(WS’ Glanville. He’ll be watching the World Cup on TV, thanks)
We’re less than 3 weeks away from the launch of the 2010 World Cup and while the decision to hold the tournament in South Africa was made more than 6 years ago, it’s a hotly debated topic to this day. Especially, it seems, in the hallways of the London-based World Soccer, whose 164 page tournament preview issue includes the following bon mots from a pair of the magazine’s better known columnists :
“It is the first time Africa has hosted anything of this magnitude, with South Africa having to overcome deep skepticism from many quarters — including some venerable, veteran observers of the game — and an unfair hostility that is based on little evidence but geography.” — Mark Gleeson, page 4
“Good luck to all media people and fans who are going to risk being there, doubtless heeding the advice never to stop at red lights if driving —would you prefer to be mugged or pranged — never to take the train and not to go on buses. The murder rate at the moment is a mere one every half hour, so you may well be one of the lucky ones.” — Brian Glanville, page 12
Most recently on the roster of the Golden League’s Edmonton Capitals, Lima’s journey had taken him thru the Dominican, Mexican and Korean baseball circuits. Reliably quotable, Lima’s disastrous 4 starts during two tenures with the Mets in 2006 come to mind almost every time a Mets starter hits the DL. For perhaps the first time, I am truly sorry Lima Time will not be available.
“First of all, there’s nobody that plays harder than Nyjer Morgan in the big leagues,” said Josh Willingham, whose two-run homer in the third tied the game at 2. “The only thing from my perspective that he did was he assumed that the ball went over the fence, obviously. But it was pretty helpless from my situation because I saw the ball on the ground and was pointing and yelling, but he didn’t see me or couldn’t see me. I just continued to run and picked it up.”
Said first baseman Adam Dunn, whose two-run single in the sixth put Washington ahead to stay. “He’s an emotional guy. I don’t think that’s anything but that. I think his emotions took over. He doesn’t make very many mistakes. I wouldn’t call it a mistake. He’s just an emotional guy, and you take the good with the bad.”
Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman said his initial reaction was to remove Morgan from the game following the misplay but he reconsidered for several reasons, including a thinning roster after starting catcher Ivan Rodriguez left in the third inning with stiffness in his lower back.
“My first instinct was to take him out of the ballgame,” Riggleman said, “and then I realized, you know what, he thinks the ball went over the fence. He thought that he knocked it over the fence, and it’s a home run, and he’s showing frustration. That doesn’t excuse it, and I don’t want it perceived as an excuse, but it explains it…”
They are tired of him. I don’t know any other way to put it. His body language on the mound had been terrible in recent weeks. When he thought a defensive play hadn’t been made, he let that player know.
When Brad Mills called a team meeting to address team unity several weeks ago, I’m pretty sure Oswalt was at least one of the reasons. He appeared to have shown up a teammate on the field. Even if he didn’t, some of his teammates thought he did.
This baseball team is filled with professionals. They are people easy to root for. Lance Berkman. Geoff Blum. Jeff Keppinger. Hunter Pence. There’s something good going on in terms of chemistry and leadership and all of that. They pull for one another.
For whatever reason, Oswalt had decided he doesn’t want to be part of this group any longer. And if you’re one of his teammates, if you’ve busted your butt to get him victories, Oswalt’s I-want-out attitude will not sit well with some. He doesn’t want to be here? To hell with him then.
Tony La Russa’s fondness for mullet-rock is well established. If Bill Belichick hopes to impress a Jersey housewife, there’s no aphrodisiac quite like a Bon Jovi all-access laminate. But when it comes to World Champion coaching gurus and their decidedly atavistic tastes, there’s no one quite the equal of Charlie Manuel. The Phillies skipper has already weighed in on the subject of vintage video games, and via Saturday’s “Answer Man” feature at Yahoo Sports, Manuel tells David Brown he’s more than conversant on when it comes to 1980′s pro wrestling.
DB: Not that you were ever THAT big, but were you ever tempted to try sumo wrestling while over in Japan?
CM: No, no. But I do like pro wrestling and Antonio Inoki used to live right next door to me. He was a big-name rassler in Japanese wrestling at that time. He was the one who fought [Muhammad] Ali.
DB: So, have you ever been to a Wrestlemania event live?
CM: Yeah, I’ve been a couple of times. I saw Batista, I saw Vader and the heartthrob, Shawn Michaels in Cleveland. And Sunny, the woman. She was better than all of them.
DB: Who’s your favorite wrestler?
CM: Goldberg. I like Goldberg.
DB: What do you think it feels like to get tasered?
CM: I’m not planning on finding out! [laughs].
Though it’s not Charlie’s birthday again until next January, there’s no reason the Phillies players can’t pool their resources to buy him something he’d really cherish.
In the long run, of the 2010 baseball season and certainly of the cosmos, there is almost zero significance to the Mets’ most freshly discovered way to lose and the frustrating loss that followed it against the Yankees on Friday night. The universe laughs at the significance of May baseball, as everyone but Red Sox fans knows, and given that the Mets do not seem destined to compete in the National League East it’s probably unwise to get too excited about one loss of what will surely (surely) be many. But I’m going to kind of do it anyway.
The thing that allows me to get too fired-up about the Mets doing dumb shit is not the dumb shit qua dumb shit so much as what I (over/mis)perceive as the significance of that — thus the 1200 words on trading for Gary Matthews Jr., because that indicated to me that the decision-making of the front office reflected a bafflingly opaque and seemingly unsound process. As incredibly terrible as Matthews has been, he’s also just a fifth outfielder — that he’s been used primarily as a Designated Pinch-Bunter of late really is more of a Jerry problem than an Omar problem — and thus isn’t really that damaging an on-field presence. But what GMJ represents, that’s what got to me: he himself is just a washed-up outfielder with a couple of cool highlights to his name, but trading for him, and pursuing him for months before finally doing so, suggested a front office driven crazy after years alone in a self-designed echo chamber reverberating with their own deep-doy organizational buzzphrases: False Hustle and The Little Things and Pitching-and-Defense (but somehow also neither pitching nor defense). Trading for Matthews meant more than adding an overpaid backup to a pantry cluttered with them; it was a reaffirmation of a weirdly retrograde mindset defined by a disconcerting certainty in defective truisms the rest of the baseball community disregarded some time ago. What went down with John Maine (above) on Friday is somewhat similar to this, but it’s different. It’s simpler. It was just what it was, and that’s bad enough for me.
So, as you maybe know if you follow insignificant news about a last-place NL team: John Maine started for the Mets on Thursday and was removed from the game after five pitches and one batter, very much against his will. Reliever Raul Valdes, who came on to pitch five solid innings for the win, was warming up in the bullpen while Maine was warming up on the mound in the bottom of the first. The optics of the whole thing were weird — Jerry Manuel didn’t leave the mound at the same time as Maine, and Maine was visibly dismayed both on the mound and in the dugout; there was no real reason cited for removing Maine so quickly, during or after the game. And true to Mets form, everyone who stepped in front of a microphone to explain what happened was absolutely lights-out retarded: Jerry burped up one of those undifferentiated strings of qualification, cliche and vagueness that are his rhetorical trademark; pitching coach Dan Warthen, in attempting to flatter Maine’s warrior spirit, somehow managed to call his pitcher “a habitual liar.” Maine said he didn’t feel like he had to go see a doctor; management said otherwise, and he went. Whatever Maine was told was evidently both vague and bad: he was placed on the 15-day DL on Friday with “shoulder weakness,” proclaiming all the while that he didn’t need to be there.
As Gerard noted and SNY’s Ted Berg reiterated, there was actually something noble about Manuel and Warthen pulling Maine from that game, in apparent disregard for the increasingly hot managerial seat on which he sits. That neither Manuel nor anyone else involved with the team was able to explain this decision without (metaphorically) setting fire to the clubhouse and then tumbling down a flight of spiral stairs is typical, but the impulse here was correct insofar as the team has an investment in Maine that they were (uncharacteristically) protecting in a fairly forward-thinking way.
It could be argued that Jerry was either too quick with the hook, or ought not to have let Maine start at all, but in general the decision to lift a player before that player suffers a serious injury was both pretty unobjectionable and a welcome-as-hell departure. So this is where Maine and Matthews diverge, symbolically: the Maine thing was a good-ish decision poorly explained; the Matthews deal was an inexplicable decision that remains unexplained. And the endurance of which is still more or less unexplainable beyond the team’s willingness to assume a sunk cost or admit a bad decision, given that Matthews has produced 44 outs in 54 official at-bats, 21 of those coming via strikeout.
Where all this becomes challenging for a Mets fan, beyond the usual challenges of cheering for a lousy and overmatched team, is in the flubbed aftermath — the inability and unwillingness to explain anything in a way that makes sense, and, in the case of Maine, the seeming inability to communicate a simple message without continuing to botch the delivery, ladle disrespect on the object, and generally give the impression that no one involved at any level has any idea what the hell is going on. In the New York Times, David Waldstein goes behind the scenes at this gong show and writes what just has to be the most damning updating-an-injured-player story in history:
Although Maine did not complain of pain or discomfort, the Mets did not believe him… œI think there is something there physically, Manager Jerry Manuel said before the game, œbut I could be totally wrong.
Manuel and Maine got into a heated argument in the Mets™ dugout Thursday when Manuel lifted Maine from the game after he had thrown only five pitches. After a sleepless night, Maine arrived at Citi Field on Friday to do his normal work… [and found out he had been placed on the DL] œI want to pitch, [Maine] said. œRegardless, if I have to go out there and throw left-handed, that™s what I want to do because I want to go out and pitch. I understand their side of it.
But that more accommodating sentiment could change after he hears that his manager was making light of the situation. Manuel must have heard what Maine said about pitching left-handed because he used it to make a joke that Maine was unlikely to find amusing.
œWe can™t afford to watch him pitch left-handed, Manuel said about 30 minutes after Maine spoke to reporters. œThat™s out of the question. But he might have more stuff lefty, I don™t know. We™ll have to try that. No, we couldn™t afford to do that.
In general, I’m not as offended as some by Manuel’s enduring tendency towards comedy riffage, which has been revealed as kind of a nervous tic over the last year or so. At least in the quote above, Manuel was trying to make a joke. What makes this whole goofy saga maddening — makes it (maybe, or at least to me) more than just an ineffective mid-rotation starter going on the DL with a tired arm — is not that Manuel and the rest of the Mets defective managerial crew aren’t taking this situation seriously enough. Instead, it’s that — Manuel’s nervous japery aside — they are indeed taking this seriously. This is what it looks like when they’re trying. That’s not funny, but it is a joke.
Chatting at a local tin-foil hat tea party confab, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell yesterday described himself as “an Eagles™ fan, first and forever,” despite the recent trade of talismanic QB Donovan McNabb. However, Rendell told Fox News, “I believe with getting rid of Donovan, they are not going to make the playoffs. I believe the Redskins adding Donovan are going to make the playoffs…so if we are not in, and the Redskins have Donovan, and they™re in, I will root for Donovan and the Redskins.” The Philadelphia Inquirer’s John Gonzalez (who thinks he’s blown the lid off the “Werth’s Smurf’s” meme) “this might qualify as an impeachable offense.”
Suddenly rooting for the Redskins – regardless of whether Rendell agrees with the McNabb trade and whether the Eagles make the playoffs – is unacceptable and, frankly, un-American. What’s next? Denouncing capitalism? Photo op with Hugo Chavez ? Burning the Stars and Stripes? Defecting to Jersey? Throwing Rendell in the gulag for the transgression is probably a bit much, but there has to be some sort of penalty for his crime against Philadelphia fandom. The governor, as you know, moonlights as an Eagles analyst on Comcast SportsNet. I dashed off an official, super-serious e-mail to the CSN higher-ups demanding they suspend the governor – even though it isn’t Eagles season at the moment. That was sort of a lapse in logic now that I think about it. I’m still waiting to hear back.At the very least, the network ought to send Rendell to CN8 (Comcast’s version of a Siberian prison camp) for a few weeks. I had another idea that involved demoting him to Daily News Live, but I doubt that kind of punishment would hold up in court. There isn’t a judge around who wouldn’t find that cruel and unusual.
Speaking only for myself, as someone who is naturally suspicious of Russian oligarchs with no visible principles, I would not say that I’m terribly bullish on new New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. There’s no way that I could possibly hate him as much as I do former Nets owner/destroyer-nebbish Bruce Ratner — I don’t even know where to start with the parenthetical evidence-linkage, here, although this long essay from The Awl is a good start — but I for the most part make it policy not to hang around people who do business with Robert Mugabe. I’ve found it surprisingly easy, or at least easier than David Stern evidently has. To be fair, though, Stern seems a lot less troubled by it.
At any rate, while Prokhorov himself may not be what you’d call a good person, he is at least a good deal more interesting than the nightmare nebbish he’s replacing as the Nets’ owner. Ratner could bulldoze comparatively vibrant neighborhoods to make way for a ghoulish glass forest of luxury condos, all while hunting for undeserved public funding and stripping a team to near-historic levels of ineptitude and induce nothing but yawns the whole while, thanks both to his New York Real Estate Guy policy of being relentlessly on-message and negligible charisma. (David Paymer could play Ratner in a movie about the Nets, but he’d be way too magnetic a presence) Prokhorov… is on YouTube, for one thing. But he also held an honest and wide-ranging one-hour presser earlier this week in which he proved admirably unwilling to dodge questions. Afterwards, Prokhorov did two one-on-one interviews.
One of these was with grandiose human veal chop Mike Francesa, in which Prokhorov was presumably required to praise Derek Jeter for 20 minutes and then run out for some more Diet Coke. The other interview, which wound up being a wide-ranging 2,300-word Q&A, was done with someone named Vinnie Rotondaro, whom you almost certainly haven’t heard of. Rotondaro is a blogger at a site called The Brooklyn Ink, and graduated from Columbia Journalism School earlier this week. The story of how he wound up getting a 40-minute exclusive interview with Prokhorov — which went down at Clover Club, in Carroll Gardens — is pretty freaking amazing, and well-told by the New York Observer’s John Koblin and Irina Aleksander. Is it enough to make me like Prokhorov? It doesn’t exactly cancel out the whole Mugabe, thing, but it does at least raise the possibility that Prokhorov’s sketchiness could at least wind up being interesting:
Mr. Rotondaro said that he received an email about three weeks ago. It was light on details. In the note, he was asked if he would be interested in an exclusive interview with someone really important. It didn™t say who. If he was interested in pursuing this further, he should call this number.
These are the sort of emails that journalists routinely receive and routinely delete. Mr. Rotondaro wisely decided to call.
œI was kind of weirded out, he said. œBut they left a number and you might as well call back, right?
“Here’s the deal: The only way you can get that substance that he took, hCG, in your body is to inject it, okay?” Romanowski said. “So let’s get that clear. So his sob story on TV was, I’m just going to say, was a total lie, okay? Let’s get real. Be honest about it, Brian.
“I’m sorry you got caught but be honest about it. What that substance is is a substance from pregnant women’s urine and what it does is when you have taken a cycle of steroids it turns your system back on from being shut down. It is very, very common in bodybuilding. That is a bodybuilding supplement, or a bodybuilding drug, where when these bodybuilders go on massive doses of steroids for months at a time, they will take that drug to turn their normal system back on and get it working again.”
“I guess they didn’t see 95 (miles per hour),” he said, his face crunched into a tight scowl. “I mean, it was a little slower, but it was the third batter (actually first) of the game. I mean, cut me a little slack, you know? The last couple pitches, I started getting back to normal. The first couple pitches, whatever.”
In the bottom of the first, Maine threw five pitches in walking Nyjer Morgan, all between 82-25 miles per hour. Warthen and Jerry Manuel then visited the mound as Maine leaned forward with hands on his legs, and Manuel soon signaled for Raul Valdes before abruptly departing the field. Maine and Manuel, who did not speak on the field, argued in the dugout.
“When you throw your first pitch and you … see a guy warming up in the bullpen, it’s a lose-lose situation,” Maine said.
“I don’t have enough clout. I don’t have enough star power to say anything … I would like an explanation. Me throwing 85 miles an hour, I don’t think is a good explanation for me to be taken out of the game.”
Martino adds that Maine’s scheduled appointment with Mets doctors on Friday was news to the hurler prior to hearing about it from reporters. Given the club’s history of malpractice (surely if they thought Maine had a concussion he’d have been allowed to throw 120 pitches and possibly pilot the team charter), concern for the player’s welfare while vultures are circling Manuel and staff would be admirable if the dialogue wasn’t so fractured.
Given the Celtics’ propensity for trash talk, I was amongst those unshocked by a tweet from Paul Pierce’s Twitter-verified account reading, “ANYONE GOT A BROOM?” shortly after Boston’s Game 2 win in Orlando Tuesday night. Trouble is, The Truth insists he’s the victim of a high-tech flagrant foul (I am already sorry I came up with that one). From the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn :
Athlete Interactive, which represents Pierce™s digital media initiatives, tweeted the following yesterday at 3 a.m.: œThat is NOT @paulpierce34 tweeting ” the previous four tweets are all courtesy of a hack. Looking in to it.™™.
œThe point when we realized it wasn™t him was when he was still speaking to people,™™ said David Neiman, who manages Pierce’s account. œSomeone called us from Orlando and said, ˜Is Paul tweeting?™ because a message came up when Paul was at the podium. So it seemed kind of unlikely that he was doing it.™™
There is evidence that Pierce was indeed hacked. His previous tweets on the account ” which has more than 1.5 million followers ” have come from Boston or Pierce™s location at the time. The four tweets in question came from an address in Michigan, according to a search of coordinates on Google Maps. Also, Pierce typically tweets from his cell phone, while Tuesday night™s tweets were posted via Twitterific software.
œPaul has never used [Twitterific] before,™™ Neiman said. œAnd the last tweet ” ˜Anyone got a broom?™ ” it seemed a little over the top, especially for Paul. So it was kind of like, ˜What™s happening here?™ ™
Who might responsible for such nefarious activity? I figure it has to be a person wishing to exact a measure of revenge, possibly a person with connections to the law enforcement community, and certainly someone thoroughly familiar with Twitter. Say it ain’t so, Shaquille O’Neal!
Regular readers of this space may recall my on-going battle with my 9-yr.-old nephew Jake over the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry, which usually devolves into his referring to Cub manager Lou Piniella as “Poo Piniella” and my always effective retort of “Albert Pooballs.” Jake has gone professional, it seems, having finally gotten through to ESPN’s Dan Patrick after countless morning calls. Jake broke down Game 1 yesterday on the air. Today, Patrick had him on again and posted this morning‘s call, with Jake upset that his team, Los Suns, is getting pwned by Kobe and Co. Even Jake was speechless when asked to advise Nash or the Suns defense against Pau Gasol “ and on the topic of sports, this rarely happens. Patrick’s been reminding the Danettes that they are all replaceable by a 9-yr-old, which I guess i am, too. GC, sorry to let this junior genius escape the CSTB intern program.
The tormented former coke-fiend to whom Argentina cleverly chose to entrust the management of the national football team has selected a squad so contrary that it might just pitch up at a squash tournament in North Korea next week rather than next month’s global football showpiece in South Africa. Granted, when trimming his troupe from 30 to 23 players Maradona finally decided to omit Newcastle funnyman Fabricio Coloccini, but he also left out warriors that every other country would kill to have in their ranks “ including Big Cup finalists Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti, Marseille magician Lucho Gonzalez and magnificently-bearded Lyon hitman Lisandro “Left Eye” Lopez. And why? Because a curious obsession with archaeology has convinced him that he must travel with recently excavated artefacts such as Martin Palermo and Juan Seba Veron.
Then again, El Diego is a footballing deity so maybe he could explain to mere mortals why this makes sense? At least that’s what Argentinian journalists were hoping when they turned up for a press conference last night. But the manager’s answers were not particularly illuminating. He did, however, make a noteworthy declaration on his way out of the get-together “ after his car ran over a cameraman’s foot, he stopped the vehicle, rolled down the window and hollered: “What an a$$hole you are! Man, how can you put your leg there where it can get run over?”
Given his history of playing fast and loose with the facts, does 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis have more or less credibility than Jose Canseco? Given his frequent denials of PED use (after facing equally frequent accusations), is 7-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong simply a less surly/more heroic version of Barry Bonds? These are just two of the questions I’ve long pondered before this morning’s publication of a Wall Street Journal report claiming Landis recently e-mailed officials from USA Cycling and the International Cycling Union detailing his use of PED and implicating other cyclists, trainers and officials in the process. Amongst those fingered, is Armstrong. From the WSJ’s Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell :
In one of the emails, dated April 30 and addressed to Stephen Johnson, the president of USA Cycling, Mr. Landis said that Mr. Armstrong’s longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, introduced Mr. Landis to the use of steroid patches, blood doping and human growth hormone in 2002 and 2003, his first two years on the U.S. Postal Service team. He alleged Mr. Armstrong helped him understand the way the drugs worked. “He and I had lengthy discussions about it on our training rides during which time he also explained to me the evolution of EPO testing and how transfusions were now necessary due to the inconvenience of the new test,” Mr. Landis claimed in the email. He claimed he was instructed by Mr. Bruyneel how to use synthetic EPO and steroids and how to carry out blood transfusions that doping officials wouldn’t be able to detect. Mr. Bruyneel and Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment.
In the same email, Mr. Landis wrote that after breaking his hip in 2003, he flew to Girona, Spain”a training hub for American riders”and had two half-liter units of blood extracted from his body in three-week intervals to be used later during the Tour de France. The extraction, Mr. Landis claimed, took place in Mr. Armstrong’s apartment, where blood bags belonging to Mr. Armstrong and his then-teammate George Hincapie were kept in a refrigerator in Mr. Armstrong’s closet. Mr. Landis said he was asked to check the temperature of the blood daily. According to Mr. Landis, Mr. Armstrong left for a few weeks and asked Mr. Landis to make sure the electricity didn’t go off and ruin the blood. George Hincapie, through a spokesman, denied the allegations.
As the wide-ranging discussion turned toward his management team, Prokhorov initially confirmed that team president Rod Thorn will be kept on after his present contract expires on June 30.
œWe™re discussing small formalities for the agreement for the time being, said Prokhorov.
Then, the 45-year-old billionaire added, œWith Kiki (Vandeweghe), he™s a very talented guy, he did his job in a very tough season for the team, and his agreement expires in summer and I wish him well.
Vandeweghe, in Chicago for the draft combine, politely refused comment. While Prokhorov was bidding him a glib farewell, the general manager was actually on the radio discussing the draft lottery. Thorn was already in Chicago hours before Vandeweghe, taking part in Competition Committee meetings, and did not immediately return calls for elucidation.
Prokhorov did not reveal any names pertaining to Thorn™s search for a head coach, but he did note that NBA experience was prerequisite. That apparently does not include experience with NBA players in international competition, however, because he completely dismissed Krzyzewski, the Duke legend who “ once upon a rumor — purportedly was at the top of his list.
œCoach K, he™s a great coach, Prokhorov conceded. œBut I™m looking for an NBA experience coach. Now it™s a big list. … It™s possible for a current assistant to be head coach of the team.
And while he said he likes and admires Jay-Z, who is a friend to many players, Prokhorov said the rap impresario will not be involved in the free agent recruitment process.
œI think it™s more than enough that he is very passionate with the team, the owner said. œI think it™s management job to look for free agent … it™s a professional job. But of course Jay-Z™s passion is additional advertisement for the team.
Indeed, Vandeweghe was conducting an interview with WFAN’s Joe Benigno-Gazino and Evan Roberts at the time of Prokhorov’s remarks, his opinions regarding the Nets’ draft options being no more relevant than yours or mine. I think it’s very safe to assume after the past few days that Prokhorov’s ownership tenure is going to provide more blogging gold than anything short of Stephon Marbury rejoining the team as player-coach.
The Red Sox are not playing well. Their pitchers are pitching to the worst ERA in the American League, they’re in fourth place in the AL East, their aging players have not mysteriously become younger, and Victor Martinez is slugging under .300. There are also a host of other things wrong with the team that I don’t know as much about because they don’t directly influence any of my fantasy teams. But suffice to say that the Red Sox are not currently playing like a team that’s made six of the last eight postseasons.
There are plenty of people to blame for this, and one of them, at least in theory, is GM Theo Epstein (above). Given that Epstein went public with “run prevention” — which is a fancier way of saying pitching and defense — as his offseason goal for the team, the fact that the Red Sox have allowed more runs than any other team will doubtless bring some bleak joy to the cold and joyless hearts of people who hate post-Branch-Rickey baseball management strategies. And it could lead to some understandable-if-premature criticism of Epstein, by that token — he built the team, the team isn’t winning; he evinced a philosophy, the team is falling short on those terms. This barely even needs explaining.
But it seems pretty reasonable when the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo defends Epstein against charges that his attending a Pearl Jam show on Monday night, instead of the Red Sox game, indicates that Epstein’s not taking the team’s issues seriously. Criticize Epstein for favoring grunty, dated contempo-classic rock, if you want, but let the guy go to his concert in peace, right? Even by the standards of Red Sox superfan anti-perspective, criticizing Epstein for not being at the Red Sox game would seem to be above and beyond the call of trollish duty. If, you know, someone were to actually have done that.
Cafardo mentioned that “some” were unhappy with Epstein’s choice to the show, but didn’t quote any emails or commenters or radio show callers to that effect. A quick perusal of the comments under Cafardo’s piece — the things I do for curiosity’s sake — reveal one commenter comparing Epstein to Obama (given that the guy’s handle is ObamaLiedTheEconomyDied, it may not surprise you to know that he’s pretty critical of both) and no one accusing Epstein of lacking anything but musical discernment in going to the show. The most rec’d comment on a Dan Shaughnessey column suggests that Epstein knowingly putting himself in a position to hear “Evenflow” “shows that even he knew this year was a waste, or he is simply professionally immature…take your pick.” But even that criticism is buried in a comment that’s mostly the usual bummed-sports-fan overstatement, demanding firings and chair-throwings and public criticism from management and the like. (Perhaps Epstein should take off his shirt and try to fight Darnell McDonald or Marco Scutaro?)
“The only question I have is who was actually criticizing Epstein over this? I value my brain cells so I don’t listen to Boston talk radio, but were people actually considering this to be some sort of issue? I’d wager $10,000 that Theo Epstein works more hours and is better at his job than every single person who considered this to be a legitimate problem.
Probably true, but given that no one has run a quote from someone — even an unidentified WEEI caller — who thinks it’s a legitimate problem, this one seems kind of manufactured to me. Although I, too, would not listen to Dennis and Callahan or whatever for research purposes even if I were getting paid to write here. But overblown does seem an accurate word to me especially, as Ted Berg writes at SNY, when you consider context a bit.
Even with their team underperforming this season, Boston fans should wake up every morning and give thanks for whatever series of circumstances brought them Theo Epstein… And the funny thing is, that™s sort of implicit in any anger toward Epstein for taking a night off. As mad as they are over their team this season, Sox fans still want their GM working to try to better the club. I have to imagine there™d be plenty of Mets fans excited to hear that Omar Minaya was at a Pearl Jam concert if it meant he had his hands off the controls for a night.
“There are many more responsibilities that a general manager has beyond just building the 25-man roster in the big leagues,” argues former Mets GM/horny broadcaster Steve Phillips in his latest Fanhouse post, perhaps letting those who’d openly challenge Omar Minaya or Seattle’s Jack Zduriencik that for all their supposed baseball smarts, “NOBODY UNDERSTANDS WHAT THE GENERAL MANAGER’S JOB REALLY ENTAILS!”
The reality is that being a general manager really isn’t a job; it is a lifestyle. The GM usually arrives at the ballpark about 9 a.m. on weekdays, works all day, stays for the game, speaks to the manager after the game and gets home at about 1 a.m. only to do it all over again the next day. The GM is at the ballpark on weekends and holidays as well. The team plays 162 games and the GM is at every home game and about half the road games. The other half of the time when the team is on the road, the GM is watching his minor league teams play.
The most amazing part of it is that after a 162-game schedule finishes, the work really starts. That is when the GM and his staff are working to rebuild and reconstruct their team for the following season. There is no offseason for the front office. It is a grueling life that, in the end, only truly rewards one team per year.
So despite what you might believe know this — not everyone can be a general manager.
In fact, there are very few that are capable.
Earlier in the piece, Phillips outlines — in detail — the sort of thankless tasks a G.M. is faced with, including but hardly limited to “educating the media and the fans about the game.” That seems like a heck of a way to rationalize one-on-one tutorials with interns (never has the infield fly rule sounded so seductive), but as David Roth put it so well, “you have to imagine that the guy wouldn’t write patronizing columns (with all-caps interludes) about how unqualified most people in the world are for being GMs unless he really enjoyed being mocked by the internet. Who knows what dark fetishes lurk behind the goateed mask of sanity with this guy?” And who knows what Phillips’ editor at Fanhouse could’ve been thinking when Zipper Problem Steve’s rambling achievement in self-aggrandizement was turned in and apparently published, as-is?
Thankfully, James Dolan never attempted anything like this. But if a personal appeal to the Nets faithful is what’s required for Mikhail Prokhorov to distract from the murder of Renee Walker his alleged ties to Robert Mugabe, perhaps messages like the one above can become a weekly feature?
High-level football is easy enough to enjoy when you’re actually watching it, which — and I’m just spitballing here — probably has something to do with its bestriding-colossus position among the major sports. There’s something for everyone: idiots get their mechanized, faceless violence; dorks get the increasingly ornate technical aspects of the coaching game; poets get periodic moments of athletic virtuosity; there’s also a unique individuation-of-task/collectivity-of-purpose dynamic at work in every play that, for all the pickups-and-flags BS during the commercial breaks, makes the whole enterprise aesthetically pretty socialist. It’s interesting, and I like watching it. It’s on the days when football games are not being played that things get pretty freaking gross.
Because of what Ft. Lauderdale-area safety Wayne Lyons can do during football games, he is a very highly sought-after college football prospect. A safety who can cover like a corner, Lyons has offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU and a number of other schools that, despite not being in the SEC, are generally considered BCS title contenders. Lyons is also on track to be the valedictorian of his high school class, and is carrying a 3.8 GPA at Broward Community College, where he has already picked up 24 college credits towards his engineering degree. His mother expects him to graduate from college during his sophomore year, at which point he’ll begin work on his Master’s. In short, Lyons is the sort of kid who deserves a glowing profile in Sports Illustrated and, what do you know, here’s Andy Staples with just that very profile:
Lyons and his mother, Gwen Bush, have sent each school a list of 50 questions ranging from mundane details every student must consider (“Will it be necessary or advantageous for Wayne to have a car?”) to highly specific questions that would apply only to Lyons and a handful of recruits who are elite students as well as elite athletes (“How many African-American players have graduated with an engineering degree in the past five years? Year-by-year? Please list their names.”).
Lyons and Bush want all these answers, because they know Lyons has the potential to follow in the footsteps of former Florida State safety Myron Rolle, who started for a major program, got drafted into the NFL and won a Rhodes Scholarship in between. So far, most coaches have been happy to answer every question in great detail, because they know true student-athletes such as Lyons don’t come along often.
For example, of all the blue-chip high school players who now post details of their recruitment on Twitter, how many also include tweets such as the one Lyons sent out last week? “High school GPA has jumped to a 5.0 on the head! Gotta keep that no. 1 spot! Holding on to the dream — Class Valedictorian for DHS c/o 2011.”
The questionnaire itself is here, and it’s every bit as wide-ranging as a 50-item questionnaire for Nick Saban to fill out should be. It might be a little heavy on the mom-intensive stuff — Gwen Bush is no Prophetess Legion, but it seems a good guess that she’s going to be fairly involved in her son’s day-to-day — but it’s also admirably forward-thinking and even a little inspiring insofar as it so thoroughly rejects the passive-object-of-wooing routine in favor of what are really some very important concerns.
In all this, right down to his position on the field, Lyons is indeed notably reminiscent of Myron Rolle, the Florida State safety and Rhodes Scholar who similarly made no attempt to conceal the fact that academics were at least as important to him as giving slot receivers concussions. That particular bit of swimming-against-the-tide earned Rolle his own glowing Sports Illustrated profile (Stewart Mandel, this time), an eventual year at Oxford on the Rhodes Scholarship and… well, Rolle fell to the very end of the sixth round of this year’s NFL Draft, despite having been projected as an early-rounder before accepting the Rhodes. So it earned him that, too.
While spending a year away from football — if not away from football-style training — probably didn’t help Rolle’s stock, NFL types were seemingly unembarrassed about expressing the belief (off the record, naturally) that Rolle’s intelligence and academic accomplishment made him a less attractive NFL prospect. (Champion butthead Mel Kiper, to his kinda-sorta credit, did go on the record to that effect with USA Today’s Skip Wood) If Rolle had been the best safety in his draft class, he probably would’ve been chosen in the first round; he wasn’t, and so he wasn’t. But despite being seen as a top-tier safety, Rolle was the 17th safety selected in the draft, 206th overall. As Andy Hutchins writes in The Sporting News, no one is even pretending not to know how this happened:
Myron Rolle didn’t slip to the Tennessee Titans with the last pick of the sixth round in the NFL Draft because he has too much character, or because the NFL doesn’t want character. He slipped because his character comes with interests outside football that made NFL coaches and GMs question his devotion, and because his talent can’t make up for that question mark. I wouldn’t bet against Rolle: He knows what he must do and will work tirelessly to do just that, becoming a stellar NFL player. But I don’t expect every NFL coach to see that my way.
The question of why Rolle’s wish to become a neurosurgeon somehow makes him difficult to coach — when no one who has ever actually, you know, coached him has suggested as much — gets to the dark, dumb heart of what’s gross about big-time football. The racial semiotics of all this I’ll leave to the Sports on My Mind guys, although it’s worth mentioning that the NFL’s managerial demands for docility (and suspicion of anything that even faintly suggests otherwise) has always had a racial cast to it, and that both Lyons and Rolle are black.
But leaving the racial politics of it all aside, rightly or wrongly, it’s sad to think of what lies ahead of Lyons, wherever he winds up. A lot will have to go right for Lyons in the years to come for him to be drafted into the NFL, of course, above or below 206th overall. As with every kid in or out of football, it’s tough not to pull for him, and he does seem like a pretty admirable young dude. But it’s sad to think that Lyons is going to face management-level suspicion and worse simply for being a smart, studious, forward-thinking and serious kid in a business that values exactly zero of those attributes.
I don’t always enjoy being a Mets fan, but I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to be a Florida Marlins fan. Yes, they’ve won two more World Series than the Mets have over the last 15 years, but the binge-and-purge cycle and sub-Wilpon charmlessness of their ownership is kind of a bummer, at least as seen from all the way up the East Coast. That said, I’m enjoying the profane and hilariously off-message/on-the-record kerfuffle that’s blown up around Hanley Ramirez shuffling after a ground ball in the second inning of Monday’s game against the Diamondbacks and subsequently being yanked from said game for said shuffling. And I’m not enjoying it in a schadenfreude-y way — again: Mets fan, so baseball schadenfreude only runs in my direction — so much as enjoying the spectacle of a bunch of grown-ass people actually speaking their minds into reporters’ notepads.
Whether Ramirez actually dogged it after the grounder in question is not something I can say for certain — I can’t find video of the play, though I did suffer through a couple minutes of John Kruk talking about it at ESPN — but it also seems to be beyond debate, judging by the coverage. Most importantly, Manager Fredi Gonzalez obviously thought Ramirez wasn’t hustling; pinch-hitter/team leader (oh?) Wes Helms thought so, and suggested in an earnest and malaprop-y speech that Hanley apologize to his teammates for it. “I was in Atlanta when the (John) Rocker thing went on,” Helms said. “He was made to do the apology, but when he apologized to the whole team and held a 30-minute meeting, it gives you a little sense of easement.”
Judging by the salty, minimalist responses that Ramirez offered to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post, though, Helms might have to check with his local zoning board if he wants an easement. Because Hanley’s not apologizing for shit until… well, he’s not apologizing. “It™s his team,” Ramirez said. “[Gonzalez] does whatever he (expletive) wants. There™s nothing I can do about it. It™s brutal. Ramirez then went on to patch things up nicely:
[Capozzi]Do you want some time to get past it?
To talk to Fredi.
œOh yeah? I™m just gonna play the game¦
…Do you plan to apologize to the team?
One of your teammates suggested an apology might be good if you did that.
They thought that you were dogging it chasing that ball.
œWe got a lot of people dogging it after ground balls. They don™t apologize.”
Obviously, this doesn’t bode terribly well for the Marlins or their fans. But as someone who has spent a lot of time listening to Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya communicate entirely in ungrammatical nonsense koans for the last couple of years and cheered for a relentlessly on-message and uninspiring group of players — to the point where Jeff Francoeur’s willingness to smile and make simple jokes has the New York media describing him as some combination of Dizzy Dean and Jesus Christ — it’s at least kind of bracing to see everyone involved here acting like actual human beings. Albeit very pissed-off human beings.
UPDATE: Here’s the video, and Han-Ram’s loafing like a motherfucker; thanks to commenter Bez for the link
David Triesman resigned as Chairman of the England Football Association over the weekend after the Daily Mail paid a former subordinate a reported 75,000 GBP for a tape recording in which the the 66 year-old politician is heard accusing Spain and Russia of conspiring to bribe referees during this summer’s World Cup. Triesman, previously frontman for England’s bid to host the tournament in 2018, was undone by assistant Melissa Jacobs, 37, who claims to have slept with the former Labor Party General Secretary. Jacobs’ betrayal caused the Mirror’s Sue Carrol to ask,”for what purpose did she embark on this indecent back-stabbing ploy?…to earn a few measly quid. Miss Jacobs makes a King™s Cross slapper look like Mother Teresa,”, while the Independent’s Ian Herbert reports the F.A.’s damage controllers are waiting for further revelations to hit the papers.
Triesman is understood to have spoken at length to Jacobs about colleagues at the Football Association and at the top of the game in general and there are understood to be more anti-Russian comments from him, with suggestions of a Russian “mafia” at work at Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea.
There was more bad news for the FA last night as Fifa asked for the national body to provide for a report into Lord Triesman’s alleged comments. The FA had hoped it had drawn a line under the episode by moving so swiftly to remove Lord Triesman as both its own and the 2018 bid chairman on Sunday and to bring in Geoff Thompson to run the bid, a role he began yesterday with meetings with the bid chief executive, Andy, Anson and chief of staff, Simon Greenberg. But if Ms Jacobs decides to share more recordings, it is possible those remaining at the top level of the organisation may be tainted by their publication next Sunday, just 24 hours after Thompson’s bid team tries to salvage England’s reputation by meeting Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, at Saturday’s Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Internazionale in Madrid.
The prospect of further taped revelations raises the spectre of attacks on the FA and Premier League. Lord Triesman enjoyed a less than harmonious relationship with some of his fellow FA board members, including vice-chairman Sir Dave Richards, and his relationship with the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, had been a difficult one. Triesman’s opposition to Scudamore’s “Game 39″ “ a plan for Premier League clubs to play an extra match abroad each season “ did not help. The peer also incurred Scudamore’s wrath in October 2008 when, hours before a keynote Scudamore speech at a Leaders in Business conference, he attacked the £3bn debt British clubs were carrying.