Friday, May 21, 2010

New Postings Have Moved...

...to http://www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/sportsthodoxy

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Twenty Things I’m Hoping To See This Baseball Season:

  1. Someone on the MLB Network, when discussing an aging, no-field, no-run swing-from-the-heels hitter who’s got fading doubles power and slider bat speed, to say “He’s not a professional hitter, because he can’t hit.”
  2. One last moment in the sun for Matt Stairs, the Wonder Hamster
  3. Craig Calcaterra finally snapping and going totally Sneakers on Jon Heyman in an attempt to prove that Scott Boras is feeding him faulty intel directly. Presumably, this ends up with Derek Zumsteg demanding a Winnebago, Marc Normandin asking for the phone number of the attractive MLB.com sysadmin who helps bust them, and Sean Casey shouting “We’re MLB Network! We don’t DO that sort of thing!”

  1. Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard doing a double steal during the All-Star Game.

  1. Six or seven pitchers from Jim Rice’s heyday going public with a statement to the effect of “That dude? We never actually feared him. It was Dewey Evans who scared the piss out of us.”

  1. Charlie Haeger winning double-digits worth of games.

  1. Alex Gordon beating the snot out of the ball, just to shut everyone up already.

  1. ESPN promoting a game that doesn’t have the Yankees, Red Sox, or some combination thereof in it.

  1. Tim McCarver criticizing Derek Jeter. Just once.

  1. Jeffrey Samson and David Loria to fall through some sort of interdimensional wormhole that lands them in the Miami where Burn Notice is real, just in time for them to accidentally rear-end cranky superspy Michael Westen.

  1. Jamie and Frank McCourt to realize they’re both looking like complete asses. As they sit down to discuss how best to resolve their divorce quickly and with dignity, they reminisce over the wonderful time they had in Brussels on their honeymoon, fall madly in love all over again, and have enthusiastic makeup sex on Bert Fields’ desk. Then, united in purpose, they go get a real starting pitcher for the Dodgers, knocking Vincente Padilla – not Charlie Haeger – out of the rotation.

  1. A Charlie Zink sighting.

  1. Someone in the Kansas City front office to say “You know, it’s kind of weird that a dermatologist knows more about running our baseball team than our GM does.” Ideally, the next step is to hire said dermatologist.

  1. Vernon Wells, BJ Upton, Nick Johnson, Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley, and Manny Ramirez to all play like we’ve seen them play at their best.

  1. Manny Ramirez to admit the whole “Manny being Manny” thing has gotten old, and that reporters really should come up with a new shtick. Conversely, I’d also go for Manny thinking he’s the reincarnation of the Atlantean priest Klarkash-Ton, and taking batting practice in ceremonial robes from the cat-haunted city of Ulthar.

  1. Carlos Marmol, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and CJ Wilson pitching lights out, as a response to their managers no longer jerking them around.

  1. Someone doing a Real Genius on Dusty Baker to convince him that God wants him to start using pitch counts. Then they can use a giant laser to fill the Reds’ dugout with popcorn.

  1. The ghost of the billygoat to manifest at third base at Wrigley during a twi-night doubleheader with the Cardinals in order to call out Jay Mariotti for one too many phoned-in bullcrap columns. Unfortunately, nobody’s seen Mariotti actually at Wrigley since June of ’96, so the goat dissolves into a blob of ectoplasm that later causes Aramis Ramirez to slip and fall. Ramirez blows out a hammy in the incident, his replacements don’t hit a lick, and the Cubs miss the playoffs by one game.

  1. A home run ball hit by a White Sox player knocking unconscious the next reporter to claim that Ozzie’s guys play “small ball” in a home run park so egregious, Joey Gathright can swing from the heels there. I of course wish no permanent harm to come to said reporter, but if there was a residual inability to say the words “productive out”, “pitching to the score”, or “gritty gamer”, I wouldn’t be too upset.

  1. Jayson Werth yelling “Captain Caaaaave-mannnn!” every time he hits a home run. Hey, it could happen.

Friday, April 02, 2010

We Love You, Joe/LeBron/Anybody

One of the things fans in the rest of the country hate about New York fans is their open, entitled speculation about when the biggest stars on other teams are going to come play in New York because New York "deserves" them. (The irony of pairing this with bitching about competitive imbalance has thus far escaped most of Pinstripe Nation.) Case in point: Ian O'Connor's navel-gazing masterpiece on ESPN New York, as self-absorbed a piece of tripe as anything the Curly Haired Boyfriend horked out in the Boston Globe. In it, O'Connor pats Cleveland on the head and then explains why LeBron has to come to New York because, well, he has to come to New York and lots of New Yorkers say so.

I can only assume that O'Connor had a Joe Mauer version of this piece ready to go, and then hastily rewrote it when Super Joe signed with the city that apparently didn't deserve him quite as much.

I Don't Think Carolina Gets All The Calls...

...but tonight's NIT finals really should have been A10 vs. A10.

And the fact that the Heels couldn't close the deal on Dayton - Dayton! - should really scare all those suits at CBS who foresee a tournament that doesn't go chalk every year.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why People Hate Duke

There was some discussion on the local sports talk radio station today about why Duke has been cast as the "villain" in this year's Final Four. The Christian Laettner foot-stomp incident was brought up and laughed off, and various and sundry other thoughts, but really, I think they missed the point.

Badly.

You see, by all rights I should be a Duke fan. Until Boston College joined the ACC (and for all of you locals bitching about how BC doesn't belong in the conference, it's actually closer to, you know, the Atlantic Coast than Duke. Or NC State. Or Wake Forest. Or Georgia Tech. Or Virginia. Or...you get the idea.) it was the most "northern" school in the conference, a plucky little bastion of higher learning with a tiny enrollment who somehow managed to beat the big boys at their own game. And that's exactly the sort of thing that should make Duke endearing.

Only they're not. I find I loathe Duke in a way I loathe few other schools, but it took until today to figure out why.

It's not that Duke's the "villains" of the piece. The Blue Devils aren't bullies, not in the way Tark the Shark's UNLV teams were. They're not openly flouting rules or being brutes or aggressively trying to intimidate anyone, Coach K's dark suits be damned.

No, the thing is precisely that they're not bullies. They're the spoiled rich kids. They're Draco Malfoy, the weasels who get everyone else in trouble and then turn into angels the second the grownups turn around. Watch a Duke player, any Duke player, when they get a foul called on them. It's always the same - the histrionics, the hands to the side of the head, the mouth wide open in Macaulay-Culkin-ese fake shock, the "Aww, you're kidding me!" that blind lipreaders beyond the orbit of Mimas could read. When the ref's not looking, they elbow and hook and shove with the worst of 'em. When the ref is looking, they flop and overact and do their best to get the other guy - the Harry Potters of the hardwood, as it were - in trouble. Seriously. I've seen video games with ragdoll physics less impressive than what J.J. Reddick used to do when someone got within five feet of him.

That's why Duke is so hateable. Because all of us, in school, knew a Duke. We all knew a kid who tormented and teased and bullied when the teacher wasn't looking, and who used their parents or their older brother or their willingness to clean erasers to magically avoid the trouble the rest of us caught double. We'll probably never see those kids again. But we will see their likenesses, their avatars, their nationally televised equivalents. We will see them in blue and white, and we will boo them heartily.

It won't change a thing. It certainly won't retroactively balance the scales of schoolyard injustice. But man, it'll feel good.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dear Fans Who Felt Your Team Should Stay Home Rather Than Play In A Secondary Postseason Tournament:

Shut the hell up.

If you are really fans, you want the following:
For your team to play more games so you can watch more games.
For your team to play more games so you can watch players you presumably root for a little longer before they move on.
For your team to play more games so the school can make more money and provide better facilities, etc. for the team, which will then theoretically do better next year.
For your team to play more games so young players can get more time and get that much of a leg up on next year.
Did I mention "for your team to play more games so they can hopefully win more and you can cheer them on?" You know, that whole fan thing?

There are lots of good reasons for a team to participate in any post-season play offered to it. Any one of them outweighs idiot fan pride at a season that wasn't quite up to their replica jersey- wearing standards.

I say let the kids play. And everyone else can deal.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March Madness: Weekend 1

Possibly the most amusing thing I heard this weekend was some guy swearing that President Obama had gotten on the horn and used his power to force the refs to make calls against Robert Morris, in order to protect the sanctity of the Presidential Bracket.

Seriously. You can't make this stuff up.

Unfortunately, you don't need to make up some of the other blithering that goes on around this time of year. Now that the dust has settled on all the whining about seeding - and let's face it, if they got it perfectly right, the angry Joe Lunardis of the world would be out of luck and out of work because their primary role is to complain about these bits of floating nonsense - it's time for all-new inanity to take over. The major throughline today seemed to be focused not on Kentucky's new status as the overall favorite or the remarkable runs by teams like Cornell and UNI, but rather that "having so many low seeds advance was bad for the tournament". Because, you know, nobody was going to watch a Sweet 16 game that didn't have the big names in it. Xavier's made the second weekend for something like thirty-seven years in a row? Doesn't matter. Cornell's a ridiculously good story - revenge of the nerds, "after this, nothing but babies and memories", the first Ivy to go this far since the days of Bird and Magic - but it doesn't matter. St. Mary's avenging last year's snub and Purdue overcoming the loss of Robbie Hummel (yes, I picked Siena in round 1) and Washington's sneaky-good run and...naah, not important. What matters is that the big names - UConn, UNC, Kansas, etc. aren't there.

Now, there are two lessons to be taken from this. One, it would have been relatively easy for those missing big names to be there. All they had to do was do what they were supposed to: win games. Sorry, the tournament is supposed to be about putting the best teams together, not the best ratings. That's what the BCS is for, after all.

The other lesson is that the mainstream sports media guys bitching and moaning about how the games aren't interesting now are doing themselves and their readers/listeners/viewers a disservice. UNI's played some pretty entertaining games. So has Purdue. So have the bulk of the surviving teams, marquee or otherwise. The smart play would be to seize the opportunity, talk up these new teams, and hopefully build nationwide interest in more teams going forward. The idiotic play is to bitch about how the tournament's no good without Carolina in it, discourage people from watching (because a game with Xavier in it can't possibly be interesting), and moan about the ratings. None of which, of course, has anything to do with the actual games, but all of which reinforces college basketball's insane football-driven caste system.

If I were running a station and one of my guys moaned about this stuff, I'd rip him a new one. Getting people interested in this stuff is better for fandom and better for business. Whining is the easy way out. I'd rather have them tell me what's exciting about what's coming up, instead of complaining that the easy story lines are gone.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Random Spring Training Thought...

For all of the geshrying over the Phillies' trade of Cliff Lee for a 1967 Chrysler Aumont* and some spare parts, there's a vague hint of a whiff of suspicion that it might not have been the stupidest idea ever. Throwing at a guy's head in a spring training game - no, correction, at a backup catcher's head - is monumentally knuckleheaded. We're talking "Tommy Greene might have thought it was a good idea" dumb. Getting suspended five games to start the season when you're supposed to be one of the two lead sled dogs for your team, the prize off-season acquisition that's going to get the team off to a fast start, is just plain stupid. Sure, suspending starting pitchers is a lot like criminal sentencing for white-collar criminals - a lot less harsh than it seems - but even so, it's a hell of an idiotic precedent to be setting.
And so the sneaking suspicion remains. If he's doing something this Jersey Shore-ish to start the season, what happens next?
Maybe, just maybe, Cliff Lee was too big of a knucklehead for Philadelphia. And that, my friends, is a scary thought.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Give the NCAA Committee Credit

Their seedings are ludicrous, but the fact that the last couple of guys in included Utah State and UTEP over the easy choices of power conference pretenders Mississippi State and Virginia Tech. Mind you, both those teams are set up to get hammered in the first round, but 5-12 upsets are the annoying relatives of March Madness: they keep on popping up, year after year.

Comparative Analysis

The baseball equivalent of the Brady Quinn trade - first round flop traded off by new regime in exchange for serviceable spare part - is probably "Bill Pulsipher for Mike Kinkade".

And if you remember that one, you can see why I'm so utterly unimpressed with the hysteria over this one.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Random NFL Trade Thought

St. Louis needs a quarterback.
In an uncapped year, prior to a CBA renegotiation which will almost certainly produce a rookie slotting system for contracts, no GM wants to be on the hook for doling out the last of the ginormous rookie deals. Hence, teams in the top 10 or so in the draft will be scrambling to trade down. especially since there's really no elite offensive talent in this year's draft.
Even in a good year, GMs hate giving the really big money to defensive players. Cf Jimmy Kennedy, among others.
The undisputed best player in this year's draft is a defensive lineman, Ndamukong Suh.
Which means a GM with high draft pick - like, say the Rams' GM, is going to be doubly unwilling to pay top dollar for Mr. Suh as the top draft pick.
The Eagles have a surfeit of quarterbacks and cash to burn. And they have a desperate need on the defensive line.
It may not happen. But someone's probably going to at least sniff around it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

UR DOING IT RONG

Which is another way of saying I was watching some ESPN over lunch at a local pizza joint the other day and spotted their spring training coverage of the Dodgers. Included in the "key additions"? Angel Berroa.

That...pretty much says it all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thank you, ESPN

Without your relentless coverage of Saturday's minor league NASCAR race, I never would have known that Danica Patrick A)drives cars and B)has breasts.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

48 hours after the biggest press conference in history...

...and I still don't care who Tiger Woods slept with.

Dear commercial media: This is not important news. Please stop treating it like important news. Please stop saying horrifically inappropriate things like insinuating Jesper Parnevik had "tried Elin out" before introducing her to Tiger. Please stop saying stupid things like "Tiger owes you an apology." He doesn't. He owes his wife an apology, and his kids when they're old enough to figure out what the hell happened, and maybe Jesper Parnevik. Not you. And please remember at some point that if you're even going to pretend golf is a sport, you should cover what's going on out on the links every so often. Just in case, you know, actual sports happens.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sixers-Bucks Trade

After all the rumors, it's...Jodie Meeks and Francis Elson for Primoz Brezec, Royal Ivey, and a second round draft pick.

And I can honestly say - as someone who knows that Mo Cheeks was a second-round pick out of West Texas State and loved chocolate chip cookies - that I had to double-check to see which team these guys originally played for, and who was getting whom.

This is what passes for trade deadline excitement in Sixerland.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mixed Messages

The NBA welcomed a record 108,000 fans to the All-Star Game this past weekend!
The NBA claims $400M in operating losses this year!

There could possibly have been a better time to announce the latter. Doing so at an event that highlights the league's resurgent popularity and ability to sell tickets gives it the whiff of mathematical monkeyshines. At this point, I'm skeptical of any pro sports league's claims that its owners - who enjoy ridiculous tax breaks, see their assets steadily rise in value, play accounting games that make Madoff's routine look like Candyland, and play in publicly-built castles with sweetheart leases - are losing money. but this one definitely comes with a side helping of "you're kidding me, right?"

Of course, the real thing they're going for here is to stir up anti-player sentiment among the fanbase. How can those players ask for so much money? How can they demand such a high percentage of gross revenues for playing a game? It's a time-tested PR strategy, and it works.

Left unsaid, of course, is that if the players aren't getting that money, the plutocrat owners are. Ticket prices won't drop. Concession prices won't drop. Parking prices won't drop. But hey, at least those greedy players won't be getting the cash!

Right? Right.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Great American Race(TM)

"Hi! I'm a pothole! And I hate NASCAR!"


The irony of the biggest, baddest race on the NASCAR calendar being held up - twice - because of a pothole - is just too good. For all the talk of "the car of tomorrow" and how these "stock" car drivers are the best and most competitive on the planet, they still got derailed on national television by something a soccer mom in a station wagon - excuse me, "crossover vehicle" - would plow right through.

Yeah, I know. Hit a pothole at 190 and it's ugly. That being said, you'd think NASCAR would do a better job with the track at their showcase event. And really, apart from Alaskan Ice Truckers, who else can claim a two hour delay at work because of a pothole and get away with it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tournament of Everyone Ambulatory in Shouting Distance

The big topic in college basketball today - now that we don't have to worry about "Will Dick Vitale burst a blood vessel courtside and spray Duke blue from his femoral artery all over the Dean Dome?" for another year - is whether the NCAA tournament should expand to 96 teams.

The people this notion benefits are obvious. One, the coaches. 50% more of them get to say they led a team to the tourney. Two, the big conferences. They'll have more teams getting in, which means more tourney revenue to split. Three, umm, well, you've got me there. Really, this is about making sure that the #s 7 and 8 teams from BCS conferences make it in so that coaches can plaster "Made the tournament" on their resume. None of the teams potentially picked up by this would ever be a threat to win the Big Dance. Hell, most wouldn't make it out of the first round. All that would be achieved would be the final death of the venerable NIT, and the reduction of font sizes in order to squeeze 96 team brackets onto single pages for office pools.

Oh, and "student-athletes" missing more class for the additional games, the very same thing supposedly holding up a football playoff. But hey, consistency is the hobgoblin of the minds of people who don't rake in billion dollar television deals, right?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DuClina

There are three kinds of basketball fans in the Triangle: Duke fans, Carolina fans, and State fans, i.e. "fans who hope that the Dean Dome and/or Cameron will suffer a fortuitous meteor strike when Duke and Carolina get together". This is due in part to the relentless overexposure the rivalry gets, and in part to the fact that 98% of the carpetbaggers who move down here immediately become Duke fans because, hey, nobody in the Northeast can play college football, either.

(The closest thing I have to a rooting allegiance in college basketball is for the Big Five; I'm happy to see Temple, Penn, Nova, St. Joes or LaSalle take down anyone.)

Duke-Carolina really is the Yankees-Red Sox of college hoops: a stirring rivalry that has been relentlessly hyped and sold as the only rivalry in the sport worth paying attention to. What that means is that other, equally interesting teams don't get as much play, weakening the sport as a whole. It also means that when one of the two titans in blue is having a down year - like this year - all the Chicken Littles immediately start going off on how "the rivalry has lost its luster" - and the sport as a whole is diminished as a result.

Duke-Carolina is great. So's 'Nova-Georgetown. And Purdue-Indiana. And Louisville-Kentucky. And any number of other rivalries. Until Dickie V admits that he's actually Connor McLeod's great-grandpappy - which is not out of the realm of possibility - it should be clear: there can be more than one.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Bowl Afterthoughts

In no particular order...

  • Was it just me, or was it mildly creepy that the NFL was using the same music for its ads that "Where the Wild Things Are" used for its trailer?
  • The game turned, not on the pick, but on the Colts' inability to pick up multiple first downs at the end of the first half. The Saints' gamble was clear: go for it on 4th. If you score, you're tied. If you don't, bet your defense can hold and you'll get a decent chance at another crack at a three. The safe play would have been the bad one - kick the field goal and give Manning a couple of minutes left to march down the field and drive a dagger in. Of course, the gamble would have failed if Manning and company had been able to get more than 9 yards. The Saints took the punt in good field position, drove far enough to get a field goal, and had both a manageable game and the momentum going into the locker room. For all that Payton Manning made his patented "kickers are icky" face when Matt Stover's 51 yarder knuckled left at the last minute, he's not blameless in the loss.
  • Why does anybody care about the halftime show? At this point, the acts they get are trying to cram so many song snippets in - you can't play the Super Bowl unless you had albums originally come out on 8-track at this point, which means a back catalog of hits you MUST get to - that it's basically like listening to a series of ringtones. Also, why was Roger Daltrey hunched up like that throughout the performance. He looked like he was either going to fall down or sprout wings.
  • Perfect symmetry -Reggie Wayne and the Pride of Hofstra, Marques Colston, both had through-the-hands-and-off-the-facemask drops.
  • I believe this is the first Super Bowl where tackling was optional. Joseph Addai hasn't seen holes like that since he dreamed he was trapped in a giant Swiss cheese, but the Saints' devotion to the matador tackle didn't help much.If the Colts had kept going to him - like they did on their last scoring drive - things might have turned out different.
  • Gotta love the "Aww, man!" Payton Manning expression. You've just gotta. One got the sense that had Indy won, it would somehow have been solely Manning's work - never mind that monster offensive line that kept him off his butt all season long. But since they lost...
  • That being said, any of the talking heads yammering about how Manning needed to win a second Super Bowl to "cement his legacy" needs to put a sock in it - and then fill the sock with concrete. Winning a Super Bowl, or not, does not make one a great quarterback. Jeff Hostetler won a Super Bowl. Brad Johnson. Trent @#$ing Dilfer. Even if these guys had somehow managed to win ten, they wouldn't have been great quarterbacks. Oh, and Brett Favre? The Greatest Quarterback Evar? One.
  • Imagine how much damage Drew Brees could have done if the Saints' O-line had given him enough time to set his feet before he threw?
  • Once the Colts started rolling Manning out, it was all over. Mannings don't run. They just don't.
  • That being said, I think Dallas Clark is still open over the middle.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Big Fat Hairy Game Prediction

New Orleans lives by getting turnovers. Indianapolis doesn't turn the ball over.

Colts win.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Random Thoughts On Random Free Agents

  • Orlando Hudson, 2B, Twins - People point out that Hudson was benched for Ronnie Belliard last year. People forget that this was in large part due to Joe Torre's predilection for playing guys in worse shape than he is.
  • Adam Kennedy, 2B, Nationals - Because nothing is more important to a franchise that needs to develop its young players than keeping Christian Guzman on the field as much as possible.
  • Johnny Damon, OF, Nobody In Particular - Because it wasn't that his salary demands got big. It's that the Yankees got small. (Seriously - when Buster Olney, the High Priest of the Yankees at ESPN, lays you out for dealing with them poorly, you've made a serious tactical error somewhere along the line.)
  • Jason Bay, OF, Mets - Because if you can't play for the Yankees, at least you can play near the Yankees.
  • Scott Hairston, Jon Garland, and a cast of thousands, Padres - Don't be too rough on those uniforms, boys. They're going to need them for someone else around July 30th or so.
  • Placido Polanco, 3B, Phillies - Well, somebody has to stand out there. There is, however, no truth to the rumor that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. dropped his iPod before opening contract negotiations began and got stuck on an endless loop of "Three (Is A Magic Number)" At this point, the only Phillies he hasn't locked up for three more years are Steve Jeltz, Bake McBride, and the ghost of Del Ennis.
  • Adam LaRoche, 1B, Diamondbacks -No truth to the rumor that he keeps a bar chart on his wall tracking how much Damon's lost by overplaying his hand this offseason vs. how much he lost by turning down San Francisco.
  • Bengie Molina, C/land mass, Giants - Because when Adam LaRoche turns you down, really, what's the point.

And the Super Silliness, It Continues

Overheard tonight on the drive home, a commercial for the Super Bowl (I'm not calling it The Big Game and you can't make me) huffing excitedly about how on Sunday, Drew Brees and the Saints will match wits with Peyton Manning and the Colts.

Now, call me crazy, but does anyone, and I mean anyone, sit down to watch the Super Bowl and say, "Boy, I can't wait for those two teams of freakishly large physical specimens in lightweight body armor to match wits!" People watch for the parties. People watch for the cheerleaders. People watch for the commercials. Some folks, especially those who have money riding on it (and let's not kid ourselves - 80% of the ghoulish interest in Dwight Freeney's ruptured ankle tendon this week is driven by betting) watch it because they want to watch the game. But very, very few people think, "Can't wait for the Super Bowl. They're gonna match wits*!"

*Yeah, yeah, I know. Quarterbacks are field generals, it's all very complicated with lots of planning, blah blah blah. That still doesn't mean anyone watches it for the wit-matching. Besides, if Terry Bradshaw could figure it out, how witty do you really have to be?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

In the Ever-Raging War...

...between "mainstream journalists" (most of whom blog now, or think they're blogging) and bloggers (who may or may not be wearing pants as they perform their professional duties), there really is a clear differentiation between the two. Sure, you can argue about old school media versus new media and how the ESPN guys (except for Olney and KLaw) are giving the goods away on Twitter and so forth, but really, there's one insurmountable difference that clearly draws the line.

Mainstream media never, ever, gets schooled in the comments section by the subject of a blog post's Mom.

Define "Interested"

According to a tweet from Dan Hayes, Brian Giles' agent is claiming that 8-10 teams are interested in him.

8-10 teams. Roughly 30% of the teams out there. Somehow, I find it difficult to believe that there are that many teams interested in an aging, injury-prone corner outfield who hasn't displayed any power in years. Sure, there could be somebody who wants a bel0w-average fielder who slugged .271 last year - by comparison, that's lower than Willy Taveras' OBP number - as a "veteran influence", but with better options out there, why look at this guy?

To be fair, at this point it's not an offseason to me until Scott Boras claims that a "mystery team" is in on one of his clients for whom the number of bidders ranges between zero and one. After yesterday's attempt to link Johnny Damon to the Tigers (note to Johnny: you can't have wanted to be a Tiger all along and still be upset over not getting an offer you like from the Yankees. The timing, it doesn't quite work), it's becoming increasingly clear that by "mystery team" Boras means the Fort Worth Cats, but they're at least real. On the other hand, claiming 8 to 10 are in on a guy whose knees got more solid hits than his bat last year is just showing off. It's the old "I have a girlfriend. In Canada. Who's a supermodel" shtick, and just as believable. if there are 10 teams out there kicking the tires on Giles, I'm guessing at least one's made up of Skaven and halflings, three are actually bowling teams in the local seniors' league, and one is Team Venture. And no, Teams Edward and Jacob don't count.

(Also, considering how much of last year Giles was on the shelf with a knee contusion, whoever's kicking the tires had best do it very gently.)

Ultimately, I'm sure someone will give Giles an NRI. He was productive, if not powerful, in 2008, and if he's willing to take "aging outfielder money", there's probably a place out there for him*. That being said, I'm having a hard time coming up with five teams he'd be a reasonable fit for, let alone ten, and never mind that there are still offensive options like Johnny Damon and the Mighty Branyan out there. And really, a non-story like this is good news. It means the off-season's winding down, the agents who didn't hook their guys up are getting desperate, and pitchers and catchers will be reporting soon.

*San Francisco? I mean, he's an aging veteran who can't hit. It's a natural fit.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Why the Pro Bowl Sucks

Of all the major sports all star games, the Pro Bowl has always been, by far, the worst. This has been for several reasons, not the least of which is that it fails on the basic promise of an All-Star Game.

Simply put, the whole point of an ASG is to see the best play with and against the best. That's what sells the baseball ASG - the thought of Mariano Rivera trying to nail down a win against a Murderer's Row of, say, Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols and Chase Utley. It's Carl Hubbell and his screwball getting swings and misses from five Hall of Famers in a row. And for all that managers these days are careful about getting lots of players in and not scragging pitchers' arms, one gets the genuine sense that the baseball being played in the ASG is fundamentally identical to the baseball played throughout the season and the playoffs.

The same goes for the NBA All-Star Game; sure, nobody plays defense, but they're playing hard. It's Dream Team vs. Dream Team out there, the Garnett-to-LeBron-to-dunking-over-Tim-Duncan moment that's literally impossible in the "real" world for all those pesky salary cap reasons. We can't see this anywhere else. It offers us a cross between fantasy sports and gladiatorial combat in way that's compelling.

The Pro Bowl, on the other hand, throws this out the window by allowing everyone and their uncle to cop out of the game with the exuse that their kitten has a hangnail. It's played at a leisurely pace with a dumbed-down playbook and guys going half speed, because nobody wants to get hurt, and it's generally played after the Super Bowl, when we've all got sort of a football hangover. If the Super Bowl is the biggest feast of the football year (the Buffalo Bills' occasional participation notwithstanding), then the Pro Bowl has traditionally been that one bit of food you work out from where it's stuck between your teeth about two hours later.

And this year, they managed to make it worse. While the idea of raising the game's profile by sticking it before the Super Bowl was at least theoretically a good one, in practice it borks the game even worse. To start with, the best players can't play. When your fantasy of the best against the best fails to feature the best players on the best teams, well, it's like one of those Peter Gabriel "Best Of" collections that didn't have "Sledgehammer" but did have room for "Moribund the Burgomeister".

Second, the timing switch doesn't help. Nobody's going to be interested in watching half-speed competition in the two weeks between the ceremonial Brett Favre Throwing Of the Interception and what's supposed to be the most hotly contested game of the year. It's overshadowed by the game it's supposed to be warming us up for - as well it should be. As Bill Simmons might put it, you don't watch Godfather III in between I and II.

And the final insult, the thing that seals the deal, is the fact that they moved it to Florida. The only watchable thing about the Pro Bowl in the past was watching to see what percentage of the stands was filled with offensive linemen who'd been bought tickets to Hawaii by their Pro Bowl-bound skill players - and the endearingly awkward interviews that went with them. With the game in Miami, that's gone. The one goofily human moment of the whole charade is removed. Sure, these guys could fly their O-lines to Miami, but hey, that's just a couple of hours. Sending your long snapper to Hawaii? That was commitment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Big Mac and Pete Rose

I think at this point it's safe to assume that precisely no one has had their mind changed about Mark McGwire, steroids, Pete Rose, or anything else by impassioned blog posts, poorly thought out blog comments, or columns on ESPN.com. On the other hand, it certainly does seem to be generating clickthrough, which apparently is making someone happy.

That being said, I would like to propose a set of rules for the argument going forward:

1-You cannot criticize Mark McGwire unless you spell his last name properly. This holds particularly true if his name is spelled correctly in the title or body of the article/blog post/poorly thought out Gene Wojciechowski rant you are commenting upon.

2-Anyone pointing to Andy Pettite and Jason Giambi as "guys who came clean" must be able to quote the line where Giambi admitted publicly he did steroids. This may take them a while.

3-Any gratuitous asides at cranky old time Murray Chass types will be penalized two semicolons and a link to a Joe Posnanski post. There's enough to take issue with in the posts without reigniting the whole "Mainstream Media Versus Nerds In the Basement" idiocy.

4-Anyone pointing out that we don't know how much effect, if any, PEDs actually have on baseball production must perform six minutes of interpretive dance on YouTube for failing to recognize that the argument is one of perception, and the perception is that PEDs turned McGwire into Popeye. The required time is cut in half if they can name at least eight scrubeenies (team and position included) listed in the Mitchell Report as users who still couldn't crack the Top 30 at any position in the Sporting News Fantasy Baseball Guide.

5-McGwire's Hall of Fame candidacy and McGwire's current employment as hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals are two different things. Failure to recognize this is grounds for being forced to listen to a CD of Joe Morgan narrating recorded Bigfoot calls from rural Ohio.

6-Anyone claiming that since McGwire's steroid use was illegal, his Hall candidacy is forfeit must immediately make a blog post demanding the removal of Ty Cobb for his aggravated assault of Claude Lueker. However, the first commenter to note the extensive amphetamine use by baseball players in the 70s and 80s has their posting privileges revoked until the first commenter in the thread figures out exactly who Claude Lueker was.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Don't Hate Brett Favre...

...because of the way he plays football. Indeed, being a fan of a team Favre likes to throw interceptions to during the playoffs has made me something of a Brett Favre fan.

No, I hate Brett Favre because the day after the conference championship games, one of which was decided in monumentally dramatic fashion, the lead football story on ESPN is "Will Brett Favre be back next year?"

Screw that noise. Can we have a little something about the guys still playing this year? Thanks.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Question For Charger Fans

Funny how Nate Kaeding can make Norv Turner look exactly like Marty Schottenheimer, isn't it?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Penny Lane

Alas for poor, jilted Tennessee, whose mediocre football coach has abandoned them for greener pastures, or at least ones paved in greenbacks.

I can see feeling bad for his recruits. These are young men who had every reason to think he'd stick around and be their coach, especially since it was highly unlikely that anyone was going to swoop in and steal a guy whose head coaching resume consisted of one mediocre college season and a season-and-change of utter disaster in the NFL. Considering his paycheck, the dollars thrown at his assistants, and the fact that he really hasn't indicated that he's much of a head coach, he seemed as likely to be plucked from Tennessee as I am a candidate to go on Iron Chef.

And yet, USC nabbed him, largely because of past association and desperation, not to mention the fact that with the assistants he was bringing along, he was setting up to be the new lead singer for Pete Carroll's old band. Of course, that move always works well. Ask the guys in Journey about that one.

But I somehow can't find it in my uncharitable soul to feel the slightest sympathy for the University of Tennessee. Yup, their highly paid employees abandoned them at a critical time of the year (though ESPN tells us that every single day is critical for football, right?) How dare USC steal them away.

Except, of course, that UT did roughly the same thing with former defensive coordinator (and father of Lane) Monte Kiffin, whose senior(citizen)itis in his last half-season with Tampa Bay was so obvious it was painful. Everyone knew Monte was headed for Tennessee and a big paycheck, his Buccaneer defense fell apart, and nobody cared or bitched or blogged. But the lesson is simple - if you're going to poach, don't bitch when you get poached.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Speaking As A Writer...

...I look forward to seeing baseball players express outrage over the fact that Samuel Coleridge, Hunter S. Thompson, Stephen King, and Marcel Proust, among others, used performance-enhancing drugs while writing.
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