Spreadsheet Baseball: Harry Potter and the Fourth Place Finish

Unlike the majority of the entire world, it seems, I haven't finished the seventh Harry Potter book. Needless to say if you read the diary, Rany pretty much beat everyone to comparing the Royals to the characters of J.K. Rowling's series. Perhaps also needless to say, I'm going to talk way too much about the book anyway in this article. And yes, I WILL reach through my computer and attempt to strangle you if you ruin the ending for me.

You might have heard that from someone else, that "don't tell me or I'll kill you" line and thought "what a freak" or something along those lines. I assure that at this point, I'm pretty disenchanted with the series. I've been so for a while, actually, as the last book that I really liked was the third one; that one came both before Rowling began to write 800-page books, and before I got old enough to be the critic I am now. Now, I'm just along for the ride because let's face it: when you've followed a series for six years or whatever, even if you get somewhat disenchanted with it, you still want to know how it ends. A shorter time span example of this would be lifetime original movies, because if people didn't take the "this kind of stinks but I need to see the ending now that I've watched it for an hour" approach, then the lifetime channel would be dead (which would be great).

I say all this to provide with some background info before I hit you with the timeline that occured the night "the book" came out. My parents have always got the book for one kid in the family, who gets to read it first, and then passed it down through the ranks. There are five of us now, and only the four-year-old isn't interested, so you can imagine the hiijinks that ensue over who gets to read it first. This is, after all, the last book in the series (riiiiiiight).

  • One month ago-people in my family start to notice the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" poster on the downtown bookstore
  • One day less than a month ago-Sister #2 begins to get on people's nerves, especially Sister #1's, about how Sister #2 gets to read the book first this time
  • Somewhere indefinite-Mom registers Sisters #2 and #3 for Girl Scout Camp, which is something they generally love and didn't get to do last year. Remember this part.
  • Three weeks ago-the seeds of dispute are sown as it is confirmed by Mom that Sister #2 does, in fact, get to read it first. Mom will have to confirm this fact about 8632 times in the next three weeks.
  • Two weeks ago-In response to Sister #2 getting on people's nerves, Sister #1 begins to get on people's nerves by acting incredibly hyper about getting to read the book and disputing the legitimacy of Sister #2 getting to read it first. Because it wouldn't do for her to be outdone, you know.
  • One week ago-it starts to dawn on people that the day that #s 2 and 3 leave for camp is the next day after the Harry Potter book comes out. Mom confirms it will be taken to camp by #s 2 and 3, meaning Sister #3 will (deservedly, she is 11 after all) get to read the book second. Sister #1, naturally, is less than pleased.
  • Five days ago-around this time, I finally finished the latest Sandy Mitchell "Commissar Cain" book I was reading ("Duty Calls"), and my attention turns towards "the book" coming out. When I learn it's going to camp with the two Girl Scouts, I shrug and start reading "The Space Wolf." Sister #1 continues to earn zero points with Mom and Sister #3.
  • Four days ago-things turn rather ugly as Sister #1 openly disputes Sister #2 getting the book first while on the trip to Target to buy the book. She does this when Mom is in the gas station, because she thinks she will get away with it. Mom gets back in the car, gets mad at #1, tells her that the "order of reading" is now 2-3-NHZ-1 and I helpfully add "and Sister #4 gets to read it before you if she learns to read well enough by then." This is, after all, a 760-page book or something like that.
  • Three days ago-Sisters #2 and #3 depart for Girl Scout camp with the book in tow. Because I haven't pissed off Sister #2, I've already got to read 45 pages or something like that by the time they leave.
  • Two days ago-Sister #1 hounds Mom to let her bu her own copy of a $35 dollar book so that she can read it without having to wait a week and a half for the other two to return from camp. Mom is unrelenting, at first, but eventually leaves the decision up to Dad. After all, Sister #1 might be acting like a loony, but the fact of the matter is that her intentions are pure: she just wants to read the damn book. Plus, she (reasonably) can't stand the fact that all her friends will be talking about the ending. Dad says yes, we drive to Stop & Shop and continue to make J.K. Rowling rich. Sister #1 reads to page 150 despite getting the book at eightish and going to sleep at ten. I get the book briefly after she goes to sleep. I get to page 65 before I pass out.
  • Yesterday-Sister #1 surges to page 430, and I get all the way to 360 after she falls asleep. She accidentally told me about some minor character dying earlier in the day. It was all I could do not to punch her. Yeah, I can't pretend I don't care at all.
  • Sister #1 is on the train into Boston to do her latest theater thingy. She has the book with her. And no matter which JK goes, this thing with Snape is never going to make sense.
So ther you have it. In the weeks leading up to getting this book, this was a pocket-sized warzone around here. The question I have for you all is what the heck makes/made this series so gosh darn popular when there's much better stuff out there? I mean, yeah, I want to know how it ends, but I'll be the first to admit that the plot is rather generic and the filler 300 pages that the last four books have had have made them annoying.

On to the Royals...

As I may have mentioned before, I really have to get:

  • A: a better computer at home and mlb.tv
  • B: the Extra Innings package
because it has been getting to the point where I'm seriously annoyed that I can't watch the Royals play more often. Then, of course, when I do watch them it's when they play my favorite team. This is not exactly thrilling. Still, it was genuinely fun to see the Royals again. Since BBTN and SportsCenter like to leave us without Royal highlights a lot of nights, and KC definitely never gets picked for an ESPN or FOX "Game of the Week," it had been a while.

So, my bullet-pointed thoughts and observations on the three games between the Red Sox and the Royals:

  • Billy Ray Butler is a moose, but I'm even more confident in the lad than I was before when I actually got a chance to see him hit. Free agent possibilities notwithstanding, Butler could be the Royals' best hitter for years to come. On a somewhat silly, intangible level I love the fact that he ran out the easy outs he made. It was like watching a hamster on a wheel who honestly thinks he's going somewhere, but still encouraging to see him hustle despite his lack of speed.
  • It really is getting ridiculous how often Jason LaRue is getting the nod over John Buck. The only way this could ever be remotely redeemable is if the Royals find a way to get someone with upside for LaRue at the deadline. Good luck. Buck is so much better than LaRue in the batter's box that it's a little sad that Bell doesn't seem to get it. It was not a good series for John (in part because he only played two games), but Buck's a keeper, folks, and that double he hit off the wall was crushed. That guy can absolutely punish mistake pitches.
  • Alex Gordon looks a hell of a lot more comfortable in the batter's box, and he had himself a sweet 5-for-10 series with three hits in the second game. I know he's gone back down to .232 since, but it seems like he's altered his approach. At the beginning of the season, his stance seemed a little too upright and stiff, if memory serves. Certainly good to see him hitting well. It would've been cool to see him actually take a walk, but hey, I'm probably being too dang picky. And Bell, don't play him at first any more, please. Quick! Dayton! Trade for a first basemen!
  • Joakim Soria has gained velocity since opening day, which may be a given but it's still impressive. When I saw him in the opening series he seemed to top out in the high 80s, but his fastball was consistently over 90 according to the Fenway radar guns. Watching a kid who was pretty much off the map and then in A-ball last year give up a triple to Crisp, retain his compsure, and get the third out of the inning with the tying run on was the moment that stuck out as impressive to me. Soria looked very good, and it will be very interesting to see which way the Royals go with him--starter or reliever. I think he has the stuff to do whatever is asked of him.
  • Ross Gload is not only a bad hitter, but he has a funny face. Designate him for assignment, now!
  • Odalis Perez officially has the stuff that my grandmother would have if she could throw 83 MPH or so. If Perez is not gone by the 31st...there really is not point to continue to give him starts. He's just useless. Needless to say, he vultured a win somehow against the Sox. He's still awful.
  • If there's any interest in Emil Brown, the Royals need to trade the guy. He doesn't hit, doesn't field, and his non-chalant of that fly ball hit by Mike Lowell was just downright gross. Nice professionalism, Emil. Perhaps the only funny thing about the play is that Lowell dogged it up the line and only got to first when he could've easily had two bases. Two idiotic plays on the same batted ball.
  • When I said "Tony Pena is not the SS of the future" I did not mean "Jason Smith is awesome. Play him, Buddy" hopefully Bell understands that Smith is nothing more than a fungible utility man.
  • I'm mad that I didn't get to see Meche pitch again, but I was generally very impressed with Bannister. I wouldn't be surprised if home runs became a little more of an issue for him in the future, but apparently his curveball is helping him out a lot. I said I liked him to be servicable in the rotation this year, and I couldn't be happier that he's outdoing my expectations. That's a trade that the Royals are already winning on.
  • Grudzielanek and his .299 batting average are now pulling him into the "you just can't kill this guy" territory. Thanks for the trade value, Mark. Hopefully, the Royals take advantage of the fact that Grudzielanek is hitting well by trading him to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira.
  • David Riske...uh, what the hell? The guy is pitching about twice as good as I ever thought he would again after he was traded from the Red Sox last year. In his brief time at Fenway and with his mediocre numbers last year, it looked like his career was in swift descent. I guess maybe I'm guilty of looking at a small sample size when I thought that, though, as Riske looks great. Whether or not the Royals should trade him is another matter; you'd think he and his sub-3.00 ERA and name brand value might be worth more than a cheeseburger.
  • Dotel looks good again, which is not really a given when you experience the type of injuries he's had. If he's lost velocity, it isn't much, though I can understand why other teams want him as a set-up guy; he's a flyball pitcher who seems to throw a lot of "oh, yeah? Well, hit this!" fastballs. Of course, the Red Sox couldn't.
  • Kason Gabbard shuts the Royals down (albeit with a strange strike zone), then they squash Wakefield like a bug? I had the Royals pegged as a team who would whiff a ton against a knuckleballer, but I guess it wasn't going to be. It was no surprise that Tavarez stunk.
That's about it unless I think of something and add it later. Obviously, the Royals endured a setback last night against the hated Yankees, but between actually getting to see them play three whole games--not a minute-long SC segment--and what with the improved play of the Royals lately, I'm very excited to be following this team. The next big hurdle actually doesn't have to do with on-field results: come next week, Dayton Moore will need to work his magic and turn this year's seller's market into a positive thing for the Royals. As well as the team is playing right now, I don't think anyone wants to see Odalis Perez or Emil Brown sucking up playing time in the second half, and Dotel needs to be traded what with the very good demand he's in right now.

I feel like I've Peter Kinged you with this article, talking about pop culture way too much (at least I didn't have a page devoted to coffee) and sports way too little, and for that I'm sorry. I really wanted to do the Royals observation article late last week, but I felt it needed something to go along with it. Consider this you light reading for the week and I will be back with the hardline stuff next week when I look at the various deals that have gone down/might happen at the deadline.

Spreadsheet Baseball returns next week to tell you whether Snape is evil or not, along with an obsessive amount of trade deadline stuff that is already starting to clog this computer's gears. For this week, questions and comments are, as always, welcome/encouraged.

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