Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

And Now, A Civilized Rebuttal...


You know, you give and give and give...




Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Phillies Fall to Braves. Again.

The last guy who had this much trouble handling Atlanta was John Bell Hood.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Astros Hire Wade, Middle Relievers' Agents Rejoice

Ed Wade was a curious beast as GM of the Phillies. He seemed to subscribe to the standard roto "studs and scrubs" theory of roster development, fimly convinced that a couple of stars could haul endless amounts of deadweight to the promised land. He was also deeply slow to promote top Phillies prospects (yes, they once had prospects) - check the ages of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard at callup if you don't believe me - and had the same sort of creepily obsessive fixation on aging middle relievers that Todd McFarlane had on Mary Jane Watson.

His penchant for handing out huge long-term contracts to slugging veterans will enable him to fit in well in Houston - see Berkman, Lance, and Lee, Carlos - and the Astros' willingness to let their major-league-ready talent rot in AAA or on the bench matches his philosophy with the Phils. But packing in middle relievers isn't going to put the Astros over the top; developing some starting pitching and putting at least average-level bats in the lineup will. At this point, you can basically put a fork in Jason Lane, Luke Scott and Chris Burke, all of whom got yanked to the bench or sent down at the first hint of struggle and replaced with veteran mediocrities like Orlando Palmeiro, Mark Loretta and Mike Lamb. One suspects that the sure knowledge that these guys were lurking in the wings didn't help the young guys establish themselves. The question is, will Wade allow the same to happen to the Mitch Einertsons of the world, or will he have learned from his time in Philly? Past history suggests not, and the constant meddling of owner Drayton McLane probably won't help matters.

Still, in a brave new post-Biggio world, anything is possible. At least, until Wade signs Antonio Alfonseca to a 3-year $12M contract, that is.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oh, That Wacky OJ

ESPN.com's Jemele Hill wonders if O.J. Simpson is getting railroaded because the justice system feels like he got a mulligan last time round. Her rationale seems to be, in part, that because the LVPD hasn't closed some high-profile cases where no witnesses will cooperate, they shouldn't be in a position to nab OJ when there's evidence against him - or something like that.

I don't think OJ should be arrested because the prosecuting attorneys botched it last time around. Instead, I think that he should be arrested because there's all sorts of evidence against him, even if some of it is in the form of testimony provided by less-than-sterling characters. That, after all, is what the courts are supposed to sort out. And I'm certainly willing to believe that a man who was let off the hook on multiple counts of domestic violence, who may or may not (depending on which verdict you believe) have brutally slaughtered the mother of his children and her friend, who authored a book on the murders that can only be described as a confession, who mock-attacked a talk-show host, and whose thirst for the limelight seems unquenchable might possibly have thought he could just stroll into a hotel room and take what he wanted, especially if he thought it was his to begin with.

Monday, September 17, 2007

L'Affaire Belichick

To me, the most interesting part of this whole mess is not the fact that the Patriots were systematically videotaping other teams' defensive signals and using them in their playcalling. It's the reaction to the whole thing, and the elements that have been sidestepped in favor of the fecal matter cyclone over the silliest bits of it all.

If Paul Zimmerman's allegations over at SI are true - namely, that the Patriots interfere with other teams' headsets at convenient times - then that's serious. That's an unfair advantage, and seeing as much of the NFL's momentum is built on legal wagering, the one thing the league cannot afford is the appearance of unfair games. Drug addicts, wife beaters, guys who try to run over cops with their SUVs, you name it - all of these are fine, but once the outcome of the games is seen to be in doubt, then the gambling money is going to dry up, and with it, a huge chunk of the interest. No wonder, then, that Dr. Z's allegations haven't been repeated much.

But most of the media squawking has been over either the punishment that Roger Goodell doled out, or other weirdness. For those calling for Belichick to be suspended, I suggest that you get real. Even if he were banned from the sideline and the complex for a week, is there the slightest doubt that he'd somehow find a way to be in constant communication with the team right up to and including gameday? A suspension might have eaten up a few of his off-peak minutes, but that's about it.

The real fun, though, comes from the good and loyal defenders of the Patriots, led of course by the now completely demented Bill Simmons. Simmons has been drinking his own Kool-Aid, made with water shipped out to his LA man-cave from the mouth of the Charles, and somehow has found a way to blame Eric Mangini for the whole mess. Mangini's sin, apparently, is failing to adhere to some weird Patriots code of omerta known only to grinning wannabes who've inhaled the Godfather trilogy too many times while wishing they could grow a colonial-style ponytail like the guy on the Sam Adams bottles. Bill, bubeleh, let me explain this to you. Mangini was the guy who got spied on. The one who got screwed. The fact that he shook Belichick's hand after the game - remember, something Bill initially refused to do back in the day - isn't a betrayal, it's a poker face. You know, poker. That thing you keep on bragging about playing in Vegas. In the end, it doesn't matter. At this point, you either read Simmons for the shtick that he's a real-life escapee from Everybody Loves Raymond, or you got tired of the one-joke routine a while ago and simply check him out for the train wreck factor.

The eloquent Chad Finn, over at TATB, takes the eminently more reasonable approach that no matter what, this is going to take the shine off the Patriots' accomplishments of the last few years, as well it should. Yes, Belichick is a great coach. Yes, they've been a great team. But the fact is, they got caught cheating, and one of the penalties of cheating is that you no longer get the benefit of the doubt. You burn your goodwill. It's that simple. That being said, Finn goes on to raise the classic schoolyard excuse of "everyone else is doing it. Or might be doing it. Or would do it, if they thought they could get away with it."

To which I say, well, maybe, but Belichick got caught. He got caught because he was arrogant, because he was obvious, and because he kept doing it even after a warning that might as well have come gift-wrapped and carried by a phalanx of saran-wrapped strippers. The NFL did everything in its power to avoid catching Belichick cheating, because they didn't want to have to do anything about it, but he forced their hand. There may be other cheaters out there, but they haven't been caught, and until they're caught, Bill's on the island by himself.

Hopefully, he'll stay that way, though I doubt it. There's too much money at stake in the NFL, and the league winks at too many serious infractions in favor of punishing the freakshows like Pac-Man Jones. I'm far more concerned with players being rushed back out onto the field with concussions, or Defensive Players of the Year who test positive for steroids but who win awards anyway than I am about the Patriots doing their own little version of The Echoing Green.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yet Another Reason to Love Minor League Baseball



Courtesy of the Reading Phillies, God bless 'em.

Derek Zumsteg Interview

A short interview I did with Derek Zumsteg, author of The Cheater's Guide to Baseball and contributor to USS Mariner (which I really need to get into the blogroll one of these days) is up over at my personal website, Snowbird Gothic. I do recommend checking it out, because Derek's smart, funny, and sharper than the piece of broken bat that Clemens threw at Piazza back in the day.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why The Phillies Are Dead Meat

Yes, I know they won today. They won yesterday, too. It doesn't matter. For all the many virtues of this particular Phillies team - and they are many - it's doomed. Dead in the water. It'll get close, the way the Phillies always seem to get close, and then it'll just miss. Doubt me? Look at the stumbles against Atlanta and Florida after the much-ballyhooed sweep of the Mets a couple of weeks back. They're a fun team. They're an entertaining team. But they're not a playoff team, not in the state they're in.

And when the season is over and they've missed the postseason again by a game or two, all of the discussion will no doubt be about injuries. About the injuries to all the starting pitching, and to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and Shane Victorino and any member of the bullpen who had the vaguest semblance of a pulse. But that won't be the reason they fail to grab the brass ring. They'll fail because playoff teams don't let the Pirates come back on them from four runs down, two days in a row. They'll fail because they had their foot on the Braves' necks in the first couple of games of the season, and they let them up for devastating losses. They'll fail because they rolled into Kansas City during interleague play and absolutely failed to take care of business against one of the worst teams in baseball. Those are the games that playoff teams absolutely have to win, those are the holes that playoff teams don't dig for themselves.

Much has been made of this team's resilience, and about how they've come from behind to win 45 times this year. That's a remarkable statistic, and it says much about how good the core of hitters on this team (Howard, Utley, Rollins, Burrell, Victorino, Rowand, and Ruiz) is. However, there's a reason that this team h as come from behind 45 times, and that's because their kerosene-on-a-BBQ pitching staff has put them down in each and every one of those 45 games. At its best, their bullpen has too many ancient retreads - Alfonseca? Mesa? How many more Marlins-Indians World Series veterans do we need - and not enough strikethrowers and fireballers. The pitching staff was damaged goods from the word go, and even with Kyle Kendrick doing his best Marty Bystrom impression, there's just not enough there to contend with. Against the weaker lineups in the league, it might work for a while, but can you see a Moyer-Kendrick-Eaton-Durbin rotation going up against the big bats of the Yankees or Angels in the World Series? It's not a pretty thought. Realistically, all the Phillies can do to win these days is outslug people, and it's a tribute to the quality of their sluggers that they've been doing it more often than not. They won't do it enough, though. It's been a fun year, an interesting year, and an enjoyable year.

It's just not going to be The Year.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Memos

To: JaMarcus Russell
Re: Contract Negotiations
There are very few professions where you're likely to get paid umpty-zillion dollars right out of college. Might I suggest signing, and hiring a good investment banker? The other options are looking a lot less lucrative - ask Matt Bush.

To: The Oakland Raiders
Re: Contract Negotiations
Yes, you already have 3 quarterbacks on your roster, but none of them are any good. May I suggest signing the one guy you've drafted who might someday make a difference and sell a few tickets on your behalf?

To: Rick Ankiel
Re: HGH
Stop hitting home runs before you get to the 70s in a single season, and as far as the media goes, you'll be fine.

To: Lloyd Carr
Re: Job Security
I hear western North Carolina is lovely this time of year.

To: Joey Harrington
Re: The Georgia Lottery
May I suggest playing the Pick Six tonight? You seem to be on a roll with that.

To: Michael Vick
Re: Contrition
After seven years, it's no longer a "mistake" or a "bad decision". It's a lifestyle and a multi-state business operation with an extensive physical plant. Just so we're all clear on that one.

To: Sportswriters
Re: Michael Vick
When he inevitably comes back - and he will be back - can you get all of the Steve Howe comparisons out of the way in the first couple of weeks? Thanks.

To: Alex Rodriguez
Re: True Yankee Status
You still haven't got it, you know, and you won't until a Yankee team you lead wins the World Series - at which point all of the credit will go to Derek Jeter, anyway. But if you leave after this season, you'll be pilloried for it.

To: Derek Jeter
Re: Alex Rodriguez
You are aware that when he picks up and leaves after the season, your defensive metrics are going right back into the crapper, right? Just checking.

To: Yankee Fans
Re: Alex Rodriguez
Enjoy him while you've got him, because it won't be for much longer.

To: Billy Beane
Re: Undervalued areas
The rest of the league seems to have caught up to you in terms of OBP and defense. May I suggest looking at "health" as the next undervalued area you invest in? Your team's training staff clearly is not getting it done.

To: Auburn
Re: South Florida
Yes, it counts as a directional school. The "it has the fifth largest campus in the country" excuses should start shortly, however.

To: Pirates Fans
Re: Dave Littlefield
See? There is a God. He's just not real good with deadlines.

ACC Football - Catch It! ('Cause It's Falling)

Miami gets murdered by Oklahoma. Nebraska beats Wake Forest. LSU thumps Virginia Tech like Ringo Starr's bass drum. Virginia gets its head handed to it by Wyoming. On successive weeks, UNC and NC State get beaten by directional schools, and Duke gets clobbered by UConn, from a state technically too small to have directionals.

At this point, it's clear that the bold move the ACC made to turn itself into a football power hasn't quite worked as planned. Right now, the ACC is inarguably the worst "major" football conference out there, and at this point I'd seriously consider putting it behind a few of the "mid-majors" as well. Boston College and Georgia Tech are looking like the class of the league, but the league itself isn't looking that classy.
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