Monday, July 31, 2006

Cheers and Jeers On Vacation

Dear All,
Much to my chagrin Cheers and Jeers will be on vacation from BSD for this week while I get through a rough patch of work.

I leave to you though classic Steve Carell. For those that are unaware Steve Carell really did imbibe all those drinks, really did get drunk and really did throw up in Stephen Colbert's car.

Like Mikey After a Game of Tackle Football...

...the trade deadline has gone out wimpering.

Yawn. Here's hoping that some deals were struck that just haven't been announced yet.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sampler Platter

Well at this point I'm just trying to warm up the old pen for working on my dissertation so I figured a few odd ball points, counter-points, and counter counter points were in order

Baseball: Call me skeptical (heck, call me a cab) but no trade so far can I truly say has definitively pushed any team into the driver seat for the playoff run. I might even go so far as to say I'm not even sure how many trades had a discernably positive affect. The Indians are selling off players like its a sale at Costco but is Saint Louis that much better with Belliard? Maybe? Kinda? Our resident New Yorker I'm guessing will probably say that if the Yanks make it the playoffs I doubt Abreu definitively is the reason (a 30 homer guy anymore he is not). Perhaps if Tejada is actually traded or the D-Train gets shipped somewhere but otherwise the race of the playoffs before the trade deadline looks alike like it did before.

Football: I'm keeping my fingers crossed this training camp that nobody gets seriously injured. And by serious I mean die. For those that follow the Roosevelt E. Roosevelt school of weather telling (You got a window, open it) its hot out there. Damn Hot. Any football practice is supposed to brutal. After a full day of stamina building practice one is supposed to weep like Hitman when we misplaces his favorite doll (or me after the Hitman discovers that I stole his doll). However as previous years have taught us, football practice in high heat and humidity can be deadly. I hope teams at all levels of football have learned from previous mistakes and keep a close eye on players to avoid any serious tragedy. The summer heat wave(s) has caused enough death, lets hope that it doesn't cause anymore.

Steriods: Does anyone wonder that until robots or at least mutants replace homo sapiens that there will be a steady stream of champions after the fact testing positive for performance enhancing drugs? Justin Gatlin, world record holder in the 100m, is the latest story to pop up.

: As someone that consumes news on both the Middle East and the Cleveland Browns , a little laughter is needed as a pick me up. Here's an old clip of a Stephen Colbert roasting Chevy Chase. FYI...this month Comedy Central is roasting arguably the greatest captain in the history of Earth....William Shatner.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Marshall Faulk

If you want to get absolutely, positively, totally, and completely pumped up for football season, watch Marshall in his prime. It’s not Barry or Bo, but it’ll do nicely. The music has me all ready to go!

In the immortal words of Red Stripe, “Hooray football season!”

Trade Deadline Looming

1. Done Deal. The Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers kicked off my 31st birthday/trade deadline weekend with a bang, swapping former All-Star closer Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, and Laynce Nix to Milwaukee for All-Star Carlos Lee and prospect Nelson Cruz. This move is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. The Brewers traded an impending free agent to Texas and got their future closer, as well as the serviceable Mench and a former prospect (Nix) who has a chance to still produce in the big leagues. I get that. But why did they have to give up a prospect? Cruz isn’t great; frankly, at 26, he’s a little old to still be playing in Triple-A right now, but still, the Brewers might’ve’ given up a bit too much here.

On the other hand, Texas depleted their bullpen and bench in one fell swoop. Lee’s a nice bat for the middle of the order but since he’s a free agent, unless he sticks around with a long-term deal, I’m not sure that Nelson Cruz was worth Cordero, Mench, and Nix. Oh well, I suppose that’s just part of the reason why the Rangers and Brewers rarely, if ever, join the ranks of relevant franchises in baseball.

2. Shakespearian Drama. To deal or not to deal, that is the question. Several GM’s have the next 24-48 hours to frankly assess their team’s likelihood of making the post-season. Depending on what they come up with will determine if they’ll be buying, selling, or standing pat. We all know that the Angels, Tigers, Mariners, White Sox, Astros, and Yankees have been associated with the Nationals in a potential deal for Alfonso Soriano. We all know that the Angels, Astros and White Sox have inquired about the Orioles’ Miguel Tejada. Apparently Phillies GM Pat Gillick has decided that the off-season will be the best time to trade Bobby Abreu. What we don’t know is what the Mets and Oakland A’s are thinking about Barry Zito.

If I were Omar Minaya, I would be all over Barry Zito right now. Sure, the Mets have the division locked up but beyond that, their playoff future is very murky. Pedro Martinez is making his first start in a month tonight. Tom Glavine has been ineffective since mid-June. Steve Trachsel is the Mets’ third-best pitcher and he certainly isn’t someone a team with World Series aspirations can depend on. To be blunt, the Mets rotation stinks and would be chopped by any number of AL teams in the World Series.

Contrary to popular belief, the Mets are not a totally homegrown team. Besides Wright and Reyes, the Mets have been almost exclusively constructed by free agency (Pedro, Glavine, Wagner, and Beltran) and trades (Delgado, Floyd, Nady, and Lo Duca). Of these eight players, all but two (Beltran and Nady) will be over the age of 34. If ever there was a win-now team, it is the 2006 Mets. Their minor league system has one true blue-chipper remaining in the form of Lastings Milledge. He’s young and he’s shot up the Mets farm system which seems to indicate that his talent goes beyond his good-but-not-amazing stats.

I think the Mets have to play to win the World Series this year. I think this is their best chance, given how poor the rest of the National League has been in 2006. Since it’s nearly a given that the Mets will pursue both Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee in free agency this winter, they’d be wise to lock up the best available pitcher on the trade market today and see if they can get a bit of a hometown discount after the season. With pitching coach Rick Petersen on staff in New York, the man that many credit for Zito’s success in the big leagues, and with a possible World Series ring, the Mets would be favored to retain Zito’s services if they go for him right now.

Milledge might be a great player one day but I think the Mets need to go out and lock down the NL Pennant as soon as they can. Teams only get a handful of chances to play in the Fall Classic and the Mets don’t seem to have a budding dynasty, given the age and makeup of the ballclub. I know what I would do if I were Omar Minaya...

This Date in Sports

The following sports notables were born on July 28:

1. Bill Bradley
2. Vida Blue
3. Manu Ginobili
4. Our very own MJ!

So, in the spirit of this July 28, I wish the following for you, big guy:

A. Like Vida Blue, may you spend many enjoyable days at the ballpark.

B. Like Manu Ginobili, may you, as the descendant of European immigrants, enjoy great popularity and riches in the United States throughout the world.

C. Like Bill Bradley, may your long, successful career never seat you in the Oval Office.

Ok, that last one is more for the rest of us...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cheers and Jeers: Citron my Face


One aspect of sports we have been assuredly ignoring is college football. Ah college the place where boozing and sex produces jokes which are only funny at 3 in the morning (much like citron on my face). For those that have experienced Division I football, college also brings about the chance to hate a rival; whose identity was possibly selected before you grandparents were born. All schools that play football have at least one death rival. Miami has Florida State, The Buckeyes have the Wolverines, Army has Navy, Notre Dame has Not Notre Dame, Jack in the Box has Burger King, Samuel Jackson has snakes on a plane, etc. Even teams that historically aren't football powerhouses have rivals. Minnesota plays for Wisconsin for the rights to an oversized lumber axe and UCLA plays USC for the rights to sleep with Paris Hilton. Anyway as college football is only a handful of weeks away I'm introducing my top 4 tops for winning it all. I have three rules of thumb for picking a college football champion: 1) What's your schedule like (do you play your rival/tough games at home. In college home field, whether we're talking in basketball, football or the poker tables, matters a great deal) ; 2) Do you have an experienced QB (only a handful of first year QBs win it all) ; 3) Do you have a defense (defense wins championships). In no particular order:

1) Notre Dame - Heisman trophy, number one pick front runner Brady Quinn returns for another full season under Charlie "Fat Finges" Weiss. If Weiss can bring in his old pal Belichek to run some defensive drills Notre Dame is in good shape. Plus it is Notre Dame, so the hype gives them an edge for voting. Downside they play at USC last game of the regular season.

2) OSU - The Sweatervest has an offense stocked. Troy Smith ranked up over 800 yards the FINAL TWO GAMES. That’s not too shabby. Michigan and PSU had to the horseshoe also. On the downside OSU plays at night on the road in Longhorn country and have to replace 9 defensive starters.

3) W. Virginia - Playing in the Big East is like me playing a bunch of third…err first graders. Who is going to beat W. Virginia? W. Virginia is a tough team that returns most of the starters that beat SEC champion UGA last year. The downside…will voter's respect a victory over Rutgers?

4) Oklahoma - Experienced QB. Check. Possible Heisman Trophy Winner (Adrian Peterson), check. Quality coach that makes sure the defense is solid. Check. Home game against rival (Texas). Double Check. Question of the day: will their offensive line improve over last year?

Anyway without further ado some cheering and jeering......

Mega Jeers: To the season ending injury to Browns newly signed Pro Bowl center, LeCharles Bentley. The pain parade never stops in Northern Ohio. Abe Lincoln once said "If there is a place worse than hell, I am there". Mr. Lincoln, that place is Cleveland Sportsdom and I am there.

Cheers: To Stephen Colbert putting Matt Lauer in his place. Lauer couldn't find a sense of humor with a flashlight, a map and several helper monkeys.

Jeers: To Floyd Landis for failing the drug test. Floyd brought shame to his country (turns out it was America) by testing positive for "unusual levels of testosterone". The fact that he was seen shaving four times a day while cycling might have been the tip-off. One can only hope Landis does the honorable thing and commit sepku for dishonoring his nation. I suppose we could wait and see if Landis is truly guilty of doping but isn't it just easier to jump to conclusions?

Cheers: To Charles Barkley floating the idea of running for Governor of Alabama. The sound bytes that would come out of Sir Charles in a political race would be well worth whatever policy stances he takes. The only thing better would be having Sir Charles run against Greg Anthony and have the debate moderated by Steven A. Smith. Why oh why can't political campaigns be more like the NBA on TNT?

Brother, Can You Spare Some (Good) Luck?

The Cleveland Browns are one of those franchises that always seem to be wearing a “kick me” sign. No matter how hard they try, bullies (Denver Broncos), back-stabbers (Art Modell), and bad luck (The Drive, The Fumble, Injuries to K2 and Braylon Edwards) follow them.

As Mighty and Gutsy have pointed out many times, rooting for the Browns is a dangerous proposition which can result in serious injury.

I’m hoping that one of these days the Browns can overcome this wretched curse that hangs over Cleveland’s sports teams. I know it would mean a lot to our Managing Editors and, frankly, if there’s one city that deserves it, it’s this one.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Meet Your 2006 NFL Rookie Coaching Class

I feel like it’s been a long time since 7 NFL head coaches with no prior NFL head coaching experience have taken over at the same time. With all of these new coaches, I feel like it would only be educational to provide some information about each, and propose a nickname for each of the rookie head coaches.

1. New York Jets
Coach Eric Mangini
Proposed Nickname: Coach Mangina

I know I shouldn’t make fun of people’s names, but this one was too easy to pass up. Plus, all season long we can have the running plot-line of Coach Mangina dealing with his inner struggle between acting “Man”-like and acting ‘gina-like.
Mangini is a Belichick disciple, and also was a “23-year old ballboy and a public relations intern for the Cleveland Browns.”

2. Houston Texans
Coach Gary Kubiak
Proposed Nickname: The Understudy

I couldn’t really think of a good nickname for Gary Kubiak. Whenever I hear his name though, I don’t think “offensive genius,” I think “goofy backup to John Elway.” Kubiak backed up John Elway from 1983-1991.

3. Detroit Lions
Coach Rod Marinelli
Proposed Nickname: Sensei

A great quote here: "There's one voice for discipline. Mine," the Vietnam veteran said during his introductory news conference. "There's one voice for leadership. Mine." Wow. I'm guessing this guy is like another Vietnam veteran, the leader of the Cobra Kai in Karate Kid. I picture him running the Lions practices in a whole new way.
Sensei: Fear does not exist in Ford Field, does it?
Detroit Lions: NO, SENSEI!
Sensei: Pain does not exist in Ford Field, does it?
Detroit Lions: NO, SENSEI!
Sensei: Defeat does not exist in Ford Field, does it?
Detroit Lions: NO, SENSEI!

4. Green Bay Packers
Coach Mike McCarthy
Proposed Nickname: Packer Person
McCarthy has one of the worst resumes of any rookie coach. He was the Packers QB in 1999, when the Packers went 8-8. He was the 49ers offensive coordinator then from 2000-2004. Last year, the 49ers were 30th in scoring. I have no idea how he got a head coaching job now, as opposed to earlier in his career. However, I did find his mission statement, at , His mission statement for the Packers focuses on 3 components: “Packer People,” “Stable Structure” and “Character and Chemistry.” I don’t know what “Packer People” are. Are they fans? Are they draft picks? I guess we’ll find out.

5. Minnesota Vikings
Coach: Brad Childress
Proposed Nickname: B-Rad
Brad’s credentials are fairly solid, having been the offensive coordinator at Philly. More importantly, it looks like Brad takes the cake for “Best Moustache in the 2006 NFL Rookie Coaching Class.” Congratulations.

6. New Orleans Saints
Coach: Sean Payton
Proposed Nickname: The Apprentice
Credentials include serving under Bill Parcells and being an assistant on the Giants 2000 NFC Championship team. I also liked this added bit of random knowledge provided on : “In addition to coaching quarterbacks, Payton had a very brief pro playing career at that position in the CFL and as a Chicago Bears replacement player in the 1987 strike season.”
Also turns out that he made a pit-stop at Miami University, my alma mater. As said on the Sporting News: “By 1994 he was an assistant at Miami University of Ohio, the school that has earned the nickname "Cradle of Coaches" by virtue of having served as a training ground for legends, among them Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian and Weeb Ewbank. By 1997, he was coaching quarterbacks in Philadelphia for Ray Rhodes.” Other than the Ray Rhodes comment, it’s a damn good resume!

7. St. Louis Rams
Coach: Scott Linehan
Proposed Nickname: Hanny
He was the offensive coordinator on the Vikings in 2002-2004 when the Vikings ranked in the top 5 every year in yards gained. He then went to the Dolphins last year and got production out of Gus Frerotte! Now, he’s the head coach of the Rams. Should be an interesting experiment, as Linehan has been proven to devise some creative schemes. They posted this real goofy picture of him on the Rams website that needed to be shared with everyone.
Cleveland Browns Secret Weapon: Part II

Janet Reno!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Buh-Bye, Harold Reynolds

Nice knowing you, Harold. I used to really like him but I can’t say that I’m broken up about this. Too bad ESPN didn’t ditch Steve Phillips too...

Credibilty Gap

I truly do wonder where baseball writers come up with this stuff. The entire article is complete bunk – trading ARod is not only a foolish, half-baked idea concocted by the toxic dimwits on ESPN, but something that the Yankees are simply not interested in doing – but one little sentence stands out in particular:

“Aramis Ramirez...would be welcomed with open arms in New York.”

Where did Phil Rogers come up with that? Did he poll New Yorkers? What makes Rogers so sure that Yankee fans would warm up to a player with a career .329 OBP who personifies mediocrity in every sense of the word? And please, spare us the notion that including Jacque Jones in this deal would make it “one-stop shopping” for Yankee GM Brian Cashman. In case Rogers hadn’t realized, Melky Cabrera’s OPS is .074 lower than Jones’. I’ll stick with the 21 year old kid, thank you very much.

There is very little in the way of rational, independent thought in sports media, as evidenced by the fact that this story has picked up so much traction in the national press that writers and TV talking heads seem incapable of putting on the brakes and thinking about how outlandish and ludicrous their claims are. What these writers don’t realize is that their credibility is at stake. Phil Rogers is just one more in a long line of sports reporters that can no longer be trusted to provide informative and well-thought arguments to the sports table.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Weekend Update: Sports Edition

1. In response to the ink spilled in June and early July about the United States no longer being the world’s most dominant sports power, I have five words for the doubters: Tiger Woods and Floyd Landis.

Tiger dominated the field on Thursday, Friday and Sunday at the British Open and extended his streak of winning Major tournaments when leading after 54 holes. I don’t see Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, or Jesper Parnevik anywhere close to Tiger and they’re supposedly the best the world has to offer. As for Floyd Landis, he kept the American winning streak alive, where the Red, White & Blue has won eight straight Tours de France.

If an American with a broken hip can win the most un-American of sports, it’s pretty hard to make the argument say that the U.S. doesn’t have its shit together. It takes more than a few high-profile losses to knock the United States down, which is why I felt that the worries were pretty ridiculous and alarmist. That isn’t to say that the U.S. even has to be the best, just that those who predicted our demise might’ve been a bit hasty in doing so.

2. Media and “fans” spent the weekend hyperventilating, as everyone was tripping over themselves trying to prove Alex Rodriguez’s mental weakness and the urgent need to trade him out of New York. From today’s Daily Quickie:

“...while [ARod’s] trade value is still high, all but the most blinded Yankee loyalists can agree this is the time for the Yankees to unload him.”

Reactionary much? I guess slumps and bad seasons are no longer tolerated, even if a bad season for one of the game’s best players is still a season better than most players in the game could have. Here are some stats that put ARod’s “bad season” into context:

2004: 7.0 RC/G – .304 GPA – 4.0 P/PA – 15.50 LD% – .313 BA/BIP – 45.30 GB% – 18.70 HR/F% – .248 BA/RISP

2005: 9.1 RC/G – .341 GPA – 3.9 P/PA – 15.60 LD% – .349 BA/BIP – 44.80 GB% – 25.00 HR/F% – .290 BA/RISP

2006: 7.3 RC/G – .297 GPA – 3.8 P/PA – 17.00 LD% – .313 BA/BIP – 43.90 GB% – 19.80 HR/F% – .295 BA/RISP

If you don’t know what these stats mean, don’t worry. As you can see, the numbers for 2006 are nearly in line with the stats from 2004 (actually they’re a bit better than in ‘04). In 2004, ARod ended up with 36 homers and 106 RBI and .286/.375/.512 AVG/OBP/SLG. I don’t remember anyone saying that he should’ve been traded after that season and he followed it up with the best season ever by a right-handed batter in Yankee history, winning his second career MVP. The point is the trade talk is ridiculous. And for those that say that he never hits in the clutch and that all of ARod’s RBI come in blowout wins or losses, kindly explain the .295 BA/RISP, 20 points higher than his current batting average.

3. I hope all baseball fans are starting their Justin Morneau HR watch this week. With five more homers, Morneau becomes the first member of the Minnesota Twins to hit 30 homers in a season since Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek hit 31, 32, and 34, respectively back in 1987. It’s kind of hard to believe that in the age of steroids and inflated offense, the Twins have been without a 30-HR hitter in nearly two full decades. The Homer-Dome has been without fireworks for a long time but it seems safe to say that Morneau will be putting one of baseball’s stranger streaks to bed.

4. Finally, to those that think Joe Torre’s doing his finest work as Yankees manager by keeping his team afloat during a season where Gary Sheffield (66 games), Hideki Matsui (64 games), and Robinson Cano (27 games) have missed significant time, all I can say is that you’re not watching the same team I am. The Yankees faced three right-handed pitchers this weekend and Joe Torre started Bernie Williams in RF in all three games. I wonder if Joe Torre knows that besides Bernie Williams’ atrocious lack of defense, he is coming in at .254/.285/.378 vs. righties (compared to .327/.382/.510 vs. lefties). When the Yankees need to scrape together every ounce of offense they can muster, putting a guy with a .285 OBP in the lineup is just unacceptable. Even worse is that Bernie’s been batting in the fifth or sixth spot over the past week. Every single time I see Bernie in the game vs. a righty, I know that I’m 100% correct in saying that Joe Torre’s a horrendous manager. He’s just giving games away at this point...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

NFL Preview Part IV: Narratives

A narrative is a story. In the case of the sports, sports journalism and well journalism a narrative is almost a heuristic. A story that symbolizes a larger story and thereby explains more than it should or holds interest for reasons that may or may not be important. In short they will be on the tip of the tongue on SportsCenter, the radio and the casual fan. Narratives are often on people as issues and topics are harder for narratives to be spun around. As such here are my top 5 expected player related stories

1. Return of Injured Quarterbacks -

While quarterbacks returning from injury are a common occurrence (heck any player returning from injury) it appears that there are an abnormal amount of crucial quarterbacks returning to playoff or potential playoff teams. Palmer and Culpepper's knee must somehow be well enough for the Bengals and Dolphins to make a playoff push. While the Dolphins have Joey Harrington to fall back on, Cincinnati no longer has Jon Kitna and as such is praying for a healthy Carson starting in week 1. No knee, no qb, no playoffs. I've already noted that Rothlisberger could well have physical problems all throughout the year as a surgically repaired face and psyche might not be up to the beating a quarterback is supposed to take. Marc Bulger and Donovan Mcnabb both have potential playoff teams, if they are healthy. Groin injuries tend to linger on and on and Bulger has been beaten like the proverbial government mule over the past few years.

2. Rookie Running Backs

In this case I'm actually not thinking of Reggie Bush. The far more important running backs, in regards to the playoffs, are Joseph Addai, Laurence Maroney and Deangelo Williams. Can the Colts replace James? Edgarin was important not only for the running backs but for the blitz protection. Without a running game and certainly being exposed to blitzes Manning might once again fall flatter than Nicole Richie. Carolina came within a game of the Super Bowl. Arguably the biggest hole in their game was a running game. If Williams can work his magic, don't be surprised if Carolina is in the Super Bowl. Finally, Belicheck and Company targeted Maroney so they had another option other than soon to be put out to pasture Corey Dillon. Will the Pats offense have balance and thereby allow the defense a breather?

3. Trading Kickers

The Colts hopes at the Superbowl were shanked right by that "drunk kicker". The Cowboys hopes at the playoffs repeatedly hit the upper crossbar. Belichek's genius has historically been upheld by the leg of Mr.Clutch. While these story lines didn't seem connected at the end of last year, they certainly are now. Rather than pay Vinateri, New England let Mr. Clutch head to the Shang-Ra-La of kickerdom known as the RCA Dome. If New England's kicker (to be named) misses a crucial kick the aura of Bill's invincibility will forever be punctured. If the Colts can't win it all with the best kicker when it counts in the land, perhaps its not meant to be. If Vanderjet can hit more than 3 field goals, it will be an improvement for Dallas.

4. Trading Places

There is a strong tradition in sports to compare players via where they were drafted. Fortunately or unfortunately this year's draft has two meta-story lines: The #1 Pick and QBs. Houston, in a surprise move to everyone that hasn't time traveled, chose Mario Williams over Reggie Bush. They will constantly be compared for their entire careers and questions of Mario's worthiness of that number one spot will go on and on eternity. Vince Young was selected in front of Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart. The three of them of will forever be linked. I don't expect Cutler to see the playing field this year but Young and Leinart probably will (given the frailty of their team's starters) and judgments will be rendered as to the worthiness of the order of the drafting.

5. Rankings

This is more of annoyance of mine than of importance but there will be constant rankings of top 32 teams, or coaches on hot seats, or players most likely to eat light bulbs, or fans likely to throw light bulbs at the players (I keep telling the NFL not to have free light bulb day but do they listen to me?). Anyway these rankings are fun to engender passionate responses (How dare you rank the Chiefs #17) but really don't do much in terms of real analysis and are typically used by the lowest of the low sports writers. Anyway that's your top five ranking of possible narratives…

Cleveland Browns' Secret Weapon

More Cowbell!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What really happened in the World Cup Final

Ever wondered what really happened when Zidane headbutted that Italian guy in the World Cup Final? Will, people on the Internet have theorized, and it looks as if Zidane became one of those characters from Street Fighter, like E. Honda! And that's just one of the many possibilities.

Take a look at the video on this link.

Cheers and Jeers: American Dream Edition


This week, marks the beginning of a last stand. At least for American athletics (Although the weather forecaster noted there was 30% chance of the Rapture which probably means I need to stop watching that weatherman or change religions really fast). USA Basketball is at a cross-road. After failing to win a gold medal for the first time since professionals started playing, Team USA pulled out all the stops. They hired a coach (Coach K) that preaches team play. They brought in role players that could do things like hit jump shots and play defense. They plan on keeping the same squad for more than 2 weeks. Heck they are even including a crazy notion called "practice". However this is it. If Team USA fails at this approach, you can officially note that USA Hegemony on basketball (or in general) has gone the way of Dutch Empire (their basketball team was finally defeated in Third Anglo-Dutch War which signaled the begining of dominance for the Manchester Globetrotters, the team the sun never set on). So Americans, keep your fingers crossed…this time they're trying….

Cheers: To a stadium finally standing up for itself. I was getting awfully tired about losing, unwatchable, whiney teams demanding better treatment or they bolt. Well the tables have turned my friends….

Cheers: To John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil stepping to the plate again. Buck O'Neil is a favorite here in C&J land. Frankly I'm impressed that at 94 Buck is moving around touring the nation. The fact that he can stand in there and take a heater well that’s just a reason to cheer. For the record I'm guessing O'Neil will hold the record as the oldest man ever to play professional baseball for a long time.

Jeers: To Bob Costas for attacking poker players. Bob, I spend a lot of time defending you from your various enemies (from jealous reporters, anti-Saint Louisites, ex-gay lovers, and ninjas) so I was a little hurt when you turned on one of my hobbies. Poker, especially the texas hold-em style, is fun and wholesome (whatever that means). It forces kids to learn statistics, and psychology. Plus if they weren't playing poker they'd probably be drinking and stealing mannequins. Or maybe that's just what I did as a youth. Nonetheless, back off Bob!

Cheers: Of all the pre-season All-American teams, the gold standard is the "All-Name" team. My favorites include: Jim Bob Cooter (who obviously plays for Tennessee), LeQuantum McDonald (Having Quantum as a first name was simply too powerful so it was Frenchified to water it down some), and Knowledge Timmons.

Jeers: To Sammie Sosa after noting that he's not retired. Sammie, listen to me, don't go the Jose Canseco root. You have a shred of dignity left. Please, avoid begging for a roster spot or claiming you can still play (when you can't). Just fade away until you're up for the Hall of Fame and then you can make as much noise as you want.

Cheers: To only nine days till the Maryland Crab Days. The Navy Yards answer to Maine's Lobster Festival, Crab Days features lots of crabs and boat rides, possibly captained by crabs. They are smart creatures you know....

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


When I read drivel like this, I just can’t help myself – I feel the urge to attack each sentence in order to prove, for what seems like the umpteenth time, that the state of American sports writing is mired in the dark ages. Nearly everything I read in the mainstream sporting press is poorly-researched and poorly argued and this piece (of crap) by Jeff Passan is no different.

This article has two main flaws. Let’s begin the debunking...

1. The New Mets. This is perhaps a subjective point but I would argue that the “New Mets” were really born on the day that Pedro Martinez signed with the Mets, and not when Beltran backed into a decision that was already made for him (there were no other suitors for his services besides the Mets and Astros). To say that “the Mets still were a team with no identity” sounds strange to me. Pedro is the identity of these Mets right now. Pedro is the one that gave the franchise credibility and he’s the anchor of their pitching staff. He’s the one that was able to convince Delgado to waive his no-trade clause and join the team. He’s the one that convinced Beltran to leave Houston and join him in New York. He’s one of only three players on the 2006 Mets with World Series experience (Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez are the others). Pedro adorned the 2005 Mets media guide. Pedro sells the tickets. Pedro’s the one with the one-liners and the funny faces. Pedro IS the Mets, as much as any one player can be the Mets. Without disparaging Carlos Beltran, he’s lower on the Mets-identity totem pole than Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Delgado and perhaps Billy Wagner.

2. Hybrid Car. This one point particularly chaps my ass. For Passan to assert that the Mets are an assemblage of homegrown talent and to contrast them to the Yankees “who continue to throw dollars around as a substitute for building a team from within” is flat-out wrong. As of this writing, the Mets last played on Sunday, July 16th. In that game, 18 of the Mets 25 active players made an appearance. Only three of those 18 are homegrown Mets (David Wright, Heath Bell, and Aaron Heilman). Of the 25 players on the Mets active roster, only five are homegrown (the aforementioned three along with Jose Reyes and Mike Pelfrey). Five players out of 25 doesn’t seem so homegrown to me. And while it might be accepted among casual baseball fans that the Yankees are buying while everyone else in baseball is building, I wonder what Jeff Passan’s answer would be if I told him that seven of the Yankees’ 25-man active roster are homegrown. The Mets have spent the past two winters re-shaping their team through free agent acquisitions and splashy trades. I don’t begrudge them that at all. I only chafe when people look at the Mets and think that their success in 2006 has been through a formula different from the one employed by the Yankees and Red Sox of recent vintage.

I realize that most of today’s sports writing is meant to agitate and instigate, to spin and to entertain, and I also realize that most baseball fans don’t think critically about what they read in articles such as this because sports isn’t life and death to most people. So what’s a little inaccuracy among friends? The point is that it matters to me. I love sports and I love sports writing and stuff like this makes me realize that not enough people feel the way I do.

Ruminations: Tuesday

1. Responsibility and Ownership. Without getting overly moralistic about it, I’ve never understood why some players just can’t figure out what the words responsibility and ownership mean. When Terrell Owens talks about how he feels victimized by the press and that he doesn’t understand where all the scrutiny and negative reactions come from, I just wonder how he can be so lacking in self-awareness. Nobody else publicly questioned QB Jeff Garcia’s sexuality. Nobody else publicly undressed Donovan McNabb for his failures after Super Bowl XXXIX. If he talked less openly about others, others would spend less time focusing on him. Amazing that a grown man can’t figure out something that simple...

2. The Human Stain Award. Last night’s broadcast of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight gave me an idea. I will hand out an award to the person or persons who best reflect why the human race is doomed by stupid people who mar their surroundings like an unseemly stain. Karl Ravech, John Kruk, Steve Phillips, and Harold Reynolds are the recipients of the first Human Stain Award. The reason? By equating a bad game for ARod (3 throwing errors, 0-4 at the plate), with Chuck Knoblauch’s famous struggles in the field. ARod, by all accounts, isn’t having the type of season people would expect of a two-time MVP. Fans have booed him at home and the press has skewered him for his supposed deficiency in the “clutch” department. For BB2N to now say that “it will take a Herculean effort for ARod to overcome the throwing errors” and that he “should be traded before it gets worse” is not only laughable, it’s downright frightening. Steve Phillips is a former general manager of the Mets. Did he trade players after bad games? In truth, that’s a loaded question – he was such a bad executive for the Mets that he’ll likely never be interviewed for a job again (Steve, send your resume to people in a few years, after the Mets stop paying Mo Vaughn’s contract...). John Kruk was never known as intelligent so last night’s comments are not surprising. But Ravech and Reynolds? What sort of brain-eating disease has gripped those two normally level-headed individuals? Last night’s broadcast was a disgrace and BB2N is now officially a blighted program that can’t be taken seriously.

Also, just so I’m not being too New York-centric again, I would like to point out that BB2N’s Steve Phillips cited Alfonso Soriano as possibly going to the Oakland A’s because “Billy Beane likes his aggressive style.” Come on, it’s been three years since “Moneyball” was published. By now we should all know that Alfonso Soriano (career OBP .320) is the antithesis of a Billy Beane type of player. BB2N has dumbed-down baseball analysis to the point that even blatant errors no longer raise eyebrows.

3. It’s Not Over Till It’s Over. The Atlanta Braves have next to no chance of winning their 15th consecutive division title but they have a very real shot of securing their 15th consecutive playoff berth by winning their first wild card. It’ll take a lot more than just one hot week but the Braves and their fans should know that they’re very much in this thing. I still think Houston, the Dodgers, and Padres are better, but I can’t count Atlanta out. In a way, I’m rooting for them. I think their streak is one of the most impressive in all of baseball history.

4. Daily Quickie Tries Out New Math. Today’s Daily Quickie provides a “funny” take on the upcoming White Sox-Tigers series. I call his sanity (and his wife’s taste in men) into question:

“The Sox are four and a half games back, and still play 10 more vs. Detroit in Aug/Sept. But can’t both teams agree their best plan is to break up the AL East wild card hegemony? Collusion is a GOOD thing: They can simply divvy the division and wild card, squeezing out the AL East runner-up. Who cares who gets what?”

If the White Sox and Tigers split their games and maintained this 4½ difference between them, it wouldn’t guarantee playoff berths for both teams. Dan Shanoff, Harvard graduate, has forgotten that if the Yankees and/or Red Sox overtake them both in the standings (a possibility, to be sure), the collusion would end up hurting BOTH teams. I’m realizing that Shanoff didn’t go to Harvard but to Harvard on Halstead.

(Note – I don’t mean this as an insult to anyone who is a graduate of Prairie State College. I’m sure there are people there who are far more intelligent than Dan Shanoff).

5. Book Review. I finished reading “Game of Shadows” this weekend. It’s a riveting and very informative tale of how BALCO rose to the top of the sports-doping pyramid and how one man, Victor Conte, managed to infiltrate track & field, the NFL, and pro baseball with the help of some rogue scientists and a whole cadre of willing conspirators (most notably the owners, executives, team doctors, sports reporters, fans, and union executives). I recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about how BALCO got started and is interested in the under-reported aspects of this story, including track & field. The only part of this book that I didn’t like was the fact that most of its information is derived from leaked grand jury testimony. It’s sad that something as important as grand jury confidentiality is treated as a minor inconvenience that gets in the way of the media’s curious obsessions and need for instant gratification.

World Cup Roundup: Thoughts from Germany

Well our intrepid World Cup reporter (pictured on the left searching for Berlin or a beer I'm uncertain which) didn't exactly cover the tournament as planned. Instead of live blogging, interviewing of the stars and expert commentary our reporter did hiking through Germany, hiking through das beergardens, teaching, and only attended few games here and there. Nonetheless he did attend a few games (including seeing mighty Trinidad). Here's a few of his thoughts of what it was like living through the World Cup tournament in Germany.

The Weltmeisterschaft was awesome despite my team's horrific performance and the head butt. It was really just great to be around for it...thousands of people in the street watching all the time, and I did almost no work for a month (butt hat would have been the case at home too I suppose!). The games were really a special experience, especially the US-Czech game (again, despite their failure to really play). It was pretty cool to see actual US football fans, though I'm pretty sure that 100% of them were there with me in gelsenkirchen (which is a total dump). I then went to Kaiserslautern (a pretty area south of Frankfurt) to see trinidad vs paraguay...trinidad fans are amazing. I treked to Kirschen and I saw Ukraine-Tunisia in Berlin, which was also great. Our seats were in the front row, so we couldn't see much but it was cool to be so close to the action. For the second half, we stood at the back of the section which was much better. Basically, it was just really cool.

-Mark A.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

NFl Preview Part III: The Challengers

Part three of predicting the playoffs is perhaps the toughest. In part one I (well we) covered the returnees, teams that made the playoffs last year. In part two, analysis was directed at the potential rebounders, teams that made the playoffs two years ago but not last year. Part three, of course, is all the rest. Generally the statistics show out that 50% of returnees make it the next year (for those keeping score that's six out of twelve playoff teams). Rebounders have averaged two playoff spots per year. That leaves four playoff spots from the crop of twelve or so teams that have not tasted the Promised Land in several years. Some of the teams will be up and comers that finally break through, like Cincinnati did last year. Others will be lightening bolts that catch most of us off guard, like Chicago did last year. While this year's crop of grab baggers seems a trifle weak, but that's the joy of the NFL, the unexpected happens. Here is my list of possible playoff teams from that category.

1. Dallas
Pro: Dallas last year barely missed out on the playoffs and that was after a number of heartbreaking close losses. By sheer chance one would assume the close games might go Dallas' way this year. The addition of a kicker that can put in through the uprights in the form of Vanderjet, should push chance farther onto the side of Dallas. I will also list (deep breathe here) a positive in the form of Terrell Owens. When not serving as a one man press junket, T.O. is one of the top receivers in the league. If T.O. will ever focus on football it will be under the watchful eye of Parcells and the knowledge that any incident could spell the end of his career.

Con: Dallas plays in arguably the toughest division in football (arguably to tell the truth I'm not entirely sold on the NFC East). Nonetheless with no easy games in the division, Dallas could win the division or end up in last place. There is also the matter of Drew Bledsoe. Can Drew stay healthy? Upright? Whatever pros Bledsoe might bring he certainly is no Pro Bowler.

2. Miami
Pro: Nick Saban seems to have the magic touch. Whether it was at Michigan State, Louisiana State, or today in Miami Saban has so far not met a situation he could not improve. Miami finished at 9-7 with six straight wins. The Dolphins will have another year in Saban's system, they will applaud the arrival of Culpepper (who will at the minimum end the merry go round at QB that plagued the team last year) and face a declining hegemon of the Patriots the conditions seem right for Miami to breakthrough.

Con: Culpepper didn't exactly finish his tenure in Minnesota on a high note both on and off the field. Can Culpepper regain his 2004 form? Heck can he recover from about as severe a knee injury as possible? If not, falling back on Joey Harrington is a risky proposition at best.

3. Kansas City
Pro: Great Offense. All Larry Johnson all the time. Trent Green still can sling the ball to keep defenses honest against the former Nittany Lion.

Con: The offensive line is getting long in the tooth. The defense has never gotten its act together. I also don't think the replacement of Dick Vermeil with Herm Edwards is an improvement but frankly that’s more opinion than anything.

4. Arizona
Pro: Outstanding passing game last year and this year they added Edge to possibly give them a running game. Dennis Green had a track record of building winners in Minnesota and Arizona certainly has been making slow steps in that direct each of Green's years in Arizona (record shmecord. The Cards were better last year than the year before, just not good enough).

Con: Kurt Warner being healthy an entire year? Leinart being able to step in when Warner gets hurt? Arizona has been a darkhorse for two years now, so call me skeptical that they'll finally do it.

5. Baltimore
Pro: McNair is certainly a step up from what Baltimore was throwing out onto the field last year. Jamal Lewis will actually be in training camp this year as opposed to training in prison. Ray Lewis, while a step slower, returns.

Con: Coaches in the last year of their contract, especially when under the gun, rarely are able to get a coherent and organized team running. Players tend to be looking out for their own future when they know the current coach can't grant any future security. Also while McNair is an improvement he certainly wasn't able to get the Titans into the playoffs last year.

6. Cleveland
Pro: They brought in a number of key acquisitions that should improve key weaknesses from last year. The Browns were unable to put pressure on the QB so they brought in Willie McGinist. The Browns were unable to stop the run so they brought in Ted Washington. The Browns were terrible in short yardage situations so they brought in Pro Bowl Center LeCharles Bentley.

Con: It is Cleveland and therefore subject to terrible luck. Add on the fact that I actively root for them and I'm surprised that half the team doesn't spontaneously combust. On a more serious note the Browns fortune is tied to the improvements of second year quarterback Charlie Frye and second year offensive coordinator Mo Carthan.

7. New Orleans/Detroit/Houston
: Actually both have a great deal of offensive talent. Both got new regimes that replaced ineffective ones.

Con: Are the new coaches any better than the old ones? How much of talent gap actually exists? Are the current quarterbacks good enough?

8. The rest (Buffalo, San Francisco, Oakland, Tennessee)

These teams will not make the playoffs. I will punish myself by eating Arby's if I'm mistaken on this one.

Tune in next week for Part IV: Key Players

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Age Before the Internet

I moved to an apartment over the weekend, and for the last week, I had no internet. Granted, I had the internet at work so I was able to dabble in the blog, but I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the blog and I felt as if I couldn’t comment as much as I normally would.

This dark week, without my beloved BSD, was a strange experience. And considering that apparently nothing really happened in the sporting world this week other than the All-star game (PG Mike James signed with Minnesota, but we can discuss this later), I think it is only appropriate to reminisce about enjoying sports in "THE AGE BEFORE THE INTERNET.” [pronounce it like the way they said “In the Year 2000” on the Conan O’Brien show]

I only hope that the rest of the readers can relate to these memories.

Reliance on Television
-I used to call into the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s phone line to see who won the Monday Night Football game the previous night. Other times, I would watch the “Headline News Sports Update” if I wanted to find out how many yards the star QB or RB had. One of my best memories of “Headline News Sports Update” (at 20 and 50 minutes past the hour) was following the 1994 Denver Nuggets – Seattle Supersonics playoff series. The Headline News Update only would talk about each game for a few moments. So, the game 3 recap was, “and Seattle let Denver win one game.” The Game 4 recap was, “surprisingly, Seattle will be playing Denver in a game 5.” I did watch the historic game 5 because it was actually on in the middle of the afternoon on the weekend. [Editor’s Note: of course, I could have watched ESPN which did exist at the time, but I usually didn’t have enough time in the morning before I went to school]

Reliance on Print Media
-One of my favorite days of the year was when I would go and pick up a Fantasy Football Preview Magazine. Without the Internet, there was no other way to know who to pick, and to have an exhaustive listing of the players available.
-Another favorite day of mine was when Sports Illustrated’s NFL football preview magazine would arrive. It was the main source for me to rely on, and I would supplement their information with the local newspaper’s information. I still enjoy the SI football preview today, but I don’t have to rely on it as much because today, I can look up any stat, depth chart, or fact on any team at any point throughout the year.
-NCAA newspaper preview – the Cleveland Plain Dealer provides capsules on every team in the tournament. Granted, they would have ambiguous predictions like “likely Sweet 16 team.” The problem was, this was published on the Monday after the bracket was announced, and they wrote the capsules BEFORE the bracket was announced, so they often had “Sweet 16” contenders playing each other in the 2nd round. I still love when the bracket is released, but I’m no longer relying on an inaccurate preview section, because the Internet is my friend.

Reliance on Pencil and Paper
-Of course, the ultimate way that the Internet has affected my enjoyment of sports is fantasy sports. Throughout junior high and even high school, the fantasy football league I was a part of was scored by hand. Today, it would be laughable for someone to sit around with the paper and mark up each team’s score. It was an inefficient waste of time to score by hand, but what choice did we have? I’m glad that many websites have emerged to handle society’s desire for fast, efficient, and fun fantasy sports leagues. Though I must admit, the old way of scoring was very interesting, and promoted actual phone call communications. If you wanted to know the official standings, you had to call the commissioner. If you wanted to pick up the latest Running Back, you had to call the commissioner. In "THE AGE BEFORE THE INTERNET,” the commissioner of my fantasy football league had to be very resourceful to ensure that he indeed acquired the Sunday night and Monday night box scores.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cheers and Jeers: Summertime Edition


From Monday to Thursday the sports world was dead. Please don't "Well what about the All-Star Game". That's just what Bud would want you say. Frankly I would rather wear a red thong to the running of the bulls than watch an Ozzie Guillen managed squad. Honestly there was more going at my sock wash than on SportsCenter. So without the All-Star game, what else were they going to show, Selig's state of baseball speech? How could anyone keep a straight face following the deliverance from someone how I can only assume is one of the great actors of our time (nobody outside of politics could actually be that dumb and out of touch). Thankfully Congress has outlawed more beat poetry from Stuart Scott so that’s out for SportsCenter too. Chris Berman is coming up with his pithy one-liners for the new NFL season (Reggie Burning Bush) so he's probably not available. So instead of trying to watch Sports Center fill time with John Kruk learns to read or Sean Salisbury Goes to Anger Management or Watch Mel Kiper Jr. on Ice I really ignored sports this week. So instead of the usual cheers and jeers on the sports world, this edition will be on total random things because well sports just didn't happen this week.

Cheers: Classic Stephen Colbert. Colbert on the Daily Show was a thing of genius. Colbert not able to keep a straight face during a segment is a thing of beauty. You know you want to see it here.

Jeers: The Disabled List. Yes they bought off another Cubbie according to my crack source: The Onion. Yes I know I said no sports stories, lucky this is completely made up. Well possibly made up. Given the Cub's health issues this year its not out of the question.

Cheers: To Season 3 of Deadwood. For those that don't have HBO, I recommend breaking into someone's house that has it and stealing it. I suppose you could also live in the new place and I think as long as you live there for 20 years, the Homestead Act will exonerate you of any and all charges. For those that don't watch Deadwood, it’s basically Shakespeare if it were held in the 19th century Dakota Territories and had more swearing than MJ on a hot day without Goldbond.

Jeers: Homeland Security. According to the Homeland Security threat database Indiana has more terrorist targets than any other state. Washington State has more possible monuments in the crosshairs than Washington D.C. Bravo guys. Way to reassure the public that you have things together. I can only assume such public relation skills would lead Michael Chertkoff as the obvious choice for Commisioner of Baseball.

Cheers: Only two weeks to the NFL Training Camp Season so I can talk/write/breathe sports once again.

Cheers: To cyber bubble-wrap. Once you pop, you can't stop.

Baseball Notes: All-Star Wrap-Up

This is less a comment about Tuesday’s game and more a complaint about how All-Star games are distributed to the 30 MLB franchises. I understand that MLB wants to promote baseball across the country and especially wants to show off all of the new ballparks that have gone up over the last decade. Nevertheless, I find it hard to see the logic in giving certain cities multiple All-Star games at the expense of other cities that have never hosted (Phoenix, Miami, and Tampa) or haven’t hosted in a very long time (New York). The last time baseball’s mid-season festivities came to the Big Apple was in 1964 (Shea Stadium) and 1977 (Yankee Stadium). In the 42 years since the Mets have hosted, the following teams have hosted (number of times):

Anaheim (2)
Atlanta (2)
Cincinnati (2)
Detroit (2)
Chicago (AL) (2)
Cleveland (2)
Houston (3)
Milwaukee (2)
Minneapolis (2)
Philadelphia (2)
Pittsburgh (3)
San Diego (2)
Seattle (2)

Can anyone tell me why Pittsburgh and Houston have hosted the All-Star Game three times in the decades since New York last had the same opportunity? Why haven’t Phoenix, Miami, and Tampa Bay been showcased? The argument that MLB wanted to show off PNC Park or Minute Maid Park is valid, only if Three Rivers and the Astrodome hadn’t been showcased twice (once when they were new parks and once when they were decrepit and hideous pieces of garbage that precipitated their replacement).

I’m not a Mets fan by any stretch of the imagination but I certainly don’t understand why baseball spits in the eye of its most important market. Two new ballparks are being built in New York. There’s talk that the Yankees will get the 2008 All-Star Game, in advance of Yankee Stadium’s demolition. Will the Mets get 2009 for the same reason? And will it take another 30 or 40 years before baseball comes back to showcase the “new” Yankee and Met ballparks?

And for those that might think I’m being too New York-centric, I would support the Cardinals, Royals, and Dodgers getting the All-Star Game in the very near future. The last time baseball came through for those three markets was in 1966, 1973, and 1980, respectively.

Finally, I’d like to propose a solution to the inequality of All-Star Game distribution. Baseball needs to come up with a predictable system of rotation where the game alternates between leagues and where no city can host more than once every 30 years (therefore, each franchise is guaranteed at least one game per cycle). It could come to New York, Chicago, the Bay Area or Southern California two years in a row, but it’ll never go to Pittsburgh or Houston three times in 36 years. Every team gets a fair shake and baseball gets to promote all 30 of its franchises without playing favorites.

Of course, this, or other reasonable solutions are not how baseball operates. For as long as Bud Selig sits on the throne, it’ll be a system of favors for his most loyal clients and benefactors. Count on seeing the White Sox and Red Sox with another All-Star Game apiece before the Mets get a taste of the fun...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Baseball Notes: Midseason Report

This post is going to be a long one so, to borrow from Bill Simmons, “You don’t have to plow through it now – just print it out and save it for the next bathroom trip. My feelings won’t be hurt.”

1. All-Star Game. It was a competitive and exciting affair featuring good starting pitching, timely hitting, impressive defense, and the continuation of the American League’s mastery over their National League counterparts.

Some stream of consciousness thoughts on the game: Travis Hafner belonged at the game; AJ Pierzynski and Mark Redman did not...Brad Penny threw with more velocity than I’ve ever seen him throw, and I’ve followed his career closely since 2002...Brian Fuentes might be the best relief pitcher we’ve never heard of on the east coast...Ichiro looked abysmal in all three of his at-bats...For all the grief ARod takes, he (and not Ortiz) was the only one that made consistent contact against Penny’s heaters...Pudge didn’t look that good last night, allowing two stolen bases and making a weak attempt at blocking Halladay’s errant curveball...John Kruk is a fat-assed moron if he’s going to blame Phil Garner for not having the “hands” team on the field in the 9th inning; Hoffman gave up a clean single, a double into the stands and a triple in the gap and there was nothing a team of “web-gemmers” could do about it.

2. Bud Selig. In his annual “State of the Game” press conference, Commissioner Selig endorsed the creation of the following new rule:

“Selig likes the idea of a rule that would preclude All-Star pitchers from pitching the Sunday before the game. Glavine, Jose Contreras and Chris Carpenter were among the pitchers unavailable to perform in Pittsburgh because they played Sunday.”

Clearly cracked has the commissioner become. At no point should an exhibition game (even if “it counts”) ever trump games that mean something to divisional standings. Why should teams have to re-arrange their rotations? In the Mets situation, sure, it doesn’t matter if they go into the All-Star break with an 11 or a 12 game lead but to the Cards, the ramifications of not having their ace on the mound for the rubber match of a three-game series...let’s just say this idea hasn’t been well-thought out.

3. Pythagorean Win-Loss Records. With an assist from Mighty Mike, the co-editor of this rag we like to call Back Seat Drivers, I have been dutifully compiling and updating a spreadsheet of each team’s runs scored and runs allowed in order to track the week-by-week progression of teams’ actual record against their record generated through the Pythagorean Method. For the uninitiated, the Pythagorean Method in baseball is the creation of Bill James, the pre-eminent baseball statistician. It is a formula designed to relate how many runs a team scored and allowed to its won-lost record.

The highlights of my weekly tracking tell me that:

-Cleveland and Pittsburgh are the AL’s and NL’s biggest underachievers. The Indians and Pirates are 14 and 16 wins below their expected Pythagorean win totals, respectively;

-Chicago and Milwaukee and are the AL’s and NL’s biggest overachievers. The White Sox and Brewers are 7 and 11 wins above their expected Pythagorean win totals, respectively;

-The AL East is, top-to-bottom, the game’s most overachieving division with a cumulative +3 spread between actual and Pythagorean Wins;

-The NL East is, top-to-bottom, the game’s most underachieving division, with a cumulative -3 spread between actual and Pythagorean Wins;

-The AL West is the only division in baseball whose cumulative spread is less than 0.5 wins between actual and Pythagorean Wins;

-Based on actual wins, the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox are the only teams on pace for 100-win seasons;

-Based on Pythagorean Wins, the Detroit Tigers are the only team on pace for a 100-win season;

-Based on actual losses, the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates are the only teams on pace for 100-loss seasons;

-Based on Pythagorean losses, the Kansas City Royals are the only team on pace for a 100-loss season;

-Based on actual wins, the playoffs, if they began today, would feature the Red Sox, Tigers, A’s, and White Sox in the American League and the Mets, Cardinals, Padres, and Dodgers in the National League; and

-Based on Pythagorean Wins, the playoffs, if they began today, would feature the Yankees, Tigers, Rangers, and White Sox in the American League and the Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Padres in the National League.

4. Predictions Revisited. My preseason predictions appear to be a mixed bag. Halfway through, I look good with the White Sox and Red Sox, but the Yanks and Angels will have to work a little harder to make me look like Nostradamus. In the NL, I’m doing better with my Mets/Cards/Dodgers trifecta, the Braves being the only blemish (although technically not out of it).

In terms of awards, there’s no chance that ARod wins MVP even if he has an ARodian second half. The voters are salivating for the chance to go for Ortiz or Thome this year, just to prove that they’re not predisposed to voting against the DH. Rich Harden won’t win the AL Cy Young award from the DL and he seems to have become Kerry Wood’s AL counterpart in that both have cornered the market on talent and fragility. My Frankie Liriano for AL Rookie of the Year is slowly gaining momentum. Papelbon is still on top but it’ll be hard to deny Liriano if he ends up with 20 wins and a sub-2.50 ERA.

Over in the NL, Pujols might win the MVP but right now it’s David Wright and Nomar Garciaparra doing battle for the top honors. Jake Peavy will win the award someday, but it won’t be in 2006. Matt Murton is a non-factor in the NL ROY race as Conor Jackson, Josh Willingham, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and others are way ahead of the Cubs outfielder.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading my midseason roundup. If you’ve followed Sports Guy’s advice, please be courteous and don’t forget to flush for the next customer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ring For Sale

If only I could raise enough cash right now to buy this so I could then take a hammer and crush it to dust. Either that, or give it to Joe Torre to wear, since he did as much to earn it as anyone on the Red Sox.
Note from the Editors

In an attempt to continually add new features to our online magazine, we have worked out a feature in which you can now post short movie clips. I can think of no better way to inaugurate this new feature then by posting the trailer for what will obviously be the greatest movie of all time: SNAKES ON A PLANE.

Monday, July 10, 2006

NFL Preview: Rebound Teams

Len Pasquarelli, after an orgy of binge drinking and gambling, accidentally did some great reporting last week. (Actually I think Len does a remarkably good job of using things like “facts” and “research” as opposed to the truthiness that pervades others at land. I also can neither confirm nor deny if anything I say in this article uses facts). Len uncovers a trend in the NFL he terms “rebound teams” or teams that made the playoffs two years ago but missed it last year. Since 1992 there have been 29 rebound teams or about 2 per year. So who are this year’s rebound candidates? In descending order of likely return to the playoffs here’s my list:

1) Atlanta
Pro: Two Words : Michael Vick. He has another year in the West Coast system and my understanding is that prolonged exposure to stimulus can cause learning (much like me and the merciless chili peppers of Quetzlzacatenango. Suffice to say if someone offers you something grown in a Guatemalan insane asylum don’t eat it)

Con: Two Words: Michael Vick. Will he ever live up to the hype? Will he ever master the intricacies of throwing to a receiver?
2) Minnesota
Pro: No Mike Tice. That’s at least 2 more wins. I think he always wore a pencil behind his ear to throw people off the fact that he’s illiterate. Minnesota also is in the weakest division in football.

Con: You really want to rely on Brad Johnson’s arm for a playoff run? You really want to rely on Chester Taylor’s leg? You really want to rely on someone to be named later for middle linebacker?
3) San Diego
Pro: Great defense especially versus the run (they were number one last year). Arguably best running back in football. Arguably best tight end in football

Con: Phillip Rivers. Is he going to play like a first year quarterback or a third year quarterback? As my dad used to say “Smoke up, Johnny!” Wait, was that the Breakfast Club? Anyway San Diego needs Rivers to play at least as well as Drew Brees did (now doesn’t that sound odd) for them to make it to the playoffs
4) Philadelphia
Pro: Return of Donovan McNabb. The removal of T.O.

Con: Outside of Donovan and fragile Westbrook, who else is on the Eagles? I swear I could substitute the extras from Pirates of the Caribbean at Philly’s skill positions and nobody would notice.
5) St. Louis
Pro: Great Offense still. A healthy Marc Bulger. A coach that acknowledges running the ball is not illegal

Con: Defensive line/Defensive secondary are about as a weak as one could imagine.
6) NY Jets
Pro: There’s nowhere to go but up

Con: It’s a long long long way up from where they are
7) Green Bay
Pro: The fans are armed with cheese and are not afraid to use it.

Con: Global Warming has removed the advantage that was the frozen tundra. Also that little thing called an offense (name a position and its substandard)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Old Roy and MLB righting a wrong

Well it looks like the MLB was reading our blog and finally decided to do something right. I wonder if there will be a major difference between Red Man and Roy on the hill. I wonder if Roy will actually start for the team.

Cheers and Jeers: Mirage Edition


Do you have to be a man of the people in order to be a man for the people? Excusing the basic sex biased question but heart of the question is rather important: Can you truly cover an issue if you yourself are devoid of experiencing it. Norman Chad (no seriously) identifies the elephant in the living room for sports editors. As he so eloquently put it: "In particular, the sports editors themselves are distinctly men of non-color. In fact, there might not be a less diversified group of paunchy, balding, middle-aged white guys anywhere in America…Frankly, you've got a better chance of becoming a sports editor if you are a pink carnation than if you are black and female." A recent study put the number of black sports editors at four, out of 305. That's about one percent for you math buffs. That means that college football is more diverse than sports editors (at least on the race dimension). Heck the coaches in the SEC are a more diverse bunch. Yes those sending out reporters to cover the news of the day, those with the final word on which articles get published and which do not, have less diversity than the conference formerly of Jim Crowe. Which leads me back to my original question….how well can the newspapers cover sporting news if they themselves are neither a reflection of the sports world or the general populace? None too well if you ask me….

Cheers: To World Cup. Its been a great run for World Cup. Hey even Bill Simmons got into the watching. World Cup has been mesmerizing between the rhythmic constant action, underlying historical/political subplots, and the high level of play. France v. Italy in the finals. After that we have to wait till 2010 in South Africa.

Jeers: A.J. Pierzynski. Oh another Chicago White Sox in the All-Star game? Then I'm for sure going to turn in because nothing says enjoyment like watching the White Sox. (For the record watching the White Sox on the enjoyment o'meter is slightly above dealing with health insurance and slightly below listening to a Shaq rap album.

Jeers: To the Cleveland Indians. Yes they are in a race…but it's for most disappointing team in baseball.

Jeers: To the Ultimate Football Depth chart. Its like the "Where's Waldo of stupidity". Chargers better depth than the Bears? Favre over Eli? Frye as the worst QB in the league? See how many you can find…

Cheers: 26 Days till the Maine Lobster Festival. Apparently it's a festival in Maine with Lobsters according to their website. Plus they have Budweiser Clydesdale (either marching in a parade or making balloon animals I'm uncertain which). Seems like a great time to me!

Any Way You Cut It, This One Stinks To High Heaven

In yet another stunning example of how American people are completely clueless when it comes to voting in a meaningful election, AJ Pierzynski was selected to the American League’s All-Star Game roster by winning the Final Vote.

I’d call it a stunning upset but I know better, as this was in the bag from day one. The only sad thing for baseball fans that don’t come from Chicago’s South Side is that we don’t get to see Francisco Liriano and Travis Hafner (among other more-deserving players) in the game’s biggest stage. It would be too much to ask, but I hope Liriano remembers this slight and throws a bean at Pierzynski’s head the next time the Twins and White Sox face off.

Oh, and for those that join me in thinking that the secrecy surrounding the vote is fishy, I present you with the coup de grace: AJ Pierzynski apparently edged out Liriano by gaining 3.6 million votes. To put that into context, the leading vote getter in the Major Leagues, Albert Pujols, received 3.4 million votes. One more time for emphasis – Pujols received 3.4 million votes in nearly six weeks of fan balloting and Pierzynski received 200,000 more votes in a little less than four days. You do the math...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Election Monitor Wanted

As I noted earlier in the week and in response to Mighty’s post, I really dislike the way Major League Baseball handles the “Final Vote” for its All-Star Game. According to the MLB website, AJ Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox is leading the five man race in the American League Final Vote standings. This brought me to think about the two main flaws of the Final Vote system:

1. Dubious Selection Process. There is no transparency in the selection process. If MLB is truly committed to a democratic procedure for selecting the last player in each league’s roster, MLB would inform its fans of how this pool of players was selected. What are the criteria? Is it based on positional need? Is it based on how these players did in the overall voting? Do the managers and coaches of each team compile the list of nominees? Does the commissioner’s office play a part in the process?

The purpose of these questions is to ascertain exactly how extremely worthy players such as Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Justin Morneau, Magglio Ordonez, Carl Crawford, and Brian Roberts were omitted. Each of these players is certainly as worthy as the current list of five nominated players from the American League and, in each case, potentially more qualified than Pierzynski.

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the concept of “This Time It Counts”, the All-Star Game is still a glorified exhibition contest. Rosters already do not conform to the league-mandated 25-man limit (the American League will have 34 All-Stars (including injured players) after the Final Vote is announced). Why not expand the Final Vote nominees to include more of the worthy players that were originally omitted? Why not pick two or three of the most deserving seven, eight, or even 10? Baseball only stands to gain by rewarding players like Liriano and Hafner for their outstanding seasons thus far. Leaving them out of the festivities in Pittsburgh does no one (except for AJ Pierzynski’s roster bonus) any good.

2. Secrecy Of Vote Results. If there is no transparency in the selection process, there is even less so in the actual voting. MLB makes a big deal every year about the voting results of the All-Star Game ballot. They constantly update the voting tallies and not a day goes by that MLB doesn’t prod fans checking its website, encouraging them to vote as many times as necessary to ensure that their favorite players make it to the Midsummer Classic. If baseball makes such a spectacle of the regular voting, why not publicize the results of the Final Man vote?

I am not accusing MLB of vote-rigging; fans of all 30 teams are more than capable of over-stuffing ballot boxes on their own. But given MLB’s credibility gap in other respects, I cannot understand the logic of keeping the Final Vote results so secretive. Such secrecy only gives skeptics more reason to doubt the Final Vote and to view it as a tool for rewarding certain owners/teams/players for towing MLB’s company line.

Of course, a reasonable question could be “What does MLB stand to gain by rigging an election in favor of AJ Pierzynski over Francisco Liriano or Travis Hafner?” Certainly Liriano and Hafner are the Twins’ and Indians’ (and, consequently, MLB’s) meal-tickets in terms of marquee value for fans. Pierzynski is a hated player among fans and opposing players alike and MLB certainly can’t market him the way they could market a phenom ace or a young slugger.

Which only brings me back to my original question – if MLB gains nothing by rigging the Final Vote, why not erase doubts and show fans the voting results. After all, I could answer the above question by saying that Commissioner Selig owes his job to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf whereas he’s already repaid the Twins owner Carl Pohlad’s “loan” with the proceeds he made off the sale of the Brewers...

Odds and Ends

Right before the World Cup Finals, I wanted to give a shout out to the Collina the Italian ref who also doubles as a creepy Mr. Clean. The two World Cup semi-final matches were well called by the refs in question. Let's face it- some teams dive. Just because a player falls to the ground does not make it a foul. The ref must ignore it and allow the players on the field to determine the outcome of the match. Cheers to the refs and my hope is that Italy v. France is equally well called.

After debating topics such flag burning, cutting and running in Iraq, gay marriage and not passing a budget, several members of Congress have jumped into the fight that has prevented those of us who live 15 minutes from the stadium to watch Nationals Games.

We shall if the FCC acts on this request from Congress. But hey, what do I care, I have a dish!!!!

And the Italians win 2-1 and the Germans win 3-1. Viva the World Cup.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

NBA Movers & Shakers

Time to recap the highlights of the 1st exciting week of NBA free agency:

The Ben Wallace Effect
Ben Wallace shook things up to go to Chicago. I was actually surprised not that Ben left, but that he chose Chicago. I remember hearing that he did not like how he was uninvolved in the offense on Detroit, but in Chicago, he’s taking the place of Tyson Chandler, another defensive center, who also was never involved in the offense. While the move on paper sounds great for Chicago, I don’t think its as big of an upgrade as some believe. The bigger news for Chicago is that they landed Tyrus Thomas in the draft (a dividend from the Eddy Curry trade / a donation by Knicks GM Isiah Thomas).

As for Detroit, I believe this hurts their team a lot more than it helps Chicago. Especially since Flip Saunders was coaching last season, player rotations were key to their 60+ win season last year. Granted, Detroit did just sign Nazr Mohammed, who is certainly a good defensive center, but I’m not sure if he’s quick enough to allow the Pistons to use the same defensive schemes as last season. Really, I believe that the Ben Wallace defection is a big stamp on the end of the Pistons championship window. It was a 4-year window, with 4 Final 4 appearances, 1 championship, and a 2nd finals appearance.

It seems as if GM Joe Dumars was on a sensational run at the craps table as Pistons GM, until it came to a screeching halt this past season. Unfortunately for the Pistons and Joe Dumars, they traded away a significant part of their depth in PG Carlos Arroyo and Darko during the season just to have salary cap space to sign Ben Wallace. So in effect, the Carlos Arroyo and Darko trade only netted the Pistons Nazr Mohammed, which obviously was not a good play. Dumars took a risk, and unfortunately for them, it didn’t work out.

Odds and Ends
Tim Thomas is your typical player who looks great only during a contract season. He signed with the Clippers (after leaving the Suns), and I’m fearful this will not be a good move. He replaces Radmonovic, who signed with the Lakers, giving them some much needed depth and a second shooter behind Kobe. It was a very good upgrade for the Lakers.

The Hornets got great news, with the additions of Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler, their lineup is now:
PF David West
SF Stojakovic
C Tyson Chandler (pending trade)
SG D. Mason
PG C. Paul
(they also drafted a couple of big rookies: Hilton Armstron (Uconn), Cedric Simmons (NC St.) )
this is a team that should be able to push through and make the playoffs in the West, if they can remain injury-free.

Super-Draft Class of 2003
Wade and Carmelo have agreed to their extensions with their current teams. Meanwile, Lebron is nowhere to be found. He could be at the Fortress of Solitude. He could be in outer space searching for the planet Krypton. I am pessimistic though in the fact that he refuses to send any communication about his plans which can only mean one thing – he plans on leaving Cleveland for the sole purpose of adding another chapter to Cleveland’s title of “most tortured sports city.”

Vote Pronk

With only one day remaining I am endorsing Travis "Pronk" Hafner for a position in the All-Star game or County Sherriff. You can see his campaign video here

I implore all of you to do your civic duty and vote Pronk at or via the Cleveland Indians webpage

The Non-Star Team

Wow, I can’t believe someone actually wrote a competent and coherent piece of baseball analysis over at ESPN. Granted, the author writes for Baseball Prospectus and not the so-called Worldwide Leader but the fact that ESPN published a piece of baseball analysis that actually told us something without revealing any bias is remarkable in and of itself. It would be too much to ask for this to continue but given the sorry state of ESPN’s pool of baseball analysts*, I’ll take what I can get.

*Keith Law notwithstanding. He’s the only one I’d save if Bristol were burning.

International Drama

I don’t follow international soccer but when I read this article about proposed punishments in the wake of the Italian soccer scandals, it just blew my mind. Demoting top teams to the lowest rung of league play? Can Americans even imagine something similar happening here? What if one day we woke up to find out that the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Cubs, four of baseball’s five biggest brand-names, were being banished to the Single-A Florida State League? And if their records and titles were being stripped from them? I don’t think Americans realize the magnitude of what’s being proposed here for the top Italian teams. Honestly, it boggles the mind. I’m glad I’m not a Juventus fan today...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

When Tony & Mike Are Away, PTI Shouldn't Play

I’ll keep this brief since it’s July 4th and there’s a Yankee game about to start…

On days when Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon aren’t available to work the set of “Pardon the Interruption” ESPN should simply schedule another program or offer an ESPNNews simulcast. There’s just no reason why Dan LeBatard and Jason Whitlock should ever be seen or heard from on live television. Whereas Whitlock is a bag of hot air, LeBatard is just dull.

For those of you that didn’t watch today’s installment of PTI (lite), suffice it to say that Whitlock mentioned the fact that he played college football not once, not twice, but three times in 15 minutes. As if we’re tuning in to hear about the collegiate exploits of an obese and barely literate individual?

Memo to ESPN: when Tony and Mike are away, give PTI a rest. It’s better for us and it’s better for you too.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Random Thoughts On Baseball (All-Star Edition)

1. With the exception of the “Final Man” voting, the rosters for the 77th All Star Game have been set. Predictably, I have issues with the voting system...

A. I really hate the idea that every team has at least one player represented in the All-Star Game. Baseball is a meritocracy and there’s nothing about Mark Redman’s performance that merits his selection (5W – 4L/ 5.59 ERA/ 1.51 WHIP/ .293 BAA). Quite honestly, he’s one of the worst pitchers ever selected to the All-Star Game. While I understand the spirit of the rule, I think it diminishes the “All-Star” quality of the game. People in attendance (and those viewing at home) want to see the best and brightest stars, not 23 studs and a couple of barely-passable hacks.

B. I think the “Final Man” voting is fairly ridiculous. Fans already selected starters on each team and there are usually between 2-3 hiccups every year (Mark Loretta? Paul Lo Duca?). Giving fans the right to make more mistakes, is that what’s good for the game? And why is the “Final Man” selection limited to five players? Who says that AJ Pierzynski is deserving of the final five? How could Pierzynski have made it to this level over Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Brian Roberts, Justin Morneau, Carl Crawford, and Magglio Ordonez? I hope fans will do the right thing and select Travis Hafner over Francisco Liriano because...

C. ...there’s no way Francisco Liriano (9W – 1L/ 1.99 ERA/ 0.97 WHIP/ .203 BAA) should’ve been left off to begin with. I don’t have a huge issue with pennant-winning managers showing preference for their own players in a coin-flip but there’s just no way that Mark Buerhle should’ve made it over Liriano. Buerhle’s selection over Liriano is flat-out indefensible and his exclusion also highlights the stupidity of Mark Redman being on the team. I’m sure that when Ozzie Guillen was picking starters and it came down to picking between Mike Mussina (9W – 3L/ 3.17 ERA/ 1.04 WHIP/ .224 BAA) and Buerhle (9W – 5L/ 3.86 ERA/ 1.31 WHIP/ .275 BAA) he didn’t give it a second thought and picked his own guy. I don’t like it but that’s how it should be – a manager should be most loyal to his own players and should give preference to them whenever possible. But taking Buerhle over Liriano is an egregious omission on Guillen’s part. I’m beginning to think that All-Star Game managers should have less voting power, if only to prevent such abuses of power. If Liriano doesn’t get in via the fan vote over the next few days, baseball fans are being robbed of the opportunity to see the best pitcher in baseball.

2. Let me repeat that last sentence above for emphasis: Francisco Liriano is the best pitcher in baseball. More than a hot young running back in football, more than an explosive young scorer in basketball, the most exciting thing in all of sports is watching a great young pitcher. Running backs can only tear through a defensive line a few times a game and star basketball players play every night but a pitcher only performs once a week and there’s just something about watching a 20-something kid blowing away veteran hitters with an array of scary fastballs and nasty breaking pitches. I love young pitchers more than anything else in sports. I’ll let someone else have a young Jordan or a young LeBron or Wade, give me vintage Doc Gooden, Roger Clemens, Mark Prior or Liriano any day of the week.