Thursday, June 28, 2007

Trade Jon Lieber! Ooops.

I'd say it's a good thing that the Phillies didn't succeed in trading one of their starters during spring training, but I'm not sure it matters. Even the so-called depth they had going into the season hasn't prevented them from having multiple cases of Zach Segovia and a chronic case of Kyle Kendrick, who sounds like a 50s DC superhero sidekick.

Barretts in your hair

Nate Silver has an interesting piece over at BP on the Cubs' habit of grinding down the value of players they're about to trade, making it impossible to get decent value back. Silver ascribes it to a lack of confidence of decision-making ability, and suggests that the Cubs are relying heavily on "What did you expect me to get for these guys?" as a defense for the lousy return they've gotten on trades in recent years.

I'm not so sure. From my admittedly jauniced viewpoint, it looks more like the Cubs are more interested in winning PR battles with their fans than games on the field. Rather than get blasted - or risk ticket and merch sales - by shipping a popular player out of town, the TribCo behemoth instead devours its own like Kronos snacking on his offspring. If everyone is convinced that Michael Barrett, or Todd Walker, or Corey Patterson, or anyone else is a worthless bum by the time the club finally trades him, then nobody gets upset when said worthless bum leaves.

Clever, fellas. Very clever. Now, if only it helped you win games.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why the AL Will Always Win Interleague Play

Much is made of how AL teams are at a disadvantage when they play in NL parks because they generally have tell the lumbering Solomon Grundy-types at DH to have a seat. Conventional wisdom states that this is somehow unfair, because they're playing "with less than their full lineup."

Hogwash.

The real disadvantage goes to NL teams when they have to play in AL parks. In an NL stadium, they sit down the DH and have 8 hitters and a pitcher in the lineup - just like the NL teams. While I'm sure some slight advantage accrues to NL teams because their pitchers are at least more familiar with which end of the bat to hold, even the best-hitting NL pitchers still, frankly, stink. Or, to put it another way, Carlos Zambrano gets mad props for bashing as many homers as Jack Wilson.

On the other hand, when an NL team goes to an AL park, they need to find a DH, and most NL teams don't have a Big Papi-level masher just sitting on the bench to take the role. If you're lucky, it's your fourth outfielder - the Michael Bourns and Endy Chavezes of the world. Now match the drop in productivity from Hafner/Ortiz/Thome/Thomas to the Olmaedo Saenz/Brad Eldred/Ryan Doumit extravaganzas to the dropoff you get from Zambrano to Andy Pettite, and I think there's a significant tilt one way in that equation. (And yes, a lot of NL teams were using big name hitters as DHs, but that just means they put the lesser lights in the field. The net result on the lineup was the same.)

So the next time you hear a whinge about how Sheff has to sit, and woe be unto the Tigers as a result, bear in mind - Sheff sitting is less of a negative than most NL "designated hitters" hitting.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rod Beck, In Pace Requiescat

We'll miss the mullet. And the fu manchu-gone-Muppet moustache. And the stories of the Winnebago parked in the stadium lot. And the 51 saves for the Cubs - the Cubs!

Thanks for the memories, Shooter.

Monday, June 18, 2007

So Let Me Get This Straight..

Kobe meets with the owner of the Lakers in Barcelona because Dr. Buss is on his way back from vacationing in China, in order to demand a trade out of Los Angeles to a team that is ready to win now. This, of course, after the Lakers threw Shaq under the bus in order to keep Kobe happy.

As a writer of fiction, I can only shake my head in admiration. If I came up with any of this stuff, they'd tell me I'd gone from writing horror to fantasy.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Wormkiller General In His Labyrinth

Some thoughts on last night's drubbing of the Bulls by the not-exactly-loaded Indianapolis Indians...

Mitch "Wormkiller General" Talbot went 4 2/3 shaky innings, escaping having only given up two runs (both on solo homers). However, he was in and out of trouble most of the night, admittedly with an assist from Durham's up-and-down defense. A great pitching performance, it was not, and there's a visible difference in Talbot's approach when he gets into trouble. Simply put, he....slows.....down. And when he slows down, he overthrows and gets the ball up, which is exactly what a guy who lives and dies on sinkers ought not to be doing. When Talbot was on, the strikeouts and the groundouts were both there. But when he wasn't, well, Brad Eldred hit that ball a looooong way.

If the Devil Rays want to ensure that uberprospects Reid Brignac and Evan Longoria to have a hope in hell of hitting at the major league level, they need to do something about the hitting instruction at Durham. Now. The entire team's approach is swing from the heels, swing at everything, and devil take the hindmost. Eliot Johnson is hitting below the Mendoza Line (note to Eliot - until you crack .200, you're not allowed to use that for your at-bat music. It's like Pete LaForest using "Thunderstruck".) and it's easy to see why - he's swinging at pretty much every pitch and he's taking a mighty power hitter's hack from the heels. I was half-expecting him to corkscrew himself out of his shoes each swing. And so, what do you get? Second and third, one out? hack hack done. First and third, one out? hack hack done. I don't know whether it's the influence of hitting coach Gary Gaetti, himself not known for his patient approach during his playing days, or the notion that these guys are trying to earn a promotion with one swing, but either way, the Durham offense is dire, and these guys are rapidly whiffing away any hint of hitting prospect-dom.

Or, to put it another way, 11 strikeouts, including 10 against the immortal Shane Youman.

And Tampa Bay needs to stop farting around with Edwin Jackson, and call up Jon Switzer for their bullpen toot sweet. It was nice of them to give Jackson every chance to resurrect his prospect label, but right now they need someone who can get people out from the pen, and dumping Jackson, moving Jason Hammel into the rotation and elevating Switzer seems like the best way to do that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Memo to NASCAR Nation

This man drives for Jack Daniels. Or Cobra Commander. Take your pick.


Your sport is just like everyone else's (except that in everyone else's sport, you have to make a right turn once in a while). The talent goes where the money is, which means that the gent yelling on the local sports talk radio station about how there's no loyalty left now that Junior (Ernhardt, not Griffey) has gone to Hendrick Motorsports needs to get over it.

First of all, NASCAR has always been the most heavily commercialized of the American sports. Doubt me? Then ask a fan about which car their favorite driver's in. It's the "#88 Snickers" or the "Jack Daniels car". They're driving brands. The cars don't have names, they have bar codes and SKU numbers. And I may be old-fashioned, but I'd rather root for, as Seinfeld put it, laundry, than for an endcap filler. It's about the money, it's always been about the money, and the drivers are finally waking up to that.

Sooner or later, the fans will, too. Just like baseball fans did, and then football and basketball fans. At this rate, we'll get the great NASCAR steroid scandal around 2036, when Tony Stewart's helmet splits in two and shotguns off his suspiciously swollen noggin, and Cale Yarbrough refuses to attend a record-setting performance at Lowe's Motor Speedway as a result.

We can only hope.

When They Hit A Ball That's Moving, That Will Impress Me

Kvetching continues over the course conditions for the US Open, where, if you believe the players, the greens have been replaced with linoleum, the fairways are narrower than Nicole Richie, and the rough is tall enough to hide sasquatch and his extended family.

At the risk of revealing my utter indifferent to the game of golf, I must say: who cares? These are supposed to be the best players in the world. This is supposed to be the toughest course in the world, so who better to challenge it? All of this yakking about how nobody was getting the ball 30 feet out of the rough is simply Tiger and Phil's version of working the refs before a playoff series, hoping that they can make the coursekeepers nervous enough to make things more favorable the first time someone bounces a three-wood off a squirrel.

Suck it up, ye men in plaid pants. The ball just sits there, you don't have to deal with hostile crowds (imagine Tiger trying to three-putt in Fenway some time around the sixth inning), and someone else is doing the heavy lifting for you. The least you can do is play the game.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Some Kid Tanked the National Spelling Bee Last Week on This Very Same Word

And it's a humdinger, too. Awful Announcing alerts us to the following example of people with too much time on their hands...
Taking a cue from the Arte Moreno school of marketing [Sweet galloping Kierkegaard, no - Ed.], the Long Beach Armada has changed the team's name.

It's now the Long Beach Armada of Los Angeles of California of the United States of North America Including Barrow, Alaska.

Or for short, LBALACUSNAIBA. [Which is not that portmanteau that Tiger Woods calls himself; we checked.]

It's not a hoax.

Of course it's not. It's the Arte Moreno School of Marketing -- you know, the people who sold you Thunder Stixx. The Rally Monkey. Darren Oliver as a viable option out of the bullpen. That school.
"It's the real deal. We've got merchandise on the way," said David Kaval, owner of the Armada and chief executive of the Golden Baseball League. "The abbreviation is great, especially on a hat. It wraps around."

Yes, well, so did "ANNETTE" on Ms. Funicello's sweater during the heyday of the old Mickey Mouse Club, and you could actually spell that within 3 tries. So unless Messr. Kaval's going to roll out a line of baby-doll T's with this marketing ploy-cum-printing press accident across the goods, we're not too terribly interested.

The Armada, which opens its season June 13 at Blair Field, will host "Barrow, Alaska Day" on July 30 to honor the team's sister city. "Everyone knows what the Angels did," Kaval said, adding that "being a real Los Angeles County team, we wanted to extend our reach as far north as possible."


Which is true. We all know what the Angels did. No one of reasonably sound mind liked it; we all justly ignored it; to this day we're surprised that Gene Autry The Singing Cowboy His Own Bad Self didn't claw his way up from the grave and wrap his six-string around Arte Moreno's neck for it. But now, the bright side...
By the way, Kaval said city of Long Beach officials are not upset. Their name's still first.

A perfectly cromulent attitude, I'd say.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

5 Things I Want To See From the NBA Finals

1 - Manu Ginobili flopping so hard when LeBron James drives the lane that he A)sprains something and B)gets picked for the next round of Dancing With the Stars.

2 - Robert Horry missing a big shot at the buzzer. Hell, make it 2.

3- Zydrunas Ilgauskas posterizing Tim Duncan. Yeah, I know, it will never happen, but with all that Big Z has gone through in his career, you can hope for it.

4 - Bruce Bowen to lose his mysterious power to cloud referees' minds. Either that, or for him to admit that he is in fact the reincarnation of Lamont Cranston, and to abandon the NBA to....(wait for it)....fight crime.

5 - All of the NBA conspiracy theorists who have decided that Flip Saunders' lousy rotations are proof that the NBA fixed the series to get LeBron into the finals (No, I won't capitalize it. That's silly.) to give it a rest already. If they really were into that sort of thing, then Phoenix would have been allowed to stomp the Spurs in peace. Bigger market, more marketable players, and nary a whiff of controversy to them - they and their uptempo style would have been perfectly telegenic. Instead, it's the Spurs. Again. Yes, I'm thrilled, too.

Spurs in 6.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Clarifications

  • The 1-game suspensions of Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw did not cost the Suns their playoff series with the Spurs. The non-suspension of Bruce Bowen did.
  • I have no patience for sportswriters who praise Jason Giambi for his "honesty" when he, on the advice of counsel, he hasn't actually admitted anything. Until he A)uses nouns and B)gives back some of the money that PEDs won him, the heck with him.
  • The Devil Rays' stance that the most important thing is to make sure both Elijah Dukes' family and the man himself receive the help they need is admirable and appropriate, and of course not getting much play. If it is in fact the Players' Association that is preventing the Rays from taking disciplinary action against Dukes, then they should perhaps re-examine their priorities for the benefit of all - including one of their members - concerned.
  • If Derek Jeter had pulled the "mine!" stunt that A-Rod did the other day, it would be held up as an example of gamesmanship. The big difference, of course, is that Jeter would have put his head down and talked about how he was just doing anything to help the team win, while Rodriguez' smirking body language made it easy to villify him. And for all the furor over this, can we please get some Bonehead Merkle-like disparagement pointed at Howie Clark for actually falling for that old trick?
  • Barrett beats Pierzynski. Zambrano beats Barrett. Anyone else sensing an AJ vs Carlos smackdown in the squared circle anytime soon?
  • Speaking of which, it doesn't look like that extension for Carlos is going to happen after all, does it? Someone at TribCo gets a raise for delaying that signing...
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