Monday, August 27, 2012

Little-Known Secondary Rules For Dez Bryant

The big ones - no strip clubs, the curfew, the bodyguard - have already been reported. But what most folks don't know is that there's a whole slew of secondary rules the estimable Mr. Bryant has to follow as well. At great personal risk, not to mention prolonged exposure to Ed Werder's mustache, we've obtained a partial list of those conditions. They include:

"Fluttershy, you run a post route"

  • Not permitted to participate in illicit street racing with Vin Diesel
  • Banned from attending IMAX showings of The Dark Knight Rises; must only see it in regular theaters
  • Required to remove sing-along video of "Call Me Maybe" from YouTube
  • Not allowed to serenade members of his 3-man security detail with "And I Will Always Love You"
  • Required to block on at least one out of every three running plays.
  • Not permitted to rub Tony Kornheiser's head or Michael Wilbon's belly "for luck" before games any longer
  • Must write a lengthy review of the latest episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by no later than Thursday, every week
  • No longer allowed to use the Chocolate Wonderfall at Golden Corral
  • Mandatory sessions visiting Mrs. Ethel Goldstein at a local nursing home every Tuesday, wherein she will announce that he's "a nice boy, but she's very disappointed he didn't become a dentist"
  • Must return Chris Berman's toupee the next time he sees him, and stop calling it "baby Tribble"
  • Required to blame Tony Romo for team's inevitable late-season collapse

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Big Deal

The Dodgers get:
Former All-Star 1B Adrian Gonzalez, a SoCal guy who could single-handedly double the production they get out of that spot
Former All-Star and World Series hero Josh Beckett, who looks primed to get a boost by returning to the NL
Former All-Star OF Carl Crawford, who was a lousy fit in Fenway's tiny left field, and who should do much better in the wide-open spaces of the NL West, once he recovers from Tommy John surgery
Infielder Nick Punto, who is Nick Punto, and was once part of a trade for Eric Milton
$11M in cash to help deal with the $260M in salary obligations they just took on, or, as some folks call it, "piss in the ocean".

The Red Sox get:
Sub-par 1B James Loney
Pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster
Infield sorta-prospect Ivan DeJesus, Jr. As someone who watched Ivan DeJesus, Sr. for many years, I'm not bullish
OF not-really-a-prospect-any-more Jerry Sands, who looks to be a AAAA-style tweener.

What the Sox really get out of this, though, has very little to do with the players who came back. They dumped hundreds of millions off payroll, recognizing that this team wasn't going to win as it was constructed, and they might as well come in fourth for $70M as for $170M. They cleared the decks of just about all of the last regime's big-ticket free agent purchases (and Nick Punto), making it clear that this is Ben Cherington's team now, and nobody - regardless of contract - was safe. They off-loaded the guys who supposedly led the mutiny against divisive manager Bobby Valentine - with the way the Red Sox seem to excel at mudslinging their own people on their way out of town, we'll never know the truth, but at least the optics are good - and made a strong effort to make the team "likeable" again. I'm not sure you can run an ad campaign on "We traded the jerks who wrote mean texts about the manager!" outside of middle school, but what the hey. Give them points for trying. They did all these things and got all of these intangible goods out of the deal, except...

...there is no way to spin this. The trade made the team worse, both in the short term and potentially for the next couple of years. A-Gon may not have been the Ruthian uber-masher the team envisioned when plucking him from the wide-open pastures of San Diego, but he still produced a hell of a lot more than James Loney ever will. Webster and De La Rosa aren't ready to contribute. Sands and DeJesus don't seem terribly likely to produce much of anything.  The team as it had been constructed was flawed, and subtracting a big bat from the middle of the order isn't going to help. Nor does this year's free agent market look likely to provide a quick turnaround. The best bat - Josh Hamilton - comes with all sorts of questions about durability. The second-best bat is Michael Bourn. All those zillion-dollar deals cleared off the payroll don't mean anything if there's nowhere else to spend the money.

And so, it remains to be seen how Boston's really going to react to the deal once they figure out what it means day-to-day. Sully from the Cape (long time listener, first time caller) may be crowing to Dale and Holley on WEEI about how they finally got rid of the guys who were screwing the Sox up, but give him a season of no-hope noncontention, and he just might change his tune. Loudly.

There's a strong sense that at least part of this deal was done to provide a sop to a fan base that found the team "unlikeable" because of all of its shenanigans. It remains to be seen what the team will do when its fan base says the Red Sox are unlikeable because they're losing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Steroid User Narrative, Or, Why We'll Conveniently Forget About Bartolo Colon As Soon As Possible

The new face - and chins - of steroids in baseball
Can't wait to see how the Bartolo Colon suspension affects the narrative of the jacked up, totally ripped,   mega-noggined steroid abuser. Seriously, Colon's the sort of guy who looks more likely to test positive for P-I-E than P-E-D, and who presumably took his synthetic testosterone after it was batter dipped, deep fried, and wrapped in bacon. When you think "steroid user", you think Barry Bonds' giant dome and ripped physique, and conveniently forget that that Bonds' workout regimen was so legendarily brutal that it broke freak-of-nature Gary Sheffield. You don't think "guy who looks like he stars on Man vs. Food Nation"; you think one hit of steroids is like Popeye sucking down a six pack of spinach and Hulking out immediately.
But then again, that's always been the case. The bulk of steroids guys busted in baseball haven't been uber-athletes. They've been fringe guys trying to hang on, end-of-the-bullpen arms and scrappy middle infielders looking for a way to hang on to another year of major league service time. Think back to the Mitchell Report. How many of those guys had you even heard of?
But the public perception of steroid users is set in stone, at least for the moment. It's all about the record-breakers and the superstars, because it's a lot more fun to tear down a guy who's famous than it is to put the final kibosh on the dreams of a guy who's been cut six times and is desperately trying to hang on in Durham or Indianapolis or Scranton. And so the narrative won't change, which means that honest debate on the issue - which is sorely lacking - will continue to remain an impossibility.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tell Clemens-a We're Going To The Mattresses

Roger Clemens has lumbered out of retirement and joined an independent league team, the effervescently named Sugar Land Skeeters. (Presumably, the team owners looked at the shocking merchandising success of the Savannah Sand Gnats and said "We want some of that", which tells you exactly what we're dealing with here.)
Of course, it seems highly unlikely that Clemens is going to be satisfied to compete at this level. Various baseball outlets noted that the Houston Astros, one of Clemens' former teams, had scouts watching him beSkeet himself, and let's face it, it's not like the Astros have anything to lose this year by turning the ball over to a 50 year old suspected PED user whose strikeout fixation was probably a severe hindrance to any of his kids getting laid in college. (Kody? Kory? Koby? Kacy? Thank God they didn't stop at 3).
Now, if it were Curt Schilling making the comeback, I'd understand it: Curt kinda needs the cash after heroically flushing $75M Rhode Island tax dollars down the mighty Woonasquatucket River. But Roger? What's his angle?
I can think of one. Getting onto the Astros' roster, even for a day, resets the countdown on his Hall of Fame election. Five more years means five more years of separation from Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds on the ballot. It means five more years for the electorate to come to grips with what the hell PEDs actually mean, and five more years to forgive/forget/shrug their shoulders.
And five more years for writers to decide that they didn't know what the hell they were talking about when it came to PEDs, and to vote Roger in on the first ballot. Because his ego will let him wait five years after making a comeback, but it won't let him wait a couple of years on the ballot to be let in.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Worshipping at the Altar of the Scrappy White Guy

So the narrative goes like this:

Star player doesn't give 100% on a particular play.
Local sports talk radio calls him out for not hustling.
Idiot calls in, carefully identifies himself as Not A Racist, and then demands to know why Star player, who is often African-American, can't hustle like Scrappy Infielder Guy, who is always white.
Someone says "Hey, dude, that's kinda racist."
Chest-thumping about how not racist saying the white dude tries harder than the black dude is invariably ensues.

Seriously. I have never heard anyone say "Why can't Jim Thome hustle like Joe Thurston?" Because, for all that I adore the awesomeness that is Thome, the guy's built like Bluto and for the sake of his hammys, doesn't always bust those tiny little gams of his up the line on routine grounders. Joe Thurston, on the other hand, never seemed to be going less that nine million miles an hour, even on a swinging bunt that would do everything but crawl into the pitcher's glove and beg to be petted. Or how about Jose Oquendo? Or Hector Luna? Or Michael Martinez? Or Jose Altuve, or Josh Harrison, or....well, there's a whole lot of scrappy out there that's not named David Eckstein. Honest. Watch a few games. You'll see.
So, first time caller, long time listener, do me a favor. Next time you call in to bitch about a guy not hustling, see if you can find an example of scrappiness to compare him to who isn't at least six shades paler than he is. If you can't, then hold off on the "I IS TOTALLY NOT RACIST BUT THE BLACK /HISPANIC GUY DOESN'T HUSTLE AND THE WHITE GUY TOTALLY DOES" bullcrap until you can, and then think about what you're saying.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bryce Harper, Political Narrative

Hey, you remember back when Bryce Harper was the embodiment of all that was good, right, and apparently politically conservative in the world, and Jason Heyward was the symbol of everything that was lazy and evil and liberal and stuff?

Heyward: 21 HR, 64 RBI, 17 SB, .842 OPS
Harper: 12 HR, 37 RBI, 13 SB, .741 OPS*, 1 case of telling kids to be "sexy"

Yeah. Me neither.

And this, boys and girls, is why you don't try to cram political narratives hamfistedly into one night's worth of Sportscenter highlights.

*None of this is intended as any sort of value or talent judgment on Mr. Harper, who is handling the athletic and social pressures of being in the big leagues before his 21st birthday with grace, aplomb and skill. More power to him, and all that. He's a great ballplayer and, by  most accounts, a pretty decent guy. He's just not a lame political metaphor, and neither is his opposite number on the Braves.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

And Melky Cabrera is the End of Civilization

For all the amusement Melky Cabrera's clown-car antics may provide, using his special flavor of idiocy as a launching point for endless "baseball's not serious about steroids" screeds is exactly the sort of simple-minded concern trolling you'd expect from ESPN radio. These are the same geniuses who defended Brian Cushing to the death, after all, because he played football, and apparently no one who plays football would ever have interest in getting bigger, stronger, faster, or more muscular - unlike baseball players.
In a sense, baseball can't win with these bozos. If the drug testing program doesn't catch anyone, it's ineffective. If it does catch someone, then it's evidence that the program isn't working. The narrative is set and all that's left is to fill in the blanks.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

STFU, Steroids Edition

Here's a thought:
If you work for a sports talk radio station, or a sports-themed television network, that takes advertising revenue for supplements designed to reverse the dreaded "Low T", then you don't get to say jack about steroids, Melky Cabrera, or any other damn thing related to chemical enhancement. If your salary's getting paid in part by ads for drugs to make middle-aged guys whose ding-dongs can't serve as tire jacks any more feel like they're 23 again and you still feel the need to moralize about other people taking the exact same stuff your employer is selling, then you need to take a look in the mirror and shut the hell up.
Because by normalizing that crap, by wallowing in hypocrisy, by feeding an audience that demands that kind of physical impossibility, you're as much a part of the problem as Victor Conte ever was.

Frickin' Laser Beams

No, there weren't sharks or even ill-tempered sea bass at Estadio Azteca last night (I accidentally referred to it as "Rey Azteca," which is the name of our favorite local Mexican restaurant, because I am a philistine).  But someone there had some frickin' laser beams.

Last night the US Men's National Soccer Team played the Mexican National Team in Mexico City. There's plenty of footage of US goalkeeper Tim Howard having lasers shined onto his face and chest throughout the match.  Fortunately drunks have a hard time keeping a pencil-thin beam aimed at the eyeball of a moving target a quarter-mile away, or Howard might have left Mexico blind.

Amazingly -- for the first time in forty years -- the US team beat Mexico last night at Estadio Azteca.  This was a major triumph for the US program, especially given their recent descent in the FIFA power rankings (we were 36th going into last night, compared to Mexico at #17).

But, seriously here, I'd like to understand why the referee didn't put a halt to the match, or charge Mexico with fouls or cards, in response to Mexican fans' attempts to distract or blind the US goalkeeper.  This can't possibly be acceptable.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is That Dwight Howard's Theme Music?

If you think about it, it's really easy to understand why Bill Simmons' two favorite sports - using the term loosely in one case - are basketball and wrestling. No other sport offers the sorts of heel turns, off the turnbuckle insanity, chest-thumping speechifying, and slamming of people in the back of the head with figurative folding chairs that the NBA does, and the recent Dwight Howard four-way orgy is the best proof of it yet. Howard himself did his best heel turn, alternating between declaring his allegiance to the Magic and demanding to be traded to the team of his choice (Brooklyn, because presumably he's got a titanic fixed-gear bike, an iPod full of Lana Del Rey MP3s, and a closet full of corduroy in earth tones). And in the end, he got what he wanted - a trade to a contending team, the chance to make max money in a place with more star power than Orlando, the chance to test free agency, and a year to take advantage of a lineup that could probably finish second in the Olympics to nab that championship that's done so much for LBJ's reputation. He might as well have donned spandex tights and a luchador mask for his post-trade press conference.
You generally don't get this in other sports. Try it in baseball and you get buried by the fans and media, as Ryan Dempster can now attest. Try it in football and you're a wide receiver, which means either you're productive and they put up with you, or you're not any more and they cut you, and even Bill Belichick has a strict limit on the number of reclamation jobs he can undertake in a single year. Try it in hockey and you lose teeth, because the hockey core fanbase has an even more Norman Rockwell-ized view of a what a player owes his team than baseball, and they still hate Keith Primeau here in Carolina.
But basketball is where the stars' egos come out to play, and it's so Simmonsy it's perfect.
Me, as a rough approximation of a Sixer fan, I'm interested in seeing if the Bynum-shaped gamble pays off. I'm sorry to see Andre Iguodala go; he always put more on the court than you saw in the box score. He'll be a great fit in Denver. The Sixers have at least made themselves interesting. And Orlando...has a lot of picks they can potentially bundle in trades.
But really, none of that matters. What matters is that Dwight Howard grabbed the mike, then grabbed the folding chair, then grabbed the belt. And as the Hulkster will tell you, heel turns pay.

Friday, August 10, 2012

If You...

...believe that the Olympics are part of an Illuminati ritual to crown Prince William as King of the West by way of the blood sacrifice of the Aurora shootings...
...think that the most discussion-worthy thing about Gabby Douglas was either her hair or her leotard, and not her stunning performance...
...are offended by how Serena Williams celebrated her gold medal despite not having any idea what the crip walk might or might not be... your knickers in a twist because you thought the greatest swimmer in the history of athletics didn't train hard enough for your liking...
...actually care enough to take sides in the insane argument over whether this USA men's basketball team could beat the original Dream Team...
...or are convinced that the Olympics will be the staging ground for a false flag attack that will usher in a US strike on Iran...

....then you are a goddamned idiot.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The sports commentariat

I heard guys this morning on sports talk radio evincing surprise! and shock! that Andy Reid would be coaching tonight.

My question is: are these guys just stupid?

But I guess that's my question every time I turn on sports talk radio.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Houston Astros, 2013

The Houston Astros are terrible. Legendarily terrible. Barely-above-.300-winning-percentage terrible. We've-won-four-games-since-people-thought-Herman-Cain-was-relevant terrible.
And next year, they're going to the American League.

It's going to look something like this.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Observations From Tonight's Bulls-Braves Game

  • The Bulls are a terrible baserunning team. There were three separate instances of TOOTBLAN, with the best one being Stephen Vogt just beating a terrible throw to second on a double, then oversliding the bag, then betting tagged out as he tried to scrabble back. If you don't have a lot of offensive thunder - and the Bulls, like most of NC, are in a year-long drought - then throwing away outs in the bases is insanity. Throwing away an inning's worth...
  • Julio Teheran's arsenal is impressive, especially on the rare occasion he knows where it's going. Gwinnett catcher Jose Yepez spent a good chunk of the night sprawled out or leaping to his feet to corral errant pitches.
  • Every time I looked up, it seemed like Josh Kroeger was coming up to bat.
  • Watching a Gwinnett lineup that featured Terry Tiffee and Felix Pie made it feel oddly like the tail end of a fantasy baseball draft set in 2006.
  • Braves shortstop Jack Wilson - yes, THAT Jack Wilson - was replaced late in the game by shortstop Josh Wilson. I am imagining a Highlander-esque scenario where Jack, who is actually immortal, fakes his own death and is replaced by his "nephew", another good-fielding, slap-hitting middle infielder whom reporters can safely describe as "scrappy". 
  • Tim Beckham's OBP is much higher than one might expect, given the way he was determinedly lunging at things tonight. No strikeouts, but not a lot of solid contact, either.
  • The big attraction tonight was rehabbing Ray Evan Langoria sitting in with the band at DH. He was clearly just trying to work the rust off at the plate without reinjuring himself, however. No hits, though there was a popup to shallow center that endangered aircraft on approach to RDU.
  • Both starters went six innings, and survived rough early innings to get there.
  • Not much to see fielding-wise, apart from your standard 5-3-9-2 putout (E5)
  • There is no finer sight in minor league baseball than watching Wool E. Bull get stampeded across the outfield at the DBAP by a horde of shrieking small children who, presumably, have just been told where short ribs and burgers come from.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Trade Deadline Night in Toronto

Last night, I had to console a server at Toronto's finest whisky establishment, over the fact that Travis Snider was no longer a Blue Jay.  Oddly enough, "he can't hit lefties" and "Brad Lincoln just became the best guy in your bullpen", not that effective.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A Few Thoughts On the MLB Trade Deadline

  • The Phillies' outfield next year is going to consist of Dominic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., and some guy they kidnap off the street in Manayunk. 
  • Getting anything at all, much less a prospect with a pulse and a relief pitcher who's not actively gargling kerosene, back for Shane Victorino is impressive. Victorino's starting to slow down, he's going to be a free agent, and he's precisely the sort of guy Ruben Amaro Jr. has a hard time saying no to when the words "contract extension" get mentioned.
  • Considering that the Phillies turned their farm system upside down and shook it until change came out of its pockets to get Hunter Pence, the return they got was not so impressive. It's hard to believe that Amaro couldn't have snagged an out-of-favor Brandon Belt instead of a never-had-any-favor-to-be-out-of Nate Schierholz. 
  • On the other hand, the Phils seem to have pulled themselves below the luxury tax, which is really what this was all about. And there's still a month left to slough off Joe Blanton and Juan Pierre.
  • Pittsburgh's moves - adding Qualls and Sanchez and Wandy Rodriguez and Travis Snider, and losing Gorkys Hernandez and Brad Lincoln and Casey McGeeheeheehee - looked suspiciously like the end-of-season bottom feeding that goes on in most NL-only roto leagues. I expect Reds management to weigh in on the NL message board over at ESPN to complain that the Marlins were totally, like, dumping and didn't call around to get the best offer.
  • Who gives the best hugs? Travis Snider. (Bonus points if you get the movie reference)
  • That being said, getting Snider out of his dysfunctional relationship with Toronto fans is probably a good idea. Now, if he could just avoid lefties....
  • For all the deck chairs they rearranged, the Pirates managed to hang on to pretty much all of their farm system depth, which is impressive.
  • Is there anybody the Dodgers didn't either trade for or try to trade for? Bugs Bunny, maybe? Ol' Hoss Radbourn? Craig Calcaterra?
  • I suspect a lot of teams who passed on Zach Greinke because of his history of anxiety issues are going to watch him go bananas in Anaheim and kick themselves.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, now playing at Wrigley, your 2012 Iowa Cubs. Seriously. Who's left?
  • That being said, if Arodys Vizcaino recovers from Tommy John surgery, him being swapped for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson is going to be the Bagwell/Andersen moment of this deadline.
  • Speaking of which, "Reed Johnson" sounds like a minor character on Archer. You'd think the Braves would just clone their tweener outfielders by now.
  • Remember when Geovanny Soto was going to be the next great NL catcher? Me neither. It's hard watching a career go off a cliff that fast. Why Texas wanted him I have no idea; it's not like he's a particular improvement over the mighty Yorvit. 
  • On one hand, it's kind of sad that Jonathan Broxton went for a couple of meh prospects. On the other hand, not that long ago you couldn't have gotten a ham sandwich for Broxton, so this is progress. Royals fans, trust The Process. It's going to get a team - in this case, the Reds - to the World Series.
  •  One can only assume that McGeehee will, upon his arrival in New York, be lowered into the Lazarus Pit below New Yankee Tax Boondoggle Stadium and be exposed to the same rejuvenative powers that have pulled Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Ichiro off the scrap heap and turned them back into useful major leaguers. Then, he will go try to kill Batman.
  • Seriously, Red Sox. Did you make those trades just because you were feeling left out?
  • I'm fairly certain that KennyWilliams also got a few other GM's best Pokemon cards in this year's deals. The man is that good.

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