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Morning Sickness (or: Rant? Don't Mind if I do...)

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For the first time since moving out to Arizona in 2000, I find myself having to get up in the morning for work. Somehow, for the past six-plus years, I've managed to schedule it so that little in the way of gainful employment took place before noon, but that streak is now over, as I bravely sacrificed this in order to have the same work hours as Mrs. SnakePit. The things we do for love, eh? It is grand to be back in synch with her, and have evenings together, but the getting up at seven-something in the morning...not so impressive. I've no idea how I managed it from 1987-2000: I guess I didn't know better.

We do get to car-pool, with one of us dropping the other off, before scurrying on to their own job, and it's definitely a boon to be able to use the HOV lane on the 51. Mind you, I feel a couple of improvements would be in order. Infra-red cameras on the overpasses, alternating with sets of robot guns - if you've seen the director's cut of Aliens, you know the weaponry I mean. The cameras detect only one heat-source in your car, and you're in the HOV lane, then all that's left at the next exit will be a smoking pile of debris. This would, I feel, be far more worthwhile than penalising those who drive at 76mph through Scottsdale on the 101. As well as a great deal more fun.

And while we're at it, let's tighten up the rules of inclusion, shall we? The aim of HOV is to encourage car-pooling, by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Therefore, children should not count. Babies definitely do not count. And talking to someone on your cellphone does not count either. I'm surprised I have to point this out, but you'd be amazed how many people seem to think otherwise. Also, the number of people in your car should be determined by the size of the vehicle: Minis are basically a bike with a roof, so go ahead. SUV's: minimum of four people. And if you drive a Hummer, the robot guns will be set off automatically, regardless of load. The polar ice-caps thank you for your co-operation.

Cars with out of state license plates, they don't get to use the HOV lane either, as they whizz their way to the Early Bird Special at Denny's. You want to spend half the year in Arizona? Then get your lazy ass over to the DMV and register your goddamn Lexus here. Anyone over the age of 60 is similarly barred, largely because they don't seem to appreciate the true state speed limit, which is exactly ten miles per hour above what's posted. This is actually a public service: the greater the difference in velocity between the HOV lane and the regular traffic, the greater the incentive for others to carpool. Many 'senior' driver still appear to inhabit the Model T Ford era of speed.

Okay, let's be honest: the only people who should get to use the HOV lane are...well, us. We should get to ride in solitary splendor. Ideally, with a police escort. And a couple of helicopter gunships to clear the way during that tricky bit at the bottom of the 51, where we have to get from the HOV lane all the way over to the exit for the I-10 West. That'd be sweet: the next time some jerk in his Escalade cuts us off, because he's jabbering away on the phone to his coke dealer, just illuminate the rear of his vehicle with our dashboard-mounted laser pointer, and call down an airstrike on his sorry ass. Who's sorry now, yuppie scum?

I suspect such idle dreams of casual violence are part of the depersonalization that results from urban life, and driving in particular. You're coccooned in your steel womb, largely cut off from any meaningful communication with other drivers that doesn't involve your middle finger. They are less fellow travellers, than rivals for that yard of space or extra spurt of gas. It makes no sense to see them as The Enemy, and if you met them under other circumstances, they'd probably be decent human beings with hopes, fears and families, just like you and me. Well, except Hummer drivers. They're shapeshifting, baby-eating lizards from another dimension...

Baseball? If you must, I suppose. Though somehow, it seems fitting, on the last day before the official Cactus League opening game for Arizona, not to mention it. After all, it'll be getting plenty of coverage for the next seven - or, hopefully, eight! - months. ;-) But for those purists who eat, drink and sleep the game, I should mention a couple of things. Firstly, very interesting to hear the the Diamondbacks will be broadcasting 50 home games in Spanish. And this isn't just the standard broadcast with Spanish audio commentary that other teams do, no. They've contracted with Channel 44 in Phoenix to "air a Spanish broadcast from the ground-up," with Spanish graphics, etc.

Other initiative include installing Spanish signs at Chase Field, selling ticket packages at Phoenix Ranch Market, and hiring bilingual seat ushers. Courtesy of Mrs. SnakePit, here are some useful phrases, both for those ushers and fans:

  • Por favor de esperar aquí hasta que Luis Gonzalez acabe su momento en juego. No esperarás mucho - Please wait here until Luis Gonzalez is out. It won't be long.
  • Nó se puede asentar allí - No, you can't sit there.
  • Esta noche vendemos El Menudo por solo un dolár! - Tonight is Dollar Menudo Night
  • Guardar esa pelota de playa - Put that beachball away.
  • Por favor de no molestar o abusar de Barry Bonds - Please stop heckling Barry Bonds.
  • Gritando aclamaciones para el equipo casero? Donde piensas que estas? En Chicago? - Cheering for the home team? Where do you think this is? Chicago?
  • Ponga esas cervezas a pied y muestrame sus boletos. Ahora. - Put those six beers down and show me your tickets. Now.
  • Mi otro trabajo es con la migra. No! De veras, es una broma! - My day-job is with the INS. Hah! Only joking!

Part of me kinda resents this, since you know the Mexican baseball teams don't broadcast their games in English. I'm a firm believer in assimilation as the best way to integrate, and a key factor there is common language. It's a powerful tool to unite people, but can similarly act as a divisive influence. However, the D-backs are a business, and outside of philosophical or political considerations, are simply reacting to the realities of life in the 21st century American southwest, where a good chunk of your customers prefer to be addressed in Spanish.

Looks like we have confirmation that we'll go with seven relievers, and Melvin likes the idea of going with two lefties. Slaten seems to be a lock as the "situational lefty", and the long left-handed reliever could be Dana Eveland or Evan MacLane. I've updated the roster prediction to show this, removing Julio on the basis of this quote from Melvin: "We see the arms that we have, if we have two lefties in the bullpen, we could have one-too-many right-handed arms down there. You guys can do the math. You can see who was here last year and who potentially can fit this year."

Assuming that's how things pan out, it leaves us with five bench spots. Clark, Callaspo, DaVanon and Montero seem to have those locked up, though DaVanon may not be ready for Opening Day. Hairston should get the final spot, simply because he's out of options and is too good to slip through waivers. A trade would be the other possibility, with the 25th man becoming Hammock, and I certainly wouldn't rule that out, though it'd seem a tremendous waste. I'm just wondering why we haven't heard more about dealing Eric Byrnes, it seems such an obvious move to make.

Valverde has come round to the coaches' way of thinking, and will be a fastball/splitter pitcher this year. "I'm going to concentrate on just those two pitches. I'm not going to throw the other pitches -- the cutter, the slider. If you have too many pitches, you don't know all the pitches you are throwing. Only two pitches ... that's it this year." Pitching coach Bryan Price concurs, "He has deception. His fastball, even when it is up in the zone, is a tough pitch to handle. A lot of guys swing through his fastball. He has such great stuff, he just needs two good pitches that he can command."

I think Valverde's mettle will be decided by how he deals with the inevitable struggles that every closer faces at some point, having a couple of tough outing in a row. Last year, he seemed to let it snowball out of control from there, losing faith in those two pitches instead of being able to put it behind him and rely on his abilities. It took a spelldown in Tucson, to restore his confidence, but he did fine after coming back. We'll see how he copes this season: after four straight seasons where he's given us between eight and eighteen saves, be nice if he could breakthrough. That eighteen last year was actually the highest in a season by any one man since Matt Mantei.

Let's end on a bright note, with more lavish praise from the once-infamous Dayn Perry. "It's a close call, but the Arizona Diamondbacks enter the 2007 season as the favorites in the National League West. What's also worth noting is that this might the worst D'backs team we'll see in the next seven years or so. Arizona has assembled one of the most impressive menageries of young talent that's been seen in some time, and as a result the organization is poised to dominate the division -- and perhaps all of the NL -- in the coming seasons." And so to bed. After all, some of us have to get up in the morning. ;-)