october 2010

Heading into September, it looked like the Braves might give Bobby Cox one last division title before he retired. But as the month wore on, they fell behind the red-hot Phillies, with the real nail in the coffin coming when the Phillies swept them with only a couple of weeks left in the season to take a five game lead in the division race.

But Atlanta remained in the hunt for the wild card, and as of today, there are three games left and they have a two game lead on the San Diego Padres, who are themselves in a fierce fight for a divisional title with the San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately for the Braves, their final three game series is against the Phillies, who have been winning like crazy and who recently swept Atlanta. But it's at home this time, and Philadelphia, having clinched the divisional title, is likely more interested in getting their rotation set for the playoffs than they are in beating the Braves.

Another element that works in the Braves' favor is that San Diego is actually playing San Francisco for their final three games, and San Francisco has to win at least one of those games to win the division. The Braves magic number right now is two, meaning any combination of Braves wins or San Diego losses that totals two will get the Braves into the playoffs. So Atlanta's destiny is entirely in its own hands: win two of three, and it doesn't matter what San Diego does. But hopefully the Giants will help out by taking out the Padres.

The best case scenario is a Braves win today and a Padres loss, meaning that the final two games don't mean anything and Braves fans can take a deep breath before the playoffs start. But knowing the Braves, it won't be that easy...

It's hard to imagine a better day for being a sports fan of my particular teams than yesterday: first the Ravens beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, something they haven't done in years, and then the Braves clinch the wild card spot to guarantee their first playoff appearance since 2004 and give Bobby Cox one last shot at a World Series in his retirement year.

The Steelers' defense has been playing very well this year, and so has the Ravens', so it was expected that it would be a low-scoring game decided by less than a touchdown. But despite a relatively strong start, the Ravens were down 14 to 10 with only 1:15 left in the game and 40 yards to go for a touchdown, which they had to score in order to win. They got great field position thanks to a punt from the back of the endzone and a ten yard penalty against the Steelers, and somehow, amazingly, 40 seconds later they had their touchdown, thanks to some great passes to the sidelines to stop the clock and another great pass into the endzone for the score.

Pittsburgh got the ball back with enough time to push downfield and get a field goal to tie the game, but Pittsburgh's first pass was intercepted by Ray Lewis, and the Ravens kneeled down to run out the clock. It's always great to beat Pittsburgh, but even moreso on their home turf, and I don't think I've seen a better win over them than this one with last-minute heroics from the offense and the defense.

As I suspected, the Braves, who theoretically could have punched their playoff ticket on Friday night if they won and the Padres lost, and who were in total control of their fate as long as they took two of three from Philadelphia, did things the hard way. They lost on both Friday and Saturday nights, while the Padres won both of their games against San Francisco, meaning that heading into Sunday, there was a possibility (if both the Padres and the Braves won) that Atlanta, San Francisco, and San Diego could have been tied with the exact same record. This would have meant a playoff game Monday between San Francisco and San Diego to decide the NL West title, with the loser playing Atlanta on Tuesday to decide the wild card.

The Braves won their game early, although it was a nail-biter—they had a six run lead at one point, but the Phillies came on strong late and pulled within one run of Atlanta in the eighth inning. Their win guaranteed at least a tie-breaker game on Tuesday, but then San Francisco won over the Padres, giving the Giants the NL West title and leaving the Padres one game short of the Braves in the wild card race.

Realistically, the Braves are one of the weaker teams in the playoffs—they have a lot of young players, they've suffered some injuries, and their bullpen hasn't been doing that great lately—but anything can happen in the playoffs. All you need is to get on a hot streak, and this Braves team is certainly capable of that. They'll start the divisional playoff series on Thursday against the same Giants whose victory gained the Braves entry into the postseason. The teams are pretty evenly matched, with Atlanta winning 4 of 7 against San Francisco this year, and but the Giants have been on a bit of hot streak recently and they'll have an energized crowd cheering them on at home for the first two games. It should be a good series.

Encountered this sentence in a PowerPoint presentation yesterday:

Provided a solution that was each to support and change as needed

Let me know if you're a native speaker of English and you can find any actual meaning in that "sentence".

It's quite an accomplishment, really; it would take me quite a bit of time to purposefully string together a sequence of words that looked at first glance to be a legitimate grammatical construction but which contained no actual content.

The Baltimore Orioles ended their season strongly, going 34-23 after new manager Buck Showalter took over the team on August 3. Amazingly, they won more games in the last two months than they did the first four months of the season, when they went a sad 32-74. They didn't finish with the worst record in baseball, or even their league, but they were still rock bottom in their division (they were the only team in the AL East without a winning record, and they were 30 games out of first place when the season ended.

I've never thought a new manager can have a substantial impact on a team, but Showalter has done it before, and the turnaround in the team after he became manager in August was dramatic. The real test, however, will be next season—if he can lead them to a similar record the first two months of next season, he just might turn me into a believer.

[Insert weekly post where I complain about how much of a drag work is these days.]

Yes, Tim Lincecum pitched a great game for the Giants. But he didn't deserve a win because his team didn't do any better at scoring runs than the Braves did. The Giants won 1-0, but their lone run came off of an incredibly bad call that allowed the baserunner who scored that run to stay on base instead of being properly called out on a steal attempt.

This is going to be a hard-fought series, and I'll grant that the Giants may have eventually been the victors last night anyway. But we'll never know for sure because of that blown call, and in a short playoff series that's likely going to come down to a single run as the game decider more than once, it sucks that the Braves ended up losing a well-played game over a pretty obvious mistake by the umpires.

The weekend games between the Giants and the Braves are perfect examples of why all playoff series in baseball should go for the full seven games, instead of the five have been allotted for the first round. These teams fought hard to make it to the playoffs, and they are ridiculously evenly matched.

All three games so far (the fourth is tonight) have been decided by a single run; the Friday night game was won by Atlanta in the 11th innning, and Sunday's game went back and forth, with Atlanta hitting a two-run homer in the 8th to pull ahead 2-1 and then San Francisco adding two runs in the 9th (after they were down to their last strike) to win it 3-2.

Granted, I wish the outcome for that one would have been different, but the thrilling emotional rollercoaster of those last two innings was why sports people love spots so much, and I can at least appreciate it for that reason. There's little doubt in my mind that if this series were a full seven games, it would still come down to the final game, and maybe the final out, and we'd have two more great games of postseason baseball to remember.

Another close game for the Braves, but they just couldn't quite pull it out. I feel about as good about this series as a fan of the losing team can—every game was close enough that no one watching was sure of the outcome until the very last out (the scores: 0-1 and 5-4 in San Francisco, 3-2 and 3-2 in Atlanta), and we got several young players postseason experience that will hopefully prove valuable down the road.

If the pitching for both teams keeps up, the series between the Phillies and the Giants should be just as good. But it would have been really great to see the Braves give Bobby Cox one last shot at a ring before his retirement.

I have trouble remembering family birthdays, and I know very few of my friends', but for some reason I can always remember that today is X-Files creator Chris Carter's birthday.

Finished watching the fourth season of Dexter, and I was less than impressed given the hype surrounding the season (including a Golden Globe and an Emmy for John Lithgow, one of my favorite actors who hammed it up a bit too much to be believable, even in the far-fetched world that Dexter happens in).

I feel like there wasn't a lot of character development this season, although next season is set up to potentially be a good one (although I thought the same thing at the end of season 3). In this season, however, the show seemed content to let Lithgow carry the story, and even though I didn't care that much for his performance, that strategy clearly worked with the critics and much of the audience.

Julie has been back to work for two weeks now , but Will has yet to go to daycare. Last week, Julie's first week back, my mom came up and stayed with us to take care of him during the day, and this week my dad and stepmother took a turn. Next week Julie's mom will come up, and then the last week of October I'll take some days off and keep him at home, so he'll be nearly four months old before he has to be away from family during the day.

The parents coming up is good for them because they get to spend some serious one-on-one time with him; good for him because he gets to stay in an environment that he's familiar with and to start to get more comfortable with different people taking care of him for extended stretches; and good for us (especially Julie) because we can see that someone besides one of us can take care of him with no ill effects.

It's still going to be hard to take him to the woman who's going to care for him starting in November, but it will only be for three days a week (Julie and I are both working flex schedules so we can have a day at home with him every week), and I know that he'll be fine. I'm sure there will still be some bad days and that there might be some adjustments he'll have to make, but he's done pretty well with new people so far, and he's also made a lot of progress learning how to put himself to sleep quickly in the crib when it's naptime.

I normally don't post on the weekends, but today is the 10th anniversary of this site, and I think that merits a post.

A tough game for the Ravens yesterday, a 20-23 overtime loss to the Patriots on the road in which they won the overtime coin toss. Both teams fought incredibly hard, and for a while it looked like the game would actually end in a tie, but New England got in field goal range with about five minutes left and it was all over.

Baltimore's offense kind of petered out towards the end. Ray Rice made some headway, but I would have loved to have seen a few long lobs to Boldin, especially in OT. I couldn't see the coverage to know if he was covered so well that it wasn't a good risk, but with a receiver as talented and as physical as Boldin, it seems worth it to give him a few long passes—after all, if he had reeled one in, they likely would have been in field goal range and would have won the game.

But they're in a good position at 4-2, and they've got what look to be some very winnable games coming up. The offense has been strong most games, it just didn't quite have the extra gas in the tank it needed to close this one out. Sure, it's a game I wish they had won, because their play certainly merited a win, but it's the kind of loss that you can walk away from feeling good about for the most part.

Only Tuesday? Really?

I'm really glad Will is getting to spend so much time with his grandparents, and that they're all getting to spend some quality time with him. But man am I ready to not have houseguests anymore.

I need a new coat.

That should have been a Twitter post, I know, but I'm low on ideas today.

Today might be the last day I go into the office until November. Next week I'm taking the whole week off to spend with Will before we start doing the three-day a week daycare system that should be his routine until he's at least one. Today is also the last full day we'll have houseguests for a while—Julie's mom has been with us this week, but she'll be driving back home tomorrow.

Even though I'll be at home next week, I won't be avoiding work entirely—I'll be keeping up with emails and phone calls for at least a couple of hours a day, and if I have more time between naps, there are some low priority work tasks that I've had on my to-do list for a long time that I'm going to try to knock out.

I'm hoping it will be somewhat relaxing though, especially as the week wears on. Sometimes he has trouble adjusting on Mondays when his mom goes to work after having spent three days with him (Julie's flex schedule gives her Fridays off), making my Mondays at home with him less pleasant than the weekend days I spend with him. But I'm hoping that by staying home with him for a whole week, we'll get into a routine and he'll be a little more settled during the day.

Last week's road game against the Patriots was expected to be close, and it wasn't a shock that it went to overtime. This week, however, was supposed to be a cakewalk, playing at home against the Bills, a team with an 0-5 record, and with Ed Reed making his first appearance this season.

The good news: Ed Reed was fantastic, with two interceptions and a forced fumble, and the Ravens did end up with the win. The bad news: they were a mess defensively in the first half, with the Bills up 24-10 at one point, and the allowed Buffalo to get 10 points near the end of the game to tie it up and force it to overtime.

There were drives when the Bills seemed unstoppable, especially their passing attack (I mean, Lee freaking Evans had three TDs!). Granted, this team isn't nearly as bad as their now 0-6 record suggests, and they were coming off a bye week, but still, for the Ravens playing in Baltimore, it should have never gone to overtime when taking a 10 point lead into the final quarter.

They also finally decided to start throwing to Boldin more, something I've been wanting them to do for the past several games—but they decided to do this against one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. Indeed, when they did stay on the ground, the McGahee and Rice were getting very nice runs all game. But they had only 27 carries between them, about as many as a primary running back gets by himself in a typical game.

Still, they're 5-2 for the season, with one of the losses a tough on in overtime, and they have a bye week next week to regroup before a string of four games that should be relatively winnable. You can't be unhappy with where they are at this point in the season, especially when it's not out of the question that by early December they could have a playoff spot sewn up.

It's nice having the house back again, but I sure wish I could figure out how to get Will to deal with Mondays a little better. I mean, if he's like this now, what's he going to be like when he has a job he has to go to?

(I feel the need to clarify that I am kidding about that last sentence. I know I could have conveyed that with a smiley emoticon, but I just can't bring myself to do that in my blog. On IM, sure; on emails, occasionally. But not here.)

Will was in a much better mood yesterday, but him being easy to handle was balanced by a killer sinus headache that just got worse as the day went on. I'm hoping today we'll both be in a good place; I'd like to see if we can manage an outing to the grocery store together.

Each week he gets closer and closer to being a child instead of just a baby. This week he's gotten better at turning on his side from his back, sitting up straight in his Bumbo seat, and grabbing toys with his hands and bringing them to his mouth.

He still hasn't really made much progress in the crawling department, but I've been trying to have multiple five minute sessions a day with him where I put him on his tummy and put his arms under his chest so he can start to practice lifting himself up. He hates it, but there aren't too many other ways to get him to develop the upper body strength he'll need for crawling. On the plus side, if you do it when he starts getting cranky for a nap, it tuckers him out and he goes right to sleep.

I wonder, if you add up all the viewers from all the World Series games, does it even equal the viewers for the Super Bowl? I can't imagine it does, even if the series goes to 7 games, especially in a year like this when the teams are from medium-sized markets.

Of the four days of vacation I was planning to take this week, I've actually worked enough hours over the course of the week to cover two of them. So today I'm not doing anything work-related at all; I'm actually going to take a real day of vacation.

Of course, that just means I'll end up doing work this weekend. But I was going to have to do that anyway, plus any time I work on Saturday or Sunday counts towards the hours I need to make up for staying home with Will on Mondays.



december 2010
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