

The Fish have knocked the Mets out of the postseason for two years running. Surely the Mets are a bit bitter after last year and with their rejuvinated bullpen, will give the Fish a run for their money. It’s one thing to pound the Nats, but another thing entirely to try and take on the Mets.

Rays at Red Sox & Orioles today and for the next three games

It’ll be the rubber game of the series for the Sox and Rays tonight and it could honestly go either way. Garza vs. Dice-K. After that the Rays head down to Baltimore, the first game of which I will be attending and my first for the year.

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: LCS Day 6
Oct 15th, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ’em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

13-4. I don’t think anyone expected that at all. Tim Wakefield used to be dominant against the Rays. Now, in the past two games, he’s been hammered. Evan Longoria set himself a rookie record by smashing in five homeruns in the post season. The Rays are now 3-1 over the Red Sox. It’s only a matter of one game. Could be over as early as Thursday when Daisuke will try to stun the Rays again like he did in Game 1.

Tonight could be the end of the NLCS, when the Dodgers and Phillies go at it in their series. There’s tons of pressure on the Dodgers, but I think they can turn it around for a great upset. Torre’s done it before.

Grand Slam: Game 1 (and 0) Results
Oct 2nd, 2008 by Dan

I know I promised you some simulated game results to go along with my post-game analysis, but as I booted up MLB Power Pros 2008 and started to rearrange the final team rosters, it quickly became apparent to me that I would be much better served just waiting until we had World Series teams so I’d only have to do two (for those of you playing at home, I only managed to set up the Red Sox before I gave up).

So how did the teams do? How well are my predictions faring so far?

The first game of the playoffs yesterday was the match between the Phillies and the Brewers. It turned out about how I expected it to since the Phils had their stud, Cole Hamels, out against a relative no-name in Yovani Gallardo. The only unexpected result was that Brad Lidge, the man who has never blown a save this season, almost managed to blow the Game 1 save. Philadelphia comes out lucky with a 3-1 win and gets to go face C.C. Sabathia with a one-game buffer just in case he trounces them.

Our next match was the Cubs vs. Dodgers yesterday evening. The stakes couldn’t be higher for the Cubs as they look to erase their 100 year curse, but tonight was definitely not the night for that. Ryan Dempster, with his ridiculous glove fanning movements, came close to walking almost every player on the Dodgers lineups with seven walks. It was a very specific set that ended it for Chicago though, as James Loney hit a grand slam off of Dempster to erase the 2-0 lead the Cubs used to have. Final score: 7-2.

Finally we have the Red Sox/Angels match-up. The fated best team in baseball bent on revenge against an injury-riddled team looking to extend a dynasty. It looked to be a fine game for LA until the sixth inning when Jason Bay, Manny’s replacement, knocked in a two run blast that changed the score to 2-1. John Lester would come out in the bottom of the 6th to whiff all three Angels batters and put a nice little bang at the end of the sixth. Red Sox would put in a few more to win it 4-1.

What’s to come tonight?

Sabathia pitches against the Phils! Can the Phils avoid a loss against the most dominant pitcher in the NL?

Dice-K takes on the Angels. He’s undefeated on the road. Those Halos better watch out.

Zambrano steps up to try and get the Cubs back in it. He’s the ace, he’s got the pressure of 100 years weighing him down. Can he do it?

Tampa Bay finally goes out tonight to show the White Sox who is the boss. Will the Rays start posting their first postseason victories or will the pressure be so much they get knocked out?

Tune in tomorrow for more (there will also be a Game Overview post, so be sure to read that too!)

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Senior Week
May 21st, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ’em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Yesterday saw two amazing athletic events up here at Cornell’s Senior week with a miniature golf tournament and two games of bowling.

Golf did not go so well for me, as I fell one stroke behind Yin and brought up the rear of seven golfers. The best part was that it all came down to the last hole, which I botched on the last shot to give Yin the win. The main event was $5 placed on Lee and James’ game, which Lee was in jeopardy of losing for about 3/4 of the match, but a few bad holes put him securely in first (of the two).

The surprise mostly came from Ben, who had a very disappointing outing in their last match (which neither Yin nor I were a part of) that he mostly blames on using a red ball and his inability to contrast the ball with the felt due to colorblindness. One neon yellow ball later, he dominated us all with a great golf score.

Bowling went a little better for me with my first over 100 game of the year (I’m not very good). This match was a lane vs. lane cumulative score competition. Yin and Duffy couldn’t manage to make it in for the first game, so we played with our abridged rosters and lost by about 40 pins. After getting warmed up, our completed roster came back for victory in the second game after naming ourselves Team Awesome and naming our neighbors, due to their bowling at the time of naming, Team Meltdown. In the end our awesomeness didn’t quite end up demolishing the competition, but we still won by about 10 pins and I bowled a 106, which is pathetic, but still over 100 and so I am proud.

In more serious sports news, the Marlins are still in first, but are facing their largest challenge in the year so far with a three game set against the Diamondbacks. So far they managed to put up a win against Micah Ownings, but tonight’s game is against the 9-0 powerhouse Brandon Webb. Those nine wins are not just a National League high, but a high in the entire majors. The next highest win count is a three-way tie between Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox, Joe Saunders of the Los Angeles Angels, and Edinson Volquez of the Cincinnati Reds, each with 7 wins this season. It’ll take a bit of a prayer and hopefully great bat-work by the Fish to hold on to the wins. Speaking of great hitting, it should be noted that as of today, there is at least one Florida Marlin in the top five of every one of the categories measured by baseball for league leading hitting. Keep it up Florida.

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