Friday, September 29, 2006
The key to most of the Phillies' killer losses recently seems to be the defense. Both Utley and Rollins have lost the handle frequently of late, and while neither has moved into Steve Sax territory, the run or two they've frittered away at key moments may prove to be the difference in the Phillies' season.
Speaking of which, it's fashionable to point to the run the Phillies went on when they gift-wrapped Bobby Abreu for the Yankees (with Cory Lidle impersonating a side of fries) as evidence that the mysterious "chemistry" has suddenly arrived in the Philberts' dugout. Now, I'm perfectly willing to believe that the tone in the dugout has changed, but I'm also a black-hearted cynic who thinks that the turnaround was sparked at least as much by A)the return of Jon Lieber and Randy Wolf from injuries, and Cole Hamels from the minors, suddenly giving the Phillies a reasonable and Madson-less rotation B)the fact that the Phillies' post-deadline schedule was a bit on the squishy side C)the jettisoning of bullpen dead weight like Ryan Franklin and Rheal Cormier, who'd clearly passed their "sell-by" date and D) replacing the punchless David Bell with the equally punchless but much more sure-handed Abraham Nunez at third. But then again, I got a C in high school chemistry.
Is there a rumored managerial vacancy out there that Lou Pinella is not attached to?
In anticipation of a thin free agent crop, the rumor mill has already started pumping the big trade target of the winter - Carl Crawford of the Devil Rays. Expect the frenzy to get louder and louder as the off-season progresses, until the sportswriters of America actually seem indignant that a losing team might want to keep one of their inexpensive, long-term viable cornerstones in place instead of automatically trading him to a contender. Crawford's combination of speed, power, defense, and affordability means that there's almost no way the D-Rays could get equal value back, and the new management team down there does not seem interested in getting less than equal value.
Another media drum that will start banging soon - Barry Zito to Boston. And A-Rod to the Angels. And Mark Teahen somewhere, anywhere, for some pitching.
Apparently Alex Gonzalez wants a three year deal out of the Red Sox. Umm, no. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see him wind up in Kansas City, where the spun-sugar pitching staff needs all the defensive help it can get.
Cubs players, speaking off the record, will begin throwing Dusty Baker under the bus in three...two...one...
Incidentally, can someone please re-examine the phrase "he's a proven winner" as regards to the Dustbuster? He is a proven winner as long as he has one of the best players in baseball in his prime playing for him. A lot of guys could probably say things like that. Without mega-cabeza model Barry or Sammy, his mojo is looking a lot worse than it used to. And somehow, I don't think Ichiro is going to be able to do much to revive it next year.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Mr. Wuf (
Mr. Wuf – Scouting Report
Mr. Wuf is, as one might expect, a wolf, which means razor-sharp teeth, deep animal cunning, and a cute little sailor hat that can distract even the least fashion-conscious opponent. Unlike most mascots, Mr. Wuf has a well-rounded family life (he’s married to the perhaps inevitable Mrs. Wuf) and enjoys a career outside of mascotry, appearing in books like Hello, Mr. Wuf. Why Mrs. Wuf is not similarly greeted is not known.
On the plus side, Mr. Wuf is perhaps the only fearsome mascot in the RTP area, because, let’s face it, sheep don’t have heels to get tar on, and the Duke Blue Devil looks like a superdeformed manga character who’s O.D.’ed on J.J. Redick’s poetry. That leave the wolf, pretty much by default, as the apex predator of the foam-head-and-big-shoes set.
Mr. Wuf prefers to bob and weave, relying on speed and ferocity to flank his opponents. This is wise, as in a stand-up fight he usually ends up getting sat down rather quickly. His best maneuver involves clamping his massive jaws over an opponent’s head, thus immobilizing the poor bastard while Mrs. Wuf then administers the coup de grace with a suitably blunt object, such as Chuck Amato’s offensive gameplan.
- Having Mrs. Wuf as the only other member of the Pack raises lingering questions about virility and long-term population viability. Or, as Los Lobos might put it, even with a win, will the wolf survive?
- Mrs. Wuf wears what looks suspiciously like a poodle skirt, which really detracts from that whole “wolf” thing.
- The cutesy sailor hat and sweater combo, combined with the omnipresence of his mate, suggests that Mr. Wuf is in fact the Doug Christie of mascotry. Can he fight his own battles?
- Can Mr. Wuf recover from the shock and hangover of the
game enough to mount any kind of a coherent defense, or will Testudo register “another Wolfpack, first down?” Boston College
Testudo – Scouting Report
Named for a Roman military formation (which was, in turn, named after a turtle), Testudo brings a pugnacious nature, a pugilistic pose, and an Armor Class of 2 (it’s the shell, doncha know?) to the brawl. Slow-moving and deliberate, he relies on his carapace to soak up punishment while wading in to deliver the knockout blow. The patented Alligator Snapping Turtle Bite is a lethal finisher, though his effective combat range is limited. Testudo’s large, googly eyes are vulnerable, particularly since his arms aren’t long enough to cover them.
A long-standing victim of species profiling (his unique standing as a diamondback terrapin routinely reduced to mere turtlehood by the distasteful chelonist chant “Fear the turtle!”), Testudo fights with a chip on what would be his shoulder if he had any. Instead, he generally tucks at least one tire iron and a shiv or two into his shell, the better to pull out on an unsuspecting opponent at just the right moment.
- Can Testudo move fast enough to counter Mr. Wuf’s edge in agility, or will he rely on brains to offset Wuf’s brawn? Testudo’s not above fighting dirty, and bringing up those distasteful rumors about Mrs. Wuf and Georgia Tech’s Buzz may be enough to get Mr. Wuf off his game.
- Will the rumors of artificial shell enhancement prove true? A report in the San Francisco Chronicle included records of concrete, rebar, and Jimmy Johnson’s hairspray being delivered to Testudo’s address, along with TGH (turtle growth hormone). This may be enough to get the plucky terrapin disqualified, particularly if he runs afoul of the new, more stringent mascot testing procedures. The fact that he’s been training with Todd Sauerbrun probably won’t help.
Still muzzy from the celebration following the Amato-saving defeat of
In related news, Oklahoma University president David Boren, who insisted that the Sooners would not play the Nationals until he was assured that the game would be played using NY-Penn League officiating.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
So congratulations, Mr. Hoffman, on breaking the all-time saves record. In a role that's seen a lot of supernovae (anyone seen Bobby Thigpen lately?), twelve-plus years of nearly uninterrupted excellence is pretty impressive. Not bad for a guy who was drafted as a shortstop, left exposed in an expansion draft, and, according to one methodology, was at one point most similar to Rich Loiselle.
They're still figuring out what makes a relief pitcher a Hall of Famer, but based on Hoffman's enduring excellence as compared to his peers, I'd say he makes at least a reasonably compelling case for inclusion. That is, if he ever actually retires. One suspects he'll be able to keep throwing that changeup until some time in the mid 2030's.
And, as a Boston College alum who attended the game with another alum (a.k.a. my esteemed co-author) and our respective partners, by "a loss" I of course mean a "heart-rending, agonizing, soul-freezing defeat that leaves you to sit in the empty grass of the Veterinary School auxiliary parking area drinking warm Carolina Ale in the dark" sort of thing, one that leaves you with much the same feeling as being sucker-punched in the junk by a six year old.
The game, for the record, was awful. False starts galore, miserable execution, a near-allergic aversion to tackling on the part of Boston College, and an inexplicable unwillingness to do anything A)on the right side of the field and B)more than five yards downfield. The one time B.C. went deep, they were picked off in the corner of the end zone, and the resultant play calling had a distinct feeling of "See? We told you!" about it.
Kudos to the N.C. State fans, incidentally, who were almost universally polite, enthusiastic, and friendly, and a pleasure to watch a game with. It's a pity it couldn't have been a better-played game, or just maybe, had a better result.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Buddy Bell, most likely not gone.
Clint Hurdle, probably not gone, either.
Clearly, I've been thinking about this managing baseball games thing the wrong way. Differing opinions on the actual value of a manager aside, it used to be that winning or losing was the measure by which a manager could check his job security. Apparently, this is no longer the case.
Now, Girardi is not quite the spotless saint of the double switch that some folks would have you believe. His bullpen usage patterns can best be described as quirky, his notion of the defensive replacement apparently precludes the word "defense", and it's never a good idea to tell the guy who signs your paychecks to shut the [word redacted for the sake of Boston University hockey fans] up. On the other hand, Girardi did get sandbagged by the Marlins' ever-so-aboveboard ownership, having signed on to run a team that had guys like Mike Lowell (oops), Josh Beckett, (sorry about that), and a few other guys who actually need to shave more than once a week on it. Believe it or not, I honestly didn't think the Marlins were going to be all that bad this year - no team with Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera, and the double fistful of top prospects the Marlins had looted from other teams over the winter really should be - but even so, Girardi deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team in the race long after squads with multiples of the Marlins' payroll have quit or been kicked to the curb. That by itself doesn't mean he should keep his job, but it's a good recommendation for whoever hires him next.
Sometimes, the combo of management and manager just doesn't work. Just ask Paul DePodesta and Jim Tracy about that one. In cases like that, if there's truly a philosophical incompatibility, it's inevitable and appropriate that someone move on. Usually it's the manager in that case, simply because water and power both flow downhill. If that's the case in Florida, then the Cubs are most likely going to get themselves a pretty good manager next year, one who clearly knows how to handle kids better than Dusty Baker ever did, and it will work out best for everyone.
If, however, this is about Girardi telling Jeffty Loria to put a sock in his piehole rather than continuing to rant and thus potentially aliening the umpire even further, then it's just pathetic. Once again, Loria will have taken a hatchet to his own team, and this time there isn't even the clear benefit of a looming MLB buyout to explain why.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
[N]eedless to say, it has enraged some students who swear that cursing is practically tradition, especially at BU hockey games...BU's Dean of Students, Kenneth Elmore, said the new policy is a result of numerous complaints about the stream of obscenities from students at hockey games, the students are obviously none too pleased with this development.
And we can easily imagine Elmore sitting in his office, Wormer-like, formulating this directive while someone from the custodial department takes a chainsaw to the body of a freshly arrythmia'd horse in the background. It's difficult to see how, short of issuing water cannons to the enforcement patrols, this will work. Although if this does take hold, the avenues for student expression, especially after witnessing things like this, will be severely limited, to wit:
(1) Collective pulmonary embolism;
(2) Yosemite Sam-like explosions of razza-frazza-crabble-frazzin' ersatz profanity;
(3) Dark, black despair coupled with warm, snot-laced tears of shame and ignominy. You know, like this:
(See? See what happens?)
It's hard out there for a felt amphibian. According to the State News, Kermit the Frog has been chosen as the Grand Marshal of MSU's Homecoming parade. While the arguably most famous member of the Hyla cinerea species can hardly be called a poor choice, it might have behooved the Michigan State Undergraduate Subcommittee for Papier-Mache Floral Arrangements to, erm, take another look at their audience. Cases in point:
Blair Mathews, a telecommunication, information studies and media senior, said she did not know much about Kermit and doesn't see how people would understand why he is coming to MSU.
"I understand he would appeal to children and families," Mathews said. "I don't think he is a bad choice, but there could be a better one."
No-preference freshman Laurel Steele said she watched Kermit on "Muppet Babies" and supports his coming to MSU.
No-preference freshman, indeed. Frankly, if the earliest recall you have tops out at Muppet Babies, and not, you know, a live-action show and several movies...or, for that matter, your four years immersed in information studies and media have left you unaware of the Kermitological phenomenon altogether...well, it's enough to make the little green guy shoot blood from his eye sockets.
Which would be better appreciated at TCU, of course. And from the looks of it, so would Kermit himself.
Why this man is not in the Hall of Fame is beyond me.
Fortunately, this winter looks to have a veritable cornucopia of options at the hot corner available on the market. Masher Aramis Ramirez can opt out of his contract with the Cubs. The rejuvenated Mark Teahen may get shoved out of Kansas City to make way for uber-prospect Alex Gordon. If the Astros are saving a space for Craig Biggio next year, then Aubrey Huff is most likely going to be available. Pedro Feliz may be overrated and ageing, but he still hits the ball a lot farther than Nunez ever will. The Eternal Fallback Position, Joe Randa, will be out there. And in Tom Verducci's excellent piece over at SI.com, enough Yankees throw Alex Rodriguez under the bus that you get the feeling he might not mind moving on.
Mind you, I think the likelihood of A-Rod coming to Philly is only slightly higher than the advisability of same, which is to say, non-existent. But even the rumor that he's out there on the market might make one of the more sensible and appropriate targets a little easier to come by, and with all that loose Thome/Abreu/Bell/Wolf/most likely Burrell pocket change rattling around the coffers at Citizens' Bank Park, there's room for a significant purchase or two.
Nunez is what he is, a decent utility infielder who got an oversized contract based on a couple of decent months last year. He's not a starter, and he's certainly not a starter for a team with dreams of contention. Not only do the numbers not lie, in this case, they look you in the eye, speak confidently, and use good diction and grammar. And with Utley, Rollins and Howard in their primes, this team has no choice but to try to contend, rather than waste the best years of their career. If the Phillies go into next season with Nunez as their starting third baseman, it will be an admission of failure, and a clear sign of multiple missed opportunities.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The first clue that my cell towers were intact came right around the trading deadline, approximately a month after my aneurysm. By that time, I had been transferred from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston to the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Cape and the Islands. I was perusing the morning box scores in the Cape Cod Times when I brusquely asked my nurse, "Linda, how did Austin Kearns get to the Nationals?"
Man hasn't lost a step.
One, as Pat Forde has pointed out at ESPN, doesn't the president of a major public university have better things to do with his time than go apoplectic over a football game? Don't they have, I don't know, students who don't run the 40 in 4.4 seconds on that campus who might require some consideration?
Two, does anyone else find it mildly alarming that the lesson being given here is "if life is unfair, whine loudly and then pretend it never happened"? I'm sure this valuable life lesson will be of tremendous use to OU grads as they try to negotiate their way through, say, a rejected health insurance claim.
Three, isn't the Oklahoma mascot a cheater? The original sooners were, after all, the ones who jumped the gun on claiming ye olde Indian Territory. One wonders what instant replay officials would have made of that. (and for that matter, why isn't the Prez demanding that the charmingly spelled RUF/NEKS fan organization be disbanded? After all, they cost the team a bowl game back in 1985!)
Four, well, let's stop there. The more attention paid to this sort of thing, the more likely it is to happen again. It's a shame that a bad call helped - the defense is probably a little culpable there, too - cost Oklahoma a game. But it wasn't the first time it's happened, it wasn't the first time it had happened that week, and unless OU moves to a conference where the games are refereed by magical pixies and wise unicorns, it will happen again. This smacks more of a flailing attempt to distract attention from a program that hasn't been living up to its own arbitrary standards of late, because, let's face it, it's a lot more fun to blame those darn Pac-10 officials than to look at last year's record, or wonder where this year's starting quarterback went.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be over here complaining about that goddamned umpire who blew the call on what should have been Ryan Howard's 57th home run. Oh, wait, he went out and hit another one.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Let the fur, feathers, and foam fly, and may the best hideously cartoonish anthroporphization win!
Considering the Eagles' magnificent choke job on Sunday and the resultant bad news about Jevon Kearse, this may be the only thing fending off mass suicide in South Philly tonight.
Addendum: Apparently, three screws were placed in the finger to stabilize the break. No word on how many of those screws were loose.
Monday, September 18, 2006
It's an interesting idea, and one that raises an interesting debate - does someone who is overwhelming every five days worth less than someone who is merely excellent all the time? The answer, in part, rests with how overwhelming Santana is, not to mention how excellent Jeter (or Maurer, or Ortiz, or the long-forgotten Travis Hafner, who was having a better season by statistical esoterica than any of them) is in wider exposure.
Except that there's a hink in the postulated math there. Sure, Jeter is out there every day, but he's not involved in every play. There are plenty of plays - ABs for other Yankee gazillionaires, Randy Johnson hanging curveballs that end up in the cheap seats, strikeouts - that El Capitan simply spectates, albeit from a better vantage point than anything you're likely to get at the new Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile, Santana may pitch only one day out of five, but when he's pitching, he's dealing with every batter.
So, the question arises - is Jeter actually that much more involved than Santana? Rough math - forgive me, Bill James - suggests that he is, but not by as much as you'd think. According to Baseball Prospectus, as of September 17th, Santana had been involved in roughly 870 plays (yes, I'm counting his ABs during interleague play). Jeter, by comparison, is just up over 1200 plays if you include ABs and fielding chances. So there is a gap, but not quite the 5-to-1 ratio that the talking heads would have you believe.
Or, to put it another way, look at Joe Mauer. He's caught 110 games, so assuming 9 innings per game and 4 batters per inning (conservative, yes, but the Twins do have Santana and Liriano), that's nearly 4000 plays he's been involved in, and that's before we get to his 550 or so plate appearances. In other words, the difference between how much Jeter was "there" versus Santana is roughly 1/10 the difference between Mauer and Jeter.
None of which matters, of course, at least not in the eyes of the voters. Jeter will no doubt win the MVP handily, due in large part to his clutchiness in not folding when there was only $190M taking the field for the Yankees every day. He is, of course, an excellent player, but I can't shake the feeling that there's something Rizzutoid about him, a desperate rush to anoint him above and beyond his talents simply by dint of his playing for a winning Yankee team. But that's a discussion for another time. For the moment, let's just say that Jeter's everyday advantage isn't quite as large as most people think.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Now you may be asking yourself "Why, pray tell, does the world need another snarky sports blog, much less one without a specific raison d'etre?" After all, there are plenty of sportsblog niches left. Nobody's covering the first through fourth innings of the Carolina Mudcats' home games, for example. Or Duke football highlights (a short blog, admittedly). Or, well, you get the idea. But there are a host, nay, a plethora of sports blogs that deign to comment on everything. Whether this is a result of a truly renaissance approach to sports coverage, a lack of focus on other bloggers' parts, or simply the "ooh, shiny!" principle is irrelevant. This blog is going to exist because, while there may be other sports blogs out there that are well-written, insightful, funny, thought-provoking, and superb, they all have in common one thing:
Someone else is writing them. And that, sadly enough, is enough reason to add yet another to the fray.
What you will find here, then, is a mixed bag. Some of it will be vaguely stat-oriented. Some of it will be humorous. Some of it may be written in best faux-Hemingway style. Hopefully, most of it will be grammatically correct, spelled appropriately, and written in a way so as to make for pleasurable reading. It will cover whatever is drawing the ire or attention of those who write here at the moment, and beyond that, I can promise nothing except a best effort and a willing hand. Well, that and some really obscure subreferences, but you knew that was coming.