Former New York Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu (above, left) has come out of retirement and made a contract with Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League, his management revealed on April 27. Released by the Hanshin Tigers in the 2004 offseason, the 39-year-old Irabu started training at the start of the year with an eye on making his comeback and is set to return to the mound in May for his first competitive game in five years.
I know, it’s shocking. Hideki Irabu has management?
For the generation of writers who came of age recently enough for blogs to inform the way we writer, the challenge of splitting a bloggy voice from the professional-writer voice is weirdly simple. I write bloggy prose in the same way that I write email prose, whereas when I know someone’s going to be editing or fact-checking or (to get right to it) paying me for something, I have to kind of tamp things down a bit. Editorial imperative can tend to sort of flatten things a bit, too, but by and large I don’t really mind that something like this — which I’m proud of and worked hard on and so forth — doesn’t necessarily sound that much like me. I expect as much and don’t have much say in it, finally, and so look to venues like CSTB as outlets for writing in my actual voice. I’m not necessarily a young dude anymore, but switching between voices and perspectives and approaches comes pretty naturally. This isn’t because I’m a brilliant prose stylist (although that obviously doesn’t hurt) so much as it’s because I grew up when I grew up.
For older writers who are being asked to get their blog on by publications eager to get the sort of constant-update pace that the internet apparently demands, it’s not necessarily so easy. For every Dave D’Allessandro who takes naturally to it, there’s either someone who takes to it too much and gets rambly, lazy and weird (Peter King would be a good example here) or who takes to it not at all. (Witness the painfulness of sixtysomething newspaperman-turned-MLB.com-writer Marty Noble’s blogging, which could only be more awkward if he were wearing a baseball hat backwards and rapping or something). Or Murray Chass, who seems to have taken his worst and most ill-informed impressions of what a blog is — it’s a basement-smelling place where people make unsubstatiated arguments and rip dudes without mercy, right? — and made it his own bloggy reality, without ever actually having read any other blogs to see whether there was anyone else serving his particular flavor of awful.
But while I can’t always get through the torrent of words that defines his bloggy style, I think the Kansas City Star’s Joe Posnanski might have the best relationship of any veteran writer to the bifurcated blog/not-blog writing experience. He’s still turning out very professional, very excellent newspaper work — I love this profile of Zack Greinke, for instance — but also using his blog in the right way. Some of this is just to blow off steam in a goofy way, but some of it is to explore things that are probably a bit too navel-gazey or plain-bloggy to work as newspaper columns. His recent rumination on Brian Bannister (above) and sportswriterly allegiances to players and teams is, I think, an example of this stuff at its best. Even the excesses work, because Posnanski has so fully bought-in to the medium and its style, and so seriously approached this (less-offical, presumably un-compensated) assignment. Here’s some:
I might with enough effort myself as a hard-working second baseman who dives for every ground ball, and I might imagine myself as a weak-armed quarterback who could inspire a team in the final minutes, and I might even envision spending hundreds and hundreds of hours in a driveway shooting jump shots until I was so good at it that I could make it to the NBA.
And so it is with Banny. He™s really more talented than he lets on ” his fastball was in the lower 90s on Wednesday and he can get good movement on it and much of the time he has well-above average command. And let™s face it: You can™t pitch in the big leagues ” and pitch successfully ” without other-worldly talent. But, in context, the basic story is true: Bannister does not have a killer fastball or a devastating out pitch. He is not imposing.* He did not have many people believe in him along the way.
*He is listed at 6-foot-2 on his Baseball Reference Page ¦ and I say with affection in my heart as a 5-foot-9 sportswriter who sometimes claims to be 5-foot-10 that there™s no way. None.
…It just so happened, because of a variety of coincidences, that I was in Cleveland for Bannister™s start (last Wednesday). He was really good. He threw six shutout innings. He gave up just four hits, walked two, struck out one.
And when the game ended, he was not especially happy. He was not unhappy, of course. I think he was proud of the way he pitched, even if he knew that throwing shutout innings with so few strikeouts is not really sustainable. But ” and this is the part I could really associate with ” he knows the situation…I would say that the feeling he had was something closer to relief. He had pitched his heart out, and it worked out on this night, and he could live to fight another day. That™s what it™s all about to me: Sure, I admire talent, and I appreciate genius, and I enjoy dominating performances. But I identify with this kind of struggle. There™s nothing easy for Brian ¦ and that™s a big reason why I root for him.
Mets starting P Oliver Perez — 7 runs, 9 hits and 3 walks in 4.1 IP during yesterday’s 8-1 loss to Washington — has charitably been labeled “enigmatic” in this space. There’s no mincing words, however, from the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, who cannot reconcile the lefty’s $36 contract and 9.31 ERA, saying of Perez, “he does not have an impressive pitching IQ. He has little craft. He generally has no clue where the ball is going once it leaves his hand.”
The Mets re-invested in Perez in the offseason under the belief that Dan Warthen, who became the pitching coach last June, had — in the words of Manuel — “unlocked [Perez] and he became pretty consistent.”
But there was a time when the Mets thought the same of Rick Peterson, who was replaced by Warthen. There is no unlocking Perez. There is just conning yourself that you have.
The rotation is Johan Santana and the Pips, and the most infuriating Pip is Perez. Manuel was so mad after an 8-1 loss that he said he wanted a night’s sleep before the next move, which could be anything from subtle (taking advantage of a Thursday off day to skip Perez’s next turn) to drastic (putting him in the pen) to nuclear (using the option Perez has left to send him to the minors).
“I have to figure out how long [to be patient] and what is patience,” Manuel said about a starter who certainly is testing the Met hierarchy’s tolerance.
Perez was most responsible for giving an atrocious team life, for preventing the Mets from sweeping the Washington Generals, uh, Nationals. He is the biggest worry, because the Pips are the largest concern the Mets have right now, and Perez is the most disturbing Pip.
[To wrap up the Cubs weekend series in Missouri, I turn one last time to Dick Murdoch's 1970's sojourn to the "nothing happening state." In this case, to better understand what victory means amidst the skullduggery of St. Louis sports.]
Yesterday’s 10-3 Cub win over the Cards ties up the Stl-Chi series for the year, but it wasn’t pretty. After the Cubs took a 3-0 lead in the 1st , Derrek Lee was taken out of the game with neck spasms (he says he “slept funny“). In the 2nd, the Cards’ Todd Wellemeyer hit Soriano in the head. Considering the Cubs’ Marmol hit Pujols last week, and Rich Harden hit Pujols again in yesterday’s 5th, it looks like a long summer of “accidents” surrounding Tony Walnuts and his crew. Piniella allowed Soriano to play out the game, and swears Derrek Lee won’t be on the DL with Bradley and Ramirez. Marmol is also expected back soon.
On the plus side, Fukodome had a 5 RBI day for the North Side and today’s bullpen showcase (Cotts, Heilman, and Gregg) put the Cubs 10 run outting in Rich Harden’s win column (2-1), making the Cubs a .500 again. Well, that may not sound impressive, but they did it in 2 and 2/3 innings with only 3 hits allowed. It just means they did their job, which is impressive to me. The Herald‘s Bruce Miles has a full accounting here. Miles notes that Harden actually buzzed Pujols several times Sunday. The Trib’s embedded team reporter, Paul Sullivan, takes Harden’s word it was an accident, here:
Harden (2-1) did the rest, allowing only two runs on four hits over six innings and striking out nine. Perhaps his most important pitch was the one that plunked Albert Pujols in the fifth inning. Though Harden said it was not in retaliation for the beaning of Soriano, the result was the same. Pujols stopped and stared at Harden before taking his base.
“He didn’t say anything, he just looked at me,” Harden said, adding that the pitch was not intentional.
“I’m giving everything I’ve got out there,” he said. “I really wanted to challenge him and go in, and if I miss him, miss in. Especially with the type of hitter he is, you don’t want to give him stuff down the middle, you know?”
Soriano said he didn’t think Wellemeyer was trying to hit him, but called it a “scary” moment.
This afternoon’s ACW Hardcore Title bout between Steve Amos aka Jacob Ladder and Smurf Nation figurehead J.C. Bravo had no shortage of quality props, amongst them, a ladder (natch) wrapped in barbed wire, your obligatory staplers and cheese graters, etc. But even a jaded observer like myself had to stop and say (loudly) “WTF?” when Ladder employed his young son (above) to batter Bravo with a kendo stick (or as the Sandman might’ve called it, a Singapore Cane).
For those whose initial reaction to Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home tonight off Andy Pettitte was some combination of shock & delight ( perhaps more of the former for Yankee fans), Peter Abraham was quick to recall that Toronto’s Aaron Hill victimized Pettitte in similar fashion two years ago.
Amidst his usual laundry list of one-liners and insults (“Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen looks like Christopher Walken in ‘The Deer Hunter’ just before he lost his one-on-one duel with Russian Roulette”), the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey dropped the following disturbing item into Sunday’s Hoop Du Jour column.
It shouldn’t go unstated or unnoticed that nary a single soul from the NBA, NBPA, NBA Retired Players Association, Knicks, Sonics, Nuggets, or a solitary current or former NBA player showed up for the funeral services of Marvin Webster, reports Charles Bennett, a former union official/player agent and current Tulsa CPA who had The Human Eraser’s back and bankbook throughout his troubled years.
“David Stern did send a real nice flower spread. So did the Oklahoma City team. And I think the Knicks sent a rose,” Bennett said.
The Baltimore crowd of 300-plus, including most of his college and high school teammates, was extremely disappointed as they searched in vain for NBA representation, Bennett added.”I tried to represent the league but the crowd didn’t buy it. Here is an area where a small investment by the league would’ve yielded priceless goodwill amongst retirees and fans of the game, and it struck out looking.”
Of Oakland’s first round selection of WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland) and second-round pick, S Michael Mitchell (Ohio), the San Francisco Chronicle‘s David White scoffs, “the Raiders either dislocated their shoulder with two draft-day reaches Saturday, or they know something no one else in the NFL does.” In the eyes of the San Jose Mercury-News‘ far more cynical (and some might say truthful) Tim Kawakami, the Raiders’ questionable decisions are evidence that head coach Tom Cable “got this job because he™s the guy who™s willing to let Al Davis make loopy picks like this and pretend that Cable had anything to do with them.”
With the 7th overall pick, and with the Raiders looking at the possibility of taking a supremely productive and tougher WR in Michael Crabtree or a fast and productive WR in Jeremy Maclin or a top OT in Eugene Monroe or a huge DT in B.J. Raji or TRADE DOWN¦
Al reached humongously for fast non-productive WR Darrius Heyward-Bey out of Maryland. (There is not a great history of non-productive fast guys going to the NFL and then producing TDs, but Al keeps trying!)
* Then in the 2nd round, Al traded out of the No. 40 spot (to New England), went back 7 spots, then selected S Mike Mitchell out of Ohio University, a total speed-physical guy who was not listed by several draft analysts. Not in the top 10, not in the top 100¦ NOT LISTED.
I™m sorry, but this guy does not seem like the second coming of Ed Reed to me. More like the second coming of some guy Al could™ve drafted in the fifth or sixth round, but was too stubborn to want to do that.
If Cable had any juice in this organization, he would™ve pushed hard for Monroe or Crabtree or Maclin“all picks that would™ve shown that Al wasn™t going to let his obsession for stop-watch speed warp his judgement yet again.
(Fabian Washington! Derrick Gibson! Napoleon Kaufman! Jessie Hester! James Jett!)
Holding a commanding 3-0 lead over Detroit and looking every part the leading candidate to represent the Eastern Conference in this June’s Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers can afford a bit of levity at the expense of one of their own, as the Plain-Dealer’s Brian Windhorst details.
During their afternoon film session at a suburban Detroit hotel Saturday, Ilgauskas’ teammates roared during the clip of him “executing” a fast break in Friday’s Game 3 victory over the Pistons. On the play, Ilgauskas chased down a loose ball and ran to the other end.
Inexplicably, when he reached the foul line, Ilgauskas left his feet and apparently started to panic. Luckily for him, LeBron James caught up with him and saved the day with a basket and foul, and Ilgauskas got a rather sheepish assist. And the new moniker.
“We’re calling him ‘Magic’ Ilgauskas,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “The clip of him jumping in the air and floating for two-tenths of a second and making the pass to LeBron . . . my stomach just turned.”
“It was a heck of a play for a 7-foot-3, 72-year-old,” Mo Williams said. “Actually, it was the right play for him; he stopped dribbling.”
[Dick Murdoch, pictured, on St. Louis fans, officials, punks, and sissies.]
When it comes to losing and making excuses for it in the “nothing happening state of Missouri,” and on the weekend Milton Bradley breaks his media silence, I again defer to that poet laureate of athletes visiting St. Louis, Mr. Dick Murdoch. Also, anyone taking offense at Mr. Murdoch’s reference to southern Texans as “sissies and punks,” as he does here to a young Kevin von Erich, is welcome to “go on home, boy, and cry to your momma and your daddy.” That, or you can e-mail CSTB in Austin.
Look, as for today’s game, there’s no way to explain the Cubs’ 8-2 loss in St. Louis except by whining and complaining, which the Cubs official web site does well: “Shorthanded Cubs avoid using DL.” Still, I’m happy to join in, as it took Zambrano at shortstop (!) and a missing Marmol, Bradley, and Aramis Ramirez for the Cubs to strand 10 for a 4th consecutive loss and STL’s 5th consecutive win.
“I’m just not into negativity,” he said. “I can see already I’m going to be that guy that since nothing else is going on in here — ‘We’re going to harp on Bradley all year and see if we can get him to snap.’ I’m not going to go for it.
“You can’t get a good story if I don’t talk to [the media],” he said. “You’ll make something up like you always do. If I talk to you, you’re going to make something up, and if I don’t talk to you, you’re going to make something up. So just go ahead and make something up and leave me out of it.”
There was no talk about putting Bradley on the disabled list to give him time to heal. He had been bothered by the sore groin before the April 12 game, and does not appear close to being ready to come back. Piniella said he is available to pinch-hit.
Bradley also is waiting for a hearing on his appeal of a two-game suspension issued by Major League Baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson after the outfielder argued a called third strike by home plate umpire Larry Vanover on April 16. That’s a matter of principle.
“It was a surprise to me,” Bradley said of the suspension. “I had no idea I touched him. They need a video forensic scientist to find a frame that shows I touched him with the bill of my helmet. It is what it is. I’m appealing because I didn’t feel that I touched him. I just want to say that I didn’t do it, and didn’t do it intentionally.”
The above image is culled from The Offside, who report Liverpool F.C. — co-owned by that lovely chap Tom Hicks — are peddling a limited edition, 18-carrot gold cell phone. In the event Liverpool can’t move all 250 created of these , they can always cover the overstock in Texas Stars stickers.
My interest in the NFL Draft bounces between slight and none depending on the year, though I usually end up watching far too many hours of what is really one of the weirdest, most awkward televised events this side of the Eurovision Song Contest. If you’re like me, however, one of the annual highlights — much like waiting for Jerry Lewis’ anti-media speech smack in the middle of the night during the MDS telethon — is hearing/watching Jets fans go apeshit when their club invariably picks the wrong dude. Since there’s a chance that might not happen this year, feel free to play this video as many times as you like.
Johan Santana’s 10 strikeouts Friday nearly got three graduate students from Syosset kicked out of Citi Field for posting K cards on the leftfield facade.
Santana was up to six by the middle of the third inning when Keith Heller, Ryan Krochak and Larry Ziegelbaum said they were told by security to remove the white signs with Ks made of duct tape because they were blocking an electronic ribbon board. When the trio asked if they could move the signs away from the scoreboard, they said their request was refused and the signs were confiscated by the security officers.
“People were yelling at them [security], telling them they were ruining a tradition,” Ziegelbaum said. “Everyone was supporting it.”
Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz explained that Citi Field does not have a policy against signs of any kind, but in this instance, they were blocking the ribbon board.
“They were afraid the signs would damage the board,” Horwitz said.
(Denim’s Lawrence Hayward – anyone leave any messages?)
“Never has a single fabric done so little for so many.” So proclaimed the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Akst earlier this week, opining that denim “looks bad on almost everyone who isn’t thin, yet has somehow made itself the unofficial uniform of the fattest people in the world.” Calling denim, “the SUV of fabrics, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a hulking Land Rover to the Whole Foods Market”, Akst’s anti-Levi’s baton is snatched by the Guardian’s Philly-based scribe, Steven Wells, who confesses, “ I am afraid that the conservatives have us by the clearly outlined (by too-tight denim) balls.”
Years of gig going has provided me with the invariably correct rule of thumb that if a band amble on stage dressed in blue denim we are certain to be subjected to a dope-fogged aural sludgefest. Can’t be arsed to dress properly usually means can’t be arsed to write music properly. Which is why, of course, indie is awash with denim. And why one of the worst bands in the world was, in fact, called Denim. Actually, now I’ve researched it, there are loads of bands called Denim and they’re all dreadful. Go ahead and google them, but keep the sick bucket handy.
On the other hand there are bands who wear denim but are not shit. MotÃ¶rhead and Status Quo spring to mind. But then these guys also rock ponytails. Which suggests that they are, for some reason, beyond criticism. Probably because they’re best mates with really scary bikers.
Though I suspect the NHL’s octopus-hating commish would love to see the big market Rangers go deep in the playoffs, the prospect of the Caps’ Alexander Ovechkin trying to top Friday’s heroics is one way (at least) the U.S.’s 5th or 6th most popular spectator sport can hold its own on the nightly highlights shows.
Former Georgia QB Matt Stafford’s agent, Tom Condon, and Lions officials agreed to terms on a six-year contract Friday that includes $41.7 million in guaranteed money, the richest rookie contract in NFL history, two league sources said.
The maximum value of the deal with incentives is $78 million, which tops the six-year, $72 million deal — with $34.75 million guaranteed — that Matt Ryan, another Condon client, received last year as the No. 3 overall pick.
Stafford is aware he’s not the first choice for a lot of Lions fans. There were chants of “We want Curry!” and “Don’t draft Stafford!” at the team’s new uniform unveiling Monday in Madison Heights.
Stung by press reports that his ex-girlfriend had labelled him “heartless”, the Chelsea and England midfielder telephoned a radio station yesterday to defend his personal conduct following his split with Elen Rives, the mother of his two daughters.
The story was discussed by LBC presenter James O’Brien on his morning phone-in show, prompting the Chelsea captain to call the radio station and berate him. Lampard, 30, said: “My sister just called me and said she was distressed by your comments calling me weak and scum. Is that right?”
O’Brien tried to explain his comments, but Lampard, clearly upset at the intrusion into his private life, said: “You don’t even know me.” The Premier League star was particularly incensed by O’Brien’s suggestion that he was a bad father and added: “Every penny I earn and every yard I run on the football pitch is for my kids. The hardest part of this whole break-up for me is not waking up with my kids every day.
“I hope that one day your wife or girlfriend doesn’t come to you and say, ‘I don’t want to be with you anymore, and unfortunately that means you won’t see the kids for a few days a week.’ That will hurt you.”
O’Brien admitted that it would “break my heart” and the footballer responded: “Yeah, and it’s breaking my heart. Do you think I’m happy?”
Lampard went on to say that yesterday was the first anniversary of his mother’s death. Pat Lampard died of pneumonia aged 58. He added: “That’s had a huge impact on my relationship at home. Today the only reason I ring you is because my sister is distressed. Do you think my sister needs to hear idiots like you … on the radio?”
The presenter said he was unaware of the date’s significance and “apologised unreservedly”. Lampard added: “Sometimes you should think about things before you speak about them.“
Wednesday, during the Mets’ loss in St. Louis, Jerry Manuel was interviewed on SNY. The initial theme, inescapable and hinted at by Gary Cohen, was the Mets’ loss the night before, another predicated on inattentive and unprepared play and take-it-for-granted base-running.
Or, as Bob Ojeda said in Tuesday’s SNY postgame, why, when Carlos Beltran was tagged out at the plate late in a tie game, wasn’t the next batter, Luis Castillo, giving Beltran the “down” (slide) signal?
Cohen and then Manuel spoke of the Mets having to “buy into” playing hard and Manuel having to “sell” the notion of being prepared to win.
It was polite code, the kind previously spoken to Willie Randolph. That pros, highly paid and presumably well-coached, have to be “sold” or must “buy into” paying attention and playing harder is sad. If one didn’t know that Cohen and Manuel were talking about a big-league team, we’d have thought the Mets are Bunk 6 at Camp I-Dah-Wanna.
Instead of politely asking why the Mets play this way, perhaps it’s time to start politely asking when they’re going to cut it out.
It’s a rather curious theme, even by Phil’s standards. Criticism of the Mets is more than warranted, certainly. Castigating SNY for a perceived failure to hold the manager’s feet to the fire after all of 15 games seems slightly hysterical. It’s not as though the Mets’ inhouse channel is turning a blind eye towards the team’s poor start, and when in recent history has any local broadcaster — SNY, YES, MSG, SportsChannel, etc. — encouraged a reporter to say point blank to the manager, “you’re doing a lousy job, aren’t you?” Well, other than ownership feeding anti-Torre questions to Kim Jones, that is.
A headline reading “Intern May Lose Baby In Sports Museum Bankruptcy” is sensational enough fearmongering to win my approval. Especially after we learn from Eye On Sports Media the baby in question is a commemorative David Wells Beanie Baby, loaned to the newly bankrupt Sports Museum of America by a volunteer worker.
It’s a cruel blow for young Marissa Friday, who might have to pay $250 to recover an item that’s rightfully hers. And with that in mind, I am taking up a collection to purchase Ms. Friday an anatomically-correct David Wells plush doll.
More than a week after insisting Citi Field’s poor sightlines weren’t in fact, obstructed views, Mets V.P. David Howard once again rises to the occasion when it comes to infuriating p.r.-babble. In Friday’s New York Times, Ken Belson considers the oft-heard allegation Citi features little in the way of Mets artifacts.
Where, other fans complain, are the banners that used to hang inside Shea that could be seen from the escalators? (They were sold at auction.) What happened to the 1969 photo montage that adorned the outside of the right-field stands? (Gone like the stadium.) Where is the bronze statue of Mike Piazza hitting his famous home run in September 2001? (Not on the drawing board yet.)
The Mets are aware of these complaints, including the chatter on sports radio stations. But opening the stadium on time took precedence over adornments.
œIt was something we always intended, but it wasn™t given a priority, said Dave Howard, the Mets™ vice president for operations.
Howard said the team was working to add more memorabilia, including a display of Topps baseball cards of Mets from each year since 1962. Banners like the ones outside the stadium could be hung on the concourses inside.
The busts in the team™s Hall of Fame, which has not added a member since 2002, could be replaced by plaques with relief sculptures and descriptions. Life-size statues, like the ones at AT&T Park and Busch Stadium, are possible.
These additions will take time, though, which means the Mets may have to endure more taunts from their fans. Howard sounded sanguine.
œI™m never surprised and always encouraged by the passion of Met fans, he said. œIt™s great that people care this much and we listen to it.