The Big Road Race

I posted a quote on Facebook from one of my favorite books as a kid: The Berenstein Bears and the Big Road Race. However, something interesting happened:  no one knew where the quote was from and it did not surface in a Google search.

This is an idea which calls for more thought in another post to come, but in the meantime, I will make this page the only source on the Internet with this knowledge (kind of impressing in 2012):

Up ahead, Dead Bear’s Curve. “I won’t slow down for Dead Bear’s Curve.” Orange’s driver was all nerve. All nerve, but not much sense, Orange went right through the fence.

Joel Zumaya to have Tommy John Surgery, Done for 2012

Another year, another setback for Joel Zumaya. The flame throwing reliever will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss a second consecutive season due to injury.

Zumaya has been the subject of conversation every year since his spectacular 2006 season. Making his major league debut, Zumaya struck out 97 batters in just 83.1 innings. It would take him nearly three seasons to to record his next 83 innings.

As the injuries piled up, Zumaya’s strikeout rate of 10.5/9 in 2006 fell to just 8.0/9 in 2010, the last time he appeared in a Tigers uniform.

Signing on this year with AL Central rivals, the Minnesota Twins, Zumaya was not in line to close as he had been in Detroit, but was simply another cog in the bullpen machine.

Until his reemergence, if ever, Aroldis Chapman will have to fill the role of “I can’t believe he threw that hard” for radar gun watchers.

Apple TV and Gaming

For a man so prolific, complicated, and of course secretive, it should be no surprise that Steve Jobs left behind one quote in his biography which has intrigued readers like no other: “I’ve finally cracked it.”

In some way, shape or form Steve Jobs had solved television, Apple’s role in bringing television and the Internet closer together, or maybe (but not likely) the secret to smellovision.

Many words have already been spilled analyzing this uncharacteristically specific hint, but I had a moment today which made me think.

I have been dabbling with using a standing desk for the past two years. After getting an external monitor to hook up to my laptop and give myself a little more breathing room I converted back to a sitting desk. But today I rearranged my desk again and set the monitor up high once more. And then did something curious: I picked up the Magic Trackpad to resume a video as I was organizing my things.

Standing a few feet away from the desk I held the trackpad in both hand, thumbs on top, like I would an Xbox or PS3 controller. Two thumbs together will scroll, one thumb or the other acting alone will more the cursor, and tapping will select anything selectable.

To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Magic Trackpad is not as clumsy or random as an air mouse (or even a Wii remote at times).

There have been critics of Apple’s current remote arguing that it has too few buttons to be useful and is, in fact, too minimalist. Anyone who has had to type more than a few characters on an Apple TV with it will agree. While there is an app available for iOS devices to control the Apple TV, $200 for an iPod Touch is high price point for a remote control with more than barebones functionality.

But what if Apple is working on a Magic Trackpad 2.0? Cheaper than the current $69 version. Maybe closer to the $50 price of a new Xbox controller. If Apple builds a full television set, one of these would come with it. If that TV can play iOS games…multiplayer games…well, others can join in if they have an iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad or their own touchpad-esque, Xbox-like, Apple Controller.

An Elegant Interface, For a More Civilized Age

Every once in a while I still pull out my old iPod. It lives a much easier life than it did a few years ago – usually docked in my alarm clock playing the same couple songs over and over as my backup alarm.

Essentially it houses everything I  listened to in high school and college. I’m always reminded what a great interface the scroll wheel provided – minutes to learn, one thumb operation, sight of screen not needed.

However, today, for a brief moment, I scrolled to the artist, highlighted the song, and then, in a continuation of the gesture, lifted up my thumb and tapped the track name.

Sorry, iPod.

iPod

This Time Is Counts: The All-Star Game, the World Series, and You

The 2002 All-Star Game was a baseball game like no other: it ended in a tie after both teams ran out of pitchers in the 11th inning. To spice things up, including viewership, Bud Selig announced a new twist in 2003: the winner of the All-Star Game would determine which leave received home-field advantage during the World Series.

Over on Baseball Nation Wendy Thurm took a look at the controversy and history of the midsummer classic and boils down the options concerning the semi-exhabiition game and the postseason.

Her findings reveal that while determining home-field advantage through an unofficial game seems less fair than simply alternating between leagues, as was the previous tradition, in actuality, “This time it counts” is a bit more equitable.

It turns out that in seven of the nine seasons, the team with the better regular-season record had home-field advantage in the World Series.

Alright you might say, but what about a longer sample of World Series contests? Well, Wendy Thurm had that data too:

Contrast that with the 33 World Series held in the expansion era, prior to 2003 (1969-2002). In seventeen of those Series, the team with the better regular-season record held home-field advantage. But in sixteen Series, the team with the worse regular-season record did.

In those sixteen World Series, the team with home-field advantage won the Series twelve times. Twelve out of sixteen. Seventy-five percent. Even though those teams had a worse record during the regular season.

Based on those numbers, alternating home-field advantage between the leagues seems a lot less fair than tying it to the outcome of the All-Star Game.

At this point if you have a beef with the All-Star Game “counting” the evidence isn’t going to help you out a heck of a lot. But this issue remains a divisive topic among fans despite nearly a decade of history behind it.

The underlying issue: the Designated Hitter. While every team usually gets a boost playing at home, American League teams have a disadvantage when they head on the road to National League parks. Every time an AL team plays in an NL park the DH is taken away and AL pitchers are forced to hit. No one enjoys this (well, this is unfair, some people do enjoy this, including a few pitchers. Let’s say no one enjoys watching this most of the time). And many big league teams are shelling out nearly $100 million dollars (or more) for a team which, in the biggest games, doesn’t get to play as it was intended.

The idea of a neutral site for the World Series has been floated in the past. As has the transition to a Super Bowl-style pre-decided, rotating, location. This causes some issues as well. Given the fear of cold weather by Major League Baseball, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland etc. would never see another World Series game.

When the Series is held in a National League park, would the DH apply if the AL won the All-Star Game? Would the series simply rotate between AL and NL parks, playing by the rules of that league for the entire series?

The elephant in the room is the designated hitter itself. While home field is an advantage, both the World Series and Interleague play face problems of fairness because American League pitchers are forced to hit when playing in National League parks and National League teams get to have an extra hitter when they visit the Junior league. Essentially tipping the scales in the favor of the NL team each way.

It’s difficult for me to say, but I think the DH should be adopted by the NL. I like that baseball’s leagues have a real difference between them. I enjoy small ball from time to time just as a change of pace. But I would never want the Red Sox, the team I grew up with, to shift to the National League and abandon the DH.

The Astros are moving into the AL West in 2013. The tougher league and to a division with two powerhouses in the Angels and Rangers. It may take a while for Houston to become competitive again, but when they are, with nine real hitters in their lineup, the AL Astros will always be more talented than the same roster in the NL with a pitcher replacing their DH.