SB Nation’s Bois on Andy Van Slyke’s Author Photo and Other Cardboard Highlights

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, consumer affairs at 3:30 pm by

With the exception of investment banking and high-end financial services and maybe the macro-scale music business, it’s difficult to think of an industry that had less idea what it was doing during the time of its greatest success than the baseball card business. By the time the baseball card business finally got around to paying (some of) my bills, it was well into its eclipse years, and while the industry has been right-sized by those infallible market forces you’ve heard so much about, it’s still capable of breaking out the odd baffling product decision. But while the market for baseball cards has shrunk significantly since its heyday — which would be the late 1980s and early 1990s, which was not-coincidentally also when I shoplifted most vigorously — that’s not all bad news.

The crucially not-ready-for-prime-time mistake of the card industry during its glory days was the assumption that because more people suddenly wanted baseball cards, the card-makers should simply print more baseball cards, as quickly and haphazardly as possible. This wasn’t the entire reason why the bottom fell out of the business — Dave Jamieson, whom I interviewed here, wrote a good book explaining that — but given that scarcity drove value, the industry-wide decision to eliminate the very idea of scarcity doesn’t look so good in retrospect. That said, it still looks better than the clubfooted artsy-fartsy Studio Sets that companies put out in an attempt to… I don’t know, reach the people who wanted to open a pack of cards and have a Sears Photo Studio-esque image of Tom Henke staring back at them? Who always wondered what Pete O’Brien would look like in black-and-white against a gray backdrop?

At SB Nation, the great Jon Bois takes a look at these weird golden age leftovers and finds a medium that ranges from baffling Rickey Henderson beefcake to thriller book-jacket photos of Dennis Eckersley. It’s tough to excerpt, because the text is largely tied to the (hilarious) images, but here’s his breakdown of Randy Myers’ Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer-esque 1991 Score Dream Team card (number 885 in that year’s Score set!).

huh? oh uh hey kiddos, my name is randy and welcome to my baseball card, i uh, i think i might have some Squeez-Its in the fridge, also might could be some graham crackers in the kitchen, go an get ya some grahams if ya hungry

On the back of the card, they finally get around to telling us which team Randy Myers actually plays for, and they also describe him as an “effervescent type of guy.” So what’s with the long face here? What the hell happened, y’all? “Hey, bad news, Randy. Desert Storm is over already. They didn’t even get to use all the F-16s. I know, right?” [takes picture]

They’re all that good. Market forces stink.

Barkley Apologizes (For Saying What Everyone Else Was Thinking)

Posted in Basketball, Sports TV at 12:23 pm by

While the Times’ William C. Rhoden argues the Knicks returning to MSG tonight in a 2-0 hole against Boston is a reason for New York fans to “celebrate the light” rather than kick the shit out of Mike D’Antoni, TNT’s Charles Barkley has apologized for suggesting the former Phoenix head coach would be looking for work this summer. Newsday’s resident P-90X spokesperson, Alan Hahn :

“I have a rule; I try to always be honest and fair on TV,” he said. “I screwed up the other night when I said something about Mike D’Antoni that wasn’t cool. I want to apologize to Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh . When you’re on television, you should never talk about someone getting hired or fired. That’s inappropriate. I made that mistake. I want to apologize personally to Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh. I’ve got a great respect for Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni. I want to apologize. That’s all I can do.”

During TNT ‘s pregame show Tuesday, Barkley criticized D’Antoni’s coaching and added, “That’s why they are going to have a new coach next year.”

D’Antoni got word of it via text message after the Knicks ‘ loss. Barkley has become notorious for his negative take on the Knicks, but according to multiple sources, this comment, especially with D’Antoni in the midst of a playoff series, infuriated several members of the hierarchy, most notably Walsh.

If Walsh was pissed at Barkley, one can only imagine how he felt about the TImes’ Harvey Araton telling the entire world the Knicks’ lame duck GM “is too much of a loyal organization man to admit he would have preferred to chase a Deron Williams, a Chris Paul, before expending the enormous resources he did on Carmelo Anthony at the behest of his owner, James L. Dolan.” Walsh and D’Antoni deserve massive credit for their role in returning the Knicks to respectability, but no halfway competent sports journalist (or Charles Barkley for that matter) should ignore who is ultimately in charge at the World’s Most Dysfunctional Arena. If D’Antoni and Walsh really have job security, why would the nation’s most disliked blues guitarist routinely undermine the latter or allow either to twist in the wind?

Candidate M.E.S. : In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right

Posted in politics, Rock Und Roll at 11:36 am by

Image swiped from Michael Duane. Without question, this would result in the highest ratings for a televised debate between drain commissioner hopefuls in the history of free elections.


O’s Luke Scott – Simply Bananas About Helping His Teammates

Posted in Baseball, Firearms, Racism Corner at 8:06 pm by

Baltimore OF Luke Scott (above) is no stranger to CSTB, having received recognition for (amongst other things) his views on President Barack Obama’s place of birth, his religious beliefs, Second Amendment zealotry, and unique solutions to America’s homelessness problem. Earlier this year, a Baltimore journalist cited Scott’s chummy relationship with Dominican teammate Felix Pie as evidence the former doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Sadly for the Orioles’ P.R. department, ESPN.com’s Amy K. Nelson sought further background on Baltimore’s Odd Couple for an upcoming “Outside The Lines” profile of Scott.

“Felix is my friend,” he says. “I give him a hard time. The reason why I give him a hard time is because there are certain people you deal with and you go up and talk to them, and it doesn’t work. They don’t understand.

“I tell him about some of the ways he’s acted: ‘Look, you’re acting like an animal, you’re acting like a savage.’”

Scott turns to his locker and pulls out a bag of plantain chips.

“So I throw bananas in his helmet. Here are my banana chips to remind him that whenever he acts like an animal, ‘Hey, that’s what other people are thinking. They’re just not telling you, but that’s what they’re thinking about. And I’m telling you so that you’re aware of that so you can make a cognitive decision to not behave like that.’ I would want someone to tell me that instead of letting you making a jerk of yourself.”

Why would Scott choose potentially loaded words like “animal” and “savage” — and how can they not offend either his friend or anyone in the locker room who overhears? Most teammates asked about it laugh or smile. They cite it as part of the two players’ playful relationship, part of life in a big league clubhouse — there are things that fly in there that wouldn’t in the outside world.

“He’s not a redneck racist; his beliefs are his beliefs,” Adam Jones says. “Their relationship is uncanny, and Pie ribs him just as much. I don’t think Luke means any racist thing by it. Trust me, if I see racism, I’ll say some s—. Quickly.

“I’ve told Luke there are some things you should and shouldn’t do that might offend … if he crossed the line I would have already said something.”

HONK IF YOU’RE (AIR) HORNY – Who Says The Thrashers Can’t Win Anything?

Posted in Hockey at 7:01 pm by

80 points was good enough for a 4th place finish in the Southeast Division for Atlanta this past season, but on the all-important AIR-HORN CHARTS (compiled by The Awl’s Victoria Johnson, link courtesy Brian Turner), the Thrashers are ranked #1 ahead of a trio of playoff hopefuls (Washington, Buffalo and Boston respectively).  There’s no truth whatsoever to the rumor the Thrashers’ horn is touring later this summer as the support act for a new Sleepchamber lineup.

Houston Drug Plea Is Just A Cheap Excuse For Posting A Codeine Video

Posted in Gridiron, Rock Und Roll, The Law at 1:28 pm by

With apologies to the good people of Houston, the Texas legal system, the Green Bay Packers and most of all, DL Johnny Jolly, I simply couldn’t resist.

Ryan Franklin Finds Cards Fans’ Criticism Anything But Constructive

Posted in Baseball at 10:55 am by

Hard to say which adage is less correct, “the customer is always right” or “St. Louis fans are the greatest”.   Cardinals reliever (and until recently, closer) Ryan Franklin, victimized by a Lance Nix solo HR during the 8th inning of last night’s 8-6 loss to Washington (and roundly jeered afterwards) would seem to take issue with both, as reported by MLB.com’s Matthew Leach :

“Sure, I hear it,” Franklin told reporters. “I guess they’ve got short memories, too, because I think I’ve been pretty good here. It doesn’t bother me, but you know, it just shows some people’s true colors, you know?

“You’re either a fan or you’re not. You don’t boo your own team. I don’t care who you are or what you say. Just because you spent your money to come here and watch us play, and somebody happens to make one bad pitch and gives up a homer, you don’t start booing them. I’ve been here for five years, and four years I’ve been pretty good. You should go write stories about the fans booing. They’re supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah right.”


They Really Love Their Trees In Auburn, AL

Posted in College Spurts, Gridiron, Mob Behavior, The Law at 6:36 pm by

Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr. (above) faces charges the poisoning of Auburn’s beloved Toomer’s Corner oak trees (CSTB, Feb 16, 2011) ; earlier today, Updike claims he was assaulted at a Birmingham Highway gas station following a court appearance. Updyke’s solicitor denies a) his client was stabbed in the face, or that he b) arranged the incident himself, audio clip courtesy the Paul Finebaum Network.

What Will Become Of The Dodgers’ New Exec In Charge Of Checking-Things-Out?

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 5:28 pm by

Amidst further reports of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt (above, left) having difficulty making payroll in the wake of his divorce trial, Major League Baseball announced Wednesday the takeover of Los Angeles’ financial operations, with Commissioner Bud Selig (strangely silent on how McCourt’s ownership was ever approved) citing the need “to protect the best interests of the Club.”  Said move comes, weirdly enough, just a day after the Dodgers appointed businessman / former mayoral candidate Steve Soboroff as their new “vice chairman with responsibility for leading efforts to improve the fan experience at the stadium”

“Steve understands this city as few others do, and his contributions have made Los Angeles a better place,” said McCourt. “Not only will he infuse great ideas and energy to the Dodger organization, but he will use his trademark ‘get-it-done’ approach to extend the Dodgers’ positive impact on Los Angeles. It starts with a quality fan experience in the stadium, and extends throughout the Southern California community.” [...]

“You will see me in every section of the ballpark checking things out, listening to fans, and taking strong actions in a number of areas. And I’m in a hurry,” he said. “The Dodgers are one of the great professional sports franchises in the world, and an important civic institution in Southern California. Frank has empowered me to set a new standard when it comes to the fan experience and the Dodgers’ impact on the Los Angeles community. … The fan experience starts with a safe, comfortable, family environment, and extends from there.”

Presumably, Soboroff was meant to be the warm & fuzzy persona designed to provide contrast to Los Angeles’ recent hiring of veteran civil rights-stomper William Bratton,

Klapisch : Emaus Ejected By Alderson’s Panic Button

Posted in Baseball at 3:19 pm by

Astros P Wandy Rodriguez came into last night’s contest with the New York Mets sporting an ERA of 7.31.  All too typically for the hosts, Rodriguez held the Amazingly Anemics to one run over 7 innings, as Houston’s 6-1 victory left the Mets — 2-10 over their last dozen games — with the worst record in the National League. Though praising skipper Terry Collins (all but called a lame duck for the 2nd time this April) for his willingness to chew out Daniel Murphy last weekend, the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch warns, “it’s already a dreadful season at Citi Field, with or without an emotional manager,” citing the Mets’ decision Tuesday to part ways with 2B Brad Emaus.


Emaus was the same player whom the Mets promoted after firing Luis Castillo in spring training. Emaus was younger, more athletic, an example of the New Way in Flushing. Turns out Emaus wasn’t very good at all, batting just .162. After just 16 games, Alderson decided, “We’d given it enough time.”

Alderson is one of baseball’s most self-assured executives – obviously he’s not afraid to rewrite policy on short notice. Still, in last place, change feels like panic. The Mets are lurching from one failure to the next, unable to decide whom they trust.

That’s because ownership is so desperate to make this season meaningful to ticket buyers. Castillo was released not because he’d played poorly in spring training — he didn’t — but because the fans hated him.

You almost could hear the Wilpons instructing Alderson: “We have to do something.’’

Emaus suffered the same fate, as the Mets quickly have become irrelevant and the rookie became the newest scapegoat. Alderson said “you can absorb certain things” during a winning season, but not when the losses come in a steady, depressing stream and the mantra from above turns into a naked plea: “Do something.’’

YouTube Auteur Gives Jared Jeffries The Charles Smith Treatment

Posted in Basketball, Free Expression at 1:30 pm by

It would probably be the height of exaggeration to claim Jared Jeffries being outhustled/muscled by Kevin Garnett during the closing moments of last night’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals will ever claim a place in Knicks lore to rival that of Charles Smith’s inability to sink 4 consecutive shots at close range in the dying seconds against Chicago in 1995. On the other hand, it’s pretty luck for Charles Smith the internet hadn’t reach the point where this sort of thing was commonplace in 1995.


Phillies Enlist Hurler With Even Fewer Social Skills Than Brett Myers

Posted in Baseball, Technical Difficulties at 6:06 pm by

This is one of the few times this season that I deeply regret Joe Morgan is no longer around to offer trenchant commentary. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Tom Avril introduces PhillieBot, “a one-armed, three-wheeled contraption that is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee”. As part of a Science Day promotion, the creation of the University Of Pennsylvania engineering department is already guaranteed to be held in higher esteem than Joe Blanton (perhaps even by members of the Blanton family).

The robot’s computer brain can be infinitely tweaked to change pitch velocity and trajectory, and its arm is a sleek, programmable instrument that also can be used in surgical and manufacturing applications. Moreover, PhillieBot can move.

The engineers started with a Segway, one of those motorized, two-wheeled vehicles sometimes used by tourists and police patrols. They lopped off the top handlebar portion and replaced it with the

Commerical-Appeal’s Calkins Hits The History Eraser Button On Z-Bo’s Portland, LA and NY Tenures

Posted in Basketball at 3:43 pm by

Putting aside for a moment whether or not Memphis lavishing a 4-year, $66 million contract extension upon Zach Randolph was a good idea (as Tom Ziller reminds us, the Grizzlies now have more than $200 million committed to three players, Randolph, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay, who might not be good enough to Memphis out of the first round), Randolph — less than a year removed from being called a drug kingpin by Indiana police –  has fashioned a surprising career revival since leaving New York .  “Randolph is the face of the Memphis Grizzlies…he is also the soul, the heart and the reason they were spending Monday morning basking in their 1-0 lead over the San Antonio Spurs,” insists the Memphis Commercial-Appeal’s Geoff Calkins, who somehow manages not to compare Z-Bo to Cal Ripken Jr..

You’ve got Babe Ruth in New York. You’ve got Stan Musial in St. Louis. Somehow, it wouldn’t have worked the other way around.

Mike Ditka winds up in Chicago. Franco Harris lands in Pittsburgh. Magic Johnson goes to Los Angeles. Joe Namath plays in New York.

And now Randolph stays in Memphis. For what should be the best four years of his career.

“He’s our foundation,” said Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, but Randolph is really more than that.

He’s the perfect player for this city. He’s the hard-working embodiment of Memphis at its best. He’s tough, he’s generous and he takes a beating in the national press.

Sound like any underdog city you know?

So pay no attention to the experts — and yes, there are a few — who would tell that the Grizzlies overpaid to keep Randolph around. The guy is the franchise. Without him, the Grizzlies would be back to winning 20-plus games a year.

The Most Inspirational Moment Of Record Store Day 2011

Posted in Austin, Beer, Rock Und Roll, The Marketplace at 1:16 pm by

Though Austin’s Trailer Space openly boasts their RSD 11 inventory didn’t include many of the day’s flashier superstar releases (“how does driving to every record store in town looking for a stupid fucking Ryan Adams or Red Hot Chili Peppers 7in really a benefit to the independent record store? 9 times out of 10 once people find out we don’t have it, they just walk about the door, all sorts of pissed off”), they did manage a far more ingenious promotion by offering 50% off to any customer capable of shotgunning 3 beers in 3 minutes.  Kurt, shown above, was one of the 3 people who pulled it off, thus earning deep discounts on Trailer Space’s vast selection of recordings by such superior artists as Air Traffic Controllers the Dirtbombs, Followed By Static, ST 37 or Eat Skull.  Not so many Fabulous Poodles albums, however, but there’s always Cheapo.


Hands Up, Everyone Who Thought Gary Kubiak Would Outlast Rick Adelman

Posted in Basketball at 10:30 pm by

Though the Rockets are only two seasons removed from taking the Lakers to a 7th game in the conference semi-finals despite the absence of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, ownership declared Rick Adelman surplus to requirements earlier today, a firing the Houston Chronicle’s Jerome Solomon considers a huge favor to the venerable head coach (“The Rockets won’t find a better head coach than Adelman. Adelman ought to find a better team than the Rockets”)

It is simple math: there are, oh, 12 or 13 better teams than the Rockets? And, what, a couple better coaches than Adelman?

There will be more better jobs available for Rick than better coaches available for the Rockets.

As you may know, Adelman is one if my favorite coaches. He is smart, honest and understands how to get the best from his players. I don’t think it was possible for anyone to get more out of the Rockets’ cast of characters the last two seasons. That doesn’t mean the years weren’t disappointing, only that the disappointment wasn’t the coach’s fault.

The Rockets are what they are because of the players they have. You don’t like those players, don’t blame Adelman.

Saddened by the circumstances, Dream Shake’s Tom Martin advocates the candidacy of Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer.

Stan Van Gundy would be an interesting hire, but one that I would support. I’m not sold on bringing back Jeff Van Gundy, because as good a defensive coach as he was, his offenses were THAT bad. Mike Brown falls into the same category, but it’s tough to gauge him apart from LeBron James, who supposedly handicapped Brown’s coaching choices. If it’s up to me, I be sure to take a hard look at assistants like Budenholzer who haven’t had as much head coaching experience. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to think that the newly promoted assistants can add a personal flair to teams like Houston’s, one that allows them both to grow together and build a strong relationship. Not every situation will work out like the one in Chicago with Tom Thibodeau, but it’s worth a shot, especially given the report of highly coveted assistants such as Budenholzer.

Al Davis, Cheating Death, Mulling Another Move To L.A.

Posted in Gridiron at 3:42 pm by

Just days after the Raiders denied Al Davis, 81,000, was in poor health, the Oakland owner (above, left) is said to be (again) infatuated with Southern California. Or at least that’s the claim of CSN.com’s Paul Gutierrez, quoted by Pro Football Talk’s Greg Rosenthal :

“You hear the Raiders involved with L.A. all the time because I think Al Davis still believes that’s his territory,” Gutierrez says.

Davis has said he would listen to offers from Los Angeles, but Gutierrez admits it’s far-fetched.  Davis believes the best spot for a stadium is in the Bay Area on the same land where the Colosseum resides.  Plus the folks in L.A. reportedly don’t want to deal with Davis anyhow.

Much as I’d agree a return to LA seems unlikely, who amongst us wouldn’t relish seeing the Raiders take up temporary residence in the The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum if only for the handful of times a year Davis and Lane Kiffin might collide in the parking lot?

Stephon Marbury, The Toast Of Taiyuan

Posted in Basketball, Sports Journalism, We Aren't The World at 12:54 pm by

In what might be the frontrunner for the most hilarious piece of sports journalism in 2011, GQ’s Wells Tower traveled to Taiyuan, China to observe the latest chapter in former Knick Stephon Marbury’s career arc.   Paid handsomely (by Chinese professional standards, anyway) by the the Shanxi Brave Dragons, Wells chronicles Marbury’s attempts to forge new friendships in a land where he’s expected to subsist on fare such as “Grab Stick, Intestine Duck, Best Thick Seam, Ear Rabbit, Black Fungus, Meat, and Duck Bloody Piece” (luckily for Starbury there’s no shortage of U.S. fast food franchises near his hotel).  Though the piece is not an entirely unsympathetic portrait of the Coney Island phenom (particularly where Marbury’s business empire is concerned) it is worth noting that when it comes to matters of the heart, The NBA’s Former #1 Point Guard (Self-Appointed) has graduated from hooking up in a Jeep to finding companionship at the local karaoke hut.

Brother Wong, who had supposedly amassed a fortune as a builder of local roads, was very pleased to see Marbury. He kept laying hands on Marbury’s arms and shoulders and seemed to want very badly to climb into the point guard’s lap. He insisted we go immediately to his favorite karaoke bar.

Marbury and I caught a lift in Brother Wong’s chauffeur-driven Audi SUV. “You starting to see the Starbury movement,” Marbury said. “Brother Wong’s like Mark Cuban without being the owner. He wants to buy the team.” Wong, said Marbury, was well connected with China’s Communist Party, pointing out large yellow O’s in the corners of the Audi’s windshield, evidently emblems of officialdom. Then, at Marbury’s prompting, Brother Wong hit a switch on the Audi’s dashboard and a siren on the roof blared and wailed. “Police! Police!” cried Brother Wong, laughing madly. Traffic scurried from our path, and the Audi made for the karaoke bar at a desperate speed.

No one sang at the karaoke bar, a place the term bar is inadequate to describe. It was a fantastic labyrinth of mirrored hallways, astrobe with neon accents and red and blue LEDs, generally creating the effect of inhabiting a giant article of robot lingerie. In a room twice the size of my New York apartment, a rotund older woman dressed in a plaid field-hockey skirt led in a cadre of young women and briskly directed them, singly and in pairs, to sit beside us on the couch. The girls wore an unhookerly mufti of jeans or miniskirts or T-shirts or Annie Hall–style sweaters and, as far as I could tell, were not quite prostitutes but merely young women who drew a paycheck to ply lonely men with beer and grapes, and pinch them on the knee. The only hitch in the distribution came when the field-hockey lady ushered in a girl resembling an Asian Julia Child whose eyes happened to be crossed. There was no immediate clamor for her company. She stood before the room for a painful length of time. Finally, Marbury, who’d been obliviously drinking Sprite and BlackBerrying through the whole escort-disbursement procedure, looked up and invited the big girl to his area of the sectional, a quiet act of valor that put the rest of us to shame.

Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop (On Top Of Queens Park Rangers)

Posted in Football at 12:26 pm by

As mentioned in this space earlier this spring, an otherwise glorious 2010-2011 season for QPR has seen the West London club emerge from all manner of ownership/management discord and find themselves on the brink of a long awaited return to England’s top flight.  “Otherwise”, because Rangers face heavy penalties if the Football Association determines playing midfielder Alejandro Faurlin (above) while the Argentinian’s contract was owned by a third party justifies knocking the Super Hoops off their perch. Under the circumstances, you can’t blame When Saturday Comes’ Andy Ryan for looking past tonight’s match with Derby County.

Rangers fans divide into three camps on this issue. Firstly, there are the optimists who are so swept up by euphoria and a belief that “this is our season” that they refuse to believe that we will end up with anything worse than a gentle slap on the wrist. Then there are the pessimists, hardened by years of underachievement and suspicious of how well this year was going. Now they have found their hitch. They talk ominously (and without evidence) about the FA wanting to set an example.

I’m a member of the final group, the “don’t-knows”. I am fairly sure that we are guilty of something; the FA’s investigation appears to have been thorough and chairman Gianni Paladini has a reputation that could be reasonably described as colourful. The decision to delay the judgement until May 6 makes a points deduction seem unlikely. Surely the FA would not want to alter the league table on the day before the final fixtures? Yet the FA has long had its own perverse logic.

I can sympathise with the irritation of some of our rivals as Alejandro Faurlin is a vital player. In addition, I think the FA are right to take a strong line against the unattractive idea of third-party ownership. But here is a huge gulf between a fine and a substantial points deduction. The former is a slight annoyance for wealthy owners while the latter overturns the outcome of a 46-game season. When creating these regulations, the FA failed to be specific enough about when points deductions will apply. Whatever decision they come to will now seem arbitrary. One thing is certain – the lawyers are getting ready for the long-haul.


Goddamn You Ray Allen And Your Terminal Automaticness

Posted in Basketball at 11:13 pm by

Putting aside for a moment the sheer insanity of a Mike D’Antoni coached team nearly winning a playoff game on the road without the game resembling a track meet (and whether or not Carmelo’s miserable shooting performance was the main thing that gave Ray Allen an opportunity to sink a game-winner)…I’d still rather watch the above clip 10 times in a row than sit through this a second time.

San Diego Scribe : Gonzo’s Contract Is Nutso

Posted in Baseball at 8:23 pm by

Taking stock of the Red Sox signing 1B Adrian Gonzalez to a $154 million extension earlier this week, the Signs On San Diego’s Tim Sullivan warns the deal is just the latest example of big market powerhouses keeping the little guy down. Or, as he writes so pithily, the pact “is worth more than the priciest of Picassos, more than the most coveted of Van Goghs. It is worth more, even, than the $140 million Mexican mogul David Martinez reputedly paid for one of Jackson Pollock’s imponderable abstracts, titled No. 5, 1948.” In other words, Tim Sullivan knows art, but he also knows what he doesn’t like.

Whether the Padres could have financed such a contract to keep Gonzalez is a question clouded by ballpark promises, economic recession, John Moores’ divorce and Jeff Moorad’s business model. How much the Padres can afford to spend on any particular player depends on what you make of accounting management does not make public.

In the continuing absence of a salary cap and in the presence of escalating differences in local revenues, mid- and small-market baseball fans are reduced to window-shopping when an elite player reaches the marketplace and are often resigned to irrelevance come October. Though the Padres have generally delivered good bang for limited bucks, their inability to keep a hometown star with bilingual appeal tells you baseball’s playing field is still tilted and its marketplace maddeningly stratified.

Epstein acquired Gonzalez from the Padres in an off-season trade, but the teams’ comparative finances afforded him leverage with the Padres and a critical edge on most prospective bidders. Though A-Gon’s new contract allows him to designate two teams to whom he can veto trades, agent John Boggs acknowledges that the size of his client’s check effectively eliminates 90 percent of big-league ballclubs.

If Boggs’ comment sounded off-the-cuff, his math was masterful. Though the game’s 25 highest salaries for the 2011 season are divided among 15 different teams, only the Yankees, Angels and Twins employ players who will make more than the $22 million Gonzalez will average through 2018.

Though it’s hard to argue that the Red Sox don’t have tremendous resources the likes of which small-market clubs can only dream of (or as Sullivan puts it, “money might not buy happiness, even in baseball, but it tends to improve one’s odds”), Boston is currently sporting the worst record in all of baseball, despite Sunday’s 8-1 defeat of Toronto. Existing market inequities didn’t prevent the Twins, Rays and Reds from making the postseason in 2010, nor is being situated in the nation’s two biggest television markets enough to guarantee even .500 finishes in 2011 for the Mets or Dodgers.

LAT : Don Mattingly Won’t Be Selling Flowers By The Side Of The Highway (This Week, Anyway)

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 5:24 pm by

Currently trying to snap a 5 game losing streak this afternoon at Chavez Ravine the Dodgers can at least rest easy knowing this month’s payroll is safe. With news that might make Fred Wilpon a tad envious, the LA Times’ Bill Shaikin reports embattled LA owner Frank McCourt (shown above, helping a young fan find his seat at Dodger Stadium) received a $30 million loan earlier this week from Fox, convenient enough seeing as Newscorp owned the club prior to McCourt.

The arrangement is expected to cover the Dodgers’ expenses into next month. Commissioner Bud Selig has yet to say whether he will approve a proposed television contract between Fox and the Dodgers, which McCourt has presented as a long-term solution to the team’s financial troubles.

The loan marks the second time since the end of last season that Fox has provided money to the Dodgers’ owner so he could cover expenses. The loan was furnished to McCourt personally rather than to the Dodgers, according to the people briefed on the deal.


Ronay To Keyes, Gray : Please Come Back, All Is Forgiven

Posted in Football, Sports Journalism, Sports TV at 2:06 pm by

If there’s one regrettable by product of Richard Keys and Andy Gray’s recent termination by Sky Sports, it’s that we no longer can look forward to their trenchant analysis being carefully picked apart by the Guardian’s Barney Ronay. And it’s with those changes in job description in mind that Ronay all but pleads for the duo’s return to television (“like beating your dad in an arm-wrestle, this has been an oddly deflating victory. Can’t we just have them back?”) ;

The basic problem is that good TV football journalism is now almost impossible to replicate. There simply isn’t the time. The golden era of football presentation came in the mid-70s when Jimmy Hill (above), a man with just the right strain of informed and energetic egomania, would commentate on a game, commandeer a private plane back to west London (on which his greying beard would be touched up with mascara) and then passionately analyse the match you’d just seen him commentate on.

By contrast Match of the Day’s current migrainous banality is no accident: these lolling satin-shirted sofa fondlers have simply been watching TV feeds in Television Centre, their view fatally restricted, their experienced glazed by distance. Alan Hansen, in particular, worries me. He has been lashed to the upholstery for 15 years now. He is a miracle in many ways, still talking on cue and without noticeable hesitation. But this system has wearied him. He comes before us with abdominals slackened, temples dulled, eyes in mono focus.

The simple answer to this is that there is just too much talking around televised football. Hill would talk simply because he had a tactical itch to scratch. But the game is now presented as storied light entertainment, a branch of mainstream celebrity gush, and so the talk is largely peripheral and hyperbolic. And this, it turns out, was what Keys and Gray were good at. Their talk was a kind of seamless white noise, a muscular background thrum that spoke directly to the banality of its production.

Rangers’ Tortorella Battling The Capitals, Larry Brooks & Semantics (Not Necessarily In That Order)

Posted in Hockey, Sports Journalism at 9:15 am by

Had the New York Rangers’ offense put up nearly as much of a fight against Washington last night as head coach John Tortorella managed against the New York Post’s Larry Brooks yesterday afternoon, we’d be looking at a 1-1 Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Transcript of Friday’s pissing match, courtesy TSN.

The New York Rangers’ head coach and New York Post hockey columnist went back and forth in a game day scrum on Friday after Brooks asked Tortorella whether he thought the Rangers’ backs were against the wall going into Game 2 of their first-round series with the Washington Capitals.

“Do I think our backs are against the wall? This is a series,” responded Tortorella.

“That’s what I’m asking,” said Brooks. “Are your backs against the wall right now?”

“I never think our backs are against the walls. I think in a series…”

“In a series or anytime?” Brooks interjected.


“So you didn’t think your backs were against the wall Saturday?”

“Saturday?” Tortorella asked.

“Against New Jersey?”

“You mean in the regular season?”

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Enthusiastic Denver Scribe Fails To Provide A PDF Of His Own Receipt For Rockies Season Tickets

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 1:02 pm by

(Denver’s most ardent sports fans consider Martin’s plea to purchase Rockies tickets  — if only they had something to wear?)

I hope the children that attended the superior public schools that Mike Hampton spoke of so enthusiastically are paying close attention to the following item published by InDenverTimes.com, and penned by David Martin.  Assuming most of them graduated with any reading skils or critical faculties, they’ll recognize that Martin’s brand of shilling for the hometown Rockies would be a tad awkward on an MLB.com, never mind an alleged news site. Perhaps Martin has higher aspirations than to someday work in the Rockies sales dept., but you’d never know from this  (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

With the Chicago Cubs heading into town, there will be an inevitable sea of blue filling the green seats at Coors Field. These fans aren’t your typical visiting fans, however. These fans are loud, they talk trash, and they have a superiority complex, despite the fact that they are arrogantly cheering for a team who hasn’t won a World Series since Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House.

The excuse for Cubs fans is that through WGN, Chicago’s superstation, they were the only team that baseball fans from Colorado could watch before the Rockies came into existence. The problem with that excuse, however, was that it was only half of the excuse. The other side of the excuse was that they would gladly be Rockies fans if the owners would step up and commit to winning.

Well Cubs fans, welcome to 2011. The Colorado Rockies head into a series with your beloved lovable losers with the best record in baseball. They are 10-2 in the early going, and have a certain swagger about them. They refuse to lose.

Yes, and more than a third of the victories have come against the New York Mets. “It is time for Rockies fans to realize that they have everything that they ever asked for in a baseball team, and so much more,” exults Martin, perhaps forgetting Colorado actually won an NL pennant in 2007, a campaign experts to this day refer to as “a season that was longer than 13 games”.

Whatever’s In Terry Collins’ Half-Full Glass Isn’t A Local Beer

Posted in Baseball, Beer at 8:08 am by

With the New York Mets having dropped 8 of their last 9 and suffering the indignity of being swept at home in a 4 game series with Colorado, you might think there are bigger things to worry about than the beer selection at Citi Field.  However, since manager Terry Collins continues to insist these Amazins could just as easily be 11-2 instead of 4-9 (ok, I’m misquoting him slightly), let’s instead turn our attention to the aforementioned First World Problem, as caught by Mr. Jeffrey Jensen. “Even though there are four breweries in New York City – the city that the Mets and Yankees call home – no beer from New York City is available on tap at either of their ballparks,” reports Brew York,  New York.  Or to amend a phrase used far too often in this space, the next time Fred & Jeff Wilpon piss in your mouth, they won’t even attempt to call it Rheingold.

For the first two years, Citi Field offered four beers from Brooklyn Brewery on tap. All of them were found in the center field food court: Sabroso Ale at El Verano Taqueria, Blue Smoke Ale at Blue Smoke, Shackmeister Ale at Shake Shack, and Blanche de Queens at Box Frites.

Those beers are no more. Rather than embrace the trend of the rapidly-expanding craft beer market, Citi Field has chosen to replace those beers with Anheuser-Busch/InBev-owned beers, and Brooklyn’s Twitter stream says they were “kicked to the curb” because the Mets were simply asking too much money to keep them in Danny Meyer’s center field concession stands.

And yes, this is how absurd the beer industry is. Rather than the Mets paying for beer that their fans might actually enjoy, these small breweries have to bargain their way into a ballpark that is dominated by Anheuser-Busch products in nearly every corner. And now, at both Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, they’re almost entirely pushed out. You’ll notice that the faux-craft beer stand in center field at Citi Field – Big Apple Brews – sells almost exclusively Anheuser-Busch/InBev-owned domestics and imports, including Hoegaarden, Beck’s, Shock Top, and Goose Island.