As Predicted

Ha! Nailed it!

Pardon my excitement, but I’m not used to seeing my predictions come true so quickly. Last week I suggested that Microsoft would “encourage” diehard Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10 by making the upgrade tool a “Recommended” update in Windows Update. And now several reputable technology sites, including ArsTechnica, are reporting that Microsoft will do exactly that.

If you haven’t already upgraded, you’ll see Windows 10 showing up as an “Optional” update soon, and early next year, it will switch to “Recommended” status. Users who let Windows install updates automatically (the default for non-business users) will see the installer prompting them to carry out the upgrade once the flag is flipped to recommended.

Note that you will be prompted–it won’t be a silent install that suddenly drops you into Windows 10–and you can hide the update in Windows Update to prevent it from being installed, but that could certainly change, especially after the “Upgrade free until July” period.

Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 hard. After October 31, 2016, you won’t be able to buy a new computer with an older version of Windows pre-installed. Windows 7 will still get security updates into January of 2020, but which bugs get fixed is completely at Microsoft’s discretion. As we saw with XP, the number of security flaws deemed not worth fixing grows rapidly as the end of support approaches.

Not all of my predictions come true. After last year’s correct call of the Giants over the Royals in seven games, I had high hopes for the Mets this year.

Unfortunately, the Royals had other ideas. Not only did they stomp the Mets into submission, they didn’t even take the full seven games. A true shame.

New York had good, solid pitching, but as I’ve said before, pure defense will only get you so far. You still need to score runs to win. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but to a significant extent the Mets relied on Yoenis Cespedes to spark their offense for much of the second half of the regular season. When he went cold in the playoffs, Daniel Murphy took over the ignition duties, but nobody (ahem) stepped up to the plate in the World Series after Murphy’s home run streak ended.

Full credit here to KC: they just plain outplayed the Mets–and everyone else they faced in the playoffs–to earn the title. But it’s still disappointing that we only got a five game Series.

Ah well. Back to cooking contests on Food Network to keep me entertained.

Only 108 days until the start of Spring Training.

Are You Series? Get Real!

The World Series is over, leaving us staring into the bleak off-season. Four months with nothing to console us but the occasional trade, free agent signing, or contract extension. *sigh*

But before we go there, let’s talk about the series. I made a few requests to the Baseball Gods regarding the way I thought the World Series should go. Let’s take a look and see if the gods were listening.

  1. The Royals should win the first three games. Nope. The Giants won the first game, ending the Royals’ post-season winning streak at eleven games. That’s a major disappointment. I was really looking forward to them taking a record away from the Yankees. Maybe next year–though there aren’t any long streaks currently active, so any new assault on the Yankees’ record would require the challenger to duplicate the Royals’ impressive–and record setting–assault on the first three rounds. It could happen, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
  2. The series should go to seven games. Nailed that one. Nobody’s unhappy about that: the Royals’ rooters are unhappy they didn’t win Game Seven, but they’re not sorry the game was played.
  3. Game Seven should go to twelve innings. Didn’t get that. Almost, though. The Royals had the potential* tying run on third in the ninth inning, but didn’t manage to bring him one. On the bright side, Game Seven was close all the way through. That was a pleasant change in a World Series notable for blowouts. Consider: the average margin of victory in the first six games was 5 2/3 runs. Throw out the Royals’ 3-2 win in Game Three and the average for the other five games was 6.6. A 3-2 game is a thriller. A 10-0 or 11-4 shellacking is not.

    * Broadcasters: a runner on base is not the “tying run” or the “winning run”, he’s only a potential run. Washington Nationals’ announcers, I’m especially looking at you, but this year almost everyone was guilty of this offense against logic and the English language. It’s almost as bad as “walk-off walk”.

  4. The Giants should win the series. Yup. If you can believe the polls, that’s only good news for inhabitants of the Bay Area and a few Orioles fans upset by the way the Royals manhandled their birds. For the other 95% of baseball fans, well, there’s always next year. Expat Royals fans in the Bay Area, note that local radio stations are once again playing Lorde’s song again. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a good thing or not.

So I went 2-2 with my requests. Not bad. I’ll take a .500 average any day.

Moving on.

The Giants’ win is their third World Series victory in five years, and of course the newspapers are throwing around the word “dynasty”. Sorry, I don’t agree. Look, I root for the Giants, and I’m pleased for them but what they have is not a dynasty. According to my dictionary (MW, of course), a dynasty is “a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time”.

I’ll grant the Giants “powerful group” but they fall on their faces on that “maintains its position” bit. Remember last year’s 76-86 finish, fourteen games out of the second Wild Card? Or 2011, when they missed the playoffs by four games?

The Yankees won three consecutive World Series between 1998 and 2000. The As did the same from 1972 through 1974. I’d accept those as dynasties. Even more impressively, the Yankees won four straight (1936-1939) and five straight (1949-1953). No question those were dynasties. Giants? Not so much.

Guys, break the curse of the odd years and win it all in 2015 and again in 2016. Then we can talk dynasty, OK?

I’m Not Making This Up

The World Series starts tonight, and the playoffs have already accumulated enough history to bury us up to our necks.

Those of you who didn’t laugh hysterically when I recommended rooting for the Royals and Giants may now laugh derisively. The Giants and Royals both cruised through the preliminary rounds, racking up a combined record of 16-2. That’s .889, slightly above the .600 figure I cited as the minimum necessary.

I’m not making this up.

They didn’t make it look easy: there were plenty of close games and come-from-behind victories. No boring series featuring obviously outclassed opponents this year. It’s been baseball you want to watch, regardless of your religious affiliation.

As for history, this is the first time both World Series teams won less than 90 games during the regular season. It’s also, not coincidentally, only the second time both teams have come into the playoffs via the wild card.

That 16-2 record? San Francisco is responsible for both of the losses; Kansas City is a perfect 8-0 so far. That’s a new record for wins to start the playoffs. The Royals’ first three playoff wins required extra innings, another record.

The Royals won their final three playoff games in 1985, the last time they made it past the regular season. That gives them an eleven game playoff winning streak. If they win the first two World Series games, they’ll hold the record for longest playoff winning streak. Since the current record holders are the Yankees (twelve from 1927 to 1932 and again from 1998 to 1999), all right-thinking fans will be pulling for the Royals in the first two games.

Really. I’m not making any of this up.

The Giants can’t lay claim to as many records as the Royals this post-season–although they did win the longest playoff game in history (18 innings in six hours, twenty-three minutes)–but they’ve cornered the market in human interest stories. Just look at the last game against the Cardinals: the tying run came on a home run from Mike Morse, who’s been bouncing around the majors since 2005 (Seattle* to Washington, back to Seattle**, on to Baltimore, and now to the Giants). Due to an injury, he played in exactly one game in September, had sat out the first two post-season series, and had only three previous plate appearances in the NLCS.

* There are a lot of ex-Mariners around baseball.

** And a disturbingly large number of players who have been with the Mariners multiple times.

The story behind the winning runs is even more of a tear-jerker. As the San Francisco press has been reporting to the point of nausea*, Ishikawa was released by the Pirates in April, signed a minor league deal with Giants, and sat in Fresno so long he considered retiring. When he was finally called up at the end of July, he was hardly used, appearing in only 47 games. His misplay of a fly ball in the third inning gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. So, of course he hit the game-winning home run to send San Francisco to the World Series.

* We’ll come back to the nausea shortly.

You know, if I were making this up for a book, I’d never be able to sell it, right?

So here we are, with two teams that weren’t supposed to make it past the wild card game playing in the World Series. Since I apparently created this situation by advising you all to root for the Royals or Giants, I feel a sense of responsibility. So here’s my rooting advice for the World Series: the Royals should win the first three games, running their record playoff win streak to an unlucky thirteen. The Giants should then win the next four, with the last game going to twelve innings. That will fortify us all nicely for the long, baseball-free winter that lies ahead.

In the meantime, the rivalry is getting heated. At least one San Francisco radio station has banned Lorde’s “Royals” from the airwaves until after the World Series. Kansas City stations, unable to find a Top-40 hit that has anything to with Giants in the title are retaliating by playing Lorde’s piece every hour on the hour. No offense intended to Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, but that sounds like a cure worse than the disease to me. (For the record, Lorde appears to be taking the high road here. As of the last time I checked, her Twitter feed is blessedly free of any mention of the struggle.)

And here’s one final item that I really wish I was making up. Let it be known that wildly exciting playoffs are not a totally unmixed blessing. Consider this frightening object advertised in the SF Chronicle.

That’s right. It’s the Precious Moments Giants “Home Run With You” figurine. And yes, there’s one for everyone who wants to horrify their favorite Royals fan as well. (Other teams are also available: due to production lead times, the Cardinals and Orioles have similar figurines. So do the Yankees because, well, they’re the Yankees.) It’s enough* to put one off baseball for life. I told you we would be getting back to the nausea.

* Almost.

Root, Root, Root, for…???

It could have happened, but it didn’t. The Brewers errored their way into a loss to knock themselves out of the playoff chase. The Indians won two of their last three, again, knocking themselves out of the chase. The Mariners… ah, the Mariners. They pulled themselves together and won their last four, but didn’t make the playoffs when Oakland tied their own shoelaces together, because the As didn’t quite fall on their bats.

Am I disappointed? Of course. Am I going to rant about it? Naturally. Just not today. I’ll save it for some time in November, when I’ll be needing a baseball fix to get me through the long, dark days without even a trade rumor. In the meantime, I’ll be over at the kid’s table with my turkey and sour grapes.

I enjoyed doing last year’s post on how to select a team to root for in the playoffs–and enjoyed the comments suggesting changes to the rules even more. So, here we go again with 2014’s Rules for Rooting.

  1. You must not root for any team that has been promoted as “America’s Team” or otherwise held up by its owners and/or the media as the ultimate expression of the sport. Addendum for 2014: You can root for such a team in the playoffs if and only if they are the only team you root for during the regular season.
  2. You should not root for a team from your own team’s division.
  3. That said, you really ought to root for somebody from your own league. Crossing the league boundary without a really good excuse is in bad taste.
  4. Possession of team merchandise with sentimental value trump Rules Two and Three. New rule this year. If an old friend, a lover (or fondly-recalled ex-lover), or beloved relative gave you a shirt or cap, you may root for that team in their honor. You’re on shakier ground if you don’t have the merchandise, unless said flbr has passed away since their team last made the playoffs.
  5. Teams with a record of futility get bonus points in the decision process. Addendum for 2014: So do teams with legit “misfit” and/or “weirdo” credentials. What constitutes legitimacy? That’s between you and your conscience, at least until I get around to doing a blog post on the subject.
  6. All other rules notwithstanding, you are always free to root for the Cubs. A new rule this year, and I hope Stef will forgive me for strengthening the rule beyond her original formulation. Mind you, it’s irrelevant again this year, as it has been in so many years past (the Cubs finished at 73-89, seventeen games out of the division title and fifteen out of the wild card.)

For those of you who don’t want to chase down the logic chains yourselves, here’s your handy guide.

National League:
The teams are Washington, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.

Washington and LA are eliminated under Rule One, the former for stealing one of Canada’s only two teams and renaming them the “Nationals,” and the latter for the ridiculous media overexposure lavished on Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig. (The Dodger’s banishment is temporary. If the media turn 25% of their collective attention elsewhere next year, the Dodgers will be readmitted to the ranks of the root-worthy.)

Summing up Rule Five’s impact, the Cardinals reached–but lost–the World Series last year. The Pirates made it in as a wild card team, but lost to the Cardinals. The Giants didn’t make it to the playoffs last year. None of the three have strong misfit credentials.

Ignoring sentimental connections, which I can’t manage for you, that means your playoff team this year is the Giants, unless you normally root for San Diego, Colorado, or Arizona, in which case, you’re backing the Pirates.

American League:
Last year’s World Series winners, the Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs this year, which opens things up a bit. We’ve got Baltimore, Detroit, Anaheim (pardon me, Los Angeles), Kansas City, and Oakland.

If I’m invoking Rule One on the Nationals, I also need to invoke it on the Angels, for the cynical ploy of moving the team in name only (for the uninitiated, the team’s official name is “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”). No other team is disqualified under Rule One this year*.

* And thank all the Baseball Gods for keeping the Yankees out this year. Derek Jeter, by all reports, is a nice enough guy, but the idea of extending the Jeter farewell tour into the postseason is enough to induce nausea in the stoutest stomachs.

The ranking under Rule Five looks like this:

  • The As lost the AL Division Series to the Tigers last year.
  • Detroit lost the AL Championship series to the Red Sox. On the face of it, that should put them above the As, but I give them a few bonus points under the misfit clause for the lousy state of the economy in Detroit–they need all the sympathy and support they can get.
  • Baltimore lost the Division Series in 2012.
  • The Royals are making their first playoff appearance since 1985, when they won the World Series.

That makes the choice rather easy. Kansas City all the way–unless you normally root for Cleveland, Chicago, or Minnesota, in which case you’re free to cheer for the Orioles.

Non-fans worried about rooting for the wild card Royals, take note: the short series of games in the playoffs make it possible for any team to go all the way. It’s possible to play .600 ball (win 12 of 20 games) and win the World Series. The Angels are the only team to play better than .600 during the regular season. The worst record among the playoff teams was .543 (As, Pirates, and Giants). That’s a tight spread. A few good breaks can easily trump a nominally-better set of players.

There you have it. I’m rooting for a San Francisco/Kansas City World Series, with the Giants taking it in seven games. I hope you’ll join me.