Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Poz Played Civ!

Who knew?

Tampa Bay is the new black

Listening to Bernie Miklasz, Cardinals beat reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on Baseball Prospectus Radio, I was struck by something very odd. Miklasz held up the fact that the Cardinals had been competitive with the !Devil Rays as proof that the team was pretty good.

Think about that one for a minute. "Competitive with Tampa Bay".

As good as the Rays' young players are, and as well as they're doing so far this year, and as much as I'd like to see the guys I've been watching in Durham do well, it's still a mighty slender reed to support the proof that your team's not doing it with smoke and Wellemeyers.

And one that, I think, has never been uttered before.

17th Game

Part of the noise swirling around the opening up of the NFL labor agreement is what looks suspiciously like a trial balloon about adding a 17th game to the NFL season.

It is, I think, a bad idea. Too many teams already limp into the playoffs utterly brutalized by injuries. Too many teams clinch early, sit their stars and cheat the fans of the top-dollar tickets they've paid for. Too many late season games are already played in awful conditions, and sooner or later someone's going to freeze to death in the cheap seats in Buffalo. You get the idea.

And yet, it will likely happen, without a parallel reduction in pointless exhibition games (because the owners get to charge full price for those), because there's money to be made. I don't think we'll just see 17, though. We'll see 18, the better to "balance" the schedule. This will of course drive the Super Bowl and playoffs even later into winter, but fewer players have gotten frostbite than have collapsed from heatstroke, so there you go.

There are lots of things to get hammered out before this becomes an actuality. Do player salaries negotiated for a 16 game season go up proportionally? (Not if the owners have anything to say about it.) Will this get done in conjunction with a salary slotting system for rookies? (Not if the agents have anything to say about it, though why the NFLPA doesn't act against something that takes money away from its active members is beyond me.) There are more where that came from. But in the end, there's too much money for them to walk away from it.

At least, until the family of that fansicle in Orchard Park decides to sue.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

But Who Will Save The Children?

Buried on ESPN.com is this little tidbit, a story about a trainer named David Jacobs who's singing like a bird about distributing steroids and HGH (1000 packages each of steroids and HGH every month) to NFL players. For his crime, he's got three years probation, and the story's well off the front page. Compare that to the foofaraw around every baseball-related steroids rumor, to the jail time being doled out for others' offenses, to the sanctimonious chest-beating over how steroids in baseball are destroying America's youth, and to the much greater attention being paid to whether Bill Belichick had injured players practicing when they shouldn'ta oughta done that. Oh, and let's not forget the much stiffer sentences going around to other steroidally linked felons, shall we?

It doesn't fly. If you're going to go after steroids in sports, go after steroids in all sports. If you're going to get the Senate involved in a football cheating scandal, how about the one that involves teams other than New England - the one that comes with syringes? If you care about kids emulating athletes by taking steroids, how about the ones who gain the most by bulking up and raging out? To do anything otherwise is shameful pandering, and either an abandonment of those cute roid-rippled kids everyone's supposedly so concerned about or an admission that they were just a convenient excuse to get some screen time.

Look, I understand why baseball takes it harder for steroids stuff than any other sport, the same way it gets slammed harder for pretty much anything. It's the sport of nostalgia and the pastoral dream, Norman Rockwell and black and white reels. It's the sport that actually made history in this country, the game that immigrants could latch onto, the game that put breaking the color bar on the front page, the game that we somehow associate with better things. And so when any scandal touches it, it taints it proportionally more, because we expect more of baseball. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we subconsciously expect our football players to be 'roided up behemoths because we don't want nostalgia or inspiration from football, we want big hits. It's a game where "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying" is repeated with a knowing smile and not disgust. NASCAR had a guy careening around the track at 200 miles an hour while coked to the gills on heroin, and top teams' crew chiefs are routinely snagged for violating race rules, but everyone just grins at that because, hell, NASCAR's a little outlaw and you can't blame a fella for trying to get an edge. (How exactly NASCAR is "outlaw" with corporate logos plastered all over every inch of car, driver, crew, and often track is beyond me, but that's what they tell me.)

The difference is that, to be blunt, we don't expect better of the NFL, or NASCAR, or the NBA. We do expect better of baseball, whether we should or not. And when we don't get it, we're that much more disappointed.

But that still doesn't exculpate the same media outlets who tap-danced on forged Mitchell Report leaks for days from staying on top of the Jacobs story. Not if they want to claim the moral high ground over those non-professional blogger types, and not if they ever want a steroid story on baseball to be taken seriously again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Observed Watching the Mariners at Safeco...

...in the company of the estimable Derek Zumsteg of USS Mariner: You can actually hear Raul Ibanez grunt "Grrr! Fire bad!" as he chugs around left field. I had never actually seen an outfielder faceplant into the fence chasing a ball on the ground before, but Ibanez managed it.

Any time Willie Bloomquist is possibly not the worst player in your starting lineup, you're in trouble.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Extra! Extra!

Random question # 36 - why on earth does someone make sure to leak the winners of all of the NBA's major awards? Doesn't that sandbag whatever drama is left in their bestowal, not to mention killing discussion/speculation that would garner the NBA more column inches?

Silly, really...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mudcat on a Hot Tin Roof

I took my dad to see the Carolina Mudcats/West Tenn Diamond Jaxxxxxxx game at Five County Stadium last night. It was a great game, filled with multiple comebacks, fantastic defensive plays, and the ever-amusing antics of Muddy the Mudcat. That being said, a couple of things stood out.

  • Brett Sinkbeil has added a couple of ticks to his fastball, getting up to 97 on the stadium gun. That being said, he kept on getting it up in the zone, and got pounded as a result. One got the feeling the Mudcats were leaving him out there just to get innings, because West Tenn figured him out early and often.
  • Uber-prospect Cameron Maybin looked good, with a sharp batting eye. He took three walks in the game, and came *this* close to a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth. Unfortunately, after that he started hacking, and ended up striking out.
  • I have never before seen a game where one team's DH - West Tenn's Prentice Redman (think about that for a minute. Prentice Redman, Designated Hitter) had a .221 BA coming into the game, and was by far the better option of the two. Carolina's Kris Harvey was at .101 when the game started, and went down from there. What's the .100 line called? Sub-Mendoza? The Uecker Line? A demotion High-A Jupiter?
  • Top to botton, the Mudcats' lineup was one of the weakest I've ever seen. Mendoza city, if you know what I mean. It didn't help that the West Tenn started was a junkballer, barely touching 90 on the gun but getting them to tap out weakly to short more often than not. Carolina went up hacking early and often, and through four innings, they'd seen all of forty pitches.
  • Sinkbeil also seemed to have a weird little hesitation in his delivery. Someone who knows more about pitching than I could probably comment on it.

Bonjour, Karma

I can think of two reason the Flyers were able to take out the Canadiens so easily.

1-Martin Biron > Carey Price.
2-The way Montreal fans rioted over their first-round win over Boston. Come on, people, these are the motherloving Canadiens. Celebrating a first-round win like that (complete with setting vehicles on fire) is like Yankees fans storming the field after taking two of three from Kansas City. OK, maybe Baltimore, but still.

The lesson is very clear. If you act like you've won it all too soon, Fate will tell you that you've won as much as you're going to.

Au revoir, les Habitants.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Hawks Win, Force Game Six

There are several reasons I'd love the Atlanta Hawks to take out the Boston Celtics in their upcoming game 7.
  • Because if I'm anything, I'm a Sixers fan, and thus always want the Celtics to lose.
  • Because it will put an end to those endless "record number of wins improvement!" stories and pre-fab coronations we've been hearing for months now. Yes, add a bunch of All-star talent and your team generally gets better. This is not a surprise.
  • Because every reporter and analyst in the world picked the Celtics in 4. 3, if possible.
  • And because it will put a very dull stick in Bill Simmons' eye. Simmons, who has been treating this particular agglomeration of green-clad mercenaries like he's 14 and they're his private porn stash, suffered an epic meltdown in print when his beloved Patriots gakked away the Super Bowl. To have it happen twice in one sports calendar year, well, the only comparison would be the "Dog Whisperer" episode of South Park, where Cartman gets firmly, repeatedly put in his place.

I don't think it's likely to happen, but damn, it would be sweet if it did.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Roger that Rogering, Roger

As Lester Munson over at ESPN.com pointed out, the Roger Clemens - Mindy McCready foofaraw is unlikely to have any actual effect on Clemens' lawsuit against Brian MacNamee. What it serves as is a first barrage across the decks of the HMS Rocket, sweeping the rigging and warning him that if the suit continues, MacNamee and his lawyers are going to unleash every bit of dirt they know, and whatever "damage" MacNamee might have done to Clemens' reputation in the Mitchell Report is going to look Inch-High Private Eye standing next to Godzilla.

Lost in all this is how desperately sad Mindy McCready's story is. At best, she's being portrayed as a publicity-crazed train wreck who's unleashed this to help promote her upcoming reality show. Then again, this is a woman who has suffered repeated abuse, addiction, suicide attempts, and God knows what else, and who now is being hounded by the media over whether or not she went for a ride on the Rocket when she was 15. That's not a life I'd wish on anyone, brief Nashville stardom or not, and you can probably trace a lot of it back to folks making the sorts of decisions that put her in a known ballplayers' bar when she was all of 15. Or, as we like to call it around here, in tenth grade.

Frankly, I don't care about Clemens' marital indiscretions. Those are between him and his wife. But I can't see how his involvement in this particular train wreck does him any credit. HGH or no HGH, steroids or no steroids, it doesn't matter if they waited until McCready was "legal" before getting it on - it's all pretty damn creepy, and for this if nothing else, Clemens ought to be ashamed.

Costas, Bloggers, and Buzz

Once again, the Pos says it best.