Friday, July 31, 2009

Absolutely Asking For It

Today in Oakland, my cellar-dwelling (43-58, 17.5 out in the AL West) fading favorite team did a useful little fire sale trade, by sending Orlando Cabrera to the Twins for prospects. (What did they get? What does it matter? The last time Billy Beane won a trade was three Michael Lewis books ago. But O-Cab is old, so, um, young guys. Yay, trade.)

Rather than give the now open job to no one's idea of a shortstop in the ancient and inadequate Nomar Garciaparra (.688 OPS) or the truly horrible Bobby Crosby (.637 OPS), the team decided to bring up former first-round pick Cliff Pennington, who probably isn't a major-leage player either, but is, at least, younger and with the possibility of hope. Here, for the record, is Crosby's reaction.

"It's an absolute joke."
Um, Bobby? A little clarity here. Would the joke be how you have somehow managed to suck out 2,342 career ABs with a .306 on-base percentage for an organization that used to, well, value guys that got on base? Or might it be that of your 59 career home runs, 22 came in 2004, AKA the only year when anyone had any hope that you were actually a major league ballplayer?

I know, you're just having a tough year at the dish. Oh, wait, actually your career OPS (.682) really isn't any different from this year, or last year's .645, or 2007's .619, or 2006's .636. Actually, you're one of the most consistently awful hitters in all of MLB, which is why your team chased Raffy Furcal in the off-season, drafted Pennington, signed Cabrera, and probably have spent most of the last three years sticking pins in your bobblehead.

Or perhaps it's your utterly ordinary defense, pedestrian at best stolen base numbers, and your inability to stay healthy? Because I think the latter is the only reason why even the A's have kept trotting you out there for lo these many years, given that anyone with a fantasy team has long since steered a wide berth from you. Or did you think that the 1% ownership in Yahoo fantasy leagues might have been just, I don't know, proof that the rest of the world is in on the joke?

If I were Billy Beane... well, Crosby would have been out on his ass years ago, because even when it looked like he might have a career, there were big-time holes in his game. (Those holes would be, that, well, he does nothing well.) The A's would have been immensely better off keeping Marco Scutaro, currently having a career year as a truly effective leadoff hitter, in Toronto over this sack of garbage.

But this quote would be the last straw, especially for an organization that wasn't shy in showing the door to people like Jose Guillen or Milton Bradley. Unlike both of those guys, Crosby in no way resembles a useful baseball player, and hasn't for years. He also embodies the second half of this decade, in which my team has been increasingly less watchable due to an utter and intense lack of offense, more than anyone else on the roster.

So, Billy, please relieve poor little Bobby of the burden of this joke, this travesty, this insult to his standing. I guarantee you that of the myriad number of moves that haven't worked out in the past few years, this won't be one of them.

And Bobby? Please *do* let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. At least it would give the fans some form of hitting to remember you by.

NFL Crunch Time!

What better way to see off July (screw you, July! Just because you were the highest trafficked month in FTT history doesn't mean you aren't my bitch!) than to get well and truly geeked about football, Football, FOOTBALL! with the following game. I feel more like the Rape King already!

Still my guy

And people wonder why my Sixers Fandom has never really came back after moving him to Denver. (H/t to, sigh, Bill Simmons for finding this. There's a reason why I still have to read the Bad Tooth.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Top 11 Implications of the David Ortiz Steroid Allegations

11) Five thousand remarkably annoying words from Bill Simmons

10) That early season slump really isn't going to be the worst part of his year

9) No one's buying the "Miracle Eyedrops" story now

8) America's love affair with the Tampa Rays just got even more serious

7) Red Sox Fan has to open a whole new can of rationalizations

6) Twins Fan is, for the first time in years, not regretting the decision to release him

5) Red Sox Fan is less inclined to give Ortiz standing ovations for wall scraper home runs

4) Theo Epstein is no longer a genius

3) Messiah Curt Schilling has bled in vain

2) Both people who believed the 2004 Red Sox were steroid-free are very, very disappointed

1) The Red Sox are now, officially, the 21st century Yankees

* * * * *

And now, the Intentionally Not Funny...

The top story on the Lemur today is that the Red Sox, specifically in the guise of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, were on the 2003 list of MLB players to be testing for PEDs.

I'll refrain from repeating that, simply because I suspect you've already heard about it before.

Note, also, the quote from Ortiz, which might just be the most incredible quote of the entire Steroid Era -- yes, even better than Mark McGwire not being here to talk about the past, or Sammy Sosa suddenly forgetting how to speak English, or Rafael Palmeiro lying in the face of Congress:

"Today I was informed by a reporter that I was on the 2003 list of MLB players to test positive for performance-enhancing substances. This happened right before our game, and the news blindsided me.

"I want to talk about this situation and I will as soon as I have more answers. In the meantime I want to let you know how I am approaching this situation. One, I have already contacted the Players Association to confirm if this report is true. I have just been told that the report is true. Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive.

"Two, I will find out what I tested positive for. And, three, based on whatever I learn, I will share this information with my club and the public. You know me -- I will not hide and I will not make excuses."
Um, Papi? Unless that dastardly ManRam was injecting you in your sleep, and you were a remarkably sound sleeper, this really shouldn't come as a surprise. Unless, of course, you've been lying for so long that you are convinced that the lie is the truth, which does tend to happen when you've been lying, OJ-like, for years.

Oh, and just to prove that he can up the ante on whatever insane quote that Ortiz can dish out, here's the ManRam's reaction.
"You guys want to talk about the game, what is happening now, we can sit down and talk for two hours," Ramirez said. "If you want more information, call the union."

Ramirez said he found out about the report on television while flipping channels in his hotel room. He told ESPN that he shrugged, and kept flipping channels.

"Me and David, we're like two mountains," Ramirez said. "We're going to keep doing good no matter what ... Only God is going to be able to move those two mountains."
Um, Manny? You do realize that God had nothing to do with your last 50-game suspension, unless God is really slumming these days and assuming the limited visage of Bud Selig?

Anyway... the only real takeaway from this is that Red Sox Fan, just like Yankee Fan before them, now knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that their championships were acquired with the aid of a needle. As an A's fan, I'd love to imagine that my team got screwed... but, um, we had Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi and God knows who else.

There is no one pure, and at this point, no one really cares. If, indeed, anyone ever did.

No harm

Mr. Chafets writes that performance enhancing drugs should be legalized, on the grounds that as currently used, they haven’t been proved to do any harm, nor any demonstrable good, either, and that there will never be a foolproof way to test for them. - NY Times
Um, actually? I can prove that performance enhancing drugs can prove harm in two words: Ken Caminiti. Here's an MVP that died as a result of performance enhancing drugs, less than five years ago. Did his death just disappear into a memory hole here, or have we just kind of lost track of that?

Look, I understand how steroids have really complicated everything in baseball, have tossed the record books into a cocked hat, and have become an ethical mine field. Why there's a prohibition against enhancing your body via chemicals (steroids), but not surgical (LASIK), is a miss on a lot of levels.

But there's a world of difference between trying to get an approximation of the steroid problem in baseball and just letting it all fly, and making everyone rub their noses in it by allowing any reprobate, cheater, thief and liar into the Hall. Maybe I'm not the best person to ask about this, given how was never much of a Pete Rose fan (the 1980 championship notwithstanding, he felt like someone else's player, and that year was more about the allmighty power of Michael Jack Schmidt than anything else), but the Hall doesn't seem to be any less of a good time to visit without him in it. Honoring Joe Jackson is more about honoring the quality of the historical rewrite on Joe Jackson; if he had somehow been inducted a decade or two ago, I guarantee you that no one would care about it now.

And for every Sosa, McGwire and Palmeiro you can name who might not ever be enshrined, I could, well, care. Sosa was also overrated, McGwire's numbers aren't that fantastic given the context, and the only difference between Raffy Palmeiro and a lot of other guys who have been kept out is longevity, which really isn't that big of a deal in an era where the players made so much money that leaving early was indefensible on every level.

My bigger problem with the Hall is that they are all equal; when you look at the plaques on the wall, the power-hitting outfielder of the '30s (an extreme offensive era) is the same as the power-hitting outfielder of the '60s, when runs were about as plentiful as logical Hall of Fame votes. The pollution of the Veterans' Committee is also a major compromise in integrity. But at the end of the day, the baseball Hall of Fame is still the only one that anyone really cares about (quick, anyone, name me the biggest omission from the MLB or NFL versions -- yes, you're right, there isn't one), so they must be doing something right.

You want to blow it up, fine, great, good; any institution that could not give Buck O'Neill his due while alive deserves nothing less than scorn. You want to modify it, um, OK, go crazy. You want to ignore it as it slowly sinks into the same irrelevance that the Steroid Era has inflicted on the all-time record book, I'm more or less OK with that, too.

Because the Hall of Fame really isn't about enjoying baseball. It's about enjoying your idea of what baseball is, what it should reward, and who it should honor.

And personally, I'd rather just, well, watch the game.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Top 10 things Jim Johnson will hear in heaven

(Johnson, for those of you who somehow didn't know, was the Eagles longtime defensive coordinator. Yesterday, he died from cancer at age 68. He will be missed. Like, say, right now.)

10) "You actually have linebackers here."

9) "Here's your Super Bowl ring. Sorry we didn't get it to you earlier -- it was just a test of faith."

8) "Don't worry. We don't allow Cowboys, Giants or Redskins."

7) "From over here, you can hear the lamentations of referees in eternal torment. It's really what makes the place what it is."

6) "In the games up here, you can put yourself in, with the abilities of any player in history. So, who will it be?"

5) "Um, Jim? Can you stop taking Saint Peter out with blindside hits? He's getting kind of annoyed."

4) "But... but... but... how can *you* be here, after all the hell you put me through?"

3) "You know, you don't really have to hang out with Reggie White if you don't want to."

2) "You really had a doubt? Dude, you actually made people in *Philadelphia* happy. We're putting you in First Class Heaven."

1) "Hey, Jim, we're working up some suggestions for Lucifer on what to do with Bill Belichick when the time comes. Can we get you to consult?"

* * * * *

A few words beyond the list.

When you have a great defensive coordinator, there's no flash moment of when you know, the way that you do with a player. And especially not with Jim Johnson, who was always making more out of what he had, seeing as he never really had linebackers, and his defensive linemen, while talented, were never so good that he didn't feel the need to rotate them relentlessly. The man did have corners, and safeties, and he understood the modern game enough to know that you need that more than anything.

So his Eagle defenses were always regular season monsters -- especially when he got his hooks into a young and/or mentally overmatched quarterback; you can count the number of rookie quarterbacks that had fun days against his teams on one hand -- who would be exposed in elimination games. The last game he ever coached for the Eagles saw a previously airtight corner get roasted, with a comeback based on blitzes that wound up failing at the end. There was also a tragic and constant problem in stopping the run when it mattered. But that's not what I'm going to remember about him.

Instead, I'm going to think of the signature Jim Johnson game -- the NFC championship game against Michael Vick's Falcons, when the Eagles went to their only Super Bowl of his tenure. It was 15 degrees outside with a strong wind, which probably felt fairly balmy to the Falcons after winning the week before in Green Bay. The home team won, 27-10, with the defense holding Atlanta to zero points after halftime, 2 for 11 on third down efficiency, and 202 yards of total offense, including an 11 for 24 effort from Vick. The defense had four sacks, which hardly seemed possible given how elusive Vick was at that point in his career, and a Brian Dawkins pick, but the statistics really don't do it justice. In watching the second half of that game, it seemed like there was no chance -- none -- for Atlanta to score. It also seemed like Johnson had so thoroughly gotten into Vick's head that he didn't want to play football anymore. Hell, maybe that game caused the whole dog fighting fiasco; maybe Johnson got that far into Vick's head.

Here's the drive chart from that half. Mind you, the second half started with score Eagles 14, Falcons 10. It's not like Vick was really out of this.

08:55 3 02:45 ATL 20 5 8 Punt
03:06 3 00:00 ATL 14 1 0 Interception
01:55 3 02:40 ATL 28 6 33 Punt
11:25 4 01:01 ATL 30 3 -1 Punt
03:12 4 01:19 ATL 10 8 47 Poss. on downs

That's what the man did, at his best; befuddle, bewitch, bewilder. That's why he was treasured, why Eagle Fan is convinced that the 2009 defense is doomed, and why color analysts seemed incapable of calling him on it when it didn't work.

Because when Jim Johnson had his stuff working, there was no one better, and he made it all seem inevitable. And unique.

Rest in peace, sir.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My immediate reaction to Favre re-re-re-retiring

Be careful, NFL fans! He's going to pollute your precious bodily fluids!

Top 10 awful topical fantasy football team names

Ever wonder how this blog keeps me in store brand oatmeal, despite the crippling lack of drool-tastic poon? Well, I'll let you in on a big secret: this blog is a search engine dream. Since we're linked to a lot of other, far more popular blogs, and we've got an overwhelming number of words that shows that we're actually written by people instead of robots, we do well with people who are using The Google to find their next fantasy football team name.

So, without further ado, here's what to call your team this year, you lucky, lucky people. (As always, these all fit in the standard Yahoo character count, and since they avoid the use of Naughty, Naughty Words, shouldn't run afoul of the auto-filtering that some places use.)

Vick's Cano Rubbers
Brown Staph Infections
The Error McNairs
Pac Man Ghosts
T.O.'s Reality Biters
Poolside McNabbs
Brandon Marshall Time
Marvin's Very Angry
Plax Seed Oilers
Favre Hags

More as we get closer to, well, actual fantasy league drafts for sane people...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Top 10 lesser-known conditions for Michael Vick's reinstatement

10) If his comeback doesn't work out, can't subsequently join the CFL, UFL or DFL

9) Part of his salary has to be paid for by grateful bloggers

8) Can only patronize truly attractive strippers, for fear of a backslide

7) Has to accept Tony Dungy as his personal savior, and gay people as his personal scapegoat

6) Needs to accept that, no matter what team signs him next, he's going to end up in Oakland

5) Must show remorse and contrition in his comeback commercials

4) Can't talk to the press about how white guys like Bill Romanowski were far more reprehensible than he was, and caught less flack

3) If and when he faces the Falcons, can not speak of being motivated by revenge

2) Has to refrain from joking about, well, anything

1) Must be OK with being a pariah for the rest of his life, or six to twelve months, which is all the media can wait until they start writing redemption pieces

* * * * *

Now, beyond the list action... and beyond the morality of bringing in a convicted felon into your clubhouse... well, who could this man actually help?

If you were to use him in the way that he should have probably always been used -- i.e., a 15 plays a game Wildcat / Option player, maybe with a little slot receiver or scatback action -- well, assuming he hasn't left his legs in prison, just about every team in the league. This would also have the benefit of the greater chance of keeping him healthy through the entire season.

But the real issue for Vick, and the part and parcel as to how the whole trouble started, is that no one ever gave a second glance as to how that might work. Instead, they went with the approach that whatever was good from a fantasy standpoint -- and yes, Vick was very good for his owners -- was the best move for a team. Or that whatever filled the stadium and sold jerseys.

Meanwhile, the man spent years not developing any weapon named Algae Crumpler, never developing any sense of accuracy, and more or less recreating the Eagles' career of Randall Cunningham. At this point, any Falcons Fan that's more concerned about wins than highlights is probably relieved that Vick auto-ejected; it led to an awful year, but The Matt Ryan Era is a lot more promising, and it's actually intriguing to have a wideout or two develop.

If a team goes for Vick as their QB... well, it's not like the NFL has 32 amazing starters there, or that injuries don't happen. Put his in the right situation, with the right coaching, and he'd be dangerous. But that's not the kind of situation that's going to open for him. Instead, he's going to wind up in a place where they'll go to him in desperation -- say, a Minnesota team int the event of a Favre flameout, the always available Raiders, the Bengals if Carson Palmer goes down again, etc. -- and they'll get what they deserve. In addition to the public condemnation.

I'd like to be wrong on this. Vick's undeniably fascinating to watch, it would be good to get an actual redemption story for once in this cynical world, and rooting for bankruptcy isn't high on my list of things to do. But I don't want him on my team (luckily, I don't think Andy Reid is that insane), he probably won't be on my roto team, and if he winds up staying out of the league, I'm not going to shed a tear. He's had enough chances; he doesn't need another. Everything from here on out is just grace.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Top 10 Sports Blogger Hopes for The Dead Zone

Welcome, folks, to the very worst time of the year to be running a sports blog. There's nothing that you can write about the NFL that you couldn't have written months ago. The NBA free agent season has moved to the clearance bin stage. MLB has some possible deadline trades to talk about, but since this is the Wild Card Era, there really isn't anything close to a great pennant race any more. Assuming you don't have Random Events happening, the traffic numbers right now are positively sleepy, and looking at the day's headlines won't exactly inspire you.

Which, of course, is when this very blog is at it's best, since we're Just That Way. Let's go to the list!

10) Recidivism. For the definition, let's go to the videotape.OK, then!

Anyway, Blogfrica lives for the repeat offense from guys that really don't know any better. Which isn't to say that we'll turn up our nose at the previously unindicted turning up in the sin bin, but there's something really nice about seeing more of the story -- Chris Henry, Brandon Marshall, Ryan Leaf, Matt Bush, Antoine Walker -- from guys who are Of Interest. Let's face it, since we can't compare on salary or fame, avoiding time in the hole is our big trump card on Who's The Better Man. Shadenfraude, baby!

9) Steroids. Sports bloggers may be the last people in America who care about steroids, because it gives us a lay up column to write -- hell, cut and paste from the last time you went down this path. I can't believe that a player like Player X was also cheating. I blame Bud Selig. Player X should never even be allowed into Cooperstown, let alone being inducted. When I was growing up, people had more respect for The Game. It's fast and easy!

8) Brawls. Nothing is as easy to make fun of then a junior high school level slapfight, which is what you get in 99% of MLB encounters. Of course, that last 1% provides something memorable, like an old man beating the crap out of a young guy, an old coach getting rolled, or the hitter bringing the lumber to the mound with him. Come on, MLB, get it together!

7) Death. What, too soon? Your mawkish blogger cred and ability to Appear Thoughtful grows by the score when you've got an unscheduled eulogy to write about your team's tragedy, especially when it happens out of the blue to some young guy. Put on your big boy shoes and write about the Great Sadness!

6) Sex tape. The nice thing about this one, at this stage in the growth of the Internet and post L'Affaire L'Andrews, is that you'vve got so many ways to go with it. Do you rail against the people that pay attention to this, all the while paying attention to it, and get your O'Reilly on? Do you snigger at the inherent ridiculousness of amateur porn, when there's so much better available if, well, you are into that sort of thing? Or do you just indulge because, well, you can, and the site traffic will probably be with you if you do? So many choices, really.

5) Fraud Sports. Hey, it's the Tour de France! Or NASCAR, or (sigh) Poker, or any of the other things that people treat as meaningful when they really, well, aren't. This also goes for the Olympics, soccer, pre-season football and any number of other things, including your favorite little sacred cow. But hey, maybe you can corner the market on the CFL. Rouge on!

4) Rumors! Did you know that Stephon Marbury is going to suck a contract out of some really irrelevant team? Or that Roy Halladay is being dealt to a team that's going to win the World Series by so much, we can more or less forget about playing the rest of the MLB season? It's all true, or at least, it all can seem that way if you just believe. And clap hard. Very hard.

3) Racial Incident. Even in the age of Obama, we're still quite capable, thank you, of getting good and ugly about race, and when that happens, it just makes for ridiculously easy blog grist. This is especially good if you can make the point that people who've never had to grow up with disadvantages due to their skin color are now getting screwed. It's Not Fair!

2) Poon. It's summer, dammit -- time for bikini photos. Or the latest in cheerleader wear from your local NFL franchise. If you can somehow couple this with a knowing bit of snark that shows that you are Above All This even while profiting in it, that makes it all the more post-modern and original. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more...

1) Spectacular Public Scandal. Post-Vick, we're really needing something pretty intense to make this work. I'm hoping for involvement in child slavery, or perhaps trafficking in illegal organs, or even better, mixing the two. Come on, modern athletes! Show us something new!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Forgot About 'Dre

Today in the Association, Portland signed away point guard Andre Miller from my Sixers, and while it's not breaking the hearts of anyone in my hometown, I think it merits a few words.

If Andre Miller is your point guard, you probably aren't winning a championship. He's borderline hopeless from three point range, and in today's Assocation, that's just a huge problem. As a 33-year-old point guard who has a ton of miles on his legs (he's played in 530 straight games, and 815 for his career, at 35 minutes a game), the end could be fairly soon, which is why the team didn't offer him more than a one-year contract. That, and the fact that no one in the Association who isn't named Paul Allen has money right now.

Miller was The Other Guy in the Allen Iverson trade with Denver, and the fact that he turned out to be the best player in the deal was the biggest reason why the Sixers stopped being unwatchable in the past few years, and have made the playoffs. But he didn't win a series in Philadelphia, despite twice being up 2-1, and as such, it's unlikely that the team is going to take a lot of grief for letting him go. The future is Lou Williams and Jrue Holliday, and while it will mean that they will be a lesser team next year, it should help them the year after.

Which isn't to say that the Era Of Two Andres won't be missed. When Andre Miller was a Sixer, the team had, if not overhwelming talent, at least more than a little heart. He gave a damn, fought with refs, would take punishment to set up teammates and get to the line, and gave the team an identity. The Miller 76ers were blue collar, fairly relentless, and if the three point line didn't exist, downright dangerous. That's what a competent point guard with a post game and a steel spine gives you, and that's why Portland just inked him to three years and $22 million dollars.

In Portland, with Brandon Roy at the other guard spot and Steve Blake riding the pine that he so richly deserves, he'll make the dark horse Blazers an even sexier pick. I think he'll help them win 3 to 5 more regular season games, and a playoff series or two. I can't see him getting a ring, because he'll eventually run into a team with a top-tier point (Utah with Deron Williams, New Orleans with Chris Paul, etc.) and won't be able to keep up.

But the fans in Portland will love him, just as the fans in Philly did, because what people who haven't watched multiple championships fail to realize... is that there actually is a value in players that, while they might not be Championship Quality, give you everything they've got. That's Andre Miller, and that's why I'm happy he got paid. Good luck, 'Dre.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Perfection Correction

Today in Chicago, against a very good offensive team, in a park that favors hitters, in a time of the year when offense is usually on the upswing, a soft-tossing lefthander threw a perfect game, just the 17th in baseball history. It's also, amazingly, the second time that Mark Buehrle has come really stinking close to it, as he has another no-hitter on his record, along with a World Series championship.

The thing about Buehrle is, of course, control: 19 of 27 hitters faced a first pitch strike, and 76 of his 116 pitches today were strikes. He also works quickly; the game today closed in just over two hours. But as to why this guy has the specific juice to go twice to where the entire Mets Franchise hasn't gone in nearly 50 years of trying... well, it's just kind of stunning, really, and makes one think supernatural thoughts of non-probability, which is just a long way of saying that God really doesn't seem to be a Mets Fan. But I digress.

The single and best takeaway about Buehrle's gem is as follows. You can, actually, have exciting baseball without a ton of offense. Throughout the history of the game, attendance has generally suffered in times when offense has suffered; this is also the single biggest reason why the game turned a blind eye to steroids after the strike. But a tight game, with real drama and a crisp pace? You can't beat it, really. And it's no accident that Buehrle got the catch of the year from centerfielder DeWayne Wise, who robbed Gabe Kapler of the killjoy homerun in the ninth. When you work quickly and well, that's exactly what you inspire from the team behind you. There are any number of lessons for young pitchers to take from the guy, starting from the fact that you can succeed without incredible velocity, and that working quickly and with control will make you beloved by everyone but the beer vendors.

This year in the MLB, there are no players threatening to hit 70 home runs, no one flirting with a .400 batting average, no one on pace to come up with 200 RBIs. Instead, we're got teams that are supposed to play in bandboxes (Texas, Colorado) having sane games at home. We've got a large number of players stealing bases again. If we could only get ticket prices down, and have true revenue sharing, you'd be looking at the new golden age of baseball. (Hell, maybe we're already there as is.)

And, finally, this: in every baseball game that you go to, there is the possibility of extreme history. If the pitcher starts off with outs in the first few innings, it's in the back of your mind and growing, and on those rare and amazing days when the drama is allowed to build, it's just one of the best experiences in all of sports fandom. I've been fortunate enough to witness a live no-hitter (Terry Mulholland for the Phillies against the Giants, with third baseman Charlie Hayes squeezing a laser with men on base to end it), and it was just as good as you might imagine. I congratulate Buehrle and the White Sox, but today, the real winners were the South Side fans. You saw something today that you'll remember for the rest of your lives, and for one day at least, no fans in all of MLB got more for their involvement. That's just freaking cool, no matter what laundry you root for.

Top 10 tactics for fantasy league trading

I'll save you from 500 words of how much I really, really hate Ricky Nolasco and Jimmy Rollins (aka, two of the worst players in MLB in the first half, and two of the best in the second, now that both are off my roster) and just get to the meat of the matter. List ho!

10) The time you waste will be your own. Unless your league is composed of entirely rational people who are efficient at managing their time -- in other words, no -- any trade that actually helps your team will take three to five times longer than you'd expect, imagine, or want. Let the insulting opener, worse counter-offer, and remarkably short-sighted counter begin!

9) Go with the whore. Every league has a guy who thinks that trade offers are the hidden scoring category, and that he who ends the year with the most wins. He also will make you the worst offers, at least at the start, and will keep asking about the same guy that you've refused to move for months, if not years. This is the guy that you will eventually deal with, simply because he's the guy that actually gets trades done. Hell, you might as well ask him for players on other teams, since he's more likely to get them than you. Accept this and move on.

8) Know your VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). The simplest calculus of trades is this: the team that got the best player usually won the trade. That's because unless you are playing in a ridiculously deep league, there's always -- always -- some schlub that no one knew about two weeks ago that now looks poised to produce good numbers, either due to injury, real life trade, or some other compelling reason. So if the deal comes down to you taking on a problem player with a stud for two ordinary guys, you should probably make the move, especially if the problem guy is in a deep position. Then, work the wire hard.

7) Abandon hope.
If you are convinced that you are just one move away from top money, and that this trade that you've been working on is the absolute key to the whole thing... take a deep breath and force yourself to come up with 2 to 3 other options. There is no such thing as a completely unique or irreplaceable player. But there are plenty of owners who will trade as if this wasn't the case, and they are all (usually) paying too much.

6) Make a king. One of the best trading environments is when you've got two owners who are making the Championship Of Each Other play, where you can take advantage of their emotions to better your own club. Don't be shy about letting Coke know that Pepsi is also interested in what you've got to move. It sounds simple and basic and crass, and it's also how Scott Boras is able to crowbar away more money for his clients. (See Rod, A, and how the Yankees "stole" him away from Boston.)

5) Scars matter. Years and years ago, I moved an injury-prone steals-only shortstop with a poor OBA who was about to lose his leadoff job for an up and coming lefthanded starting pitcher with peaking strikeout numbers, in a good pitcher's park. And that's how my trading partner got Jose Reyes for Oliver Perez, the worst trade of my life and the one that I will mumble, Citizen Kane-ish, on my deathbed. This can happen to you, on every trade. Expect it, and it'll hurt less. Rey-es...

4) You are the enemy.
In most leagues I've been in, my teams have struggled to get enough strikeouts from their pitchers, and enough steals from the offense. That's because strikeouts are fascist, and I hate paying for top-tier pitching since it so often blows up in your face. As for the steals, I grew up in an era where most everyday players were expected to pick up 15 to 20 steals a year just from routine baseball activities. So I've never been comfortable in valuing the single-category steal king as much as I should. (See #5.)

You can try to trade away from this, but the guy making the trade... is the same guy who tweaked his draft ratings to avoid these categories. Expect unconscious sabotage.

3) Ulti alterim partem (Latin for "hear the other side"). In mock trial cases that you work up in political science courses and pre-law (yes, I was thisclose to being even more insufferable than I already am), you are given the task of working up an argument for the merits of both sides of a dispute. Do the same for your trade proposal, and exclude reasons like how your trading partner really really really likes you, owes you for some favor, or likes to make moves while chemically altered. If you can't make a good case for the move, how can anyone else?

2) Hand holding while peeing. There's a reason why crowdsourcing is a buzzword in business circles, or why fantasy league content platforms like ESPN and Yahoo tell you the percentage of leagues in which a player is owned. That's because the crowd is usually smarter than the individual, and can help to serve as a welcome course of cold water to the face when you are about to make a truly regrettable deal. Develop contacts in leagues other than your own, and sound them out for your biggest moves, especially if you are going very unconventional.

So, yes, it's the remarkably unmanly thing to do, and will tax the patience of your friends. It could also save your season. Make the call.

1) Biggest sucker. As with many things in life, there's an apt poker analogy here: if you can't see the biggest sucker at the table in five minutes, it's you. And who would be a bigger sucker than a guy who writes out his trading weaknesses in public for entertainment purposes? Come on down!

Top 10 ways that ESPN is going to punish the New York Post

So here's the fun story of the day: ESPN has decided to take their vengeance on the NY Post for their complicity in L'Affaire L'Andrews by keeping any Post personnel out of Lemur properties. This directly impacts three Post people who moonlight on the Lemur's sports radio station in New York. But since the Lemur's paws are everywhere, it won't end there...

10) Won't be able to use FastPass at Disney theme parks

9) Their subscriptions to ESPN The Magazine won't include the free hoodie

8) Cable systems of Post employees modified to only get ESPN Desportes

7) Will no longer allow Post employees to use those super-cool ESPN cell phones

6) Will have Colin Cowherd crash their web site

5) Launching ESPN New York just to spite them

4) Will give them even crappier service than usual at the ESPN Zone

3) Drilling holes in Rupert Murdoch's hotel rooms in a horrific "Tit for Tat" scheme

2) Sending over a sound truck to park outside the Post's offices and play a loop of Chris Berman's Home Run Derby calls

1) Won't hire any of them when the Post, like just about every other newspaper in the country, goes the way of the dodo

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Halladay, or how Philly Fan worries while on a 10-game winning streak

A small point to illustrate what it's like to be Philly Fan:

In the past couple of weeks n the NL East, the Phillies have put it all together to rattle off a 10-game winning streak, their longest in 18 years. As I write this, they have a lead of 6.5 games in the NL East, where the three other "contenders" (Atlanta, Florida and New York) seem incapable of getting over .500. That's the second largest lead in MLB for a division, behind only the Dodgers' 9-game bulge in the NL West, and the push has given them the second-best record in the NL.

The offense is hitting on all cylinders with Jimmy Rollins having his usual second-half surge, and all three outfielders (Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth) performing at second-tier All-Star levels. Even marginal offensive players like Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz are coming through with occasional utility. Combine this with health for the right side of the infield (Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have been disturbingly brittle over the past few years), and the fact that they are a fairly good defensive team, and you've got what might be the best roster of everyday players in the league. (If they aren't, it's only because LA is, and either, it's close.)

The starting pitching has been buttressed by a solid start to what should be a long career for J.A. Happ, a hot streak from Joe Blanton, and the fact that Jamie Moyer is always more effective in the middle of a season, when guys are really not prepared to hit 75 mph pitches. Hot teams always fall into a bit of luck as well, and for the Phillies, it's the found money of vagabond Rodrigo Lopez, who is making the Pedro Martinez signing look like more luxury than necessity. So even the Hangover Year from Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge has been more nuisance than problem, so long as they pull it together in the late going, and both seem to be. Even the bullpen looks good now, with Chan Ho Park providing his first useful year ever in a hitter's park, and the set-up men rounding into shape. Even if someone burns out down there, there's good news, in that Brett Myers should return in August to give them another plus arm in the late innings.

We're also talking about, well, the defending World Series champions, which really should count for something when it comes to Fan Happiness and Confidence. They play in a nice new ballpark. Their most bitter rivals (the NY Mets) are in an injury-soaked ruin that has given full spotlight to the failures of the organization. The team that frustrated them for a decade (Atlanta) can't match up with them for everyday talent. The last contender (Florida) has had their own injuries to contend with, and given that it's Florida, should be selling off players to the highest bidder any minute now.

The farm system has more than a couple of properties (Kyle Drabek being the best-known name) that should provide value soon. They are in an MLB+ market where the home-grown talent hasn't had to have been sold to the tyrants of the AL East. If Yankee or Red Sox Fan had even a third of these reasons to be happy (especially the Series championship and the domination of their rival), they'd be beyond insufferable with the smugness of it all.

And Philly Fan? Well, they worry that the winning streak is going to cost them Roy Halladay, because the team will get fooled into thinking they won't need him, when they do.

No, seriously.

There is every possibility that Halladay is this year's CC Sabathia -- an AL tyro that comes to the NL in midseason to become the best starter in the lesser circuit. But there's also the possibility that he's a rich man's Tim Hudson, which is to say a guy that's good, but not quite as good once you get him out of his quirky home park. There doesn't have to be a 2008 Sabathia in 2009; there really doesn't.

There's also this: you won't find C.C.'s name on the World Series championship roster for last year. As a matter of fact, this team -- with most of the people that Philly Fan is willing to throw under the bus to get Halladay -- beat him.

And, um, even if you do somehow pry Halladay away from the Jays for pieces that you aren't currently using to have the second-best record in the NL... who do you demote to give him starts? Happ is the future of the rotation, and good right now. Blanton is on the best streak of his NL life right now. Moyer might be the most popular player on the team, and might make everyone else in the rotation better by the change of pace; he's also been winning consistently for months now. Hamels is the staff ace, and Lopez, while fungible, has given you no reason to bounce him. There might not even be room for Martinez at the bottom of the rotation, let alone Halladay at the top, and that's not even getting into the upset that a new huge salary brings.

I get why Philly Fan is concerned; playoffs are won by dominant starting pitching, not mere competence. But four-fifths of this rotation won it all last year, and the other parts of the club are far from broken. Besides, the playoffs are a crapshoot; they are won by teams that get home runs from AL pitchers (Blanton, last year), sudden crappiness under pressure (Chad Billingsley, last year), or other assorted foolishness. Blowing up your roster to be marginally better in a matchup is a recipe for long-term disaster.

Who needs Halladay? Teams that are chasing -- but in the division, it's not pitching that's causing the rest of the NL East to fail, it's injuries to their top everyday players. Halladay might make a huge difference in the Central, where the only team with a truly settled rotation is the punchless Cubs; if he goes to St. Louis, the NL will have a third clear power team so long as Cris Carpenter stays healthy. If the Rockies somehow got him, and he didn't implode in the Coors air, that's your locked-up wild-card team, and a dangerous team to draw in the first round.

But the Phillies don't need him to win the division, and they don't need him to have more than a fair chance at defending their championship. They also really don't need him in 2010, when a cheaper Drabek and other farm arms will give them much more affordable insurance against age and injury.

So enough with the fever dreams, Philly Fan, and your season-long concern about the rotation. The switch has been flicked, the division should be yours, and life is very, very good for you right now. I know it's an unfamiliar feeling, but act like you've been here before. Because, well, you have.

All The News That's Fit To Ignore

In the last few days, we've had the following salacious non-stories hit the wires.

1) Ben Roethlisberger sued for civil damages by a casino employee for what is alleged to be non-consensual sexual activities, and

2) ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews illegally videotaped at her hotel room for salacious use.

And when you look at the Lemur's front page, neither story is there.

Now, I'm not going to get too deep into the points of either of these, because there really isn't anything too interesting to say about it. Roethlisberger will probably be fine in the long run, seeing how he's not even facing a criminal charge, he's a Super Bowl winning QB, and Pittsburgh Fan probably cares more about whether he's wearing a helmet while using a motorcycle than a helmet while using his junk. As for Andrews, it's like no one has ever seen a naked woman on the Internets before, or that the world does not exist beyond 14 year old boys.

But what's telling, really, is the media coverage of these events, and the litany of fail that makes everyone who consumes media question its choices.

If you're a Michael Vick fan, why, the kid glove treatment of Roethlisberger is just a sign of media racism. If you favor Donovan McNabb, you wonder why his fanbase comes down on him for being photographed at poolside with porn stars, whereas the Steeler QB is knee deep in lesser trim. Brett Favre fans (he still has some, right?) note how These Kids Today just don't yada yada yada.

And if your tastes go for Pac Man Jones, Matt Jones, Tank Johnson, Cedric Benson, Marvin Harrison or Name Your Favorite Got Some 'Splaining To Do NFLer Here... well, you are now a media consumer in the 21st century, where everyone is, basically, gaming the refs.

I'm not sure that it's possible to put the toothpaste back in the tube here. News coverage is a for-profit business that's wildly competitive, and if the World Wide Lemur doesn't deign to cover a scandal, someone else will, because scandals drive ratings. When The Lemur doesn't cover something but Yahoo or Deadspin or Huffington Post or the NYTimes or et al does, it just means that people will stop going to the Lemur exclusively. Considering how the Lemur is expanding into local markets now, it's probably best for all concerned if they turn up their noses at trafficked stories; it will help to prevent the de facto monopoly that's happening right now anyway.

And in the meantime, Yinzer Fan, try not to say something you'll really regret later, if Roethlisberger turns out to be, well, not the guy you think he is. Because, um, athletes frequently aren't. And even casino employees have mothers, and fathers...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The T.O. Show Diary

The new Terrell Owens "reality" show debuted tonight on VH-1, and for the sake of this blog and your edification, I watched. And kept a diary, all so that you wouldn't have to. Here's the, um, high points after an hour of my life and a large portion of my soul that isn't coming back...

TO's friends are his publicists. They might even be more regrettable than Owens. When they went to praying after Eliza Doolittle rhymes, I'm pretty sure that the color on my screen failed, but it was just the blood in my eyes.

We also learned that Jerry Jones enjoys drawing on tablecloths when he fires people. Because, um, I think he's insane. Terrell also enjoys talking about himself in the third person. And taking the tablecloths that Jones draws on when he fires him, because he knows he's going to be on the teevee. Besides, the tablecloth was about Owens, which makes it Very Important.

What's the over/under on Owens being solvent after the revenue from football stops? I give him three years before he's going down the Nate Newton Second Career Path. There is no way on earth he's saving a dime of what he makes right now.

"He's Terrell Owens. The world revolves around him." These words of wisdom come from his publicists. What's the over/under on the idea that "Does the world revolve around me?" is the only question TO asks during the job interview for the job of Publicist?

"It was almost as if I wasn't a football player." Um, TO? That's been true for a long damn time. Ask the fans of your last three teams.

Seeing as this is a reality show, federal law requires that we have Hot Tub Heavy Petting on camera. There isn't even a peephole camera for this; it's got to be, basically, the first five pre-penetration minutes from an amateur porno. If you are an AFC East CB and you aren't watching this thing for trash talk purposes, you just aren't trying.

"For me, Buffalo is where I'm supposed to be." And the year after that, Montreal. Then, some braying jackass pregame show, and then, prison. You've got to have a plan.

The publicists are also prized for their ability to do choreographed cheerleading routines. I'm pretty sure I just lost a vertebrae from The Cringing.

TO loses his luggage on the way to Los Angeles, and considers it a sign that he shouldn't be in town, leading to posturing with the bodyguard. This is what passes for Drama in this turdfest.

Since the show is on television, TO then hits on the real estate agent. And since she's on camera, she's far too into it, despite the fact that Owens seems to be speaking with an increasing lisp. He appreciates beauty!

Pablo the bodyguard is also on the show to pass gas. Celebrities -- they are just like us! In that they enjoy the smell of their flunkies' poo. Fart for us, Fake Security Man! Fart! Fart!

"Not too much that doesn't look good on me." Plus, the thieves of America now know just how much the ice on Terrell goes for retail -- $137K for earrings that your aunt who married money and earned it would turn her nose down on as being Too Old Hookerish. Pablo the bodyguard also turns out to be just a guy Terrible knows from back in the day, so it's not like he's professional or anything. Come on, Criminals of America! He's begging for it! Preferably on camera!

For a professional athlete, Owens really is an embarrassing dancer... and after the publicists get bent, Owens quit on his own party. I'm getting flashbacks to his last game in Philadelphia now. That was also his last game in the Dallas laundry. Let's all think about that game now, shall we? Ahhh. Hey, my teevee's no longer red!

The slutty real estate agent actually prays before eating. She's also got a Fran Drescher-esque laugh and the ability to strip down on camera. Now, if she only comes with her own gun and an appreciation for the Steve McNair Exit, we got something.

After the sex (boo! off camera! I wanted to see Terrible's collection of genital warts!), TO makes sure to work out on camera in the pool with porn-style focus on his abs. I'm fairly sure that Terrible's going go to watch this show and take care of himself later, if you catch my meaning, and I think you do.

Hey, kids! Even TO doesn't bother with a custom ringtone, because he's 35. I'm not sure that I'm comfortable having the No Custom Ringtone aspect of my personality in common with him, but hey, this show is all about building bridges. Then, hopefully, throwing everyone involved in this off one. But still, um, good for you, Terrell, in not taking the opportunity to make your phone as hateful as the rest of your life. Good work.

The end of the show wraps up with Terrible trying to get back with his ex-fiancee, who the publicists are pushing as The Good Woman Who Will Save Us All From Bad Terrible. She is, of course, his ex because he cheated on her, but since the cameras are on and she doesn't want to go to jail, she's chatty. She asks him about his love life. He lies to her face, um, DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE'S JUST BEEN ON TELEVISION HAVING THE HOT TUB SEX. Who could have guessed that this guy isn't a good teammate?

The ex thinks that Terrible's first love is football. Um, honey? Terrible's first love is Terrible. Also his second through twenty-ninth, and after that, there's a lot of love for his other personas. Oh well, there's really no room in this show for someone with a three-digit IQ anyway.

The future episode previews has Drew Rosenhaus (ooh, there goes the red in my screen again!) and the city of Buffalo selling out to him, along with the porn-level acting of various cast members attempting to have actual human emotions... well, gosh, look at the time. I've got laundry to do, a cat to wax, and eyeballs to scrub. Let's just say that Terrible's not going to be Achieving Penitence anytime soon, and leave it at that. And set the over/under on bankruptcy and/or prison at 4.5 years...

Top 10 programs I'd rather watch than the Terrell Owens reality show

After watching the debut of "The T.O. Show" on VH-1 tonight, this longtime Eagle fan and Owens observer is really looking forward to seeing future episodes. However, these ten other new shows are ranking just slightly ahead of it on the old DVR.

10) "Hogan's Deaththroes", the long-awaited sequel to the beloved and remarkably tone-deaf '60s sitcom that put the Funny in Holocaust. This time around, instead of Stalag 13, it's Dachau... and it's even more wacky!

9) "Skeeze Company", a standard 3-camera sitcom that's going to do wonders for the careers of Joyce DeWitt and John Ritter. Come and knock on our door!

8) "Let's Hunt And Kill Brett Favre," a spiritual follow-up to some work that site hero Bill Hicks did with Billy Ray Cyrus and the New Kids on the Block. (To think, if only Bill had gotten his show before he passed, we could have avoided Hannah Montana, too.) In this gripping suspense show, our crews follow Favraro from place to place, attempting to snuff him like a dog with rabies before he can begin talking about his career plans, thereby making their own heads explode with hate and irritation. It's Must Die TV!

7) "World Series of Uno." From the proud history of this very here blog, I'm proud to say we've gotten a development deal (on Versus) and our very first celebrity guest (Phil Hellmuth). It turns out that all you have to do is buy a camera for the former, and turn it on for the latter.

Anyway, the WSOU will come straight to your home from a broken-down Indian casino, and will feature a table full of people being insulted by Hellmuth for daring to play the game with less than three colors in their hands. The only difference between this and the stuff on the World Wide Lemur is that even fewer people care!

6) "Peephole Adult Theater." Who is doing what behind a hotel room door? Find out for yourself with this click-tastic amateur porn channel, where we don't have to blur out any of the naughty bits because, um, you're looking through a freaking peephole, ya moron, and you can't see a damned thing. As the late Frank Zappa said, "Isn't this what living is really all about?"

5) "Ultimate Undercard." The latest time filler from World Wrestling Entertainment shows you everything you might miss from being at a live show -- everything from setting up the ring to people you've never heard of, with zero mic skills, fake fighting each other. It's all of the fun of Home Run Derby, but without any of the, um, thrills. But on the plus side, when one of these guys graduates to the big time of being a random slab of meat, you'll be able to say you knew him way back when!

4) "What's My Disease?" Based on an original concept by the Firesign Theater, this lightning-fast interactive game show allows fans an intimate look into the consequences of unsafe sex with road beef. From Derek Jeter's herpes to an untold number of crabs and some truly exotic cases of chlamydia, you won't be able to overcome What's My Disease!

3) "Rape My Relatives." Another game show that does what it says and says what it does. The first round is bad, but when we go to the lightning, animal and zero lube rounds, it really gets, um, challenging.

2) All of the C-SPANs. Hey, it's important, right? And our political leaders are only slightly less calculating and obvious than Terrible, and you aren't presented with the routine sight of good pussy giving it up for the famous jerkoff.

1) "Competitive Staring." This 24/7/365 channel appears to be a static screen of various hyper-ugly people staring at you, but I'm pretty sure they blink. The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Top 10 reasons why Tom Watson didn't win the British Open

10) Wanted to really set the stage for when he wins at 60

9) Just couldn't bring himself to deny the world a Stewart Cink championship

8) Can only win once every 12 years now

7) When you've waited 26 years between majors, it gives you just a bit of the yips

6) All part of an elaborate scheme to depress the aged

5) Really wanted to take Jean Van Der Velde off the hook

4) After 72 holes and 4 days, remembered he was too old

3) Didn't word his contract with Satan properly

2) After missing the putt that would have won it on 18, lost his faith in everything and wanted to go to law school

1) Had to remind everyone that golf will actually break your heart

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Top 10 ways that the Minnesota Timberwolves will woo Ricky Rubio

After drafting two point guards in the first round, the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves in the awkward position of only landing 50% of their assets. Ricky Rubio, the 18-year-old Spanish point guard who played the best the U.S. had to offer to a draw in the Beijing Olympics, is said to be balking at coming West and North, in part because of a controlling contract from his current team, DKV Joventut. By peculiar blogger magic, we've acquired T-Wolf president David Kahn's plans for getting him signed. Enjoy, Theoretical Timberwolf Fans!

10) Convince Rubio that since Minneapolis has Prince, it must also be cool

9) Sell Rubio on the idea that if Jason "White Chocolate" Williams could be a star in the NBA, he's guaranteed to make it

8) Promise that he'll never have to see Kevin Love with his shirt off

7) Make sure he doesn't know that Minnesota's temperature measures aren't in Celcius

6) Will keep Sebastian Telfair around, just to make sure practice is kitteny-soft

5) Tell him the same thing they are telling fellow first round pick and point guard Jonny Flynn -- that they completely boned the other pick, and will be working out a trade any day now

4) Either kidnap Rubio's father and use him for extortion, or just have him killed as a solid to Rubio

3) The unstoppable five-stop process of asking, begging, pleading, bribing and servicing

2) Assurance that if he's good, he'll get moved to a championship contending team that the GM was involved with before taking this job, and for such a trivial return that he'll be sure to win a ring

1) Hand him enough under-the-counter money to choke a moose, since there's no way the NBA would suspect the Wolves of doing that again after the Joe Smith Experience

The Joba Tragedy

Here's the first half of Joba Chamberlain.

4-2, 4.25 ERA, 1.56 WHIP.

17 starts, 89 innings (just over 5 innings per).

78 Ks, 42 Walks.

To give you an idea of just how Meh all of that is, here are just a few of the starting pitchers that Yahoo ranks as being more useful to your fantasy team than Joba, so far in 2009.

Brandon Backe
Jeff Karstens
Jason Hammel
Tomo Ohka
David Purcey
Brad Thompson
Brett Cecil
Anibal Sanchez
Shane Loux
Chan Ho Park

Needless to say, these guys are Very Available in your free agent pool. (Yahoo's metrics are a little screwy, in that they also rank guys who haven't pitched at all as being more useful than Joba, but you get the point.)

Now, if you listen to some folks, this is proof that Chamberlain has been horribly misused by the Yanks. If only they had left well enough alone, the 7th and 8th inning dominance that he showed in 2007 would have continued ad infinitum, and the team would have its obvious next closer in waiting. Along with at least five (ten? twenty?) more wins.

This, however, misses four key points.

1) The team needs a good starter more than a set-up man

Which makes them the same as every other team in baseball.

2) Chamberlain was actually quite effective as a starter last year

In a dozen starts last year, he was 3-1 with a sub 3-run ERA, and a 74/25 K/BB rate in 64 innings. Sure, he still wasn't going deep into games, but you can win with a guy getting more than a strikeout an inning and good numbers, even with 5 and 6 inning starts.

3) Young pitchers *always* break your heart

Ask Marlins' fan about how much fun it's been to watch Ricky Nolasco, for the most part, this year. (Or me, since I had him as my Cy Young pick.) Or Mariners' fan if they feel great about that Brandon Morrow uniform purchase. Scott Baker is making Twins Fan break out in hives on a near-weekly basis. David Price has had control issues that makes Rays Fan wonder if they are just looking at an unfortunate Scott Kazmir rerun. There's also, well, Kazmir.

All of these guys are highly similar comparables to Chamberlain; all have disappointed. It's the nature of Pitching, especially Young Pitching, and it's why your fantasy league is routinely not won by the guy that drafted Brandon Webb, Cole Hamels and Johan Santana. There are no real sure things.

(You'd think Yankee Fan would know this by now, having spent much of the decade being disappointed by Sure Thing Free Agent Pitchers. But I guess when your eyes fall in love with a guy, and he pumps his fists after getting outs, that goes out the window.)

And, finally, this...

4) The most unpredictable pitcher on a team, from year to year, is the set-up guy

Naming a guy that has dominated the ninth inning consistently for the past three to five years is relatively easy. Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Jenks, and that's just off the top of my head, and AL only.

Now, the eighth? I can only think of one, Scott Shields, and he's fallen off recently as well. It's a fungible role; your only real hope, as an organization, is to get a steady stream of guys that miss bats, and let them move on when dumber clubs sign them away. (Baltimore, a few years ago, locked up a bunch of established middle inning guys, then watched them all implode. It's like the baseball equivalent of having good kickoff return coverage.)

So when you see Chamberlain nibble, drive big pitch counts, and become a maddening six inning or less pitcher, the answer isn't to just wave the magic wand and make him Mariano II. Especially when, once you do that, you'll wind up turning back to Phil Hughes, who will magically return -- I guarantee it -- to becoming the same guy who has driven you nuts for the past 1.5 years of starts and injuries once they put him back in the rotation. It's just the way of the world: young pitchers break your heart, until they don't, and it's a hell of a lot easier to come into the middle of a game, throw your best gas for 25 pitches or less, and get guys who have been playing for two hours or more out. (Ever notice how often extra innings games go on for a while with no offense? A tired hitter is not a good hitter.)

Oh, and if you want to find someone to blame for Chamberlain's trouubles? Well, I'd note that he now pitches in a bandbox that gives up Coors-esque homer rates, which means that his 4.25 ERA might not be that bad after all. He also works in front of a left side of the infield that's fairly range-less, with outfielders that don't have plus arms. His bullpen has, until recently, been fairly fire-friendly to inherited runners. You'd nibble, too.

Or you could also just blame the guy throwing the ball, too. Or is that too hard, seeing how he pumps his fists when he's happy?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Top 11 reasons why the Pedro Martinez signing will work for the Phillies

11) By the numbers, there has to be at least one player per year that's helped by the World Baseball Classic

10) He's only got to be better than freaking Rodrigo Lopez

9) If he doesn't pitch well, he can't suck the Phillies into signing him to a longer contract that they'll really regret

8) Now that there's been a race-based controversy in Philadelphia from that swimming pool story, he'll feel like he's back in Boston

7) He's just 86 wins away from 300

6) As this is the first time since 1999 that he doesn't have an 8-figure salary, he might have a wee bit of incentive

5) From all appearances, he's now 100% midget-free

4) Charlie Manuel looks enough like Don Zimmer to Pedro to reanimate his warrior spirit

3) He's only 37, which with his Dominican birth, means he's no more than 42

2) For heaven's sake, Bruce Chen has a job in MLB right now; you are telling me that a guy with a career .694 won-loss percentage and 2.91 ERA in a Roid Era can't come up with a few good months?

1) If he pitches really well, it will prove yet again that God really, really, really hates Mets Fan

Top 10 changes for the Cubs in bankruptcy

10. Ryan Theriot has to switch to store brand cereal and juice boxes

9. Geovany Soto to go in the tank and limit his arbitration earnings

8. Carlos Zambrano can only destroy water coolers instead of Gatorade dispensers

7. Team HMO to no longer pay for Milton Bradley's crazy pills

6. Kosuke Fukudome to be paid in yen (and still be wildly overpaid)

5. Lou Pinella to keep doing that "Relief Pitcher / Outfielder" move to cut down the overall roster size

4. Try very hard not to sign any more 33 year old leadoff hitters with sub .300 on base averages to $17 million a year contracts

3. Auction off the closer role to Carlos Marmol's desperate fantasy owners

2. Convince the insurance company that how Ryan Dempster hurt himself was an act of God

1. No longer going to pay to have Steve Bartman stalked, ostracized and audited

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blogrolling Asks If You Have A Little Bit Of The Douchebag In You

A UFC guy has Johnny Cash ink. I also understand that he's so tough, he sentenced a man to a beatdown, just to beat him down.

What happens when you let guys from Minneapolis party in St. Louis. Embrace the whiteness!

One more from the Human Cockfighting, here's the fun part of beating a man when he's more or less helpless. Sporting!

Is there anything more painful from Home Run Derby? Yes. Home Run Derby trivia.

Donovan McNabb gives Eagle Fan more fuel for the fire by being photographed at poolside in Vegas with women of ill repute, which is now being posted on blogs of ill repute. And to think, I wasn't sighing enough for the lack of real sports today...

Top 10 shocking revelations about NFL training camp

It's just about that time again, kids! Now, let me ruin the whole movie for you by telling you how it ends.

10) It's hot outside

9) Many of the bigger players eat a lot

8) Your team's star player is convinced that this is the year they are (a) going to the playoffs, (b) having a very big year statistically, (c) going to the Super Bowl, (d) winning the Super Bowl

7) The final cuts are going to be very, very difficult

6) The late round guy that was drafted for his speed might make an impact on special teams

5) Fantasy football players really need to keep an eye on Unknown Bench Guy and/or Rehabbing Injury Guy

4) Older players aren't quite as fond of training camp as the younger guys

3) Even though the pre-season games don't count in the standings, the coaches and players are still Playing To Win, Dammit

2) It's very, very, very important, and anyone who doesn't think so is probably a Communist

1) After six months of No Football, and two months of nothing but baseball, you will eat it with a fricking knife and spoon and beg for more

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Top 10 ways for Chris Berman to die

What, too grisly? Like you haven't thought about it, or won't be when he trots out that Home Run Derby act today. Live the fantasy!

10) Aneurysm. A fairly nasty way to go, of course, but hey, it'd do the job quickly, right?

9) "Scanner" style head explosion. Hey, Hollywood, why can't we get a remake of this movie? What with current digital effects and the relative lack of business that the original did, it's time. And who better to star in it than Boomer?

8) Bondian death trap. Cannibals report that humanity tastes like pork. I'm thinking a Canadian back bacon kind of odor here. Plus, hey, FRICKIN' LASERS!

7) Sound torture. Maybe I'm too caught up in comeuppance, but the idea of Berman having his own head caved in from the sound of his own amplifed voice, so that the "BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK!" causes his gray matter to drip out of his orifices... doesn't suck, really. At least, not as a hypothesis.

6) Microphone electrocution. Back in my band days, I ran into any number of shorting mics, especially in punk clubs, and every time it happened, I'd wonder what might happen if we mixed some water into this ugliness. More of a danger for field work, but hey, a man can dream.

5) Exploding food. Hey, did you know that Berman also cashes endorsement checks for NutriSlim, and claims to have lost weight from it? Or that his ads testifying to this may cause the weaker-kneed among you to rethink my bloodlust?

Let's give him a bear claw that expands to ten times its size once it hits the Boomer Gut. It's how every man dreams of going, really.

4) Torches and pitchforks. What can I tell you, I'm a slave to the classics. Come on, people of Bristol, rise up and march against the compound and crush the abomination! Besides, it's nice out, good exercise, a real bonding moment for the community, really.

3) Neglect. A concentrated abstinence effort would rid the world of Berman, just as it would any other media mouth jobber, of course. But would the effort also make him waste away from ennui and a punctured ego? Let's find out.

2) Anal cancer.
Farrah Fawcett didn't get nearly enough notice for this horrifying malady, thanks to the Michael Jackson Experience. So we're not just looking for something awful for the fun of it, but to Raise Awareness, really.

1) By his own, um, hand. Just imagine the wonderfully awkward coverage if the man checks out in the Michael Hutchense / David Carradine Auto-Asphyxiation mode. I'm getting all tingly just thinking about it, really. Plus, as an added bonus, I'm pretty sure that Bill Simmons' head would explode from not being able to mention it. Go for the gold, Boomer!

Top 10 Ways to Improve the All-Star Game

10) Each losing team player is suspended for one game

9) Add a "suicide" contest, just so we can see grown men throwing at each other and running like refugees

8) Play the World Series winning team against the rest of the league, just so we can hear the fans of that team bitch about not getting any time off

7) Add a certain amount of urgency to the game by making it winner take-all on the money, and each member of the losing team is also paying out of their own pocket

6) The fifth inning is the Beer Inning, where every fielder, pitcher and hitter must chug a beer, and if a run is scored, everyone in the stadium must also chug a beer

5) If the game is tied in the later innings, the hitters switch to aluminum bats

4) Increase the Internet voting experience to add a dunk tank for particularly annoying players, broadcasters, owners and commissioners

3) The three words that could change the All Star Game forever: Bullpen Cart Racing

2) As the macho response to Home Run Derby, the Hit Batsman Showdown, with body areas offering different points and a velocity bonus

1) Very simply, make tens of millions of nerds care by insisting that all stats count in fantasy leagues

* * * * *

I'm not sure that "Wall Ball" or "Suicide" is well known outside of the East Coast, but here's the gist as it existed in my suburban Philadelphia neighborhood when I was growing up.

You'd got a decent ball for the task -- tennis ball or racquetball was best -- a concrete area, a tall wall, and up to a half dozen guys. You'd then throw the ball against the wall, and someone would field it. If they bobbled the ball, someone else would pick it up and try to peg him with it before they could go tag the wall. If someone caught the ball in the air, they'd peg the guy who threw it, again before he tagged the wall. You could also intercept the ball on long throws, or peg the guy if the throw short-hopped the wall.

Like the wildly incorrect "Smear The Queer", it was a game that existed entirely to punish ambition, in that the best way to avoid pain was to not play. It also, well, didn't make me any better as a fielder, because balls off the bat didn't really react the way they did off the wall. Finally, I can't imagine the game existing now, given that it'd probably end up in a lawsuit, and would also involve being outside and active. Hell, the exposure to the sun alone would probably make it actionable.

Feel free to add in your own ASG improvements or Suicide Memories in the comments...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Top 10 impossible ways to improve sports

Don Quixote tilted at windmills; I tilt at sports. Here's ten ways to make sports better that will never, ever happen.

10) Outlaw athletes in broadcasting. Let's see; we've got people who go to school to learn how to perform as broadcast journalists. We also have people who spend their lives studying every possible nuance, maybe even with extensive statistical analysis, or from cultivating managerial and coaching sources over decades of work. And over here, we've got a guy who used to play the game, probably with such a monomaniacal focus that he has active contempt of study or thought. But on the plus side, the athlete also has a lifetime of recited cliches and tired anecdotes, along with a need to cover for the friends he has that are still in the game. By all means, let's keep hearing from the meatheads.

9) No non-sports coverage of athletes.
Hundreds of years ago, one of the most successful composers in classical music was, well, a raging anti-Semite. Had he worked today, and this unfortunate aspect of his personality remained constant and well-known, I'm fairly sure that no one would have listened to his work. But, well, people didn't know, or care, and we still get to listen to Wagner, which means that Apocalypse Now still gets to have "Ride of the Valkyries" play when the helicopter gunships come over the horizon.

The point? Knowing stuff about Wagner, the man, drives no benefit to your enjoyment of his music; in all likelihood, it's an active detriment. The same thing goes for athletes, really. Let's stop hurting ourselves by caring about who and what they do outside of the spotlights.

8) No taxpayer money to fund stadiums. The jobs that are created by these jobs are mostly myths, the organizations that they reward do not need any help at all, and the corporate welfare is absolutely rife. Future generations will wonder how we could have possibly been so stupid, really.

7) Minor leagues outlawed.
I don't mean that there should be no minor leagues; I mean that they should not be slaves to a major league master. If every team was independent, with their own ability to sign and develop talent, actual pennant races with integrity, and maybe even the ability to move franchises up and down in minor league designations to avoid fire sales at the top level... well, there's a reason why college sports make money all over the country. That's because they actually play games that matter.

6) Decriminalize steroids. Not because I really want to see every player juicing like mad in a dystopian nightmare of body modifications, but because I've already seen the movie of what happens when you try to keep these things out of the game. It doesn't work, because there's just too much money involved in cheating, and cheater technology is always ahead of detection technology. Since the fans don't care, the players don't care, that just leaves us with the media? And who the hell cares about them?

5) Short and/or single game playoffs. Want to know why March Madness is so popular? It's all about the Madness, really.Single-game excitement factories, as opposed to best-of-seven holy wars. So let's go back to regular seasons that mean something, with playoffs that have more of that NFL Playoff / NCAA college hoop experience of Any Given Day. Especially in the earlier rounds, where a low seed can catch lightning in a bottle and really fire up the public imagination.

4) Local ticket sales only. Maybe I'm trying to hold the ocean back with a broom on this one, but making life easier for Road Fan to invade and ruin home field advantage should not be easy. I realize this is completely naive, but a nation of people rooting for teams that aren't local... it's not good. Especially not in the long run.

3) No third men in. When a batter rushes the mound, everyone else who jumps in -- from either side -- gets tossed. And if you go, you go -- none of this "Hold Me Back!" nonsense. Within a few months, I guarantee you that we'd be done with 80% of the timewaste, in every sport.

2) Anti-monopoly action against the Lemur. Ask any hard-core NHL fan -- which is to say any NHL fan -- and they'll tell you that the Lemur ruined the game coverage. In comparison with TNT, their NBA coverage is second-rate. The MLB Sunday night work is the Joe Morgan train wreck, and every summer, they inspire multiple murders with the Home Run Derby. Oh, and the MNF telecasts have brought us Dennis Miller, Tony Kornheiser, and at least 40 points to my blood pressure, along with the blood in my eyes. Too many sports, too much coverage... too much capacity for abuse.

1) Financial closure. Do you know the compensation package of everyone of your coworkers? Probably wouldn't be the best thing for your day-to-day effort do do the job, right? Well, why do we think it's making our enjoyment of sports any better? Honestly, the games are more fun when you don't mix it with accounting.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

FTT Off-Topic: WILCO the Album

Fans of the blog's later, unfunny work will recognize the recent fascination with Wilco, the critically acclaimed and burgeoning successful American alt-country band. Having just acquired their most recent album, I thought I'd review it here for the scads of FTT readers who just can't get through the day without more of my opinions. (Y'all are the best dozens of spam merchant Twitter followers a man could ever hope for. Tell your friends!)

It's the ninth album for the band, with a decade-plus history, myriad band turnover and rancor, and the requisite demons needed for Interesting Work. Frontman Jeff Tweedy acknowledges the baggage right out front with the quasi-single "Wilco", in which he breaks fourth wall to ask the listener leading questions about their outlook. In the chorus, he breaks the pattern with "Wil / co / Wil / co / Wil / co / Will love you, baby."

It's a clever enough lyric and rhythmic structure, but it's given additional weight by the fact that it echoes one of the band's more powerful moments of alienation, in the song "Misunderstood," from "Being There", one of their earlier records. In that song, the word "Noth / ing" is repeated with heartbreaking force, as Tweedy is basically using his voice as a fist against a wall in frustration. When you are far enough into your career to be providing meta-commentary on it, whether ironic or not, and know that some portion of your audience will get it... that's a pretty great place, actually.

Other highlights include "You and I", a pretty duet with Canadian indie darling Feist. The melody is winning and sweet, but as per Tweedy's lifelong pattern of giving you something that will endure with multiple listens, the lyrics undercut the production by pointing out that the couple in question doesn't really know anything about each other, and shouldn't. For everyone who once had a great relationship fall apart with familiarity (show of hands?), it's a dry, dark chuckle of recognition.

"You Never Know" is a rollicking piano driven piece with Beach Boys-esque harmonies that assails the audience for having the hubris to think that they have all of the answers, especially for thinking that the world's going to end on their watch. "Every generation thinks it's the end of the world." For Wilco, this counts as the feel-good song of the year, really.

"I'll Fight" mixes acoustic guitar with old-time organ to give voice to an intriguing lyric of melodramatic fatalism, all undercut with pedal-steel sweetness; it's a freaking college course in contradiction, and reminds you that, well, you could be only listening to one band in the world for stuff like this. There are other good songs which will probably become my favorites over time, but these are the ones that work best for the first few listens.

Disappointments? Well, it's not the longest thing you've ever heard: just 11 songs, around 40 minutes. I could have taken more, more, more, especially as the band currently employs Nels Cline, one of the best guitarists working today. There's nothing truly experimental here, along the lines of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" or "A Ghost Is Born", probably because Tweedy is closer to happiness than he's ever been, according to various interview sources. (He is, I am sure you would be shocked to know, a recovering addict, with painkillers being the choice.) Some of the pieces seem a little by the numbers, which is what's going to happen when a band is on their ninth album with the wolf very far away from the door.

But all in all, it's an 8 or so by their scale, and miles above what you'll get from the rest of the world. Nothing sounds bad on first listen, everything grows with repeat attention, and in an iPod shuffle attention deficit world, they make full albums that won't make you feel bad about spending times with the lesser work. There's something to be said for that level of craft and thought, and it's this: thank you. And play on.

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