Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Very Brief Moment Of Blog Business

Attending a week-long meeting for the Day Job, so postings could be even lighter and lamer than usual.

Please click on the ads and drive up the site traffic and revenue so that I can become convinced that less work = better blog...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Alex Rodriguez Is Dead. He Just Doesn't Know It Yet.

Pout All You Like
Perhaps the only thing that both the PED haters and the fans of the individual players, affected teams or just those who want the world to move on from all of this can agree on is this... the waiting for MLB's inevitable strike against the Biogensis suspects is, well, ridiculous and off-putting. Some teams, like the Tigers with Jhonny Peralta, the A's with Bartolo Colon, and the Rangers with Nelson Cruz are going to be severely impacted by this... and if you want to go on the other side of this, they should not be allowed to continue to profit from these players.

Other substantial players aren't in the playoff race, but are going to wreck or make fantasy seasons, or get folks to come to the park. And all of that speaks to an essential but increasingly ridiculous point about MLB, which is that some games and teams are more important than others.

So enjoy, all of those teams who fell behind the clubs with the affected players. The wheels of MLB justice ground so slow as to make your year and pennant race irrelevant, but the deterrent value of MLB action is sure, so very, very sure, to make any future cheat think twice.

Or, well, not.

Anyway, back to the titled problem. The Yankees have spent much of this season trying not to talk about their former World Series MVP (oh, and Phillies Fan that's all kind of bent about how their team lost to cheaters, just like the Patriots over the Eagles)... but also, ever since Kevin Youkilis broke (what were the odds, really) with sub-sub-sub replacement play at third base. So sub, in fact, that there's even dreams that Rodriguez with his 38 year old surgical hips and thoroughly spent personage -- it's not like he's been lighting up the minors -- could deliver something approaching relief.

Well, um, no.

He's got another strain, and remains on the DL. MLB has the biggest hard on you've ever seen for a cheat; most believe that he's looking at suspensions for all of this year and next. The next step is probably court or arbitration, where the Yankees try to get out of the remaining cash in the contract.

But if you were to give me an over/under of at bats in his career, I'd put it at 0.5.

And take the under.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reason #7,432 Why You Don't Sign 10-Year Contracts

Done
Albert Pujols, in year two (!) of a deal that will make past Los Angeles Angels Of Outer Rancho Cucomonga death deals look like nothing, DL'd for the year. His OPS was all of 767, so it's not like this is going to be a bitter loss for the Angeles to take... but dear heaven, do the Angels need for an NBA/NHL style amnesty experience to kick in right about now.

Oh, and Albert is 34 now, already coming off his worst year, and at an age and size where injury rehab is not, well, a given.

Eight more years, $212 million more coming. This is going to make Vernon Wells, CJ Wilson, Josh Hamilton and Gary Mathews Jr. look positively peachy.

Oh, and one final thing...

Does St. Louis ever, even once, make a personnel mistake?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

If Raul Valdes Is Starting, Ruben Amaro Needs To Be Departing

35 With The Potential To Be 36
Tonight in Detroit, the Phillies had to scratch Cliff Lee due to injury -- honestly, if they had any smarts at all, they'd forbid him to pitch until he's traded  -- and went with Plan Z, which is Raul Valdes. A guy who hasn't started for a year. A guy with 2 career starts. A guy who should, well, never start for a major league team. Or even pitch for them in relief. Raul got to face a Tiger team that welcomed back Miguel Cabrera from injury, also known as the best hitter in the world.

Easier rehab assignments have never been offered.

The team came in with a six-game losing streak, no real chance at the division, no real chance at the wild card. And when you start Valdes -- seriously, Raul Valdes -- it's obvious to everyone involved that you aren't trying anymore. (Valdes, for those who aren't familiar, is a 35-year-old lefty with a career 4.6 ERA in the majors, which is to say, he isn't just a has been. He's a never was. And if this guy is in your organization, your GM has No Clue, or Valdes has photos of him in bed with a dead girl or a live animal.)

Would it really have been so bad to give, say, Jesse Biddle a start? You know, the best prospect in the system, might actually have a career? How about Adam Morgan? Mitch Gueller? Shane Watson? Hell, so long as they aren't trying to win games, why not at least learn something about a young guy?

OK, fine, you don't want to start the clock early on a guy's career. Or maybe you are worried about ruining his confidence. I get that. It's weaker than a three day old kitten and an organization that employs Raul Valdes, but what the hey.

Here are some guys that I would have been happier to see get the start. Carlos Zambrano. Jamie Moyer. Terry Mulholland. Brad Lidge. Whatever position player throws a knuckleball this week. Maybe Rich Dubee, just to prove once and for all that those who can't, teach. So long as you have no chance to win the game, and have an utter and complete lack of organizational depth, to the point where Raul Freaking Valdes gets a start.... why not buffoon it up?

You know, even more than you just did?

Cabrera said thank you for the gift, going yard in the first, and the rout was on. 5-0 after one, 8-0 after two, 10-0 final, in a game that lasted 2:25. The Phillies managed 3 baserunners and struck out 7 times against Max Scherzer, Al Albuquerque and Evan Reed.

When your team loses by 10 in under 2.5 hours, there is really only one explanation involved, and that is this.

They don't want to be there.

And when your organization is putting Raul Valdes on the mound, can you blame them?

Jeremy Maclin's End

Not Any More
Today at Eagles' training camp, WR1A Jeremy Maclin went down in pain, and stayed down, only to leave via the cart. The prognosis is a torn ACL, which ends his season and, most likely, his career in Philadelphia. Maclin is a free agent after this season, Kelly has no skin invested in this game, and there's no reason to think that we'll ever see him in the colors again.

Football is like that. And here's the nasty part: after 2012, that's fine by me.

Maclin might have been the most frustrating player on the roster last year on a 4-12 team, and dear Lord, is that saying something. Perpetually injured, pouting or unproductive, he seemed to excel at getting numbers in garbage time (69 catches, 857 yards, 7 TDs, um, whoopie), putting the ball on the ground in critical situations, and regressing in the third season where the team really needed him to step up and be a true threat. Despite getting most of the short work (DeSean Jackson on the other side gets the long, with cause), his catch rate plummeted, and 12.4 yards per reception isn't impressing anyone. But like everyone else that is still on the roster after last year's train wreck, the fan base was more than ready to forgive and forget in Kelly Year Zero.

Now, the team is left with the guys who weren't good enough to put Maclin to the bench -- Riley Cooper and Jason Avant, which is to say, two lesser possession receivers. Cooper has his moments in the red zone, and Avant can move the chains. The former has more height and YAC, the latter, more toughness and blocking ability, but if either guy is playing 1,000 snaps for you, you probably aren't going to the playoffs. (Which the 2013 Eagles were not going to do, even if Maclin had the best season of his career. But I digress.)

But ah, there's the rub.

No one really knows if WR2 for the Eagles is going to play the vast majority of snaps. Such is the mystique involving Chip Kelly -- and his instant collection of skilled pass-catching tight ends -- that if he send out three TEs (incumbent Brent Celek, Swiss Army weapon James Casey and rookie Zach Ertz) and just tries to go Thug Life on small corners, no one would bat an eye. By the way, as fun as that sounds, none of those guys has the kind of dependable hands that you need to make it a totally winnable strategy, and it's hard to see how they get enough YAC to be explosive, but maybe you avoid that problem by just snapping the ball every ten seconds.

How about the other WRs on the roster? There are some intriguing options, but we really don't know enough about any of them to think that, say, they were going to take away snaps from a healthy Maclin. Arrelious Benn, imported from Tampa for next to nothing, has the size, but hasn't produced in the pros on much beyond screen plays. Damaris Johnson had moments last year and a college pedigree of big plays, but looked to be more Jackson-like in his skills. Ifeanyi Momah has incredible size and speed, but might not be a football player, and even if he is, probably will need many years of training before he's a positive. Greg Salas is an NFL nomad in just his third year. Russell Shepard is more of a gadget play, and seemed to shrink over the years at LSU. Camp bodies named Will Murphy, Dave Ball and BJ Cunningham... well, it would be nice to think the new regime can find gold in chaff, but not very realistic.

One of these guys will have a job now that Maclin isn't taking a spot. And by the way, the sooner that is put in stone, the better. If you see the team reach for some free agent talent to fill Maclin's spot -- Brandon Lloyd is probably the biggest name out there -- feel free to put that down as a severe red flag that there  is no actual plan in place to rebuild the franchise, and that we're back in the bad old days of Andy Reid signing guys off the street to start on the offensive line. If Maclin had been cut this year in favor of any of the names listed above, and the team wanted to move on from a potential locker room lawyer, that would have been fine, too.

But in the here and now, there's this: Maclin becomes yet another first round pick in the Reid Era to underperform, disappoint, and very soon, disappear. The next three WRs taken after his selection, as the 19th pick, in 2009: Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt.

Oh, and if you want to move beyond WR to Best Available Player... LB Clay Matthews -- you know, the good Matthews -- six picks later, to the Packers.

Can you see why I'm not exactly broken up by news of the injury?

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Brief And Obvious Point To NBA TV

I Haz Animosity
You, like everyone else involved in pro basketball in the First World, are not doing yourself any favors by giving Isiah Thomas work.In this case, as a color commentator.

(I know, I know, my fault for watching US national team exhibitions from Las Vegas on tape delay. I Need Help.)

Seriously, he's making me miss Reggie Miller. But if you need someone to tell you about whether or not a player plays with animosity, he's your man. (Seriously. Playing with animosity. In a summer league game that's got all of the tension and drama of the Rookie - Sophomore game at All Star Weekend. Kill me.)

Does this guy have incriminating photos of everyone in the league, or what?

I Have A New Least Favorite MLB Player

Why, Yes. Yes, I Am.
About two months ago, I made a mistake in my fantasy baseball league. And like all mistakes made in fantasy leagues, it's going to be about as easy to ignore as tooth pain. Provided, say, that you live in a country where dentistry is outlawed.

The deal was simple: cash in on the hot and unsustainable start of Adam Wainwright, albeit with a nice low protection number, for a better starting pitcher, a dependable reliever and a veteran power bat. I'd move my two weakest players, get a power boost to my offense, make a move in saves, and all for the protection spread cost between Wainwright and the best starting pitcher in the American League. You know, Justin Verlander.

Making the deal made sense, but it was hard. I was trading with the guy that wins the league more often than anyone else. I was going to have to take on the guy that ended my A's in last year's ALCS, stopping the most fun baseball season in many a year. And there was, of course, a little bit of a nagging worry that if this guy was offering him up, there had to be something wrong with him. After all, the guy wins the league every year. It's like trying to slow play aces against a table full of pros. You might get paid, but you also might get hammered. No middle ground.

So I did the deal. And promptly watched as the power bat in the deal (Paul Konerko) didn't rebound from a middling start, but rather found an end of career floor. Then, the airtight closer in the good pitcher's park (Tom Wilhelmsen) struggled and lost the job for a while, and he's still not throwing strikes.

But enough of the side pieces. Let's talk about the main. This is a five by five league, where pitching stats are ERA, WHIP, strikeouts divided by walks, and Quality Starts. (Yes, we're odd. But Quality Starts are far less frustrating than Wins, and strikeout/walk ratio gives you a chance to build your staff in different ways.)

Justin Verlander for me: 112 IP, 5.00 ERA, 1.4 WHIP, 2.5 K/BB, 10 QS in 19 games.

Adam Wainwright for the opponent: 132 IP, 2.51 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.65 K/B, 14 QS in 19 games.

I'm reasonably sure that there has been two-month stretches in his life where Verlander has pitched worse. But never with as much seeming cheeriness. Here's what he said about today's turdburger effort, where JV went 6 innings, gave up 11 hits and 7 earned runs while walking 2 and striking out four. ''Today, as funny as it sounds, was a step in the right direction,'' Verlander said. ''I thought my stuff was the best it's been all year. It was just a little erratic.'' In a pitcher's park, with no apparent injury or explanation. Just a sub-replacement level line from what has been, up until seemingly the very moment that I got him, a ridiculously consistent SP.

The other day, I sold Verlander for the first offer, so today was the last day, ever, that I didn't want him to suck. I packed Wilhelmsen in the deal just to go for full fumigation (Konerko was waived a long time ago), and threw in Jose Veras because the other guy needs saves, and thanks to trading for Verlander, I need to tank for next year.  I got back the quite possibly unprotectable duo of Alexei Ogando and Kris Medlen, neither of who is guaranteed to be worth keeping next year. The guy who traded Verlander is bent, because he feels that I didn't get enough. (Charming behavior, that. "Just commenting," he says. As if that's some kind of defense for tossing out your unsolicited opinion. Just take my money and shut up.)

I'm certain that Verlander is going to turn it around now that I've moved him. I'm also certain that Wainwright is going to be great for the next five years, that Medlen and Ogando will be hurt or ineffective, and that I haven't even come close to the end of the chain of mistakes here that ruined my year and lost my money.

But on the plus side, I now have a player that I well and truly despise, that I want to see beaten and battered within an inch of his life, and that I can cheer on the advent of age and ineffectiveness. I can also root for a PED suspension, hope for some tawdry tabloid moment, and engage in the kind of refreshing, full-bodied hatred that you normally need to be Sicilian to achieve.

And well, I haven't had a guy like that for a long time, really. Maybe since Alex Rodriguez was relevant, or Barry Bonds.

So step on up to the mound, Justin. Assume the position. Throw your pitching coach under the bus, or insinuate that you are laying down because you just hate Jim Leyland.

Or, in the immortal words of the late great Sam Kinison, slide under a gas truck and taste your own blood.

Then, we'll get personal!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

LeBron James Puts Away Patriotic Things

No Patriot Games
So the word hits the wire tonight of how LeBron James, a veteran of 10 years of basketball for his country, isn't going to play next summer at the 2014 world championships in Spain. He's also not very likely to play in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, though that decision isn't set in stone. Hell, given what's going on in Brazil right now, and the rage felt by many towards the country's largesse for the World Cup while the poor and middle class take it up the vuvezela, maybe the Olympics won't show up for the Olympics, either.

From a realpolitick standpoint, it's time for LeBron to say no. The US team is going to go through a pretty strong changing of the guard real soon. Kobe Bryant is 34 with the most miles on the legs that a 34 year old has ever had, and he's also fueled by an absurd amount of hate to try to prove Dwight Howard wrong and that the Lakers are still relevant. Dwyane Wade just limped his way through the playoffs at the age of 31; he needs rest a lot more than more international exposure. Chris Paul is 28 and never gets off the floor for the Clippers; same story, different coast for Carmelo Anthony. Chris Bosh is 29 and not going to put himself at risk when his teammates aren't. Andre Iguodala has done nice work as the team's defensive stopper, but he's getting up there as well. The page is being turned.

There's also this: none of these guys are going to become more, or less, popular from their involvement with flag basketball. James could play for his country at every opportunity until he hangs up his sneakers, and it wouldn't increase the size of his bucket in terms of whether or not people like him. The fact that he's been proven wildly correct in his choice of team for which to chase championships does not matter. Nor does the struggles of his old franchise, the way that he came through for the most part in elimination games, or the slowly growing list of top-tier advertisers adding him to the sponsor party. Once you've been in the public eye for a decade, you're not growing the brand, and if you've been playing for the flag for a decade, the thrill is probably also gone.

No, the US Team, for those who care about such things, is going to become the Thunder Team That Wasn't -- Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden -- with the best young talent the country has to offer. Look for Kyrie Irving to get some play, Anthony Davis to get noticed again, and maybe a little love for Paul George. Stephen Curry is made for the international game if his ankles hold up. I think LaMarcus Aldridge would be helpful. and since we're clearly lacking some big men, Roy Hibbert and Tyson Chandler.  Add in the stray rookie or collegian, and we've got a team that...

Well, won't have the best player on the planet any more, and won't be terribly well suited to the international game, with its impetus on big men who can hit jump shots and move the ball on offense. It also won't have experienced point guards that make their teammates better, and never turn the ball over. Assuming Durant doesn't just carry them, this really might not end well... and there's a very real chance that if and when the US loses the next Olympics, it's going to be put at James' feet.

It's almost enough to make you feel sympathy for James?

Nah, didn't think so. But for a second, you almost considered it...

What the Cubs will buy with their $500 million renovation project

Picture in color and everything
Today in Chicago, the Cubs won final approval for a $500 renovation to the 99-year-old ballpark. What will the money buy?

> Nearly enough sawdust to cover the smell of vomit and pee from the bleachers

> A state of the art Jumbotron for Cubs fans to enjoy exciting MLB action, which is to say, the out of town games

> A weed wacker to finally fix that wall problem

> A retrofit of the plumbing system to bring it all the way up to 1950s code

> A down payment on the intricate series of bribes required to do anything in Chicago

> Twice the space for the current clubhouse, which is sorely needed to accommodate the throngs of media personnel covering Cub games

> Changing the lights to LEDs for those night games that are an offense against God

> Stronger nets to catch the concrete falling from the upper deck

> Big screens to ruin life for the rooftop neighbors

> Bigger lawyers for the inevitable legal fight from the rooftop neighbors

> A really nice chunk of what they still somehow owe Alfonso Soriano

> Strong wifi to give people a reason to drop by

> The single cruelest thing that Cub Fan ever gets... hope

To Those Who Are Tired Of Hearing About MLB And Steroids

Those Who Learn, Yada Yada
There are sports that have not historically taken due diligence to the pursuit and expulsion of those who take competition beyond agreed levels.

These sports are not judged well by history, or by commerce.

To wit... boxing once ruled America's sporting awareness. The heavyweight champion of the world was a major celebrity, appeared on mainstream television and movies and news for just being his own damned self, and if he wasn't a big deal, the middleweight champion was. Most of the time, both mattered.

Then Don King and Bob Arum and other supreme parasites (supreme in that they made the earlier parasites look like angels) moved in, and the sport became, in my lifetime, marginalized to the point where human cockfighting and fake fighting (aka, pro wrestling) roll boxing in every possible measure.

Now, maybe our tastes as a nation and species would have gone this way in time anyway. But we loved boxing for centuries before the corruption got too hard to ignore.

And then we stopped.

More recently, cycling appeared to be something that was on the grow for North American sporting consideration. Lance Armstrong, aka the greatest drug cheat ever, became more popular than, well, the heavyweight champion of the world. And over time, the facade melted, the real person was shone, and since others in cycling were also dirty, we're going to go back to pretending that sport doesn't exist in America. (And, well, amen to that. Commuting is not sport. But I digress.)

Baseball itself has analogous scandals. Throwing games was fairly well tolerated, or at least thought not worth rooting out, for decades in the early part of the 20th century. PEDs date back to the 1960s, with Jim Bouton outing the practice of "greenie" abuse, which is to say, amphetamines. Luckily for the game, Babe Ruth came along to distract everyone from the Black Sox debacle, and baseball's expansion and relative parity for mid-markets fueled a '70s and '80s boom. Now, on-demand entertainment, and the inability of broadcast media to get away from live ratings, pours national and regional network dollars into the least-bad bucket. The boom is likely not long until correction, but the nature of sports in my lifetime is that when a bubble breaks, it means the sport just plateaus for a while, rather than actually contracts.

So... do not buy into the idea that MLB is prosecuting the likes of Ryan Braun out of nothing but stubbornness, or a Javert-like need to punish. (There is some of both, of course.)

The bigger issue is that corruption ends commerce. Always has, always will. And PED use, no matter how much we can try to dance around it with science or health or technology allegories, is corruption.

Life is too short to play, or watch, games that are corrupt.

Or, well, enthusiastically patronize any business that you know is corrupt.

And if you had skin in the game of MLB continuing to be a big-time league and cash cow, you'd probably nail as many PED cheaters to the wall that you could, too...

Darrell Green and Art Monk Said Something Obvious

Better Faces For The Franchise
In the continuing long term saga of how the Washington NFL franchise eventually changed its name from an obvious racist slur, two of the team's greatest players, Hall of Fame CB Darrell Green and Hall of Fame WR Art Monk, now say they have a problem with the nickname.

"[If] Native Americans feel like Redskins or the Chiefs or [another] name is offensive to them, then who are we to say to them 'No, it's not'?" Monk says.

"It deserves and warrants conversation because somebody is saying, 'Hey, this offends me,'" Green says."

Now, neither man put teeth into the opinion. They didn't ask to be removed from the team's Ring Of Whatever until the name is changed. They did not say they won't have anything to do with the franchise because they are embarrassed to be associated with the slur. (My guess is that what happens in a couple of years, as Momentum Grows.) They didn't even throw team owner and unwavering hindrance to human evolution Daniel Snyder under the bus for being such a, well, Daniel Snyder about this.

They were just asked a simple question and said what they think. It is, basically, the obvious answer: of course the name is offensive. If it were not, there might be a team in the world that was named in the last 50 years to use it. The defenders of the status quo wouldn't be so willing to go to rhetorical extremes and conspiracy theory to explain the opposition. And this wouldn't be a persistent story as more and more people come to grips with reality.

(Oh, and if you think this is somehow a Slippery Slope where the Raiders name would be next for being unfair to pirates, the Chiefs name gets changed to the People, and the Steelers are forced to put replace their logo with Steely McBeam because that's more gay friendly... um, you do realize that not every decision triggers a domino run of Unstoppable Awfulness, right? And that your fear of same says more about you, and your view of the dystopian future to come, than anything else? OK, moving on.)

I really don't mean to keep hitting the slur issue, because I feel that you come to this blog to be given opinions that are stronger than Water Is Wet... but one last thing about Snyder's personal mission to be the floating and defiant racist turd in the punchbowl that is the NFL. Note that Monk and Green aren't just two of the best players ever to wear the colors, and symbols of the last era of football where the franchise was truly relevant.

They are also, well, black -- which is to say, members of a demographic class who actually have experience with racial slurs that have any real impact. You could make the point that their feelings on this might have a little more resonance than Snyder, who was probably called Shorty once, to his face, before having his family's security detail murder a fellow prep school tool. Not quite the same experience.

And if Green and Monk continue to have this opinion, at least in public, it will be intriguing, to say the least, on whether other members of the alumni will also speak up, and how long Danny Boy can stick his fingers in his ears. Or how long the others at the party will let him filth up their bowl.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Top 10 takeaways from the $100 million Dustin Pedroia deal

Dustin with David Ortiz
10) Long term deals for injury prone players at positions where people get hurt all the time are always a good idea

9) By the time his contract is up, Pedroia will be 38 and have survived at least half a dozen fan apocalypses

8) Yankee Fan is convinced that Boston overpaid him so that his club won't be able to afford Robinson Cano

7) The Red Sox pretty much had to pay him, since he might be the only positive offensive player in MLB who seems unlikely to be on PEDs

6) If you believe in contract years, you really need to trade him in your fantasy league right now

5) You could call him overpaid, but it's not like there are an abundant number of second basemen who can hit, field and run

4) This contract gives Pedroia an excellent chance to saddle just one team with an unmovable contract for his entire career

3) The payday lets him fulfill his lifelong desire of going back to his California hometown, buying it, and then burning it to the ground

2) You might think he's set for life now, but he's a professional athlete, lives in New England and has a wife and two kids, so, well, maybe not

1) There is no truth to the rumor that if you steal his hat and refuse to give it back, you are now in line for a tremendous payday

Top 10 takeaways from the Ryan Braun suspension

Toodles, Cheater Boy
10) After this shocking fall from grace, the only thing that Braun has left is a contract worth tens of millions of dollars, and a local fan base that will mark out for him if he, well, hits next year when he returns

9) Being forced to miss the last 65 games of the 2013 Brewers season really seems like cruel and inhuman punishment, really, no, seriously

8) Before everyone marks out for how Matt Kemp Wuz Robbed for Braun's MVP year, maybe we need to take a second look at Kemp's nonstop recent injury history

7) You will be shocked, shocked to learn that Braun probably made all of his sleazy connections while in, surprise, surprise, The Great State Of National Embarrassment That Is Florida

6) Braun says that he realizes now that he's made some mistakes, the chief of which was being an inveterate liar and cheat

5) The announcement made everyone stop pretending to care about the Matt Garza trade

4) Braun's scandalous behavior will finally give America's racists the excuse they've been looking for to hate Jews

3) Realistically, everyone should have known that Braun was a fraud, since he was actually a good offensive player in this neutered era

2) Alex Rodriguez is probably next on the PED Death Watch, assuming anyone still gives a fart in an elevator about Alex Rodriguez

1) Someone's still going to draft him in the first round of your fantasy baseball league next year

Monday, July 22, 2013

FTT Off-Topic: Small Moments of Pride

Not Seen: Abject Defeat
Really not sports this time.

Saturday was the youngest's birthday (she's 8), and since this happens in the depths of summer when no one is around and arranging a party is just an exercise in futility, we try to think creatively about such things. So we asked her what she wanted to do, and she said she wanted to go to Knoebels, and take her best friend from two doors down. Sold.

Knoebels, in case you aren't familiar with my patterns, is the best amusement park in the country, mostly because of what it is not. I've never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride there. I've never paid to park or enter. I've never left with the feeling that I'd been had, that parenting in the modern era is a zero-win game, that the people who run the enterprise are folks who I would not pee on if they were on fire. And that's because Knoebels is different.

It's family owned by the same folks who started it. It welcomes dogs and doesn't search your bag or cooler. You can bring in your own food if you like. Rides are usually done by tickets, which means that you never really sit there and do the math of how much you are being ripped off by waiting to do stuff. There are no VIP lines, no Special Privileges for the swells, no Better Food or Secret Handshake or any of that.

Instead, what you get is two world-class wood coasters. One very large and well done swimming and waterslide area. Two solid log flumes -- one big and drenchy, the other moderate and refreshing. One excellent Haunted House with banging doors. Two restored turn of the century carousels where you reach for the brass ring. The same Sans Irony entertainment acts of cover bands and performing miniature dogs. Kid thrill rides that are basically the same G forces at work as the adult ones, just with less oomph. Old-school whiplash-tastic bumper cars. Great and varied food for a pittance of the price you pay elsewhere. And all designed, basically, to get you coming back over and over and over again. I love the place.

Today, not so much.

We met up with a couple of friends and their younger kids and played tour guide for a bit. We brought our dog, who had a great day getting attention from strangers, but also limited the number of things we could do. We were jammed in the car for the 3-hour car ride back, and ran into traffic on the way back that made it four.

And our guest neighbor kid got sick twice, my right foot turned into an appendage of hate, and the eldest spent the day clutching her stomach, wanting to barf, but not able to. (I have no idea what got into either kid. Other than the fact that they are kids, aka Harbingers Of Disease and Death.) By the time 6pm rolled around, the earlier plan of a late-day swim following some coaster action had been covered in sawdust and disappointment, and I was limping them home on my suddenly horrible foot.

This is where, well, I get some clues that we're not doing a horrible job as parents. While both daughters were disappointed to have to go home "early", they didn't pule too hard about it. The eldest disguised her symptoms for much of the day, especially the larger and more public audience. The youngest didn't play any "But it's my birthday!" whines that would have just made the whole situation so much worse. The dog was friendly to all and didn't whimper or cause trouble. And the Shooter Wife kept clam and kept on, despite really not doing well in heat.

I love them all. They made a bad day tolerable. They made me want to take them back at the soonest feasible time. And they kept anyone from telling the story of how our special family place had been forever changed or ruined by an unlucky day.

Any family can be good when things go well. But if you've got one that soldiers on when things are going sideways? That's got to be a good sign, right? And well worth feet that I really want to amputate right now...

10 reasons why the Sixers coaching search is taking a while

Give it to one of these guys
10) Team is too busy changing jobs of people with actual power

9) They really wanted to give the job to Michael Curry, but the Orlando summer league team didn't bring home the only gold they have a shot at this year

8) Ownership still hung up on that crucial mascot decision from last year, so why would you think thus would go quickly

7) Craig's List ad with header of "Searching for a patsy" hasn't gotten them the kind of targeted leads they were looking for

6) After last year's debacle, want everyone involved to know just how big the tank job is going to be this year

5) Need to be sure that Jrue Holiday's brother, who is still only still on the roster but perhaps in line for opening night

4) Doug Collins' old man funk is still in the drapes

3) Want to give Charles Barkley and the world's sports bloggers something to list up in the Dead Time

2) There's some advanced metric basketball nerdery afoot that says this is a win

1) It's not easy to find someone who would actually take several years of near-total futility before being fired, never to return again

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Brief And Obvious Point About Fantasy League Auctions Vs. Drafts

Case Closed
With very rare exceptions, once a player tries an auction, they don't go back to drafts.

Having said that, it's really not like checkers vs. chess. It's more like limit hold'em vs. no limit. Or riding a bicycle against riding a motorcycle. Or any number of things that are simple and tired and OK against things that are complex and fresh and fascinating.

What happens in drafts, assuming that you don't get the position you want (and few will) and aren't in a league with morons, is that you spend a few hours wondering why you bothered to join in the first place. Since signing s up for a league where, if you truly value the talent falling off a cliff after a certain tier, you've got no option but to just sit there and try to make the best of it.

But by all means, if you like drafts, keep doing them. They are like popcorn, after all: hard to resist, not terribly varied in terms of quality, empty calories, and popular as hell. Just don't be too surprised when your league keeps just the weaker players, when you find yourself in games with more and more folks who quit on things after a month, and less and less satisfied with the meal...

The Eagles Sign Lane Johnson Without Drama

Lane Signs
There are few things in sports fandom better than when you actually agree with the ownership of your team. So in an era when playoff games haven't existed for a very long time for Eagle fans, and the games have been an utter tire fire, there is something tremendously reassuring about what's been going on for weeks now.

Namely, all of the draft picks have been signed, without acrimony or drama.

Today, the last domino fell, with Lane Johnson, the fourth overall pick from Oklahoma, and the first pick of the Chip Kelly era, doing the deed. There was no notice in the media, no sense that Johnson was going to hold out, no missed time in the July heat, no sense that the young man was going to be behind the eight ball from starting on Day One (and yes, he should start on Day One, because the 2013 Eagles will not be a playoff team, which means they need to spend the year finding out if Johnson is going to be a part of the 2014 club that might)...

And yes, I know that signing first round picks is a lot easier than it used to be. Hell, the Dolphins even got Dion Jordan to sign a We Don't Pay If We Cut You deal, which has to be considered as something of a slap in the face to Jordan, but still. This franchise does not exactly have a spotless record of getting such things done, and if the only time you notice stuff is to complain, you are doing it wrong.

So welcome to the fold, Mr. Johnson. Today, no one in the fan base is going to say a bad word about you. You've missed no time, made no waves, and made us not think at all about anything that isn't between the lines. Now, just do this for the next 10 to 15 years, and arrange to get the number 69 to go with your Beavis Moment of a last name, and we're all going to be dangerously happy...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seat Open

OK, Not Like This
I realize this is a long shot, but I've written enough about the Association in the past few months, so...

The keeper fantasy league that I run has an opening. I could get into the rules and bore the vast majority of spybots and search entries that read this, but the plain and simple is that if you want to make the NBA regular season nearly as much fun as the playoffs, you need to have some skin in the game. And the beautiful thing about keeper leagues it that you always do, because you can always trade your full-price auction stars for next year's bench bargains, and set yourself up for a quick tear down and recovery.

Anyway, email me at dmt shooter at gmail dot com (have to defeat those spambots) if you are interested. We can take a phoner for the spot, though being local to central New Jersey means you get the fun of a live draft auction room.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled summer dead time sports blog.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Brief And Obvious Point About Marc Cuban Saying The Mavs Are Better Off Without Dwight Howard

He Still Has The Dance, Dammit
 Before we get into this... only Cubes could make me defend, in any way, one of the five most over-rated players on the planet. Marc Cuban is special, people! Just ask him!

Deep breath...

Didn't he say the same thing last year, after he couldn't tear himself away from a reality show long enough to recruit Deron Williams? (Not that Deron coated himself in glory last year, but at least he played in the playoffs.)

And also, weren't they in the running for LeBron James a couple of years before that?

And, um, didn't we use to hear how everyone wanted to come to Dallas, because Cubes took such care of the help? How's that working out?

S'ok, Cubes. I'm sure Monta Ellis will be dramatically better than OJ Mayo, despite being, well, the exact same damn player. Golden State got dramatically better after he left by coincidence, and the Bucks not wanting him at any realistic price is in no way a tell. Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert haven't wandered the NBA like Bedouin tribesmen because they are fungible losers that wear out their welcome through never getting any better at playing basketball, but because no one else is as smart as you. Dallas Fan will continue to fill the arena for more riveting games around the playoff bubble, in the big hope that they can say they were there when the team got turned into street pizza against a high seed.

Oh, and in other news, Dirk Nowitzki is old, the Mavs didn't make the playoffs last year, they won't this year, and no one seems very interested in taking Cubes' money despite being in a tax-free warmish winter state, because NBA stars find Cubes to be a clingy fanboy that makes them want to go wash up.

But it's all going to work out, because Marc Cuban is very, very smart. Just ask him!

This Week In Go Away: Retail Creep

Creep You
What, you may ask, is Retail Creep? It is the practice of making available for purchase seasonal items a little earlier than the year before.

Nice phrase, huh?

Now, I'm going to quote a number at you. That number is $84,000,000,000.

Too big to visualize? OK, let's get manageable. $688.

The first is the total expected revenue in the United States for Back To School sales, which have been running at some stores for, I kid you not, weeks.

The latter is the average for how much each freaking household will spend.


The numbers are real, by the way. Ad Age. Shopping For Jebus, by comparison, comes in at $580 billion, but the per household bite is pretty similar, because, well, everybody shops for Jebus, but not everybody haz kids.

Now, um, I guess there will be a day when I spend that much. Perhaps when the eldest goes off to college (oh, she's going, I'm counting the days), and I need to do stuff like get her a dorm fridge, toaster, text books, housewares, et al. Though why I would have focused all of that pain at once, rather than add things to her room as she got near departure, I'll never know. Oh, and when I do purchase these things, I will do so in the same method in which I purchase stuff for myself -- which is to say, I will take advantage of clearance sales and/or buy used stuff online and the like. Because, well, I will be paying for a considerable chunk of the utter fiscal horror that is college, and she will be 18. There will be no reason for her to have top-line stuff, because she will trash it, because she will be 18 and surrounded by other 18 year olds. This is the way of the world.

But that's not how people are going to spend $688 per house, and we get to that number without all of those families having broods of children or the college dorm expense. No, what is going on here is top-line spending in a borderline prisoner's dilemma of turning the kids into referendums on their parent's style, and/or the child's ability to manipulate them into bigger buys. And all of that is fine, really, in that I am an American and in advertising to boot, but I'm here to let you all in on a terrible, terrible secret.

The longer that you make a buying "season", the more people will buy.


That's why Retail Creep exists. And why, unless we wise up, it will only continue.

Two weeks ago, as a natural consequence of a greater commitment to physical fitness, I decided to add a couple of pairs of shorts to my rotation. My daughters could use some more of them as well. So we went to the sporting goods store, in early July no less... and found exactly what we needed. On the clearance rack, for about 80% off list price, because who the hell would buy shorts in early July? Dammit, this is when you buy fall clothing! For, well, full price.

Do you know what happens if you miss all of the big back to school sales? You shop for similar stuff a week before school opens, and if your kid doesn't have the exact right notebook or protractor that the school put on its list, you tell your kid to throw you under the bus as an Irresponsible Parent to their teacher on the very off chance that anyone notices, and you pocket the 80% savings for not being a puppet. Hey, more money for the inevitable magazine / chocolate / sex toy sales to support the PTA later, right? Right. And no kid ever flunked a course because their 2-section bound notebook had 3-sections. Honest.

We're turned into a nation of panicky, fear-based hoarders, people. And, well, we're teaching our kids a terrible lesson. That marketing and advertising is smarter than your parents. That if the crowd all runs to do the same thing, you better do that thing faster and with more ruthless determination, rather than, well, think. And that living their life in anticipation for an event, or buying their way through the bummer that is said event, is how they should live.

That's all bullsquat. Grade A, premium grade, pays the bills in some indirect way for my family but remains complete and utter bullsquat.

Buy things when you need them, not months before. Be better than the panic. Improvise if you somehow aren't able to get something that sells out, rather than pule about it. End Retail Creep in our lifetime.

And then write smug blog posts on the slowest sports day of the year about how much better your life is for it.

Works for me!

(Oh, and don't worry: my two kids will get all of their books and supplies. They will be dressed appropriately, They will have stuff to decorate their locker and probably a new bookbag, and some new clothes not because its back to school, but because it's fall. They will dress in a manner that tells the teacher that they are here to learn and not distract, while also giving them some ownership of their own style. And all of that will happen for a sane price, and if said sane price is not achieved, we'll wait and get stuff later. Just like last year, when we didn't buy back to school stuff until, well, late August. You know, close to, um, Back to School.)

Editor's Note: Oh, and just this morning...

The National Retail Federation says families will spend less outfitting their children for school this year, laying out an average of $634.78 on clothes, apparel, supplies and electronics. That’s a considerable decline from last year’s $688.62...



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Top 10 takeaways from Keith Olbermann coming back to ESPN

I Also Haz Theme Song Suggestion
10) This has the potential to be the best evis- ceration of a reputation since Joe Gibbs returned to DC

9) Given the man's admitted employment history, there's really no reason to imagine this lasts past 2014

8) On the plus side, this really has to put the itching powder in Bill Simmons' chaps

7) The over/under on the suits forcing him to cover Tim Tebow is now at 2.5 months

6) With the man's past political leanings, it's going to make it a wee bit awkward when he's got sponsored parts of his show for the Adolph Coors Reich

5) No matter how well-written and intelligent the KO show might be, it can't possibly get that stink of Skip Bayless out of the curtains

4) Olbermann is doing the show in New York, because even unemployed men consider living and working in Bristol, Connecticut to be a deal breaker

3) There is no truth to the rumor that Fox is going to give Bill O'Reilly a sports show on their new network just to see if they can make Olbermann's head explode

2) If Olbermann brings back his Special Comment to tear new orifices in the nether regions of sports team owners, I will know that God Loves Me

1) In my secret conflicted fanboy dreams, Olbermann cites this list in his Twitter feed, insults me, and brings my blog's earnings from site traffic all the way up Name Brand Cereal money

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Top 10 takeaways on how Bud Selig won't ever send an email

He's Also Stone Deef
10) We are shocked, shocked to discover that Bud's ability to hear news or opinions from outside of his echo chamber is limited

9) To be fair, to men of Bud's age, typing is something only done by women who can't land husbands with good jobs

8) Using technology that's been ubiquitous for decades is just too fast for Bud

7) Has an awful lot to hide from the NSA

6) Has never seen the point of replacing his abacus and telegraph

5) Suddenly, the league's inability to impose a salary cap that actually equates large and small markets, unlike, well, every other major league is a lot more understood

4) While he doesn't send emails, he does dictate to eunuchs

3) Logged into Compuserve once, read a naughty word, and never went back

2) If it wasn't good enough for Kenesaw Mountain Landis, it's not good enough for him

1) Change Scares Him, unless it's interleague play, making the winner of the All Star Game get home field advantage in the World Series, introducing a spiraling amount of wild card team to ruin pennant races among great teams, adding instant replay to umpiring and changing dozens of stadiums over for corporate pillaging

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Brief And Obvious Point About The Home Run Derby

No Caption, Either
This is not sports.

If you watch this, you do not like sports.

What you like is a bloated gas bag doing shtick that, if it were performed by an 8 year-old boy, would get him slapped upside the head, or at the very least, quarantined from normal kids.

And if you do not agree with me on this...

1) Your Opinion Is Wrong, and

2) You Are Reading The Wrong Blog.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Top 10 takeaways on Metta World Peace going to the Knicks

He'll Fit In
10) On a team with Amar'e Stoud- amire, Andrea Bargnani, JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony, his chances of looking like the Defensive Player of the Year are going to skyrocket

9) He's from the area, and it's always a good idea for crazy people to have more day to day contact with their relatives

8) He's only 23 more teams away from having a jersey from every franchise

7) Now that Smith is out for the next 3 to 4 months with knee surgery, he's sure to get all of the three point shots he can brick

6) At 33 and in his 14th year, he represents one of the younger recent acquisitions for the team

5) Like many aging drama queens, just can't resist the allure of a Broadway show

4) What with the Lakers paying him over 4X of his Knicks paycheck this year, can actually afford to live in New York

3) His defensive reputation, if true or based in current reality, would be such a good counterpoint to the rest of the roster

2) There's no chance that MWP on his sixth team and 14th year will in any way corrupt Smith into going back to his old wacky ways, especially now that Smith got paid this off-season

1) When your choice is between James Dolan and Donald Sterling as your employer, you're going to go with Dolan, even if it means moving your family 3,000 miles

Monday, July 15, 2013

Prepare For Sports Network Armageddon

It's Getting A Wee Bit Crowded
You are about to start seeing full-scale and full-on hype for Fox Sports One, the new channel from the network that's redefined, mostly for ill, entertainment in this century. The concept that there can and should be a serious competitor for ESPN's status as sole dog in the 24 hour sports network space is a welcome one, and also makes you wonder just how profound NBC's failure has been with their launch... but, well, this is the only time-shift proof media left in the On Demand Age, so I guess it was inevitable.

What's also inevitable, it seems, is how strongly the market is going to fracture. Turner actually probably makes the best case for being the second-best cable network right now, as their NBA package trounces the Lemur, and their MLB work is more or less indistinguishable from the ESPN and Fox work. (A small aside to MLB: do you really sell any MLB TV subscriptions in the Northeast? Where I live, I get the Mets, Phillies and Yankees, along with ESPN, TBS and Fox -- in other words, way more baseball than I can generally hope to watch. Admittedly, none of it is my A's, but that's not exactly going to make me pony up for the package. Moving on.)

Now, the positive way to spin this is that more channels equals more competition, and less chance that you will ever be tempted to watch ESPN. Seriously, watching ESPN causes cancer in lab animals, even more than any other non-game coverage on any other station. Their little eyes just start bulging on the smugness, and by the time their heads finally explode from the tumors, you can see just how much they are ready to welcome death's sweet... perhaps I've said too much. Anyway. Skip Bayless, Screaming A. Smith, the PTI clowns, the Around the Horn mouth breathers... if you aren't watching them on a gym treadmill to fill your mind with cleansing hate to finish your workout, you have no excuse. And probably not even then.

But here's the thing... I'm not sure that the Brave New World of more people trying to do ESPN's thing is going to be any better. Consider Turner / NBA.com's mostly delightful "Open Court" panel show, where Ernie Johnson corrals a number of recent NBA luminaries into something approaching entertainment. Then compare it to Fox's nitrous whippet pre-game circle jerks, or MLB TV's insistence that Mitch Williams needs to be kept off the streets and in front of a camera, and you get my point. As a species, we do not deserve more of Tony Siragusa. (And if you like the Goose, two things: this is the wrong blog for you, and I can make you recoil in horror in the exact same fashion by dropping the name of Keith Olbermann in there.)

And beyond the panel shows, there is what is going to happen to your cable bill here. The only way to get the games that actually make people watch your network is to shovel more dollars at the major leagues. Once they've figured out the new king's ransom for rights payments, the channels will go to the cable providers and demand more, and we're right back to the past fights with NFL Network v. Comcast / Cablevision / Etc... and eventually, those channels will pass the bill on to you and me.

So.

More channels showing more sports, less reason for you to be forced to watch terrible shows because there might be more games on, and maybe the explosion of hours will actually cause someone to hire some numbers nerds who might actually tell you something you haven't heard from an ex-jock, or a coach that doesn't dumb things down and actually gets into the guts on an expert level. Don't hold your breath on any of that.

And more money, not just for the people who want to pay it, but for the people who have cable and aren't sports fans.

We'd call these people the group that is increasingly cutting the cord and living on Web and DVD-only entertainment options.

And when they go... why, the cable providers will have to up rates, of course, which will drive more non-sports users out and so on, and so on....

The Phillies Are Invincible

Last night in Philadelphia, the Phillies lost one of the bigger reasons why they have gotten back into the periphery of the NL East race, when CF Ben Revere suffered bad luck and a 6 to 8 week injury. On top of Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay going down, Chase Utley suddenly losing defensive reliability, Carlos Ruiz hitting like last year was Nothing But Drugs, Jimmy Rollins not going deep in forever...

But wait, there's more. Jonathan Papelbon has been shaky for the better part of a month, and blew another save today. They've been having real issues in the bullpen for years now. Cole Hamels was, until recently, one of the most disappointing big name pitchers in the National League. The farm system is mostly bereft of impact players.

Which hasn't stopped them, at least not yet, from biting your legs off.



Such behavior was in evidence today with their eventual win over the White Sox in extra innings. That allowed them to storm to the break with a 9-4 mark that puts them back at .500 for the first time in a long while, and makes them one of the more intriguing questions around.

They've done it with pitching. Hamels has been great the past few times out, Cliff Lee is Cliff Lee, and they are getting yeoman work out of people you've never heard of (Jonathan Petitbone), or never been impressed with (John Lannan, Kyle Kendrick). The bullpen seems better now that they've exiled Philippe Aumont, a classic million dollar arm and five cent head, to the minors. While they still are far from airtight down there, they aren't arsonists any more, either. Howard's injury may be a blessing in disguise, in that replacement Darin Ruf has hit so far, balances them out against left handed hitting, and Howard has been pretty bad for much of the year. Domonic Brown is still a major power stick in the depressed NL, Michael Young has hit for much of the year, and in the suddenly injury-riddled NL East, .500 isn't out of it.

There's also this: for whatever peculiar magic, this has been a second-half team ever since manager Charlie Manuel came to town. Only the Yankees have a better second half record than the Phillies since 2005, and while this has the strong whiff of Andy Reid Can't Be Beaten After A Bye Until He Gets His Head Caved In, there might be something to it. Manuel doesn't panic, doesn't hang his players out to dry in the media, and gets his aging regulars a fairly solid amount of rest, while working in new players well. He's also got a front office that hasn't thrown in the towel on any season before last one, and throwing in the towel on Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino in 2012 might have qualified as addition by subtraction.

Can they keep it up? Math says no. They are still -45 in run differential (to give you an idea, Washington is a half game up on them while being -14, and the Mets are 4.5 behind while being -27), and teams that have gotten this flat out lucky generally do not remain that way all year. They've exhausted their games with the Marlins, which might be a good thing, given how that team has stopped being jaw-droppingly terrible in the past month and a half. Atlanta is dropping outfielders like old men fumbling with change, but the wild-card out seems like a very foolhardy bet, given the strength of the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds in the Central. It's hard to see how they have the assets to be a buyer, given the lack of studs in the farm system, or how the 2013 versions of Howard or Halladay return from injury and provide real value. They'll need a lot of fungible pitchers to keep being a lot better than their career marks, and the offense to overcome the loss of Revere, while Ruf avoids any drop. It's not likely.

But, well, at least they are .500 again, and with the possibility of preventing the area's media from spending every waking moment and electron on who Chip Kelly's camp cuts are, and how this totally validates your hypothesis on what his team's will look like, and how he's a stone cold genius / utter boob. Whether we thank luck, clutch behavior, or the pillars of an unexpected run isn't as important as the idea that they've bought another week or two of relevance. And maybe even a stop to one of the weaker runs in Philly sports in decades.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tim Lincecum: The Moment Vs. The Season

Icing him down with speed
Tonight in San Diego, the San Francisco Giants let their starting pitcher, a former Cy Young award winner, stay in a game where they were up by 9 runs in the ninth to complete the game -- so, basically, a game they could have probably won with a position player on the mound. Said pitcher wound up striking out 13 men, and throwing a career-high 148 pitches. The story made the front page of ESPN, and if past precedent is any indication, the pitcher is at very high risk for injury and decreased effectiveness for the rest of the season.

Such is the price for Tim Lincecum striking out 13, walking four, hitting a batter and, oh, right, no-hitting the Padres. In a road game, by the way.

Along with history and superstition, why would the Giants do this? Well, because they probably know they are dead in the water this year. At 43-50, they are 6.5 behind in the NL West, but would have to pass the Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks to win the division, and LA in particular looks poised to be a lot better in the second half. They are actually even further out in the wild card race, trailing the Pirates and Cardinals by 8.5 games. Lincecum's effort tonight notwithstanding, this pitching staff hasn't been nearly as good as advertised, with Matt Cain in particular falling off a cliff. Maybe this is the spark they need, but there isn't much for this team to hang their hat on right now. The offense is below the mean, and so is the pitching, and one has to wonder about the hunger for a team that has recent championships. Short of Buster Posey, there really isn't a bat that scares you here, and while that was also true for much of 2012, when the pitching isn't otherworldly, it looks a lot more fatal.

But congrats to Lincecum for the accomplishment, and to the Giants for letting him get it done, given that the All Star Break starts tomorrow, and no hitters are kind of like flags -- they fly forever.

But if you suddenly start seeing him offered up in your fantasy league, don't overpay...

A Brief And Obvious Point About Texas Passing The Nation's Highest Restrictins Against Reproductive Choice

Used also for ulcers
Passing laws against an activity...

does not end the activity.

Texas shares a border with Mexico, where all manners of medical procedures are available to desperate people with hard currency, and not even very much of it. According to the NY Times, a relatively effective pill is also available in flea markets, with a common price quoted as $35 for the generic, and $175 for the branded.

Pill-based procedures are, of course, far less safe for the woman, and while I'm sure that will be just fine for some, the simple fact of the matter is that they'll wind up going to emergency rooms when things go very, very wrong.

So, let's recap.

The law's stated goal is to lower the number of abortions.

It won't.

And as a side effect, more people will die, and Texas residents will pay more.

But on the plus side, they won't have so many places to picket, and they'll be able to pretend they did a good thing.Since they won't be able to see places where the procedure happens, and will be able to pretend that the problem went away.

Instead of to the flea market and the emergency room.

Oh, and a small and obvious note to women in Texas.

If you don't change your legislature very, very quickly...

Can I suggest a change in address?

Unless, of course, you like the idea of being forced to carry a rapist's baby to term as the state's brood mare...

Manny Machado, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper: Domination or Degradation?

Young Ones, They Are
Bryce Harper turns 21 in another three months, at which point he'll probably have around 50 career home runs in his first 1,000 major league ABs. At an age where most of his contemporaries are in college or the low minors, he's a two-time All-Star. Assuming health, ordinary development and a future free of PED convictions, he projects out to something in excess of 15 more years in the bigs, and it starts to get hard to see how he doesn't wind up with over 500 home runs.  None of that should come as any kind of surprise, or have any kind of outlandishness to the statement. And if you want to go to 20 years and 600 dingers, or even more extraordinary totals, I won't hold it against you.

Mike Trout turns 22 in less than a month. He also has 50 career home runs, and has hit and ran better than Harper to date. While many question whether or not he's really a 30HR+ per season guy, that's what he did last year, and that's what he's on pace to do this year. Give him another 15 years, and we're looking at power and speed numbers that could rival Barry Bonds, assuming that anyone will still be talking about, or recognize the accomplishments of, the disgraced steroid user.

Final one: Manny Machdo turned 21 last week. He's only got 14 homers in his first 600 MLB ABs, but he might already be the best defensive third baseman in the majors, and he's hitting .314 this year while on pace for over 70 doubles, which would only break a record (67) that has stood for 71 years, and hasn't been in serious peril for, well, ever. As he gets older, those doubles should start ending up in the seats. And since he's really got a shortstop's range, arm and glove, he might even be able to play for longer still, since he'll have plenty of places to go on the diamond if he needs to move.

Oh, OK, one more... Yasiel Puig is 22 and is also on pace for a 30+ HR season, though his late entrance into 2013 keeps that from being a given. Considering the home park where he works, his power might be the most striking of all four of these guys... so while it's foolish to judge based on this small of a sample size, well, 150 ABs isn't chump change anymore. He also hasn't hit a home run since July 2, and while he's lost 51 points off his batting average this month, he's still hitting .392. That's more than a little dominating.

Guys who are this young should not be able to do this. And it's been a very long time -- decades, really, and history will not judge Alex Rodriguez's early career kindly -- since we've had so many young phenoms with not only press clippings, but tangible results and solid power projections.

Now, I don't mean to demean the talent or accomplishments of any of these guys. They look special and they play special. But so many of them, all at once, also speak to a less happy idea: that the talent level and overall quality of play in MLB is on the wane.

Looking back at the history of the game, there are more outliers back in the day. Bob Feller pitched for the Indians when he was 17. There were a bunch of other 17 year olds playing with the lack of depth in MLB during World War II. Jimmie Foxx wasn't 18 yet before taking the field for the A's in 1925. Joe Nuxhall holds the record for being a 15-year-old in his debut, but that was pretty much a publicity stunt, and he didn't make it back to the majors until he was 23.

And there's a reason for that, in that the league's talent base wasn't as deep then (especially with the lack of talent from America's black population). Which, well, is what's true today as well. African-American talent has more or less deserted baseball for football and basketball, and the Latin American and Asian factories haven't really been able to match the drop off. We got fooled by this from the steroid era, but now that testing seems to be closer to the cheaters, maybe we're getting the real story now.

There will be, of course, outliers. Aroldis Chapman nearly touched 105 on the gun the other day against the Braves. Puig, Harper, Trout and Machado would be standout talents at any age. Clayton Kershaw could wind up as the best lefty starter for the Dodgers ever -- yes, better than Koufax and Valenzuela. Miguel Cabrera is ridiculous. A sport in decline will have more record breakers, not less, because that top-tier talent will be playing against a lower level of opponent, rather than getting neutralized by equivalent talents.

So if this is a trend, rather than an aberration, keep an eye out for the MLB debuts of top and overly young prospects like Byron Buxton (19 year old MIN OF), Xander Bogaretes (20 year old BOS SS/3B), Miguel Sano (20 year old MIN 3B), Taijuan Walker (20 year old SEA SP) and Francisco Lindor (19 year old CLE SS).

And if more of these guys come up to the majors and dominate right away, or we start to see pitchers hitting better for the first time in a century, which would be another sign of middling talent in the middles... well, it's not all good news for the league.

Though they will, of course, sell you an entirely different story...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Royce White And Philly Fan

Learning About Not Flying
This mostly passed without notice, but the Rockets slid devalued 2012 first round pick Royce White to their old friend Sam Hinkie to get low enough to manage Dwight Howard.

Which led to everyone who knows anything about White (here's the short version: talented power forward with social anxiety disorders that prevented him from playing a minute for Houston last year, with the prime sticking point being a crippling fear of flying) to giggle about how, good lord, what a turrible, turrible place for him to go! Philly Fan's Gonna Be Mean To Him And Stuff!

Well, um, ok, fine. I get it: Philly Fan is Mean Mean Mean, much more so than New York or Boston or Detroit or DC or LA or any other big city where people pay a lot of money to see teams that really don't win enough championships to make the purchase seem wise. But regardless of the unlikelihood of all that, there's this...

The Sixers are going to have a kitten-soft home crowd next year.

There's no Andrew Bynum to antagonize the swells. There is no pretension that the team is going to be anything but a live audition to be on the next good Sixers team, ETA 2015. Everyone who enters the building knows, in advance, that this is going to be a 15 to 25 win team that's going to stockpile lottery balls like mad, and that whoever has the coach's whistle is going to play rooks and noobs regardless of the time and score. They are going to be lucky to draw 10-12K a game, and of that number, there really isn't going to be a dramatic amount of ferocity in booing White.

Now, let's also assume that the plane problem can't be fixed in 2013. How many games can White join his mates? Well, the 41 home games are a given, and if the 2011-12 schedule is any guide, I'm adding at least another 12 to 15 more dates as auto, bus or train friendly. He'd be able to play the road games against the Wiz, Knicks and Nets in the company of his team mates. Games in Boston and Charlotte are more of a stretch, but really not unrealistic, especially if his role on the club is significant enough to merit a driver. Cleveland and Atlanta are a little more arduous, and Amtrak runs to Chicago and Detroit without too much insanity. If you are going to have a NBA player that can't get on a plane, there might not be a better place for him to try to make a contribution than Philadelphia.

There's also this: if White shows even a scintilla of ability and any sense of humor about his situation (dude, just one photo op in the Mr T / B.A. Baracus attire, and I guarantee you that your merch sales will go through the roof, along with a line of commercial endorsements for car services et al)... well, I guarantee you that a portion of the home crowd would mark out for him, big time. The thing about Philadelphia is that we *prefer* athletes with a screw or six loose. Lenny Dykstra was more beloved here than Queens. Darren Daulton wasn't right in the head before the health problems. Dave Hollins was a borderline psychopath. Steve Carlton, Jay Johnstone, Pete Incaviglia, Darryl Dawkins and World Be Free, Ron Hextall, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson, Manute Bol, Tommy McDonald, Andre Waters, Randall Cunningham, Brian Dawkins... all of these guys, some of them going back before I was born, toyed with the idea that they weren't right in the head, and they were all loved far in excess of their abilities or success.

Guys who know they are stars and carry themselves like it, a la Eric Lindros, Mike Schmidt, Donovan McNabb, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving... those at the one that we tear apart. They have no fire, no heart, no soul, no whatever. We like our athletes to scrap, and the ones that make it look easy also make it look fake.

So kudos to Sam Hinkie for taking a flyer on the non-flyer. And Royce, seriously, think hard about having Mr. T at your press conference. Play this right, and you'll have your own convoy to follow you to road games...

Top 10 reasons why Ilya Kovalchuk is leaving $77 million on the table

You Can Also Hail A Cab That Way
Kovalchuk, for those who don't know the NHL, is a 30-year-old star who retired from the New Jersey Devils today, despite having 12 years and a fortune left on the table. Why is the Russian star walking away?

10) Spending your '30s in New Jersey rather than Russia is clearly worth, um, a lot of money

9) Martin Brodeur smells like onions and feet

8) Convinced that James Gandolfini's death was no accident

7) You can't spend $77 million back in Russia without buying the entire country anyway, and really has no taste for landlord work

6) Wants to prove to Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL pinheads that lockouts actually do cause lasting damage, since he'd never have known how much fun it was to play in Russia without that

5) Knew that he'd have gotten amnestied at some point anyway, which is a mighty nice word for Management Welch

4) Given the competitiveness of Russian sports team owners and the cost of living in New Jersey versus his home country, might actually increase his take home pay this way

3) Was desperate to avoid road trips to Brooklyn, because he's deathly afraid of hipsters

2) Had a hard time believing that a franchise that plays its games in Newark was going to remain solvent for the length of the deal anyway

1) Can't wait to get home to join in the non-stop fun that is Russian Driving



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Daniel Snyder and Roger Goodell Are Still On Congressional Notice

Kicking Ass and Using Vowels
Eni Faleo- mavaega is the non-voting U.S. House rep from American Samoa. Today, he took to the floor of the House to make the small but obvious point that Roger Goodell and Dan Snyder are Filled With The Brown Stuff about their continued refusal to change their odious name, and that their reasons for staying the course (Tradition! No one's offended! If you are offended, you're wrong!) are, well, as ridiculous as the name.

Here's a small but telling point as to how Goodell and Snyder are the southbound end of a northbound dinosaur... if this is such a wonderful name, why aren't more teams moving toward it? Why not spend their time and money making sure that every college and high school team that switches off stuff like this stays with their old name?

Oh, right. Because Snyder and Goodell don't actually believe what they are saying. They just don't want to do anything that any one else ever tells them to do, because they can't fathom being made to admit they were ever wrong about anything. From the men that brought you Steve Spurrier, Albert Haynesworth, Scab Refs and Bountygate, we give you... Nickname Infallibility. Sure, OK.

And, well, I don't mean to note this every time it happens, because it's going to happen a lot over the years, up and until the moment that Snyder realizes that this particular set of convictions might possibly be costing him any amount of money.... but I made the tragic mistake of actually glancing at the comments accompanying the article. On a DC sports blog.

Slur Fan, you will be shocked to discover, is very angry about this. (Marvin the Martian Voice on) Very, very angry indeed. (Marvin Voice Off)

You see, in a collective league where your cable bills, merch buys, television ad revenue and ticket money is pooled to a pretty substantial degree, it's no one's business but theirs what Dan Snyder calls his team. The other 31 teams that allow this established obscenity to continue are in no way affected or complicit. Why, they can't even find Native Americans who are offended by this! Mostly because finding Native Americans is hard, given how many of them we killed and shunted off to godforsaken reservations. But I digress.

This just in, Slur Fans: it matters what your team is called because they get my money, along with yours. They demean the human spirit outside of their local metropolitan area. Even if the decimated and downtrodden demographic that's had to accept five hundred years of things far worse than your choice of casual pejorative doesn't care very much about it, probably because grinding poverty makes you not care what billionaires call their toys. It matters.

And it's not Political Correctness, or Creeping Socialism, or Rampant Liberalism or any other bogeyman that you'd like to blame for why decent people think your name is an embarrassment.

Rather, it's a little thing called taste.

And we're not going to lose ours just because you can't be bothered to grow any.

Oh, and to counter the inevitable Congress Has Nothing Better To Do Than This argument? The House of Representatives has voted 37 times to repeal Obamacare, when it has never, not once, not ever, had a prayer of having that passed in the Senate. Reasonable people, I suspect, would wonder what was accomplished on Try #37 that wasn't accomplished in the first 36.

So five minutes to tell Snyder and Goodell that they are still on notice for being asshats may be this session's best day of 2013...

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