30 October 2010

Softball Games 11-14

As some of my astute readers might have noticed, I didn't post a separate post for last Saturday's softball games. Partially because I was busy/tired and partially because we lost both games. Badly. Badly enough that the first game didn't last more than 30 minutes, called because of the mercy rules.

No more info to be had there. I went 2-for-4 total in both games, both singles, and I was stranded on base both times. I also had a couple chances on plays at the plate, but I missed a catch and a couple throws were wide so I couldn't make the plays even if I'd had a chance. Blah.

But this week was better. In fact, we won both games - the final two games of the "regular season." I still didn't make any plays at the plate, but I'd like to think my shouting and words of encouragement helped boost morale! I also went 3-for-7 hitting, a couple singles and a single/fielder's choice which turned into two bases via a rundown between third and home plate.

Thus, my Fall Season stats overall:
- Actively made/assisted 8 outs at home plate.
- 1 error (missed catch)
- 23-for-47 hitting, a .489 batting average

Next weekend is the C-League tournament, so I'm hoping that we can have a good showing. If I remember last year's tournament, it was single-elimination, and our team was the first out of contention. I'd rather play a couple good games this time around!

Also, as an addition to this post: Rangers won tonight's Game 3 of the World Series in Texas, so they're on their way to catching the Giants, who won both Game 1 and Game 2 by rediculous scores. Go Rangers!

24 October 2010

Rangers-Giants World Series

Last night, the San Francisco Giants clinched their first World Series berth since 2002 over the Philadelphia Phillies in a... weird... game. This came a day after the Texas Rangers clinched their first-ever trip to the Fall Classic in their franchise's history (Nolan Ryan is proud!) over the "vampiric" New York Yankees.

So, while my playoff predictions have turned out to be a bust, I think a Rangers-Giants World Series should be huge for Major League Baseball! Two teams we almost never see in the championship series, both vying for their franchise's first World Series title. Yes, I know the NEW YORK Giants of pre-1958 fame won World Series rings, but since the team's move to San Francisco in '58, they have not won a title, and have only been to the World Series 4 times. The Rangers have never won, so this should be exciting. All the more so because of how they got there. Texas came out of nowhere to win the AL West by a more-than-comfortable margin, and San Francisco won their race on the last day of the regular season. Both teams are also giant-killers, having bested their league's strongest opponents in the Phillies and Yankees.

With players like Tim "The Freak" Lincecum and Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval up against Cliff "Never Lost a Playoff Game" Lee and Josh Hamilton, the 2010 World Series should be one to remember!

(By the way, GO RANGERS!)

23 October 2010

Bobblehead Collection

Today, I found a garage sale with a woman who was a big baseball fan (D-Backs in particular) and who was selling off some of her bobbleheads and assorted memorabilia from her rather extensive collection. I picked up eight new figures, only one of which was a "stadium giveaway," but since they were of nice quality, I didn't mind. They look great with my others, don't you think?

18 October 2010

Softball Games 9/10

Okay, a short interlude from the very good conversations I've been having on the Arizona ballot propositions and candidates. I would like to thank everyone who's visited and commented on my recommendations. I appreciate the chance to help support my choices and get new information on the ones I don't support. Also, in case any of you stats majors out there are interested, my 2010 Arizona Ballot Propositions Recommendations post is now my all-time single highest viewed page here on "The View From Arizona." So yeah, thanks!

Anyway, this post is just a quick update on my softball games on Saturday for the very few of you waiting on the edge of your seats for info. Our games were at 2:30pm this time around due to scheduling conflicts with the fields, so it was a semi-hot 90 degrees at game time. In game one, we picked up another W thanks to some sloppy defense by our opponents and our immensely fast lineup. Who knew younger people could run faster than older people?! Ha.... I ended up with two hits in four at-bats thanks to a bloop single into shallow center field and a botched fly ball in left. Both times I made it no farther than first base, though, so my contributions at the plate were limited. But behind the plate I had four chances for outs, all on pop flies, none on plays at the plate involving runners. I made two of the four plays myself, strangely by tipping both into the air on fouls straight back to me, then catching the balls on their way back to earth. Might have looked funny to a bystander, with me bobbling them a couple times before landing them, but it got the job done! The other two were pop flies right in front of the plate that I could have gotten, but I gave way to another infielder who had a better chance. We got all four outs. Woot!

Game two was a much closer contest because we were tied or within a run or two all game, and ended up losing by four runs. I think our defense was hot and tired, and combined with above-average defense by our opponents and some timely hitting on their part, they took the victory. I went one-for-four in this game, with a good, high pop fly, two grounders to short, and a zinging double down the left-field line, which I was proud of myself for keeping fair. I also had about three chances at home, one more pop up to me like the prior game which I caught, and two chances on runners at home which I missed. All told, not a horrible game, but a loss is a loss.

My stats, updated to this point:
- Actively made or assisted making 8 outs at home.
- 1 error on a missed catch.
- 3-for-8 this week, so 18-for-36 overall, a .500 average.

15 October 2010

Expanded Coverage: Prop. 203

Again, because of some good comments below on my prior Ballot Proposition Recommendations post, I have decided to expound on Prop. 107 (post below) and Prop. 203 (relating to medical marijuana).

Prop. 203 creates a new regulatory system for the distribution and oversight of medical marijuana for patients with a prescription from a physician for certain types of specific ailments, such as chronic pain. The new regulations would be governed by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The Confusion: A couple commenters on my blog, or since they are anonymous it might be just one, called me naive on the subject of pain management via marijuana and that I was attempting to mislead people into thinking it was more harmful than it might be. That argument was supplemented by the statement that prescription drugs are, in some cases, as or more addictive than marijuana, and that no one ever died from smoking it (though, considering a research study published in the BMJ medical journal showed that persons driving after using marijuana was twice as likely to be involved in fatal car crashes as "sober" people, I would challenge that).

What I Found Out: The federal Food and Drug Administration released results in 2006 of their study on the medicinal uses of cannabis and the risk-reward factor in using it as a prescription drug to treat ailments. It says that marijuana is a schedule 1 drug (the most restrictive category) because of three criteria: it has a high potential for abuse, has no currently proven acceptable medical use, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Scientific studies by the FDA and other Department of Health and Human Services agencies found that "no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."

AZ FactCheck on http://www.azcentral.com/ similarly reports that the US Drug Enforcement Agency, American Cancer Society, American Glaucoma Society, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society all state on their respective websites that medical marijuana may provide some benefits to patients with chronic illnesses, but that there are also negative effects that go along with those benefits. All but the DEA cite the need for better research before openly allowing medical marijuana. In addition, the Drug Enforcement Agency states that medical marijuana - or at least the part of it that helps manage pain called THC (the "active ingredient" in marijuana) - already exists in pill form called Marinol. While this pill has the same benefits as actually smoking the plants, it may also have negative side effects.

The argument really boils down to this, now that I know that pill-form marijuana exists and is approved by the FDA: proponents of 203 want to SMOKE pot. If this issue were really about the medicinal value of the plant, there already exist pain management medications and weight loss and appetite stimulants (like Marinol). While such pain meds like Vicodin or Oxycontin do have the potential to be addictive, they are much more controllable than marijuana, which has a high potential and probability for abuse by both prescribed users and non-prescribed users. Considering the valid FDA and DEA claims that marijuana's benefits do not at this time outweigh the potential negative effects of the drug, the only conclusion I can reach is that medical marijuana (the plant) is not an appropriate narcotic to use for medicinal purposes.

The Bottom Line: Medical marijuana provides little reward for potentially greater risk. Regardless of the passage of Prop 203, the federal government will continue to pursue and prosecute individuals using marijuana. Also, considering how hard it is to make something harmful illegal versus making something legal, if marijuana is found to have a negative impact on the state, it will be really difficult to repeal Prop. 203 in the future to fix the problem. Better to just vote no and leave this drug a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, illegal in the country and in the State of Arizona.

Expanded Coverage: Prop. 107

Because I have had a few very good comments on my 2010 Proposition Recommendations, I have decided to expound a little on one of the more controversial ones: Prop. 107 (relating to affirmative action programs).

Proposition 107 is the so-called "anti-discrimination" constitutional amendment for the State of Arizona and its cities, towns, universities, community colleges, and other governmental entities. It basically says that in issues of public employment, public education, and public contracting, no one can be given preferential treatment on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

The Confusion: My commenters have been interested in knowing whether or not Prop. 107 would hurt programs like WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), Upward Bound (giving scholarships to first-generation college students), or foundations that provide grants to (among other things) women for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathmatics) professional fields.

What I Found Out: I referenced a few different sources in trying to answer this question of exactly how programs would be affected. One was the AZCentral.com FactCheck section, which attempts to answer whether statements made about candidates or about these propositions are true or false (or somewhere in between). I also found a couple news articles about the implementation of very similar laws passed in California, Michigan, and Washington. What I found out was that only programs which are state-run or state-sponsored could (not necessarily would) be affected. Privately funded groups, like a foundation that provides scholarships to only women, only Hispanics, or only Chinese students (as examples) would NOT be affected by Prop. 107's implementation.

A program like Upward Bound, which gives grants and scholarships to first-generation college students without basing the application process or the decision-making process on race, color, national origin, or sex would also not likely be affected by this amendment. Because first-generation college students could include white male English students just as much as it could include black female Mexican students, the program is not in violation of anything.

Programs like WISE at ASU and UA exist in California, Washington, and Michigan and provide money for women (or minority groups) going into certain fields in order to promote continued diversity within those fields. In all three other states, their WISE-equivalent programs were not overly affected by the passage of the similar anti-preferential treatment laws. Those that might have been terminated by the law usually just expanded their applications processes to include both males and females, or all races instead of just one. WISE could still exist, and it could still actively target women, but if a male student applied to the program, he would need to be given equal consideration under the law. The other possibility is that programs like WISE, which is operated by the universities and state, could simply be privatized. That way, there would be no problem with the state sponsoring the preferential program.

Bottom Line: Voting yes on Prop. 107 DOES end preferential "quotas" in public hiring, education, and works to turn back the practice of reverse discrimination, which is becoming a factor in some aspects of state-sponsored programs. Now that many racial groups and both sexes are much, much more equal than they were 30 or 40 years ago, preferences for women are starting to hurt men, and preferences for minorities are beginning to hurt non-minorities (especially in Arizona, where Caucasians are no longer the majority race in the state). We might have a few kinks to work out if implementing the law raises problems that weren't foreseeable, but it's a good basis for making everyone truly equal in the state.

13 October 2010

2010 Candidate Recommendations

The time has come... with early ballots out to voters and just 20 days remaining until the results come pouring in, we as Arizonans and citizens of the United States have a lot of tough choices to make regarding who will serve our communities in the next couple years and beyond. The following are my recommendations for the Arizona races:

United States Senate: John McCain
While I have never been a die-hard supporter of our incumbent senator, his opponents in this race lack the experience I am looking for in a US Senator. John McCain does, and his next six years in office should be much improved now that he has said he will no longer seek election to the presidency in 2012.

US Rep. District 6: Jeff Flake
I supported his challenger in the primary because I wanted a change in my district, but in the general election, Jeff Flake outshines all of his opposition exponentially in terms of how he approaches his representation of the 6th district. He will work hard for Mesa and Gilbert, and he deserves two more years to try to turn things around in Congress.

Governor: Jan Brewer
Brewer has been controversial over her support of SB1070, and if it weren't for that, she might be neck-and-neck with her opponent. Just the same, Brewer is willing to fight for this state against even her own party against tough odds to try to improve Arizona. I support that mentality.

Secretary of State: Ken Bennett
A tireless leader for many years, Ken Bennett's reelection to the #2 position in the state is virtually assured and vitally important. I can't wait to see him run for Governor in a few more years.

Attorney General: Felecia Rotellini
Rotellini was not my first choice for the AG spot, but she will bring an attitude of "can-do" to the position against her opponents obstructionism.

State Treasurer: Andrei Cherney
With promises to conduct audits of state systems, I believe an overhaul of Arizona's failing government infrastucture is necessary to help us rebuild the state stronger than before the recession. Cherney is the best bet in my opinion for the job.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: John Huppenthal
After reading both candidates' statements, I believe in Huppenthal's ideology of improving teacher merit pay and making sure teachers are actually working in sustainable environments. A substitute teacher myself, while his opponent may be a parent and teacher, sometimes you need a political mind for a political position, and Huppenthal should get results.

State Mine Inspector: Joe Hart
The incumbent Hart has done a great job for many years now, and deserves reelection to this post, which garners little attention at the ballot box or media, but is important to the State of Arizona.

Corporation Commissioner: Gary Pierce and Brenda Burns
The two I supported in the Republican primary election, I haven't changed my mind: Burns and Pierce will work to aid small business and promote healthy and sustainable business practices in the Arizona corporate market.

Maricopa County Attorney: Bill Montgomery
Virtually running alone, Montgomery is a respectable candidate with a long-term vision for making Maricopa County a safer place. His proven record of stopping crimes and his ability to work with all levels of local law enforcement make him the ideal candidate to fill the county's top legal spot.

Central Arizona Water Conservation District (vote for 5):
Tim Bray, Jim Holway, Karl Kohlhoff, Mark Lewis, and Sid Wilson
These five candidates have backgrounds and experience in dealing with water issues and conservation issues, all prerequisites for serving on this board. These five candidates, two of whom are incumbents to the board, are most likely to be able to continue to make smart decisions on how to manage our water usage into the foreseeable future.

Maricopa County Community College District: Jerry Walker
State Senator LD-19: Rich Crandall
State Rep. LD-19: Kirk Adams, Justin Olson
Clerk of the Superior Court: Christopher Rike
Justice of the Peace (East Mesa): Mark Chiles
Constable (East Mesa): William Taylor
Mesa Unified School District #4 (vote for two): Dave Lane, Michelle Udall
Judges (vote to keep all EXCEPT): Barker, Irvine, Aceto, Barton, Bassett, Bergin, Brotherton, Fenzel, Foster, Grant, Heilman, Hicks, Pineda, Reinstein

This is only my recommended guide for voters based upon my own opinions of the candidates and their positions after doing my own, independent research on each person. If my candidate choices match up with yours, awesome. I encourage each person to do their own checking of the candidates and come up with their own lists. Good luck to the candidates!

12 October 2010

2010 Arizona Ballot Proposition Recommendations

Ever wondered how and why we have all those confusing ballot propositions ever couple years? Not only are they usually strangely worded, but what's up with not numbering them consecutively? 101, 304, 425.... Never makes much sense. Well, here's the gist. Propositions are the result of either the state government wanting to change something with Arizona's laws or Constitution, or the public wanting to do so. And to accomplish this, we classify propositions according to four criteria: (read more after the beak jump!)

2010 Postseason Update 2

Well, with one final game tonight left to decide the remaining NLDS Champion, I thought I'd go ahead and recap the Division Series games now and compare my predictions. On October 1st, with a couple days remaining in the regular season, I predicted the Phillies over the Reds, Giants over the Braves, Yankees over their rivals (in this case, the Twins), and the Rays over their rivals (the Rangers).

How'd I do so far?

The Philadelphia Phillies won their series over the Reds three games to none, 4-0, 7-4, and 2-0, with the 4-0 game being Roy Halladay's second no-hitter of the 2010 season, and just the second ever no-hitter in the postseason! Congrats, Doc!

The San Francisco Giants won their series in four games over the Braves, winning games 1, 3, and 4. The finals scores of each game were SF 1-ATL 0, SF 4-ATL 5, SF 3-ATL 2, and SF 3-ATL 2. But the most interesting factoid of the series is the record-setting number of errors by Brooks Conrad (ATL), who committed three errors in game 3 of the series to lose it for the Braves, and four overall. The Braves made 7 total errors in what is now retiring Manager Bobby Cox's last series in baseball.

The New York Yankees won their series over the Twins three games to none, 6-4, 5-2, and 6-1. Considering the Twins came into the series having won one postseason game against the Yankees in 10 years, it wasn't a far stretch to think who would win. The Yankees have now won nine consecutive games in the postseason versus the Twins, and have swept them in the ALDS three times in a row.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers are currently tied at two games apiece as of this writing, with Game 5 tonight at 8pm EST for all the marbles. Texas won both the first two games at Tropicana Field, 5-1 and 6-0, but lost both games at their home Ballpark at Arlington 6-3 and 5-2. Tonight's game is not only win-or-go-home for one team, it's going to be interesting to see which team steps up their game. The Rangers have to be favored considering they already beat the Rays at home twice in this series. They seem comfortable playing there. Yet the Rays just beat the Rangers twice in Texas, which has to be both a blow to the Rangers and a momentum swing for the Rays. Either way, it's Cliff Lee (never lost a playoff game) versus Cy Young candidate David Price tonight!

If the Rays win tonight, I'm 4-for-4 in playoff predictions this year! I've already predicted the Yankees over the Rays/Rangers and the Phillies over the Giants in the ALCS/NLCS matchups. But note that the Yankees don't have home-field advantage against either the Rays or Rangers, so you still never know what could happen! Watch for another update as the 2010 MLB Postseason continues!

10 October 2010

Softball Games 7/8

Because of a gigantic wall of dust rolling across the valley last weekend, our softball team got a week off when the games were called due to visibility issues and lightning/rain. We'll be making them up later on in the season. Yesterday's games were in pretty much perfect weather, and we were matched up very nicely with a pair of teams. Both games were quite close, and we ended up winning the first game and losing the second game.

The first game we started off ahead and never lost the lead, but our opponents were within a couple runs of us the whole time. Thanks to some timely defence from our outfield (including two running backhanded catches on "Texas League" fly balls) and solid infield play, we won the game. I made two catches on pop flies at the plate, which really are not that easy to do. You have to look up while running (not hit the umpire, runner, or bats), track the ball, not run into the fences, and then actually catch and hold the ball (which nearly always involves a basket catch - not a very stable situation). I did it three times - twice for outs and once as a foul ball hit the fence and bounced back at me. Woot. I also went two-for-four on two singles and scored one run for our team. My other two at-bats were both lineouts to the shortstop, which I was all right with because I at least squared up the ball both times. I just had the unfortunate luck to hit it right at someone.

Game two opened against another solid team, but this one was a back-and-forth kind of contest. We were first down 3-0, then up 5-3, then down 10-5, then up 11-10, then tied at 11, then finally ended up losing it in the last inning by 4 runs 15-11. We made a couple miscues, though nothing really major, and had some good defensive moments and some bad defensive moments. One play in particular that keeps running through my mind is my only play at the plate that game. With runners on first and second, the batter hit a long fly ball to right field, which went over the head of our fielder. Both runners scored, and by the time the ball got back to me, the batter-runner was barrelling in from third. He slid, and I tagged him (very hard... sorry!) on the head. He was called safe. It was a really close play, and for my life I cannot feel that the umpire was wrong... I think he was safe on the play. Darn it. Anyway, I did again go two-for-four with two singles, a flyout to left field, and another lineout to third.

Thus, my "stats" so far: I have actively made or assisted five outs at home plate (two tags, two popouts, and one assisted tag play), without - in my humble opinion - making an error yet. I was 4-for-8 this weekend, and that should bring me to 15-for-28 on the season, a .536 batting average. Yay! Over .500!

03 October 2010

2010 MLB Playoff Update

The season is finally over, and the last teams standing are celebrating with champagne. Here's the final victory list:

American League:
East: Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)
Central: Minnesota Twins (94-68)
West: Texas Rangers (90-72)
Wild Card: New York Yankees (95-67)

National League:
East: Philadelphia Phillies (97-65)
Central: Cincinnati Reds (91-71)
West: San Francisco Giants (92-70)
Wild Card: Atlanta Braves (91-71)

This means the playoffs will differ slightly from what I said in my last post.
ALDS 1: Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
ALDS 2: New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins
NLDS 1: Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies
NLDS 2: Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants

Watch for more updates!

01 October 2010

2010 MLB Postseason

The regular season might just be decided by the end of this night, as only two playoff-bound teams are left to be chosen and only two pennants awarded. As I predicted on September 14, the following races have been won:

AL West: Texas Rangers
AL Central: Minnesota Twins

NL Central: Cincinnati Reds
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies

The American League also features both the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees making the cut, but only one of them will win the AL East division; the other will be the AL Wild Card winner.

The NL West comes down to tonight's game between the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. The Padres must sweep all three games in this final series to force a one-game playoff for the victory. If the Giants can win any of the next three games (four if a tie is forced), they move on. Also, if the Padres happen to lose two games out of the final three, or if the Atlanta Braves win two, the Braves will become the NL Wild Card winners. Currently, the Braves are losing, so if the Padres can win one tonight, they'll still have a shot at the Wild Card. If the Padres win two and lose one, and the Braves win one and lose two, they will end up in a tie and force a playoff for the Wild Card. Confused yet? Basically all you need to know is that if the Padres have a snowball's chance in the the underworld of making the playoffs, they need to win the series against the Giants. Otherwise, kiss it goodbye 'til next year.

So, what does this mean for the playoff structure? Here's how the postseason will shake out:

ALDS 1: Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees
ALDS 2: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Minnesota Twins
NLDS 1: Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies
NLDS 2: Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants

Assuming this is how it all shakes out and nothing wild or crazy happens with the Padres or the final standings, I therefore predict the Yankees will beat the Rangers, Twins will beat the Rays, Phillies over Reds, and the Giants over the Braves.

ALCS: Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees
NLCS: San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies

If this is truly the case, the Yankees will trounce the Rays in four games, and the Phillies will again beat the Giants in 6 games.

World Series: New York Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies

The Yankees will win their 28th World Championship. Yeah, I know... I don't like it either. That's just what will happen.