Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MLB 10: current goals

So here's something they do: they give you a set of goals to achieve in a certain amount of time. Some of them are stat-related (get 6 hits in 8 series). Some are attribute-related (improve your contact vs. right-handed pitching by X). At the end of the period, you're evaluated. If you do well, your manager and general manager are happy, and you might earn a promotion. If not, well, let's find out ... the manager wasn't happy. Good thing it was the "first time".

I had 8 series to do six things. Two of them were failures: draw a walk (hey, it's hard, they have to throw balls) and strike out fewer than 15 times (18 ... good thing they increased it from 8 halfway through). The other four were reasonable. I increased my contact vs. LHP and RHP (they're tied together, so that wasn't hard), got the hits (11), but didn't improve my bunting enough (why bunt? bunting is for weak bats).

Next goals: in 7 series, improve contact vs. RHP (no problem), plate discipline (no problem), get 28 total bases (hmm) and have an OBP of .360 or higher (uh). Oh, and draw 5 walks. Right. That would be 5 more than my career total.

Virtual me, baseball style

I broke down and got MLB 10: The Show, partly because its create-your-own-player thing was really good and, well, partly because my friends enjoy the create-your-own-player thing.

So I made a me, a 21-year-old third baseman (about half my age, but who cares?), and put him in the Detroit organization at AA Erie.

Hitting is hard. I strike out a lot. But I finally figured out that I need to start looking for specific pitches (when you guess a pitch correctly, you know just before it leaves the pitcher's hand, so if you know the pitch and you see where it starts, you can tell where it should finish). I struck out twice in three PAs early in the game, but I ripped a 3-2 pitch down the line in right for a double in the seventh, and in the ninth, with none out and the tying run on base, I guessed first-pitch fastball and put it down about 350 feet away, just over the right field wall. 4-3 Erie victory. (Somehow I wasn't player of the game.)

You get training points for good things and lose them for bad things (like throwing to the wrong base – grr, not my fault ... well okay maybe it was). Of course I got no bonus for the game-winning hit because the manager didn't need me to get a hit there, but lost points for the two times I struck out instead of driving in a run. (It's a cool way to do things, because sometimes you'll get credit for a small thing in a big situation. It's just funny right now.)

More to come later. Hopefully I'll learn a little more and move up to AAA Toledo soon ...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thoughts on the Duke game

Purdue had a good run, Kramer and Grant had fine careers, Wohlford did what was asked of him, which is a lot more than most people in that situation might do. Good job, guys, and thanks for all you've done. Let's get ready for next season.

  • CBS' production is, quite possibly, the worst I have ever seen in the 25 years I can remember watching the tournament. ESPN might actually start televising the tournament starting tomorrow. The hanging-six-feet-in-the-air-at-midcourt angle is atrocious. They still haven't done any split-screen action, and I don't think they even bother to tell people when they cut in or out.
  • I don't think the officials understand what a moving screen is. Zoubek not only slid but initiated contact with Kramer on the play that probably gave him a concussion, and not only didn't get a foul, the Duke player with the ball also initiated contact, and yet the foul was called on the defender. I guess that's why I don't really do organized sports. I would be the guy who, on the next Duke possession, would wait for Zoubek to set a screen and then kick his foot out from under him or kick his knee by "accident" or something.
  • I have Baylor in the Fracas. I'm not worried about Friday's game at all.
  • While the officiating was, for the most part, atrocious, it had very little to do with the result. Purdue lost in large part because they ran their offense very poorly. Duke would apply pressure and the non-Johnson players would look around for Robbie Hummel to get open. With a solid point guard and better spacing, Purdue could have beaten this team. Also, Kramer returned to human form, by which I mean the guy who refuses to take outside shots and only puts up little-guy layups. Purdue can't afford to be playing 4-on-5 when the offense is struggling.
  • The BWW in Fishers is going downhill fast. They finally replaced their junky old-school TVs with HD screens, but that just makes their old, fading projectors look that much worse. We saw only one of the two early games because apparently it's too hard to get the manager to bother with setting channels on TVs. In the corner where we were, there was one big-screen and two smaller screens. The one on the right had to be on the same game as the big screen for reasons unknown to normal people (the screens on either side practically touch the big screen, it's not like you can only see one) and the one on the left was showing Colin Cowherd display his utter lack of intelligence. Naturally, I couldn't get any wireless access: Harborlink is by far the worst provider I've seen at a restaurant, and this time the proxy server was redirecting requests through some other site that also sucked. I have friends that pick BWW out of habit, but it may be time to cut our losses.
  • Duke sucks.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Only ESPN ...

would be stupid enough to believe that expanding the NCAA tournament is a good idea. However, with CBS apparently incapable of maintaining the quality of their telecasts, to say nothing of actually bothering to improve their coverage from year to year, the odds are good that the NCAA will opt out of the contract after this season and put it up for bid, and you can count on one pointy little finger the number of networks who ought to be bidding for it.

Breaking for local news? Please. That was stupid 20 years ago. Staggering Saturday and Sunday games so that at times we have only one (incredibly boring) game and at others we have no game at all? Incompetent. Repeatedly showing promos for the same four shows that CBS can't get anyone else to watch either? Lame.

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that with ESPN bidding on it, one of the carrots they will dangle is that they would be willing to show an extra 31 games, essentially having two "first rounds".

Obviously, this is stupid. Why? Let facts be submitted to a candid world.

Timing. Right now, schools have only days to prepare for a trip to one of eight cities for Thursday or Friday games; two schools actually have to make it to Dayton on Tuesday when the selection show is Sunday. This is not easy.

If the tournament is expanded, there will be two choices. One is to play all 32 games the same week as the first and second rounds; this is, of course, beyond stupid, because there's no way you'd get all those teams to sites by Tuesday and Wednesday, even if you simply played the opening round at first-round sites. Eventually it would screw up. The other option is to play the opening round the weekend before the first and second rounds, which means a dead week before the actual tournament, and that's also stupid.

Cost. Regionals, in general, will sell out (except for 2009, when 20% of seats were unsold). The Final Four obviously does. The early rounds do not. In general, two rules apply: somewhere between 10% and 20% of early-round tickets do not get sold, and if you don't have games in Indianapolis, you're going to have attendance issues. The five highest attendance marks for first-round sessions are all from the RCA Dome. Lest you think it's simply a size issue, the fifth-best attendance mark is 27,959. There are plenty of places with that many seats, but outside Indiana, you won't fill them. (And the third- through fifth-best sessions did not include either Indiana or Purdue, in case you were wondering.)

Dayton hosts the current opening-round game because it's the only place that draws attendance for it, and even at that, it's weak. They had 11,346 in 2009, a record high, but only 8,205 in 2010. If you have separate opening-round sites, you have to find seven more cities that can sell opening-round games, which seems pretty much a no-go because they couldn't find any others as it is. If you have them at first- and second-round sites, you have the same problem they have now (attendance outside of Indy isn't great), except it'll be multiplied.

Dilution. Have you seen the NIT bracket? It's a few regular-season conference champions and a bunch of so-so teams from power conferences, with a few mid-majors thrown in so it's not a complete waste. Does anyone really want to watch two .500 teams from North Carolina? Well, that's what the ACC regular season is for. Sit down.

Almost all of the previous expansion was to serve one of two purposes: to admit additional conferences (there are now 31 automatic qualifiers) or to include teams that could possibly contend for a title but didn't qualify because of the small number of at-large bids available. In 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams, it was mostly to provide every team with the same number of possible games (as opposed to the previous steps that added spots only for new conferences).

With very, very few exceptions, the teams who could win are the teams that are in. For the most part, those additional teams are going to be the .500 teams that slogged their way through the regular season and conference tournaments without doing anything of note ... and now we're to include them in a tournament game?

That won't be the only effect on the field. It isn't like they're going to take the worst automatic qualifiers and leave them as 16 seeds. If one of those teams pulls off an upset as a 24 seed, they'll get an 8 seed in the next round. Yeah. Think about that for a minute. (Of course they could bump seeds up like they do in professional playoffs, but I doubt that's going to happen.)

And then what happens to the NIT? It barely has enough teams to run as it is. What do you think ESPN would do then? Remember, they have the broadcast rights for the NIT now. Good luck working that one out. (I don't care about the other tournaments: they're meaningless and everyone knows it.)

Look, it's not going to devalue the regular season. This isn't football: basketball has always had a regular season of significant length, and regular-season fun didn't disappear when the NCAA first handed out at-large bids. It's going to devalue conference tournaments even more than they've already been weakened. (Look at the Big Ten and Big East. Yeah, West Virginia and Ohio State won and are still around, but Purdue, Syracuse, and Michigan State played like feces, and they also managed to make the Sweet Sixteen.) You think coaches of good teams are going to try when they know they're in no matter what? Do you think Minnesota's going to play hard if they're a 12 seed out of 24 rather than a 12 seed out of possibly 11? (meaning that the last at-large spot at the time might have gone to an 11 seed)

I would love for ESPN to take back control of the tournament and show it properly, but let's be honest: the Worldwide Leader isn't exactly known for its overall broadcast acumen. After all, this is the company that continues to support Around the Horn. Can we count on them to make the right proposal?

Keep the tournament at 65. (Heck, make it 64. Cut out one of the at-large spots. We don't need those teams.) Don't ruin it for everyone.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday tournament recap

One day, four games, three bars ... it's more than a normal person can handle, but I've proven myself to be exceptionally good at maxing out on sports. Thus I give you ... Friday at the Big Ten Tournament.

10:30 AM: Parking for $5.50. Not bad. One block closer, it's the same kind of lot and $20. You figure it out. We walk toward Conseco, trying to find a decent place for breakfast, lunch, or some other meal that can be served a) now or b) shortly after now.

Buffalo Wings & Rings is the choice, the Northwestern bar. (This means it's empty; apparently Northwestern does not travel well.) It's open at 10:45, which is pretty cool considering that it really opens at 10. They couldn't take food orders yet, but who cares? Soft drinks and seats.

They have nine sauce types and five levels of heat. Based on a tip from one of the bartenders, I go with Extra Hot instead of Hot with the Cajun sauce. An excellent blend, still milder than a hot BWW sauce ... 5 boneless, curly fries and a drink for $8.

12:00 PM: In our seats for tipoff, Game 1: #1 Ohio State vs. #8 Michigan. This really ought to be a blowout, except a) Thad Matta can't coach his way out of a wet paper bag at Ohio State and b) Michigan actually played these guys pretty close last time out. It does, in fact, turn out to be a good game.

Wireless signals are available but never work, so I check gmail with my phone. Boo to Conseco.

Ohio State isn't playing that hard. Michigan isn't playing that well. I guess they're evenly matched.

2:00 PM: Jesus. What a terrible way to lose. The only thing worse than losing like that is losing to the team with the worst-behaved fans in the Big Ten; said fans will now be crowing like they knew they had it won the whole time.

2:30 PM: Game 2, #5 Illinois vs. #4 Wisconsin. yawn. It's like watching yoga. Or mimes. We head out early and try to get seats. (There is only two hours between sessions ... this may seem like a lot until you've waited for 30 minutes to be seated and for another 20 minutes to place your order.)

By the way, when you average something like 55 points a game, you really can't fall behind by 10 or so. You're just not built to come back that far.

4:15 PM: We're at Coaches Tavern, I guess. It's not really well marked. We look for a table ... doesn't appear to be one. We stand at the door for a bit. People line up behind us. Fortunately, they're all well-behaved (meaning they aren't going to jump a table before us). We find one nestled in the back, though. Good news: we have a table. Bad news: it's in the back. (Also, Illinois hangs on to win. The Illinois person in our group survives.)

This place has good wireless, plus we could even get a signal from neighboring O'Reilly's, the Michigan bar. I catch up on email and such.

Eventually, they get the right person waiting on us, and we eat. The Albuquerque Burger: guacamole, salsa, and pepper jack. Waffle fries on the side. Thumbs up for this meal ... we had one of those bigger coupons, something like $15 off if you spend $35 or more. Decent meal and a nice rest, then back to Conseco.

6:30 PM: Game 3, #2 Purdue vs. #7 Northwestern. Quite possibly the worst Purdue game I've ever seen in person, only because this used to be a good team. (When I had season tickets at Purdue, they didn't break .500.) I avoided killing anyone around me who rooted against Purdue, the Boilers held on to win, and I could breathe again.

Why is Northwestern not in the NCAA tournament? Because they lose games like this one. And the game at IU, and the ones they lost to Penn State and Iowa ... you know, the three teams that lost on Thursday.

9:00 PM: Game 4, #3 Michigan State vs. #6 Minnesota. Purdue will face either the team that just beat them in Mackey or a team that is fighting for an NCAA bid. woo.

Michigan State, not surprisingly, becomes the fourth higher-seeded team to play like crap. They fall behind by 10 and we leave.

10:45 PM: At BWW, our third and final stop for the night. It's the Wisconsin bar, so of course there aren't many Wisconsin people here. We watch MSU fight back and force overtime, then completely crap themselves and lose. Purdue vs. Minnesota Saturday. woo.

There are drunk people from various schools. All are pretty much decent folks. (In fact, even OSU people are generally decent ... it's just that the ones that aren't are loud enough to spoil it for everyone else.) The rest of the party drinks up, I play some trivia, and then we head home.

A good night was had by ... well ... sometimes it just works out this way, you know?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Random thoughts

HTML is nice, but it doesn't type easily. I suppose I should use something that builds content more easily ... because, after all, this is my career. I can do stuff like that, you know.

Yet another reason why the NHL is not a major league outside Canada.
Even the NFL, a Neanderthal among leagues, realizes that hey, people getting hit in the head is baaaad. In the NHL, it's perfectly acceptable.

Well, to be more precise, there are probably only two people in the league who think it's acceptable, but because they are a) the commissioner (the worst in NHL history) and b) the VP responsible for discipline (the second-worst in NHL history, behind only the jerk who's now a GM and has been consistently finding players who hit like this), nothing will change.

At some point, one of two things will happen: either the NHL will realize that they can't be protected from the real world much longer and they'll actually make changes to improve player safety, or something will happen on the ice and the legal ramifications will change things forever. It may be hyperbole to talk about what happens if someone dies on the ice, but hey, in recent history there has been a player whose career was ended by this same kind of thuggery, and absolutely nothing changed as a result of that.

It's also the same league that welcomed a guy who assaulted another player with his stick. Guess what? The guy is an "enforcer", which is a hockey term for "career thug", and apparently he fits the role well. This is the image that the NHL wants to promote. Well, there you go. Maybe it does belong on Vs, right before "When Wolves Attack".

Health care reform isn't dead yet.
The President is still trying to get the word out. Some kind of reform will pass, I think, and it will take effect eventually, but it'll be much less than what we need, and as a result there will be a lot of blame. Most of it, naturally, should be on the people who oppose any change whatsoever; some of it should fall on the shoulders of those who want total change or none at all. (This is Washington, folks: nothing that involves the Senate gets done quickly.)

All I want is for it to get fixed before I really need health insurance. I have no expectations any more. Our system is completely broken and assholes who are still covered (because they're rich and have connections) want to keep it broken.

The NCAA tournament is around the corner.
Three weeks ago, I'd have said I can't wait. Then Robbie Hummel tore his ACL, and now, well, I guess it'll be fun to watch. In the meantime, off to the Big Ten tournament I go ...

Other notes

I'm still working on losing weight; I sort of put it aside for a while to focus on other things. The weather's better now, I'm getting back into Wii Fit, and so I may have more to report later. For now, just know I basically maintained over the winter. Actually, I also unlocked the pushup challenge on Wii Fit. Apparently I need more upper-body strength. (I may end up getting Wii Fit Plus too.)

The work situation is about to change dramatically, but I have no way to know in what way this will happen. I have a number of promising leads that will either all hit at once or all disappear at once. Of course, this will probably all happen next Thursday and Friday.

I tossed a small burlap-ish bag of catnip onto the couch. Naturally, the cats ignored it because it's old and it was purchased. (Free things make the best toys.) Later, I looked over at the couch and saw what looked like a small, long little hairball or not-hairball. I stood up to get a better look, but you, the clever reader, already know what happened: it was simply the bag viewed at an angle. No cleanup required. (Thankfully. There has been enough of that recently. Someone ate something she shouldn't have eaten.)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

captchas don't work

At least, most of them don't. Either they're simpler and spam gets past them, or they're difficult enough that the average person struggles to read them.

I was setting up a gmail account recently and had to try 4 times to get one I could read. (Interestingly, Google's setup was poor enough that you couldn't even ask for a new image; you had to guess what was there. And then when you guessed wrong, it cleared the password you had set up for it. stupid.)

I don't understand why people use the twisty-word type of captcha. It really doesn't help anything.

And Facebook's check is timed, for some stupid reason ... you can request more words, but in the time it took for me to type and click OK, I had to repeat the process. Also stupid.

Security does not work when it is harder on the user than on the criminal.
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