05.31.09

The Kid’s Autograph Tariff

Posted in Baseball at 7:38 pm by

Poking around the interweb reveals some weird details about members of the World Champion 1986 Mets.  For instance, Wally Backman’s biography at the Joliet Jackhammers website causally mentions the second baseman dubbed “that little redneck’ by Darryl Strawberry, was “announced as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks on November 1, 2004.”  Sure, he was fired a few days later, but why let a negative tidbit like that ruin a perfectly good looing resume?

Equally curious is an item from the Long Island Ducks’ official website which  unveil’s “Gary Carter Autograph Policy.” “Dear Fan, “ the note begins optimistically (clearly, Carter has one specific person in mind), before informing the reader that Mr. Carter (above, far left)  will not sign any “MLB-badged item” unless the recipient has made a $25.00 contribution to the Gary Carter Foundation.   If you’re not, y’know, eBay trash, Carter is still willing to sign Ducks and/or Atlantic League swag free of charge.

Plaschke : Manny’s All-Star Candidacy Is “A Great Disgrace”

Posted in Baseball at 7:08 pm by

While the Dodgers seek to avoid losing 3 of 4 to the Cubs tonight the LA Times’ Bill Plaschke (above) can’t quite get off the topic of Manny Ramirez’ alleged lack of contrition (“the Dodgers have showered Ramirez with much love, almost painting him as the victim while those who dare criticize him are the criminals”). He can’t stop hitting the carriage return every sentence or two either, but that’s just Plaschke Being Plaschke.

Where is the Dodgers’ public anti-steroid campaign that focuses on the drugs’ effects on today’s youth? Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity to launch one?

Where is the respect for the hundreds of thousands of fans who bought tickets for games in which Ramirez is not playing? By continually deferring to Ramirez, the Dodgers continually insult those fans.

And why won’t somebody, anybody, trumpet the fact that without Ramirez, they have still won 13 of 22 games while increasing their lead in the National League West. Just once, I’d like a team official to say, “You know, we’re a pretty good team without him.”

Ramirez is not gone because he is injured, or ill, or fighting for our country in Iraq. He is gone because he is a cheater, period.

Yet the Dodgers insist on treating him as if his absence was something necessary or noble, and one can only guess why.

Are they scared of Ramirez, who can opt out of his contract after this season? Or are they scared of the fans who love him so much?

It seems to be both. Earlier this week, McCourt typified the Dodgers’ coddling attitude when he was asked about Ramirez’s potential, as the fourth-leading vote-getter among National League outfielders so far, to appear in this year’s All-Star game.

“‘Do I want to see him?” he told reporters. “Sure, if he gets voted in. It’d be a great honor.”

Me, I think it would be a great disgrace, and I could not believe that the community-minded McCourt would think otherwise.

Texas & BC’s 25 Inning War – The Longest Game I’ve Ever Walked Out Of Twice

Posted in Baseball, consumer affairs at 5:34 pm by

Much will continue to be written about Saturday’s Game 4 of the NCAA Austin Regional, a record/patience-shattering affair that saw the no. 1 seed University Of Texas outlast Boston College, 3-2 in a 25-inning, 7 hour + marathon, in particular, the astonishing performance of Texas reliever Austin Wood.

In an era in which a big-league closer going more than 3 outs is rare enough, Wood’s 13 IP, 169 pitch, shutout performance  is almost impossible to believe.  Not for me, however.  I was there.   For part of it, anyway.

In arriving late (top of the 7th) and leaving early (end of the 19th), I might’ve missed the begining and end of what was arguably was of the greatest collegiate postseason games ever played (it was certainly the longest), but I did witness the first 10.2 IP of Wood’s 12 inning no-no.  As such, I’m keeping my ticket stub in a very special treasure chest containing other cherished sporting nicknacks that are worth no money whatsoever.

Action at Disch-Falk continues in about 45 minutes, as the Longhorns host Army for the second time in 3 days.  If Texas wins, they’ll advance to next weekend’s Super Regionals.  A victory for the visiting G.I. Joe Wannabees pushes the series to a decisive 4th game (Monday evening).

Under the Crossbar and Dreaming

Posted in Hockey, music, Sports TV at 4:08 am by

Intriguing analogy from one of John Buccigross’s readers.

John,

I was thinking about why people hate Sidney so much, and it reminded me of why I dislike DMB [Dave Matthews Band].

When I was in college (1995-05), DMB started to get popular, and I, like many, enjoyed his music. After a month of “Ant Marching” playing on the radio every other song, I grew tired of DMB and changed the channel every time it came on. People kept telling me how great DMB was and questioning why I decide to not listen to their music. I just grew tired of hearing them. Everyone tells me the DMB jam sessions are incredible in concert. Someday, I may break down and go.

I think that is how the hockey world feels about Sidney at this point. Everyone (except us Pittsburgh fans) is tired of hearing about him. Sidney vs. Richard, Sidney vs. Ovie, Sidney vs. Staal. People have just burned out and hate for no apparent reason, because I agree with you that he is what hockey is all about. Also, I think that if people watch the live version of Sidney, they would have a newfound respect.

Terry Ayers
Fort Mill, S.C.

I’ve never grown tired of Dave Mathews Band, Ben Folds, Nicklas Lidstrom or any artist or athlete with originality, talent and commitment. I find these people inspiring. I understand growing tired of Lady Gaga, Cheez Doodles or ham, but not unique greatness.

I don’t know, anyone who lived in South Carolina and spent 10 years in college probably saw their share of Hootie and 7 Mary Three shows – which hockey players are those bands?

Also, if you don’t think ham falls into the category of “unique greatness,” you’re not eating the right ham.

Meanwhile Folds, who is a solid dozen years past his sell-by date in my book, apparently does quite well in the online sportswriter demographic. From Joe Posnanski’s Twitter:

Being old, we showed up at the 7 pm Ben Folds show at 7 pm. Ben, playing to a much younger crowd, goes on at 9:30.

Yeah, but have those youngsters given up old-school baseball ideology for sabermetrics to the extent Posnanski has?

Nicklas Lidstrom, I reckon, is the Belle and Sebastian of hockey: Always understated, sometimes overlooked, occasionally misunderstood, nonpareil.

05.30.09

Seattle Scribe : Who Is This Guy Playing LF For Philly And Where Have We Seen Him Before?

Posted in Baseball at 6:56 pm by

Aside from Raul Ibanez‘ robust offensive output thus far for Philadelphia ( 17 HR’s, 1.019 OPS), old pal Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times notes Ibanez’ solid glovework in left field (“imagine how shocking it is to look at Ultimate Zone Ratings stats this morning and see that Ibanez is actually on the plus-side of the runs saved equation for the first time since 2004. As of today, Ibanez has a +4.6 score in UZR and is projected to finish with a +9.8…with his offensive numbers thrown in, he’s arguably an MVP candidate”) and concludes the former Mariner is a great fit at his new home venue.

I think the ballpark in Philadelphia plays to his strengths. If you know he can cover ground running back to the wall and you know there is less distance to cover in left field there compared to at Safeco Field, it makes sense that Ibanez could be cheating further up towards the infield.

By doing so, he can cut down the number of blooped hits that drop in front of him and penalize him on the UZR front. At the same time, he can still track down balls he runs back on because there is less ground to cover before he gets to the wall. And, he has the skills to make the tougher plays when he’s running back.

For me, that’s the easiest explanation for why he’s gone from very good player to superstar in the span of a season. Sounds like the Phillies knew what they were doing when they went out and got Ibanez. They looked at his skillset and saw a guy who could fit into their home park pretty well.

And now, instead of being penalized for skills that did not fit Safeco very well, he is maximizing what he does have at a home park that plays to his stengths.

Hayward To Chelsea : How About David Moyes?

Posted in Football at 6:43 pm by

Days after reports surfced linking Carlos Ancelotti to Chelsea next season, Gus Hiddink has completed his brief spell in charge at Stamford Bridge with Saturday’s F.A. Cup final triumph over Everton. In the wake of allegations that John Terry all but demanded Jose Mourinho’s departure, the Guardian’s Paul Hayward pleads with Roman Abramovitch to “handle the succession better than he has in all previous attempts.”

An Italian, a Portuguese, an Israeli, a Brazilian, a Dutchman and now probably an Italian again: this is the timeline of 21st-century Chelsea managers. Sticklers will point to the missing Englishman. Squeezed into this cosmopolitan sequence is Ray Wilkins, who assumed command for a few days between Luiz Felipe Scolari’s sacking and Hiddink’s arrival from the Red Adair school.

Some senior Chelsea players are known to harbour deep misgivings about starting over with a Milanese aristocrat steeped in Serie A who speaks little English. It would take Ancelotti several months to adjust to the Premier League, with its unique rhythms. In Italy he is synonymous with ageing teams who play slow football: the very thing Abramovich was trying to escape, supposedly, when he complained to Ancelotti that his side lacked a “personality”.

“I wanted it to be much harder for someone to win a trophy [in English football] than to do it in three-and-a-half months,” the Everton manager, David Moyes, said of Hiddink. One wonders whether the best manager outside the top four has been mentioned as a possible successor. It worked against Everton, of course, that Chelsea’s players were on such a mission to send a Dutchman back to Russia with love.

It will be much harder for Abramovich to find someone new for them to adore. If he were thinking straight, Moyes would be a candidate.

Someone Needs To Explain The “Slumpbuster” Concept To David Wright All Over Again

Posted in Baseball at 3:26 pm by

If this is how the Mets’ third baseman reacted to going 0-5 in Friday’s 11-inning, 2-1 defeat of Florida, can you imagine how Tim Redding will respond to his own miserable outing (4 IP, 7 earned runs, 8 hits) earlier today? (image culled from Brooklyn Mutt)

Singles Going Steady, Broadway Going To Broadway

Posted in Baseball at 12:14 am by

(Not pictured: Mark Teahen, riding shotgun)

White Sox 11 KC 2

The stepped-up offerings of ascendant bullpen refugee LHP Clayton Richard (W, 2-0 7IP 6H 2ER 7K 1BB) kept the Royals runless until the 7th, making good use of Mark Buehrle-like pacing and agressive 3-2 curveballs.   While exactly the kind of stuff needed to plug the Contreras-sized hole in the rotation, much of it was wasted by the 6th, as the Sox had piled up an 11-0 lead.

Uncharacteristically, the run of runs had less to do with power than manufacture.   Beyond a Jermaine Dye solo shot in the first, no homers figured in the deluge and the dismal RISP effectivenes of the Sox got a serious boost with a string of base hits, adding up to 17 before the night was up.  RHP Brian Bannister (L, 4-2, 5IP, 9H, 7R 4K 1BB) lasted long enough to fall behind by 6, only to bring out the hapless Sidney Ponson, whose 1/3 inning produced 4 earned runs by way of singles and doubles to Konerko, Anderson, Ramirez and Fields.  Kyle Farnsworth gave up two more before Dewayne Wise was lulled to sleep by the lack of home runs, forgot the outs and was run down.

Following the blowout, Kenny Williams announced a strange deal with the Mets, trading mild-throwing, walk-prone RHP reliever Lance Broadway (16IP, 19H 10R, 1.75 WHIP) for backup C Ramon Castro and $2 Mil in cash, leaving backup catcher Corky Miller designated for assignment.  Life goes on, Corky, life goes on.  I’ll leave it to GC to plot what role Broadway will fill at Death Valley East, but I’ll guess that Castro will do three things for the Sox: 1) ruin the week of behemoth bridesmaid Birmingam C Tyler Flowers  2) gun down about as many runners as AJ and Miller and 3) momentarily confuse and frighten Alexei Ramirez with his last name.

05.29.09

Klapisch On Death Valley East, Aka Citi Field

Posted in Baseball, Ugly New Stadiums at 5:26 pm by

While Tim Marchman has Baseball Think Factory abuzz with a not-entirely-serious headline of “They Should Trade Him For Mark De Rosa” (“Him” being newly promoted deer-in-the-headlights rookie OF Fernando Martinez), another writer considers the Mets’ poor power numbers and impact of Fred & Jeff’s homage to Ebbets Field Petco Park. “The stunning new ballpark is a shrine for pitchers,” observes the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch, “but a black hole for gap hitters who used to reach the fences at Shea Stadium.” Or to regurgitate a line I’ve repeated far too often, Citi was built with a particular team in mind. Sadly, that team was the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals.

OK, I said the ’85 Cards the first few times. But as Klapisch points out, the last club to win a World Series with fewer than 100 HR’s was St. Louis’ 82 squad.

No wonder David Wright and Carlos Beltran are glum, already resigned to Citi™s configuration that includes a 415-foot canyon in right-center (44 feet farther than at Shea) a 15-foot wall in left-center and an even more forbidding 16-foot barrier in dead center, 408 feet away from home plate.

The result is home runs that barely make it ” Gary Sheffield™s monstrous blast against the Nationals on Monday only landed in the first row ” and others that require video confirmation, like Sheffield™s on Tuesday and Daniel Murphy™s on Wednesday night.

Otherwise, an army of fly balls simply die short of the wall, which Wright called œfrustrating.

œThat™s something we™re going to have to live with and deal with, he added. œYou can get upset and you can get angry for a second, but hopefully it equals out where you get some bleeders to fall in because the outfield is so deep.

Beltran echoed the less-than-enthusiastic scouting report.

œThe fences are high, the ballpark is big, but we have to play here, he said. œThis is our home. We have to feel comfortable here.

Mets officials are aware of the grumbling, but say it™s too early to return a final verdict. œLet™s see how [Citi] plays over the summer when it gets hot, said one senior official. œRight now the sample size is too small.

The wall in left and center is actually two eight-foot pads, one of which can be replaced by a four or two-foot pad, creating a home run mark of just 12 or 10 feet. And if Jeff Wilpon and GM Omar Minaya decide the Mets™ offense is truly starving, the second pad can be removed altogether, shortening the wall to just eight feet.

With Brian Schnieder scheduled to come off the disabled list tomorrow, the Daily News’ Adam Rubin reports the Mets are frantically trying to trade Ramon Castro prior to Saturday’s 1:10pm game.

Leyland : Anatomy Of A (Mild) Tantrum

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 1:08 pm by

“It’s happened before. Inevitably, it’ll happen again.” Thus sighed the Detroit News’ Tom Gage after Tigers manager Jim Leyland cut a postgame press conference short following his club’s miserable showing in Baltimore last night.  “Like an argument with an umpire, the many ways in which his fires burn within also make Leyland realize how much passion he still has for the game.”  So in other words, the manager should’ve remembered to lose his temper with reporters more often when he cashing checks in Denver?

Questions were being asked and answered. You could see and hear Leyland wasn’t happy, but he had a right not to be happy. The Tigers had just lost a stinker. They’d gone 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

That’s when the one-too-many was asked.

“How encouraged were you by Galarraga’s performance?”

“I’m not going to talk about that, because you guys are worried about Bonderman taking somebody’s place,” Leyland said.

“I’m not going to talk about that (stuff). Galarraga pitched a great game. But that’s all you guys are looking for. Forget it. Good bye. Good night.”

And with that, the post-gamer ended.

Leyland doesn’t get upset with his team often. For that matter, he doesn’t get upset with the media often.

But he hates it when he thinks reporters are fishing, although whether there were lines in the water this time almost wasn’t the entire point.

Because of the game, the lack of execution, the stranded runners, a late home run by the Orioles breaking open a game that had been for grabs, it all boiled over after one question Leyland considered suspicious.

David Roth already covered the matter of Tom Ilitch’s generosity earlier this week, though left unmention was one tiny factoid. ; allowing the local newspapers employ your team’s director of P.R. means there’s more money to spend on talented baseball players.

Megadeth’s Mustaine : Not A Subscriber To The Theory “All Press Is Good Press”

Posted in Free Expression, Rock Und Roll at 11:52 am by

There’s a particularly wonderful passage in John Joseph’s harrowing & funny  “The Evolution Of A Cro-magnon” in which the protagonist puts the fear of G-d into a disrespectul Dave Mustaine.  Perhaps the latter’s current publicist might want to enlist Joseph’s assistance during Megadeth upcoming promo tour?    The following bit of press release magic is culled from The Gauntlet.com :

Droogies!

Wow, the last week has just slipped right past me and here we are getting ready to start mixing, mastering (no worries here), and sequencing the record. We have all of the 12 songs done and ready to be revealed soon.

I am also going to start doing interviews for the new record and of course the upcoming Megadeth and SLAYER dates in Canada. Let me assure you though, the interviews may be really short, because if I get asked anything antagonistic or I am told, ‘Someone said this and someone said that,’ it will be over. I don’t care.

I am honestly looking forward to these dates, and hopefully more than just breaking the ice and doing four concerts with some old friends. I currently have the flu so this is going to be short.

I love you all and thanks for checking in on me here, and at TheLIVELine.”

MSGD!

Can You Tell If Daniel Murphy Hit The Subway Sign?

Posted in Baseball, Sports TV at 10:35 am by

No? Neither could anyone else Wednesday night at Citi Field. While Manny Acta wasn’t alone in feeling his Nationals were screwed, the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman figures it’s only a matter of time before the shoe is on the other foot.

Club Conspiracy will be out in full force when the Mets, five-for-five in video decisions, eventually get jobbed. And can you imagine if the flimsy “evidence,” at least what viewers saw on SNY, is ever used to take down a tilt-winning Mets home run in the last game of the season with a playoff berth on the line? Verbal blood will run deep through the streets of sports squawk’s Valley of the Stupid.

Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB’s exec VP of baseball operations, claims there is already “plenty of transparency” in the deliberation process. “Everybody sees various (replay) angles,” Solomon told the Daily News. “On a rare occasion there will be an angle that maybe no one will see, or only one person or one (broadcast) entity will have.”

One thing all viewers can count on seeing is three umpires leaving the field, retiring to some area underneath a stadium. This leaves a lousy perception, the feeling someone is cutting a back room deal.

Solomon said umpires work in privacy so they can make a “calm, clear-headed decision” without being “impacted by screaming fans.” If this is just about making a decision under optimum conditions, MLB brass should think about sticking a camera – no sound included – inside the umps’ viewing room so fans can see what’s going on. MLB, like the NFL and NHL, should also provide the media with the name of replay officials on duty at MLB Advanced Media for each game.

Now, in MLB’s video court, no one can see the umpires arriving at a decision. No one knows exactly what replays they are looking at, how they are selected, or which one they based their decision on. You don’t even really know if there is an actual vote, or just one dominant opinion, coming out of the replay bunker. Was the final say born of consensus, conspiracy or sheer buffoonery?

05.28.09

Never Mind The Affront To Abel Ferrera, Zoe Lund & Harvey Keitel…

Posted in Cinema at 11:43 pm by

….the important thing is that finally, after all the years, we might have a Bad Lieutenant Chris Russo can get behind.

The Fiver On Barca’s Post-Victory Hypefest

Posted in Football, Sports Journalism at 7:47 pm by

OK, not everyone was thoroughly impressed with Barcelona’s 2-0 defeat of Manchester United in the Champions League final yesterday.  In other parts of the globe, however, “there couldn’t have been more drool emanating from the Stadio Olimpico if a giant roast pig, oozing gelatinous goodness, was spit-roasted under their noses,” observed the Guardian’s Sean Ingle and Rob Bagchi.

“Barcelona have shown that perfection is possible,” insisted AS editor Alfredo Relaño. “There is no antidote to their exquisite football. [They have] demonstrated their worldly and intergalactic superiority!” Meanwhile José Sámano hailed Andrés Iniesta as “sublime, elegant, sensible, and incisive, a genius with an air of Peter Pan about him – man of the match with Xavi. Their partnership was celestial, an exquisite pleasure.” Mmm, try telling Anderson that.

Lord Ferg was magnificently magnamious in defeat – although his claim that “the first goal was the killer” suggests his renowned tactical skills consisted solely of reading Guus Hiddink’s Bumper Book of Defensive Football. But as he looks to rebuild his side, Ferg may have to make do with Him, who “doesn’t know” if He will be at Old Trafford next season. El Mundo Deportivo, however, reckons He “is the perfect player for Real Madrid – arrogant the day before the game, a bad loser, provocative and posing during it. This guy smells of Madrid already.” But unless Florentino Pérez coughs up £70m, He will still be sporting L’eau D’Old Trafford next season.

Hahn : Knicks Should Consider Lawson Over Curry

Posted in Basketball at 7:31 pm by

While much of the basketball world prepares for the realistic possibility of David Stern’s dreams of a Kobe/LeBron final going poof! in a cloud of chalk, Newsday’s Alan Hahn is keenly focused on the NBA Draft taking place in less than a month.

Checking a list of those the Knicks have invited to Purchase, NY for workouts, Hahn writes that North Carolina G Ty Lawson, “could be the biggest competition Stephen Curry has in realizing his New York dreams.”

Lawson doesn’t have great size (6-foot, 195 pounds), but he’s strong and ridiculously fast, especially with the dribble. He showed in this year’s NCAA Tournament that not only can he run an offense, he can get to the rim and he also can get to the foul line, two very valuable traits for an NBA guard.

The biggest thing he showed this season is he’s a winner. The Knicks need to collect as many of those as they can. Lawson led the Heels to the championship and, as I’ve said here many times about him (including last year before he decided not to enter the draft), his team goes as he goes. When he was healthy, the Heels were one of the best teams in the country. When he was injured, they weren’t. Period.

Defense? Again, a question. His size will hurt him some, especially against the big guards. You can’t overlook the fact that he does get banged up and his durability as a starter could be questioned. But as far as true PGs in the draft, he is clearly one of the best and, depending on how the individual workouts go, he could be very high on the list for the Knicks at No. 8.

Even For Young Eggheads, The WWL Confers Credibility

Posted in Blogged Down, Leave No Child Unbeaten at 6:09 pm by

(’97 champ Rebecca Sealfon with a moment that’s Bobby Thompson’s shot-heard-’round-the-world, “The Catch”, “The Drive”, Starks dunking on Jordan, Ali thumping Sonny Liston and Maradona’s Hand Of God all rolled into one)

DC Sports Bog’s Dan Steinberg has been blogging all Thursday long from the site of tonight’s 82nd Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Along with scoring quality time with Erin Andrews, Steinberg’s been quizzing protesters (seriously) getting inside the skulls of the youthful contestants (“some turn out to be Gilbert Arenas-like, such as Nicholas Bernard Rushlow, who carries a lucky pendant with a photo of his Bichon Frise puppy, named cosmotellurian (‘relating to heaven and earth.’) Others turn out to be Ryan Zimmerman; one young chap managed to conduct an entire five-minute interview without actually saying a word. And still others trended toward LeBron James. ‘I don’t believe in luck,’ straight-faced Stephen Hartline of Ohio.”) Amongst Steinz’ tougher questions, “is Spelling a Sport?”

“If it’s on ESPN, that probably makes it a sport,” said Drew Hodson, 14, of Indiana.

“They have it on ESPN, so I guess,” seconded Joshua Casquejo from Jersey.

“It’s on ESPN, so I guess you could say so,” thirded John Flinn, 14, of North Carolina. “Of course, they also have hot-dog eating contests,” he noted, which was the proper response.

(Point of fact: for the first time this year, the AP is moving Spelling Bee stories on its sports wire.)

Others classified it as a hobby. “This isn’t athletic at all,” Bell argued. And then there was the final’s host, Tom Bergeron, from America’s Funniest Home Videos and Dancing With the Stars.

“Uhhhhh, no, I don’t think so,” he said, to the eternal question of is it or isn’t it. “I think sports require physical activity.”

Another eternal question concerns the real-world application; if these kids are neurosurgeons 20 years from now, will it help to know how to spell “koinonia?”

“We’re building brain muscle here, we’re building synaptic tissue,” ABC’s Bergeron said. “These kids, their ability to visualize, to retain information, to discipline themselves, to compete on this level…These are pretty motivated, type-A personalities. Who I’ve just annoyed by saying it’s not a sport. I change my mind. They might be the neurosurgeon I get. They might be going, ‘I saw that interview you did in 2009 with The Washington Post. Oops. Try walking now, Bergeron.?

If You Thought This Guy’s Blog Was Funny, Give Yourself A Pat On The Back

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down at 2:45 pm by

If you understood that the “Vote For Manny” is one part satire, one part sarcasm, one part fun, one part grandiose hopes the the rules of the game will somehow change to make sense…. feel free to read on even though you already get it.Jason, Vote For Manny, 5/27/09

Whew, what a relief.  Now that we’ve cleared up that tremendous mystery — at first I thought he wanted Manny elected to the NL All-Star because it was a pro-’roids blog! — could Jason’s satirical bent have also been adopted by the A/V department at Citi Field?  What other explanation could there be for the Jumbotron messages imploring Mets fans to “VOTE CASTRO” during Ramon’s (occasional) plate appearances?

Populism, Dylan Lyrics, and the Little Caesar’s Guy: Gammons Enters Baroque Phase

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 2:32 pm by

I was promised a Boston-style knuckle sandwich by a friend and dear correspondent after the last CSTB post I did on the increasingly dotty Peter Gammons. Interested though I am in finding out what sets a Boston-style knuckle sandwich apart from its New York model (I think it’s sauerkraut? or entitlement?), I’m not going back to the well just to piss off Steve Sykes. And honestly the offense I charged Gammons with last time — broadcasting what then seemed like some very unwarranted, un-researched happy talk on the just-then-released Gary Sheffield’s Comeback Player of the Year bid, doesn’t really seem that crazy right now. But Gammons’ new column — on the heroic profligacy of Tigers owner Mike Ilitch — is just weird.

Baseball has duly honored Jackie Robinson and the memory of veterans who fought for freedom. Now, with the Red Wings on the brink of another Stanley Cup and the Tigers in first place, it is time to honor Mike Ilitch alongside workers and family shop owners and working victims of the economy.

I don’t know Ilitch and his family, but I know what the automobile industry did to the city he loves. I am staggered that he is constructing the monuments to GM, Ford and Chrysler. I appreciate that he has lost millions upon millions to make the Tigers competitive, which allows his teams to give his people of Detroit diversion and hope and happiness.

There were reports Wednesday that Bud Selig has warned owners that he is going to try to force them to cut back bonuses by 10 percent after the June 9 draft because of the economy. [But] Ilitch is more loyal to his neighbors in Detroit than he is to Selig, which is why a 20-year-old kid named Rick Porcello won his fifth straight start Wednesday afternoon. If Selig had been able to muscle Ilitch into overruling general manager Dave Dombrowski and his esteemed scouting director David Chadd, Porcello would be pitching for the University of North Carolina on Friday against Dartmouth in the NCAA regionals.

And then there’s some more stuff and a bunch of lyrics from Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom,” and then it concludes (spoiler alert?) thusly:

Major League Baseball clearly does not care about those people in Detroit who have become underdog soldiers in the night. Thankfully, Mike Ilitch does, and for all those underemployed refugees on the unarmed roads of flight, may Rick Porcello and Miguel Cabrera stand as symbols that even a man as wealthy as Mike Ilitch is one of you. And he cares.

Which is… I kind of don’t even know where to start. But the idea that Ilitch spending a bunch of money to make his team better is somehow an indication of his Tom Joad-ian everyman cred is just weird. The Tigers lost over $26 million last year and the team’s value declined by 9%, which is a lot. They were also awful. They had $180 million in revenue in 2007 on a $101 million payroll, according to this Business Week article, which is pretty good (the revenue, not necessarily the article). They were coming off a World Series season that year. That’s the way this stuff goes, and Ilitch’s heroic paying-over-slot for Porcello — and dealing for the contracts of Dontrelle Willis and Cabrera (The Train is left out of Gammo’s monument garden) — got done in June and December of ’07, respectively, when Ilitch’s organization (and everyone else) was flush. According to the detailed breakdown in that Forbes story, the Tigers have lost money in just two of the last nine years, despite being one of the worst teams in baseball for roughly half that stretch. Oh, and Ilitch’s net worth is still $1.6 billion.

I have no problem accepting that a guy worth that much can still be an ordinary person, and care about ordinary people. I don’t even have a difficult time believing that Ilitch is a good guy; civic-minded casino and fast-food magnates have to exist, right? And I feel bad picking on Gammons, who’s kind of just doing whatever at this point. But praise Ilitch for letting laid-off GM and Chrysler workers into the stadium for free, if you’re going to lionize him as a working class hero, not for doing what he’s supposed to do as the owner of a pro sports franchise.

Why Do The Lakers (& Tyrese Gibson) Hate America?

Posted in Basketball at 1:15 pm by

Behind a staggering performance from Lamar Odom, the Lakers brought the Nuggets to the brink of elimination with the former’s 103-94 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals last night, a result at least one unidentified member of the losing side figures was influenced by Phil Jackson’s complaints about the officiating in Game 4.  The Denver Post’s Dave Krieger while noting such conspiracy theories, is more fixated on Hollywood, or to be specific, his claim that “the Western Conference finals are now the template for the modern sports movie.”

The Lakers have played in the NBA Finals 29 times. The Nuggets never have. If you were trying to create an arrogant favorite and a plucky underdog, you couldn’t do much better.

How arrogant are the Lakers? Thanks for asking.

So arrogant that they feel free to change the lyrics of the national anthem.

Now, fans cheer different parts of the anthem for partisan reasons all over. In Baltimore, they cheer the “Oh” in “Oh, say” because of the Orioles. In Houston, they cheer the rockets’ red glare because of the Rockets. But in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, singer and actor Tyrese Gibson changed “our flag was still there” to “our Lakers were still there.”

I think we can all agree that’s just not right. Up the road, on the sound stages of Hollywood, such arrogance is guaranteed its comeuppance, but not until the last 10 minutes of the movie.

It would appear as though pissing on the flag is something of a new tradition at the Staples Center.

Rosenthal : In My Day, We’d Just Assume David Ortiz Was Washed Up

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 11:01 am by

“Ten years ago, no self-respecting journalist,” Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal solemnly intones,  “would have speculated that a player was using performance-enhancing drugs without some form of proof.”  Nowadays, however, it’s a 24-7 cycle of yack radio howlers, blog haters and (ahem) journalists without a smidgeon of Ken’s self-respect.  Especially regarding the topic of the fast fading Big Papi.

For all I know, Dvid Ortiz might have been a user; the Steroid Era, sadly, has taught us to view all players skeptically. But there is a significant difference between holding such a view privately and accusing a player publicly without any factual basis for such an opinion.

Ten years ago, no reporter would have dared make such a leap, fearing, at minimum, a stern rebuke from an editor and, at worst, a lawsuit. In fact, the difficulty in “naming names” was one problem in reporting on steroids in baseball.

If I had shown the foresight to tackle the subject ” and I didn’t ” an editor might have asked me for names. But for a time, no reporter could properly satisfy such a request without an outright admission by a player, the kind that Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci elicited from Ken Caminiti. Federal investigations of distribution rings ” the source of much of what we know today ” came later.

Several times in recent weeks, radio talk-show hosts have asked me what I thought of the possibility that Ortiz was using PEDS.

The rationale for such questions?

The talk is “out there.”

Well, I have no idea if David Ortiz used PEDs; probably no journalist does. I could not even make an educated guess, and it would be unprofessional of me to do so.

Here’s one thing I do know: Before steroids, players actually declined as they got older. Ortiz is 33. Maybe he is losing his skills. Maybe he just stinks.

But who wants to talk about that?

A fair enough point — indeed, once upon a time it wouldn’t necessarily have been a red flag for a player’s skills to noticeably decline at age 33.  But Ortiz’ decline has been especially dramatic, much as his ascent after arriving in Boston from Minnesota was nothing short of meteoric.  That the former’s occurrence coincides with increased scrutiny doesn’t  necessarily mean Ortiz is a cheat.  But he wouldn’t be the first player whose numbers fell off the charts after a spectacular, ‘roid-assisted run.

05.27.09

The Revolution is Televised: Zambrano Tosses Out an Umpire, Cubs Win 5-2

Posted in Baseball at 10:24 pm by

[Zambrano declares declares home plate the "people's plate" at Wrigley.]

Carlos Zambrano this afternoon offered the kind of Wrigley meltdown that Chicago sporting scribes have been predicting Lou Piniella would throw, and should throw, for three years running “ and that Milton Bradley would inevitably throw every day.  Even MB himself commented that “It was on a Bradley level.”  Umpire Mark Carlson called Pittsburgh’s Nyler Morgan safe after a wild pitch from Zambrano, which allowed Morgan to score from 3rd.  Video backs up Justice Carlson on this, but Zambrano offered a dissenting opinion.  Zambrano’s flare up got him kicked out of the game, which he quickly responded to by throwing Carlson out of the game, as seen here.

[Zambrano puts The Whole Damn System on trial.]

Paul Sullivan reports the game, and Z’s prodigal return to the North Side “ and even got a quote out of Milton Bradley,  here:

Carlos Zambrano received the official Milton Bradley seal of approval after being ejected on Wednesday and throwing a temper tantrum for the ages in the Cubs 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.

“That was pretty impressive,” Bradley said. “It was on a Bradley level.”

That it was, and soon the Cubs will find out whether or not Zambrano’s tantrum will be grounds for suspension.

After arguing with plate umpire Mark Carlson after Nyjer Morgan stuck his left hand around Zambrano’s tag to score the tying run in the seventh inning, Zambrano made contact with Carlson, putting his shoulder into the umpire.

Zambrano could be suspended for as many as 10 games for his conduct, depending on the review of the umpire’s report to Major League Baseball.

“I’m a competitor and I think he was out, but that was his call,” Zambrano said. “I over-exaggerated after that play to throw the ball [into left-center field] and to do the other things. But hopefully MLB will review the play and we’ll see what happens.”

Zambrano would not discuss whether he made contact, though the Cubs insisted it was Carlson who initiated the contact.

“If you look at the film the umpire sort of walks in a little bit,” manager Lou Piniella said. “The league makes that determination, but you’ve got to be more careful than that.”

Carlson was not available after the game. Crew chief Tim Tschida confirmed a report was being sent to MLB, but declined to comment.

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto said he couldn’t keep Zambrano from getting into Carlson’s face.

“I was kind of far away,” he said. “I was disappointed at the call, and when I looked, he was already tossed.”

Even after his crazy routine with Carlson, where he pretended to be thumbing the umpire out of the game after he’d been ejected, Zambrano was not finished. No, in fact, he was just starting.

First he launched the ball towards the left field warning track.

“I was kind of disappointed,” Reed Johnson said. “I thought it was going to go up into the stands. The wind was blowing in today.”

NCAA : Calipari’s Two-For-Two In Tainted Final Four Appearances

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 9:02 pm by

Not everyone loves John Calipari, but give the current Kentucky coach some credit ; he’s a wiz at knowing when to get the fuck out of Dodge.   From the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Dan Wolken :

The University of Memphis is in the process of responding to an NCAA notice of allegations charging the men™s basketball program with major violations during the 2007-08 season under John Calipari.

The allegations include œknowing fraudulence or misconduct on an SAT exam by a player on the 2007-08 team.

The player has subsequently denied the charge, according to university personnel.

The only player on the roster who competed only during that season was Derrick Rose, who subsequently was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft last June.

If proven to be true, the Tigers could be forced to forfeit their NCAA-record 38 victories and Final Four appearance.

Memphis, which received the notice of allegations Jan. 16, is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions June 6.

Calipari, who left Memphis for Kentucky on March 31, is not named in the report, but the NCAA has requested his presence at the hearing.

Davidoff : Mets, Minaya Have Mishandled Injury Crisis

Posted in Baseball, Medical Science at 8:47 pm by

Though a fourth favorable video review in the past week has played a part in the Mets’ 5-3 lead over the Nationals tonight, let’s hop in the time machine and return to, errr, Wednesday morning, when Newsday’s Ken Davidoff declared of the Amazingly Disableds, “you can wonder why the Mets have seemingly put themselves on an island the last couple of years, consistently choosing aggressive paths for injury treatment when most other teams have swerved toward the more conservative approach.” Davidoff pinpoints the following ;

* – An ownership that comes off as overly sensitive to the day-to-day happenings of the team and the media coverage, rather than stepping back and taking a more macrocosmic view.

* – Minaya himself. First of all, he appears naturally assertive about these cases. He explained Tuesday that, if he thinks a player can return in five to eight days, he’d rather go shorthanded for as long as a week than shelve a player for 15 days.

* – Second of all, Minaya’s decisions probably are clouded by the lack of organizational depth. Yes, it’s unusual and unlucky that both Reyes and Alex Cora went down. But it happens. You have to prepare for it. Ramon Martinez just can’t be option number three.

* – The medical staff. As Minaya mentioned, the team’s doctors thought that Reyes would need just a couple of days before returning. Remember, trainers don’t want their players to go on the DL, because it reflects poorly upon them. “I feel very comfortable that our medical people have given us very good advice,” Minaya said.

Given the Mets followed their treatment of  Jose Reyes’ myriad health woes some years ago with putting the multi-concussed Ryan Church on a cross-country flight, I can fully understand why some conscientious superstars employ their own training staff.

Gillispie’s Kentucky Lawsuit

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, The Law at 7:11 pm by

Former University Of Kentucky Men’s basketball coach Billy Gillispie, unceremoniously canned last March, is suing the school for breach of contract, with the following report brutally clipped from the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Ryan Alessi and Jerry Tipton.

Gillispie never signed a formal contract, but he was operating under a memorandum of understanding with the athletics association.

“Throughout the entirety of Coach Gillispie’s tenure, he treated it, correctly, as the binding, written contract between him and the defendant,” the suit says.

Gillispie is seeking $6 million that he says he is owed for “termination without cause,” according to the agreement.

The memorandum of understanding said that Gillispie, if fired, would be paid $1.5 million a year for up to four remaining years on the agreement.

In addition, the suit says UK lured Gillispie away from Texas A & M at a point when that university was negotiating to give him a contract extension through 2015. He also is seeking punitive damages and the cost of attorney fees.

Stuart Campbell, Gillispie’s agent, also declined to describe any settlement negotiations between the two sides.

When asked whether the two sides were close to an agreement, he laughed. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.

A better question might be how Campbell and Gillispie’s attorneys allowed their client to to toil for two entire seasons at Kentucky without a long-form agreement being signed by both sides. You know you’ve screwed up bigtime when Wally Backman’s lawyer is shaking his head.

Roch, Rock & Rule : O’s Plying Bloggers WIth Bottled Water & Kubatko Kameos

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 6:21 pm by

The subject of professional sports franchises wooing the blogging unwashed has come up in this space previously, whether it was Caps owner Ted Leonsis rolling out the dessert cart or the New York Islanders’ ill-advised “Blogger Box”.   With an overture that sounds quite similar to SNY’s 2008 attempt to make-nice with a gang of Matthew Cerrone-approved Mets bloggers, MASN and the Orioles invited a collection of O’s bloggers to enjoy the splendors of a Camden Yards luxury box.  Camden Chat‘s Stacy reveals the highlights :

I’d never been in a suite at Camden Yards before and I felt especially fancy. There was plenty of good food, a refrigerator stocked with beer, soda, and water, AND celebrity visitors! Gregg Zaun had his entourage there, and Rick Dempsey spent a good deal of the game in the suite with us. Duck was especially geeked to get his picture taken with the Demper. Jim Hunter also stopped by for a bit and Al Bumbry was hanging around as well. The entire thing was just so…cool. Perhaps the greatest celebrity run in was when Rock Kubatko stopped in and Duck introduced himself as being from Camden Chat. I’ll let Duck tell the story as I wasn’t there when it happened, but the bottom line is Roch wasn’t amused about the time that a story was written about Roch challenging a Camden Chatter to fisticuffs. Sadly I did not even see Roch as I was outside cheering on the O’s.

Rather than engage in (another) unseemly pissing match over blogger ethics, let’s just say we’re living in a world of very low expectations when Roch Kubatko qualifies as celebrity.