Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Life (School) & Life (Rockies)

Everything has gone swimmingly at the outset of the new school year, ever since my belowmentioned trip from hell. I got the classes I wanted, which are: a politics lecture (The Legitimacy of Modernity) a psychology seminar (Narrative Neuropsychology, which is so interesting that I've already read about half my course texts voluntarily) and a writing workshop. It wasn't my first choice, but it'll be interesting anyway; it focuses on the craft and art of writing as much as the actual act, and features four novels to be read and analyzed, which is just fine with me; I'm starved for new reading material (one of the reasons I tore into my psych books like a ravening wolf) and look forward to having a new professor offer perspective on my work. Classes started today, and I am as happy as the proverbial pig in slop. I got up with no complaints at 8:30 (which I generally consider too early) to trot off to my politics lecture, and really enjoyed the first day of studying. Around 4 pm, after I'd finished with both my lecture and my seminar, I found myself in the library, happily reading Hobbes' Leviathan and taking notes about it from the discussion questions. I am the very rare breed of college student who actually enjoys studying (although I suppose that's easy to say at the start of semester, and my assiduousness will probably go down as time goes on) but I am thrilled to be back in the swing of things.

Now, about my Rox.... Pretty much every day is do-or-die time for them in the stretch run, the first time September baseball has mattered since 1995 (coincidentally, their last postseason appearance). Even Todd Helton's annual milestone (in this case, his 35th double for the tenth straight season... the only player to ever do that, congratulations) was relegated to a footnote by the fact that the team is still in the chase. By beating the Padres 2 of 3, including one game in which they used a franchise-record 10 pitchers (and won 10-4) and one game in which they won at Coors with four hits or less for the first time in their history (fortunately, two of the hits were homers, one by Atkins and one by Holliday) they have positioned themselves 3 back in the Wild Card with 20 to play and open a four-game set with the Phillies tonight. The Phils are one game ahead of them, so with a series victory, the Rockies could establish themselves as a down-to-the-wire contender and seriously make the NL wild-card race a last-second affair. There is no drama in the AL, as the Yankees, Angels, and Red Sox have their spots sewn up (heeerurgh, the only AL entrant I can root for is the Indians) but the NL figures to be interesting, especially the wild wild West and the fact that we have to start worrying about giant flaming balls of fire if the Cubs get anywhere. Despite their meteoric plummet, the Brewers are still in first by the skin of their teeth, but they need to do the world a favor and save it from the destruction that would occur if the other Chicago entry became world champs.

The Mets look to have their second consecutive East crown under their belts, but nothing else is certain in the NL. Far more interesting, I like the Senior Circuit better anyway, and everything is still in flux. The Central, West, and wild card could literally be decided on the last day of the season, and I'm rooting for the NL in the postseason anyway; I'm tired of AL arrogance, stupid rules (DH) and dominance. There is no one NL likely entrant that I hate with the bloody vitriol I reserve for the Terrible Trio entering on the AL half, so I'll just have to hope that my support (yeah, like that's the deciding factor) will spur the NL on to victory.... Unless.... Oh my god, what if it's Cubs/Yanks, Cubs/Sox, or something equally awful? My head will explode. I don't mind the Mets, but living in NY, I expect I'd get tired of hearing about them. At least my friends who are Mets fans will be happy, and it would rub the Yankees' face in the fact that the city is holding a championship parade NOT FOR THEM, and it's been seven whole years since they won the Big One. (Oh, please let them never win it again. A-Rod, Giambi, Farnsworth, and Damon preening with a championship ring would make me lose my lunch).

There is one other thing which I'm noting in particular this year, and that is that the umpiring is worse than ever. Recently, the box on Gameday which denotes the strike zone has disappeared, and this has come on the heels of several players and managers airing their (warranted) frustration with the abysmal standard that the calls have dropped to. Baseball is the only major sport in which the referee is directly involved with every play, and the umps have been a constant source of antagonism this year. If one hothead player on one hard-luck team is letting out some dirty laundry, you can't take him seriously, but when a number of veteran players on contending teams are expressing their displeasure with the works (Chipper Jones being the most recent example to come to mind) it's time for MLB to take a look at the situation. I don't care about hurting umps' feelings, QuesTec has to be installed in parks to further accountability. I don't care about the baseball purists who grumble that it takes the human element out of the game to have a machine recording balls and strikes -- baseball is a game that evolves with the time and no need to keep it in the Abner Doubleday era when consistent mistakes are being made. You can bet that with some umps, it's a power thing, showing up the batter and pitcher, and authority complexes make for difficult people to deal with. I want the strike zone in the book, not that as interpreted by a forty-pounds-overweight egomaniac who can be more concerned with ensuring everyone knows he's in charge. I'm sure they do know. I'm fairly sure that the disappearance of the strike zone on Gameday came at the request of the umpires' union, because I can't think of any other reason it would, and this makes me think that they know they aren't cutting it.... it pisses me off.

Watching this Rockies/Phillies game is going to give me heart failure. All things considered, the Rockies have exactly six losses left this season if they want to win the Wild Card, and they used one of them on Saturday, spoiling a 8-inning, 2-run performance by Jeff Francis, so everything is in must-win territory now. They went up 5-2 in the top of the seventh on the back of a monstrous two-run shot by Holliday off their former problem Jose Mesa, but then their current problems Hawkins, Affeldt, and Julio combined to give up three runs on a backbreaking homer by Pat Burrell. Then, with the winning run in scoring position with two outs in the eighth, Hurdle let Omar Quintanilla, who hadn't gotten the ball out of the infield all night, hit; the result was predictable. Hurdle is pulling out the idiot stops tonight, further proving why he is unsuited to manage in big games and that the pressure of a pennant race isn't something that he can cope with, having dealt with mediocre to flat-out awful teams during his four-year tenure. This will likely be the last season that he has such a talented nucleus intact, as the Monforts' skinflintedness will mean that one of Atkins, Hawpe, or Helton will probably be moved in the offseason (with likely money on Atkins in addition to Brian Fuentes. So sad... I really like Atkins). And we get him until 2009? Joy.

More bad umpiring. 3-1 on Hawpe, two on, top of the ninth, two outs. The first call was questionable, but the second call was nowhere close; Wally Bell called the exact same pitch a ball on Utley before the Burrell home run. The count goes to 3-2 when Hawpe should have walked to load the bases, and he grounds out instead to end the inning. This umpiring is making me sick.

The slender thread of hope may be waning, but it's still there... at least my boys still are playing meaningful games in September. Go Rockies...

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