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Malik (7/11/11)

It has been, once again, a long time between these posts. I can use excuses, but I'll just say when life has you running at a frantic pace, it's hard to put words to type.

Anyway, I just have to say it was nice to see that finally the "Cascadia Cup" games between Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver in the MLS had something worthy of watching. After seeing too many sad Sounders FC games (sad as in boring and looking like high school level soccer), the game in Portland yesterday was pretty damned amazing. Of course, it should be when it was on ESPN. Not ESPN2, but on the real deal of ESPN1.

I nearly quit watching after the first half. The first half looked like practice before the match. The score at the half was 0-0, with nothing worthy of note. It was looking like when Seattle hosted the Timbers a month or so back. However, Portland kicked off the second half with a furry with a quick goal in the first few minutes. That just started off the game in full earnest with a score of 2-2 around the 80th minute. It was nicely capped off on one goofy red card situation (goofy because the attack by Portland looked nothing short of stupid to ever attempt in the MLS; hint, don't send a flying kick next to someone's head unless your aim is to get a red), which resulted in a 3-2 Sounders lead after the penalty kick was good. The only thing that would have been better is if Montero's close shot around the 88th minute went in (so damned close) and he walked away with the hat trick. Still, 3-2 is a damned bit nicer than the usual Sounders FC 0-0 or 1-1 draws that have dominated their standings lately.

It's too bad the other Seattle team (the Mariners) are not keeping up in the standings. After being so close to the Rangers for first in the AL West in June, the M's are dropping game after game. After being above .500 within a game or so of Texas, Seattle just got swept in a four game series with the Angles and are now 7.5 behind Texas and 6.5 behind the Angles. With the All-Star Break upon us, this is not a good amount of deficit to face going into the second half of the season. With about 90 games left, Seattle either has to go up, or start to think about the trade deadline. I just hope this deadline thinking doesn't lead to something as absurd as the loss of Peneda (who is now All-Star bound due to some major shuffling in the line-ups).

Speaking of which, the All-Star game is looking pretty damned funny with so many big names sitting out for various reasons. Of note for Mariner fans, Felix is now out since he pitched on the final game of the Angles sweep. However, you also have Sabathia, Jeter, A-Rod, Rivera, and a dozen other major names who were voted in not taking the field tomorrow. It makes me think of the NFL Pro-Bowl games now that they are before the Super Bowl. At least with the NFL you know the most vote getters are going to probably be in the Super Bowl so it only makes sense for many to skip the completely useless Pro Bowl the week before. In the MLB it just looks silly for this many vote getters to not take the field.

Anyway, on a final note before ending this post, I'm getting close to ending my first run through Ocarina of Time on the 3DS. The game has been fun, and far more enjoyable than the original. Have a smoother control system (thanks to the touch screen) and some vastly improved visuals is a definite boost for this aged game. It's also cool to see the use of the motion sensors for aiming of weapons, since it allows a better experience in some of the puzzles and any archery based mini-games (especially for the horse archery game near the end of the game). Most of all, the 3D is so damned sweet in this game. The best instance of 3D is easily when you obtain a sacred jewel or medallion, since you get a really cool pop-out effect that makes the visuals look like they are slightly closer to your visual frame than the actual screen. Unfortunately, the manual aim doesn't play nicely with the 3D, but the 3D slider is easy enough to access to solve that issue. Just make sure you turn 3D on again whenever you have a cinematic moment or obtain a medallion.


Malik (7/13/11)

Now that the All-Star game is over with for 2011, the obvious talk comes up...but first, I have to say watching Pineda in his first All-Star appearance, as a potential rookie of the year winner, was amazing. Strike outs, in pleural? Check. No hits? Check. Total command of the mound? Check. Pineda showed that a Mariner's uniform was definitely not out of place in Arizona yesterday. Sadly, I only caught the first half of the game, so I missed seeing if League pitched or how he did. Still, seeing Pineda was all I needed to see to feel damned proud to be a M's fan (and that feeling is not one I get too often for the last decade).

So, the obvious deadline is coming up and the M's are probably sellers after the recent string of losses and a slide from contention to battling to not be last. I think the four game sweep by the Angles is enough to darken some Seattle horizons. Still, the M's are not out, but they sure are down.

I already said what I think of talk of trading the epic starting pitchers (especially Pineda, but also King Felix); just don't go there. They are too good to give up on and will be the cornerstone of this rebuilding effort. Assuming the most likely outcome happens, Fister, Bedard, and Vargas have too good of a shot of becoming two or three bad parts of the rotation. So, leaving a 1-2 punch of Felix and Pineda is, without a doubt, a priority in building a contending team in the future. The relievers should also be off the table for now, since the M's bullpen is amazing and a reliever (possibly excluding a closer) is never going to get a great return in a trade despite what they can bring to a team. Relievers are like punters in the NFL; needed and under-appreciated in value. Like punters, a good reliever is only truly missed when they are gone.

Now the talk is coming in Seattle about trading Felix (once again...blah, blah) and Ichiro. I can almost see the idea behind trading Ichiro. On one hand, he is slowing down a bit (but I expect a huge return to form in the second half of this season; he is always hotter after the All-Star break). Also, the M's have plenty of people who can fill the void in the outfield that would be left when Ichiro's glove is gone. Plus, this season, Ichiro hasn't been the defensive power we have come to expect.

Now, why shouldn't the M's trade Ichiro? Well, as I said, he's in a slump and he's fielding like he's injured. If we saw an Ichiro trade last year, it would bring a huge return. If he is traded now, his stock is down. In other words, wait until the end of the season for him to pick up his stats again, or else the M's will be, like they do every damned season in July, giving away value for nothing of worth in return. The M's are consistently like wanna-be day traders (the failed type); they sell when value is below average and buy when value is above average (or even at its peak). Look at Figgins; bought when he was worth far more than his career stats showed. Look at Ichiro right now and think about his value versus what it will probably be after the season ends and he goes through the home stretch (which is always the time for Ichiro to shine).

That's a damned good reason right there, but here's some more. First off, Ichiro likes Seattle, and Seattle likes Ichiro. He's not the most personable player, but he has the mystique of a ninja; quiet, not normal by any means, and just amazing to watch from a distance. If the M's trade Ichiro, they will take a PR hit at home. More than that, Ichiro is huge to Japanese MLB fans, and who owns the M's? Yes, Nintendo. Yes, the Nintendo from Japan. Yes, the only MLB team to be owned by a Japanese entity is also the one with the most electric MLB star in the average Japanese sports follower's eyes. If he was traded, I can assure you that the home office will probably make a move of it's own, and the M's will be shopping for a new GM quicker than you can say good bye to your Ichiro memorabilia.

If the M's want to trade, they need to look at priorities and those priorities say they need to trade where the M's have excessive prospects. For once the M's have a ton of quality prospects and are truly rebuilding. If a trade is made, then it needs to be one that has the M's gain large in return for something that is not a guarantee, instead of the other way around (like the M's seem to always do in the 21st century). Rebuilding a house doesn't start with destroying a good foundation while keeping around any rotting lumber. Get rid of the rotten parts and keep what is quality and solid. The M's are not the farm team of the AL...or they shouldn't be. I mean if the Pirates can be amazing to watch instead of serving as a AAAA team for the NL, the M's should be able to do the same.


Malik (7/14/11)

The Sounders FC have been in the US Open Cup tournament for two years (not counting 2011), and has walked away with the hardware each time. It is becoming a wonderful tradition that the Sounders FC, no matter how they look in the MLS, will be electric in the US Open Cup games. After last night, when the Sounders took down the LA Galaxy 3-1, the Sounders are once again heading to the semi-finals (against Dallas in Tukwila...which is almost home for the Sounders).

My problem with this is despite drawing a good following and never being defeated in a US Open Cup game, the game is still played at Starfire in Tukwila (instead of Qwest/Century Link/Seahawks Field/Stadium) for less than 5000 people. Even worse, while the All-Star break is in effect, so sports programming is a bit light last night, and despite summer re-runs on network TV, not a single channel carried the game. Even local radio didn't have it. I mean the Sounders have played on ROOT (formerly FSN, and usually re-runs of matches), KING-5 (local NBC), KONG-6 (local sister of KING-5), FSC, ESPN-2, and even ESPN-1. So, a team with a huge local following (sold out stadium for ever home MLS regular game and most friendlies), the best attendance possible (until they open more seats at CenturyLink), and a perfect undefeated record at the US Open Cup and the game gets no local coverage? What the hell?

At least I can say the Sounders have a good website that will show the game when no one else will. I was able to see each moment of the amazing victory, and even have the true voice of the Sounders (best announcer ever; Arlo White), and have the joy of DVR like functionality in streaming the game with full pause and rewind ability. However, having no local media coverage of this, especially when a few of the regular Sounders broadcasters were showing absolute crap is nothing short of pathetic.

At least it's a great time for soccer in the Seattle area. The Sounders are going to the semi-finals for the US Open Cup, they have CONCACAF Champions League games starting soon, they are in playoff contention for the MLS, and the US World Cup women's team is going to play Japan in the finals. For those who don't follow soccer and view it as a boring game which can result in 0-0 ties and 90 minutes of dullness, this means nothing. For those of us who love give our 90 as supporters, this is what the game is all about.


Malik (7/15/11)

I will leave sports behind for a day. I have focused on sports a lot on my posts mainly to have anything to post. I mean it's summer, few exciting games are coming out anytime soon, I don't get to movies often, and stresses in life have left me with little energy to do much that is not watching the M's or Sounders.

So, while being lazy, I've come to appreciate one thing as much as sports; streaming videos. I mean it's like watching TV, but better since there are good things on streaming video (there's always something new to find) and TV right now is pretty much lacking.

Nintendo finally released the Netflix application for the 3DS. It was known that this would be available at some time since before the 3DS launched. However, the real question remained of when this would happen. The web browser (which is pretty damned weak for something released with current technology) eventually arrived. The e-store eventually appeared. Now the question was when would Netflix come. It looks like, at least judging from my Nintendo newsletter, yesterday was the magic day...but it may have been sometime earlier in this last week.

Since Velveta was busy on the 360 streaming some She-Ra cartoons on Netflix, and since I'm a He-Man type over She-Ra (it's like we're little kids with Netflix and it's always a battle of boy cartoons versus girl cartoons), I needed something to occupy my time. So, I downloaded the Netflix application and waited for the largest download I think I've made on the 3DS to go through.

I have to say, while the 3DS web browser needs to be able to stream youtube videos (or maybe make a youtube application in the e-store), the Netflix application almost makes up for it. Despite being on a little dinky handheld system, the video quality looks pretty nice, and the sound is pretty clear on the speakers...of course, trying to out-compete a 7.1 system blasting She-Ra with the 3DS speakers is not a fair battle. Overall, I am pretty happy with this. I only wish the 3DS had 3G or something similar to allow it to use Netflix anywhere. I could really see myself enjoying it when taking a rest during a long trip or the like.

Now I just hope we see Nintendo add a youtube application, or update the web browser to work with Flash to bring about more video streaming abilities. However, with the web browser being capable of working while a game is being played (and currently paused in the background), I don't see this happening anytime this generation...unless Nintendo finds it in their hearts to add another web browsing application to the e-store that will get full use of the 3DS system resources...hint, hint, Nintendo.


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