Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Baseball? You Don't Need Any Stinking Baseball...

I hate Time Warner Cable.

Yes, I'm using the word 'hate' here. Why? Well, without turning into a raving lunatic, let me just say this: ordered Extra Innings in 2005. They didn't turn it on. I called the next day to inquire why. They turned it on and CHARGED ME AGAIN. Four phone calls and four months later, they turned off my cable TV (during Game 2 of the 2005 NLCS, by the way) because it was delinquent. Seems when they assured me they had corrected the problem, the operator entered the wrong code and charged me a third time, making my account $200 in arrears. They turned on my cable and fixed the billing problem that night. I won't go into detail as to how I accomplished that.

So when AT&T came around this past December offering phone/cable TV/internet connectivity for a low price, I jumped at the chance to leave Time Warner once and for all. Since then the following things have become apparent:

a) Channel 4 Padres is a cable subscriber service only. So I won't have Padres games on TV this season.
b) Roadrunner is a faster internet connection than DSL. This may be obvious to you the reader, but it wasn't to me.
c) MLB has decided to renew the MLB Extra Innings package only on DirectTV.

Today the cable subscribers reportedly agreed to match DirectTV's offer to carry out-of-market games for MLB. MLB, being the savvy public relations people that they are, quickly released a statement that the offer did not come close to matching DirectTV's offer.

Let's look at this from two perspectives:

1. If DirectTV had exclusive rights to carry out of market games, I would have been screwed becasue I don't have DirectTV.
2. If DirectTV and the cable companies decide to carry the out of market game package, I will be screwed because the AT&T bundled cable provider is DISH NETWORK. And they haven't indicated any interest in matching DirectTV's offer.

Do you see the irony?

I can't believe my hopes for seeing any Cardinals games on TV (not involving the Padres, of course) rest with John friggin' Kerry.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Those that forgot the past...probably lost money on this game

Kentucky 67, Villanova 58.

The AP summary of the game can be found here.

I'd like to thank CBS for forcing me to suffer through USC/Arkansas (which hasn't been closer than 10 since EARLY in the second half) instead of switching to this game, or even the Saluki/Holy Cross game, which was also competitive until Southern Illinois pulled away late. Thanks again, asshats.

I'm not a smart man, but I'd like to point out the following things that I predicted happening:

- Nova started fast, leading 18-13.
- Nova then didn't score for 6 minutes, turning a 5 point lead into a 3 point deficit.
- Additional scoring droughts pushed UK's lead to 10.
- Furious comeback saw the Wildcats close to within 5 late.
- Nardi misses a wide OPEN 3 that would have cut the lead to 2.
- Nova loses by 9.

Two other truths bore themselves out tonight: Kentucky hasn't lost a first-round game in 16 years; Villanova nas never advanced to the Sweet 16 in 3 consecutive years (People who didn't know the history of these programs, or did and chose to ignore it, lost money tonight).

Yet I still picked my alma mater to win this game in my pool. Sentiment will kill you every time. I did have tonight's winner going out to Kansas on Sunday, though. Reality had to set in somewhere.

For the first two days of the tournament, my record is 25-7. Pretty good. What's more amazing is all my Sweet 16 selections are still alive after the first round. That's never happened.

So now I'm reduced to rooting vicariously for the Xavier Musketeers. My brother has a passing interest in them (class of 2004). They only play one of the heavy favorites to win the whole thing: Ohio State. I might lose interest in this tournament entirely after tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow: Let me close with an old Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you;
May the wind always be at your back;
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
May you stop doing Car Bombs when the horizon starts to blur;
May your Corned Beef and Cabbage hit the spot;
May the Uberhot redhead at the bar actually talk to you.

And some appropriately themed Irish attire:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Well, it's up

My Villanova NCAA tourney preview is posted over at Deadspin. You can read it here. Enjoy.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Well, the brackets are out....

...and the Wildcats made the tournament! Hell yes! Final Four here we come!!!

Better look over the brackets first...

uh, we open with Kentucky. Wildcats haven't lost a first round game since 1991. Actually they didn't lose that year, either; they were banned from the tournament due to recruiting violations. And Tubby Smith may be coaching to keep his job (no small motivation). Oh, boy.

If they win: Kansas. Probably the best team in the country right now (outside of Georgetown). Were getting clobbered by Texas recently in the first half, then poured it on in the second to win (of course, Durant turning his ankle didn't hurt). Yikes.

AND Villanova has never made the sweet 16 in three consecutive seasons (they made the Sweet 16 two years ago and the Regional Finals last year).

Well, perhaps the Final Four is a little ambitious. I'll be happy with a first round win.

On a high note, Deadspin is running previews of each game on their website. Yours truly penned the Villanova preview - so look for it. I'll post the two items I cut from my submission here after it runs over there.

I'm still a little surprised Syracuse and West Virginia didn't make the NCAA field. After Nova lost to Georgetown at home and Marquette in Milwaukee, I felt they had to win their remaining 3 regular season games and 1 Big East tournament game to get in. I also had a sneaking suspicion that, because there are upsets in conference tournaments and the team that is supposed to win doesn't always, Syracuse at Villanova was an NCAA elimination game. It really helped Nova's cause that they, the Orangemen, and the Mountaineers all went out in the same round of the Big East tourney. If WVU wins against Louisville, they're probably the 9 seed playing Kentucky instead of Nova. If Syracuse completes the 7-point play against the Wildcats, they might be in the tourney instead of Villanova.

I'd rather be lucky than good.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Big East Tourney - Finals preview

Ten games. 9-1 record. Correctly called the Catholic confrontation nailbiter. I've ordered a wheelbarrow to haul my balls around in for the rest of the weekend.

Before we preview G'Town/Pitt, Cardinal relief specialist Josh Kinney will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. Kinney had thrown 2 ineffective innings this spring, giving up 6 runs total. It seemed odd that a guy who was virtually unhittable during last Sept/Oct would regress so badly in such a short time. I'm actually relieved that the root cause was something he had no control over, and had been (apparently) tearing for quite some time.

This makes it even more important that Jason Isringhausen is able to go for the season opener. Losing him would shift Wainwright back in to the bullpen, throwing a spot in the starting rotation open, meaning one of the long/middle relievers would shift into the rotation, meaning 2 spots would open up in the bullpen - just a mismash of issues. So here's hoping Izzy's first appearance this coming Thursday goes well.

On to the tourney.

Game 11: Pittsburgh vs. Georgetown. G'Town won the only meeting between these two schools in the regular season. Pitt was one of the top 5-10 teams until late in the year; G'Town has been on a roll of late. Win for the Hoyas may mean a #1 seed in the NCAAs; Either way, these two teams will be #2's when the brackets come out tomorrow. I dislike both these teams, so I probably won't watch the game (because they both can't lose); but I'm going to ride the hot hand here, and go with the Hoyas.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Big East Tourney - Semifinal Round Preview

26-2. Twenty-Six to two.

Apparently spreading the scoring droughts throughout the game was boring, so Villanova decided to get them all out of the way up front. That's the only way I can explain a Division 1 basketball team scoring 2 points for the first 10 min and 55 seconds of a conference tournament game. Wow. I forgot to set my TiVo to tape this game, and now I'm really glad I did.

To their credit, the Cats fought back to make it almost a game; in fact, after the 9:06 point of the first half, they outscored Georgetown 55-36. But it was way too big a deficit to overcome. That, coupled with off shooting days for Reynolds and Sumpter, their porous interior and transition defense, and the absence of Mike Nardi due to a calf injury/ankle sprain sustained against Syracuse last Saturday, and we all pretty much saw this one coming.

Enough moping. It took Louisville guard Edgar Sosa divining Tyus Edney's famous length-of-the-court drive (to beat Missouri in the 1995 NCAA tourney second round) for West Virginia not to win their quarter final game. Without that, I'd be 8-0 predicting the winners. Oh, well. 7-1 is pretty good, too. WVU has a better record than Villanova (they won the head to head meeting), and a big win against #3 UCLA earlier in the year; I thought if they advanced further in this tourney than Nova that they could replace Nova in the NCAA. That could still happen; the Cats were lethargic for the first half against G-town, and WVU took Louisville to the limit in losing. But it also could not. We won't know for sure until Sunday.

On to tomorrow's prognostication:

Game 9: Notre Dame vs. Georgetown. Irish handled a game Syracuse team. G'Town embarassed Nova and then hung on during a furious Cat comeback. ND can shoot from outside; G'Town runs a modified version of the old Princeton offense and pounds the ball inside. Georgetown won their earlier meeting, demolishing the Irish by 18 in MD. Prediction: Don't like the Hoyas, but they are good this year. G'Town in a nail biter.

Game 10: Louisville vs. Pittsburgh. The slashers vs the big inside threat. Louisville pounded Pitt in their regular season matchup, winning by 13 at Pittsburgh. That should provide more motivation for the Panthers. Prediction: Pittsburgh advances. This would set up a conference final against the two best teams in the league during the regular year, which is what God and Chuck Norris intended. And that's good.

Chuck Norris doesn't sleep; he waits.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Big East Tourney - Quarterfinal round preview

Four games. 4-0 record. I should have bet on these games instead of throwing money at the $390M Mega Millions jackpot.

Since I had such success today, I will temp fate and put my perfect record on the line by looking at tomorrow's matchups at Mono Sodium Glutenate, er, Madison Square Garden.

Game 5: Villanova vs. Georgetown. Yet another matchup against these historic rivals. G'Town has lived up to expectations for this season after barely losing to eventual National Champion Florida in last year's NCAAs. Villanova defeated DePaul today, but two disturbing trends emerged: (a) only Reynolds and Sumpter are reliable scorers; (b) the Wildcats interior defense is truly awful. DePaul drove the lane at will. These teams met twice this season, each winning a nailbiter on the other teams' home court. Prediction: My heart's with the Cats, but my $$ is on the Hoyas.

Game 6: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame. The Irish never could quite get off the bubble in the last two years. Good enough to make the NCAA, they were left at the altar twice. Not this year. Picked to finish 11th in the conference, they are instead the #16 team in the land. Syracuse clinched a trip to the Big Dance by dismissing UConn in the first round. The teams did not meet during the regular season. Prediction: Syracuse has not lost a conference tournament game since 2004. That streak ends at the hands of the Irish.

Game 7: West Virginia vs. Louisville. Mountaineers set a conference record by hitting 17 threes in their dismantling of the Providence Friars in the opening round. These teams didn't meet during the regular season, either. WVU will try to light it up from outside again. Louisville has some slasher-style scorers and is more athletic than the Mountaineers. Should be a good game. Prediction: My disgust for Rick Pitino knows no bounds. Mountaineers prevail on GP.

Game 8: Marquette vs. Pittsburgh. The Warriors survived a gutty Red Men effort to advance out of the opening round. Pittsburgh awaits with some huge 7-foot white guy who's actually pretty good. The teams met twice this year, Marquette won both by a total of 7 points. I think this will be the best game of Day 2. Prediction: It is extremely difficult to beat a team three times in one season. My aversion to the Panthers finds its roots in Sean Miller's teams, but the third time is a charm here. Pitt advances.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Big East Tourney - Opening round preview

Due to the overwhelming response to the Trivia Time (exactly 0 responses), I'm going to suspend it until the regular season starts. Answer from this weekend's question will be at the end of this post.

Most prognosticators are predicting Villanova has made the field of 64 (or 65 if you count the play-in game. Which, by the way, is the biggest piece of crap in college basketball. CONGRATULATIONS, you've won your conference tournament and made the NCAA --- just kidding. You need to play one more game for the right to lose to the #1 team in the country.). I still hedge my bet. I think they need to win their first round game against DePaul to qualify. Time will tell.

And that time starts Wednesday at the Big East Tournament! All 10 games over four consecutive days will be broadcast on ESPN, starting at 0900 PST tomorrow. Let's take a moment to preview the games:

Game 1: Villanova vs. DePaul. The Blue Demons haven't been any good since some old guy named Meyer coached them back in the 1970s. Besides, they hail from the home of the Cubs (two strikes). Villanova probably doesn't need to win this one, but as the #9 seed in the tourney why leave any stone unturned? DePaul won the only meeting between the two this year, 73-65 in Chicago. Prediction: In a shock, I'm picking the Cats.

Game 2: UCONN vs. Syracuse. Syracuse is the hotter team, having won 5 of 6 to close out the season. Perennial power Connecticut has struggled this year, falling from league Co-Champs a year ago to being the bottom qualifier for this event. Syracuse is assumed to be in based on their big win against G'Town last week, but like Nova can't afford to leave any room for doubt. Huskies are making preps to host a NIT game. The teams split their two meetings this season, each winning at home. Prediction: The Orangemen have more to play for, so they're the pick.

Game 3: Providence vs. West Virginia. Hard to believe Beilein's Bombers are considered a long shot to make the NCAAs at this point, but despite a quality win against UCLA, they are. The Mountaineers probably need a deep run this week to get in; a mis-step by either Nova or 'Cuse would greatly help their chances. Those wacky Friars boast the Conference's top scorer in senior Herbert Hill. Friars try to light it up inside; Bombers chuck it from the cheap seats. Friars won by 3 on 20 Feb in Providence. Prediction: Hill gets his, but on this court, where Beilein has done very well the past two years, he's tough to bet against. West Virginia takes it.

Game 4: St. John's vs. Marquette. The Red Men return to the tournament after missing last season's affair because they sucked. Marquette has stumbled down the stretch, losing 4 of their last 6 but still being ranked #19 in the country. Prediction: The days of Lou Carneseca and Chris Mullin are long over. Warriors should roll into the second round.

Congratulations to Scottie Reynolds on being named Big East Rookie of the Year.

Answer to the weekend question: Nolan Ryan (292 games).

Saturday, March 03, 2007

MEGA millions....for a small investment.

We'll get to the trivia question for the weekend in a minute.

This week, the CA lottery Mega Millions jackpot passed $200,000,000 (it looks more impressive written out that way). Whenever the jackpot for a lottery drawing reaches a ridiculous number (like this one), all red-blooded Americans are obligated to buy a ticket. Why? Because it's easier to make money this way than it is to earn it the hard way - by working hard. I sometimes think the Founding Fathers edited the last draft of the Declaration of Independence, the original sentence was ", liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with as minimal effort as one can get away with."

So I picked out 6 numbers, did 5 quick picks, and entered the Tuesday drawing. I didn't win. Then, I began to think (which isn't necessarily a good thing) - what if I ran a statistical analysis fo the recent drawings, to see if a pattern existed? Wouldn't that improve my chances at winning? Of course it would! I'm a smart guy, I can GAME THE GAME.

This consumed me for the better part of 3 days.

After looking at the facts, and examining the clues, I arrived at what I thought were, for sure, the mortal lock numbers to win this jackpot (now at $275M). I also picked 4 lesser (but still good) combinations, and, as insurance against Lady Luck's fickle mind, I went with 5 'QuickPicks' (numbers chosen at random).

The result?

Well, the jackpot is projected to be $340M for next Tuesday's drawing. I had as many numbers (2) that hit as the QuickPicks did; and none of the 4 that hit were on the same line.

I'll be applying lessons learned and picking again for Tuesday's drawing.

Trivia Time. Answer to Thursday's question: Bill Madlock won 4 NL batting titles during his career.

Weekend question: Who lost more games than any other pitcher in the 20th century? HINT: He's in the Hall of Fame.

Update 3/3/07 1245: Nova leads Syracuse by 7 late. Go Cats!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Trivia Time

Answer to yesterday's question: All of their fathers played in the Negro Leagues.

Today's question: This could be easy, but still: Among eligible players not in the Hall of Fame, who has won the most batting titles? Extra credit if you know how many he won during his career.

Villanova 78, UConn 74. Phew. Now if they can beat Syracuse, they may sneak in.

Time to start drafting my 3 tidbits for Deadspin. Even if they're not published.