The first England World Cup song was 1970′s Back Home, . This is also the only official anti-World Cup song, a song about the pleasures of not being at the World Cup. Instead it is a heart-wringing paeon to homesickness. “Back home, they’ll be thinking about us¦” Back home, they’ll be really behind us ¦ Back home, they’ll be watching and waiting”. The message here is: we want to be back home. This is perhaps not surprising.
In 1970 England had only ever travelled to four World Cups and the experience had often been traumatic: beaten by the US in 1950, knocked out by Uruguay in 1954 and outclassed by Brazil in 1962. England were, if not exactly fearful world champions, then grudging tourists. The song also mirrors Sir Alf Ramsey’s own anxieties: Leo McKinstry’s recent biography revealed that Ramsey’s Back Home-merchants took vast quantities of Bird’s Eye beefburgers to Mexico (which ended up being gleefully burnt on the quayside by customs officials) and even shipped over their own team bus (which died in the heat). In the end this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. England wanted to be back home. They soon were “ and for an entire decade.
Spain 1982 brought the next England World Cup song. This Time is musically similar, but elegiac in tone. “This time,” Ray Clemence, Peter Withe and Steve Foster sing. “More than any other time this time.” This is the refrain: this time, finally this time, we’re going to find a way to get it right this time. It is worth noting at this point that England “ wracked with long-suffering deprivation “ had won the World Cup only 16 years previously. This is the equivalent of having won it under Graham Taylor in 1994 and still in 2010 recording a song called “Oh When, When Will We Finally Get Our Hands On That Trophy?” If ever proof were required that English football seeks out and gladly wallows in (a) self-flagellating nostalgia and (b) a baseless sense of entitlement, we find it above all in This Time.
Because there are column inches to fill, and because it more or less totally screwed the Angels’ already struggling offense, there was a good deal of sports columnist flappery over whether the celebration-induced injury suffered by Kendry Morales after Saturday’s game-winning grand slam would mean the “end” of baseball’s head-bopping, jump-up-and-down walk-off celebrations. There’s no way that something like Morales’ injury is going to stop this particular ritual from happening, of course, both because it’s basically the only non-brawl display of on-field emotion baseball’s code of behavior allows and because, as Joe Posnanski notes, this particular celebration is not necessarily all that dangerous compared to, say, anything else having to do with baseball. When the Angels won with another walk-off on Sunday, they were notably more chilled out, but this particular celebration probably isn’t going anywhere because of what amounts to a (really terrible) freak accident.
That won’t make things easier for Morales, of course, who will probably miss the rest of the season with a broken leg. But Morales still has it better than current Phillies farmhand Tagg Bozied, whom I previously knew only as a Triple-A slugger who logged some time in the Mets system a few years ago. Bozied was once a big-time prospect in the Padres system, but suffered an even worse injury in a home plate celebration back in 2004 and has never made it to the Bigs despite some solid Minor League seasons in the years since. If you’re looking for a Memorial Day pre-barbecue bumout, you’re of course very welcome. But really you should thank Larry Stone, who lays out the bummerific tale of Bozied’s injury in the Seattle Times:
In 2004, he hit .315/.374/.629 with 16 homers and 58 RBI through 57 games for Portland. The Padres were taking notice. A callup was imminent. But on July 19 of that year — against the Tacoma Rainiers, the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, no less — he hit a game-winning grand slam off Tacoma pitcher Scott Atchison. Exactly like Morales. Bozied leapt on the plate, and as with Morales, the celebration quickly turned ugly. He had ruptured the patella tendon in his left knee and wound up hospitalized — and out for the season.
Um, enjoy your Memorial Day! And be careful, please.
Ha ha, no it is obviously not. I’m just kidding with you. Sorry.
I mean, sure, the Mets $36 million long man has been every bit as terrible this year as he was last, and has now walked an astonishing — and actually kind of Hindenburgianly impressive — 90 batters in 102 innings since re-signing with the Mets before the 2009 season. No one is arguing that. But while Perez’s most recent implosive pitching appearance was primarily given over to making lit-up spot starter Fernando Nieve’s effort look slightly less awful, the damning anonymous quotes Ollie’s teammates gave the New York Post’s Mike Puma suggest that the team didn’t appreciate Perez’s team-first willingness to draw fire from the overmatched Nieve.
Instead, Perez’s teammates have a notably less charitable reaction to Ollie’s unwillingness to accept a Minor League assignment. While it’s hard to argue that Buffalo pitching coach Scott Radinsky (or anyone else) could fix the lefty in the proverbial 15 minutes, Perez’s unwillingness to give The Guy From 10-Foot Pole a shot and manager Jerry Manuel’s inability to come up with a situation in which he might use Perez out of the ‘pen has clearly put the Mets in a tough spot. The only person whose Mets-related job has been made easier by Perez’s presence would be Puma, whose Post article was basically written for him thanks to some unusually frank quotes:
A day after watching Oliver Perez implode in a relief appearance against the Brewers, two disgusted Mets players told The Post yesterday it™s time management drew a line in the sand with the putrid lefty.
œYou tell him you go to Triple-A or that™s it, you are finished, one Mets player said, well aware that Perez is still owed about $20 million on the three-year contract he signed before the 2009 season.
A second Mets player echoed that line of thinking. œAt some point you have to cut bait, he said. œYou owe him a lot of money, but for what?
Before the Mets™ 10-4 victory over the Brewers, manager Jerry Manuel was hard-pressed to name a scenario in which he would consider using Perez. œThat™s really a tough question, Manuel said. œ[Maybe] extra innings or something like that, but it™s going to be tough to find spots for him.
When told that Manuel™s plan is to save Perez for extra-inning games, one of the Mets players laughed.
œWhat, we need another 20-inning game and then use him after we™ve used all our pitchers and if a position player™s sinker isn™t biting? the player said.
Puma goes on to report that “management” — a vague term that in this case could include GM Omar Minaya, any number of Wilpons, Dave Howard, Mike Glavine and any of the team’s assistant GMs — was loath to cut Perez loose because of the fear that he would rediscover his stuff elsewhere. Since the Mets already have one reliever they use like a Rule 5 pick — that would be prized pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia, currently being groomed as a sixth inning specialist in tri-monthly appearances — it could be argued that the prospect of having Perez on the team is far scarier than him somehow reinventing himself with the Pirates. I think I’m kind of arguing it right now, in a passive-aggressive way.
But the Mets front office that brought back nearly the organization’s entire 2009 Monster Squad on the condition that they’d all hit the bricks shortly after their first big fuck-up had to know that this sort of panicked, defensive mismanagement would result. It’s tough to imagine the Human Definition Of Chinstrap-Bearded Sunk Cost leaving the Mets before the guy who signed him to a contract does, and it says a lot about the organization that it might just be easier to hide Perez from the less-than-watchful eyes of the Wilpons for another season and a half than to deal with the fallout from finally and justifiably deep-sixing this extravagantly sunken cost. Maybe they could deal him for the DFA’ed Dontrelle Willis? Or replace him with sainted castoff (and also just-DFA’ed) Nelson Figueroa? Or not. There’s always that.
Without having seen the entire match between New Zealand and Serbia in Austria yesterday, it might be unfair to criticize the hosts for a laissez-faire approach to ejecting troublemakers. But from the looks of the above footage, it’s only natural to wonder, don’t they have tasers in Klagenfurt?
Just a few weeks out of high school, Yoshida wasn’t dazzling but showed remarkable poise against a lineup dotted with former big-league players. She made 47 pitches, committed a balk, threw a wild pitch, didn’t strike out anybody and needed a couple of fine defensive plays to avert further damage.
She gave up a two-run homer to Juan Velasquez in the second inning.
“It was a knuckleball but it came in straight,” she said.
She gave up a bunt single to the first batter she faced, ex-Giants infielder Ivan Ochoa, a move that drew predictable hoots from the crowd. But Erold Andrus, the brother of Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, fouled out to the catcher. And Jackson Melian, whom the Yankees gave a $1.2 million signing bonus in 1996 but who hasn’t reached the big leagues, grounded into a double play.
Former Royals and Rockies infielder Kit Pellow, who flied out to left against Yoshida, said her knuckleball “wasn’t on” or moving a lot. “It was doing a lot of tumbling, but it was just slow,” he said.
Francesa dismissed Cerrone — whose rebuttal has strangely disappeared — as looking like “a 12 year old needing a shower”, an interesting choice of words for a radio host whom, to be quite charitable, is neither a male model nor an oil painting. Were the same sort of relatively fluffy piece composed by a columnist for Newsday, the Daily News or the Post — all of whom have at various times, published space-fillers of a non-critical variety, would WFAN’s resident Diet Coke addict take it upon himself to lambaste an established journalist? If Cerrone and Francesa were forced to swap jobs for a day, what are the odds the pro blogger might not embarrass himself nearly as much as the man who manages to suck all the joy out of sports yack in two different mediums?
25 years ago today, 39 people perished when a wall separating Liverpool and Juventus supporters collapsed at Brussels’ Heysel Stadium just prior to the start of the 1985 European Cup Final. In the aftermath of the match — won by Juve on a Michael Plantini penalty kick — English clubs were banned from UEFA competitions for 5 years. Though Liverpool have long acknowledged their fans’ role in the disaster (events were held to commemorate the event on Merseyside earlier this week), When Saturday Comes’ Matthew Barker writes, “Juventus always appeared a touch uneasy remembering the tragedy.”
Juventus have always played down any calls that the club should return the 1985 trophy in deference to the dead. Walter Veltroni, the former mayor of Rome and ex-leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has written a theatrical monologue, recently published as a book. When the Acrobat Falls, Enter the Clowns takes its name from Platini’s acerbic phrase, used as explanation to journalists after the game for his celebrations on scoring from the penalty spot, and the team’s lap of honour at the final whistle. Arguing about the past, or moral point-scoring over Juve’s lack of judgement in treating the tragedy as little more than an unfortunate backdrop to their first European Cup win, is irrelevant now. In the words of Veltroni, such quarrels are “sterile and stupid… the problem isn’t the cup, but the memory of that night, which we need to conserve to avoid repeating”.
The anniversary comes at a time when the much-maligned tessera ID card for travelling away supporters has once again stirred up controversy, with Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi forced to apologise after suggesting that the police should also be subject to similar scrutiny and control. The lingering bitter irony, that English football was quick to learn the lessons of Heysel, while the game in Italy remains troubled and in a confused state of flux, will hang heavy over today’s ceremonies.
Perhaps the only task tougher than leading multiple programs to the NCAA Men’s Final Four is to have both appearances expunged. Serial forfeiteer John Calipari’s impressive collegiate record is inextricably tied to his skills as a recruiter, and once again, in the rich history of Derrick Rose and Marcus Camby, one of the great educator’s star pupils finds himself facing heavy scrutiny. On Saturday, the New York Times’ Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans report University Of Kentucky PG Eric Bledsoe’s movements thru a succession of Alabam high schools have piqued the curiosity of NCAA watchdogs.
Interviews with those connected with Bledsoe™s life in Birmingham revealed potential violations.
* – Brenda Axle, the landlord for the house where Bledsoe and his mother moved for his senior year of high school, said that Bledsoe™s high school coach paid her at least three months™ rent, or $1,200. By moving there, Bledsoe was eligible to play for Parker, which he led to the Alabama Class 5A title game. Maurice Ford, the coach, denied paying the money.
* – A copy of Bledsoe™s high school transcript from his first three years reveals that it would have taken an improbable academic makeover ” a jump from about a 1.9 grade point average in core courses to just under a 2.5 during his senior year ” for Bledsoe to achieve minimum N.C.A.A. standards to qualify for a scholarship.
* – A college coach who recruited Bledsoe said that Ford explicitly told his coaching staff that he needed a specific amount of money to let Bledsoe sign with that university. The coach, who did not want to be named out of fear of repercussions when recruiting in Birmingham, said Ford told him and his staff that he was asking for money because he was helping pay rent for Bledsoe and his mother. Ford denied this, saying, œI don™t prostitute my kids.
He said he had done nothing wrong, adding: œI™m a poor black man. And when one black man tries to help another black man, there™s always something wrong.
I’m not normally one to throw stones at the professional who sidelines in music for the sin of moonlighting. I have my own glass house, it offends my sense of fair play and no matter how many blues lawyers or jam-band dentists the world has to suffer, I know the history of worthwhile music would shrivel badly if you removed its insurance executives or accountants.
But something about Wednesday’s multiple-ejection tantrum at the Indians/White Sox tilt by baseball’s least introverted umpire has me wondering if Cowboy Joe West’s muse isn’t worried a little too much about taking a solo – a time-honored tradition best left on the small and hacky stage, not behind the plate. Would a bit of focus on the job at hand kill anybody?
At Progressive Field, West, whose upper strike zone is harder to find than an army recruiter in a white neighborhood, twice called a balk on LHP Mark Buehrle’s move to first base, having apparently noticed the trademark motion’s rubber-grazing character for the first time in ten seasons. The first balk call brought out Ozzie, who West ejected. The second disgusted the normally level-headed Buehrle so much, he dropped his glove. For that, West sent him following Ozzie into the Cleveland afternoon with no plans.
MLB doesn™t have nearly the perception problem with umpires that the NBA does with its referees. It doesn™t want one, either, and so its move to muzzle West is appropriate. The Yankees and Red Sox do push pace-of-play boundaries; they also provide the greatest rivalry in the sport, and fans who appreciate good baseball are willing to sit through extra time as long as the drama remains. West should™ve apologized and moved on. His targeting of Buehrle “ pitchers get called for multiple balks about once a decade “ was the vindictive sort of call that cements his reputation.
Undeterred, West™s diarrhea of the mouth continued. He had CDs and gear to sell, a website to push, a brand to promote. Attached to the latest e-mail from his publicist were 11 pictures, just in case one or two weren™t enough. It also included a funny subject line: œThe Real Joe West.
Like everyone doesn™t already see him for what he is.
The reason Jordan and Pippen aren’t in the organization anymore is complicated and a lot of it has to do with Jerry Krause. Pippen got pissed cause we wouldn’t reward him Jordan money on the downside of his career so he bolted. That left a bad taste in his mouth but it was absolutely the right decision for the Bulls to make. So of course there’s always going to be bitterness there.
As for players not staying in the organization?? Do John Paxson and Pete Myers not count because they’re not superstars?? I mean what a moronic statement. Wade’s done in my book. I’m glad he’s not coming here.
The original jockey statue, standing proud and usually carrying a lantern, shepherded runaway slaves to safety during the days of the Underground Railroad, explained Charles Blockson, curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple.
But as time went on, lawn jockeys were often caricatured as a stooped-over black man with dark skin and painted-in white eyes and big red lips. They were usually displayed on lawns of homes in the South and served no real purpose other than to diminish African Americans.
So you can understand why this Howard gnome thing creeps me out, even if the team’s intentions were to tout its former star.
“Anything we do with Ryan is big here,” said Reading director of operations Kevin Sklenarik, who explained that because Howard played for Reading, the team doesn’t need the Phillies’ permission to use his likeness.
Last July, I took the unveiling of hideously garish JJ Putz and Omir Santos custom jerseys to declare the Mets, “4th in the NL East, but in first place when it comes to ferociously ugly merchandise no one in their right mind would purchase.” Sadly, few fashion lessons have been learned during the ensuing 10 months. While last night’s 5-0 defeat of the Phillies offers hope for the Flushing product between the lines, the above jpg (culled from Mets Police) reveals additional aesthetic crimes that no one — especially not Canadians — should turn a blind eye towards.
Lest you believe solid numbers for Memphis an an All-Star Game appearance in 2010 represented an definitive image overhaul for 9 year NBA vet Zach Randolph, think again. According to the Indianapolis Star’s Vic Ryckaert, authorities claim Randolph is closely tied to the drug trade in his old hometown.
Randolph, a Marion native, has not been arrested or charged, said Lt. Jeff Duhamell, spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. However, police say Arthur Boyd, 32, was arrested May 11 on suspicion of dealing marijuana while driving a 2008 Cadillac Escalade registered to Randolph.
A police detective described Randolph as a financier for known drug dealers in Indianapolis, according to court documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.
Police seized the Escalade and three of Randolph’s custom Chevrolet Impalas that were in a Hamilton County storage facility, which also was registered to Randolph.
Duhamell said authorities have begun forfeiture procedures because they think the vehicles were used to aid the criminal drug-dealing operation.
The investigation began when a confidential informant told police that Randolph was supplying a group of drug dealers with vehicles and access to his Hamilton County home on Geist Reservoir, according to the documents.
Is Knicks President Donnie Walsh (above, left) up to the physical challenge of recruiting a LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Bosh to NYC? Can he withstand the rigors of cataloging online references to Eddy Curry’s financial woes? If someone is needed to move Straight Shot overstock from an MSG storage facility, does he have what it takes? Perhaps not, if you’re likely to buy into the innuendo supplied by The NY Post’s Marc Berman, who all but insists Walsh will need to appoint a full-time GM ASAP, because he’s too fuckin’ enfeebled.
According to a source close to Walsh, the 69-year-old’s hip went out during the Euroleague Final Four as he struggled negotiating the bleachers at ancient Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy.
Walsh downplayed the incident, but told The Post he has put off a hip-replacement surgery for six years, never feeling he had time for the six weeks of rehab. Friends are insisting that he undergoes the surgery sooner rather than later, perhaps after the free-agent signings.
Walsh didn’t deny it’s something that could be addressed in the near future, but stated in an e-mail, “I’m not thinking about it now. It is not something I am focused on at this time.”
Former Warriors GM Chris Mullin, who is tight with Walsh from their Indiana days, seems a natural fit and long has been considered a candidate to be Walsh’s heir apparent.
Allan Houston, assistant to the president who will be a key recruiter this July (he’s longtime friends with James’ advisor, William Wesley), could be nearing a promotion. When Walsh hired Houston, he admitted he was grooming him to be a general manager.
My 9-yr-old nephew made a triumphant return to ESPN’s Dan Patrick Show on Monday to analyze the Suns victory over the Lakers Sunday night (and he was on again this AM, which I’ll post as soon as I can). Unlike his debut, where he sullenly reported their 0-2 standing in the series, he could finally report a Suns’ win. Jake not only ignored Patrick’s invitation to call out his Lakers-fan friend at school a “punk,” but charmingly worked his way toward a credentialled spot at the ESPN press box at the Staples Center. A few days ago I apologized to GC that Jake wasn’t first sent to the CSTB intern program before ESPN. After hearing him refuse to make a low-blow comment about a schoolfriend, tho, I realize now this was probably for the best. Apparently, he’ll sink to my level of name-calling when it comes to the Cubs and Cards, but not in a professional setting. Good on you, Jake!
Oklahoma pushed Taliaferro out last month. Technically he “resigned,” but don’t be stupid. He didn’t resign on April 8. He was fired. The financial advisor, Jeffrey Hausinger, also is out of a job. He left Merrill Lynch on March 26, shortly after his alleged involvement went public.
As for Gallon and Warren, both entered the 2010 NBA Draft around the same time that Hausinger left his job. Both are thought to be headed to the second round, land of nonguaranteed contracts. Both are awfully young to be leaving for the second round — Gallon a freshman, Warren a sophomore. But they’re gone. They’re not coming back. Oklahoma doesn’t even want them back. And if you couple their departures with the job losses of Taliaferro and Hausinger — who exchanged more than 65 calls and text messages in a 10-month period — well, those are some easily connected dots.
So now we wait. We wait for the NCAA to connect those dots officially and to render a judgment. If it’s anything like the investigation into Southern California, this could take a while. In the vacuum of information, though, we can speculate. Which is what I’m going to do right now.
I’m going to speculate that the NCAA finds enough wrong to level Oklahoma with a major violation. Oklahoma has prepared for such a finding by distancing itself from Taliaferro: “Don’t blame us,” Oklahoma symbolically told the NCAA by pushing Taliaferro out. “Blame him.”
But it’s not that easy. “Us” and “him” were the same thing when this violation allegedly went down. And if the NCAA connects enough dots to level Oklahoma with a major violation, then all hell should break loose.
The Reds are one of the early success stories of the 2010 season, but their impressive 26-20 mark atop the NL Central hasn’t stopped some observers (well, SI.com’s Tom Verducci) from continuing to cite Dusty Baker’s history of abusing young arms. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Daughtery takes a different tact, praising Baker for removing Homer Bailey in the 3rd inning of Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Cleveland, sneering, “the CW on Baker as an arm-killer has been uttered so often, it™s all but assumed. It doesn™t matter that it made little sense when it originated and less sense now.”
Baker didn™t ruin Kerry Wood™s arm. Wood arrived with lousy mechanics and a violent delivery. He was Rob Dibble.
His arm was going to bust no matter who was ordering it around. He and Prior pitched their arms off in 2003, because the Cubs were under tremendous pressure to win their first pennant in 58 years. They were going to ride their two young horses hard, to that end. Baker didn™t act alone in going to that whip.
Harang? It was wrong that Baker pitched him three times in seven days, including that ill-fated four-inning relief stint in San Diego. But that was two years ago this week. Nothing is physically wrong with Harang.
Volquez? He threw 196 innings in ™08 and never stopped pitching, to stay in shape for the World Baseball Classic. Should Baker have hired a babysitter for Volquez in the Dominican?
Homer Bailey didn™t feel any pain Sunday. He didn™t hear a pop. He described the sensation in his shoulder as œa grabbing. There™s not a pitcher on earth who doesn™t go through this. It™s just part of pitching, Bailey said. œI™ve thrown 120 pitches one day, then joked with Bryan (Price, Reds pitching coach) the next day, ˜I can throw today if you need me.™™™
With that sort of admirable attitude, the mustang needs an occasional roping. Baker did exactly that on Sunday. I™m not hearing the praise.
Bailey had a suggestion for anyone believing his manager had messed with his arm: œThose people can shut up.™™
WFAN’s Steve Somers is one of the station’s few mouthpieces to escape routine ridicule from this corner, and without going overboard in praise of the former overnight fixture, the above footage from September, 1982, only hints at what he might be capable of were the likes of SNY to grab onto his obvious star power. Either them or that web tv venture that Richard Bey and Bob Grant are currently toiling for.
Lovers of Mets history will recall then-GM Frank Cashen declaring, “those who contribute the least spray the most champagne” after being doused by reliever Randy Niemann in the celebratory wake of the Amazins’ marathon victory in Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS. Remarkably, bullpen coach Niemann found himself in the middle of a far more relevant firestorm Sunday evening, allegedly participating in a shoving match with closer Francisco Rodriguez in the bullpen prior to the 9th inning conclusion against the Yankees. From the New York Times’ David Waldstein :
Afterward, Rodriguez said the tussle in the bullpen was just an instance of Mets relievers engaging in some roughhousing.
“We were just fooling around, he said. “We were just kidding with each other.”
But two people in the Mets organization confirmed that the confrontation between Rodriguez and Niemann was indeed a heated one and might have escalated if other pitchers had not intervened. A third member of the organization said that Rodriguez and Niemann met after the game and apparently patched things up.
At the heart of Sunday night’s incident is the Mets’ heavy reliance on Rodriguez to bail them out of one dangerous situation after another. With his own job on the line, Jerry Manuel has felt pressure to win every game he possibly can, even it means stretching Rodriguez’s normal limitations. He has had Rodriguez warm up more than once in the same game in case he is needed before the ninth inning; he has had Rodriguez come into the games where the Mets are still comfortably ahead.
On the night of the confrontation between John Maine and Manuel, for example, Rodriguez was summoned to pitch the ninth inning even though the Mets had a 10-6 lead and it was a nonsave situation. But just as in the 20-inning game against St. Louis in April, when Rodriguez warmed up 10 times before finally entering in the 19th inning, the Mets, and particularly Manuel, were in desperate need of a victory.
I have pretty much gotten all the what’s-the-deal-with-owners ranting out of my system by this point, but the Texas Rangers’ voluntary declaration of bankruptcy today is a nice reminder that hijink-intensive ownership issues are not unique to the NBA. The bankruptcy deal was made necessary by the hilariously thorough mismanagement of former Rangers owner Tom Hicks (above) and his Hicks Sports Group, and is aimed at making easier the team’s planned sale by separating the Rangers’ team debt (roughly $75 million) from that of the Hicks Sports Group (a stunning $250 million); once the Rangers’ debtors are paid off, the sale becomes a snap. (The Hicks Sports Group debt promises to be another, more contentious story) The dramatis personae include all the characters we’ve come to know and loathe over the last couple of years of economic awfulness, from feckless millionaires to avaricious hedge funds to bailout-begging plutocrats, but the ending already seems clear: the Nolan Ryan-headed Ryan Baseball Express Group will likely assume ownership of the Rangers sometime in the next month or so.
At first glance, the Texas Rangers are a highly dysfunctional albatross to Major League Baseball. However, once you can get past the predatory hedge funds and voluntary bankruptcy filing, the Rangers are an attractive commodity. According to Baseball America, the franchise currently ranks second in all of Major League Baseball in organizational talent and are in the midst of modernizing the œMoneyball theory for pitchers. While franchises have become enamored with limiting pitch counts and innings pitched, Nolan Ryan and pitching coach Mike Maddux subscribe to an aggressive philosophy of pitching with its origins deeply rooted in an era dominated by the likes of Koufax, Gibson, Drysdale and Marichal.
Yes, once you get past the hedge funds, the new pitching metrics do look pretty good? Anyway, weird though that graf might be, it’s not necessarily wrong. The Rangers will clearly be in better hands with Ryan than they were with Hicks, who leaves an oil slick of a legacy that may reach its apotheosis in this listing of the Rangers’ creditors. Hicks owes over $24 million to Alex Rodriguez, still, and is $28k in debt to the New Era hat company, but he also owes millions to Mickey Tettleton (who last played for Texas in 1997) and Mark McLemore (who left in 1999), among other ex-players. Incompetence this multifaceted isn’t quite enough to make you pine for the cool competence of a jet-ski obsessed oligarch, but… well, I’m not a Rangers fan. Maybe it is.
It’s not necessarily surprising, the combination of gawking curiosity and giddy suck-uppery with which not-so-faintly sketchy oligarch and new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been greeted in the United States. Business cycles turn and markets crash and our own indigenous plutocrat class dedicates itself to keeping the kobe beef and helicopter industries afloat and discovering new ways to express their disdain for the multitudes below, but the business pages and opinion columnists just keep on with the Capitalist As Hero/Markets As Democracy stuff, seemingly as much out of force of habit as anything else. It’s not just them, either: our mass culture and politics, left and right, reflects this weird consensus this right back at the opinion makers. There’s a sour churning underneath all plutocrat-positive consensus, and I guess the heightened demands for abasement and schadenfreude in the culture reflect that consensus’ tenuousness. But to look at its bright and unified surface, you’d think that we’ve finally found something everyone can agree on when it comes to sticking up for and sucking up to millionaires.
This the result of years of tireless messaging and cheerleading, of course, with a national sense of history so opportunistic and piss-poor that it allows people to turn Thomas Jefferson into John Galt. But wealth-worship, while a product of all that, also seems simpler than that: it’s a reflex, a distinctly American cultural tic, and while it sometimes seems like we’re in the middle of some cosmic beta-test of just how egregiously our plutocrats can screw things up before we turn on them, the plutocrats have to be encouraged by the fact that we apparently haven’t found the bottom yet. So all the things that are disturbing about Prokhorov — the business dealings with brutal nation-destroying autocrat Robert Mugabe head a longer-than-average list — are naturally subsumed by the soft and fawning stuff; it’s easier that way for all involved.
And Prokhorov is indeed interesting, and can be charming — and he’s kind to freelancers, which I obviously appreciate — but there’s a reason why no one knows much more about him than that, and it’s not just because he has so controlled his media availability. It’s because even when he goes in front of microphones and reporters, no one is really keen on asking him questions with unpleasant answers. That’s left to Internet media-critic cranks and spoilsport congressmen. The rest of us, the assumption seems to be, just want to know what it’s like in Monaco, whether he’s sizing up a new boat purchase, and where he gets those suits, because they look just excellent.
No one’s going to confuse Bill Simmons with Greg Palast, obviously — Simmons is way richer, for one thing, and also has a much higher voice and knows more about the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. But it seems meaningful that Simmons made common cause with the keep-the-Sonics-in-Seattle movement but recently anointed Prokhorov — the guy who’s going to uproot another NBA team, and one of a very few humans more outwardly sketchy than Sonics-stealer Clay Bennett — the most interesting guy in the NBA. Simmons did mention the bribery and sketchiness that define Prokhorov’s early business career, but he tucked it all in down around the 5,000-word mark, well after the fun stuff about “cavorting” with Russian models and how much money Prokhorov blows on the regular and Prokhorov’s jet-ski fetish. The Sports Bro knows, as he must, that while you can ice a bro, you should not bum out a bro with depressing, negative libtard stuff like that.
So, yeah: half the commentariat is sucking Prokhorov for his outlandish wealth and the rest is doing it because he’s got more personality than the average billionaire, and we get… the same article, over and over. Everyone’s who’s supposed to be asking questions is just so charisma-drunk and moony-eyed over Prokhorov’s money that they forgot why they were even at the press conference and hey are they bringing out more hors d’oeuvres? But let me belatedly disengage the Dave Zirin Lock on my keyboard here and pose a practical question about Prokhorov that I hadn’t read until today: does this guy know or care anything about basketball, or the NBA? The Newark Star-Ledger’s resident American hero, Dave D’Alessandro actually bothered both to ask the question and answer it. Thusly: “To put it politely, with the possible exception of Sean Williams, the Russian gentleman is as ignorant as anyone we™ve ever encountered that had some connection “ big or small “ to the NBA,” D’Alessandro writes.
When it comes to the NBA “ the game itself, its culture, its people, its place in the American soul “ this guy had about as much knowledge as one can fit in an average thimble. And nobody else seems to give a damn about this, which we find a bit strange.
Put it this way: If we gave him a pop quiz the other day during that media brunch, he would have smiled and charmed and changed the subject, which is understandable.
We did, in fact, ask him how many playoff games he™s watched on TV this spring, he said (reluctantly) œtwo or three. We asked him how many regular season games he watched, he guessed 10. We asked him if he™s ever met any NBA player, he honestly admitted, “No.” He casually mentioned the names of five Nets “ including some guys named œTerry Williams and œYi Player “ and seemed proud of his ability to do that…
Look, we™re not saying he has to master the seven ways to defend screen/roll by training camp. But he™s had nine months to learn the last name of his starting center, and somebody really needs to tell him that it is not œLupus.
The whole article is worth reading, if only for D’Alessandro’s priceless transcription of Prokhorov’s grandiose, filibustering answer to a simple basketball question. Overall, though, it’s so good as to be difficult to excerpt. I give it two Trembling Angry Left-Wing Sports Blogger thumbs-up, and thank commenter JC for the link.
Between now and June 24, the NBA prospects of everyone from Kentucky PG John Wall to Serbian C Boban Marjanovic (above) will be hotly debated and dissected. It’s a fun process — especially when small fractions of signing bonuses are already committed to the planet’s ugliest suits for draft night — but there are bigger questions raised than, say, “can Donatas Montijuana develop as a perimeter shooter?” Ben Polk of A Wolf Among Wolves calls the draft, “(one of) the most uniquely un-free labor practices imaginable in a free-market democracy” (“when it comes to the NBA draft, the dictates of employer need, inter-league parity and the chance movements of ping-pong balls trump freedom of employment every time.”)
Players are essentially consenting to become commodities. They are referred to as œassets and œpieces, and are bought, sold and traded as such. The movements and labors of their bodies are known as œthe product, and their inner lives deemed valuable only in the extent that they can a) foster their teams™ production or b) be packaged into digestible, televisable bits. And if the life of ease and comfort that all that money promises turns out to be a little more elusive than originally imagined (spying Mo Williams™s acrostic œNBA: Never Broke Again tattoo, one can only cross one™s fingers), it™s partially because the league™s investment ends when the player is finally physically unable to perform (it could be worse, though“just check out the NFL).
In many ways, the draft is a young fella™s initiation into this rather unpalatable system of exchange. Bodies are examined, categorized and bisected. Actions are dissolved into statistics and compartmentalized into video montages. Psychologies are expertly analyzed based on a precise algorithm of hearsay and casual TV watching.
“We allow them (NBA rookies) to become consumer items in order to feed our dreams of a better tomorrow,” writes Polk, and while it seems very difficult to envision there was once a moment where Bryant Reeves was a consumer item, I assure you, it really happened.
In 1996, we were playing in Toledo. He and I were starters and it was our day to chart in the stands. He was on the radar gun and I had the pitcher’s chart. When we reached our seats, he popped open the radar gun case. There was no gun. Just a jar of mayonnaise, a loaf of bread, a butter knife and a note that said, “In case you get hungry”. He was so angry. He refused to go back to the clubhouse to get the radar gun. He sat there for two innings fuming until he finally broke down and went and got it. Of course, he filled out the entire chart, he just made up the velocity of the pitches for the first two innings.
Former Mets/Twins P Jerry Koosman is currently serving a 5 month sentence for tax evasion in a Duluth, MN federal prison. As you might expect, he’s in no rush to chat about the glamorous inmate lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean he can’t look forward to vists from his close friend and orthopedist Bob Meisterling…who is all too quick to spill the beans to the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Charley Walters :
Koosman, who won two World Series games for the 1969 champion New York “Miracle Mets” and another for the Mets in the 1973 World Series, arises each day about 6 a.m., plays some bridge, goes to breakfast, then begins his prison job as a sweeper.
Koosman’s first job at the prison was as a regular sweeper. Pay: $5.50 per month. Then he was promoted to chief sweeper and received a $2.75 per month increase.
Of the sweeper promotion, Meisterling said Koosman told him that’s when he knew he had become more important because it was then that he had been assigned an assistant sweeper, a trainee.
Koosman has lost 10 pounds during his prison stay. He coaches a softball team there and jokes that he volunteers to retrieve foul balls that sail over the fences.
During his visit, Koosman told Meisterling, “The experience you get up here is worth a million dollars. But you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to come and do it again.”