Urban: Better Late Than Never on Humidor Balls


Urban: Better Late Than Never on Humidor Balls

Sept. 25, 2010


Mychael Urban

DENVER --In what might be the biggest DUH in baseball history, Major League Baseballhas decided to assign an independent (i.e., league employee vs. a Rockieslackey) to monitor the process of ferrying game balls from the humidor at CoorsField to the umpires working the game.JohnShea, the national baseball writer for the San FranciscoChronicle nicknamed Columbo for his propensity for doubling backwith one last question in an effort to make his case stick, broke the storySaturday afternoon.Theresbut one appropriate reaction: Its about damn time.Seriously.This is something that should have been done the moment the humidor was broughtinto play, so to speak. That was more than eight years ago. But for reasonsnobody is either willing or able to explain, MLB trusted the Rockies to handlethe process on their own until now.So thegame balls, in theory deadened by the humidor, were handled by a Rockiesemployee, and of late there have been all sorts of accusations of shenanigans.Topsamong them was the charge that non-humidored balls were being put into playwhen the Rockies were at bat late in games, while the opponents were forced tomake do with the balls that had been stored in the humidor in an effort tocounter the thin Rocky Mountain air.Fridaysgame was far from a typical Coors Field affair, with the teams combining forthree runs on five hits, but there was at least one instance in which theconspiracy theory seemed plausible.It camein the bottom of the eighth inning, right after a new ball had been put intoplay. The end result was a fairly routine ground ball to third base off the batof Miguel Olivo, but never before have you seen a routine ground ball get tothe third baseman as quickly as did this one. It was as though Olivo had hit agolf ball. Or a superball. Or anon-humidored ball.TheGiants, Shea reported, filed an official complain with the league Friday night,not long after ace Tim Lincecum treated lip readers with a colorful in-gametake on what he called, among other things, the juiced balls with which hefelt hed been given to work.Its hardto believe the Giants are the first team to complain about a situation soclearly rife with potential problems, but give the league credit. This was acredibility issue, and anything that threatens to undermine the integrity ofthe game should be handled posthaste.

Sharks feel fortunate with timing of bye week


Sharks feel fortunate with timing of bye week

VANCOUVER – The condensed Sharks schedule has resumed, with a vengeance.

Saturday’s game in Vancouver started a stretch of 22 games over the final 43 days of the regular season for San Jose. The remaining slate features 16 games in the month of March alone, and five back-to-back sets. A game against Calgary at home on April 8 is the finale.

It’s going to be a brutal grind.

Fortunately, the Sharks feel that their bye week came at the right time, as they had five days off with no practice from Monday through Friday, when they boarded an afternoon charter for British Columbia. They had dropped six of eight headed into it, and fatigue was undoubtedly a factor.

Prior to the break, the general feeling was that the Sharks felt privileged with the timing of the bye week. Joe Pavelski was even more emphatic about that notion on Saturday morning, when the complete team reconvened for the first time at Rogers Arena.

“It came at a great time. Everyone’s excited for a break when we get it,” Pavelski said. “Obviously it’s a long season, and you get to go do something you want for a few days, it makes it pretty nice.”
Joe Thornton said: “It was just nice to relax and enjoy ourselves.”

The Sharks have essentially had a break in each of the last three months, as the league shut down for Christmas for three days in late December, and the All-Star break came at the end of January. Some teams had their bye weeks as early as the beginning of January, which doesn’t make much sense.

“I thought our breaks were pretty well scheduled – Christmas, All-Star, and then this,” Chris Tierney said. “It was all about a month apart. Hopefully, that pays off.”

It’s been well documented that a number of the Sharks’ veteran players have seen a drop in production, after the club played all the way until June last season in getting to its first-ever Stanley Cup Final. Thornton, Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joel Ward, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Paul Martin all had some ups-and-downs throughout the first 60 games.

Although the Sharks have maintained first place in the Pacific Division, a commendable achievement to be sure, some guys just looked like they needed some time off.

They got it, and now they can turn their attention as a group to finishing the regular season strong and going into the postseason in prime playing shape. 

Really, that’s all that matters.

“We’ve got a big home stretch coming down the end here, [22] games to finish off strong to put ourselves in a good position going into the postseason,” Ward said. “We’re excited about the capabilities of what we have going.”

Thornton said: “We’ve got a lot of games here in a short period of time, so hopefully we all got our rest and get ready for the stretch run.”

After all the confusion, Axford pleased 'Moonlight' won Best Picture

After all the confusion, Axford pleased 'Moonlight' won Best Picture

MESA, Ariz. — By the time the Academy Awards wrapped Sunday night, A’s reliever (and movie fanatic) John Axford was content in picking 19 of 24 categories right.

Of course, Axford thought he’d nailed 20 of 24.

He was as shocked as anyone at the mass confusion surrounding the Best Picture announcement that sent the social media world bonkers.

Axford, a film major in college who’s gained attention for his spot-on Oscar predictions, picked “La La Land” to win Best Picture. He was watching the awards show at a restaurant — it had closed down, but employees saw he was so engrossed in the show they let him stay and watch — and when “La La Land” was announced as the winner, he left and didn’t give it another thought.

Not until he got home and saw a text from his agent did Axford know that “Moonlight” wound up winning. That actually sat well with the pitcher. “Moonlight” was his favorite movie of the year, he just didn’t expect the industry to give it the award.

“It was a sad and beautiful film. I absolutely loved it,” Axford said.

He was also happy to see Oakland native Mahershala Ali win Best Supporting Actor for “Moonlight,” after Ali helped arrange a screening of the movie for A’s players.

Axford took to Twitter to share an idea that struck him:

Hey @Athletics...when can we get Mahershala Ali out to the Coliseum to throw out the first pitch? Oscar in one hand, baseball in the other!

Before long, A’s president Dave Kaval had the Twitter response:

“Great idea! We are on it.”