Saturday, July 1, 2017
It's just not that much fun watching the Angels. Mike Trout is out for probably another couple of weeks and possibly much longer. Their starting rotation is currently the 6th-10th pitchers on their depth chart and I have a feeling things are about to get ugly. (True, I said that one month ago, and the team went 14-14 in June, but I think they overachieved considerably and July will not be as kind.)
It's really fun watching the Dodgers... when I can. Unfortunately, I'm a DirecTV customer, so those days are pretty rare.
I'll be back in August with lots of new recipe ideas for the dog days of the baseball season, and of course the start of college football.
BTW, the above picture is from a Memphis Redbirds game I saw more than a decade ago. It's a footlong hot dog, topped with a river of chili, cheese, and beer-battered onion rings.
Posted by JAM at 10:47 AM
Sunday, June 25, 2017
THE GAME: Angels vs Red Sox
I've mentioned before that the Angels are currently missing the top 5 starting pitchers on their depth chart. So they signed Doug Fister - a pitcher who used to be quite serviceable, but about whom there are a lot of doubts currently, as evidenced by the fact that he didn't have an MLB job in May - to a no-risk minor league contract.
They agreed that if he had not cracked the majors within one month, they would grant him his release. He did not, he requested to be let go on Wednesday, and the Angels granted it.
He was immediately signed by the Red Sox and is making his debut today... against the Angels.
There seem to be two likely scenarios. One, Fister just doesn't have it any more. I mean, how bad must he have looked if the Angels didn't have room for him in their makeshift rotation?
The second scenario is that the Angels made a mistake and should have given him at least a look in the majors.
Normally it would just be one of those things to which we'd never know the answer, like how this season of Fargo ended, or how Sbarro manages to stay in business. Except, now the Angels get to face Fister in his first start back in the big leagues.
They could receive confirmation of their decision, or they could be totally embarrassed. (Or, probably more likely, it could be neither here nor there.)
It was a good morning to make a hearty breakfast. Years ago, at a diner on Route 66, I enjoyed something called a Hobo Scramble. I don't remember exactly what was in it, just that it was a lot of stuff that I enjoyed. So I'm borrowing the name, if not the exact recipe.
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- I'm never exactly sure what is meant by "Southern Style" hash browns. Sometimes it includes peppers and onions. These are just cubed potatoes. Whatever.
- I scrambled a couple of eggs with cheddar cheese in my wok and set them aside.
- Next, I cooked some bulk sausage, drained the fat, and sat it aside as well.
- I cooked the potatoes with a tablespoon of oil in the wok, tossing them with a diced orange bell pepper. When the potatoes were ready, I added the eggs and sausage back to the wok, threw in some diced green onion, and mixed it all around.
- It was good but I should have reserved some of the pork fat - the scramble was a little on the dry side. Which was easily alleviated with some hot sauce and a few slugs of A.1. sauce. (Ketchup seemed a little too mundane for something into which I'd put so much effort.)
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- Anytime the Angels are in position to take a series at Fenway Park, I consider it a successful trip. With very few exceptions (though some of them spectacular), Fenway has been a house of horrors for the Angels for my entire life.
- With the Angels victory yesterday, they are 39-39; by my count that's the 21st time this season they have been at .500.
- Tyler Skaggs - one of the Angels pitchers who has been on the DL since April - was scheduled to make his first rehab start last night but felt a sharp pain in his oblique just before the game and was scratched. This is not really surprising to Angels fans (shit, it's gotten to the point where I assume he and Garrett Richards are simply never going to be fully healthy) but it is interesting timing: if this setback had occurred only three days earlier, I imagine the Angels promote Fister to the majors instead of granting him his release.
- The Angels cleanup hitter today is batting .184. We're 5 days away from July. There is no excuse for that.
- Maybin starts the game by staring at three pitches - all strikes. The first two were right down the middle. That's not a good omen.
- Simba rips a single with one out in the second - so at least the Angels won't get no-hit.
- Kaleb Cowart, in his first appearance this season, hits a double off Fister, in his first appearance this season. The weird part is they were teammates at AAA Salt Lake four days ago. 3-0 Angels.
- Benintendi tries to stretch a single into a double on Kole Calhoun and gets thrown out. Rookie mistake. He's still gonna be a hell of a player. It boggles my mind that the Red Sox got Chris Sale without having to give up both Moncada and Benintendi.
- Pujols grounds into a double play. Having Valbuena batting 4th and hitting .187 may be bad, but Pujols batting 3rd, hitting .239, and making four times as much money is even worse. (Pujols WAR = -.7; Valbuena = -.4.)
- Angels put the first two runners on in the 7th and get nothing out of it. Clinging to a 3-2 lead. I bet they pay for that.
- I'm curious why they didn't bunt a runner over with 1st and 2nd and no outs. I'm not necessarily saying they should have, I'm just surprised they didn't. Scioscia loves bunts like I love beer. Why didn't he call for one in that situation?
- Commercial Note: I never watch commercials during games. I either type something on this blog, or, more likely, look up the box scores of other games going on. Every time I hear that Range Rover commercial where the cat meows at the end, I look to see where my cat is. Every single time. The cat in the commercial sounds just like HawkeyeMikeTrout.
- The book is closed on Doug Fister: 6 IP, 7 hits, 3 ER. In a vacuum, that's not bad. But against the Trout-less Angels, with two guys in the lineup hitting below .190, it's not great either. It's impossible to draw conclusions today.
- Pitching the top of the 8th for Boston is a reliever named Joe Kelly. What a wonderful name for a Boston pitcher. (Although he was born in SoCal and went to UCR... both of which describe me, too.)
- Pujols hits a ball back up the middle and it ricochets off the pitcher probably 45 feet to the third baseman... who still has time to throw out Pujols quite easily. It's so fucking depressing to watch what he's become.
- Going to the bottom of the 8th at Fenway with a one-run lead. I don't know a single Angels fan who can feel optimistic about this.
- Kaleb Cowart picks up his second RBI of the game off Craig Kimbrel in the top of the 9th. That's only the fourth earned run Kimbrel has allowed this season. Welcome to The Show, Kaleb. Personally, I hope you stay here for good. 4-2 Angels.
- Yusmeiro Petit closes out the game 1-2-3 in the 9th. Two games in a row, the Angels have hung on in the 9th inning at Fenway with the tying or winning run at the plate. What world is this?
- Actually, this season has been slightly crazy for the Angels. In a 15-game stretch against Houston, Kansas City, Yankees, and Red Sox, the Angels just went 8-7, all without Mike Trout or any of their best starting pitchers.
- Of course, now comes 4 games against the Dodgers, who have won 9 games in a row and are playing better than any team has all season. It will be fun to hear Vin Scully call this series.
- Oh, wait.
Posted by JAM at 1:36 PM
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
THE GAME: Angels vs Yankees
The stretch of the year between Memorial Day and the middle of July is my favorite time of the year. Memorial Day barbecues, the summer solstice (which is coming up in 5 hours), the 4th of July, the MLB All-Star Game, and (somewhat selfishly) my birthday. I love the long, warm days.
But man, what a boring time of the year for sports. College football is still 66 days away. The NBA Finals were a 5-game whimper without even the threat of a bang.
I love baseball, but watching the Angels without Mike Trout is not my favorite. (Since last I wrote here, they lost another pitcher, Matt Shoemaker, which means the top 5 starters on their depth chart are now all on the DL.)
But they're playing the Yankees, so I figured I'd settle in and watch. They played the Yankees last week and took 2 out of 3 from them... but of course, that was in Anaheim. Now it's in the Bronx, where the Yankees mash in their Little League park.
(It's no coincidence that they are a dominant 22-9 at home and only 16-20 on the road.)
I lived in NYC for two baseball seasons a few years back. I thought the food that I would miss most would be In-n-Out burgers, but it wasn't. There were plenty of good burger places there. Next I thought I would miss places like Zankou Chicken and a handful of other Lebanese/Armenian joints around Southern California, but it turned out I lived four blocks from a stretch of Middle Eastern restaurants and markets that were in many ways superior to the stuff with which I grew up.
But the Mexican food was... atrocious. There were a few high-end Mexican restaurants at which I dined that served acceptable food, but they were always accompanied by a $100 tab for two people. And the street taco stands and burrito joints? I did not find a single one that I liked.
So, while reminiscing about those Angels-Yankees games I used to watch in person, I thought I'd cook up something with a Mexican flair. (Though fajitas are much more Tex-Mex than Mexican, if you care about such things.)
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- At a local butcher, I picked up a bag of chicken fajita mix, with bell peppers, red and white onions, and spices. I cooked it in the cast iron pan for ten minutes.
- Most of the time, I abhor instant rice. But the Uncle Ben's "Spanish Style" is a guilty pleasure: I absolutely love the sodium overload and the seasoning blend packed with garlic and onion powders. It's just one of those things I happen to love and can't explain, like Twinkies or Crystal Pepsi.
- I added half of the packet on top of the chicken and veggies.
- The Cascabel chile gets its name from the rattling of the seeds inside; cascabel means "little bell" or "little rattle" in Spanish. The chile is not so much spicy as it is smoky and woody. When simmered in sauce, like this one here, it tastes like an earthy mole sauce.
- I wrapped up the rice and chicken fajitas inside a large tortilla and placed it inside a pyrex dish, then spread a layer of the Cascabel sauce on top.
- I covered it with cheese and baked it in the oven for fifteen minutes.
- When it came out of the oven, I covered it with cilantro.
- It was spectacular. It may not be authentic Mexican, but damn was it delicious.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- Cameron Maybin hits a leadoff double. Lemme check something on Baseball Reference real quick... Yep, just what I thought. In 21 games at leadoff, he's hitting .388. (For comparison, in 26 games batting 6th and 7th, he hit .143.)
- Every time Pujols comes up with runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs, I hold my breath waiting for a triple play. Not exactly what you want out of the highest-paid player on your team.
- Pujols hits an RBI single. That's his 49th on the season, good for 3rd in the American League. Yet his WAR is -.8. That's negative, folks. He hits singles and home runs but provides nothing else of value.
- The Angels had a double, single, and base on balls that inning before recording a single out, yet only scored 1 run. I'm guessing that won't be enough to win.
- PARKER BRIDWELL WITH A NO HITTER THROUGH ONE! Stay close to the TV, Angels fans. It only took him 26 pitches to get through the first.
- Angels add two more in the second inning. Still not enough.
- Are all the
dorksfans sitting in the "Judge's Chambers" required to wear a robe? It looks like a pleasant enough night in NYC, but what about next month when it's 98º with 95% humidity?
- Bridwell hasn't given up a hit through three innings, but he's at 65 pitches with 4 bases on ball. He's like C.J. Wilson, but without a vagina.
- The Yankees get their first hit of the game on the first pitch of the 4th inning. Let's see what happens here.
- Gary Sanchez was the next batter; he walked on a pitch in the zone that should have been called strike three. Oh well; you know you will never get the calls when you're in New York, you can't leave it up to the umpires.
- The Yankees get one run in the inning. Could have been much worse. 3-1 Angels after 4.
- Hey, waddaya know, Kole Calhoun fouled the ball into the dirt, the Yankees catcher acted like he caught it, and the umpire called Calhoun out. There is literally zero doubt that the ball hit the ground. A classic Yankees home-field call. Yankees fans think everyone hates them because they have been so successful. That's only a part of it. Baseball fans hate the Yankees because they constantly get away with shit like that.
- Aaron Judge hits another one of his custom homers to right field that would be a flyout in 29 other parks in America. 3-2 Angels.
- Sanchez ties it up with a home run to... you guessed it, right field. "Anything hit to that part of the field has a chance to go out," Mark Gubicza says.
- Maybin homers, Calhoun doubles, and Escobar triples. The Angels now lead 5-3, but more importantly, that means Papa John's pizzas are half price tomorrow.
- This game has been going on for more than two and a half hours and it's only the top of the 7th. I went to a minor league game last week - High-A Angels vs. High-A Dodgers - and the entire game was over in 2 hours 25 minutes. One of many reasons why I prefer minor league baseball in person.
- Also, this ticket cost only $13:
- Cam Bedrosian comes in and throws a 1-2-3 7th inning. It's good to have him back from the DL; he's my favorite Angels reliever since K-Rod was in his prime.
- Woah, Keynan Middleton is pitching the 8th for the Angels. I know the team has big hopes for his future, but I'm surprised to see him in here when Bedrosian just went 1-2-3 in the 7th. I know Cam just returned from injury, but that is still classic Mike Scioscia: "Well, my most talented reliever just had a perfect inning, I think I'll yank him for a rookie."
- A Yankees fan can be heard loudly yelling "Fuck the Angels!" Stay classy, New York. The Angels have as many championships in this century as the Yankees do.
- What's good for the goose is good for the gander: .185-hitting Luis Valbuena just crushed a home run. 8-3 Angels.
- That's the final score. The Yankees have now lost three in a row to the Angels. Sandwiched between those three losses? A four-game losing streak to the A's, who have the worst record in the AL.
- The Angels are now 12-0 on Tuesdays this season. That's one of the most bizarre statistics I've heard in quite a while.
Friday, June 9, 2017
THE GAME: Warriors vs Cavs (Game 4)
It's sobering to look back on how wrong you can be.
I thought Albert Pujols was going to make the Angels a perennial contender for at least three or four years. My freshman year of college, I had a Grateful Dead poster on my dorm room wall. I thought Panda Express was delicious. I thought bowling was fun. I once willingly moved to New York City. I paid money to see Independence Day: Resurgence. I was in Montana and decided to skip Glacier National Park to attend "Evel Knievel Week" in Butte.
Do you see what I'm getting at here?
I've been wrong many, many times.
And I thought this was going to be a good series.
Game 3 had some exciting moments down the stretch, but the Cavs still lost. Just like they did in Games 1 & 2, though not nearly as badly.
So now we arrive at Game 4. Will LeBron really allow the Cavs to be swept in the Finals for the second time in a decade?
And if he does, will it put to rest this business about LeBron being better than Michael Jordan?
(Probably not. People are idiots - just this morning, Rashad McCants was on The Herd claiming that Kobe Bryant was better than Jordan and LeBron is barely Top 10.)
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- Stubbs now makes a BBQ sauce with Dr Pepper. I love Dr Pepper.
- Did you know there is no period after the "Dr" in Dr Pepper? If not, you do now.
- I sliced a vidalia onion and placed it in the bottom of the slow cooker, dropped a pork butt on top, and then poured in a can of Dr Pepper. It has to be the Wonder Woman can or the recipe won't work.
- That's not true, obviously.
- Nine hours later, I removed the pork, shredded it, and removed the little fat that was remaining.
- I drained the slow cooker, returned the pork, and added half the bottle of sauce.
- 90 minutes later, I put a handful of the pork on a brioche bun, topped it with store-bought cole slaw, and ate it with shoestring fries.
- It was a wonderful summer meal. I know it's not technically summer yet, but it sure feels like it.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- In the pregame show, Chauncey Billups said "If [LeBron] gets swept in the Finals again, you can take him out of the MJ conversation." Paul Pierce replied "I never had him in it to begin with." It's good to see a couple of NBA Finals MVPs know what they're talking about. (Contrasted with 32-year-old McCants, who hasn't been able to find a job in the NBA in eight years.)
- At tipoff, the crowd is not 1/10 as fired up as they were Wednesday night. They probably realize it would take a miracle to win this series.
- No team has ever come back from being down 3-0 in any NBA playoff series, let alone the Finals. But then again, no team had ever come back from being down 3-1 in the Finals before Cleveland did it last year.
- Tristan Thompson just blew a 3-foot shot. So far in the Finals he is averaging 8 points - wait, my bad, he has scored 8 points total. In 3 games. Jesus, I almost feel bad for him. Or I would if he wasn't banging a Kardashian.
- Two minutes after I wrote that, Jeff Van Gundy started talking about how stupid "the Kardashian Curse" is and that people should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting it exists. I cannot tell you how happy that makes me. An ABC announcer is defending the Kardashians on live TV during an NBA Finals game. We should all feel ashamed for saying anything bad about a family that became famous for releasing a sex tape.
- Cleveland is up by 16 points and the Warriors don't look the slightest bit concerned.
- That was the longest 1st quarter I remember in quite a while. Cleveland put up 49 points - the most in a quarter in Finals history - despite missing 8 free throws.
- LeBron is starting the 2nd quarter on the bench. The Cavs are -20 in the Finals when he's off the court.
- Cleveland is hitting their shots and now they're up by 20. Golden State is starting to look like they're thinking Okay, these guys aren't letting up.
- Steph Curry is 1-7. He better heat up soon or this series is headed back to Oakland.
- On the flip side, Kyrie is 10-12 for 25 points. He is something to watch when he's on.
- They showed Dwyane Wade in the crowd and it took me ten seconds to realize who it was. I thought I know who that is... but damn, I just can't place it. In my defense, this is what he's looking like tonight:
- Cleveland ends the first half with 86 points. That's not a misprint. I haven't been drinking. 86 points in the first half.
- But hey, the Angels are beating the Astros 8-2 at the moment. It's one of those nights for the unexpected.
- LeBron is an amazing player. I think he's the second-greatest player of all time. But it does annoy me the way he front-runs. Dancing around, throwing behind-the-back-passes... he is a completely different player when his team is up by 20. I don't dislike him, but I totally get why lots of people do.
- Okay, no joke, I swear on Mike Trout's life, I wrote those sentences and less than five seconds later, LeBron threw the ball off the backboard to himself and dunked it. If he consistently played with the brilliance he does when his team is up 20, there would be no doubt about him being the greatest player of all time.
- LeBron and KD are jawing at each other. I love it. It took three-and-a-half games, but now it's getting really good. I hope Cleveland hangs on - I mean, the lead is 19 at this point - because I really want to see another game.
- Draymond Green picked up his second technical of the game and yet wasn't ejected because the refs retroactively changed a technical foul from the first half. WTF? I'm not sure I've ever seen that before. I didn't even know they could do that.
- "That's not a good look for the NBA," reports Jeff Van Gundy. No, Jeff, it's not. This officiating is atrocious tonight and I think there's a 50% chance they just made something up on the spot... but I think we can all agree that the main problem in the NBA today is Kardashian-shaming, right?
- Everyone in America gets a free taco from Taco Bell on Tuesday. They've been doing promotions like this since 2002. Have any of you ever taken advantage? In fact, have any of you ever known anyone who has taken advantage? I have not.
- I ducked into the kitchen to get a drink of water when I heard the announcer say that some of the Golden State players were "getting into it" with some of the fans. My level of surprise to return to the TV and see that it was Matt Barnes? Zero.
- LeBron starts the 4th quarter on the bench and Golden State immediately scores 6 points. They show LeBron and he has a look on his face like Screw this, I'm going to the Lakers at the first chance I get. Although to be perfectly honest with you, that might just be my interpretation of it.
- The Warriors cut it to 11, then Kyrie scored 5 in a row. It's now a 16-point Cavs lead with 9 minutes to play. I'm not sure if Golden State has another run in them.
- In Game 3, the Warriors had 40 points in transition. Tonight, they have 7. Steph is 4-12 and the team is only shooting 70% from the free throw line. It is not their night in any way.
- Most of the starters are on the bench now and Cleveland has it in the bag. I am impressed by how they came out and just handled the Warriors tonight.
- If they could have just closed out Game 3, this series would be much, much different.
- Game 5 will be Monday night. Why do they do that? For years, Finals games were only on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Whose idea was it to start playing games on Friday and Monday?
- Can Cleveland win a game in Oakland? They have the best player in the world, so yes, they can. Can they win three more games in a row? It's never been done before. But you can say that about anything until it's done for the first time.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
THE GAME: Warriors vs Cavs (Game 2)
I don't think I'm delivering any earth-shattering news when I say that we live in a world where the core tenet of the media is ratings, not information nor intelligence. Controversial and outrageous statements are measured not in their accuracy but rather their impact. If this is true of (what used to be considered) serious media, one can only imagine the orgy of moronic opinions dominating the sports media landscape after Game 1.
"Kevin Durant is now better than LeBron!"
"This series is over."
"Are the Warriors the greatest team of all time?"
Let's take a deep breath for a moment. All that happened Thursday night was that the home team won Game 1. That's what home teams are supposed to do.
(And, to point out the obvious: Golden State won Game 1 at home last year as well. And Game 2, for that matter. How'd that work out for them?)
I'm not saying I think Cleveland will win this year. I thought Golden State would win when the playoffs started in April. I thought they would win before Game 1. I think they will win now.
What I am saying is that anyone who considers the series over because Golden State won Game 1 at home has a very short memory. No series truly gets interesting until the home team loses a game.
(And we all know what will happen if the Cavs steal tonight's game: the screaming heads will declare "Golden State is in trouble!" or "Are we seeing a repeat of last year?")
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- Frozen breaded shrimp are almost always disappointing. Inevitably they end up overcooked and tasteless. Or soggy and... well, tasteless. The "Whole Catch" label from Whole Foods are a spectacular exception. I wrote about them when I made po' boys for Mardi Gras - they are the only frozen shrimp I would call great. They fry up in about three minutes.
- Girard's Chinese Chicken Salad dressing is probably the best I've had out of a bottle. I tossed some shredded cabbage with a little of the dressing to serve as a base in the tacos.
- The sauce is a simple creation: mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, and a couple of drops of Texas Champagne. I stirred the fried shrimp in a bowl of the sauce until they were all coated, then dropped them into the tacos.
- Someone emailed me and asked if I always use lower-fat mayo. The answer is no. If the mayo is a main component of something, like chicken salad or a dip, I use the Best Foods mayonnaise made with olive oil. It tastes better because, you know, fat tastes good. But if I'm just spreading it on a burger or sandwich, or making a sauce like this with multiple ingredients, I use the lower-fat version.
- I saw this bottle of sauce for sale in Vons the other day. I think it claims to be a sauce for tacos but I'm not gonna lie to you - I didn't read the label; the name "Creamy Street Sauce" had me hooked. I drizzled it over the tacos right before eating them.
- It's possible that at some point in my life I have had better seafood tacos, but I really can't remember when.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- I wish they played this game earlier in the afternoon; I'm enjoying watching Cubs and Cardinals at Fenway. Oh well. There is plenty of Sunday Night Baseball left. These Finals might not even last until next weekend. (I mean, I think they will, but there's no guarantee.)
- On one hand, Steve Kerr is back on the bench for the Warriors. On the other hand, the Cavs are wearing their black jerseys for this game. So... well, I have no idea. But ESPN is making a big deal out of both of those things.
- Cleveland came out looking much better than they did at any point in Game 1... and after seven minutes, they're still losing by 7.
- Make that 10. Durant blocked a shot on defense, then went down and made a 3 on offense. He really is something to watch.
- LeBron long ago eclipsed Kobe in terms of greatness; now he's rapidly approaching Kobe in terms of bitching to the refs when he thinks he's been fouled. (Which happens to coincide with every single time he misses a layup.)
- Steph Curry just got fouled on a three-pointer for the second time this game, and for the second time he made all three shots.
- "James thought he got fouled!" yells Mike Breen. Yes, Mike, we've been over this: he thinks that every time he misses a layup.
- Well, despite Cleveland looking better, they still gave up 40 to Golden State in the first quarter. (When the Warriors score at least 35 points in the first quarter this season, they are 22-0.)
- Commercial Note: I don't really go to the movies much anymore; how many "Planet of the Apes"-type movies have been made in the last ten years? And in this new one, is Woody Harrelson a human or one of the apes? It's getting hard to tell.
- Van Gundy just called out LeBron for standing around crying to the refs instead of getting back on defense.
- Two minutes left in the half and it's a one-point game. Cleveland is not going away.
- 67-64 GSW at halftime. LeBron with 10 assists already.
- One of the reasons it's so close - after only turning the ball over four times in Game 1, Golden State turned it over 13 times in the first half. (Maybe it's Kerr's fault!)
- This game is deceiving me. It felt like Cleveland was making more plays to start the 3rd, then I look up after 5 minutes and Golden State has increased their lead to 8.
- LeBron gets a triple-double... with several minutes left in the third quarter.
- Golden State scores 35 in the third quarter and they're up 14 points... and it still doesn't feel like they're playing all that well.
- Klay Thompson is now up to 22 points tonight. If he starts to get hot, then I agree this series will not last much longer.
- Jesus, KD. Another block on defense, drives down and scores a layup. And then hits a three-pointer on the next possession. That guy can smell it.
- LeBron heads to the bench with three and a half minutes left, which means they are throwing in the towel.
- Golden State wins 132-113. Steph had a triple-double but KD's line is amazing: 33 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocks. And it looked easy for him. Even though I don't like that he left Oklahoma City for Oakland, it's hard not to understand why he did it.
- As I wrote, it's impossible to make a declaration about a series before a home team loses... but still, it's going to be very tough for Cleveland to come back. They now have to win four of the next five games. Yes, they did it last year, but now Golden State has Durant. For Cleveland, it's not dark yet, but it's getting there.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
Okay, here's the deal: the regular season was not much fun. The playoffs were an atrocious, drama-free affair. The Eastern Conference was as bad as any conference I have ever seen; the #1 seed, Boston, would have been fortunate to be the #7 seed if they had played in the West. This Finals matchup has been inevitable since the moment Kevin Durant signed with Golden State last July.
But... now that the Finals are here... it could well be spectacular. For the first time in NBA history, the same two teams are meeting for the third Finals in a row.
In a league that has always been relatively top-heavy, that is an astounding fact. (The Lakers and Celtics have won 33 out of 71 total NBA championships, yet somehow they've never met three Finals in a row.)
The Warriors won in 2015. The Cavs want to show that if Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving hadn't been injured, they would have won.
The Cavs won in 2016. The Warriors want to show that if Draymond Green hadn't been suspended for Game 5, they would have won.
The teams feature seven All-Stars and the winners of the last seven MVP awards. (I'm pretending that Derrick Rose's 2011 award didn't happen; cool?)
The teams have a combined postseason record of 24-1.
Not counting years when the Lakers have been in the Finals, I have never looked forward to a matchup this much.
These games deserve some damn fine gameday food.
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- The meat is from my local butcher. USDA Prime. Nothing new there. I dusted them with salt and pepper and grilled them in my cast iron pan.
- Zankou Chicken's legendary garlic sauce was necessary. I will borrow Jonathan Gold's description: "Nothing in heaven or on Earth may be as severe as the Armenian garlic sauce served at Zankou Chicken, a fierce, blinding-white paste the texture of pureed horseradish that scents your car, sears your throat, and whose powerful aroma can stay in your head - and your car - for days."
- Brooklyn Delhi makes an achaar loaded with garlic and spices. I will borrow my own description: "It's fucking good."
- The combination of the garlic sauce, achaar, and pickles was delicious, but as intensely garlic-tasting as anything I have ever eaten. People may be recoiling at my breath for weeks to come.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- Isiah Thomas was on the pregame show I was watching on NBATV. It's interesting, I am an adult now and have no hatred towards most of the Lakers opponents I hated (or claimed to hate) as a kid: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Danny Ainge, Reggie Miller... but I still hate Isiah and all the Bad Boys. What an unlikable group.
- One of my best friends told me last night that she would kick me in the balls if I ever grow a neck beard. If I could grow one like LeBron's, it would totally be worth it.
- Commercial Note: They're reviving The Gong Show? Was there a demand for that? I literally have not heard a single person mention that show in my adult life. Can't we bring back Cheers or Quantum Leap? Hell, I'd settle for Charles in Charge.
- LeBron just did a pump fake when there was no one guarding him. I'm not sure I've ever seen that before. (To be fair, he was so wide open that I think he was shocked. I can just hear Mike Brown in the next huddle: "New strategy, guys - let's guard the best player in the world.")
- Durant and Curry both had 10 points in the first quarter; LeBron had 13. Those were, not coincidentally, the three favorites to win MVP of the Finals.
- Quiz: who is least favored to win MVP?
- Klay Thompson is 1-7 and he just fouled Kyrie Irving to allow a four-point play. Not a good offensive game for Klay so far. (He's doing well on defense, though.)
- Quiz answer: JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia. Both are 1000-1 to win MVP.
- I mentioned months ago that the word "unbelievable" is probably my least favorite word. The announcer just called this Finals "an unbelievable matchup." WTF is that supposed to mean? Unbelievable means "not able to be believed." This matchup is very easy to be believed, as I am watching it happen. Okay, sorry, rant over.
- Warriors by 8 at the half. They can play better - but Cleveland can play MUCH better, especially on defense.
- The Warriors had 11 dunks in the first half. No team has had that many dunks in one half of a Finals game in 20 years.
- Two minutes into the second half and the Warriors are now up by 15. That escalated quickly.
- LeBron is looking good but the Warriors have a 21-point lead after three quarters. I don't see them blowing that kind of lead at home after what happened to them last season in the Finals.
- At a commercial, I turned to the Angels game just in time to watch them hit into a 5-4-3 triple play that I predicted right before it happened. I couldn't begin to guess how many thousands of baseball games I have watched in my life, and that's only the second triple play I've ever seen live.
- Durant exits the game with two minutes left. He finishes with 38, 8, and 8.
- In the 8 Finals in which LeBron has appeared, his record in Game 1 is 1-7.
- The Warriors win by 22 - and other than Durant, they didn't really look all that impressive. It does not bode well for Cleveland.
- Still, all the Warriors really did was win at home. There's still plenty of series left.
Monday, May 29, 2017
THE GAME: Angels vs Braves (sort of)
I had the evening all planned out.
Earlier in the weekend, I'd bought stuff to grill burgers, watch baseball, and end the three-day weekend in a relaxing manner by watching the Angels take on the Braves in interleague action.
Earlier in the weekend, I'd bought stuff to grill burgers, watch baseball, and end the three-day weekend in a relaxing manner by watching the Angels take on the Braves in interleague action.
Then Mike Trout tore a ligament in his thumb on Sunday afternoon and he's going to miss a minimum of two or three weeks. But let's be honest: this is the Angels. He's going to be out at least two months. (This is the same organization that lost its best hitter for two years when he broke his foot celebrating a walk-off grand slam.)
So, for the record, the Angels are missing their top 4 starting pitchers, their top 3 relievers, and they just lost the best player on the planet.
They are currently tied for second in the AL West; I will be surprised if they aren't dead last when Trout returns.
Watching an Angels game without him is ugly, boring, and pretty much pointless. So I wasn't going to bother. But then I had a thought: why not watch at least until an Angel gets a hit? Because without Trout, there's always a chance they won't, and then at least I can say I saw a no-hitter.
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- Vidalia Onions are grown only in Vidalia, Georgia, where the abnormally low amount of sulfur in the ground yields onions that are remarkably sweet. When grilled or caramelized, they become even sweeter. So I diced one and cooked it on low in a covered wok for forty minutes until it was like candy.
- You can choose from any number of bottled Thousand Island dressings, but it's even better when you make it yourself. I prefer it a little chunkier, so instead of relish, I dice Bubbies bread & butter pickles and mix them into the dressing. In addition to the three ingredients pictured, I used a teaspoon of horseradish and a couple of drops of Worcestershire sauce.
- I found this ketchup at Cost Plus World Market the other day. It's made with jerk spices and has a healthy amount of heat, though by no means is it overpowering. I fried up steak fries and dipped them in the ketchup. Steak fries are probably my least favorite kind of frozen fry; I have no idea why I decided to buy them.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- Did you watch Sunday Night Baseball last night? Me either. The Dodgers were playing the Cubs yesterday (Kershaw against Lester, no less), but for some reason, ESPN scheduled the Mets vs. Pirates.
- Julio Teheran is pitching for the Braves. In 2017 he has an ERA of 8.40 at home and 0.71 on the road. That's... bizarre.
- The Angels go in order in the bottom of the first. No surprise there. Pujols with an unimpressive two-pitch at bat that ended with a lazy fly out. Five years ago, the Angels signed him to what was then the third-largest contract in baseball history with the expectation that he would lead the team. He has not, and I don't expect him to while Trout is out.
- Simba! Adrelton Simmons hits a home run in the bottom of the second. That was sweet. He's my second-favorite Angel. Now I can go to Whole Foods.
- The NBA Finals start Thursday, and I cannot freaking wait to watch those games. There will be plenty of good food to accompany them.
Posted by JAM at 6:38 PM
Thursday, May 25, 2017
THE GAME: Angels vs Rays
One summer night near the end of the last decade, the Angels ran out a lineup that looked like this:
This morning, the Angels lineup looks like this:
Today is a day game so Pujols is getting the day off. Well deserved. He hasn't had a day off since... well, Sunday.
Also, he's a DH with a .296 on-base percentage. What the fuck does he need a single day off for, let alone two in a 5-day span? Those four times a week he has to walk 90 feet to first base? 26 million dollars doesn't buy what it used to.
(I suppose it's possible that Trout is getting the day at DH so that he doesn't have to run around on the awful astroturf, but that raises another question: Is Pujols now at the point of his career where he can only DH? I'm afraid so. I always knew the second half of his contract was going to suck... I just thought the first half would have enough good moments to temper that sucking. I was wrong.)
Alex Meyer was supposed to take the mound for the Angels today, but, you know, he's an Angels pitcher, so he just went on the DL, joining Richards and Skaggs. And Heany and Tropeano. And Bedrosian, Street, Bailey and Morin.
Jesus, it's depressing when you write it all out.
So Daniel Wright has been called up from AAA to make a spot start.
This could be one ugly game.
But I'm not working today - a five-day weekend sounded nice - and bad baseball is still better than no baseball... or the NBA conference finals... so why not? Breakfast and baseball.
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- I've mentioned that my local butcher has some of the best meatloaf and meatballs I have ever had. They also make the best chorizo. So I bought a half-pound and cooked it in the wok before draining the grease - a beautiful orange grease unlike anything I've ever seen - and set it aside.
- Trader Joe's makes the best frozen hash browns. But I didn't have any of them; all I had was this bag from Ralph's. Still good, though.
- I layered hash browns into the bottom of my frittata pan - yes, I have a frittata pan - and topped it with the cooked chorizo.
- Next, I took some goat cheese and sprinkled it on top. Melted, creamy goat cheese is a wonderful contrast to salty, spicy chorizo.
- And then another layer of hash browns on top of all that.
- I covered the pan and baked it in the oven for 30 minutes, flipping it once midway.
- It was spectacular. It was also way too much food... but I ate it all anyway. I probably gained a pound, but it was well worth it.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- The Angels announced pregame that Brooks Pounders has been optioned to AAA. True, that has zero impact on this game, I just like to type Brooks Pounders whenever I can. What a great name.
- Trout hits a double in his first at bat. Lord have mercy. 31 of his 52 hits this season have been for extra bases. (15 homers, 14 doubles, and 2 triples.) His on base percentage in May is now over .500.
- Some of you know this but some of you don't: I named my cat after Mike Trout back when he was a rookie.
- The Rays scored two runs in the first inning. They were unearned, thanks to an error on Valbuena - a .177-hitting third baseman who can't field; what a joy to behold - but that might be all they need with this Angels lineup today. Maybe I should go back to bed.
- It's only the second inning but I can already state that this umpire has the worst strike zone I have seen yet in 2017. At least he's screwing over both teams equally, I guess.
- Through four innings, the Angels have three doubles - including two leadoff doubles - and have yet to score. (I don't know why I mention this like I'm surprised.)
- Espinosa popped up a bunt. The dude can't even bunt properly. I was saying to my friend Nick the other day that Espinosa is the worst player I have ever seen in an Angels uniform. (As of this morning, his .145 average is ranked DEAD LAST out of 180 qualified batters in all of baseball.) I keep hoping he will do something to prove me wrong, and yet he keeps getting worse. If the organization has given up on the season - and as I've written before, I have no problem with them making their entire focus on 2018 - then his presence makes sense. If they're actually trying to win games, he needs to be DFAd as soon as the team gets back to Los Angeles. Uh, I mean Anaheim.
- The Rays got two more runs on a ball to center field that Trout would have unquestionably caught. But, you know, he's DHing today. That's the ball game. I could see this lineup scoring two runs (if Trout hit a homer), but there's no way they can get four.
- Once again the replay officials completely botch an easy call. It will never stop amazing me that despite MLB's concern about the future of the game, they don't do a thing about the absurd number of incorrect reviews.
- The Rays win. The Angels finish the game 1-12 with runners in scoring position.
- So, what I called the worst Angels lineup I've ever seen failed to score a run and the spot starter from AAA gave up at least one run. Shrug. On a Painful Loss Scale of 1-10, with 10 being absolutely gut-wrenching, this was a 1. Those kind of losses only happen a couple of times per season.
- I've never experienced a 10 on that scale, although the day Trout signs with the Phillies in three-and-a-half years will probably do it.
Posted by JAM at 1:17 PM
Monday, May 22, 2017
THE GAME: Angels vs Rays
Both teams are 23-23. It's not exactly an ALCS preview. But it's a Monday late-afternoon game and it beats working.
NOTES ON THE FOOD:
- I love caramelized chicken when it's not syrupy-sweet. (As the dish is full of sugar, this is pretty rare.) Restaurants tend to serve the chicken sitting in a puddle of the sauce, so I rarely order it when out. At home, however, I can make it to my specifications.
- I marinated diced chicken breast overnight in fish sauce, garlic, pepper, and a bit of brown sugar.
- Then I threw a bunch of ingredients into the mini-prep: more brown sugar, a shallot, garlic, ginger, and couple of tablespoons of vinegar.
- I placed the chicken in a single layer in a nonstick pan and let it cook for about five minutes, then flipped it and cooked it the same amount on the other side.
- I scooped the chicken out with a slotted spoon and plated it, leaving a fair amount of the sauce in the pan. (If the chicken isn't sweet enough, you can always add more sauce, but this was fine as is.)
- I topped the chicken with beni shoga and diced scallions.
- It's great like this, and it's almost as good eaten cold as leftovers.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- Tropicana Field is the only MLB stadium that I have no desire to visit. Partly because it's in St. Petersburg, but mostly because it looks like an absolute dump. It's the smallest ballpark in baseball, it's the only non-retractable dome, and it often looks about 10% full.
- Also, there are different sets of ground rules for batted balls that strike the catwalks. Seriously. It's 2017 and players have to worry about balls bouncing off of catwalks suspended from the ceiling of a dome.
- The Angels are starting a guy at second whom I'd never heard of before today. Do you think that's a good sign?
- Mike Trout walks in his first plate appearance, pushing his OBP to .470, easily the best in baseball. That's good.
- Next batter, Pujols pops up to third. His OBP is .291 - the fifth-best on the team. That's not so good.
- The Rays lead off the inning with a homer. As I mentioned the other day, the Angels pitchers give up a ton of home runs. I remind myself that their four top starters are all on the DL and I shouldn't expect much out of these replacements... but it's still not fun.
- Three batters later, the Rays hit another homer.
- Interesting stat: the Angels starter, JC Ramirez, has an ERA of 10.3 in the first inning. From the second inning on, his ERA is 2.5.
- Nolan Fontana, the second baseman of whom I'd never heard, is making his major league debut today. He's two months older than Trout.
- He hit into a fielder's choice, attempted to steal second, and was ruled safe. Then the Rays challenged the call and the umpires got together and overturned the call without bothering to look at the replay. I've never seen that before. (However, the television replay showed that he probably was indeed out, so I'm not upset about it.)
- Marte just struck out looking - at a strike right down the middle - when all he had to do was put the ball in play to get a run across for the Angels. I sometimes wonder if players get any coaching at all. So many of them just seem to have no clue about the fundamentals of the game.
- Cameron Maybin hit one off the catwalk rings... and no one was sure what the call was. Turns out it was a home run.
- They showed the rules so I took a photo of the TV. See for yourself:
- Jumbo Diaz is pitching in relief for Tampa Bay! I saw him pitch for the Great Falls Dodgers in Montana in 2002! He was like 300+ pounds then. These days he's listed at a svelte 278.
- Hey, check this out:
- Two balls, two strikes, two outs, in a 2-2 game. Maybin at the plate is 2 for 2. Can't you just hear Vin Scully? "So now the deuces are really wild." Damn, I miss him.
- Jumbo got yanked (although I'm hesitant to phrase it like that - I read a biography of Lyndon Johnson the other day; apparently he was obsessed with showing off his penis, which he called Jumbo) for a new pitcher. The new guy threw a wild pitch and now the Angels have a 3-2 lead. They definitely pulled Jumbo out too soon. You know what, let's just move on.
- Ramirez is done for the evening. In typical fashion, he gave up 2 ER in the first inning and 0 in the next six. Maybe the Angels should use their closer in the first inning when Ramirez pitches. (Although, not surprisingly, their closer and his two backups are all on the DL at the moment.)
- 4th-string closer Bud Norris gets the 4-out save and the Angels win 3-2.
- Still, this was not an enjoyable game to watch. The Angels were 0-9 with men in scoring position, the winning run came on a wild pitch, Trout didn't do anything special and, despite the low score and regular length, it took more than three-and-a-half hours to play.
Posted by JAM at 7:49 PM
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
THE GAME: Cavs vs Celtics
It took the Celtics - the #1 seed in the East, mind you - six games (and an injury to Rajon Rondo) to defeat the #8 seed Bulls.
It took them the full seven games to defeat the #4 seed Wizards.
And now they're facing the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. I imagine somebody outside of New England is picking the Celtics to beat the Cavs, but I'm not aware of it. I've been watching the NBA as long as I can remember, and I can't recall a #1 seed ever being more of an underdog. It's probably never happened.
But, as they say, that's why they play the games.
But, as they say, that's why they play the games.
- If you love food like I love food, it's a wonderful time to be alive. You can buy battered Twinkies ready to be deep-fried. The limited-edition White Chocolate M&Ms were so popular that they're becoming a permanent item. Only a few blocks from me is a hole-in-the-wall taco joint that sells magnificent fish tacos for 99 cents each every Wednesday and Sunday. And now, you can buy potato chips that taste like fish & chips.
- (BTW, I'm not joking about that taco place. Here's my lunch the last time I went there: two tacos and free chips & salsa and roasted peppers. $2.18 total.)
- I got this bag of chips at Cost Plus. They also had the flavors "salt & vinegar" and "full English breakfast." The former might be worth trying; the latter, not so much.
- 18 months ago, I was in southeastern Washington and noticed billboards for a deli. I stopped in, hoping I could get a turkey sandwich and a Coke. I could, but the place also sold hundreds of different condiments. Literally. I bought several, though the only one remaining is the vinegar spray. So I dusted a few of the chips with it, just like I would fish & chips. (Well, I mean, I use malt vinegar on fish & chips, but this was all I had.)
- My favorite tartar sauce is sold at a fish market 12 miles away. But by the time I had acquired these chips it was mid-afternoon, which means that 24-mile round trip could take anywhere from 60-90 minutes. So I just bought some of Bob's Big Boy's tartar sauce at the local Ralph's. It's delicious, too.
- And really, these are potato chips. I don't need tartar sauce. I just thought it would be a funny picture to eat "fish & chips" chips with tartar sauce.
- The chips were delicious. They didn't taste of fish, really, more like beer batter and salt. But, whatever, I love those two things.
- They were better by themselves, without the vinegar and tartar sauce, but I'm pretty sure I knew they would be.
NOTES ON THE GAME:
- I mentioned not long ago that I have never been more wrong about a college player's NBA future than I was James Harden's. You know who is probably #2 on that list? Kevin Love. I knew he was a really smart player and he is one of my three favorite players I have ever watched at UCLA, but I just wasn't sure what position he was going to play in the Association. (To be fair, I had no idea he was going to become such a workout/diet fiend and transform his body from slightly-chubby rebounding center to sleek triple-threat forward.)
- Marv Albert just announced that there is "bad blood" between Kelly Olynyk and the Cavaliers. That's putting it mildly.
- Unlike Golden State, who looked bored and sluggish after all their time off, Cleveland looks rested, and Boston looks exhausted.
- The Celtics are currently 1-14 from three. That's 7.1%.
- Boston has missed 6 shots in a row; Cleveland has scored 12 unanswered points and lead by 23.
- IT hit a three-pointer at the buzzer so the Celtics finish the half with 39 points - just a smidge over half of what the Warriors had in the first half last night (72).
- Boston really can't play any worse than that. In addition to ending the half 2-16 from three, they are 5-11 from the free throw line.
- I got distracted watching baseball and didn't watch the first 8 minutes of the 3rd quarter. Judging by the score, it doesn't look like I missed much.
- I did, however, watch the Angels surrender their 61st home run of the season, the most in all of baseball. Interestingly, their team ERA is in the top half of baseball, 13th out of 30 teams. So it's not like they're giving up a ton of runs, just a ton of home runs. (Although the Angels have played more games than anyone else; even though it's only May 17, they've already played six more games than the Yankees and seven more than the Twins.)
- Boston made a few shots to cut the deficit to 17 points at the end of the third quarter and the crowd is going crazy as if they'd tied it up. I guess they're so used to teams completely choking against the Patriots that they assume NBA teams will do the same thing against the Celtics.
- Brad Stevens on what the Celtics need to do in the 4th quarter: "Just single after single." Wrong sport, dude. But that does remind me of a story from 8th grade baseball. (Why not? This game is boring.) We were down by a lot, maybe 6 runs (I honestly don't remember, it was a long time ago) and our coach said "We don't need home runs, guys, just singles." (Which was a pretty ridiculous thing to say in and of itself; we were 13-year-olds playing on a high school baseball diamond; not one of us hit a home run all season.) My best friend raised his hand and asked "Coach, if I accidentally hit a home run, is that okay?" The coach pulled him from the game for being a smartass.
- LeBron James got fouled on a layup and is now limping around and grabbing his calf. "Look how he's walking!," Reggie Miller exclaimed, as if LeBron is actually injured and doesn't pretend like he's hurt 80% of the time he gets fouled.
- Somehow IT just ended up guarding LeBron. Not surprisingly, LeBron went straight to the hole, got fouled and made the shot. Maybe don't have the 5'9" guy guard the best small forward of all time.
- Boston fans heading for the exits with 6 minutes left.
- Cleveland wins by 13, but it feels like a lot more. The outcome was never in doubt.
Posted by JAM at 8:34 PM