(Ken Kendricks, third from left, and friends at a recent JFA reunion show)
Without even considering the political leanings of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ ownership, I have no trouble rooting against them. For one, their ballpark naming rights are held by a predatory lender, for another, I had the worst stadium nachos in my entire adult life while watching Pedro Martinez subdue the hosts during a visit to Phoenix in 2006. Congressman Raul Grijalva would just as soon advise tourists like me to stay home, however, calling for a national boycott of the state of Arizona over the passage of the “Support Our Law Enforcement & Safe Neighborhoods Act”. As Edge Of Sports’ Dave Zirin explains over at The Progressive (link courtesy Jason Cohen), said legislation “has brought echoes of apartheid to Arizona.” And a boycott of the state need not be restricted to tourism, as Zirin advocates ignoring the NL West’s D-Backs entirely. Thankfully, Howe Gelb‘s vast catalog is unaffected.
As the official Arizona Diamondbacks boycott call states, œIn 2010, the National Republican Senatorial Committee™s third highest Contributor was the [executives of the] Arizona Diamondbacks, who gave $121,600; furthermore, they also contributed $129,500, which ranked as the eighteenth highest contribution to the Republican Party Committee. The team™s big boss, Ken Kendrick, and his family members, E. G. Kendrick Sr. and Randy Kendrick, made contributions to the Republicans totaling a staggering $1,023,527. The Kendricks follow in the footsteps of team founder and former owner Jerry Colangelo. Colangelo, along with other baseball executives and ex-players, launched a group called Battin™ 1000: a national campaign that uses baseball memorabilia to raise funds for a Campus for Life, the largest anti-choice student network in the country. Colangelo was also deputy chair of Bush/Cheney 2004 in Arizona, and his deep pockets created what was called the Presidential Prayer Team”a private evangelical group that claims to have signed up more than 1 million people to drop to their knees and pray daily for Bush.
The Diamondbacks™ owners have every right to their politics, and if we policed the political proclivities of every owner™s box there might not be anyone left to root for (except for the Green Bay Packers, who don™t have an owner™s box). But this is different. The law is an open invitation to racial profiling and harassment. The boycott call is coming from inside the state.
If the owners of the Diamondbacks want to underwrite an ugly edge of bigotry, we should raise our collective sporting fists against them. A boycott is also an expression of solidarity with Diamondback players such as Juan Guitterez, Gerardo Parra, and Rodrigo Lopez. They shouldn™t be put in a position where they™re cheered on the playing field and then asked for their papers when the uniform comes off.
If you thought WFAN’s Jerome From Manhattan was scary, wait until you get a load of Lanny from Saint-Lambert. Though there’s a small chance Montreal taking a 2-0 lead over Washington tonight while trying to stave off elimination might temporarily mollify the caller above…. I wouldn’t count on it.
ï»¿Such is professional baseball’s paranoia about all things PED, that even the humble barber must practice his skills far from an MLB clubhouse. And while such an edict will have little impact on former Met Rey Sanchez, hairdresser Angel Pena — described as “the most charismatic barber in the world” by the Snakes’ Edwin Jackson — finds himself and his all-roster client roster exposed in Friday’s USA Today via the handiwork of Bob Nightengale (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory).
He waits in a bank parking lot for Red Sox slugger David Ortiz to pick him up. They drive to Fenway Park and set up shop outside the team’s clubhouse since MLB security has barred locker room access to outsiders. Soon Pena heads to Logan International Airport for a flight to Seattle, where Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley is waiting.
You won’t find Pena’s name in a program or media guide. He has no background in baseball and is not a trainer, team executive or agent, but he is trusted by virtually every star in the game. Pena, nicknamed “Monster99,” is the barber of baseball.
“Everybody around the league knows who he is, and everybody loves him,” says Ortiz, who has a barber chair in his garage courtesy of Pena. “Everybody is cool with him because he’s so cool. I’m telling you, he’s got a relationship with everyone.”
Pena, a 33-year-old product of New York City, has a contact list that would make agent Scott Boras envious.
In the last few months, he has cut the hair of a wide array of baseball luminaries. From players such as Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Torii Hunter, Matt Kemp, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia and Justin Upton to Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson to Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya.
Bradley was desperate for a haircut before the Mariners started a road trip in Chicago, where he spent an acrimonious 2009 playing for the Cubs. If you are going to get booed, you might as well look good.
“He’s a guy you trust because he is who he is,” says Bradley, who paid for Pena’s flight to Seattle. “He’s not looking for anything. He doesn’t bother anyone. He’s just himself.”
[Cubs' ex-ace and only no-hit set-up man, Carlos Zambrano, seen here with die-hard Cub fan Fidel Woo-Woo Castro, considers this a transitional move until "the Cubs get to the play-offs."So, Z is cool with this until September 2011?]
All talk of of a conservative spending Ricketts regime (yes word-cops, I said “regime”) ends today as Lou Piniella moves Carlos Zambrano, bananas and all, to the bullpen. Who’d a thought Carlos Silva would hold a starting position longer than Big Z? The main reason, besides Zambrano’s refusal to be typecast as an “ace,” is that Theodore Roosevelt Lily is back from rehab and ready to start. Carrie Muskat reports it all here, with the sad numbers speaking for themselves — Zambrano’s ERA is even high for the Cubs ‘pen. Considering that the Cubs starting ERA with Z is 2.16, one can only hope Lily will give the North Side some real traction. Too bad Youtube won’t allow a Hitler Finds Out Zambrano is in the Bullpen video. Also, the pressing deadline of this post prevents me from a good Conan O’Brien bumping a guy from prime time George Lopez analogy, but just so you know, it’s there.
Overall, it’s a bold, creative move on Piniella’s part. For a guy who couldn’t budge Fonzie from the lead-off spot last year, this is a big deal. It should also shut up most of Z’s critics who think he’s an unmanageable egomaniac. Ms. Muskat relates it all today:
“We need help in the eighth-inning role right now, and that’s what we’re trying to help ourselves in,” Piniella said.
Zambrano said Wednesday that he told Piniella he expects to be back in the rotation when the Cubs are in the playoffs.
“He did mention that,” Piniella said. “The playoffs are a long, long, long way away. Let’s just get through April right now.”
The move was expected to be temporary, but no one on the Cubs will say how long Zambrano will be in the bullpen.
“Let’s not put a time frame on it — let’s not do that,” Piniella said.
Zambrano will need a little more time to warm up before his relief appearances, and Piniella plans on using him only for one inning or 1 1/3 innings and not stretching him out too far.
“It’s a shock,” Marmol said of the news. “I never thought Zambrano would be in the bullpen. He’ll help the team, that’s what he says. I agree with him.”
Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva, Randy Wells and Tom Gorzelanny entered Thursday’s game with a combined 2.16 ERA in 11 starts. Zambrano was 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in his four starts. The bullpen needs reinforcements, having compiled a 1-6 record and 6.14 ERA.
So when youthful 2B Gordon Beckham appeared on WSCR’s Mully and Hanley show this morning, it was with some surprise that Chicago heard a more hopeful perspective.
“Baseball,” offered Beckham, “comes in spurts.”
Indeed it does, young Gordon. So reminded, thoughts reel with the hydraulic possibilities. After all, weather remains terrible at home, and like many Southern-built models, Jake Peavy is not optimized for 39-degree outings. Even the ’97 team was competitive with an 81-80 finish. The bullpen is frighteningly good, and Freddy Garcia’s slippery spot may well provide the means to deservingly bust Matt Thornton into the rotation. On offense, the front office could heat up more than the temperature – hitting coach Greg Walker may finally fulfill his true function: to be pointlessly fired as a scapegoat. Cowed by guilt at the charade, Sox bats might catch fire in memory of their hapless coach. Anything could happen.
What Beckham is saying is that things can change. Whether he’s channeling Richard Hell, The Runaways or Peter North, we would do well to remember this as we fertilize our own lawns this spring.
(photo swiped from Mets Today. And to be fair, it was probably taken during batting practice. I hope.)
Over the past week, I’ve linked to stories concerning dismal attendance figures in Baltimore and Washington DC, so it would be remiss on my part not to acknowledge the Mets’ 5-2 defeat of the Cubs was witnessed by an alleged 28,535, though a quick glance at the television screen revealed the actual number of patrons on hand was far fewer. It’s a grim situation when the self-styled baseball capital of the universe can’t host an NL game in a venue that’s at least half full, particularly a ballpark of such recent vintage, but man (and woman) cannot live on Shake Shack alone. Caryn Rose of MetsGrrl addresses the Mets box office woes, and while she’s far more polite than I’d be (my first bit of advice would be “stop sucking”), she’s right on the money when it comes to Citi Field’s ticket pricing and treatment of the few who do bother to show up.
If you want to encourage attendance, here™s what you do:
Sell Standing Room tickets for $5, day of game only, box office only.
Bring back the discounts. $5 upper deck tickets, LIRR discounts, MetroCard discounts, bring a Pepsi can discounts, discounts for students with ID, discounts if you™re unemployed and can prove it.
Cut the service charges for tickets bought online for certain low-demand games. $4 PER TICKET *plus* $5 for the whole order on top of that is highway robbery. Find a way to discount this.
Give season and plan ticket holders a discount for buying tickets.
Give plan holders better seats and stop holding the prime seats for the mythical full season holder that will not arrive for several more years. No one wants to go to a game and sit in rows 14-18 when everything below them is empty. So far I have bought tickets for two games that were in better locations than anything the Mets made available to anyone in my ticket plan bracket.
The problem isn™t who is there, the problem is who isn™t there because the prices or location or associated Dave Howard customer disservice bullshit kept them out. I™m talking about the senior citizens who sat behind us on Saturdays in Section 8 in the Upper Deck who had been at Shea since the year it opened, the retired LIRR conductors who sat in row D of Section 12 on the Mezz, the Latino high school kids who knew how to sneak into the mezzanine boxes when the usher™s back was turned, the schoolteacher and her boyfriend from the Loge who wanted to upgrade to 40 games from 25 until they realized the seating locations were unattractive and there were no playoff rights, and us, who could finally afford and wanted a 40 game plan more than anything but wanted it in the Promenade Reserved Infield, which the Mets will not sell for reasons that escape me.
(image originally posted at Deadspin, and not, we should stress, from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s Stupid Ape exhibit)
While Byron Leftwich has replaced Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers depth chart, the embattled QB finds himself supplanted by former Penguins icon Mario Lemieux, at least where a local zoo is concerned. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette :
An image of Big Ben has been used in a display on the pathway leading to the elephant barn at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. The graphic compares the height of the elephants to other creatures.
The Steelers quarterback was still at the zoo on Thursday, but a new sign has been made using the image of hockey great Mario Lemieux and will replace the Roethlisberger piece of the exhibit.
Asked if the display change has anything to do with current events, a zoo spokesman said, “well, we have had some calls.”
“Mr. Roethlisberger isn’t the most popular person lately,” said Tracy Gray, manager of public and media relations.
Who knew Isiah Thomas had resurfaced as general manager of an NFL franchise? Last night, the Broncos flipped second, third and fourth round draft picks to Baltimore in order to acquire the second of their first round choices, a selection they wasted used on Florida QB/Christ-like figure Tim Tebow. Charitably described as “a project” by some (as opposed, y’know, a guy who can’t throw the ball), Tebow was projected as a 3rd rounder, and while the former Heisman winner is in the words of CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman, “a nice young man” (“every father should want his daughter to marry him”), “the countdown until Josh McDaniels gets his ass canned has officially started.”
Tebow, the least NFL ready of the big names, goes before Jimmy Clausen, the most NFL ready. Clausen is in the middle of a Brady Quinn freefall and could go in the second round to Minnesota on Friday.
The juxtaposition is striking. The current positioning of the two players says a great deal about what the NFL thinks of Clausen. It’s also a statement on how Tebow and his management team pulled a great snow job on the Broncos by highlighting his alleged revamped throwing motion.
It’s easy to understand what happened here. The perception of Tebow as a good guy and seller of tickets and jerseys is opposite that of Clausen, who is seen by the league as a cocky jerk.
It was almost conspiratorial what happened to these two. Teams propped up Tebow because they liked him personally while simultaneously tearing down Clausen because they thought he was arrogant. One NFC scout told me on Thursday night: “Jimmy Clausen’s smirk finally caught up with him.”
Clausen has top 15 talent and Tebow fourth- or fifth-round ability. If you can’t see that, turn in your personnel badge immediately. No more mock drafts for you.
You know it’s a really strange draft when the Raiders have a better draft day than the Broncos.
“He just told me to get off his mound,” Rodriguez said. “I was a little surprised. I’d never quite heard that. Especially from a guy that has a handful of wins in his career.”
The whole thing started when Rodriguez went from first to third on a foul ball by Robinson Cano. On his way back to first, Rodriguez ran across the pitcher™s mound, which Braden saw as a sign of disrespect.
“I don’t care if I’m Cy Young or the 25th man on the roster, if I’ve got the ball in my hand and I’m on that mound, that’s my mound, Braden said. “He ran across the pitcher’s mound foot on my rubber. No, not happening. W’™re not the door mat anymore.”
“He should maybe watch his Captain a little more often,” Braden said.
Rodriguez said he had never heard the unwritten rule that a player shouldn’t run across the mound. When Braden started yelling at him, Rodriguez didn’t know what it was about. “I thought it was pretty funny, actually,” Rodriguez said.
The Star-Ledger’s Marc Craig collected a few month priceless quotes from Braden, who more than earned himself a bunch of new fans in the past 12 hours.
“He’s right, I don’t even have a handful of wins,” said Braden, who improved to 3-0 this season, career victory No. 17. “I have three. Do the math A-Rod.”
“I don’t go over there and run laps at third base. I don’t go over there. I don’t spit over there. I don’t spit over there. I stay away. You guys ever see anybody run across the mound like that? He ran across the pitcher’s mound, foot on my rubber. No. Not flyin.”
ESPN NY’s Matt Simon polled a handful of prominent Mets bloggers and asked them to select their most gut-wrenching moment in Amazins history. Out of oh-so-many to choose from (“Al Harazin cannot find his pants”, “George Foster in the recording studio”), the finalists included the late season collapses of 2007 and 2008, the Yankees winning the 2000 World Series at Shea, Carlos Beltran taking a called third strike from Adam Wainwright to end the 2006 NLCS, and Kenny Rogers walking in the winning run in the 11th innning of 1999′s NLCS Game 6.