02.25.08

Craig Carton’s Pop Culture Acumen Is Matched Only By His Exhaustive Sporting Knowledge

Posted in Sports Radio, The World Of Entertainment at 3:22 pm by

While I’ve somehow managed to escape Mike & The Mad Dog’s Oscar recap this afternoon, I’m pleased to report WFAN’s Craig Carton followed his recent swipes at Scott Stapp (ie. the former Jersey Guy claims to have once MC’d a festival gig “back when Creed were good”) with a spectacular interview with thespian Tom Selleck.

Amongst the highlights — Carton wondered if Tigers fan Tom was psyched for the upcoming season “since you got whathisname from Florida”, and suggested that “Magnum P.I.” must’ve been such a huge payday, surely Selleck no longer needs to work.

Hicks Heir Meets His Adoring Public

Posted in Football at 12:09 pm by

This story has a somewhat happier ending than James Dolan exchanging pleasantries with Knicks fans in New Orleans. From the Guardian’s Andy Hunter :

Tom Hicks Jr was made painfully aware of the ill-feeling towards his father’s ownership of Liverpool on Saturday when he was abused and spat at after the club’s victory over Middlesbrough.

The Liverpool director made the foolhardy decision to meet supporters in the Sandon public house, near Anfield, where drinkers rounded on him. Hicks Jr, son of Liverpool’s controversial co-chairman, Tom Hicks, arrived at the bar in a car with minders and discussed his father’s troubled reign with a few supporters drinking at the bar but, once word spread of his presence, the mood became hostile.

One Liverpool supporter spat in his direction and he was showered with lager before his minders rushed him into the waiting car and drove off . It is believed Hicks Jr ignored security advice not to visit the Sandon given the animosity towards his father and George Gillett.

Calling Hicks Jr.’s appearance, “a display of bravery beyond the call of family duty or crass stupidity and insensitivity, depending on your point of view”, The Liverpool Echo’s Tony Barrett has further details :

It isn™t exactly difficult to spot a sharp-suited American in a pub full of Adidas Samba wearing locals after all “ and word spread around the boozer quicker than news of a goal against Man United.

Polite questioning reflected the shock that someone so closely connected with the least popular man at Anfield “ apart from Gary Neville “ would have the chutzpah to turn up in their midst.

A volley of protest songs “ aired with increasing regularity on the Kop in recent months “ rang out throughout the pub and the venom being directed at Hicks junior was plain for all to see.

All of a sudden, his smile was replaced by a grimace of concern.

And as the volume was cranked up still further by the swollen crowd, Tommy™s facial expression quickly changed.

It appeared to say œGet Me Out Of Here to his bodyguards.

At best, it was a well meaning attempt to build some bridges on Hicks junior™s part.

At worst, it was yet another failure to understand English football culture and proof of the failure of Liverpool™s owners to grasp just how unpopular they have become.

Goldstein On The Meat Packing District’s Best Crab Cakes

Posted in Food, Free Expression, New York, New York at 11:33 am by

After a weekend arguing with my Dad over the respective merits of the Democratic party’s remaining challengers, I had thought about posting Al Goldstein’s latest campaign video, but changed my mind after watching an older clip from Al’s salad days. Never mind Seinfeld spitting out mutton, this has to be the finest publicity the Old Homestead ever received.

For Kiki Vandeweghe, Decent Pet Sitters Are Hard To Find

Posted in Basketball, Dogs, Going To The Zoo at 11:18 am by

Because I’d rather not gross anyone out this Monday morning, I’ll spare you the details of what happened the time I left Johan Kugelberg in charge of my apartment. However, I can say that after reading about what happened when Kiki Vandeweghe (above) and wife Peggy hired a pair of CSU students to watch his home and animals, Johan is no longer the Worst Pet Sitter In The World. From the Denver Post’s William Porter (link swiped from True Hoop) :

What all parties agree on is that Kiki and Peggy Vandeweghe hired twins Amy and Jenny Eskola to house sit their Cheesman Park manse.

Keeping Jenny company was the Vandeweghes’ schnauzer, Meister, and the bird, a variety of parrot called a conure. The birds are renowned for their beauty and sociability, although these virtues were apparently lost on the dog.

So it was curtains for Sweet Cheeks.

“It was horrible,” Jenny told me. “The cage was broken beforehand and the door was fastened with a twist-tie, and the bird somehow undid the tie.”

The conure enjoyed its brief freedom. Then the dog decided it was supper time.

“Meister bolted out of the room,” Jenny said. “I went in and there were little feathers all over the place.”

The Vandeweghes have refused to pay the young women for their housesitting. The sisters say they’re owed about $700, which is the $50-a-day fee they had earned up until the fur flew. So it’s off to small-claims court.

“I don’t know if we’re ever going to see anything, but it’s a shame,” mother Debbie Eskola said. “The girls have to earn their spending money so it’s a big deal for them. For Peggy Vandeweghe, it’s a pair of shoes.”

Bill James Plunks Biggio

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 11:04 am by

Monday’s Slate features an excerpt from The Bill James Gold Mine 2008 in which James explains why the Astros’ Craig Biggio went from being his favorite player this side of George Brett (“Biggio was the player who wasn’t a star, but who was just as valuable as the superstars because of his exceptional command of a collection of little skills”getting on base, and avoiding the double play, and stealing a base here and there, and playing defense”) to becoming, well, exactly the sort of player who’d be the subject of the following essay :

As Biggio moved closer to 3,000 career hits there came a general recognition of his status as a star player, which severed the bond that I felt to him when he was deserving of recognition that he wasn’t getting. Yes, he moved to center field and yes, he moved back to second base when they needed him back at second base, but in all candor, he was pretty awful in center field, and he was pretty awful defensively back at second base. I got tired of pretending not to notice.

In 2003 he hit .354 against pitchers with ERAs over 5.25 (64 for 181), but .143 against pitchers with ERAs under 3.50 (19 for 133). In 2004 he hit .382 with 10 homers in 110 at bats against pitchers with ERAs over 5.25. Every year he has had huge good pitcher/bad pitcher splits.

At some point, Biggio was hanging around to get 3,000 hits. On the one hand I was happy for him that he was going to get his 3,000 hits and pleased that he had proven to everybody that he was a great player, but it’s not something I really admire, hanging around to pursue personal goals. He couldn’t hit a good pitcher”never could, really. His career batting average in post-season play was .234, OPS somewhere around .600. His clutch hitting record is miserable.

I’m not picking on him, I hope, but the reason that Biggio struggled in clutch situations and against good pitchers couldn’t be more obvious. He was an overachiever, and he knew what he was doing. Against a weak pitcher, a pitcher not really in command of his material, Biggio could take control of the at bat and drive it toward a good conclusion. When the pitcher was not really focused, Biggio was. But when the pressure was on and there was somebody on the mound who knew what he was doing, Biggio had limited ability to step up. Maybe this was not as true in the 1990s. I hope. We’ll figure the data and put it online.

I’ll still say today, if there was a draft and you could look ahead and say, “OK, that guy’s going to be Ken Griffey, that guy’s going to be Frank Thomas, that guy’s going to be Juan Gonzalez, that guy’s going to be Tom Glavine, that guy’s going to be Craig Biggio,” just give me Biggio and I’ll take my chances. Maybe that’s not what the numbers say is the right answer, but Biggio was the guy who would do whatever needed to be done. Makes it a lot easier to build a team.

And then the story went on a little too long. You ever go to a movie, it’ s pretty good for about an hour and a half but then the story is over but it’s like the director can’t find the ending so it goes on for another half-hour looking for some way to tie things together? That’s kind of Biggio’s career; it was over, and then it went on for quite awhile.

02.24.08

Dolan To Knicks Fan : Where’d You Get Those Cool Beads?

Posted in Basketball at 7:54 pm by

The New York Daily News’ Frank Isola reports that while Garden chief James Dolan refuses to talk to his paper, the aspiring blues rocker cannot so easily escape the inquiries of Knicks rooters when he’s strolling the streets of The Big Easy.

A gentleman named Mark Haverly (standing to Dolan™s right) ran into the Knicks™ top decision maker on the street during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans and had an interesting conversation with Dolan.

œI explained I™m a long suffering Knicks fan and made reference to the suffering beginning around when he took over without saying it overtly. I said I appreciated the loyalty he clearly has, but at some point the results have to overrule loyalty, i.e. please fire Isiah.

œHe told me to be patient and said ˜look at the Celtics, where were they a year ago? Look at the Giants, where were they a year ago?™

œI politely explained, ˜Well, the difference with the Giants is they made the playoffs the last few years, you can™t say that. And the Celtics had cap space to acquire Garnett, you didn™t.™

Haverly asked Dolan, who was accompanied by several Garden officials, œ˜would you ever consider bringing back Jeff Van Gundy, a coach that could get these guys to play some defense?™ They all laughed at me. ˜He quit, there™s no coming back from that!™ Dolan said.

œI responded, ˜Well, yeah¦but why did he quit? And why did Marv Albert quit?™ Dolan said in a wink wink kind of way, ˜Marv didn™t quit™ – implying he was fired.

œI then made reference to all the good people that have left under his regime, the continued disgraceful record of both teams – save for the Rangers for one year maybe – and he again brought up the Celtics.

œSo, for all us Knick fans out there I™m here to tell you there™s nothing to worry about¦James Dolan himself told me next year we™ll be this year™s version of the Celtics. So about 40-10 come the break. No worries everybody, he™s got it all under control.”

Andrea Bargnani has 24 points (“pugnacious!” exclaims Clyde, silent thus far on the subject of Isiah’s pink tie) and the Raptors hold an 84-67 advantage on the Knicks with about a minute left in the 3rd quarter in Toronto.

With the Boston Globe’s Marc J. Spears claiming the Celtics and Hornets are showing interest in the currently-suspended Chris Anderson, it seems like an appropriate time to recall The Birdman’s struggles in the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest.

Send The Coach’s Prozac Prescription To Springfield : With A Little Luck, NJIT Could’ve Been 2-27

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 5:39 pm by

While the Patriots finished their season 18-1 and Memphis failed to preserve their perfect record, let’s have some recognition for the hapless Highlanders of the New Jersey Institute Of Technology. With Saturday’s 76-50 loss to Utah Valley State, NJIT became the Worst Division 1 Men’s Hoop Squad of All Time, topping the 0-28 mark of 1992′s Prairie View and 2005′s Savannah State teams. In today’s era of newsroom budget cuts, can you imagine how thrilled the Newark Star-Ledger’s Ben Webster must’ve been to accept a company trip to Orem, UT?

“Until today we thought we were going to win games,” said NJIT coach Jim Casciano (above), who announced his resignation last week but coached his team’s final game. “Whatever games we had left on the schedule we thought we were going to win.”

But a win never came, and the loss was the team’s 33rd straight, one shy of Sacramento State’s Division 1 record from 1997-99. Add to that, the Highlanders were the only Division 1 team this season with more turnovers (577) than field goals (550).

NJIT opened the season with a 70-28 loss to Manhattan, then Casciano took a 12-game leave of absence for what he revealed yesterday was a cancer scare, problems with diabetes and a bout with depression.

“If I hadn’t stepped back, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything,” he said.

Utah Valley State (14-14) ensured the Highlanders’ final game would be yet another loss with a 24-8 run to close out the first half. NJIT got as close as eight with just over eight minutes left but trailed 49-25 at halftime.

Ryan Toolson finished with a game-high 22 points for Utah Valley State. NJIT senior captain Kraig Peters, playing in his final game, led NJIT with 13 points.

“You can’t let it get to you,” Peters said. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s five times worse than this. I would never regret playing here.”

“When you’ve been beaten down and lost as much as we have there’s going to be that time in the game when it’s like ‘here we go again.’ That’s what happened today,” Casciano said. “Utah Valley played as well as they probably could in the first 10 minutes … but then I look up and it’s a 10-point game.”

It didn’t help NJIT when leading scorer Nesho Milosevic picked up his third foul with more than 11 minutes to go in the first half. With Milosevic forced to the bench, Peters became the sole focus of the Wolverines defense.

“It’s tough being the focus of teams every night,” Peters said. “It’s not tough just because this year, but it’s been tough last year and the year before.”

Imagine How Tottenham Fans Will React If Spurs Ever Win Something Meaningful?

Posted in Football at 5:11 pm by

A header by Jonathan Woodgate four minutes into the extended session provided the margin of victory for Tottenham over Chelsea in Sunday’s Worthless Cup Final, and the Telegraph’s Henry Winter can barely believe the losers mounted such a feeble challenge, writing “it is hard to believe Nicolas Anelka joined from Bolton simply to mark Alan Hutton.”

To Woodgate the spoils, to Avram Grant the brickbats. Like a profligate heir, Grant has now squandered half the family silver he inherited from Jose Mourinho. Like a startled fawn, Chelsea’s manager failed to react when the team cried out for guidance, for inspiration. Steve Clarke delivered the rallying cry before extra-time. Grant listened.

A manager who never lost a cup final in England, Mourinho would have raged against the dying of the light, exhorting his players to find something extra, enacting one of his substitute master-strokes to vary Chelsea’s danger. The Blues’ huge army of support, who became so used to trophies under Mourinho, deserve better than Grant.

An authority figure? No chance. When Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and John Terry lost it with the excellent referee, Mark Halsey, at the final whistle, Grant froze again.

Only a timely run from his assistant, Henk Ten Cate, defused the tension. For all the recent eulogies to Grant about his being a high-class manager, even a worthy successor to Mourinho, the Far-From-Special One has faltered when the pressure has been most intense. Grant’s decision to start Frank Lampard ahead of the fitter Michael Ballack certainly backfired. Lampard is a magnificent thoroughbred, but he needed a few more runs on the gallops before such a demanding race as this.

With the quality of personnel at his disposal, Grant should be reaching finals. So he has failed his first big test. He was also asked by Roman Abramovich to make Chelsea more entertaining but there is a joylessness about Grant’s teams, a machine-like quality that will never endear Chelsea to neutrals or purists.

The Political Awakening Of C.J. Wilson

Posted in Baseball, politics, Sports Journalism at 4:08 pm by

Man, what a difference a year makes. Last spring, Rangers hurler C.J. Wilson created a tiny buzz around the sports blogosphere when his MySpace comments to teammate Brandon McCarthy revealed something more suspect than a shared love of Chromeo. Today, however, John Rocker nemesis / Page 2′s Jeff Pearlman annoints Wilson as a notable exception in Texas’ army of clubhouse apathy. “While ballplayers are bound both by their disparate backgrounds and an uncompromised love of the game,” writes Pearlman, “they are also united by one not-so-great characteristic: political indifference.” Yeah, well, that and none of ‘em will profess to loving Savatage cock, either.

In this remarkable year of presidential politics — when John McCain has risen from the dead, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are engaged in a historic struggle for delegates; when dynamic figures like Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul and John Edwards fell short but fought passionately — baseball players kick back and, ahem, read their Maxims.

“It’s frustrating,” says C.J. Wilson (above), the 27-year-old Texas relief pitcher. “I’d say there are two reasons. One, there’s a general lack of education among us. But two — and most important — you’re talking about a population that makes a ton of money, so the ups and downs of the economy don’t impact whether we’re getting paid. Therefore, we often don’t care.”

In saying “we,” Wilson is speaking about nearly every Ranger — except himself. A free-thinking Californian with an appreciation for Obama, a dislike of Bush, a hatred of the Clintons, a detestation of SUVs, and a longing for a grass-roots political movement that would truly represent the needs of the people, Wilson stares blankly when asked who among his teammates he can talk with about Decision ’08.

“No one,” he says. “I keep it to myself.”

While a few Rangers profess moderate interest (“Obama’s inspired me,” says outfielder Jason Ellison. “I have a 2-year-old daughter and I want her to grow up in a healthy country”), most merely shrug their shoulders or offer a half-hearted “I’m just focused on playing ball and helping the team win,” when asked about the upcoming election. Some call themselves conservatives, others call themselves moderates, but few seem to actually know what the two terms mean. “It’s not that complex,” Wilson says. “Baseball players think about baseball.”

Not that this is simply a Rangers phenomenon. Throughout spring training clubhouses in Arizona and Florida, politics fail to generate interest. Finding someone who has participated in a state primary or caucus is slightly harder than finding a cinematic role for Meeno Peluce. The majority of players are almost certainly not even registered to vote. On the morning following last Tuesday’s highly publicized Wisconsin Democratic primary, nary a Ranger nor Kansas City Royal could be heard talking about the results. Heck, no one even seemed to know the event took place.

Indeed, a top 10 list of spring training topics discussed by ballplayers would look something like this:
1. Baseball
2. Free sunglasses
3. Breasts
4-5. Jesus/golf (tie)
6. Dinner options
7. The Kyle Kendrick YouTube video
8. Britney Spears
9. Strip clubs
10. More Jesus/golf (tie)

Phillies’ Lidge To Go Under The Knife

Posted in Baseball at 3:02 pm by

The Philadelphia News’ Todd Zolecki reports Phillies’ closer Brad Lidge will undergo knee surgery tomorrow and might be out of action for as much as 6 weeks. For Ed Wade, this might take a bit of the sting off the Miguel Tejdada acquistion.

Lidge, who reinjured his surgically repaired right knee Saturday while throwing live batting practice at the Carpenter Complex, had a MRI today in Clearwater. He said the MRI showed “no big, new tears, nothing substantially wrong. But enough on the medial side of the knee that would warrant a scope. We’re going to do a scope and clean out some of the small tears and get that done with, so it won’t bother me during the season.”

Lidge had two options:
1) Get the surgery.
2) Let it heal naturally.

“The scope has a pretty fast recovery time,” Lidge said. “Ideally, if everything went right I wouldn’t miss any of the season. That’d be a good 4 1/2 weeks (away). But that’ll be based on how it feels, obviously. Right now, if this came up again during the season and we had to do it then, then you’re obviously missing a big chunk of the season rather than a big chunk of spring training.

The Griddle’s Bob Timmerman
reports that not only has Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder sworn off The Lucky (Meat) Gravy, but his inspiration came from a tome entitled “Skinny bitch in the kitch : kick-ass recipes for hungry girls who want to stop cooking crap (and start looking hot!)”. Imagine how much recent drama we’d have been spared if someone had purchased the same book for Debbie Clemens?