I’m Writing about the Royals Again

So I’m writing about the Royals again. I know, what’s up with THAT, eh? But the Royals have had quite a nice, little postseason thus far. (Understate much?)

As I’ve watched them winning and winning, sweeping everyone to get to the World Series, I’m reminded of another story of coming into one’s own.

In the Matrix, Neo finds himself challenged to a kung fu battle by Morpheus, the man he has searched for and idolized. As they fight, his talents show more and more.

neo kick

“Good! Adaptation, improvisation; but your weakness is not your technique.” – Morpheus

wavy hands

Later, when Neo meets Agent Smith in the subway tunnel, he could run, but he turns around to face him, to stand his ground. Trinity asks what he is doing and Morpheus says “He’s beginning to believe”.

I’m the first to admit that, much like the Neo who was caught in the matrix – hacking and trading underground computer disk thingies and being lectured by the boss when he shows up late for work – the Royals have been largely under my radar for some time. But somewhere in the second half of the season, they started to look like a force.

By the time the made it to the wild card game, I was thinking that there was a good chance this team could win that game.

I did NOT expect them to beat the Angels next, but the way they played, they deserved to. And they looked like they were beginning to believe.

With every win, they’ve gotten stronger, more vocal, and continue to take somewhat unorthodox risks in their play. Late inning steals, strong defense, and reliable, solid pitching have gotten them far. But most importantly, they exhibit the wherewithal to take advantage of the other teams’ lapses.

This is a big deal, because it allows no room for lackadaisical playing. Each man’s mind must be IN THE GAME. Case in point, when Escobar came in to score, and just managed to kick his foot out and knock the ball out of the catcher’s glove, it opened a door for Aoki to make it home as well. That takes quick thinking on the part of both players, keeping their eyes peeled for an opening and reacting quickly enough to take advantage.

Adaptation, improvisation.

Considering the fact the game ended 2-1, that extra run made a difference.

So what’s next for the upstart team in royal blue and white? The World Series next Tuesday. I have a few words for Dodger fans: whether or not you care about Kansas City’s historic run this year, they WILL be playing a team you despise in this final showdown. It will be either the Giants, those perennial “hated ones”, or the Cardinals, that bane of the Doyers’ postseason existence. With all that said, I’m hoping for an American League win.

Join me, won’t you?

Where Did All The Air Go?

Was it just me, or did it seem a little hard to breathe after the Dodger game last night?

Oh, there’s hockey stuff at the bottom, so just scroll on down if you’re not yet ready to discuss the baseball game. I understand. Time will heal you. But first, I must discuss…

Sometimes, the game of baseball can read like a Greek play. The players swing and hit and throw, while greater and lesser gods (umpires) sling lightning bolts and offer provision. The chorus (or stadium crowd) chants the fate of our heroes and offers nuggets of insight and innuendo as the drama plays out.

A few of yesterday's cast and crew assembled in my home. They're not dolls, they're action figures!

A few of yesterday’s cast and crew assembled in my home. They’re not dolls, they’re action figures!

At the end of last night, my condolences were with Mr. Clayton Kershaw.

Achilles had his heel, Superman had his kryptonite, and Clayton Kershaw’s kryptonite looks like a big, ugly, red bird.

Mattingly is not getting off easy in this either. I keep hearing our chorus moaning and wailing about why he left Kershaw in the game yesterday when the seventh and eighth innings have been so tough for him against the Cardinals.

Well, I was with a few Dodger fans during the last game. I saw them getting excited during the middle innings, thinking that Kersh was in it to prove a point and that he was proving it. They said over and over again that he HAD to stay in the game. They would slit their wrists and then try to use their slippery, bloody hands to commit harikari if they even got a whiff of an Elbert or a League warming up.

Cut to a Cardinal three-run inning, and it felt like the air was sucked out of the room.

It is what it is, folks. These guys did their best. The bats could not deliver even one run to tie the game up and keep it going. The lack of run support for the Kersh is a bigger issue than the pitching, in my opinion. But the season is over. Les jeux sont finis. The curtain call has come and gone.

If you’ve been an LA baseball fan for any significant amount of time, you’ve been through this before. The sun still rose, the moon still shone above last night – although maybe the blood moon was a little bloodier. I can’t be sure. The sky did not break into pieces and fall to the ground and smash the windshield of your car and break your pretty little heads.

On to next year. I will be at Spring Training with freakin’ bells on.

If you are a baseball fan, there are still games to be played this year. If you are looking for something good and right and just to root for, then the National League Championship series may leave you a bit cold. St. Louis v San Francisco? Now I’M going to slit my wrists. No, folks. I’m pulling for an American League win in the World Series. I wrote about Kansas City in a previous post, and I still think they have such magic this year. Here’s hoping they win the whole damned thing.

In other news, HOCKEY IS BACK! WOO!!!

LA Kings hold their season opener tonight against the Sharks, and I’m TOO excited. They will unfurl the banner, fans will cheer, and then they will remove their gigantor Tiffany championship rings to get down to business. Because if one is planning on making shark sushi and eating it up right on the ice, it’s best to remove any cumbersome jewelry and maybe put on a bib or something. It can get bloody.

I took my nephew to a preseason game down in Anaheim last week. Kings v Ducks. It was the first live hockey game this kid had seen since infancy, and it was a joy to see him experience everything for the first time.

When one ventures into enemy territory, it is essential to gird oneself in the armor of Kings, and eat some red meat too.

When one ventures into enemy territory, it is essential to gird oneself in the armor of Kings, and eat some red meat too.

Three things about this game:

1. The offense was ON, with Regehr scoring the first goal early and then Carter’s hat trick. That seventies line (Toffoli, Carter, and Pearson) works so well together, and all three contributed to those goals.

2. The defense filled my little heart to the bursting point with hope for the season. Twice the Kings were subjected to 5 on 3 Duck power plays. Twice, the Kings kept the Ducks from scoring on those power plays. Fried gold.

I’m usually hesitant to make predictions so early in the season, so I won’t, but that game gave me the impression that we have a fun year ahead of us. Can’t wait to see what happens tonight. The Sharks are surely looking for payback for last season.

3. The kid had so much fun that he now wants a puck, a stick, a jersey, and probably a great many other hockey fan accoutrements. I couldn’t be more happy.

Happy new season, y’all.

Mighty Casey

Just a little something to enjoy in the month of October. Play ball!

Casey at the Bat
Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his
shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the
air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled
roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his
hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered
“Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles
strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children
shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

This poem is quite well-known, but I found it (and you can find it, and many others) at http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/casey-bat

Kansas City is Plotting to Take Over the World!

Kansas City is Plotting to Take over the World.

Okay, well maybe not the world. But definitely the MLB, and maybe the NFL too. The city itself is understandably captivated.

Came across this tweet by the Kansas City PD:

Posted on Twitter last night

Posted on Twitter last night

See? I told you they are all in on this world takeover thing… Cops and robbers working together so that everyone can watch the game… I tell ya, it’s a conspiracy!

On Monday night, the Kansas City Chiefs defense figured out how to scare the bejeezus out of Tom Brady. The end result was a (somewhat unexpected) defeat of the New England Patriots.

Last night, the Kansas City Royals, who I have thought of as fairly weak in prior years, managed to beat the Oakland Athletics in a single game wild card matchup that ended Oakland’s season and sent the Royals to the playoffs. This is the first time Kansas City has made the playoffs since 1985, and their fans were ecstatic and loud and fun.

A bit about the Wild Card games, just as a refresher for y’all. The American League sends four teams to the playoffs, as does the National League. Three of the four teams are the division winners:

American League:

East: Baltimore Orioles
Central: Detroit Tigers
West: Los Angeles Angels

National League:

East: Washington Nationals
Central: St. Louis Cardinals
West: Los Angeles Dodgers

The fourth team to go from each league is decided by a single game played by the teams with the best records who DIDN’T win their divisions.

Click here for a diagram from mlb.com that shows the standings way better than I can.

The wild card teams fought hard and close in their divisions all year, and in a big way, they spurred the division winners to their titles. The Oakland A’s are in part responsible, in my humble opinion, for the Angels’ strong drive at the end of the season. It helps to have something to fight for and someone to fight against. And a team that’s nipping at your heels is a good reminder to never let up.

Anyway, because of its importance, a wild card game can come to hold all the weight and excitement of a game 7. The winner gets to go on and the loser ends the season right there. And that excitement last night resulted in one of the best playoff games I’ve seen in some time.

Kansas City was falling to Oakland. But they came back and tied up the game, which took them to extra innings, and took their fans to the next level of heaven.

My favorite part of the game, and something to watch for as they take on the Angels in Anaheim on Thursday, was their baserunning. Check this out: they had seven stolen bases last night, and one more attempt by Hosmer, who was caught stealing. They had no home runs. And they got the win.

While they won in walk-off fashion, I did find myself wishing at the time that it had ended a little stronger. That ground ball into left field felt like it was fielded slowly, which made it possible for the runner on second base, Christian Colon, to get home. But going back and looking at the video, it was obvious that there was nothing to be done from left field once the ball got there – except watch the celebration.

The bottom line is that Colon would not have even been in scoring position if not for aggressive and smart baserunning. And he had a good enough start from second to make it home easily once the ball was missed at third.

In the regular season, the Kansas City Royals led the league in stolen bases with 153. The closest team to them was the Dodgers, who had 138 – 64 of those belonging to Mr. Dee Gordon alone. They are a fast team, and they make efficient use of their speed in order to score runs.

This is what the Angels will be playing against, so it would be good for them to keep tight on the runners, and try to prevent those runners from getting in scoring position in the first place.

The National League wild card game is tonight at 5 Pacific. San Francisco, the team that battled the Dodgers all season, takes on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As far as numbers go, the Pirates were third in the league in OBP (On Base Percentage), trailing only the Dodgers and the Tigers. They had the most walks of any remaining playoff team as well, which would indicate that they are patient when at bat; they look for good pitches, and they find a way to get on base somehow.

San Francisco, despite not really shining in any major team batting or pitching statistics, still managed to come into this game with the exact same number of wins and losses as Pittsburgh. They are scrappy, and will put up a fight.

They have Madison Bumgarner, who comes into the wild card game tied for fourth in wins and complete games played. They have Hunter Pence, who is fourth in the league in runs scored. They have… they have…

… they have to be beaten in Pittsburgh so that I do not have to see them in Los Angeles again this year. Just sayin’.

Nothin’ but love for ya, SF, but Go Bucs!

This started with a volleyball match, but it’s not about sports

I came across this post today and my mind reeled.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29356807

A British-Iranian woman has been imprisoned for watching a men’s volleyball match. As a sports fan, this may strike a nerve; but as a human being, this strikes all the rest of my nerves.

I’m blessed to live in a country in which the laws generally make sense. Most are, at their core, intended to keep people from infringing on the physical and financial safety and/or autonomy of others. Don’t speed because you could lose control and hurt someone. Don’t steal because that other person deserves to keep the money he has earned. Don’t harm people or kill them.

Our punishments usually fit the crimes as well. No one goes to death row for speeding or tailgating. No murderer is simply sentenced to roadside garbage duty and then set free. The punishment generally reflects the injury you caused, or could have caused, the other party.

This story illustrates the fact that there are countries in this world that are not as concerned with public safety and autonomy as they are with control.

That said, and it has to be said, if we nations and citizens of the world are going to recognize the sovereignty of other nations, if we grant that they have a right to govern themselves, then we have to know going in that they may hold vastly different values from our own.

This story calls attention to one woman, and by extension, the rights of all women in Iran and countries with similar laws. But nothing, I fear, will change because of their individual stories.

The video mentions that the family are worried that David Cameron will not push Iran on this because of the larger goal of gaining their support against the Islamic State. It’s true that Cameron and other leaders may be quite concerned for this woman’s welfare, but then how many individuals’ stories become (reluctantly) tolerable to leaders when international safety and politics are at stake? How many issues may take a back seat in light of what the Islamic State has done and will continue to do if not stopped?

One thing I take from this is that we must be extremely vigilant as travelers. We must be certain of the laws of a country if we are going to spend ANY time there. Because common sense does not always apply, and the rights you believe you have can fall away in an instant.

Another thing I take from this is the reminder of what others live with every day. I feel grateful for the fact that I can go to a game or a concert or a movie by myself, but more so for the fact that my autonomy matters. It is supported in myriad ways.

Many people voice their concerns that their rights could be in danger nowadays in the US. I understand some of those concerns. But right now, my heart is aching for all the women who live in places like Iran. Women who may not make the news by being imprisoned, but all the same, they live every day knowing that their choices and their rights are not at all a factor in the way their lives play out.

I can’t do anything to change that. But I can call attention to it right here. I CAN write about it without fear of being charged with propaganda. And I CAN say a prayer for the people of the world who live in a kind of fear that I could scarcely understand.

Jedi Baseball (No, seriously)

Oh, Lordie. So when I instagrammed this photo last night, I wasn’t ACTUALLY expecting a shootout at the OK Corral in the bottom of the first inning…

Another one of my super-awful photo-shopped creations... But you get the idea.

Another one of my super-awful photo-shopped creations… But you get the idea.

I’ll get to the Jedi stuff in a bit, but first, a recap of the first inning. Scroll on down to read about the Angels-Athletics game and also what’s coming up tonight for both LA teams.

But first, leave it to the Dodgers and the Giants to ensure that last night’s game would be dramatic.

The bottom of the first started with a leadoff home run for Mr. Justin Turner. Ginger Power!

Then came Puig. Now Bumgarner and Puig have bad blood between them already. But in Puig’s first at bat in the first inning, one of San Francisco’s best pitchers delivers a hit to the ankles? Come on, dude.

So Puig is sitting on the ground in pain, and I’m watching Bumgarner raising his arm up a couple of times and saying/shouting something. Whether he was yelling at Puig or at himself, Puig got past the pain enough to see some red and start heading in his direction. Benches cleared, bullpen cleared. Kemp swooped in and kept Puig back, Mattingly whispered some kind of sweet nothings in his ear, and the game continued.

Then Kemp came through in the best way, hitting a home run with Puig on base. How does a first inning three run deficit feel, Mr. Bumgarner? Not good? Didn’t think so.

High points of the game:

Turner’s two solo home runs

The aforementioned Kemp homer

Greinke pitching eight innings (and not hitting anyone)

By pitching so deep into the game, Greinke gave the bullpen a little break (and my angina a little break, keeping me from kvetching all over creation about the bullpen performance of late). We saw only Kenley Jansen step out in relief and he was stellar, as usual.

And I have to say, instead of going for the OK Corral style shootout, Greinke’s pitching, and the character of the rest of the team as well, reminded me more of young Jedi, Luke Skywalker, when the emperor is trying to get him to strike his father down and join him. Luke does not turn to the dark side, but instead turns off his lightsaber and turns away from hate.

This photo is actually before they head up to the Death Star.  But please quiet the inner nerd and just continue reading, eh? ;)

This photo is actually before they head up to the Death Star for the final battle for Luke’s soul. But please quiet the inner nerd and just continue reading, eh? 😉

Let’s face it, there could have been retribution last night, umpire warnings notwithstanding. But not one more batter was hit by a pitch. The way to beat a team like San Francisco is the Right Way. The Baseball Way. The Jedi Way.

In addition, the final outcome of the game was not just a win against a tempestuous division rival. The magic number has now moved to 1, meaning any Dodger win for the rest of the season (um, 4 games) makes them the division champs. Sweet.

Up north in Oakland, the Angels were also playing an important game. Not only were they playing division rivals, the Oakland Athletics, they are also trying to pad their wins through the end of the season. Magical numbers like 100 wins sound great, but they are really striving for home field advantage in the playoffs.

Baltimore trails them in wins by only 2 and a half games, so the team from Anaheim cannot let up. They have the best home record in the league, so a home field advantage really does matter right now.

Wade Leblanc pitched 5 and 1/3 scoreless innings, backed by solid defense. He then handed the reins to the Angels’ bullpen, who collectively shut out the A’s.

Also, check out Leblanc’s postgame interview. This is a guy who is low-key, but has such a good perspective on things. I wish many good things for him and his family.

Tonight’s games look to be even more exciting than last night. The Angels take on Oakland once again, with starters Hector Santiago and John Lester, respectively. Santiago is coming off a really ouch-y last start, so continued strong defense and some strong hitting would be quite welcome.

The Dodgers are preparing the champagne and beer for tonight, I’m sure. Kershaw starts against Tim Hudson, who has lost his last three starts. LA needs to remember though that nothing is a given in the game of baseball. I want strong hitting. I want a certain shortstop (that means you, Hanley Ramirez) to stay alert. I want the outfielders to communicate.

I also want to be there. But my usual seats cost more than my car payment. My favorite seats cost more than my rent. D’oh! I’ll be there in spirit. Happy viewing to all!

Not so long ago, in a galaxy called Chicago

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the wee Anakin Skywalker was racing for his life. At one point, one of his engines bit the dust. He jiggled some knobs and flipped some thingies, and the other engine started compensating, and then revived the dead one until both were at full capacity. Things would go all dark-side-y later on for young Skywalker; but at that moment, the force was with him.

anakin

Today, in Chicago, Kershaw had a bit of a rough inning. He gave up three runs in the first inning. I’d say it’s unheard of, but it happens. Of course, Kershaw at his best is a Marvel comic superhero, minus the dark, brooding side. Kershaw at his worst generally looks like any other major league pitcher.

He should really be wearing a cape in this photo. Wonder if there are any MLB rules regarding capes...

He should really be wearing a cape in this photo. Wonder if there are any MLB rules regarding capes…

But, with the season winding down and a close race with San Francisco, that inning made waves. They needed to stall the ripple effect. And that was where AJ Ellis and friends came in. Like the good engine reviving the stalled one, they maintained the Dodger lead. And Kershaw came back and notched four scoreless innings.

I couldn’t actually watch the game; I had to follow along at work. But honestly, since we can’t watch games but rarely due to that lame Time Warner deal, I watch a lot of Dodger games via At Bat anyway. I’m dealing with it.

Anyway, when Dee Gordon got to first safely with a bunt last night, I tweeted that he may just be the fastest man in the world. Shortly thereafter, he got caught between first and second and was tagged out. Instant remorse from yours truly for being a jinx and a half.

So when they pulled the game out and won, there was radio silence. When they embarked today, there was radio silence. Watching Puig come back with a homer on the 16th and a homer today… I just can’t take it any more. I must post that I’m excited for him!!!

He seemed to feel – no, not just feel, he seemed to inhabit – his failure at the Home Run Derby this year. Getting all that hype and then not hitting a single home run. I had hoped he’d go all Taylor Swift and Shake it Off.

taylor swift

But his numbers told the story of someone who was thinking too much at the plate. Today was only his third homer since the All Star game.

But he came through today. Just goes to show that the potential I speak of from time to time is never extinguished. You are never what your prior numbers say. You always have the ability to come through in a big way.

Big deals today: 1. AJ Ellis hitting not one, but two, home runs. 2. Dee Gordon maintaining his lead in stolen bases. He now has 63, which is 7 more than his nearest competitor. Way to go, guys!

As it stands right now, the Dodgers are 3 up on the Giants. The magic number stands at 7. This is do-able, guys. The upcoming series between the two teams looks to be cuckoo-exciting. Guessing I’ll be at the ravine the 22nd through the 24th, God willing.

Games to watch tonight include Seattle at Houston, Seattle playing for an American League Wild Card spot. Also an interesting one, Detroit v Kansas City. Detroit has but a half game lead on KC in the AL Central.

Excitement leading up to the postseason!