Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So Speaketh Robothal

On recently fired Indians manager Eric Wedge:
"Someone is going to hire Eric Wedge on the rebound, and someone is going to get a great manager."
Just, presumably, not the team that hires Eric Wedge.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

NFL News

So the Eagles signed a backup quarterback and the Vikings signed an old quarterback. What's the big deal?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Strange things afoot at DBAP

Generally, when I see a top pitcher live, he gets punked. Carlton was the exception, but Clemens? Pedro? Maddux? They all get clobbered when I'm in the stadium. It's the Kirk Rueters of the world who get their schwerve on and throw three-hitters where I can see them.

Tonight, it was Jake Peavy's turn. He was doing a rehab start for Charlotte - four innings of 65 pitches, whichever came first - and he wasn't quite Jake Peavy. Command was the issue, unsurprisingly. When he was on, the Bulls were swinging out of their shoes. When he wasn't, Joe Dillon was bouncing one off the bull-shaped sign over the left field wall. And in case you're asking, yes, Mighty Joe D did in fact win a steak dinner. Two, actually.

His opposite number, Wade Davis, cruised through 7 2/3, with a no-hitter through 5. He sat 90-92 and dialed it up to 94 on occasion, and was still hitting 93 when they took him out. One troublesome note - not a lot of swings and misses there, and when he threw offspeed stuff, it seemed to get hit hard.

And for the record, Dale Thayer has one of the all-time great porn 'staches.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lost in the Hullaballoo...

...over the fact that that Neal Huntingdon dared break up The Big Yellow Machine in Pittsburgh is the fact that the organization has quietly been spending money. Specifically, they've been shelling out for above-slot bonuses for draft picks. In other words, they are - egads - investing in rebuilding the system. This, I think, is a slightly more worthwhile goal than striving for 83 wins with a bunch of soon-to-be-free-agents.

To be fair, this is the model the team was building toward a couple of years ago, only to have Jim Tracy systematically wreck the promising young rotation of Duke, Snell, Gorzelanny, and friends. With the pitching those guys could have provided, a team with LaRoche, Wilson, Sanchez, et alia might have been close enough to the wild card to consider adding pieces. Without them, fuggedabout it. Time to tear it down and start over, and to their credit, the Pirates aren't just sitting on the money the trades freed up. That, more than anything else, seems indicative of brighter days ahead in Pittsburgh.

And as Tracy closes in on the permanent job in Colorado (largely by virtue of not being Clint Hurdle), I weep for Jhoulys Chacin's shoulder.

Moyer Goes To Pen...



Unfortunately, the Phillies' new bullpen coach is named Logan 3. Run, Jamie, run!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Plaxico Burress Makes His Case In Court

Word is that he started his defense with the words "Chewbacca...is a wookie."

On the Pirates' Fire Sale

For those who would bemoan the trading of such baseball immortals as Adam "Wait, it's August?" LaRoche, John Grabow, and Freddy "Extra Base Hits Are For Suckers" Sanchez, I would point out with all due respect that these guys really aren't that #@@#$#@ing good.

Whether the prospects Neal Huntington got back for them will be good themselves someday is an entirely different question, but moaning over the breakup of this juggernaut is like crying bitter tears of blood over the news that there will never be another GTR album.

Ever.

Mike Schmidt Flipped My Father The Bird

(crossposted in my LJ)

30 years ago, Mike Schmidt flipped my father the bird.

For those of you who are baseball fans, this is probably amusing and/or impressive. For those of you who are not, Michael Jack Schmidt was the perennial all-star third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies teams of my youth, a Hall of Famer and the man widely regarded as the greatest third baseman ever to play the game.

And he flipped my father off.

Not that Dad didn't necessarily deserve it. He was at the game with some friends when Schmidt booted a routine grounder. Dad, being Brooklyn born and bred and heir to the legacy of Hilda "Cowbell" Chester and her Bums-loving cohorts, shouted "Way to set up the double play!" Since Dad and his friends were in seats right on the field, Mr. Schmidt heard him, turned, and made what Monty Python used to refer to as "a splendid gesture".

I've been telling that story for years. It amuses the hell out of me for numerous reasons - Dad's heckling, Schmidt's perfectly understandable reaction, and the pure Philly-ness of it all. It couldn't happen today, of course - someone would throw the video of Schmidt's extended middle digit up on YouTube, there would be an artificially generated controversy that would rage across sports talk radio until another football player ran over a llama while watching porn on his SUV's dashboard DVD player, and there would be insincere apologies all the way around. But no, I like it the way it happened. Dad made a smart-ass comment, one that stuck to the events on the field, stayed clean, and didn't touch personal matters or family - in short, what heckling is supposed to be. Schmidt responded. End of story, except that it's a great story.

Fast forward three decades.

Dad and I are at Five County Stadium, watching the latest incarnation of the Carolina Mudcats run themselves out of a ballgame they should be winning handily. Half the lineup is staring up wistfully at the Mendoza line. The starting pitcher spends the third inning grooving belt-high fastballs at 91 MPH, which get turned into wall-rattling doubles with startling regularity. Matador defense is the order of the night, with multiple errors called and more there for the calling.

And after a few more innings, the Mudcats' third baseman boots a routine grounder. I figure, what the heck, give Dad a laugh. The guys in the rows in front of us are heckling like crazy anyway, so why not jump in?

So I cup my hand to my mouth and shout, "Way to set up the double play!" The folks sitting near us laugh. Dad turns around and says, "That's my line from thirty years ago." He's grinning. So am I. We're too far away from the third baseman for him to have heard us, so no birds are flipped, and we all get a good laugh.

Until the next batter comes up and rips a shot down the first base line. The first baseman makes a spectacular play, then flings the ball to second. The second baseman catches it and makes the exchange from his glove hand in the instant before the runner from first barrels into him. He lauches a throw wide of the first base bag and the pitcher, racing to cover it, goes nearly vertical to snag it while dragging his foot across the bag.

Double play, 3-6-1 as the kids might score it. Inning over.

Dad and I, we don't say anything. We don't need to, except, a little later, "Helluva game, isn't it?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Random Thoughts

Michael Vick...Has there ever been this much airtime and print wasted over the possible comeback of a mediocre quarterback who's been out of the league for a couple of years? Because, legal issues notwithstanding, that's what we're talking about here.

Brett Favre...So he decided that the first day of work was his deadline for deciding whether or not to show up for work? And then decided he needed more time? The fact that Favre's latest bit of waffling came to light only after the media frenzy lurched over to Vickville is, I'm sure, strictly coincidence.

Roy Halladay...Clearly the teams offering the Jays top prospects are doing it wrong. If you want to get J. P. Ricciardi to bite, offer an overpriced centerfielder on a long-term contract. He luuuurrrves those...

Speaking of which...As a Phillies fan, I'm mildly boggled that we have prospects good enough to be considered "untouchable". As in "prospects", plural.

Alex Rodriguez...Just curious. How do you think the media would have reacted if he'd been the one sued for sexual assault instead of Ben Roethlisberger?

Speaking of which...All the "He's no good without the juice" stories seem to have died down lately, don't you think? Funny how giving a player coming off major hip surgery might a day or two off here and there helps him stay productive, don't you think?

Tony LaRussa...He got a big bat - two, really. He got a shortstop. He got everything he's asked for, and the Cards have gutted their farm system to give it to him. If he doesn't win the NL Central, who's going to get blamed?

The Yankees' radio broadcast team...They're possibly the worst I've ever heard at calling a game. Incoherent, nonsensical homers who wander away from the action to make their random points, and who are more interested in catch-phrases - I think I heard four attached to a single Mark Texeira home run - than in describing the game. No, thanks.

Tony Bernazard...I've got his rookie card around somewhere. It's one of those "Future Stars" things with 3 guys on it. Oddly enough, in the biographical data on the back, nowhere does it say, "Will someday go completely batshit insane in a minor league clubhouse".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Random Trade Thoughts

Pirates trade OF Nyjer Morgan and a random arm to Washington for OF Lastings Milledge and RP Joel Hanrahan
What Pittsburgh gets: The best talent in the deal in the form of Milledge, whose rep as a knucklehead seems largely to have been foisted on him by A)the New York media and B)reigning Mets knucklehead Billy Wagner. He's not a center fielder, but with Andrew McCutcheon out there, the Pirates can put him in right where he belongs and give him time to mature into his freaky-good talent. As for Hanrahan, when he's right he throws gas, which is something lacking in the Pirates' pen. If they straighten him out - and I have a random sneaky suspicion his control problems this year are elbow-related, not "can't pitch"-related - then Pittsburgh may have gotten a steal.
What Washington gets: A fungible bullpen arm in Sean Burnett, in a year when the Nats are this close to throwing a strong-armed peanut vendor into the pen and hoping for the best. Also, an actual center fielder. No, Morgan doesn't have the upside of Milledge - he's older and has minimal power. But he's an actual, honest-to-God center fielder who can catch the ball and play the position, unlike the parade of Lurch clones the Nats have been throwing out there all year. There's value in putting a strong defensive team behind a staff of young pitchers you're trying to develop, and doing it sooner rather than later can only help the development of guys like Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, and The Once and Future Strasburg.
Who Wins: Pittsburgh. They didn't need Morgan with McCutcheon up, and they got the better player and the better pitcher. It's not a a terrible trade for DC, but the tangible results will most likely favor the Pirates.

Atlanta trades wind machine Jeff Francoeur to New York Mets for OF Ryan Church
What New York gets: Someone the casual fan might of heard of, seeing as he appeared to beat the hell out of the ball for the Braves back when casual Mets fans were paying attention. Decent defense and durability in right field. And that's about it - Francoeur's still young, but so's Lady Gaga, and she's got a better swing than he does.
What Atlanta gets: A solid outfielder with a history of concussions and a bad rap in New York. Church won't set the world on fire, but when he's on the field he can rake a little and catch the ball. Touching third base is a different question, but hopefully he's figured that part of the game out by now. If he avoids getting kneed in the head again, he's a definite upgrade at a position that was a sucking black hole for the Braves offensively. As has been noted elsewhere, going from "awful" to "decent" is often as important an upgrade as "decent" to "star".
Who wins: On the field? Atlanta, which gets a solid platoon outfielder who's likely to improve once he's away from Citi Field. Off the field? New York, which adds a new heartthrob for the team to market the heck out of.

Royals trade two minor league pitchers for Seattle for SS Yuniesky Betancourt
What the Royals get: An expensive shortstop-type who's in career free-fall. His early promise with the bat has evaporated, his defense is increasingly matador-like, and by all accounts his interest level in the game is now largely occasional. Then again, he's also expensive, and the Royals should have a decent shortstop option next year when the much cheaper Mike Aviles returns from surgery. (That is, of course, if the Royals' medical staff doesn't accidentally graft him to a monkey with five asses or some such. Read Rany Jazayerli's piece on the Royals' medical woes, and tell me it couldn't happen.)
What the Mariners get: Two minor league arms with upside. Huge righty Daniel Cortes' two problems are A)control and B)getting his head out of his ass, as indicated by his recent arrest for public piddling in Arkansas. One suspects fixing B might help with A, and if he can get back to the 96 MPH he was throwing last year, he could have a big impact. The second pitcher in the deal, Derrick Saito, looks like he has "situational reliever" written all over him, but getting one of those isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just ask the Nationals what they'd do for a guy they could trust to get tough righties out.
Who wins: If the move to Kansas City, the city of Gates BBQ and endless steak, re-ignites a desire to play hard and condition himself well in Betancourt, then the Royals might come out of this all right. I don't like the chances, either. Even if neither Cortes nor Saito pans out, this is a win for the Mariners just by dint of payroll flexibility. If either of the pitchers turn out to be something, then this just gets ugly.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cavs Trade for Shaq


And we've got a sneak preview of what the Cleveland offense will look like when they put The Big Aristotle and Big Z Ilgauskas on the floor at the same time. That's not Mothra on the right, that's Moe Williams cutting to the basket.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And Another Thing...

"Stupid San Diego Padres! Get offa my lawn!"


Listening to Peter Pascarelli on ESPN's baseball podcast, one gets the unshakable impression that he is busily filling his house with balloons so he can bid farewell to Bristol, once and for all.

Late Night Tidbits

  • After reading the teaser for Rick Reilly's latest column, I can assure him: I don't hate Kobe. I hate Rick Reilly columns.
  • Tony LaRussa's cries for another bat for the Cardinals would seem to make sense until you realize that he's got two 30-homer guys on his roster, not to mention a preseason RoY candidate center fielder, whom he's sitting half the time. LaRussa's outfield usage patterns have long since started to resemble the mixed drinks you get at frathouse golf parties; someone thinks they're being very clever by using whatever's on hand, but the result is rarely optimal. If he were less interested in appearing the genius by playing matchups with obscure Stahovinoids, he'd put Ludwick in left, Rasmus in center, and Ankiel in right, and leave them there so they could get regular at-bats and thus start hitting.
  • History will regard this year's NBA finals as a somewhat boring beatdown, but if the Magic had made 2 more free throws, the series would be headed back to LA with the Magic up 3 games to 2. This, kids, is why you practice free throws.
  • I completely agree with LZ Granderson that tagging Dwight Howard as "Wonder Woman" after the finals is equal parts sexist and stupid. After all, all comics geeks know that Wonder Woman is fully capable of some serious ass-kicking. May I recommend instead Bizarro?
  • Just to be clear, the blogger who started the Raul Ibanez kerfuffle did not say "I think Raul Ibanez is on steroids." He said, "Given the evidence, people are going to wonder if he's on steroids." This, naturally got ignored in all the subsequent insanity, but it did place the mainstream media types in an interesting place: they love insinuating guys use steroids (see Baker, Geoff; Reilly, Rick; Roberts, Selena; and the beat goes on) but hate bloggers. Oh, the dilemma! Oh, the geshrying! Naturally, they came down on the side of "hate bloggers"...and then went chasing the Sammy Sosa story.
  • Interesting how the Sosa thing gets leaked now, incidentally. I'm starting to get the feeling someone with access to those 2003 test results is on Roger Goodell's payroll.
  • Memo to the people bitching over how much Stephen Strasburg might get: RELAX. IT'S NOT YOUR MONEY. It's the team's, and it's no skin off your back if they decide to pay him $50M over six years. That's revenue sharing money they're spending, anyway. Talent should be worth what it can get. Period. Last time I checked, that was called the free market. There's already an artificial restraint of trade in the form of the draft; why should the teams be the only ones to leverage the draft to their financial advantage?
  • Nice to see the added coverage given the MLB draft this year, even if it was largely Strasburg-driven. There's also a lot more coverage of the College World Series, which ESPN has started pushing hard. One wonders if they're positioning it as a hedge against the MLB network...

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Memo the Guy Who Writes Ad Text For VYPE

The local sports-talk stations are inundated with adds for VYPE SPORTS MAGAZINE, the guide to the life and lifestyle of today's high school athlete!

For the record, there is a form of address used for people my age who show too much interest in the life and lifestyle of today's high school athlete. It is "the defendant".

Monday, June 01, 2009

Rumblin Stumblin Bumblin

  • There are few more unlikely terms in sports than "Ryan Howard triples to left."
  • Reason #2456 that front office types should not be allowed near microphones: Vinny Cerrato talking about how Jason Campbell "exuberates" his leadership.
  • With the growing interest in the MLB amateur draft, how long is it before Keith Law is forced by ESPN to adopt Mel Kiper Jr's hairstyle?
  • When they have to tell you how big an upset it is, it's not that big an upset. Sorry, Rafael Nadal.
  • Lakers in six. They'll take the first two, lose game 3, take game 4, lose 5 on a gutsy effort by the desperate Magic, and then blow out the completely gassed Magic in Game Six.
  • Meanwhile, Shaq will be openly rooting for a meteor to hit the arena midway through the second quarter of game five.
  • Memo to ESPN.com - I can recycle old Rick Reilly columns at the fraction of the cost of having the real Rick Reilly do it. Plus, I actually like sports.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Favre and Away

The Minnesota Vikins chasing Brett Favre is the rough equivalent of the bassoon player in the high school band finally getting his chance to hook up with the prom queen at their 30th reunion. Except, of course, that the prom queen is now a chain-smoking, twice-divorced cougar with a bit of a drinking problem and a voice like Abe Vigoda.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ramirez Tests Positive for PEDs

Is this a case of Manny just being Barry?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas, R.I.P.

When I was a kid, there was a clock radio that I kept next to my bed. It was set to KYW, the station that broadcast Phillies games. The rest of the time, it was all-news, all the time, but that didn't matter. It was only on for Phillies games.

That clock radio fit under my pillow. I know this, because there were many, many summer nights when that's where it went, stuffed underneath with the volume up just enough that I could hear it, turned down low enough that my parents wouldn't hear me listening. And I'd listen to Richie Ashburn and Chris Wheeler and Andy Musser, and most of all, to Harry Kalas calling the games, all summer long. They were my lullaby. I'd stay up late to listen to them, fall asleep hearing the description of that three-two pitch, struggle to keep my eyes open long enough to get some of those late games at San Diego or LA.

There were good years, Schmidt and Carlton and Garry Maddox out in centerfield. There were the dirtball miracles of '83 and '93, and the horrible teams of the Chris James/Glenn Wilson/Steve Jeltz years. There was John Denny, and there was Floyd Youmans. There was Steve "Bedrock" Bedrosian, and there was Joe "The Saver" Boever. And Harry called them all, always fair but always a fan, always the voice that meant "Phillies".

Some of the words will resonate longer than others. "Outta here", of course, and that deliberate, affectionate "Michael Jack Schmidt." If you're a fan, you'll remember "Swing...and a long drive" or "It's gotta chance!" or that deliberate, looping "Swing and a miss, he struck 'em out", which looks like nothing on the page but meant everything on the ear. We'll probably be hearing a lot of that last World Series call over the next couple of days, a lot of Mike Schmidt's 500th home run and that home run call in general. And that's fine, and wonderful, and a great way to remember him.

But I'll remember listening to Bruce Ruffin dismember the Padres in a nothing game, right after he was called up and everyone thought he might be the second coming of Carlton. I'll remember that magical 1980 season, and hearing about balls clanking off Charlie Hayes' glove. And I'll remember these last couple of years, when the internet let me pick up the Phillies' home radio feed, and I could hear that voice again, and felt, for an inning or two, like I was still that kid hugging a clock radio under his pillow.

So goodbye, Harry the K, and thank you. You gave us something wonderful, and even us Phillies fans - rough, tough, cranky, nasty Phillies fans - loved you for it. Godspeed, and here's hoping that wherever you are, there's baseball.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WBC

So there are people who love it because it beats the hell out of split-squad B-games from Bradenton. There are people who love it because of the whole national pride thing. There are people who hate it for precisely the same reason, or who decry it for being a pointless exhibition/money grab, or whatever.

I think, largely, they're missing the point.

For me, the WBC is really the spiritual heir to the old barnstorming tours that Gehrig and Ruth used to take their teams on, occasionally bouncing off Satchel Paige and squads of Negro League All-Stars or local all-star teams or whatever. Play "what if", put a couple of lineups born out of sports bar bullshit sessions - and let's face it, lots of us were playing "which country would win?" for ages before this thing got off the ground - and turn it loose.

That's all I want from it, that's all I need from it, and that's sufficient to provide me with plenty of enjoyment. I think the round system's screwy, the pitch count setup is goofy, and the pool setup's a little weird, but what the hell. It's fun to watch. After a winter without baseball, that's more than enough.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Because I Care...

...I think someone really needs to tell the guy who does the Hurricanes' radio commercials that no matter how deep and gruff your voice is, the words "Teacher Appreciation Night" just aren't imposing.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Question for NC State Fans...

You think maybe Herb wasn't the problem after all?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

That Didn't Take Long...

According to ESPN, Dallas has released Terrell Owens.

I was walking through the DFW airport when news broke that the Cowboys had signed Owens. All around me, folks were stopping to look at the TV monitors, shouting "Yeah!" and high-fiving each other.

They looked at me funny when I started laughing.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ah, Baseball

Watched this first few innings of baseball today, a frame or two of the Mets beating the living hell out of the Astros. The Astros treated the ball like it was covered in unobtainium, Clay Hensley pitched like a man possessed...by Clay Hensley, and the Mets hit two homers that cleared the waist-high fences by about twelve inches, combined.

Doesn't matter. Old friend, I've missed you.

Adam Eaton Moves On

Eaton has signed with the Orioles, and outside the Eaton household, no one cares.. Baltimore, rapidly becoming the destination of choice for broken-down pitchers who once had great promise, signed Eaton for $400K and the promise to have someone else open all of his DVDs for him.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Bowden's Gone

On behalf of my Nats-loving friend Hal, Hallalelujah.

As a baseball fan who was disgusted by watching the circus in DC, Hallelujah.

As a Phillies fan who looked forward to feasting on the Nats 18 or so times a year, I say "ah, crud."

And while Bowden may proclaim himself innocent of any and all charges related to the Dominican bonus-skimming scandal that got Jose Rijo fired, that doesn't mean he can refute the charges of being a terrible GM. Whoever takes over - LaCava, Rizzo, the resurrected Paul DePodesta (hey, a geek can dream) will almost have to do better, just because the bar has been set so low.

Weapon X Is Now A Bronco

Brian Dawkins, long a mainstay of the Eagles defense, signed a 5-year deal with Denver today, which will cause no end of friction between me and my brother-in-law, the Broncos fan.

All that being said, I don't think this will bite the Eagles too badly, for several reasons. For one, Dawkins had notably slowed this year, and while his instincts remained impeccable, his production tailed off significantly. For another, Jim Johnson's defense did a lot to emphasize Dawkins' strengths and hide his weaknesses, something that the new scheme he'll be playing in Denver may not do. And finally, if the Eagles have depth anywhere, it's at defensive back.

So farewell, Weapon X, and thanks for the memories. Good luck in Denver - I think you're going to need it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Guess The New Coach Hates Country...

"Coach wants to see you. Bring your playbooks. And your moustaches."



Brooks, Dunn released by Tampa Bay...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lerner's Permit

I used to play fantasy baseball with a guy a lot like Jim Bowden. He was great to have in the league, in large part because he was about as willing a trade partner as you could find this side of the East India Company. He traded and churned his roster incessantly, and if you entered into negotiations with him, all you had to do was wait him out because sooner or later he'd propose a combination that you could live with.

This made for some interesting deals, but not a lot of upper-division finishes, and for the longest time I couldn't understand why he played the way he did. Then, finally, I figured it out.

He wasn't interested in winning. He was interested in looking smart. Every deal, every transaction was a chance to show off how clever he was. The macro didn't matter, and he was incapable of cohering his various moves into a long-term strategy. But each trade he made, he had to "win", and let you know he'd won, and have people tell him how clever he'd been.

That's Jim Bowden. He's completely failed to put together a team. He's made some good trades and interesting signings, but they don't fit together, and he's failed to deal from strength or address weaknesses. But each of those individual deals - for Milledge and Dukes and Willingham and whoever - is clever, right? Each of them by itself was a pretty good move.

As for the Dominican bonus scandal, well, that sounds like a guy trying to be too clever, too. The money, ultimately, couldn't have been the real incentive, not with the money that's floating around for successful GMs these days. No, it had to be the feeling of getting away with something, with getting one over on the system. Was it conducive to building a good team? No, but that's tomorrow's problem. Today was all about getting away with it.

He's probably not going to be getting away with it any more. There aren't going to be many more of those momentary victories. And the franchise he was entrusted with will be, at the end of the day, not very good as a result of all of his efforts.

Here's hoping the Lerners do the right thing, for their business' sake. Get rid of Bowden - his track record certainly mandates it. Let someone new come in to clean up the mess. Someone dedicated to teambuilding. Someone who can plan long-term. Someone who, at the end of the day, doesn't constantly need to be told he's clever.

In Other News...

...Brett Favre has not yet announced his unretirement.

The clock, however, is ticking.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Uncool kid

Alex Rodriguez' real problem isn't PEDs. It's that he isn't cool. The cool kids get away with this stuff. Think about Jason Giambi, all golden thongs and tats and almost-confessions that let us pretend he's come clean so we can love him again. But the uncool kids - the jerks like Bonds and the bullies like Clemens and the sanctimonious teachers' pets like Raffy Palmiero - they don't get away with it. In the court of public opinion, ultimately they're tried for being uncool, and that's when they really get hammered.

So consider A-Rod. When he came up with the Mariners, he was the overachieving nerd, the gawky, hyper-talented kid on a team that already had its smiling, beloved face in Ken Griffey, Jr. He wasn't cool; Griffey sucked up most of the cool in the room, and what was left went to the glowering but personable Randy Johnson. A-Rod was the grind, the kid all the cool kids went to for help with their homework. Big Unit racked up strikeouts, Junior leapt over the wall to take away homers, and A-Rod was the baseball equivalent of the study-hound, quietly excelling in the shadow of the more popular kids.

When his free agency rolled around, that was the defining moment for Rodriguez' coolness. He could have established himself as cool if he'd stayed in Seattle, pledged his loyalty to one team and let the narrative be written for him. Loyal player, wants to win with the team that signed him, blah blah blah - the writers would have made him a hero. Or, if he'd signed with the Cubs, or the Yankees, or the Red Sox - one of the grand old "tradition" franchises - that would have been a story, and potentially could have cemented him as a Schilling-esque "student of the game".

But no, he chased the dollars down in Texas, forever branding himself the two-faced greedhead who lied about wanting to stay in Seattle while going for the big bucks. Never mind that's what me or thee might do - getting paid epic gobs of money to move to a more favorable work environment? Where do I sign? - it was an uncool thing to do. The contract made him an easy target, but the die had been cast. He was all about the money, and visible greed, without lip service to tradition or loyalty or "the chance to win" is uncool.

The botched trade to the Red Sox and the subsequent arrival in New York? More of the same. Never mind that he was willing to take less scratch to go to Boston; that didn't fit the narrative, so it got ignored. Instead, it was all about not caring which "side" in the rivalry he landed on, and then, the worst thing possible:

Landing in New York, playing the same position as Captain Jetes.

Derek Jeter, you see, is cool. Really cool. And he did exactly what the cool kids have been doing to the uncool kids since time immemorial - he picked on A-Rod. Forced him to acknowledge Jeter's dominance, sandbagged him in the media, withheld support at key moments, and made it clear that nobody else was supposed to like A-Rod either.

It didn't help that A-Rod wanted to be cool, which meant wanting Jeter to like him - a sucker bet if ever there were one. He agreed to slide to third base, despite the fact that he was the superior defender at short, but got no credit for the move - or for improving Jeter's defense. And he waited for Jeter to come to his defense over the post-season nonsense when it was never in Jeter's interest to do so. After all, making A-Rod cool would have diminished Jeter's own standing as the coolest kid in school, the queen bee of the Yankee scene's mean girls.

And yet, Rodriguez kept trying, as if he wanted to be cool but didn't know how. Dating Madonna? That's cool, right. Well, it might have been when Jose Canseco did it, but Madonna's coolness factor has long since passed its sell-by date. But it's what Madonna stood for that Rodriguez was after, anyway, the trophy that signified he'd made it past the velvet rope into a place that neither his money nor his stats could ever get him. It's sad to watch. Behind every over-calculated move is one eternally burning question: "Will this get people to like me?"

The answer, for now and always, is no.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Concerning the recent BC-Duke Men's Basketball Clash...

I got my MA from Boston College.

I live in Durham, NC.

Life is good.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Math Is Hard, Continued

Among the breathless state-of-the-game pronouncements in the latest Sporting News is this one:

"almost half of baseball's 30 teams fall below the average rank of 62nd in in-market fan loyalty"

Or, if you want to put it another way, "more than half of them rate above average."

*sigh*

On the other hand, the interview in this week's issue with Shaquille O'Neal is a revelation - sharp, funny, honest and revealing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Screw You, Tom Hicks

Considering all of the crooked dealings surrounding Tom Hicks' purchase of the Texas Rangers - and if you don't believe me, look up things like "the Arlington Sports Facilities Development Authority" and "UTIMCO" - for him to utter sanctimonious horseshit about how he feels "betrayed" by Alex Rodriguez' admission of steroid use is near the intersection of "loathsome" and "two-faced." If Mr. Hicks really feels that bad about it, he can refund the ticket revenues he received based on the appeal of Mr. Rodriguez, along with the regional sports network he built on the A-Rodded Rangers, the commercial sponsorships he accepted during that time, and, while he's at it, the land seized from private citizens for land speculation projects around the stadium site.

The local residents who got their properties nabbed by ASFDA so the Rangers' ownership could buy them out cheap were betrayed - betrayed by their team and by their state government. You, Mr. Hicks, were not betrayed. You went into the deal with your eyes open, benefitted from it immensely, and have no moral standing to decry it now

And I say again, screw you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

And Bruce Begat A-Rod

I blame Steven Spielberg.

I don't think he did it intentionally, mind you. But when he cobbled together Jaws, hiding a defective mechanical shark behind isn't-or-isn't-it there cinematography, he ushered in the age of the blockbuster, the mindset that says that everything's got to be the biggest, the best, the most important or the most catastrophic. And, like it or not, we haven't been the same since.

It's what brings us the Super Bowl in its current incarnation, the NFL recast as Roman gladiators fighting to the death for the noblest of causes. It's what brings us local news reports that breathlessly ask "Is Your Child's Favorite Popsicle A Killer?", to be followed by "This Common Household Cleaner Could Kill You!" and "Killer Secrets Of Your Lawn Care!", day by day by day. It means that movies that stick around more than two weeks are huge, and ones that don't are flops, and there is no middle ground. It means that every pretty young thing who got fifteen minutes in CW teen show is suddenly the hottest thing ever, until next week and she's in the "Where are they now?" file. It's all or nothing, do or die, and every breaking story has to be bigger and more important and fraught with more significance than the one before.

Seriously. How many "games of the century" have we had in college football so far this millennium? Six? Seven? And yet when the next one comes along, we line up for it like suckers, because THIS one is EVEN BIGGER.

Or so they would have us believe.

Part and parcel of all this, of course, is the fact that when you're in blockbuster land, nuance goes out the window. There's no room for the subtleties, the idea that there's more to anything than a simple hero/villain narrative. There's no place for context or a framing narrative, no examination of what the supposedly villainous or heroic act means. It's just the punchline, howled over and over into the echo chamber of a culture where we the mob howls to itself and thinks it's getting its voice heard.

Which brings us to the unfortunate case of Alex Rodriguez. In short, he did steroids, which are a no-no. He did them in a time when there were no penalties attached and he apparently stopped, none of which matters, as the only part of the narrative that has made it to the mainstream is "A-ROD IS A CHEATER".

Well, yeah. But there's more, there's always more. There's the fact that the test results that got leaked should have been destroyed years ago. And the fact that they're evidence in a trial, and leaking them is in fact a federal crime. And the fact that they were leaked right as the Barry Bonds trial - itself looking more and more like an out-of-control boondoggle - is heating up. And the reporter who broke the story has a history with Rodriguez, and has a book on him coming out soon. And there's no real evidence that PEDs as a class actually do enhance performance. And why are PEDs bad when LASIK surgery isn't, and why is it no big deal that the 1970s Steelers were all 'roided out of their minds when they were winning Super Bowls but 5-year old test results on A-Rod are news now, and why do we loathe A-Rod and not give a damn about Paul Byrd or Guillermo Mota, and...

You get the idea. It's the blockbuster concept, the thing that gets the normally levelheaded Jayson Stark to view this as the final torching of baseball's bridge to its past. At best, it's emotional thinking; at worst it's lazy and malicious, a cheapshot for the sake of seizing unstable moral high ground. I'm sorry, but I don't need an admitted steroid user like Mike Golic telling me how bad this is for baseball. I don't need the same reporters who lionized Roger Clemens until they feasted on his flesh to moan about the betrayal of the game's ideals. I don't need Vinnie from Saugus to write obscenity-filled "comments" on the end of overblown ESPN.com op-eds proclaiming Rodriguez' entire career - a career in which even his sandbagging former manager has admitted that he worked harder than anyone - the worst thing ever to happen to baseball. All it does is distract from the real problem, and allow for false band-aid solutions that can conveniently be ripped off whenever we need a new blood sacrifice on the front page.

In a sane and just world, we'd be worrying about other problems than this right now. Economic panic, war, genocide, disease, looming environmental changes and more - these are the things we should be getting upset about. In a slightly saner and more just world, we'd at least look at all the aspects of the story before rushing online with our imaginary pitchforks and torches. But we're in the world we're in, which means that A-Rod will be tried, convicted and tried again in the star chamber of semi-public opinion because it makes good copy, and because we like to see the mighty fall. All the rest - all the things we'd want taken into consideration if it were us in the spotlight - is details, chaff in the wind. Eventually, it will all blow away, roughly around the time the outrage well is running dry. There'll be a new greatest scandal ever, and another one after that, and another one after that.

And the stuff that matters, the stuff that's important - whether it's the context around the blockbuster accusation, or the truly horrifying stuff like the Rae Carruths and Ugie Urbinas and Ambiorix Burgoses and so forth - gets ignored because it doesn't fit the blockbuster story mode. A scrub wide receiver or middle reliever isn't a big enough villain, after all. Contradictory evidence doesn't make for a good enough story. Time and again, we'll go for the big target and the easy shot.

Maybe, honestly, it's because PEDs aren't really a big deal. We can turn on Bonds and Clemens and Palmiero and McGwire, can pretend they've let us down horribly because there's nothing too terrible about having rooted for a guy who may have cheated. Look too closely at an Urbina, though, and we have to confess that we actively cheered on a guy who went after another human being with gasoline and a machete. Demand blood with Carruth, and you admit that once upon a time, we rooted for a cowardly, despicable murderer. That makes us feel bad, makes us question the blind loyalty we give our sports teams and heroes. And we can't have that sort of thing, so we turn on the big names who've committed the minor infractions to make ourselves feel superior, and to give our fandom easy absolution.

It makes sense, as unpleasant a thought as it may be. Blockbuster movies are ones with lots of explosions, lots of inhuman feats of derring-do, and not a lot of nuance. In the end, they make you feel good. No wonder we demand the same from our scandals, again and again and again.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Michael Phelps Caught With Bong

Suddenly, the mystery of how he chows down that megacaloric diet of his is made clear.

Also, I don't actually care.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Things My Fantasy Baseball Guide Does Not Need To Teach Me

  1. Drafting too many players without proven track records is bad.
  2. Making moves during the season is essential to winning.
  3. Guys who have secure jobs going into the season are better than guys who don't.
  4. All things being equal, you don't want the hitter from San Diego.
  5. All things being equal, you don't want the pitcher from Colorado.
  6. Moises Alou may be an injury risk.
  7. Prince Fielder is a large man.
  8. Now that A.J. Burnett has a new contract, he's probably not going to perform as well.
  9. Guys who play first base probably aren't going to steal a lot of bases.
  10. Closers become available during the season.
  11. Some guys who go undrafted will probably put up big numbers.
  12. Some guys who get drafted early will probably stink.
  13. Albert Pujols is god.
Also, for the love of God, people, please stop putting your inane mock drafts in your publications? No one, and I repeat, no one wants to listen to anyone else talk about their fantasy baseball drafts. What in the world makes you think I want to pay for the privilege? The fact that precisely half of these "expert-drafted" teams are, by definition, below average means that you're sandbagging the authority of any advice those people might be giving in your publication.

Screw it. Where's Tuffy Rhodes when you need him?

Random Thoughts on the Super Bowl

Give the Cardinals credit for amazing goal line defense. It's what saved them against the Eagles, and it nearly let them steal the game from Pittsburgh. The one yard line isn't good enough, fellas - it has to go all the way into the end zone.

Pittsburgh let Arizona back into the game by going away from #10 in the fourth quarter. When tey tried to chew time off the clock by running it, they got stuffed, which forced them into passing downs and got Big Ben sacked. If they'd stuck to what had gotten them out to a 13 point lead - dumping it to Holmes in the flat and letting him grab twenty yards at a pop - it would have been a laugher.

They pretty much could have called holding on Gandy on every single play.

Never have I seen so many idiotic penalties in a Super Bowl. This may have been an exciting game, but it certainly wasn't a well-played one. And what on earth did Francisco say about Harrison's wife/sister/mother/pet schnauzer to inspire that little bit of MMA action? Good grief

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Discuss

1) Jeff Kent is the Don Sutton of second basemen.

2) Any fantasy baseball guide that touts soft-tossing guys with phenomenal AAA control stats as sleeper rookie picks needs to be looked at with extreme suspicion.

3) MLB needs to hire some game designers to work out the balance issues in their free agency compensation.

4) One should only deride players who pass on the WBC for being unpatriotic when the executive-types mandating their appearances forgo their paychecks for the honor and glory of USA baseball as well.

5) All of the trendy early talk discussing the Giants as potential contenders in the west ignores the fact that there still isn't anyone on that team who can hit.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Pace Requiescat: Kay Yow

18 years is a hell of a fight. Hall of famer, gold medal winner, coach, teacher, and by all accounts a fine and upstanding individual: Rest in peace, coach.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Padres Sign Henry Blanco

And when Henry Blanco actually improves your club, you've got work to do.

Math Is Hard

Cole Hamels, the Phillies' ace and the guy who hauled them across the finish line in October, got $20.25M for three years.
Ryan Madson, setup guy who completely bombed as a starter, got $12M for three years.

As much as I love Ryan Madson (in a manly, platonic, fannish way) - and yes, I do have an autographed baseball I won at auction at a Durham Bulls game and, oh, never mind. The point I was trying to make is if you're paying a setup man a significant fraction of what you're paying your ace, A)your ace is underpaid and B)you're paying way, way, waaay too much for your setup man. And it's not like they're locking up their closer-in-waiting; the Phils have Brad Lidge under contract for arguably longer than they've got Madson.

This Amaro person, he confuses me, and makes me sad.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

$18M Foot Longs

Jim Rice's recent election to the Hall of Fame was one benchmark in the raging, nonsensical conflict between old-timey baseballniks and nerdy, basement-dwelling stat geeks, or so the media narrative tells me. Ryan Howard's upcoming arbitration hearing is likely to be another one. Howard has filed for $18M; the Phillies are offering $14M. By all accounts, Howard's team views him as a historically unique player who should (and will) receive a historically unique salary. The question is, which historically unique price tag will he get?

Howard's argument rests on the old reliables, homers and RBI. Simply put, he racks up more of 'em than anybody, and that's impressive. On the other hand, if you look at more analytical statistics like WARP3 and VORP, Howard suddenly drops from "Incredible Hulk" to "Doc Samson". Sure, he's still up there, but suddenly the discussion involves all the things he doesn't do as well as some other guys, and how the total package stacks up. And let's face it, Ang Lee isn't champing at the bit to direct "Doc Samson: The Movie" for a reason.

It's a calculated risk for the Phillies. If they do use more advanced statistics to counter Howard's case, the same old-timers who flogged Howard's case for MVP will come out of the woodwork to talk about how those darn kids robbed that nice Mr. Howard of his paycheck. If they don't, all they've got left is the service time (and maybe batting average) arguments, and those aren't nearly as persuasive, and for a team that just shelled out big raises to Jamie Moyer, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Madson, among others, that $4M difference could be big.

Of course, this case only becomes a flashpoint if the Phillies actually do drag out the sabermetric argument, and nothing in new GM Reuben Amaro Jr's track record thus far indicates he'll make that play. But if he does, it's going to open up an interesting can of worms, and we just might hear about who the "most feared" arbitration case is as a result.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Few Thoughts on the NFC Championship Game

  • It was a fun run while it lasted, and it went a hell of a lot longer than anyone thought it would when the Eagles were 5-5-1 - me included.
  • For all of Troy Aikman's gushing, the Cardinals' second touchdown was not a case of poetic Warner throw to poetic Fitzgerald catch. It was a horribly underthrown ball, and the only reason Fitzgerald caught it was that the corner fell down trying to turn around and come back to it. Of such things, though, are legends made.
  • David Akers kicked like he owed someone money. You don't expect the guy running a 19 straight postseason field goal streak to miss a PAT. The Eagles wouldn't have gotten there without him, but, man, he was hard to watch.
  • Yes, the Eagles got hosed on two critical non-calls for pass interference, including the last play of their penultimate drive. That being said, if Donovan McNabb could have thrown the ball in the same zip code as his receivers at any point, none of that would have mattered and the Eagles would have won by 20. The Cardinals defense clearly could not cover the Eagles' receivers, who time and again were wide open with daylight in front of them, and time and again McNabb failed to deliver the ball. Look, I'm not a McNabb basher - I think he's a classy guy, and a really good quarterback, and I'd rather have him running da Boids than just about anyone else not named "Brady". But we've seen it time and again now - when he gets excited, he muscles up and overthrows his motion to disastrous effect. It's the same thing that happens when a pitcher reaches back for that extra mile or two per hour on his fastball. He might get it, but the pitch flattens out and goes bye-bye. In McNabb's case, the ball either nose-dives into the turf short or sails ten yards too far, when touch is what's needed.
  • Nice to see that Sean Considine is upholding the standard for Eagles safeties established by Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters.
  • Ah well. Like I said, it was fun when it lasted.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Phillies Reportedly Interested in Nomah

OK, that I'll complain about. He's old, he can't really play anywhere but first anymore, he gets hurt more often than Lindsay Lohan's feelings, and he doesn't seem to have quite gotten the fact that he's not the guy who rapped all those doubles for the Sawx five or six operations ago. The Phils' interest in Gabe Kapler makes a bit more sense; the guy murders lefties, and with the combination of Ol' Waffle-Mitts, the Flyin' Hawaiian, and Jason (Come back soon for an amusing nickname) Werth out there, the Phils will need bench OFs who can soak up appreciable amounts of playing time. And no, that doesn't mean Eric Bruntlett. Sorry, dude.

Eagles 23, Giants 11

Well, that was mildly unexpected. I'm not complaining, mind you, but I was expecting a steady diet of Brandon Jacobs and nothing but, and a final score that was more likely to be tilted in the Jints' favor. Instead, the Eagles did exactly what they did against Minnesota - kept it close while the offense figured itself out, then grabbed the lead and started squeezing. Watching this Eagles' defense - except on the plays where Jacobs was charging straight up the gut - is a lot like watching an anaconda have supper. It's not pretty, and it's often not exciting, but that poor sucker in the middle isn't going anywhere.

A game ball for this one goes to the Eagles' medical staff, who got Asante Samuel, Quinton Mikell and a goodly number of other players back on the field after in-game injuries. As much as I enjoy Sean Considine's patented "blitz then jump up in the air as the quarterback throws the ball by you" routine, without their starting DBs back there, the Eagles are much easier pickings, even for a wind-mussed Eli Manning.

Next week, Arizona in Arizona. Raise your hand if you're a filthy liar, err, if you saw that one coming.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Willie and the Poor Boys

If there is one consolation to the Phillies' moves this offseason, it is that none of them have included the words "signed IF Willie Bloomquist to a contract".

On the Bright Side, Dan Shaughnessy Never Has To Try To Spell "Jagodzinski" Again

And we can all be grateful for that.

It is every worker's right to chase the best job they can find. By the same token, it is an employer's right to lay down reasonable rules of conduct, which can include not publicly chasing another job. This is, perhaps, particularly pertinent in something like coaching, whereby the fact that a coach having one foot out the door hurts the team in a number of ways. It means he's not paying full attention to what he's doing, and it dents recruiting. It's not like other coaches will hesitate to use the "Why commit there, the coach is leaving anyway" approach if it gives them a leg up on a recruit.

All of which is to say that Boston College has a perfect right to protect their business, in this case their football team, by dumping an employee who was devaluing it, and who had acted against formally stated institutional policy. The fact that most places of business don't have rules like "Interview with the New York Jets and you're fired" is irrelevant; both parties were within their respective rights, and what played out was the result of adults making grown-up decisions.

That being said, I'm still disappointed BC offensive coordinator Steve Logan didn't get the job after Jagodzinski got the boot. I had the pleasure of listening to Logan's radio show for a while after his stint at ECU, and it was entertaining, energetic, and presented in a southern accent you could spread on toast with jam. Combine that with Sully from Saugus calling in t' ask de coach er queschun, and, well, it's poetry. Sheer poetry.

Other Things To Hate About the BCS

  • Having the "championship game" be a home game for one of the teams.
  • Having the "championship game" always played in SEC or Pac-10 territory, not, say, Big 10 or Big East. Even better, next year put it in Boise. I want to see Alabama and USC slug it out on the Smurf Turf in January. Someone's arms will no doubt literally fall off before halftime.
  • Having all of the drama and interest sucked out of the other bowl games. There's such a big deal made out of the "championship game" that the obvious corollary presents itself immediately: that if the championship game is all-important, the Rose, Fiesta, etc. Bowls are completely unimportant. Which reduces viewing audiences, which reduces profits for the network broadcasting them, and incidentally reduces my viewing pleasure, as I can now no longer formally muster giving a hoot about most of the games
  • The annual "oh crap, not these guys" BCS bowl. Two teams, there strictly because someone from their conferences had to be, matched up in the "slow kid who owns the only football so we can't tell him to go home" bowl. Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, I'm talking to you - does anyone even remember which bowl these teams played in?
  • The fact that the BCS is so transparently a money grab that the "championship game" doesn't even have an interesting name. Come on, they've got to be able to do better than what they've got now.
  • The endless post-BCS analysis of how the system is *gasp* broken because teams X, Y and Z got screwed. You know what, guys? It was just as broken a month ago, when y'all were gushing over 'Bama and ignoring Utah. Just sayin'.

5 BCS Game Losses In A Row

So at what point do we start calling Oklahoma the Ohio State of the Big 12?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

On Tarvaris Jackson

The Vikings didn't lose that game yesterday. The Eagles took it from them, brutally and without remorse. As close as the score was, it was kept that way by a couple of fluke plays. The sense watching it was that the Vikings were giving it all they had to hang close, hoping for a puncher's chance, while the Eagles applied relentless pressure, knowing that sooner or later Minnesota would slip up. And when they did - letting Brian Westbrook jump outside for a 71 yard score highlighted by impressive blocks from DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis - the Eagles stepped on their necks. One got the sense that the Vikings were suddenly anxious, could feel it slipping away, and tried to make up a two-score deficit every single time they got the ball. That, of course, is a recipe for disaster, especially with a young quarterback and a blitzing defense. The Eagles teed off, Jackson's passes started going haywire, and that was that.

It's Jackson I find most interesting in the aftermath. There's a fair bit of blame being tossed in his direction. Admittedly, I'm just a fan, but I didn't see the guy who couldn't pass or couldn't stay in the pocket they're talking about on the radio. I saw a guy who was pretty much on the run the entire game, and whose speed and elusiveness got him out of at least a half-dozen brutal sacks. The Eagles managed one sack the entire game; put Headbanger Gus back there and the total creeps up near double digits. Yeah, he was throwing a lot of balls of his back foot by the end of the game, but he was also running for his life, heaving the ball downfield while avoiding sacks and trying to make something out of nothing. I saw the guy who chased Asante Samuel downfield after throwing a pick, and who got back up to lead a scoring drive after being utterly levelled by Chris Clemons.

In the end, he wasn't going to save the Vikings. The Eagles were too good, chewed up too much of the clock, and scored when they had to. They mostly shut down Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor; they won the special teams wars and never let up. But I've got a lot of respect for the way Jackson and the Vikings played, and I think that if they get him a couple of receivers and a little more time, he could be a lot more dangerous the next time around.

In the meantime, bring on the Jints.

Do the Math

The important numbers are 32, 37, 2, 3, 8000000, and 10000000. Pat Burrell is 32, and signed a deal for 2 years at $8M. Raul Ibanez, the guy replacing Burrell because he was too expensive and wanted too long a deal, is 37 and signed for 3 years at $10M per annum. Yes, their stats are roughly equivalent, but any way you slice the numbers, Burrell is the better bet going forward, and Ibanez has a much, much greater chance of turning into an immobile, Vaughn-like (Greg, Mo, or the late Arky - take your pick) monolith well before the contract is up.

The Phillies should be fine for 2009. However, it's in 2010 and 2011 - right around the time their core will start declining - that they'll really be feeling the bad effects of this deal. And as a fan, it's a hard thing to watch in what should be an offseason of celebration and hope.
There was an error in this gadget