Rockets at Trailblazers

On December 5th, we attended the Houston Rockets @ Portland Trailblazers game.  We sat way up in the 300 section, but we had mid-court aisle seats which turned out to be quite nice.  Portland won the game – and they have won all 3 games we’ve been to (against tough opponents).  I think we bring good luck… for wins.  Unfortunately, we were witness to the season ending injury of Greg Oden.  It was bad.  The entire arena went silent.  The Rockets showed class by giving him a pat on the back and some nice words before they wheeled him out on the stretcher.  The city of Portland is saddened by this, as we have all come to really like Greg as a player and a person.

Astros

Spring training is here for Major League Baseball. I’m not sure what to think about this season. Things aren’t looking bright for my favorite team, the Houston Astros. They are projected to be the worst team in baseball in 2009. Based on last year’s performance and our current roster, that projection could be accurate. Maybe I should follow the more geographically appropriate Mariners, but their season isn’t looking much better. Nor is Bren’s former home team, the Royals.

Sports

rudyIt’s Superbowl Sunday, and I haven’t written anything for a while. As it turns out, however, I have little interest in this year’s Superbowl. I’m rooting for the Cardinals because they are the underdog. I was also just made aware that 3 teams share the record for the most championships, and the Steelers are one of those. The Cowboys are another, so I’d hate to see the Steelers pull ahead in that statistic. Meanwhile, my focus has been on NBA basketball, which I just discovered a passion for about 6 months ago. The Trailblazers are my team of course, and it has been an exciting season so far. We’ve been to one game here in Portland (my first NBA game ever), and I can’t wait to go again. There’s also MLB baseball, which has always been my favorite sport, and really the only professional sport of interest. I hate to admit that after watching basketball, I’m not nearly as excited about the upcoming baseball season as I would normally be. Basketball is fast-paced and there’s a reasonable number of games per season. Contrary to my previous belief, basketball can be a thinking man’s game and the talent of individual players is apparent. Baseball is slow, the games are way to long, and there are way too many games in the season. I’m not saying that my interest in the NBA has surpassed the MLB… not yet. We’ll see how this baseball season works out.

Worst Pitcher in Baseball

One of my regular reads is FanGraphs, which is a site about baseball players and statistics. I’ve been questioning the Astros’ decision to keep Brandon Backe for a while, and FanGraphs backs up my opinion in an article published today.

Brandon Backe just may be the worst pitcher in baseball consistently given start after start… Why this man still gets paid to pitch in the major leagues befuddles me.

Meanwhile, the MLB playoffs are starting and I have no team to cheer for. I don’t care for any of the NL teams, and I’m not familiar with any of the AL teams. As usual, I’d prefer to see the NL win the World Series. I’d probably lean towards the Brewers (strong lineup) or the Phillies (Brad Lidge). As for the AL, maybe the Devil Rays since they had such a turnaround season. For the most part though, I don’t care who wins.

Ike Messes Things Up

My family in Texas recently sat through yet another hurricane. This time it was Ike, and it was a direct hit to Galveston and Houston. Luckily, my Houston (Katy) peeps went unscathed and those in Nederland/Port Neches had only minor damage to their houses. They were lucky because if the storm surge had been much higher, they would have had flood damage in addition to the wind damage.

On a related note, the streaking Astros were forced to play two “home” games against the Cubs just 90 miles from Chicago in Milwaukee. From what I hear, the Cubs fans that showed up were quite rude and obnoxious. The Astros fans, and players, were understandably angered over the whole ordeal. Given the amazing pitching from the Cubs, we wouldn’t have won anyway, but still it would have been good sportsmanship to treat a team in turmoil with a little respect. Most of the Astros players have families that were directly affected by the storm and they had to make a last minute flight to Milwaukee to play a home game in front of their rival’s fan base. Not to mention, they are now on the road for an entire week while Houston recovers without them. Oh well, it’s just baseball, I reckon.

Batting Stance Guy

Being a web developer and active browser of the web for many years now, I see a lot of wasted web space (including this web site). I would venture to say that 90% of web sites out there are useless and/or uninteresting, or just a rehash of other web sites that are slightly more interesting.

And then there’s Batting Stance Guy, which is the best use of the web that I’ve seen lately. This guy posts videos of himself imitating the batting stances of MLB players. He is right on with all of them, and it’s sometimes hilarious. I’m also really impressed with design of his web site. It’s simple, eye pleasing, and user friendly.

Speaking of baseball, the Houston Astros are at .500 on the season as of yesterday! They still have almost no chance of making the playoffs, but at least the season isn’t a complete disaster.

Portland Beavers

We just got back from watching the Round Rock Express vs. the Portland Beavers. It was a good game! It was tied in the bottom of the 9th, and one of the Beavers hit a home run (almost) and the Express center fielder made an amazing catch over the wall to save the game. Then Reggie Abercombie hit a 3 run homer for the Express in the 11th and Fernando Nieve saved the game in the bottom of the 11th. Towles was catching, and he still can’t hit, but he made a great diving catch on a foul pop up.

Towles

Baseball Defects

Since my favorite MLB baseball team is doing so badly this year, I’ve started to lose interest in watching professional baseball. It’s not fun to watch your team lose. As a result, I’ve brainstormed some ideas to make the game better.

The season is too long! 162 regular season games per team is just too much. Sure, it makes for better statistics, but modern man/woman doesn’t have the attention span for it anymore.

  • Get rid of inter-league play. This is debatable because I like inter-league play, but it seems unnecessary. Let each league fight it out against each other and then the best team from each league can play for the championship.
  • Have one 3 game series against each team in your league per season. That reduces the number of games to 45 (for the NL) and the best teams will still float to the top.
  • Shorten the playoffs. There are up to 19 games played per team in the playoffs (including the World Series). Why not let a 3 game series determine each playoff round? That seems sufficient enough to me to determine who should move on.
  • Shorten the World Series to 3 games, or maybe 5. The Superbowl is so popular because it’s one game on one specific day each year. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s ridiculous that a champion is determined by a single game, but a 7 game series drags on and you don’t know what day the winner will be determined.

How about if we stray from tradition to make the game more interesting?

  • NL: Either teach pitchers how to hit or use the DH. I tend to fast forward when a pitcher bats.
  • Change up the pitching rotation. What’s so great about having 5 starters, 3-4 middle relievers, and a closer? Why not have 10 pitchers who throw 2-3 innings each when appropriate?
  • Change up the batting order. I don’t have a suggestion here, but the batting order across all teams seems set in stone. Power hitters at the 3-4-5 spot, weak hitters in the 7-8 spot, pitcher in the 9 spot, etc. I’m not convinced that this is always the best way.
  • Don’t even think about instant replay. The human factor is one thing that baseball has going for it. There are bad calls here and there, but it all works out in the end. Who doesn’t enjoy watching a manager get ejected over a bad call?
  • Promote the players more. Why wasn’t Lance Berkman or Chipper Jones all over the front page during their amazing hitting streaks? Bret Favre is a superstar because he’s a good quarterback. Everyday people should be excited about the prospect of seeing Chase Utley or Hanley Ramirez play baseball.

That’s all I’ve got. Baseball is still the greatest sport on earth, but I fear that non-hardcore fans will eventually lose interest in the new, fast moving world.